Welcome to the 243rd Carnival of Personal Finance!

What in the world does that mean? Well, a blog carnival is a weekly round-up of articles on a particular subject (in this case, money). The carnival moves from blog to blog, and gives readers a chance to find new writers they may enjoy.

It’s been over two years since Get Rich Slowly last hosted a carnival (it takes many, many hours to put this together), but I wanted to do one for old time’s sake. Besides, it’s a great way to support up-and-coming financial bloggers. I found several great new money blogs while looking through the submissions this week.

So how does this carnival work? I received submissions from 72 other personal-finance blogs. Yes, I read every one of these articles. Yes, it took forever. I’ve cut out the worst of the submissions, as well as any that don’t apply to personal finance.(Come on, folks: “the economic link between China and Canada” has nothing to do with the day-to-day financial life of the average person.) The 61 articles that remain are included in this carnival.

I’ve organized the articles by topic. The categories below are listed in alphabetical order — except for Relationships, which I bumped to the front in honor of Valentine’s Day! Within each topic, I’ve ranked the articles in order of how much I liked them. (So, the first article in the investing category was my favorite investing article this week.) And if I really liked an article, I marked it with a happy star: *. If you’re looking for just the best, skim through and find the starred posts.

Note: To keep with the Valentine’s Day theme, this carnival is interspersed with excerpts from some of my favorite classic romantic poems. (You can click their titles to read the entire poems.) Pointless true trivia: When I was in high school, my life’s desire was to be a poet; I wrote much bad poetry in my youth.

Which of these articles is your favorite?

* Mr. Cheap at Four Pillars has a mind-boggling look at two views on the economics of dating. He explains how a man he knows literally keeps score of how much he spends on the women he dates; and how a woman he knows who tries to get men to spend as much as possible on her. This is “personal” finance in the true sense of the term.

Ray from Financial Highway, whose site slows my browser to a crawl, has a look at frugal Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

Jason at One Money Design also has some inexpensive Valentine’s Day ideas. (Although, I don’t know: Pizza can be romantic? Really?)

Joe from Personal Finance by the Book has a short look at Love and Money, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne (excerpt)

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refin’d,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

** Dough Roller has a great article about improving your finances by using an overall financial goal. We have so many financial goals, many of which won’t be met for years or decades, that it can be easy to get discouraged by our progress. Borrowing an idea from David at MoneyNing, DR says that instead of focusing on the future, we should strive to simply do a little better every month. Doubleplusgood.

Darwin at Darwin’s Finance wonders, “How much could you reduce your budget if you were laid off?” Running the numbers on his own life, Darwin finds he could save over $1,000 per month if he had to. As you know from my own experience, I too was able to save $1,000/month when I cut my spending and paid off my debts. I wonder how many other folks could do this if they had to…

At the Canadian Finance Blog, Tom urges readers to control spending with a budget. It’s basic stuff, but it’s important.

Anastasia from Living on a Budget is a 36-year-old Russian woman living in London. This week, she has a short quiz to help you figure out which budget personality you are. (I scored a 55, by the way.)

Mike, the Financial Blogger, explains how he got three salary increases in less than a year. Mike uses a poker analogy to make his point, which is an excellent one! Remember: Negotiating your salary is one of the best things you can do to improve your personal finances.

At the Early Retirement Blog, Kyle argues that you should set aside 10% of your work for retirement, not 10% of your income. “The miracle of compound interest will get you where you want to be in 40 years,” he says, “but dedicating 10% of your time to generating alternative streams of income will get you there in 5.” While I think Kyle’s guilty of some hyperbole here — it’s extremely unlikely (read: nearly impossible) that you’re going to retire in five years just by spending 10% of your work hours on side projects — I think his overall idea is good.

Paul, the FiscalGeek, argues that the secret to success is hustle. I happen to agree: Hustle is vital in almost every area of life, especially personal finance.

Jonathan from Christian PF has a look at five legitimate work-from-home jobs. I know there are legitimate work-from-home jobs out there, but even the real ones make me wary. I think it’s much better to create a job of your own doing something you’re passionate about…

At Grad Money Matters, guest-poster Caroline shares the secret to finding a part-time job in tough economic times. The advice here is good, but I wish the article were a little more in-depth.

Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

* Though I found the writing a little sloppy and hard to follow, I really liked the submission from Penny Farthing who asks, “Is debt okay if it leads to self-improvement?” This is a fantastic question, and I think most people would say that yeah, this sort of debt is acceptable. (Think college loans and so on.) But where do you draw the line? I like this question so much that I may actually write a post here at GRS about it sometime in the future.

The always-awesome SVB from The Digerati Life explains how to apply for a loan at a peer-to-peer lender. I know know much about peer-to-peer lending, but I know that many folks have found it a useful way to attack their high-interest debt. This brief guide is a great way to get started.

Lakita from Personal Finance Journey has a look at everything you ever wanted to know about the new credit card laws but were afraid to ask. We’ve covered this recently at GRS, too, but Lakita’s take is a good reminder of the coming changes in credit card terms.

Craig from Money Help for Christians answers a question about options for when you can’t make your student loan payments. Because I know nothing about this subject, I learned something from this article.

If you really can’t make your student loan payments, you may end up in bankruptcy. If that’s the case, then Single Money Guy has some tips for rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy.

JS from Smart Money Daily goes over the 9 reasons Dave Ramsey hates HELOCs.

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dim’d,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrim’d:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wandr’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

* Studenomics has a fantastic look at how you can make money as a tutor. I often think making money is the most-neglected topic in personal finance, so it’s great to see articles that offer real-life experience and advice about earning extra income. Great stuff.

David, the Personal Finance Analyst, has a long look at your secret credit scores and their implication. He doesn’t have any concrete recommendation, but these “secret” scores are important, and not enough folks know about them.

Sun at The Sun’s Financial Diary encourages readers to become master of their financial domains. Sun says that when getting and accurate picture of your financial situation is the first step to becoming a master of your finances.

Adam at Magical Penny has a thought-provoking look at why it’s okay to lose money in a savings account. He argues that even while inflation is chipping away at the value of your cash, there are great reasons to build your savings. I think his advice is right on.

RJ from Gen Y Wealth takes a look at the wealth effect, which occurs when your net worth increases due to an increase in home or stock prices. This increase makes you feel richer, and therefore causes you to increase your spending.

At his blog, Len Penzo explains inflation by showing that Avatar isn’t the biggest move of all time. Inflation can be hard for some people to grasp, and this is a good way to explain it.

Wild Nights by Emily Dickinson

Wild nights—wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port—
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden—
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor,
Tonight, in thee!

* RC at Think Your Way to Wealth wonders, “Is self-reliance a lost art in this day and age?” This is a great mediation on our throw-away culture.

* Ryan, the Financial Student, shares the story of how he’s getting 30 hours of college credit for 15 bucks using something called the post-secondary education option, which allows high-school students to take college classes for free. Way cool!

The Well-Heeled Blog argues that you can save money by embracing your natural hair, and says, “I used to spend $250+ and 4 hours in the stylist’ chair to straighten my hair. After I’ve come to accept (and even love) my wavy hair, however, I stopped the straightening treatments. I’ve discovered that I’m getting better hair and a fuller wallet in return.”

Again and Again by Rainer Maria Rilke

Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Note: There were a lot of of submissions in this category, and they’re all pretty good actually. They’re still ranked in order of how I liked them, but I felt these submissions were much stronger than in other categories, so even those near the end of the list are still worth reading.

** My favorite post of the week is from Pop Economics, which I’d never heard of until today. Pop explores the illusion of control — our compulsion to do something with our investments. Studies show that we feel happier if we feel like we’re in control of our investing future. When we don’t have control, we feel depressed. With that in mind, how do you reconcile those instincts with passive, low-cost investing? This article explores a couple of options. I love this blog. It just started on January 1st of this year, which is why I’d never heard of it, but I’m a subscriber now!

* Mike, the Personal Finance Ninja, gives three reasons the average joe is a bad investor. Mike says that you are not Warren Buffett. For most of us, active trading is not a good idea; instead, we should keep expenses low and diversify with index funds. Ninja cartoons! Warren Buffett quotes! Index funds! How could you not read this article?

Mike at Gather Little by Little shares the second part of a series on what he calls “investing baby steps”. In this installment, he examines some investing strategies for beginners. (There are more strategies to come in the future!) I think this is could be a useful series of articles for folks wanting to learn more about how to invest.

The Dividend Guy shares seven warning signs that you need to repair your investment portfolio, a good reminder that it’s important to review your investments at certain intervals. (I recommend reviewing your asset allocation once per year, though some folks think you should do it every quarter.)

Jim at Bargaineering just published another in his ongoing series of Devil’s Advocate articles, in which he tries to argue against conventional financial wisdom. (He doesn’t necessarily believe what he’s writing; he just wants to present the other side.) In this case, he tries to argue that you shouldn’t invest in the stock market.

Another Mike — Mike Piper, the Oblivious Investor — has a review of Zvi Bodie’s Worry-Free Investing, a book that argues investors should put their money almost exclusively into TIPS, advice that Piper thinks is…well, oblivious!

The Smart Wallet has a good post on a dry subject: Paying capital gains taxes when you trade stocks. This explains yet another reason it’s not a good idea to be an active stock trader.

At Free Money Finance, a guest poster explores the eight biggest mistakes investors make. Solid advice here.

Paul Williams from Provident Planning has an article with a very narrow target audience: He’s reviewed Prudential’s Retirement Red Zone, which is apparently a pitch at soon-to-be-retirees to use variable annuities.

To Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
The higher he’s a-getting;
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best, which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

J.D.’s note: I love this poem.

Money Management
* Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents has a great piece on how to find the best financial advisor for you. If you’re in the market for a financial planner (or other advisor), be sure to read this.

Can you retire early without getting lucky? That’s what Tim from Canadian Dream: Free at 45 wonders. He says that nearly every story he’s heard of early retirement has included an element of luck. But can the average person retire early? Tim ran the numbers and found that if you do everything right, yes it’s possible. But you have to avoid consumer debt, buy a small house, and keep away from lifestyle inflation. Great piece!

Ron at The Wisdom Journal has a thought-provoking piece about goals. He notes that 80% of accidents on Mt. Everest happen on the way down, and wonders if this isn’t a metaphor for how we handle financial goals. We spend so much time planning how to reach our financial destinations that sometimes we forget to think about what happens after. Interesting stuff.

At Sweating the Big Stuff, Daniel takes a look at compound interest and why it’s important to pay yourself first.

K from Family Balance Sheet shows how to create your own family balance sheet, which will let you manage your household like a business. (Includes a sample Google Docs spreadsheet you can use!)

Modern Gal (a great blog I’ve never seen before) has some short-and-sweet financial advice for thirty-somethings. These are basic but important tips.

Big Cajun Man from Canadian Personal Finance (there are cajun Canadians?) wonders, “Do you have a financial GPS?” He thinks it would be great if there were some automated way to know when you’ve made a wrong turn with your money.

When I am Dead by Christina Rossetti

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Real Estate
* Though it’s basic stuff, I really liked Austin’s article about Renting 101: What you should know before you sign at Foreigner’s Finances. This basic info is valuable for folks just starting out on their own. Maybe you have a brother or niece to forward this article to.

J. Money from Budgets are Sexy warns that owning a home is more expensive than you think, writing, “There are a ton of benefits that go along with this American Dream (tax write-offs, stability, equity, etc), but you’ve got to be aware of the financial drains as well.”

Thinking of buying a home buy confused by the terminology? Elle at Couple Money has a post that explains how amortization and mortgages work. It’s a pretty math-y article, but will probably prove useful to those folks looking to buy in the near future.

Rob at Free Family Finance has an 8-minute video about the differences between 15- and 30-year mortgages.

She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron (excerpt)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.


And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Free From Broke has a quick run-down of qualifying for and claiming the first-time homebuyers tax credit. I’ve had some people ask me about this, and frankly I don’t know much about it. You folks should head over to check this out.

Matt from Debt-Free Adventure explains how he prepares his taxes online and offers tax help and tips for first-time online software users. (Apparently he’s a big fan of TurboTax Online.)

Mighty Bargain Hunter has a great reminder about identity theft and financial security: Sometimes your bank will call you for a legitimate reason; if they do, call them back. He explains the process using his own situation as an example.

At Eliminate the Muda, LeanLifeCoach takes a look at money and time, and how we waste them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: One of the keys to my financial turnaround was that I stopped wasting time. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you actually do things!

The Weakonomist goes on a rant against bundling, the practice of making you pay extra for crap you don’t want by packaging a bunch of stuff together. I think he’s got a valid point, though his Microsoft example seems to go against his argument. (Or am I missing something?)

Kyle from Suburban Dollar shared a 4-minute video review of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It! I’m not a fan of video posts (see my whine about Free Family Finance above) because they force the blog “reader” to sit there passively and prevent them from skipping spots. But Kyle does a good job here of staying succinct, and his review of the book pretty much matches my own. (Including the complaint that there isn’t really any actionable advice in the book.)

The blogger from Don’t Quit Your Day Job takes a look at why parents with children seem to volunteer more than others. (Answer: It may be because they volunteer to help with their children’s activities.)

Jason from Live Real, Now has a cute piece about what Dungeons and Dragons taught him about finance. In a similar vein, B Simple from Simple Financial Lifestyle shares the keys to winning your own personal financial Super Bowl. Gimmicky, but fun.

Helen at Science and Money (another blog I’ve never seen before) has a review of Saving Money by Mary Firestone, a financial-literary book for children. Helen thinks it’s lame.

Final carnival stats: 72 submissions, 11 rejected (and another 7 nearly so), 61 accepted (10 of which were highlighted). Six hours to prepare: Five hours to compile and list links, and another hour to create theme and post the carnival. 3705 words. Photo by Sophiea.

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