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2006


A few weeks ago I mentioned Curbly, a new community-based DIY site. Here’s a guest-post from one of the Curbly’s featured writers, Alex Russell. Copper’s proper. That’s the saying, anyway. But the problem now with copper for your plumbing has nothing to do with reliability. It’s cost. Over the past year, the retail price of copper tube for plumbing has almost doubled. However, there is a great money-saving alternative. Using PEX for your new water…

William at A Financial Revolution has some words of advice on penny stocks. The beauty of penny stocks is that they are one of the only investments for which one simple, blanket rule applies without any exceptions: There is never a good reason to buy a penny stock, ever. Why not? Penny stocks cost very little for a reason.  The efficient market hypothesis states that the stock price generally reflects all available knowledge about that…

Warren Buffett is one of my heroes. He’s the second-richest man in the world, yet he lives more frugally than I do. CNBC recently broadcast an interview with Buffett. Naturally, it’s been posted to YouTube. Here’s the show in its entirety (with notes and excerpts I made while watching). [Update 16 April 2007: The show is no longer available via YouTube. Instead, you can view excerpts at CNBC.] As a kid, Buffett would go door-to-door…

Some personal finance books promise to show the reader how to become a millionaire. The Millionaire Next Door (by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko) is different. It is built on years of research, on a body of statistics and case studies. It doesn’t make hollow promises. Instead, it profiles people who have already become millionaires. This is a subtle but important difference. Many people who earn high incomes are not rich, the authors…

Back in the Olden Dayes, we made popcorn on the stove. If we were good, then Sunday night before The Wonderful World of Disney, mom would heat some oil in a skillet and pop the corn. It was delicious. Then, of course, came the microwave, and with it came popcorn in a bag. It’s all so very convenient. But sometimes I miss the Olden Dayes. Here’s an old AskMetafilter question (found via frykitty): “Is it…

In my recent Christmas article, I asked you to submit your favorite ideas for saving money during the holidays. Your suggestions were great. Among the best were these (which I’ve edited slightly): Samuel’s tip: “Give your ‘favorite things’ as gifts. Find items you love and use everyday, then share these with others. By giving favorite things, the focus is on sharing things you like rather than how much you spent. For example, my ‘favorite thing’…

Look for the first-ever Get Rich Slowly contest at the end of this entry! HO HO HO! I had intended to post a series of articles on how to save money at Christmas, but they’ve taken longer to write than I expected. Now it’s a little late to leak them out one at a time. Instead, I’ve bunched the information together into a colossal tip-filled extravaganza! Here are some great ways to save money while…

In June I shared some tips for reducing home energy costs. Most of the information came from Michael Bluejay’s excellent guide to saving electricity. I was curious how much electricity invidual appliances use, so I ordered a gadget that Bluejay recommends: the Kill-a-Watt electricity meter. The official web site declares: Connect your appliances into the Kill A Watt™, and assess how efficient they are. A large LCD display counts consumption by the Kilowatt-hour just like…

  Initially, T. Harv Eker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth seems cast from the same mold as Loral Langemeier’s The Millionaire Maker (my review): full of vague promises, unsupported claims, and thinly-veiled sales pitches for products and seminars. It’s true that Eker is guilty of some of these faults. But ultimately I could not help but like the book once I stopped thinking of it as a personal finance…

Last May, we held our annual garage sale on the same weekend that the Nintendo Wii was revealed. As I sat in my driveway, selling old stuff, I followed online coverage of the Wii on my laptop. I wanted one. “I’m putting this money in the bank and saving it to buy a Nintendo,” I told Kris. I opened a separate targeted savings account at my credit union specifically for this goal. But I was…

I had dinner with my friend TJ tonight. He paid for his meal with cash. After we’d settled the check, he pulled out a small spiral notebook and jotted down some numbers. “What’s that?” I asked. “I’ve started using a notebook to keep track of what I spend,” he told me. “Whenever I pay in cash, I write it down. Otherwise I don’t have any idea where it goes.” “That’s a great idea,” I said….

When my accountant sends me an article, I pay close attention. Today he forwarded a piece from Liz Pulliam Weston, one of my favorite professional money commentators. In Huge Debts, Paid Off Fast Pulliam Weston writes about people who have overcome staggering debt through hard work and determination. How did they do it? Among other things: They made debt payoff a priority, although most continued to save for retirement as well. They kept their basic…

At the grocery store yesterday, I passed a man and his daughter in the snack aisle. She was maybe ten or eleven, a little overweight, and begging for cookies. He was tall and muscular, a blue-collar type, clearly exasperated with her. “You have no conception of how hard your mother and I work to earn money, do you?” he said. There was desperation in his voice. This brief encounter has been in my mind ever…

On a street corner near our house is a store called The Dig, which advertises “most clothes $3 – $4 – $5”. Many of these are items of the latest fashions, which have been rejected for whatever reason. Clean and organized, the store also has dressing rooms, something many thrift stores lack. I used to mock Kris for going to The Dig. It looked like a dive. Then I joined her for a trip a…

Robert Kiyosaki, Robert Allen, and Loral Langemeier would have you believe that in order to get rich all you need to do is throw your money into real estate, sit back, and let the profits come. It’s not that simple. There’s risk involved. You have to know what you’re doing. Jon forwarded a link to what he calls “a personal finance trainwreck”. He writes: “If this guy is for real (and there appears to be…

This entry is part of JLP’s October project — a month-long, cross-blog review of the book The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing. Some of what follows is taken directly from the book. You have won $50,000! So, what do you do now? Every day I give advice on following the slow, sure path to wealth. But what happens if you do manage to get rich quickly? What happens if you win the lottery, or hit the…

If one moves confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. — Henry David Thoreau What would you do if money were not a concern? Would you quit your job? Would you travel? Would you live in another state? Another country? Would you write? Would you garden? Would you devote your life to charity? Would you…

This article is by staff writer J.D. Roth.

[Editorial note: There is a lot of confusion over how much to tip and to whom. What should be a simple decision is often clouded by cultural mores and traditions. The desire to acknowledge the service you’ve been given is a personal choice, largely a measure of the value you attribute to the service — perhaps even a reflection of your own values. The concern around…

Title changed to more accurately reflect post content. Thanks for pointing this out, guys! Frugal folks are often condemned as cheap, but these things are not the same. But sometimes there is a danger of becoming too concerned with money. Tawra Kellam warns about crossing the line from frugality to something less ethical. There are times when it’s tempting to lie, steal or break one of the other 10 Commandments to get a good deal…

The GRS discussion forums have become spam magnets. They weren’t used much anyhow, so I’m taking them down. (To be replaced by something better in the future.) I don’t want to lose any of the contributions from readers, though, so I’ll move the best posts to this blog over the next few weeks. This first post is an introduction to mutual funds from VinTek — original thread here. This is a very basic introduction to…

My friend Mike is well-off. He lives alone, makes a good salary, invests wisely, and doesn’t spend money on foolish endeavors. Yet he often gets charged late fees. Why? Because he’s disorganized. He brings his bills home, throws them on the table, and they get lost under a mass of paper during the weeks that follow. When he remembers his bills, he pays the late fees, and sends extra money to cover the next few…

Here’s how the Debt Snowball method worked for me: During my twenties, I accumulated nearly $25,000 in consumer debt. I had a spending problem. With time, I was able to get my spending under control (mostly), but I still owned overwhelming debt. How could I get rid of it? The personal finance books all suggested the same approach: Order your debts from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. Designate a certain amount of money to…

Sometimes a great deal isn’t. Because I have a small computer consulting business, I’ve been placed on a mailing list for “corporate rate” magazine subscriptions. Corporate rate subscriptions are unbelievably cheap, on the order of $10 or $12 a year for many magazines. Being the frugal fellow that I am, when I received my first offer for a corporate-rate subscription, I signed up. Sure, it was a subscription for Business 2.0, a magazine I’d never…

The No Limits Ladies have posted an article on how to flip cars — how to buy used cars for cheap and sell them again for a profit. I find used vehicles for sale, often times through Cars.com, and I price them using KBB.com. When I find one that I know is in more demand, with a motivated seller at or below private party pricing, I go look at it and sometimes buy it. Then…

I made a trip to Costco to buy business supplies last week. While browsing the software, I spotted the latest version of Quicken. I picked up the box and looked at the list of new features. I felt that urge creep upon me — the urge to spend. “Maybe the Mac version is out, too,” I thought. “I should stop by Fry’s to check.” Then I thought of the $50 it would cost to upgrade….

“Pay off your debt.” “Max out your IRA.” “Buy a house.” “Get a new job.” Personal finance advisers bombard us with a litany of things we ought to do in order to achieve financial independence. It’s overwhelming. Where’s a person to start? Most personal finance books agree: The first thing you should do — after meeting basic needs, and while reducing spending — is to start an emergency fund. What is an emergency fund? An…

Jeanne Sahadi at CNN Money has posted the get-started guide to making it, a set of tips for young people starting their careers. I asked five managers I’ve known over the years and my favorite workplace expert what behaviors and attitudes in their eyes mark a new recruit as promising and promotion-worthy. The following attributes will help you succeed: Be willing to ask for help, but be able to take charge. Employers like for employees…

Get Rich Slowly is the final entrant in JLP’s Question-of-the-Day Marathon. There have been many thought-provoking questions over the past month; I hope you’ve had a chance to contribute at some of the participating sites. My question is: What does money mean to you? When I was a boy, my family was poor. Money then meant necessities to me. It was the key to obtaining essentials, especially food and clothing. Sometimes it opened other doors,…

School’s back in session, and with it come life-lessons in money management for students. But personal finance can be easy, even if you’re just starting out. You just have to know how it works. All of the following are concepts I wish I had known before heading to college. Money Management Now that you’re on your own, you might be tempted to spend money on all the things your parents wouldn’t let you have before….

I don’t like credit cards. They’re a dangerous trap, especially for the young. Many smart people disagree with me, though, and have learned to use credit cards to their advantage. This guide provides solid credit card information so that you can make smart choices. I’ve structured this as a series of questions and answers. There’s sure to be a lot missing. Please let me know what else should be included here, and I’ll add it….

There is no reliable way to make money quickly. If there were, everyone would be doing it. Get-rich-quick schemes are just that: schemes. Sure, it’s possible to get lucky at a casino, or to make a well-timed stock pick, but these feats are the exception, not the rule. They generally are not reproducible. An AskMetafilter user recently pleaded for some hot stock tips. Where online do you go to find “best buys” about new and…

An AskMetafilter user wonders how long to keep receipts: I have been keeping all of my receipts for some time now. Every day, I enter them into my money tracking system (presently just a text file where I capture date, payee and amount). Then I file the receipts away in folders by month. My question: does it do me any good to save the receipts, or is having the data good enough? […] I’ve never…

My friend Lynn works for a major U.S. insurance company. I recently asked her for tips to help people save money on auto insurance. I expected maybe a few quick ideas, but she went above-and-beyond with the following detailed list. If you own a car, you should read these tips. For readability’s sake, I haven’t blockquoted this, but it’s all Lynn. Note that every insurance company is different — not all of these ideas work…

My wife — the NPR addict — pointed me to a Marketplace commentary by Amelia Tyagi. Tyagi says not to focus on small expenses, but to focus on big expenses. You can listen to the piece in RealAudio format from the NPR web site, or read this transcript: Clip those coupons. Shift to that cheap, scratchy toilet paper. And whatever you do, don’t buy any more lattes at Starbucks. You’ve heard it before. Some famous…

Forbes has a report on 150 cheap places to live. Author Richard Karlgaard points out the obvious: it’s more expensive to live in some places than others. A $4,000,000 home in San Diego might only cost $700,000 in Bend, Oregon. Why hasn’t everyone moved to Bend? Karlgaard contends that most of us are trapped in old ways of thinking, that we believe we must live where we work. Technology is changing that. This is the…

We all know that we should track our spending, but not everyone actually does. How does one develop this discipline? One AskMetafilter user pleads: Do you have any tricks to ensure that you track your money? I would like to track what I spend and what I spend it on. I have software to do this, but I hardly ever use it. I’m looking for more of a software-independent way of thinking about my cash…

Some people know how to haggle. They’re able to bargain with shopkeepers in order to save a few bucks on pair of shoes, a book, or a piece of furniture. I’ve never haggled before except at garage sales and in World of Warcraft. Computer games are one thing, real-life is another. Real-life haggling scares me. Recently, I’ve stumbled upon several stories about haggling. An AskMetafilter user writes: I’ve heard that it’s okay to negotiate the…

I recently polled Ask Metafilter for the best personal development sites: I want to compile a list of personal development and productivity sites. I’m looking for sites with real, practical information that you can use in your everyday life, sites that motivate you to be a better person, to try new things. Examples: 43 Folders, Steve Pavlina. Please point me to your favorites! The suggestions included: Lifehacker — The 300-pound grandmother of productivity blogs (and…

Yesterday I shared the most important money tip: to gain wealth, you must spend less than you earn. Get Rich Slowly has covered many ways to reduce the spending side of the equation. But how can a person increase the earning side? Consider an entrepreneurial endeavor. Start a small business based around one of your hobbies. It’s not difficult to earn a couple thousand dollars each year doing something you love in your free time….

Personal finance is easy. It’s simple. There is one fundamental law that governs your money. If you master this, you have mastered the entire game: To gain wealth, you must spend less than you earn. In David Copperfield — one of my favorite books — Charles Dickens wrote: Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery. That’s all it takes….

(by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1756) As I spent some weeks last winter in visting my old acquaintance in the Jerseys, great complaints I heard for want of money, and that leave to make more paper bills could not be obtained. Friends and countrymen, my advice on this head shall cost you nothing; and if you will not be angry with me for giving it, I promise you not to be offended if…

Jonni McCoy’s Miserly Moms: Living on One Income in a Two Income Economy lists eleven miserly guidelines designed to help families reduce expenses. The first of these is: Don’t confuse frugality with depriving yourself. This is the most important aspect of being successful at saving money. […] If any money-saving activity makes you feel cheap or tight, you will eventually abandon your efforts. That is not the price we need to pay to reach our…

Many frugal folks are geeks at heart. Now you can indulge both sides of your personality with comic books from the Federal Reserve Bank! The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has been publishing educational cartoon-style booklets since the 1950s. “The Story of the Federal Reserve System” is one of ten titles currently available. The comic book is intended for the general public, especially students in high school and introductory-level college economic courses. Up to…

Backpacking and camping are awesome frugal activities. It costs nothing to take a hike. It costs a bit more to camp overnight, but even that can be done inexpensively. While browsing the web for camping stuff, I stumbled upon a great list of frugal suggestions that were originally posted to the Usenet group rec.scouting on 03 December 1994! According to the original poster: These low-cost equipment/ideas/fixes for Scouting and camping in general [were] originally found…

How much electricity does your computer use? Your refrigerator? Your washer and dryer? Do you know how to save money on water heating costs? Michael Bluejay‘s guide to saving electricity answers these questions and more. Bluejay calls himself “Mr. Electricity” — the title is apt! My guide on Saving Electricity gives you a bit more than you might get elsewhere. I explain exactly what a kilowatt hour is and how much you pay for one….

Sarah Dyer‘s Action Girl isn’t a superhero in the traditional sense. She has her own comic book, sure, but her super power is the ability to help people take charge of their own lives. Dyer has a personal agenda, and she’s pleased to share it with the world. Here is an abridged version of Action Girl’s Guide to Living (follow the link for Dyer’s extended version):

How did the United States become a nation of debtors? When did credit cards become popular? Did you know that many modern credit card policies are the creation of one man? The Secret History of the Credit Card was a 2004 “Frontline” presentation from the Public Broadcasting System. The program examines the nation’s use of credit and, more specifically, the methods used by credit card companies to obtain enormous profits. The Secret History of the…

Liz Pulliam Weston at Money Central lists ten things you shouldn’t buy new. Some things are best purchased new — lingerie pops to mind — but lots of other stuff depreciates quickly while still having plenty of useable life left. Here are ten items where the cost vs. use equation strongly tilts toward buying used. Books — Most books are read only once. Books are also easy to find cheap, or at your public library….

Your credit score plays an increasingly important role in your financial health. But what is it? And how does it affect what you pay for loans and credit cards? Your credit score is a single number that indicates your creditworthiness. This number is derived from various pieces of information contained in your credit report. Your credit report is accumulated by various credit agencies — credit card companies and banks and other financial institutions, who pass…

Here’s an interesting money question from AskMetafilter: What are the potential downsides to using a credit card to pay my monthly bills, assuming I pay off the balance every month? I currently pay all my bills from my checking account and have recently thought about getting a credit card with some kind of rewards for this purpose instead. I won’t be carrying a balance on the card; I just want to try and get something…

The American Automobile Association (AAA) says that, on average, it costs 52.2 cents to drive one mile. To drive a Ford Focus like mine 20,000 miles per year, the average cost is 37.6 cents per mile. How close are the AAA estimates? I ran some numbers. Based on the purchase price of my vehicle ($16,500), the interest paid ($1,300), and the number of miles on the odometer (81,762 in 66 months), I calculated that for…

Expensive hobbies and a frugal lifestyle can be tough to balance. Few hobbies are more expensive than photography. So what’s a frugal photographer to do? The three best cheap things you can do to improve your photography skill are: Learn your camera. Read your camera manual, and carry it with you. This is the cheapest improvement you can make. Learn what your camera can and cannot do. Make a lot of photographs. Take a class…

Good personal finance spreadsheets are hard to find on the web because sploggers monopolize the search results. Still, I’ve managed to collect links to a stack of them that I’d like to share. Spreadsheets more useful than web-based calculators because: You can modify the fields and formats to meet your own needs, You can create “what-if” scenarios by making copies of a sheet, and You can save the data for later use. The following links…

In an earlier entry about the cost of waiting one year to begin investing for retirement, I posted a chart from AllFinancialMatters that demonstrated the power of compound returns. Vintek posted a math exercise related to the subject. I got this from a book called The Random Walk Guide to Investing by Burton Malkiel. It’s a book I recommend, and I’ll eventually talk about it in the forum. Here’s the exercise: William and James are…

An AskMetafilter user wonders: How many credit cards do typical people have? For various reasons I have four credit cards. I always thought of this as too many, but haven’t cancelled mine since the crappiest one is also the oldest, and has no fee, and I want to maintain the age of the card on my credit report. Most people I know have one or two cards. But reading online forums on credit, I see…

This is a guest post by Cat Connor. Every year I try to review the steps in Your Money or Your Life to see how we’re doing.  It’s been about two years since my last review, but much to my delight, I found we are following most of the steps well, and I just needed to update some numbers. Step 1: Making Peace With The Past A: Determine your total lifetime earnings The book was…

Throughout our lives we encounter situations where we need to acquire new skills. Sometimes it’s nice to have a method for acquiring the basics quickly. Paul’s Tips has a technique for learning difficult subjects quickly. Here’s a strategy I’ve found useful for learning dry and difficult material quickly. At various times, I’ve used it to build up my knowledge of subjects like economics, investing, writing and computer programming languages. Some people have been surprised at…

Just finished David Bach’s Start Late, Finish Rich. At 42, I thought it would be a good intro to Bach’s many treatises on personal finance. I’ll come right out and say I highly recommend this book. It was full of great information, and took an optimistic, yet realistic tone. I’ll try to touch on some key points. Yes, because you started late, you are going to have to work twice as hard to put away…

Community colleges are an oft-overlooked resource for cheap education. They offer classes from trained professionals and provide access to expensive equipment that you otherwise would never be able to use. I love community college for several of reasons: Affordability — Community college classes are affordable. Despite recent tuition increases, a class at Portland Community College costs about $200. Community education courses (non-credit classes) cost even less. Some employers will pay for classes; my business will…

Consumerism Commentary has posted a two–part guide to improved sleep, explaining that good sleep is one of the best free investments you can make in yourself. I spent much of last year on a quest for improved sleep, and eventually found it. Here’s how. In The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, Pierce J. Howard summarizes sleep research with the following lists: To get to sleep more quickly: Consume dairy products (the warmer the better). Avoid…

A Get Rich Slowly reader recently submitted a question: “What options exist for socially responsible investment?” My husband and I save, and we own a house and may invest in more property later, but one thing we won’t do is play the stock market.  We spend a lot of time thinking about the ills of the world and the way to live our lives to make things even a little better. It seems to us…

In today’s CNNMoney “Ask the Expert” column, a 33-year-old reader wants to know if he can can count on an early retirement. I’m 33 years old and have $75,000 saved in my 401(k). I make $70,000 a year and contribute 10 percent of my salary to my 401(k). My company then matches the first 6 percent. Am I on track to retire at 55, or should I open a Roth IRA to supplement my 401(k)?…

Check your tax refund status easily with this simple web-based tool from the IRS. You’ll need to provide your social security number, marital status, and exact refund amount in order for your request to be processed.