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Budgeting


  • Christmas gifts that keep on giving (42 comments)
    This is a guest post from former GRS staff writer Donna Freedman.

    Anyone who has lived on the margin has likely felt the anxiety that comes with having just about enough to get by. That’s why I’d like to suggest a holiday present that can make a short- or long-term difference in someone’s life – the gift of breathing room. Got a barely-afloat friend or family member or one who is inching toward the red…

  • How does a strong dollar affect you? (16 comments)
    This article is by staff writer William Cowie.

    You have probably heard it before: At the end of yet another melancholy rant about how bad things are in America, someone inevitably adds “… and then the dollar is so weak, too.” Well, lament no longer because the dollar recently reached a seven-year high. How is the dollar measured? The U.S. dollar is used to measure so many things. The gold price is quoted around…

  • Can a cash grocery budget save you money? (77 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle.

    As I mentioned in my last article, I experimented with paying cash only for my October groceries. I had only one goal in mind: Spend less on groceries so I could save more money each month. Well, my little experiment opened a whole can of worms. The Experiment Basically, I always try to keep my grocery spending in check, but I usually don’t limit quantity or variety…

  • A six-figure income, and still paying off debt? (50 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong.

    At another site, I recently wrote about a tool that shows you online prices in terms of hours worked. I used a random item — a fancy coffee maker that costs $116 — as an example. It would take someone who earned $38 an hour approximately three hours of work to pay for that item. A reader replied that, if they made $38 an hour, they…

  • Ask the Readers: How much are you budgeting for holiday travel? (24 comments)
    This article is by editor Linda Vergon.

    Nearly two thirds of Americans are planning to travel at least once between Thanksgiving Day and New Years Day this year, according to the Orbitz Holiday Travel Insider Index. The survey is based off the popular site’s consumer research and booking data, which also indicates that 60 percent of travelers are willing to spend as much as $2,500 on their getaway. Most travelers (68 percent) plan to…

  • Ask the readers: How does media coverage affect your charitable donations? (36 comments)

    This article is by editor Linda Vergon. A 2006 study from The William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan showed how media coverage of the 2004 tsunami influenced charitable donations. For their analysis, they had to isolate the effect media coverage had on donations, so they controlled for tax incentives, agency-specific effects, and “donor fatigue” (meaning that more exposure to an event caused people to be less willing to donate). What they found was…

  • Painless ways I save money in every category of my budget (69 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. I get frustrated when people don’t understand what it means to be frugal. A few criticisms of frugality I’ve come across: Frugality is a waste of time. Frugality distracts you from earning more money. Frugal people deny themselves of any enjoyment. I’ve already written in detail about how these arguments are silly. They might apply to being cheap, but they don’t apply to being frugal. The point…

  • Can getting one month ahead save your budget? (42 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Once upon a time, my husband and I were pretty clueless when it came to how we spent the money we earned at our 9 to 5 jobs. We made a decent income but struggled to keep track of where it was all going and, more importantly, why it always managed to disappear into thin air. I won’t bore you with the details again, but we ultimately…

  • I want Christmas to be debt-free (68 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Fall is finally here, and everywhere I look I see Pinterest-worthy pumpkin carvings, seasonal door hangings, and all kinds of pumpkin-flavored cookies, breads, and pies. Homemade cornstalk creations line doorways and gourds decorate walkways; neighborhood yards are filled with figures resembling ghosts, witches, and goblins. Even *I* made a homemade pumpkin pie of my own the other day — from a pumpkin straight from my garden. With…

  • How I budget with a variable income (22 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. It seems like everybody’s goal lately is to leave their job and become a freelancer. And that’s great! Freelancing gives you flexibility and control — and, plus, you get to work from home in your yoga pants. But as someone who has transitioned into that role full-time, there are certain things I do miss about having an employer: 401(k) match Insurance benefits Free coffee Office buddies Income…

  • Honey progress report: Homeownership and priorities edition (68 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. In May, Jake and I bought a house and moved in. We’ve been loving it so far! People who have always lived in a place with decent structural integrity may not appreciate it, but considering the many problems with our previous rental, it feels like we live in a palace now. At the time of my last post on homeownership, we had about $10,000 in liquid savings. Beefing up our…

  • Hiccups on the way to combining finances (32 comments)

    This is a guest post from Kathleen O’Malley, who writes about finding joy in a simple, frugal life at Frugal Portland. It happened fast. We barely talked about it, but all of a sudden, about a week after we got engaged — and before we were really ready — my fiancé and I had combined our finances. I can pinpoint the impetus: Southwest Airlines was offering a promotion where if you got both the Plus…

  • Becoming friends with your future self (24 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. I fight splurges less often than I used to, but the urge still pops up occasionally. Sometimes, it’s okay to splurge; but mostly, I find myself wanting to resist temptation. There are a few questions I ask when I’m mulling over a purchase: Do I have money saved for this? Do I feel like I’m stealing money from a financial goal? Am I simply being impulsive? Will I…

  • Ask the Readers: What is your most pressing financial issue (this year)? (62 comments)

    This post is from editor Linda Vergon. We asked this question back in 2012 at a time when the political process was in full swing, demanding that we decide if we were any better off than we were four years prior. While the mere thought of election ballyhooing is enough to make me roll my eyes, the underlying question of whether we’re making progress on our financial goals is at the heart of personal finance,…

  • Is this where you can cut the most the quickest? (94 comments)

    This article is by staff writer William Cowie. The post a couple of weeks ago about the whole income inequality thing brought out some good insights and raised several new questions. We love to play board games, and one of our favorites is Acquire, a great money game which seems to have acquired (no pun intended) quite a cult following through the years. (Good luck trying to get a good one on eBay for under…

  • How to track your spending (and why you should) (80 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Recently, an old friend emailed me for help with his family’s financial woes. The confession that followed wasn’t pretty, and included tales of student loans, car loans, unrestrained spending, and empty bank accounts. It was all bad news, which I found rather surprising considering their relatively high income. So, of course, I asked about their fixed expenses. What were they? We emailed back and forth for quite a…

  • Reader Stories: The Notebook (Part 1) (39 comments)

    Jim, a reader of our Facebook page, shared some of his personal finance journey in Facebook comments a while back, and readers commented that they’d like to hear his story. We reached out and asked him if he would elaborate so we could share his story with the Get Rich Slowly website readers. This is part 1. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or…

  • Can you grow your family on a shrinking income? (31 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. Our two kids came with an almost two-year gestation, similar to an elephant’s gestation, actually. (Here’s where I would make a joke about now our salary feels like peanuts, or something, but I’m not that funny.) Between starting the adoption process and taking custody of the kids, we had much longer than most parents do to prepare. And we tried to prepare. We made some decisions to increase…

  • Speaking of hobbies… (52 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. In my last post, I talked about picking hobbies strategically. There, I suggested that it might be a good idea to choose hobbies that fall into three main categories. Those three categories were: Hobby as side gig. Hobby as “something you have to do anyway so you might as well be good at it.” (I’m nothing if not pithy.) Free or super cheap hobbies. I’d like to take…

  • Honey’s financial goals for 2014 (29 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Now that I’ve taken stock of where I’ve been in 2013, I’m ready to set goals for 2014. I want my goals to be ambitious, realistic, and personal in addition to being SMART goals. They should also take into account my goals for the previous year. This includes whether or not the goal was achieved and how easy it was to achieve. I need to be aggressive, not complacent!…

  • Ask the Readers: 2014 wedding planning: What can you do to save money? (130 comments)

    One of  my colleagues just got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, and they’ve planned their wedding in record time, in my mind: a November 2014 date. They’re trying to pay for as much of the wedding themselves, instead of asking parents to pay for it, without going into any debt. They’ve booked a great Jersey Shore location on the beach, chosen menus, flowers. My colleague still has to talk to DJs for music and pricing;…

  • Coping with job loss (46 comments)

    A few weeks ago, I lost a freelance job. I won’t dish the details, because it’s not relevant to this post, and I’m still friendly with my contacts there. What is relevant to this post, however, is that I’ve had a big change in income. I went from being able to stash away more than enough in retirement and medium-term savings to barely being able to pay my monthly expenses. Today, as I contemplate low-paying gigs…

  • Reader Stories: Our lightbulb moment (50 comments)

    This Reader Story comes from LifeImproved.org. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want to submit your own reader story? Here’s how. In 2009, I convinced my husband to see a financial planner. You see, I finally felt like we were making real money. Translation: we finally made enough money to…

  • The power of a zero-sum budget (49 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. There’s been a lot of talk about budgeting here at Get Rich Slowly. For instance, Kristin recently wrote about her adventures using the envelope system. I wrote about the reasons your budget might be failing. And, a variety of guest posters and staff writers have touched on the topic with articles like these: How I kept to my budget and still have everything I want Budgeting: The Most Important…

  • Honey progress report: a good problem edition (40 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. In my last progress report, I mentioned three pieces of good news: I paid off my small student loan balance, Jake paid off the balance transfer he’d made to one of my credit cards, and I got a raise Shortly after those occurrences, I reached another milestone: I celebrated five years with my current employer. Why is that a financial milestone? Because I became vested in the employer…

  • How to cure a spending hangover (37 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Holly Johnson. A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a somewhat frugal vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. And while I was very excited to visit a new city and explore, I was equally excited about the financial details of the trip. Since we had chosen an all-inclusive resort, our entire vacation was easy to budget and plan for. A sum of $800…

  • Adventures in returning to the envelope system (72 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Kristin Wong. I first read about the envelope system back in college. I used it regularly, but after graduating and paying off my debt, I sort of abandoned it. I’d gotten a hold of my finances, and I figured I could budget safely without having to use this tactic. I could afford to give myself a break. Then, last month, I realized just how much of a break I’ve given…

  • Reader Story: 6 things I did because I was poor that made me poorer (41 comments)

    Matt Stokes is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, and TV producer in New Orleans. His first novel, Generation Why, is a humorous look at the difficulties of college graduates in the 2010s who don’t know what to do with their lives. The book came out in 2012 and is available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @mattstokes9. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or…

  • How I kept to my budget and still have everything I want (49 comments)

    This guest post is from Darlene Bauer, who works from home in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  She created BlogBoldly.com as a platform to help newcomers learn to build their own profitable online business. Years ago, when I was single and on a tight budget, I devised a fun way to get practically everything on my wish list and have money left over! I was in my twenties and waited tables for a living, so…

  • When lifestyle inflation isn’t even fun (63 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Kristin Wong. When I think of lifestyle inflation, I think of going to my favorite sushi restaurant every weekend. I think of buying the pricey cashmere sweater I’ve been eyeing and then buying ten more expensive sweaters. I think of spending weekends on yachts and drinking champagne while a guy on a violin serenades me. Well, scratch that last one, because I get seasick, but yeah. I think of lifestyle inflation as being…

  • Reader Stories: Using the waterfall money management system (59 comments)

    This is a guest post from Andrew Selby. Andrew writes about debt management programs at his Debt Consolidation Blog. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. After fighting, scratching and clawing for years, I had finally paid off my college loans and was…

  • Reader Stories: How 5 daily habits rocked my financial world (28 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jillian Beirne Davi. Jillian is a Transformational Money Coach and the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial…

  • Your budget isn’t working. Here’s why. (77 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Holly Johnson. Before my husband and I got our financial act together, we didn’t have a budget. Since we didn’t have and sort of plan, we spent all of our discretionary income on “wants” and financed anything that cost more money than we had. And the scariest part is that we never really thought much of it. Our income always lasted until the next payday, so we never worried about…

  • Review: ‘All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan’ (44 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. There are many personal finance books out there, useful to people in all stages of personal finance. I have a lot to learn before reaching financial independence, and the editorial elves thought it would be useful if I shared some of what I learn with you. So for the foreseeable future, I will be reviewing one PF-related book per month. I won’t necessarily be reviewing the latest bestsellers in…

  • Are automatic payments all they’re cracked up to be? (88 comments)

    This post is by staff writer April Dykman. A few weeks ago, I paid a sky-high electric bill. After some investigation, I saw the problem: the electric company charged a $200 deposit fee for starting electric service at our new house. The deposit was supposed to be waived, since we had a good payment history with the electric company. Only here it was, on our bill. And since we’re on autopay, the electric company had…

  • Is it possible you don’t need an emergency fund? (91 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Lisa Aberle. Common personal finance advice recommends building an emergency fund. In fact, how and why to have an emergency fund has been covered here before. But like so much common advice, it doesn’t apply to everyone — and it certainly doesn’t apply to each stage of personal finance. Sometimes I get financial tunnel vision and focus on my financial checklist (Pay off debt? Check. Have an emergency fund of three…

  • Spending in depth: The hair care budget (196 comments)

    When I started this journey on GRS, I included hair care in my category of irregular expenses. At that time, I estimated that I spent about $600 per year on service and $300 per year on product. However, I thought that since the year is over it was time to visit that category in depth and see what I am really spending so I can assess these costs, much like I did with the bagel…

  • Love, relationships and financial harmony (64 comments)

    You’ll have to forgive the overt theme of today’s post. I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while, but it’s such personal issue that I’ve shied away from it. But when I realized that this week’s post would fall on Valentine’s Day, I took it as a serendipitous opportunity to break out of my comfort zone and talk about something that scares me a little: my love life. Specifically, this is the…

  • Party philosophy: When to spend big on fiestas (57 comments)

    I grew up in a family not given to extravagance with regard to birthdays. Not that we could have been extravagant if we would have wanted to. With five children close together in age, a dad who’d pursued ministry as a career (and not one of those relatively lucrative evangelical TV ministries, either), and a mother at home with us, money was tight. As an adult in my 20s, birthday parties meant dinners out at…

  • Honey’s financial goals for 2013 (126 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Now that I’ve taken stock of where I’ve been in 2012, I’m ready to set goals for 2013. I want my goals to be ambitious enough that meeting them is a true accomplishment requiring me to stretch my growing money-management skills. However, I also want them to be realistic and personal (revolving around my priorities). Goal 1: Pay off $5,000 in student loan principal Since I’ve paid…

  • Taking stock of 2012 (89 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. For me, the end of the year is a time to take stock of where I’ve been. This not only helps me identify (and celebrate!) my accomplishments throughout the year, it helps me identify and prioritize new goals. I’ve already met the short-term of my recently identified financial goals. I’m also happy to report that I’ve actually made significant progress on the medium-term goal as well. With…

  • Adopting strategies to pay for big expenses (84 comments)

    I like the idea of financial independence, and if I’d had my way, we would have started our family once we had college fully funded for each child. Plus, a healthy emergency fund, a do-I-want-to-be-a-working-mom-or-not fund, and a minivan fund. But I didn’t want to be 80 years old at my children’s high school graduations either. Ironically, as it turns out, we decided to build our family through international adoption, a notoriously expensive way to…

  • Setting my next financial goal (38 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Honey Smith. Ever since I paid off my consumer debt, I have been thinking about setting my next goal. Obviously paying off my student debt in its entirety is the long-term goal, but that is going to take years. And years. For me, having a goal that long-term feels psychologically similar to saving without a goal. To keep myself motivated, I think it’s a good idea to pepper the…

  • Reader Stories: When is a lifestyle upgrade OK? (37 comments)

    This post is from CYH, who is about to become a graduate student in another country so she’s examining her lifestyle carefully. This story is one of our Reader Stories series. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. I’ve saved. I’ve paid debt down…

  • Ask the Readers: What is your hobby worth to you? (115 comments)

    This guest post was written by Jenny Saikwa. Our friends’ weeks and weekends are crammed full of various pursuits – soccer, baseball, gardening, scrapbooking, calligraphy, swimming, dressage, sailing … the list goes on and on. And let’s face it: No matter what the hobby is, it’s going to involve the wallet. There is a price of entry for virtually every hobby, beyond which the sky is the limit. And after watching the Olympians compete this…

  • Spending in depth: the bagel budget (108 comments)

    This post is by new staff writer Honey Smith. One of my goals in taking a hard look at my budget is not to do too much at once. I want to make sure my changes stick and avoid making repaying debt an obsession. You can read about the first budget category I examined, life insurance, here. That one tiny change ended up being instrumental in my quest to pay off my credit card debt,…

  • Redefining Frugality: Mistakes and Money Lessons Learned as a Freelancer (64 comments)

    Sitting on my desk as I write this is an application I should have filled out months ago. Twenty-two months ago, to be exact. It was then that I left my 40-hour-a-week office job, which included a convenient 401(k), dependable health care plan and, most refreshingly, a kind and understanding boss. It was tough to leave that job, but I wanted to pursue a career in freelance writing. The entire experience was overwhelming. Details of…

  • When One Partner Won’t Budget (330 comments)

    This article is from new staff writer Honey Smith. In my last article at Get Rich Slowly, I gave the background on my income and expenses. My husband’s income and expenses are a little more difficult to compile. For one, Jake left the life of a steady paycheck about a year ago in order to start his own business. This means that his income fluctuates, which of course we knew going in. It also means…

  • Reader Story: When There Isn’t Enough (95 comments)

    This guest post from Daisy Bailey is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. Three years ago, I stopped reading Get Rich Slowly because I just couldn’t read one more article on how to…

  • Where I’m Starting From: Honey’s Story (384 comments)

    This article is from new staff writer Honey Smith. Hello. I’m Honey Smith. I’m thrilled to be a part of the GRS community, though of course a little embarrassed that it’s essentially as an object lesson to others of what not to do. However, I do hope that everyone on the site learns something along with me. For those of you who are financially comfortable (or close to it), those lessons may be about empathy…

  • Frugal or Foolish? Our Cruise-Ship Wedding (201 comments)

    For the next week (or two), we’ll be sharing “audition” pieces from folks interested in being new staff writers at Get Rich Slowly. Your job is to let us know what you think of each of these writers. Pay attention, give feedback, and after a couple of weeks we’ll ask which writers you prefer. This article is from Honey Smith, who says she’s at the beginning of her debt-reduction journey. How much should you spend…

  • Ask the Readers: How Much Do You Spend on Fun? (93 comments)

    Over the past year, I’ve occasionally used the “Ask the Readers” feature at Get Rich Slowly to poll people about their budgets and spending habits. So far, I’ve asked folks: How much do you spend on food? How much do you spend on clothes? How much do you spend on gifts? How much do you spend on health insurance? How much do you spend on housing? How much do you spend on kids? For today’s…

  • My Financial Evolution: Discovering What’s Right for Me (71 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Tim Sullivan. “I don’t know what they want from me. It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” — Notorious B.I.G. For a while, just like Notorious B.I.G., I battled the stresses of lifestyle inflation, though on a much smaller scale. I was making more money than ever, yet more nervous about finances as well. I was more knowledgeable and more empowered with money…

  • Classifying Wants and Needs (80 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Tim Sullivan. We all have our ways of destressing after a long day. One of my weirdest and most beloved post-work, take-a-load-off strategies has always been cruising the aisles of gourmet grocery stores just to look at packaging. Give me an aisle of fancily bottled extra virgin olive oil, and I’ll need at least an hour. Nothing is more calming to me than fancy fonts on fancy jars of…

  • Ask the Readers: One Expense Leads to Another? (111 comments)

    Have you ever bought something only to discover that this one purchase led to another? And another? And another? I have, and it’s frustrating. Andrew thinks this sort of problem is frustrating, too, and he recently wrote to ask for advice on handling situations like this. What do you do when one expense leads to another? How do you put a stop to it? How do you predict problems like this so they don’t happen…

  • Is Your Spending Normal? (112 comments)

    Over the past year, one of the most popular features here at Get Rich Slowly has been the monthly “how much do you spend on X?” question. I started these informal and unscientific surveys on a whim. I wanted too see what sort of spending ranges we held as a population of relatively money-savvy citizens. In the past year, we’ve looked at the following spending categories: How much do you spend on food? How much…

  • Finding Room for the Spontaneous (82 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Tim Sullivan. This past Friday, I got an e-mail from my uncle letting me know the Sox were here in Seattle. Since leaving Chicago, it’s rare that I get to see my hometown sluggers, and it’s not an opportunity I would want to miss. But by the time I caught wind of the windy city being in town, the cheap seats were sold out, which meant that tickets for…

  • The Costs and Benefits of the Family Dog (161 comments)

    This is a guest post by Justin Reames, who blogs at The Family Finances. Growing up, I remember watching shows like “Lassie” and movies like “Old Yeller” and “Where the Red Fern Grows”. These were old movies when I was a kid, but they were free to rent from the library, so we watched more than our fair share of old movies. Because of those shows, I always thought it would have been nice to…

  • How I Stopped Excessive Gifting (117 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Tim Sullivan. Most of us struggle with some psychological aspect of money that can impede our savings. Whether it be the lure of clothing stores, nights out with friends, or stocking a top-shelf liquor cabinet, there tends to be one thing or another that creeps from our wants category into our needs. I’ve never been a compulsive shopper and always preferred voluntary simplicity, both in the kitchen and in…

  • Reader Story: The Bonus of Bi-Weekly Pay (96 comments)

    This guest post from Corinne is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. At my previous job, I was paid on a monthly basis. I loved it. I got all my money for the…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Save Money While Making Minimum Wage? (147 comments)

    It can be tough to get out of debt and build savings even if your income is above average. If it’s average (or less), the challenge becomes even greater. And what if you’re earning only minimum wage (or something a little over)? In cases like this, is saving even possible? Yesterday, a reader named Andrew asked this question on the Get Rich Slowly page at Facebook: Andrew’s question from Facebook I love this question. Andrew…

  • Ask the Readers: Income? Or Negative Savings? (92 comments)

    I’ve been fielding reader questions at Get Rich Slowly for almost six years now. In that time, we (you and I) have answered 202 questions, most of which have been about the Big Picture, about things that apply to everyone. Sometimes, though, it can be interesting to get a bit more specific. For instance, Julie wrote recently with a question that, by her own admission, is technical and fussy. Well, let’s be technical and fussy…

  • Ask the Readers: All I Ever Worry About is Money (183 comments)

    Though I try to keep the “Ask the Readers” column general so that the advice can apply to many people, sometimes I get specific questions that seem important enough to be addressed. That’s the case this week. A young GRS reader named Rebecca dropped a line the other day looking for help. She’s just getting started in life, but feels overwhelmed by personal finance. She worries about money all of the time. Here’s her story:…

  • Detecting and Preventing Lifestyle Creep (82 comments)

    This is a guest post from freelance writer Jessica Ward. For three years, I’ve been patting myself on the back. The household expenses remain the same every month, and we’re getting out of debt. In spite of increases in costs, we’ve found efficiencies and made room. But, as they say, after pride comes the fall. I discovered this month that we’re actually making less progress every month now than when we first started making monthly…

  • How to Keep Your Thanksgiving Budget Thankfully Low (52 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sarah Gilbert. We’re all skilled in the ways of the holiday budget; most of us start thinking about it in the fall, with most attention paid to Christmas gifts, feasting, and New Years’ celebrations. And if we’re traveling to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving, that budgeting has already occurred. But few of us give much thought to a Thanksgiving budget. (This is born out by the few responses…

  • The Many Ways to Know and Control the Flow of Your Dough (57 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. How do you know what it costs to be you? That’s my question for the day, dear GRS reader. I’ve come a bit full-circle in what I think is most important when it comes…

  • Reader Story: Adding to Our Family Without Subtracting from Our Budget (98 comments)

    This guest post from Mark is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. This seems like a natural follow-up to Friday’s reader question about when to start a family. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Mark shares stories of his family life at…

  • Holiday Saving Tips: How to Grow Your Christmas Nest Egg (48 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. Autumn is here and the leaves are just starting to turn. Believe it or not, that means it’s time to start thinking about the holiday season. Holiday expenses can pile up quickly. Planning ahead saves you sticker shock and can spare you a steep credit card bill in the new year. Careful planners have laid out…

  • Budgeting Dilemma: How Do You Decide What You Can Afford? (101 comments)

    This is a guest post from No Debt MBA, who is trying to pay for an MBA from a top-five business school without student loans. This is a post that asks questions but offers no answers. My significant other and I had an interesting discussion the other night. We were trying to make plans for a week of vacation this summer and were deciding between two different options: A cross-country trip with plane tickets where…

  • Reader Story: Negative Budgeting and a Healthy Outlook on Life (52 comments)

    This guest post from Shara is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general “how I did X” advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Last year, Shara shared her story about the other side of bankruptcy. On a ride to town the other…

  • Ask the Readers: But HOW Do You Track Every Penny You Spend? (186 comments)

    It’s tough to dig out of debt (or make other changes to your spending habits) if you don’t know where your money goes. I tried for years to turn things around, but was unsuccessful until I started tracking every penny I spent. Armed with info about my actual spending habits (instead of perceived patterns), I was able to make a realistic budget. But getting started with expense tracking can be overwhelming. There’s so much data!…

  • A Small Splurge: $8.25 Worth Of Fun (98 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. The other day I went to a vintage clothing shop with a friend. I needed some simple summer staples: tank tops, skirts, shorts. I don’t like shopping for clothes, so I always try to go with friends who enjoy it and are better at finding great stuff than I am. This is as high-priced as clothes…

  • Learning to Give (221 comments)

    For years, Get Rich Slowly readers have given me grief over my charitable giving. Or, more precisely, my lack of it. I was raised in a home that gave neither money nor time to help others. As I struck out on my own, I never picked up the habit of giving. At first, this was because I had myself to worry about. I was deep in debt. How could I afford to help others when…

  • How to Build a Better Budget (77 comments)

    This article on building a better budget is the written version of a workshop I gave last week at a local public library. It refines material from several past posts on the subject. If I’d planned ahead, I could have used this for Financial Literacy Month in April. “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” ~ John C. Maxwell For most people, budgeting is about as fun…

  • Five Ways to Outwit the ATM (141 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes a personal finance column for MSN Money. She also writes about frugality, intentional living, and life in general at her own blog, Surviving And Thriving. Automated teller machines are from the devil, and debit cards are Satan’s imps. Sure, it’s great to be able to get cash whenever you want. The problem is, well, you can get cash whenever you want. Not only do…

  • How I Spend My Money (118 comments)

    Earlier this month, I shared a new financial framework I’ve been developing, one that stresses earning, spending, and saving as the building blocks of personal finance. Last week, I elaborated by sharing how I make money. This week, I’m turning to the other half of the basic personal-finance equation: spending. Or, more precisely, the lack of it. Instead of talking about theoretical ways to cut costs, I’m going to share the things that Kris and…

  • Ask the Readers: I’ve Tracked My Expenses — Now What? (103 comments)

    At the end of August, a very patient Stephanie sent me an interesting question. When I didn’t answer her e-mail, she sent it again in January. I replied, promising to post her question while I was in Africa — but I didn’t get to it. Now it’s April. I think it’s time to set things right. Here’s what Stephanie has to say: For a year now, I’ve tracked every single penny that comes and goes…

  • Spare Change: Blog Continuity Edition (43 comments)

    I’ve tried something new at Get Rich Slowly lately. Several years ago, my friend Sparky gave some feedback about the site. “There are lots of great discussions in the comments,” he said, “but you never really make that obvious on the blog itself. If there’s a good conversation, you should let everyone know.” I’ve never done that — until now. And I’m still not really doing what he wanted. What I’ve been doing instead over…

  • Back to the Stone Age: Low-Tech Expense Tracking (93 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. As many of you know, before I was a GRS staff writer, I was a GRS reader and active commenter. I’d say the bulk of my early personal-finance education came from this website, and it’s most definitely the resource I credit for spurring me to get serious about paying off debt and saving money. So last year when J.D. started talking about falling off the tracking-every-penny wagon,…

  • An 11-Year-Old’s First Budget (74 comments)

    This is a guest post from Andrea Deckard, who publishes Savings Lifestyle, a website that helps people save on what they need so they can spend on what they want. Growing up, my parents taught me very little about financial responsibility. It wasn’t until college, when my parents expected me to pay my own car insurance, that I was forced to learn the basics of budgeting. It was just one bill, but it was traumatic…

  • How Budgeting Leads to Freedom (28 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the host of the popular Til Debt Do U$ Part on CNBC (Saturday nights at 10 and 10:30). Gail is a columnist for MoneySense, Chatelaine, and Zoomer Magazine and blogs daily at her website, where she also offers terrific tools people can use to dig themselves out of the hole. Gail’s latest book is Debt-Free Forever. Imagine the freedom to never worry about money. Some dopes think…

  • How to Cope with Budget Blow-Ups (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the host of the popular Til Debt Do U$ Part on CNBC (Saturday nights at 10 and 10:30). Gail is a columnist for MoneySense, Chatelaine, and Zoomer Magazine and blogs daily at her website, where she also offers terrific tools people can use to dig themselves out of the hole. Gail’s latest book is Debt-Free Forever. Despite the best laid plans of mice and men, there are…

  • Reader Story: How to Find Budgeting Nirvana with Mint.com (78 comments)

    This guest post from Geoff Lennon is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Though I’ve been a GRS reader since early 2007, I’ve largely been a quiet observer. I’ve often wanted to participate more actively in…

  • Reader Story: How Our Simple, No-Category, Mostly-Cash Budget Accidentally Paid Off the Car (42 comments)

    This guest post from Heather is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Besides teaching elementary band and running a personal training business, Heather keeps a healthy-living blog called Change Is Possible, plays trombone in a local…

  • Finding My Spending Identity (31 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Do you have a Spending Identity? You do, whether you know it or not. It’s as real as the data on your driver’s license, but if you’re like most people, you’ve probably never given it much thought. Your Spending Identity dictates who you are as a consumer: Are you frugal or extravagant?…

  • Getting Started – Review of the Mint.com Signup Process (158 comments)
  • Budgeting For Mistakes (75 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. How carefully do you budget? Do you account for every dime, or is there some wiggle room in your spending plan? Since I got on the wagon with tracking my spending, there’s no miscellaneous category in my budget anymore. Every dime of my income is accounted for. I know how much I…

  • The Quest for the Best Budget (38 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. We can do two things with our money: spend it or save it. (Actually, there are other possibilities — eating it! smoking it! — but we’ll limit our discussion to what sane people do.)…

  • Where’s the Money, Honey? Why You MUST Track Your Spending (59 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the host of the popular Til Debt Do U$ Part on CNBC (Saturday nights at 10 and 10:30). Gail is a columnist for Yahoo Canada, Chatelaine, and Zoomer Magazine and blogs daily at her website, where she also offers terrific tools people can use to dig themselves out of the hole. Gail’s latest book is Debt-Free Forever. People are always scratching their heads about where their money…

  • Ask the Readers: Help! I’m Overwhelmed! How Do I Get Started? (153 comments)

    I’ll admit it: I’m way behind on posting reader questions. I get tons of questions, and can never reply to all of them. I do ask a handful of folks if they’d like to put their problems to the general readership. But even after sifting these through, I still have about a dozen dilemmas to put before you. I had hoped to write up one “ask the readers” column per week that I’ll be in…

  • The Prioritized Spending Plan (66 comments)

    I don’t often get to listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio program. For one thing, I don’t know when it’s on. For another, the only radio stations I usually listen to are my satellite radio channels. (Those would be dance music on xm81, chillout music on xm84, classic country on xm10, and 1940s music on xm4. And oh, how I miss Fred, which was replaced by the execrable 1st Wave on xm44.) About once a year,…

  • Free Microsoft Money Download Now Available (20 comments)

    As I pointed out over a year ago, Microsoft has decided to quit producing Money Plus, its personal-finance software. At that time, I suggested sixteen powerful alternatives to Microsoft Money, but GRS reader Lijacka dropped a line the other day to point out that Money Plus is still available. For free! What’s the catch? Well, the biggest drawback is that the free versions of Money Plus have no online features. Here’s the scoop from Microsoft:…

  • Free Money-Management Spreadsheet (21 comments)

    Whenever I write about personal-finance programs, there’s always a large contingent of GRS readers who chime in to say they prefer the do-it-yourself method. Rather than go with pre-packaged money-management software like Quicken or Mint, they prefer to track their accounts with a home-brewed spreadsheet. (In fact, my wife is one of these folks, too.) I’ve shared a variety of personal-finance spreadsheets in the past. Some of my favorites are produced by Jon Wittwer of…

  • A Simple Question to Jump-Start Your Finances (57 comments)

    This video post by staff writer Adam Baker is the last of a four-part series. Baker previously featured a post on his own blog entitled, Debt Tsunami: The Ultimate Method to Paying Off Debt. Courtney and I have recently stumbled upon a new hurdle in our personal finance journey: complacency. You see, we’ve experienced just enough success to make us feel comfortable, but not enough to be even close to accomplishing what we want. We…

  • Planning for Budget Busters: Transportation (42 comments)

    This video post is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker previously featured a post on his own blog entitled, 67 Ways NOT to Sell a Car. Courtney and I apply a fun name to any expense in our lives that we should’ve planned for in our budget, but didn’t. We call them Budget Busters. Even with persistent effort, we find it impossible to account for every irregular expense. As I note in this week’s video,…

  • Attacking One Budget Category at a Time (32 comments)

    This video post is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker previously featured a post on his own blog entitled, 42 Ways to Radically Simplify your Financial Life. For many people, the process of personal finance cycles between intense motivation and devastating burnout. A life event, a powerful communicator, or maybe even a simple blog post creates an initial spark. Before we know it, we’re wound up and ready to pounce: We vow to finally get…

  • Finding Your Financial Blind Spots (31 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Every month, you spend money you don’t need to. No matter how good your budget is, or how closely you track your spending, something slips through the net. J.D.’s post last week about casting stones at our friends’ financial choices struck a chord with me. His friend is struggling financially, and yet…

  • The Calculus of Cats and Dogs (172 comments)

    The other day, I made a passing comment in my article about judging (or not judging) others. I mentioned that although my friend Michael is in dire financial straits, he’s still making life decisions based around the fact that his family has two dogs. (They’re renting a larger, more expensive home than they otherwise would, for example.) “What about getting rid of the dogs?” I asked. Well. This suggestion struck a nerve with a lot…

  • The 50-Percent Solution (50 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. When I started getting serious about frugal living, my husband dredged up one piece of juicy financial advice he recalled from his grad school days: Use half of what you normally would. He was talking about consumable goods like shampoo and dish soap. The idea is to reduce by half the amount…

  • Why I No Longer Track Every Penny I Spend (149 comments)

    When I struggled with money during the 1990s, I had no clue what I was spending each month. I made my financial decisions based on my checkbook balance: If there were a few bucks left, I’d find ways to spend the money; if my balance was close to zero (as in $10 or $20), I’d turn to my credit cards. Where did this money go? If you’d have asked me, I wouldn’t have known. As…

  • Fixed Expenses and Flexible Expenses: How to Budget for Both (56 comments)

    This post is from new staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. A few months ago, my local bank and I had a falling out and my husband and I were suddenly very motivated to switch banks. We’d narrowed it down to two choices: Citizens Bank, which has a local branch where I can deposit the cash and many small checks I receive…

  • How to Manage Your Financial Vices (96 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker, whose own blog featured a real life negotiation example in the huge post Negotiation Tips for Beginners. Each of us have specific items or activities for which we are more than willing to pay a premium. In fact, deciding what we are and aren’t willing to spend money on is one of the core issues in personal finance. A willingness to pay extra for everything would quickly…

  • The GRS Garden Project: January 2010 Update (28 comments)

    It’s been a l-o-n-g time since Kris and I gave an update on our garden project. I’ve been too wrapped up in writing a book to pay attention to anything else. Now that I’ve pulled my head out of the sand, I can finally devote some time to other projects — like the garden. To be honest, we’ve done nearly nothing in the yard since October. Literally. We haven’t found time to cut back the…

  • Where’s Your Financial Comfort Level? (138 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the advisor for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. I must confess to a new habit: I collect discarded ATM receipts. It all started when I walked by the bank in the building next to Motley Fool Intergalactic Headquarters, and found one such…

  • Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous…on Lease (184 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. Most of us, at one time or another, have seen a photo of a celebrity with an “it” bag, even if just in tabloids at the supermarket check-out. Most of the time they are over-sized totes, logo prominently displayed, on the arm of an actress or pop star. (Sometimes I wonder if the tinier celebrities could, in fact, fit inside their own handbag.) And as ridiculous…

  • Start Saving For Next Year’s Christmas Today (40 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker recently listed the Top 10 Money Movies of the Decade. Baker and his family are spending their holiday season hiking around the south island of New Zealand. I have some potentially shocking news for you: Christmas is coming! No, I’m not talking about the one in a few days; I’m referring to the one that’s coming just twelve months down the road. Far too many people…

  • Why I Broke Down and Joined Mint (111 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. I haven’t tracked our expenses since June. Not to appear completely incompetent, I do check our accounts on a regular basis to verify the charges and withdrawals. But I can’t tell you how much we spent on groceries in August or how much we spent on fuel in October without printing out some statements and manually doing the math. For a long time, I dutifully downloaded…

  • Household Budgeting Made Easy (29 comments)

    This is a guest post by Austin Frakt, a health economist and university professor. You can find more by Austin at The Incidental Economist, a blog about personal finance, economics, and health care, among other things. Budgeting is the cornerstone of personal finance. You can’t make a rational financial decision without knowing the state of your cash flow. But if you’ve never developed a budget, working up a detailed one can seem like a daunting…

  • Reader Story: Budgeting For a Lifestyle Change (41 comments)

    This is a guest post from Sean Ogle, a former portfolio analyst who is now pursuing his goals of starting a business and seeing the world. You can read more from him at Location180. You can also follow him on twitter @seanogle.  Have you ever thought about doing something different with your life? Maybe you’ve decided that you’d like to do more world traveling. Perhaps you want to explore that entrepreneurial idea that has always…

  • The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 25: Why Does Everyone Hate Budgeting? (18 comments)

    On today’s episode of The Personal Finance Hour, I’ll join Jim from Bargaineering to discuss personal budgets. What works and what doesn’t? And why are so many people scared of them? (Personal finance writers especially seem afraid to talk about budgets.) This show will air live at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern). It’s much more entertaining for everyone when you call in to participate. If you have some thoughts on budgets — are they good or…

  • How to Budget for an Irregular Income (71 comments)

    I’ve been a full-time professional blogger for more than a year now. It’s been a fantastic experience, a sort of dream come true. But blogging for dollars is not without its drawbacks. As I’ve shared before, I feel socially isolated. I spend most of my time in this office, writing about money. Also, the income can be irregular. For some bloggers, it’s very irregular. One month you might have record earnings — and the next…

  • Free Financial Spreadsheets from Google Docs (24 comments)

    Last week, I shared a list of 16 alternatives to Microsoft Money. These applications offer a variety of solutions for managing your personal finances. But not everyone wants to use a specialized computer program to track their spending. Many Get Rich Slowly readers (including my wife) are content to manage their money with a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are easily customizable, and if you know what you’re doing, they can actually be a lot more powerful than…

  • Learning to Budget with the JARS System (75 comments)

    This is a guest post from Steve Martile, a life coach and the author of the personal-growth blog Freedom Education. Here he describes a budgeting system that actually reminds me of Elizabeth Warren’s balanced money formula, but with a little more detail. Managing money doesn’t restrict freedom — it creates freedom. That’s probably not the first time you’ve heard this. If you want to create financial abundance, you’ve got to start managing your money. I…

  • Good-Bye, Microsoft Money! 16 Powerful Personal Finance Programs (289 comments)

    As of today, Microsoft Money is no longer available for purchase. Microsoft has essentially conceded that there’s no demand for the product. From the website: With banks, brokerage firms and Web sites now providing a range of options for managing personal finances, the consumer need for Microsoft Money Plus has changed. After suspending annual updates of Money Plus in 2008, Microsoft is announcing today that we will no longer offer Microsoft Money Plus for purchase…

  • My First Budget: Drafting a Plan for Discretionary Spending (98 comments)

    I’ve decided to develop a budget. This probably sounds strange coming from a guy who has been anti-budget all his life. Besides, haven’t I paid off all my debt? Don’t I have a positive cash-flow of over $1,000 per month? Yes, these things are true. But I’ve noticed something troubling: I’ve begun to experience that lifestyle inflation I’m always warning others about. Lifestyle inflation is the natural tendency to increase our spending as our incomes…

  • The High Cost of Cats and Dogs: Are Pets Worth the Money? (235 comments)

    Kris and I don’t have kids. We have cats. We have four of them.    Our “children”: Nemo, Simon, Maxwell, and Toto. We’d have more, but Kris won’t allow it. She says I’m in danger of becoming the Crazy Cat Gentleman. On the whole, I cannot imagine my life without these animals. They bring us joy and fulfillment, and the cost is minimal. Under normal circumstances, our four cats cost us a total of about $750…

  • The Ten-Minute Budget (33 comments)

    This is a guest post from Erica Douglass. Erica sold her successful business and “temporarily retired” at age 26. Having made over $1 million online, she is now sharing her business knowledge with over 10,000 people every month at erica.biz. Do you hate the very thought of budgeting? Does tracking every dollar you spend seem like a waste of time — or, worse, an activity guaranteed to curtail your spending “freedom”? Good news, then…you and…

  • My 2008 Discretionary Spending: Progress and Challenges (75 comments)

    For nearly three years, I’ve chronicled my adventures as I learn about money management. I’ve dug myself out of debt, quit my job to write full time, and begun to build wealth. But how well do I practice what I preach? For the most part, I follow my own advice. I believe there are two components to building wealth: Reducing costs Boosting income Doing one or the other can help you meet your goals, but…

  • Coldplay and the Cost of Fun (71 comments)

    J.D. is on vacation. This is a guest post from Mandy Hering. How can people afford fun these days? I ask this question because my husband and I recently attended a Coldplay concert. We bought the tickets for my birthday back in June, and paid for them with some extra money that I made working as a grader for an AP exam. We didn’t need to use the extra money for an emergency fund, to…

  • In Praise of the Adult Allowance (193 comments)

    In the past, many Get Rich Slowly readers have sung the praises of the “adult allowance”. Though I’ve read enthusiastic comments supporting this idea, I’ve never paid it much heed. To be honest, it’s always sounded lame, and I didn’t think it would be useful to me. I was wrong. Accidental allowance Before our short vacation in early October, I pulled $200 out of the ATM. This is unusual for me. I don’t like to…

  • Why Charitable Giving is Even More Important During an Economic Downturn (39 comments)

    This is a guest post from Debbie Dubrow from Delicious Baby, a blog with advice about traveling with babies, toddlers and kids. Previously at GRS, Debbie wrote about how to track travel expenses and stick to a vacation budget. The U.S. government has officially announced that we’re in a recession, but for those balancing our own budgets, it’s not new news.  Even if you haven’t been affected yet, you are probably cutting back and setting…

  • The Debt-to-Income Ratio: How Much House Can You Afford? (139 comments)

    Housing is the largest expense in the budget of most families. But how much is too much to spend on shelter? An article in Saturday’s New York Times contains a shocking example of one woman who crossed the line: What she got was a mortgage she could not afford. Toward the $385,000 cost, [Christina] Natale made a down payment of $185,000, a little less than what she took away from the sale of her grandfather’s…

  • Ask the Readers: Twenty-Something Needs Help! (191 comments)

    In general, when I share reader questions, I try to keep them as broad as possible. I get a lot of requests for advice about specific situations, but I try to steer those to the Get Rich Slowly discussion forum. I like for the questions on the blog to be relevant to a lot of readers. Here’s a small exception. Christine wrote for help with her specific circumstances. She’s a twenty-something student overwhelmed by her…

  • The Balanced Money Formula (86 comments)

    Building a budget is one of the basic tasks of personal finance. But not everyone can keep a budget. As much as I’d like to, I don’t feel comfortable with detailed planning. I continue to use a spending plan as a rough guide to my future, but a traditional budget just doesn’t work for me. Last night I stumbled across the Balanced Money Formula proposed by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi in their excellent book,…

  • Learning to Give: What *I* Can Do to Fight Poverty (98 comments)

    In our recent discussion about tithing, I made a confession: I do not tithe to church or charity. I feel guilty about this. My rationale is always: “Once I take care of myself, I’ll take care of other people.” Yet what do I mean by “taking care of myself”? I don’t know. Sometimes I think “once I’ve saved X, then I’ll start sharing my wealth”, but X seems to be a moving target. I’ve thought…

  • The Budget Toolbox: 13 Tools for Building a Better Budget (55 comments)

    Sara’s been reading personal finance blogs for a while now, and she’s ready to set up a budget. She’s come to us for help. She writes: I would like to start listing my spending totals into a spreadsheet budget along with setting goals for ‘bigger things’ (trips, winter tires etc). Do you have a budget template that works for you, or could you please recommend a few tips on getting started? A budget can be…

  • Building a Better Budget: Think Yearly, Not Monthly (26 comments)

    If you struggle with keeping a budget, it may be because you’re trying to predict your spending in time chunks that are just too small. A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who made annual budgets were better able to predict their spending than those who made monthly budgets. From the University of Chicago press release: [Researchers] found that, contrary to popular advice, people were more accurate when constructing…

  • A Quick and Dirty Budget (21 comments)

    I’m not a budgeter. I’m not able to sit down and draft a detailed budget. I use a spending plan instead, which is a sort of road map to the where I want to go, but which does not contained detailed directions. I recognize that budgets are valuable tools for many people, though. Dayana Yochim at The Motley Fool has some tips about budgeting for lazy people. She says that the secret to setting up…

  • Funding the Future: The Benefits of Being Flexible (4 comments)

    This is a guest post by Christopher L. Jones, author of The Intelligent Portfolio. The following is an excerpt from his book. During the meandering path of our lifetimes, there are many types of financial goals that we strive to reach. Some goals are short term in nature, such as having enough money to pay the taxes to Uncle Sam next quarter or paying for that trip to Hawaii next spring. Others might span decades…

  • Use a Personal Escrow Account to Budget for Non-Monthly Expenses (50 comments)

    Charlotte wrote recently to share a new system she’s developed for handling her non-monthly expenses. She calls it “personal escrow”. Most homeowners are familiar with the notion of escrow. Each month’s mortgage payment goes not only toward principal and interest, but also to fund an escrow account. From this escrow account, the mortgage company pays property taxes and homeowners insurance. Charlotte uses the same idea for certain other expenses in her life. First, she totaled…

  • My Mid-Year Financial Checkup: I Am Spending Too Much on Food (126 comments)

    “Want to go out to dinner?” I asked Kris last Monday night. “No,” she said. “Want to go out to dinner?” I asked Kris last Tuesday night. “No,” she said. I asked her again on Wednesday and Thursday and got the same response. “How come you never want to go out to dinner anymore?” I asked. She gave me one of Those Looks. “J.D., are you kidding?” she said. “We’ve been going out to dinner…

  • How to Track Travel Expenses and Stick to a Vacation Budget (37 comments)

    This is a guest post from Debbie Dubrow, who writes about traveling with babies, toddlers, and kids at Delicious Baby. Her site contains personal travel stories, family-friendly city guides, and lots of tips and advice for traveling with children. Most families need to stick to a budget when they travel. But tracking daily expenses, especially in a foreign currency, can be tricky. Here are some easy tips to make it easy to keep track of…

  • Building Your First Budget (52 comments)

    This article is part of Financial Literacy Month. I’ve never been a budgeter. Budgets seem too prescriptive to me — I prefer to use a “spending plan” instead. But after a month as a full-time writer, I suspect a budget may be in my future. My income is fine, but it’s highly variable. I’m accustomed to a steady, consistent paycheck, and I don’t have that anymore. I also have some savings goals that I’d like…

  • Use “Reverse Credit” to Stick to Your Budget (75 comments)

    Ralph sent me e-mail last week describing a clever budget trick he picked up from a friend: My wife and I had dinner last night with a couple of of young women we know. We talked a little about personal finance. One of the girls has an interesting idea on forced savings. She calls it “reverse credit”. “When I want to buy something expensive, I go to the store and buy a $20 gift card,”…

  • Budgeting: The Most Important Thing You Can Do With Your Money (35 comments)

    This is a guest post from Joshua Timberman, whose passion for personal finance started after reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. He became debt-free in November. He is the Financial Peace University coordinator at his church, and is an active participant at Get Rich Slowly and other personal finance blogs. The most important thing to do with your money is to give it a plan. A budget. A spending plan. A cash-flow plan. Call…

  • A Free and Simple Budget Planner (50 comments)

    During past discussions of on-line money-tracking tools and desktop software, many Get Rich Slowly readers have sung the praises of home-brew budget planners built using Microsoft Excel. In this guest post from Jeff M., he shares a spreadsheet he created and describes his own budgeting system in detail. J.D. doesn’t talk a lot about budgeting at Get Rich Slowly — he uses a spending plan — but I want to share a personal budget planner…

  • How to Automate Your Personal Finances (53 comments)

    For the past few months, I’ve been moving toward a system of paperless personal finance. In this guest post from Paul Lussier, he explains his own automated system. Lately J.D. has been talking a lot about automating his finances.  In my world (that of high-tech, software, and large computer systems), we strive to automate as much as possible. By doing this, we hope to minimize error by reducing human interaction, leveraging the power of the…

  • An Introduction to Quicken Online (71 comments)

    Intuit releases a new product today: Quicken Online, a web-based version of its popular personal finance software. I’m a long-time Quicken user, so when Jodi and Jim from Intuit offered to give me a preview of this product’s features, I jumped at the chance. Please note: I haven’t actually used Quicken Online myself yet, and I am not being compensated for this preview. (15 Feb 2008: I have joined a Quicken Online affiliate program —…

  • What I Like About Scrooge (91 comments)

    Jeff V. sent me an article last Christmas, but I never got a chance to mention it. I’m making amends today. Three years ago at Slate Magazine, Steven E. Landsburg wrote an article in praise of misers: “What I like about Scrooge”. Though the piece is funny, its message is very serious: saving is a good thing and ought to be rewarded. In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser —…

  • Book Review: All Your Worth (39 comments)

    Three years ago, I decided to get out of debt. I hit the books, reading one personal finance title after another, searching for answers. Two books — Your Money or Your Life and The Total Money Makeover — were perfect for my situation. They gave me the tools I needed to tackle my problems. Now I’ve found a third book that would have been useful at the start of my journey to financial freedom. All…

  • Mint: A Fresh New On-Line Personal Finance Tool (115 comments)

    In this guest post, SC takes a look at Mint, one of the recent batch of on-line financial management tools. I haven’t had a chance to use the site, so SC volunteered to write about his experiences. Mint is a new website that claims it will help you organize your finances, automate your financial life, and help you save money at every turn. I have a credit card with Capital One, two bank accounts with…

  • Book Review: The Automatic Millionaire (59 comments)

    David Bach is perhaps best known for coining the term the latte factor, a phrase that has almost become a joke in personal finance circles. That’s too bad, really, because Bach has some good ideas. And the latte factor is a marvelous concept, applicable to many people who casually spend their future a few dollars at a time. Bach’s most popular book is The Automatic Millionaire. I’ve referred to it often, but never reviewed it…

  • The Spending Plan: Budgeting for Non-Budgeters (188 comments)

    Three commenters on this post will win free copies Quicken Deluxe 2008 for Windows. Read on for details! I’ve never been able to keep a budget. They’re a great tool for many people, but for me a budget is a recipe for failure. It’s too fussy. I can’t stick to it. When I don’t stick to it, I feel guilty. When I feel guilty, I want to spend more money. Still, I’ve found it’s helpful…

  • Recurring Monthly Costs: Which Are Worth It? Which Are Not? (120 comments)

    I met some friends at a local restaurant Monday night. While chatting, we found ourselves bopping to the music playing on the radio. For more than hour, great song followed great song: U2, Eurythmics, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Clash, New Order. But the ambient noise made it impossible to know what station we were hearing. “I have to know what this is,” I said at last. “This could be my new favorite radio station.”…

  • Using Quicken to Analyze and Correct Bad Spending Habits (33 comments)

    Comic books have always been one of my money demons. Geeky, but true. I used to buy the actual comic magazines: Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men. As an adult, however, I graduated from spending just a buck or two for a comic to buying hardbound compilations and trade paperbacks costing $20, $50, or more. No matter how smart my money choices, I’ve made it a priority to keep detailed records of my finances. Tonight I dug through…

  • Budgeting with an Irregular Income (21 comments)

    Does your income vary from paycheck-to-paycheck? This can make it difficult to plan your spending, but Aaron dropped a line with a trick he’s developed to adhere to a budget: Here’s a financial hack I use because my income is so irregular. It would work as a budgeting tool for regular folks too: I get my commission checks put into an online banking account and set up automatic deposits into my “real” checking account to…

  • A Successful Vacation Budget (16 comments)

    I’m back from vacation. It’s awesome to be home and to not be spending money anymore! Ireland was good. London was great. But New York — wow! New York was amazing. It far exceeded my expectations. I’m a small-town boy, no question, but I can still appreciate the big city. New York is expensive, though. It’s at least as expensive as London or Dublin even without an unfavorable exchange rate. Yet I was able to…

  • Budgeting for Vacation, and While I’m Away (17 comments)

    When my mother-in-law called last Christmas Eve, she asked me to put Kris on the other line. “I have something I want to tell both of you,” she said. I was worried. Was something wrong? “What’s the matter?” Kris asked. “Hold onto your seats,” her mother said. “Your dad and I have a surprise for you. We’re going to take the family on a vacation to Europe this summer. That is, if you want to…

  • You Are Your Own Worst Enemy (108 comments)

    My friend Gillian called the other day — she’s been having money trouble and was looking for help. “I’m not really a financial advisor,” I told her. “I write about money, and I try to help people at my web site, but I’m not qualified to coach you one-on-one.” Still, she’s a friend, so I resolved to at least give her some advice. I asked her to explain the situation. “Tom and I are working…

  • Ask the Readers: How Much Should I Spend on an Engagement Ring? (177 comments)

    Jim N. writes with a question that most frugal young gentlemen eventually face. How much should I pay for an engagement ring?  I realize that the ideal answer is, “Don’t spend a lot on the ring because she shouldn’t need material objects to realize you love her.”  I agree, but that’s not very realistic.  I want to buy her something very nice that she’ll be proud of, but I don’t know if I should try…

  • The Get Rich Slowly Budget Workbook (Version 2.0) (37 comments)

    Last month Stephen Popick shared his home-grown budget spreadsheet with GRS readers. He listened to your suggestions and went back to the drawing board. Here is with an updated version.   Growing up, I was taught the importance of having a budget.  It wasn’t until I finished college that I understood it.  I started reading and listening to financial experts such as John Bogle, Clarke Howard, and a lot of folks in between.  Their recurring…

  • Budget Spreadsheet Corrections (14 comments)

    Astute readers have spotted a couple of errors in the simple budget spreadsheet I shared yesterday. I’ve made corrections and re-posted the file: Stephen’s simple budget spreadsheet Please let me know if you spot other mistakes! 23 May 07 Update: Greetings visitors from Zen Habits. This version of the spreadsheet is good, but Stephen created an updated version which you can find here. This is an ongoing project which will see continued refinements and improvements…

  • 2006 Discretionary Spending: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (34 comments)

    I write a lot about personal finance, but how well do I practice what I preach? For the most part, I follow my own advice. Much of what I write here is based on personal experience. But my financial life is not without weaknesses. The good news is that the Big Picture looks fantastic. Only a few years ago my net worth was minimal. Now it’s growing consistently. In 2006 it jumped $30,000, from $176,216…

  • Why a Budget Should Be Based on Real-Life (7 comments)

    Martin warns that sometimes unexpected expenses can blow a budget. This is my first year out of college. This is my first year with a job. This is my first year handling my finances for real in the real world. But this is not my first year not living at home. While I was in college, I never noticed how much I traveled and how much I spent on traveling. This fall, as I got…

  • Ask the Readers: Help for a Broke New Yorker? (37 comments)

    Amanda is in a bind. She’s making all the right financial moves, but they’ve left her feeling broke. She’s come to the Get Rich Slowly readers for help. I’m 23. I’ve been out of college and working for a year-and-a-half now. I have only $300 in credit card debt, which I will pay off this month. I also have an ING Direct account that I opened last month with $300 in it. Starting this paycheck,…

  • Reader Question: Methods for Tracking Expenses? (19 comments)

    One excellent way to spend less than you earn is to track every penny you spend. But how detailed should you be? Jamie’s been struggling with this question. He writes: I have begun to track all my spending. I want to break things into budget categories, but I’ve run into a couple hurdles. Can you offer some insight on how to deal with them? The proliferation of big box retailers (such as Target and Wal-Mart)…

  • Reader Survey: How Do You Cope with a Limited Income? (42 comments)

    Most of us have been there at one time or another: stuck at minimum wage, hog-tied by a fixed income, or working a crap job fresh out of school. Some find themselves living in a city where the cost of living is out of sight. It can be a nightmare trying to make ends meet when you’re barely earning enough for necessities. What use is worrying about retirement when you don’t have enough for rent?…

  • Comments of the Week: Values and Spending Plans (0 comment)

    Your comments add tremendous value to this site. In a very real way, this is a group project — we’re teaching each other what we need to know to escape debt, manage our money, and build wealth. For the next few Saturdays, I’ll highlight some of the best comments from the previous week. On Tuesday I posted a survey regarding money and marriage. How can a frugal spouse cope with a spendthrift spouse? Stephen wrote:…

  • Track Every Penny You Spend (46 comments)

    I struggled with debt for years. I couldn’t get a handle on where my money went. I made a decent wage, but I was always broke! Where did I spend it all? Then I read Your Money or Your Life and heeded the book’s advice to “keep track of every cent that comes into or goes out of your life”. The results were startling. What does it mean to keep track of every penny you…

  • Survey: Money and Marriage (22 comments)

    Here’s an excellent question from a Get Rich Slowly reader. While I try my best to “get rich slowly” I have one huge issue: a husband. My husband likes to spend money. I’m referred to as the “Thrifty One Who Won’t Allow Me To Buy Stuff” and he’s referred to as “That Jerk Who Buys Stuff”. Do you have any advice for couples that need to have the other half put on a strict budget…

  • Three Reasons Most Budgets Don’t Work (and How To Fix Them) (2 comments)

    Samuel Peery believes there are three reasons most budgets don’t work. Most people get too discouraged trying to get a budget to work. They spend hours trying to figure out how much to budget in each category and may even track every penny spent during the month only to find out that reality didn’t match what was budgeted. In these instances budgeting just seems like a futile theoretical exercise. There’s no follow up or reconciliation…

  • Question of the Day Marathon #1 (0 comment)

    AllFinancialMatters wonders: If your budget required you to give up something that you like because you just didn’t have enough money to cover your expenses, what would that be?

  • Want to Save? Give up the Big Things! (9 comments)

    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…

  • An Effective Three-Step Budget (12 comments)

    Budgets can be intimidating, especially to somebody just beginning to gain control of her personal finances. So many things to track, so many concepts to learn. And it’s all so tedious. In The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, Andrew Tobias offers the following simple yet effective budget: Destroy all your credit cards. Invest 20% of all that you earn. And never touch it. Live on the remaining 80%, no matter what. Though Tobias is…

  • Cool Tool: The AIM BudgetBot (4 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly-reader David points to the AIM BudgetBot, posted yesterday at Lifehacker. Adam Pash writes: I used to save all of my receipts with a half-assed intention to reconcile them when I got around to it, which usually meant two weeks worth of crumpled, illegible receipts went straight from my pockets to the trash. Not very Lifehacker-y, huh? [...] I set out to create my own BudgetBot that I could SMS from my cell…

  • Tricks for Tracking Your Money? (13 comments)

    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…

  • Is There an Online Alternative to Quicken? (13 comments)

    AskMe: Are there online systems that allow good tracking of cashflow? I suggested billQ, though I’m not sure that’s what the poster is after.

  • Balancing the Beauty Budget (0 comment)

    The Bargain Queen has a piece on which cosmetics to buy cheap and which to spend money on. As a guy, this is all a mystery to me.

  • Handy Personal Finance Spreadsheets (29 comments)

    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…

  • How Budgeting Can Improve Your Life (6 comments)

    This about.com Twelve reasons budgeting can improve your life article is hot on the internet right now, and for good reason: it offers good motivation to establish a budget. I’ve collected a pile of other budgeting links to share. First, for those of you that haven’t read Twelve reasons budgeting can improve your life, the advantages of budgeting are: A budget helps you reach your goals (and keeps you from getting side-tracked). A budget lets…

  • Budgeting for Non-Budgeters: The 60% Solution (15 comments)

    Richard Jenkins at MSN Money has developed what he believes is a simpler way to save. Fed up with budgets that were a burden to implement, Jenkins came up with his own easy method to determine how much should go where each month. What you’re trying to do with a budget is to prevent overspending, which ultimately leads to piling up debt. Contrary to the way most people budget, however, it rarely matters what you’re…

  • Forever Stamps (4 comments)

    The US Postal Service has proposed a stamp rate increase that would increase the cost of a first-class stamp from 39 cents to 42 cents in the spring of 2007. That’s not surprising. What is surprising is that they’re also proposing a “forever stamp” that customers could use as a hedge against future rate increases. The forever stamp would help soften the blow of a rate increase by allowing customers to stock up. As originally…

  • PearBudget (6 comments)

    “Track everything you spend” is one of the key steps to getting rich slowly. It’s easy to do this after the fact using a personal ledger or software such as Quicken. But how do you plan for expenses? A budget is the best way to see where your money needs to go. Some people keep detailed budgets, and adhere to them religiously. Others — such as myself — keep loose budgets, and use them simply…

  • How to Budget Effectively (0 comment)

    Sally’s Kitchen has tips on How to Budget Effectively, including an Excel spreadsheet template for download. There are some great ideas and suggestions here, simple things like: print out a small copy of your budget and tape it over your credit card so that every time you’re tempted to use it, you’re reminded of your goals; always shop with a list in order to avoid temptation; when shopping on-line, add items to your wish list…