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January 2009


Last month, Alison from Diamond-Cut Life shared a guest post about providing lodging to a housemate in exchange for work (instead of rent). Her story prompted a number of readers to ask about the mechanics and practicalities of actually renting an extra room to generate income. For example, Penny wrote with the following: In August, my brother-in-law moved in with us. By December, he couldn’t find a job, so moved back out. While I had…

Several GRS readers have asked me to recommend a “stock market game” so that they can learn the basics of investing without risking actual money. Though I’m aware of such tools, I’ve never used one myself. During my recent interview with The Motley Fool’s David Gardner, I asked him if he could suggest one. He recommended CAPS, which is The Motley Fool’s stock evaluation tool. But that’s not really the same thing.  I was recently…

In yesterday’s USA Today, Kathy Chu offered tips to help consumers with disputes on credit card charges. This is a nice companion piece to this morning’s GRS post about thwarting credit-card company tricks. “No industry statistics are available about how often such disputes are won by consumers,” Chu writes. “But to maximize their chances, consumers should know how to navigate the maze of rules governing credit card disputes.” She shares five ways to increase your…

This is a guest post from Justin McHenry, president of Index Credit Cards, a credit card comparison and information site. Index Credit Cards was named “most comprehensive” by Reader’s Digest in its October 2008 issue, and regularly cited by both old and new media. True or False? Credit card companies lure you in with big promises, but bury the nasty stuff in fine print. It would be hard to find many people that disagree. Unfortunately,…

This is a guest post from Tim Clark, who writes about money and meaning at Soul Shelter. In response to October’s quiz about entrepreneurial “types”, a reader named Pace posed some intriguing questions: What are the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs? Are they demographically different from unsuccessful entrepreneurs? Or is it all due to individual differences? At the heart of Pace’s inquiry, I think, is something many people long to know: How can I decide whether…

This is a guest post from Joel Berry. I recently had a talk with a friend about why I haven’t purchased a new car. He can’t understand why I still drive a 1995 Geo Prizm. I can afford to buy a new car, but I choose not to. The fact is, driving an older car saves me money! To prove my point, I ran some numbers. I was surprised by how much money I’ve saved…

Our friends have a profound effect on our personal finance habits. Some friends can lead us to spending and to debt. Others offer insight into the virtues of thrift. For me, my friend Sparky has been the latter. Through his example, I learned that frugality can help me achieve my goals. “Develop a plan that is so amazing, so glowing, that you are willing to walk blurry-eyed to work every day to make the money…

Amanda wrote with a question this week that I think many GRS readers can relate to: When is it okay to spend your savings? My husband is currently unemployed so we’re just living on my salary, but at least we don’t have to pay for child care.  However, we are spending more than we make.  We had a fair amount stashed away from savings and some inheritance, and we’ve been dipping into this to help…

Earlier today, I reviewed the new book from The Motley Fool, Million Dollar Portfolio. I had the pleasure to interview author David Gardner at the end of December. This post contains excerpts from that interview. The complete interview will be included as part of the hypothetical future Get Rich Slowly podcast. J.D. Earlier this year, you met with Stephen Popick, a government economist who writes for Get Rich Slowly. During the first part of your…

“People want to make money fast, but it doesn’t happen that way.” — Warren Buffett Over Christmas, I read Roger Lowenstein’s fantastic biography of Warren Buffett, one of my financial heroes. Because I currently prefer to invest through index funds, it was fascinating to read how Buffett has been able to make billions by purchasing individual stocks. Next, I picked up the new book from David and Tom Gardner: The Motley Fool Million Dollar Portfolio….

Early January. Though it’s the dead of winter, many of us are dreaming about our summer vegetable gardens. The seed catalogs have begun to appear in the mailbox. Kris and I received eight of them today: Images of summer… It might seem crazy to start thinking about a vegetable garden in January. It’s cold outside! But believe it or not, now is the perfect time to begin preparing for a successful autumn harvest. Over the…

An Allegory There was once a man who became a vegetarian. Because he believed that all living creatures have souls, he swore he would never again consume animal flesh. For three years, he ate only vegetable matter. People offered him money to eat meat, but he steadfastly refused. “Will you try a turkey sandwich for $2?” a woman asked one day. “No,” he said. “Will you try this hot dog for $20?” a little boy…

Here’s a quick reminder that Suze Orman will be on The Oprah Winfrey Show this afternoon to discuss jumpstarting your personal finances in 2009. Serena wrote to let me know that until next Thursday (15 January 2009), you can download Suze Orman’s new book free from Oprah’s web site. Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan features 200 pages devoted to topics like credit, retirement investing, spending, real estate, and “protecting yourself”. This is a real book,…

It is not difficult to change for a day. But it can seem almost impossible to change for a year — or a week. Though 2009 is only eight days old, I suspect that many folks are already struggling with their New Year’s resolutions. This problem is the driving force behind StickK.com. StickK helps users to set — and stick to — “commitment contracts”. Here’s how it works: After signing up with stickK, you will…

Today I am reviewing new books written by two colleagues: Trent from The Simple Dollar and Leo from Zen Habits. As you read these reviews, please remember that I am friends with both authors. Mary Hunt bills herself as America’s favorite cheapskate. In 2005, she published a little volume entitled Everyday Cheapskate’s Greatest Tips, which contained “500 simple strategies for smart living”. Hunt’s book didn’t offer any sort of narrative or broad overview of money…

Several GRS readers have written lately with the same credit card problem — but not the one you’d expect. Perhaps in an effort to cut costs, credit card companies are beginning to close their customers’ unused accounts. Nicole shared a typical experience: I’m 26 and have a solid 8-year credit history. Despite really wanting to get rid of some of my old credit cards that I never use, I’ve held on to the accounts since…

I recently participated in a conference call with Suze Orman, who is working to promote Best Life Week. This series runs on The Oprah Winfrey Show all this week, and is intended to help viewers “jumpstart 2009 and make it the best year ever!” Hyperbole aside, it was great to have a chance to speak with Suze Orman, who will be sharing money tips with Oprah viewers this Thursday. I tried to ask her about…

2008 was a miserable year for money. The stock market tumbled, unemployment soared, the housing market continued to crumble, and retirement savings shriveled away. Whew! Here’s hoping 2009 will be better! But hope can only do so much. Hope cannot bring change. Action brings change. If one of your goals for 2009 is to take control of your money (instead of letting it keep control of you), this crash course in financial basics can help…

Joe S. sent me a recent New York Times editorial from Ben Stein, who describes being approached by representatives from Bernard Madoff. Madoff ran a Wall Street hedge fund which reportedly “never lost money”. Stein thought it sounded fishy, and he didn’t take the bait. “I have never heard of an entity that could make money in all kinds of markets consistently, year in and year out,” Stein writes. “I have never heard of a…

This is a guest post from my wife. Our gardening for the year came to a close around Halloween. Although we’ll harvest herbs all winter — I’ve started an indoor herb garden with clearance-sale seeds! — the cold and wet Willamette Valley winter makes outdoor work miserable. And this year we’ve even had snow and ice: The garden in winter The garden in summer But the gardening cycle will begin anew with a seed order…