dcsimg

Budgeting


  • Dear money diary, today I spent … (6 comments)

    I feel like I should introduce myself. “Hello. My name is Elissa, and I am an unconscious spender.” (“Hello, Elissa.”) “I give myself a $200 allowance every two weeks, but when the cash is gone, I use the credit card or hit the ATM. A hundred here, a hundred there. I feel like that Fast Cash $60 button is a slot machine in a casino!” I am an impulse buyer from way back. I have…

  • Financial goals when the going gets tough (30 comments)
    This article is by editor Linda Vergon.

    Last month, the December 2015 Consumer Confidence Index ®, showed improvement over the previous month: “Consumer confidence improved in December, following a moderate decrease in November,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “As 2015 draws to a close, consumers’ assessment of the current state of the economy remains positive, particularly their assessment of the job market. Looking ahead to 2016, consumers are…

  • What do you budget for pet travel or care over the holidays? (10 comments)

    It used to be quite rare to find a pet in the cabin of a plane; but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 2 million pets are transported by air every year in the U.S. Out of curiosity, I went to a couple websites to see how much it costs to travel with a pet: Southwest – $95 per pet carrier Delta – $125 American – $125 Jet Blue – $100 (non-refundable, but…

  • How do you budget for experiences after debt? (9 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Megan Wells.

    In college, my mind was set on becoming an ethnographic researcher. I wanted to study people and cultures that were new to me while traveling as extensively as possible. After I earned my diploma, I pooled every dollar to purchase a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. Even with my rookie-style budgeting, I was able to make the trip happen – and it didn’t matter that my…

  • Money moves for graduates: How to set up a budget (19 comments)

    If you are a recent graduate, congratulations and best wishes for your success! Whether you were lucky enough to have a job lined up right after completing your degree or not, whether you graduated without student loan debt or your new balance rivals the national average of $30,000, you still need to get your financial life in place. So now that the celebrating is behind you, it’s time to get to work. What are your…

  • Budget smart now – enjoy great holidays later (16 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Richard Barrington.

    Let me say for the record that I hate rushing the holiday season – the appearance of Santa Claus in the stores as soon as the Halloween decorations are cleared out, hearing Christmas carols before the first snow has fallen, that kind of thing. So why am I writing about holiday shopping when temperatures are still pushing 80 degrees at  the end of September? Well, I’m…

  • The Balanced Money Formula: Should you let it get out of balance? (23 comments)
    This article is by editor Linda Vergon.

    I bet a lot of people have a similar experience when they realize they have a problem with their finances. They create a budget – or they try to anyway – and, somewhere down the road, they get frustrated with the amount of effort required to keep it up. Ultimately, a lot of them give up budgeting altogether. That was J.D. Roth’s experience. Mine too. As J.D.’s…

  • 10 splurges that won’t break the bank (32 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Honey Smith.

    There’s a popular, little myth going around that being frugal means that every penny must be pinched or saved in an online high-yield savings account and that, as a result, it’s not okay to splurge once in a while. But a more balanced approach could make it easier to stick to a spending plan, thereby making your long-term financial success more likely. To be clear, though,…

  • What is the most difficult personal finance concept to master? (45 comments)
    This article is by Kayla Sloan.

    [Kayla Sloan is a millennial on a mission to delete her debt. She writes about her journey to financial success at shoeaholicnomore.com. She put this terrific video together as part of her discussion about mastering personal finance concepts too!] Nothing worth doing in life is easy. Have you ever heard that saying? I grew up with my dad preaching that to me, and I know I’m better person…

  • Getting real (and serious) about your financial future (16 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle.

    Have you ever wanted — really wanted — to change your financial situation but, when you tried, you felt like you were slogging through wet cement or trying to turn a huge ship around? You got exhausted and stopped, right? Change is like that. You can change — and you can also make it easier for yourself. But first, are you clear about why you want…

  • Summer splurges you might regret (17 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson.

    Everyone loves a guilty pleasure every now and again – so long as it’s something harmless like belting out your favorite Country Western song on your way to the grocery store. But when it comes to these summer indulgences, you may end up singing the budget blues. Of course, it’s hard to complain about random expenditures if you keep a fully stocked emergency fund in your…

  • The benefits of paying yourself first (26 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson.

    By the time I became interested in personal finance, I had grown tired of the most popular personal finance clichés. I was tired of Suze Orman’s incessant denials, David Bach’s Latte Factor® theory, and Dave Ramsey’s simple ideas and assertions on how everyday Americans should be living their lives. But now that many years have passed, I realize that each popular personal finance saying holds a…

  • How are you preparing financially for June celebrations? (3 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Honey Smith.

    My Facebook feed is full of good news these days. This is wonderful news for my friends and family, of course. It’s not necessarily good news for my wallet. “Christmas in July” and of course the actual holiday season aside, it seems to me that June is one of the most festive times of year. Think about it — you’ve got: Engagements Bridal showers Bachelor/bachelorette parties…

  • Celebrating one year of homeownership (46 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Honey Smith.

    It’s been just over a year since we bought our house and, as part of my celebration, I thought now would be a good time to dig into the numbers in more depth. How did our financial projections hold up to reality? The monthly budget: Then and now The first data I’d like to share is a list of monthly expenses from when we were renting…

  • How to budget for summer camp (7 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle.

    Summer break is quickly approaching. Last year, I was worried about how I would keep the kids entertained; this year, I vacillate between two ends of the emotional spectrum — being excited and feeling a little overwhelmed. Excited, because I say “adios” to the early morning bus routine and the backpack-and-lunchbox ritual for a few glorious weeks. And socks. They quit wearing socks in the summer….

  • Ask the Readers: Do you measure your progress? (44 comments)
    This article is by staff writer William Cowie.

    Have you heard the saying, “You are what you eat”? It rolls off the tongue so easily, doesn’t it? These are words to the wise if you are interested in a healthy lifestyle, however, they may not offer much help for your finances. But there is a similar thought — one of the truths I have seen so often in business as well as in personal…

  • Honey Progress Report: 2014 wrap-up and 2015 goals (48 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Honey Smith.

    The new year is a time to look forward; but in order to do that, you need to know where you’ve been. Before I set my goals for 2015, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything that happened last year. Updated reckoning for me in chart form: 2012-present Please note that I have consolidated some separate accounts of the same type into one category…

  • How to save money from falling gas prices (21 comments)
    This is a guest post from former GRS staff writer Donna Freedman.

    The price of gasoline in the U.S. dropped for 97 days straight beginning in late September 2014. According to the American Automobile Association, the gas we buy today costs an average $1.11 per gallon less than this time last year. Averages are great liars, of course. The average cost of gas in Anchorage, Alaska, right now is $2.87 while folks in Columbia,…

  • Christmas gifts that keep on giving (44 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? (78 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? (51 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…

  • Painless ways I save money in every category of my budget (71 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? (43 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…

  • 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 (25 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…

  • 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) (81 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…

  • Coping with job loss (47 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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. (82 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? (89 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? (92 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 every 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • When one partner won’t budget (331 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…

  • 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 (202 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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 (98 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? (148 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? (93 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…

  • 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…

  • 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!…

  • 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 (142 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…

  • Back to the Stone Age: Low-Tech Expense Tracking (94 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 (75 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…

  • 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…

  • Getting Started – Review of the Mint.com Signup Process (159 comments)

    On Tuesday, I wrote that I’ve decided to track my finances again. I’m doing fine financially, but after a few months of not watching my income and expenses closely, I feel a little lost. I miss the ability to know exactly where my money’s going. I had intended to install the new desktop version of Quicken, which is what I’ve been using for years. (Before that, I used Andrew Tobias’s Managing Your Money, but that…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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 (57 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • How to budget for an irregular income (72 comments)

    I’ve been a full-time professional blogger for more than a year now. It has 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 is very irregular. One month you might have record earnings — and…

  • 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 (76 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 (295 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…

  • 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…

  • The Balanced Money Formula (88 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,…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • Book Review: The Automatic Millionaire (60 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…

  • 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.”…

  • 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…

  • Handy Personal Finance Spreadsheets (31 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…