Clip Wallets, Two Step Authentication, and Squirrels

I understand that two step authentication is supposed to be more secure. The idea is (allegedly) that by requiring a password *and* a phone verification or push notification to log onto a website. My banks have it and several of the websites at my academic institutions have it. I get the point, but it makes me feel like…


My phone is dead at least 12 hours of any 24 hour period and I am clearly not grown up enough to manage to keep it charged. Without my phone, I can’t authorize the second step of two step authentication. I feel like I want a standing ovation for at least being able to keep my computer charged. I can’t be expected to manage the phone too. But, without the two step authentication, I can’t access stuff. Trouble is, this isn’t motivating me to improve my interactions with technology. It motivates me to realize I don’t need so many complications in my life.

I suspect my complete inability to handle two step authentication is emblematic of a recent trend in my life – a return to the analog. I’ve been writing about how one of the recent Strange family missions has been to get complete control of our finances. We went from more than $50K in debt between us to being on Steps 4, 5 &6 of Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, which I wrote about here. We are completely consumer debt free (this doesn’t include a mortgage, but still makes me weepy to think about), we have 3-6 months of expenses set aside for emergencies, we’re funding retirement, and we are building college funds for our 5 children. We got there in two ways – we lived on absolutely nothing for a while and we live on a written budget that we spit shake on every month. Our budget is a written contract between us.


My clips, tucked into the wallet. At this point in the month, the clips are filled with mostly ones.

But, one of the most important changes I made is that I switched to cash. It’s easier to keep track of spending when your money is in your hands. It’s harder to overspend at Target when you have a finite amount of cash in your wallet. Carrying around little cash allowances has saved me hundreds of dollars a month because I see my expenses every time I open my wallet. I started with Dave’s envelope system – I carried letter sized envelopes around in my purse with each one marked. I had envelopes for food, gas, kids’ expenses, and personal expenses.  The envelopes worked great, but they got tattered in my purse. They became quite the conversation piece.

This Christmas Strange bought me the new wallet that Dave’s daughter Rachel designed and I LOVE it! My love of this wallet is unhealthy. Rather than having envelopes now, I have different colored binder clips. I wrote little words on my colored clips to help keep them straight.  The wallet itself is gorgeous. It’s leather, comes in adorable colors and has the right number of pockets. My clips are a conversation piece at the market like my envelopes were, but now they’re a higher end conversation piece. There’s a debit card and a Costco card in the wallet, but there’s no credit card. Just cash.

I’m also trying to get my students to appreciate a return to the analog. There is a time and place for technology, but I am struck by the data that show that students learn more when they put pen to paper.  I’m trying to encourage students to read and write more to support their learning – not simply rely on Powerpoint. I’m not convinced that technology helps students in physiology. As we develop the technology to push a button and make a measurement, students lose the basic principles of how the measurement is made. Theseget-offa-my-lawn are my Get Off My Lawn moments.

The first assignment I gave them, to encourage them to look at course materials, was to ask them to read the syllabus. It sounds like a simple thing, but getting students to read the syllabus is also something I’ve struggled with. I can’t remember where I heard this idea – it might have been Twitter – but I told them I’d give them a point if they read the syllabus. I also told them they’d know how to demonstrate this to me, by reading the syllabus. I embedded the following short phrase in one of the statements of university policy:

Please email me a picture of a squirrel when you read this.

I now have an inbox full of squirrels. They were creative in their squirrel picture and I have been chuckling at their squirrels over the last 24 hours. These are the kinds of assignments I like. They amuse me and they hold the students accountable.

Part of our financial freedom has been eschewing some of the technological tools that support the bank and serve to separate us from our money little bits of a time. Now, academically, I want to continue to move our students back to the basic fundamentals of physiology. Writing equations, applying equations, building things. I’m starting with just reading the syllabus.

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