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Debt


  • A six-figure income, and still paying off debt? (45 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…

  • Starting a garden to pay off debt: Really!?! (86 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Some personal finance advice is just plain ridiculous. I’m talking about the kind of advice that’s great for filling up a webpage but that had neither saved nor made anyone money ever. Or maybe you could follow it and save money, if you wanted to hate your life. I’m not entirely innocent, I admit. I’m sure I’ve espoused my share of well-meaning-yet-impractical advice in the last seven years….

  • Honey progress report: More milestones edition (65 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Last year’s August update was full of good news, and it seems to be a yearly tradition! I will go over each update and its impact on my life, but the bottom line is: My student loan balance now starts with an eight! Jake paid off his credit card debt! I got a raise! Sometime last November or December, I told Jake I could feel it in my…

  • Reader Story: Could crowd funding help this guy pay off his mortgage? (210 comments)

    We get dozens of requests at GetRichSlowly.org every day. They are usually queries such as “Can I guest post to promote my business?” (No.) “Will you share our infographic with your readers?” (No.) Last week we received one that intrigued me. The writer had started a crowd-funding effort to pay off his mortgage and he wanted me to share it with the Get Rich Slowly community. I replied, “Why would anyone want to pay off…

  • Car payments: ‘Til death do us part (80 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Your car breaks down on the side of the road … again. It’s rush hour and it won’t start. You have to have it towed and you’re not happy about it. At all. So what do you do? You head to the local dealership in a fury, ready to replace it with something far more reliable, but also affordable. But the dealership has a few tricks up their…

  • More on motivation and money (29 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. In my last post, I talked about motivation and money. Motivation is a huge yet under-discussed concept in personal finance, I think. While big wins may be the quickest way to wealth, that doesn’t mean you’ll reach your goals overnight. Even if you have become wealthy, you still need motivation to manage your money and prioritize your spending. After all, if you want to stay wealthy, then you can have anything you…

  • Student loan debt: Learning to save yourself (115 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. In late 2008, Lance Cothern reunited with his high school girlfriend Tori after several years apart. Lance was almost ready to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and Tori was a sophomore studying nursing at a four-year public university at the time. After a few years of dating, the conversations turned serious and they started planning a future together. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to either of them, Tori had…

  • Motivation and money (34 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Especially for those of us like me who are in the midst of the long, hard slog of debt pay-down, staying motivated can be tough. How do you keep your excitement up and your determination high when financial independence is barely visible on the horizon? Here are some methods for staying the course when your goals will take months or years (heck, even decades) to achieve. 1. Keep…

  • The high cost of keeping up with the Joneses (67 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. In late 2004, Kim Parr and her family upgraded their lifestyle with a brand new home in a rural area. As an optometrist with a higher-than-average salary, it seemed like the natural thing to do. After all, Kim’s husband had a secure (albeit lower-paying) job in education and their combined household income was finally in the six-figure range. They had earned it. Unfortunately, the Parrs soon found that…

  • Getting a frugal start on summer (30 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. Last Friday, I had an amazing realization: It was the weekend, the weather was beautiful, and I had absolutely nothing to do. Great feeling. On Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I decided to slap some sandwiches together and head to the beach. It was relaxing and low-key, and it made me anticipate summer. But at the beginning of the year, I made some lofty savings goals for myself, and…

  • Ask the readers: Do you gamble? (57 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. When I was in college, I dated a guy with money problems. For instance, six months into the relationship, I found out that he owed a few people money. Like his ex-girlfriend. And then his dad, who gave him the money to pay the ex-girlfriend. And then he still owed the ex-girlfriend, since he spent the money his dad gave him on who knows what. Soon after,…

  • 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…

  • Why paying with cash hurts (and why it should) (55 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. These days, my monthly budget is on the boring side. Aside from our regular spending, I’ve got a mortgage payment to fork over, groceries to buy, and utility bills to pay. Throw in some payments to my kids’ 529 plans and my SEP-IRA and I’m basically done for the month. After all of the bills are paid, the key for us is making sure that the rest…

  • How to handle a windfall (29 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. J.D.’s non-financial writing can be found at More Than Money, where he recently wrote about the difference between moderators and abstainers. When my father died in 1995, he left behind a small life insurance policy that awarded each family member $5,000. It wasn’t much, but it was the best he could do based on the fact that he had cancer. He…

  • #StudentLoanDebt is trending (91 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Honey Smith. Since I have over $92,000 in student loan debt myself at last count, perhaps I’m just finely attuned to news coverage on this issue. However, my very unscientific observation is that there have been quite a few articles on student loan debt in the news lately, particularly graduate school and Ph.D. debt. And I think that devoting more attention to this issue is definitely a good thing. What’s…

  • 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!…

  • Taking stock of 2013 (46 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. At about this time last year, I was taking stock of 2012. They say that the reason time seems to speed up as you get older is because each day/month/year is a smaller fraction of the time you’ve been alive. For example, a year seems a lot longer when it’s 10 percent of your life instead of less than 3 percent. Regardless of the reason, it’s a wild…

  • 5 signs you might be a credit junkie (17 comments)

    This guest article was written by Beverly Harzog. Beverly is a nationally recognized credit card expert, consumer advocate, and author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made (Career Press, November 2013). She runs a popular credit card blog on her website, www.BeverlyHarzog.com. She’s appeared on Fox News, ABC News Now, CNN Newsource, and is a frequent guest on syndicated radio shows across the country, including ABC…

  • How to avoid binge-shopping (62 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. It seems contradictory, but I love being frugal and I also love spending money. Over the last few years, however, my love of frugality has outweighed my love of spending — and it’s been good for my savings. Yes, it’s OK to spend money sometimes. If you have it, and you’re comfortable with your present and future finances, by all means, spend away. But a lot of…

  • When is your financial relaxation due date? (48 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. I am perched in the corner chair, cup of Chai in hand, with just hours before the deadline for this post. I have piles and piles of clean laundry that need to be folded. Dishes need to be washed. I can’t recall the last time I’ve dusted any room in the house. My husband has been working 80-hour weeks for a few weeks, so I am doing…

  • Honey progress report: Staying off the hedonic treadmill edition (40 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Honey Smith. When I paid off my small student loan in August, I placed my payoff focus on the “small” sub-account of my consolidated loan. “Small” is meant to be in sarcastic quotation marks, of course, because the balance at that time was just over $35,000. Hardly small! I mentioned in my August progress report that I wanted to focus on saving for awhile, and I have been doing…

  • 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…

  • Ask the Readers: What’s the best way to prepay your mortgage? (45 comments)

    Recently, Mandy sent a question via our Facebook page (like this site, it’s a really active community with more than 35,000 followers). We turned to our colleague Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com and a mortgage expert who is regularly interviewed by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications, for an answer to her question. Others who want to pay off their mortgage faster may also benefit from this guidance….

  • Reader Story: Free at last (32 comments)

    This guest post is from Mary Newcome. 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. I remember what it was like to live in my first apartment at age 17. Although not old enough to legally sign a lease agreement, I guess my full-time employment…

  • 5 money excuses that held me back (58 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. It’s been several months now that I’ve been on a savings lockdown. It’s been going well, except for this past weekend, when I had a relapse. I over-splurged on everything — food, shopping, beer — and I’m officially hungover. My buzz started when a client check came early, making me feel super rich and burning the hell out of my pockets. Oh, I know. It’s OK to…

  • Heal your money shame in 3 simple steps (22 comments)

    This guest post is from Kate Northrup. Kate is the author of the new book, Money: A Love Story. She’s leading a live online event called A Course in Having Enough with guest teachers Marianne Williamson, Barbara Stanny, and Amanda Steinberg. This course is free when you purchase Money: A Love Story. Get details at www.moneyalovestory.com. It’s no mystery that the road to wealth can come with some emotional turmoil. Anyone who tells you that…

  • Reader Stories: How I paid off $610,000 in debt, became a dad and quit my job — in 2 years (56 comments)

    This reader story comes from John Corcoran, an attorney, former Clinton White House writer and blogger at SmartBusinessRevolution.com, where he writes about how to use smart political strategies in business. You can download his free ebook, “10 Ways to Use Secret Political Strategies and Tactics to Grow Your Business.” 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…

  • Honey progress report; good news edition (40 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. This progress report is full of good news! I will go over each piece and its impact on my life, but the bottom line is: I paid off my small student loan balance! Jake paid off the balance transfer he’d made to one of my credit cards! I got a raise! I am super excited, as the confluence of these milestones really makes me feel that I…

  • 4 steps to finding financial improvement (33 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Lisa Aberle. The two worst years of my financial life were 2007 to 2009. Before 2007, our income was low, but our expenses were low, too. We didn’t save much, but we didn’t spend more than we earned, either. Then we saw our dream house. And we bought it while we still owned our first house. For two years, we had two mortgages. Suddenly, even though our income was…

  • Reader Stories: Why I’m glad I took out student loans (52 comments)

    This reader story is from Kelsie, who blogs at pinkandrick.com, a blog about money, goals and dogs. It’s as random as it sounds, she says. 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. I had a full ride to college. It wasn’t a…

  • Empty goal syndrome: What to do when your last goal leaves the nest (47 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Lisa Aberle. I shouldn’t be admitting this in public, but it’s the truth. Hi, I am a staff writer for a personal finance blog, and I’m losing interest in personal finance. I’m not leaving the blog, and I’m not going crazy with spending. But I need a little shot of espresso in my ho-hum financial life. This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt my enthusiasm…

  • 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…

  • Look, Mom! I’m on TV! (27 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Kristin Wong. “If they cleaned this place up, it could be pretty nice.” –My mom’s take on NYC. This week my mom was kind enough to take some time off work and accompany me to New York, where I was a guest on one of her favorite shows, “Fox & Friends.” “Did you know Gretchen Carlson won Miss America?” my mom asked me when I first told her about…

  • Ask the Readers: What will make you feel financially secure? (78 comments)

    If you’re a regular reader of Get Rich Slowly, you are focused on getting out of debt, saving, retirement goals – all of those money issues we all deal with. But at what point would you or do you feel financially secure? I think my own sense of financial security came once I had paid off all of my debts (excluding my mortgage) and had enough money to save a chunk each month. Certainly, having…

  • Book review: ‘Debt is Slavery’ (46 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. My first review was of “All Your…

  • Reader Stories: How I became a home entrepreneur to get out of debt (37 comments)

    This reader story is from Kelly Crawford. Kelly is a “mompreneur” and contributing author for five blogs, including her own, Generation Cedar. 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. I had left my job to raise my two children and was now expecting…

  • Talk about money: The key to financial literacy? (53 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sarah Gilbert. April’s post about financial literacy struck something in me, especially the part about the “Fallacy of Financial Literacy.” The idea here is that we are sold tools to increase our financial literacy, when in fact they only increase our knowledge of products the banks who create the tools can use to their profit and our detriment. The reason we don’t know enough to object seems to be rooted…

  • Avoiding credit card traps (12 comments)

    This is a guest post from John Ulzheimer. John is a recognized expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft, and is the Senior Columnist at Credit Card Insider. He is twice Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) certified by the credit reporting industry’s trade association and has been an expert witness in more than 100 cases involving credit issues. Formerly of FICO and Equifax, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes…

  • 5 debt lessons from ‘Braveheart’ (20 comments)

    This guest post is by Ben Edwards of MoneySmartlife.com. His book “Debt Heroes,” which chronicles the stories of 21 people who got out of debt, was published in December. Get Rich Slowly readers may download a free copy of the book from Sunday, March 24, through Thursday, March 28 on Amazon.com. Ask anyone struggling to pay off big loans whether debt is oppressive and their answer will likely be yes. As you may know, debt…

  • My student loan story: How I paid it off in a year (115 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Kristin Wong. Today I pulled out a file in my cabinet that’s been gathering dust since 2007: STUDENT LOAN. In 2007, I paid that sucker off, and I haven’t looked back since. Well, except to check my credit report. I wanted to make sure the nightmare was really over, after all. It wasn’t too much of a nightmare, really. With interest, I owed a little over $12,000. But when…

  • Ask the Readers: What is the next step? (92 comments)

    J.D. wrote about the three stages of personal finance often. His definitions were: The first stage of personal finance involves learning the basics: understanding compound interest, reducing debt, beginning to save. The second stage is putting the basics into practice: choosing to live frugally, saving in earnest, and pursuing financial goals. The third stage — the “what next?” stage — comes after we’ve mastered the fundamentals. It’s at this point that we begin to ask…

  • The hassle of being in debt (110 comments)

    This post is from contributor Holly Johnson. A few months ago, I wrote about how we dug ourselves out of debt. Once we cut our expenses and stopped living beyond our means, it didn’t take long to make significant progress against the tens of thousands of dollars we owed. And after a few years of struggle and sacrifice, we finally paid everything off. Once all of our consumer debts were gone, we turned our focus…

  • Reader Stories: Starting to see financial fitness muscle! (31 comments)

    This story comes to us from reader EmJay. EmJay’s story is the epitome of getting rich slowly, and readers can learn from her effort. This post is part of the Reader Stories series. 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. Although we…

  • And the winners are… (3 comments)

    To get your new year’s saving resolutions off to a healthy start, we ran a sweepstakes on the Get Rich Slowly Facebook page. More than 300 (310, to be exact) people told us what their new year’s goals were, and from those entries, we randomly chose winners to receive $50 gift cards. And the winners are… (drumroll): Linda Beuthe Michael Brewer Lynn DeRocco Erika Imhoff Amy Lee Andrea Neuschuez Congratulations! To collect your gift cards,…

  • New student loan payoff tool (30 comments)

    Stafford, PLUS, Perkins, Direct, private – there are enough types of student loans out there to make your head spin. All of these loans have different criteria and interest rates. This is especially the case if you have loans from before 2012. Pre-2006, when Stafford loans were variable interest, it often made sense to consolidate when you felt that interest rates were low. While this option may still appeal to folks whose priority is the…

  • Join the Debt Movement (40 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jeff Rose, a Certified Financial Planner who writes about financial planning topics at Good Financial Cents. His first book, Soldier of Finance, is slated to be released the fall of 2013. His latest project, named The Debt Movement, is to help people pay off $10,000,000 of debt in 90 days. You can join the movement and a chance to earn some of the $10,000 debt scholarship money by visiting…

  • Reader story: 10 financial lessons I learned from my parents’ divorce (67 comments)

    This guest post from Sydney is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Sydney blogs about personal finance, entrepreneurship, self improvement, travel and lots of other fun stuff on Untemplater.com. 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. It’s hard to…

  • 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…

  • Getting rich slowly on my own terms (47 comments)

    Over the last six months, I have had several articles published at Get Rich Slowly. However, I have never had the pleasure of formally introducing myself. My name is Holly Johnson, and I am a 32 year-old wife and mother of two young children. I work alongside my husband at a small family owned mortuary in the rural Midwest. I began my own journey out of debt a little over two years ago, and it…

  • The consumer, the ower and the owner (21 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. Happy Day After Christmas! Do you feel like you’re getting rich slower? Yes, ’twas the season for all kinds of holiday traditions, including, of course, Coca-Cola commercials. They’ve been a part of the holidays since the 1920s, and may have even played a role in…

  • Driven crazy by car loans (95 comments)

    My long commute means my car has a lot of miles on it. Right now, it’s cruising up to 180,000 miles and still going strong. While we’re hoping to make it to 250,000, approximately 30,000 miles goes on the odometer each year. My car-buying philosophy In a rare piece of verbal financial advice from my father, he told me to always pay for my vehicles with cash. He said, since they depreciated, I should pay…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • Is investing optional? (101 comments)

    This guest post from William Cowie. William has contributed to ConsumerismCommentary.com, BudgetsAreSexy.com and other personal finance blogs, including his own, Dropdeadmoney.com. We’ve all seen this bumper sticker, haven’t we? Other than singing the Disney song from “Snow White,” how does it make you feel? “Wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t HAVE to…?” And isn’t that most people’s fantasy: not having to go to work? Other than most fantasies, this one is actually achievable. How?…

  • Student loan saga: the next chapter (33 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Honey Smith. Both good news and bad news since my last update on student loans. As I may have mentioned before, after five years in my doctoral program, I thought I was going to graduate, so I consolidated all the student loans I had at the time. Because of the way student loans and consolidation worked at the time, I ended up getting a pretty good deal. A little…

  • Reader Story: How I almost got screwed by the CARD Act (154 comments)

    This post from Danielle Rodabaugh is part of the reader stories series. Danielle is the chief editor of the Surety Bond Insider, an online publication published by SuretyBonds.com, which tracks developments within the surety industry. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Danielle has a special interest in developing finance policies, entrepreneurship and online marketing. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. That day started out as a typical day at…

  • Ask the Readers: What is your most pressing financial issue? (98 comments)

    As Election Day draws (mercifully) near, that old question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” comes up again and again. I’m not going to talk politics. However, I think the better question at any time (and one that is worth asking a few times a year) might be “What is your most pressing financial issue?” Facing foreclosure? Deep in credit card debt? Shopping for health insurance? Lost your job? Can’t make…

  • Frustrations with my new student loan servicer (97 comments)

    This post is from new staff writer Honey Smith. Since I only took out Stafford loans while I was in school, I was able to consolidate almost all my student loans into a single balance through a program called the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). After I consolidated, I was able to use a website (which I believe was maintained by the federal government) to track my loan balance and otherwise access my account….

  • Ask the Readers: Should you comment on a friend’s overspending? (114 comments)

    This post is from Ollie Geiger, a personal finance writer who contributes to MoneyRates.com. My wife has a friend who likes to talk about how broke she is. This friend – let’s call her “Amber,” since that’s her real name – is fond of complaining about the dire state of her finances each month, even though her income is higher than many of our mutual friends. But here’s the rub in Amber’s complaints: She is…

  • Are you a compulsive spender? (15 comments)

    Following up on Kristin’s post this morning, we thought we’d share this infographic about compulsive spending, which came from MoneyRates.com. Courtesy of: MoneyRates.com

  • Reader Story: From recession to best financial shape of my life (53 comments)

    This guest post from William Cowie is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. William has contributed to ConsumerismCommentary.com, BudgetsAreSexy.com and other personal finance blogs. 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. Fresh out of college in South Africa in…

  • Reader Story: Dodging Financial Bullets: A Tribute to My Ex (94 comments)

    This guest post from Holly Johnson is part of the “reader stories” feature. Holly is a 32-year-old wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She blogs about saving money, frugal habits, and whatever is on her mind at ClubThrifty.com. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. I could talk for hours about my ex-boyfriend and all of the terrible decisions he made, his bad habits, and his financial mistakes. Ahhh…..so where do I…

  • Honey Progress Report: Credit Card Payoff Edition (127 comments)

    This article is from new staff writer Honey Smith. I’ve been at GRS for well over a month now, and I’ve learned a lot. At this point, I’ve been able to implement some changes to my spending. I can now provide an update on the effect those changes have had on my bottom line — namely, that I’ve paid off the outstanding balance on my credit card! I have also been giving serious thought not…

  • Earning More vs. Spending Less, Round 3: ‘The Queen of Versailles’ (57 comments)

    This is the third article of a series. The first one is here and the second one here. Earning and saving money both take time, effort, knowledge, attention, and continuous dedication. Since we know that willpower is limited, and so are energy and time, it can make sense for a lot of people to put a keener focus on making more money, which has a greater potential than saving. However, potential is never a guarantee…

  • Student Loan Debt: How I Got in Deep (330 comments)

    This article is from new staff writer Honey Smith. My mother was quadriplegic by the time I was in high school. My dad was a real estate agent who worked on commission, so he worked long hours to make ends meet. As a result, I took on a lot of responsibility at a young age. I cooked and cleaned and did all the grocery shopping. I did the laundry and paid the bills (in the…

  • Are Universities Immoral? (218 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer 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. By popular request, J.D. has added photos of cats once again. Yes, this is another article bemoaning the cost of a college degree, and the amount of student debt that many graduates take…

  • Is Now a Good Time to Rent? (121 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. I asked, as I sometimes do, what personal finance question my friends and Twitter followers had for me. It was a slow day on the internet and the responses flooded in. My friend Neil asked, “what do you think about real estate?” A broad question, indeed, and I got him to clarify. “You know… should I buy a house? Why not just rent?” Why not indeed. The…

  • Surviving Student Loans (102 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 long-time GRS reader Sarah Greesonbach. The student loan juggernaut, before it became a national scandal, was a…

  • Reader Story: Avoiding Student Loans Gave Me a Head Start in Life (125 comments)

    This guest post from Lisa 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. Get Rich Slowly has covered ways to avoid student loans in the past, but I wanted to share how I also…

  • Reader Story: How My Upbringing Helped Me Avoid Debt and Build Wealth (129 comments)

    This guest post from long-time GRS reader SB 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. SB writes about personal finance and personal development topics at One Cent At A Time. Some of you might recognize me. I’ve…

  • Continuing Education May Make You Wiser — But Richer? (100 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. I live in a world in which I am blessed with lots of friends who are writers, but even I — social media maven that I am — would put my writing community at far less than a thousand. Yet a few weeks ago, there I was in Chicago with (according to one estimate) 11,000 writers, editors, publishers, and writing teachers. It was the Association for Writers…

  • Reader Story: How My Nosy Family Taught Me About Money (109 comments)

    This guest post from GenQwerty 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. Reader stories generally run on Sunday and reader questions on Friday; this week, that order is reversed. (Blame it on the jetlag from J.D.’s return…

  • How to Have More Money (84 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jerrold Mundis, author of the classic How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously [here's my review]. Mundis is a writer and financial therapist. The final book in his trilogy on personal money is Making Peace with Money. His website is Mundis Money. You can have more money. And you can have it — get it — without turning your life upside down or…

  • Protecting Yourself Against Sexually-Transmitted Debt (54 comments)

    This is a guest post from Claire Brown. Previously at GRS, Claire shared a reader story about how she learned about frugality from de-cluttering. As we hit the season of Christmas parties and New Year bashes, many GRS readers are probably thinking about 2012 financial resolutions, budget gifts and how to whip up a frugal feast for 25th of December. Some of you may also be fearing that annual call from a family member in…

  • Reader Story: How Debt Put My Dreams on Hold (85 comments)

    This guest post from Jason Jacobs 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. Jason wants to be financially free so he and his wife can be missionaries with no strings attached. You can read about his journey to becoming fat free at FindingMyFitness.com. When we’re young and stupid, we don’t think about…

  • Calibrating and Circumventing the Cost of College (116 comments)

    This article is from new staff writer Tim Sullivan. It’s a common refrain that today’s college graduates are entering into the worst job market and economy since Hoover was around. We’re told that an undergraduate degree means less than what a high school diploma once was, yet we’re investing more in school than ever before. Post college debt is a major emotional weight on the backs of this newest generation, and colleges encourage debt with…

  • The Spectacle of Financial Difficulty (170 comments)

    This post is from new staff writer Sarah Gilbert. Both my husband and I have spent some periods of unemployment over the past decade, and we have become intimately familiar with financial humiliation. Having had a red tag left on your doorknob notifying you of the impending shutoff of one of your utilities is not just a reminder you might soon lose a vital public service; it’s a public shaming, and it’s hard not to…

  • Reader Story: My Falling Credit Score (and Why It’s Not the End of the World) (88 comments)

    This guest post from Matt 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. This is a rare reader story that appeared elsewhere first. I saw it on Matt’s blog last week and asked if I could reprint…

  • How My Generosity Got Me $8,000 in Debt (105 comments)

    This is a guest post from Logan Sachon. Her piece originally appeared at Bundle.com. I am in debt: $8,000 on two credit cards, to be precise. The debt occurred over several years, and includes a few periods when I was living off the cards because I was in between jobs. Perhaps $1,000 of the debt was spent on plane tickets to visit my parents on the East Coast, my job on the East Coast, or…

  • Ask the Readers: Saving vs. Debt Reduction (99 comments)

    The tone and content at Get Rich Slowly have shifted a lot in the past five years. When I started this site, I was a financial novice. I was learning about smart money management. Now, I’m in what I call the third stage of personal finance, and the basics come naturally. (Most of the time, anyhow.) I’m glad that GRS has evolved with me. At the same time, though, I sometimes forget to focus on…

  • When To Walk Away From A Bad Mortgage (252 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. Since the housing bubble burst, many Americans have found their finances underwater. They’re paying on homes that are worth much less than the mortgages against them. More than a few have chosen to walk away from these debts. Called a “walkaway” or a “strategic default”, deliberately defaulting on your mortgage is becoming…

  • Ask the Readers: Should We Buy Our Dream House? (213 comments)

    What happens when a great opportunity comes along, but you don’t quite have the resources to take advantage of it? That’s what Greg wants to know. He and his wife have found their Dream House. They think they can buy the place — but only if they’re willing to take on some short-term debt in addition to the mortgage. Greg wants to know if this is a smart move. Here’s his story: My wife and…

  • Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early? (90 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. Everyone’s looking for safe investments these days. Unfortunately, there’s a price for security: low returns. A five-year certificate of deposit at a major bank like Ally pays just 2.4% APY today, and a five-year…

  • Reader Story: My Debt-Free Marriage (65 comments)

    This guest post from Mike C. 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. On June 26th, I married my best friend. Together, we entered married life debt-free and with six months of expenses in the bank….

  • Ask the Readers: How to Negotiate with Credit-Card Companies? (55 comments)

    A reader calling herself Florida Girl dropped a line recently to share her story of financial woe. Though she’s beginning to get a handle on her finances, she’s struggling to cope with the cost of her past choices. She needs help. I’m struggling to keep up with the minimum payments on my credit cards. Unfortunately, I’m paying for past mistakes. I no longer shop and spend recklessly, but the aftermath of my past life left…

  • Emergency Fund vs. Debt Snowball: What’s the Top Priority? (79 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. A few weeks ago, in my review of Mary Hunt’s Debt-Proof Your Marriage, I mentioned that she advocates building a 3-6 month emergency fund before beginning to snowball your debt payments. That’s not my approach, and I criticized it a little in my review. Several commenters said they agreed with Hunt —…

  • Ask the Readers: Is It Okay to Refinance a Mortgage to Get Cash for Other Goals? (59 comments)

    I have a backlog of “ask the readers” questions since I didn’t publish any while I was vacationing over the past month. As soon as possible, I’ll get to those I’ve promised to post. Today, however, I wanted to share a question from Kristine, who wrote to me earlier this week. Kristine is trying to decide whether she should refinance her mortgage. Here’s what she has to say: I’m trying to decide if refinancing is…

  • Reader Story: How I Persevered and Killed My Credit Card Debt (27 comments)

    This guest post from Jeff 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. You can read more from Jeff at Sustainable Life Blog. After making New Year’s resolutions while an undergraduate (at least two years in a…

  • Help! My Debt Snowball Is Melting! (74 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. The summer heat has taken a toll on my debt snowball. Two months ago, I paid off the last of my credit card debt, but I still have thousands of dollars in loans. I started the summer with over $10,000 in my savings account, no credit card debt, and a solid plan…

  • Reader Story: Patience and Persistence Pay Off (59 comments)

    This guest post from Alissa 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. I like all of the reader stories I publish, but for some reason I particularly like this one. Update: Now with photos! Alissa e-mailed…

  • Ask the Readers: Should I Sell My Home to Pay Off My Debt? (99 comments)

    Yesterday we had a great discussion about some of the financial choices I’m facing, but today it’s time to look at a decision a GRS reader is trying to make. Catherine wrote to ask if it makes sense to sell her home so that she can become debt-free and have the freedom to pursue a simpler life: I’m in my mid-forties, self-employed in a high-cost city where I live in a one-bedroom condo that I…

  • Ask the Readers: What Can I Do About My Student Loans? (135 comments)

    I do my best to cover a variety of topics here at Get Rich Slowly. Personal finance is a v-a-s-t topic, and there’s a lot of specialized knowledge. But there’s no question I have blind spots. Because Kris and I have no kids, I don’t write much about children and money. Student loans are another blind spot for me. Still, I know a lot of GRS readers have questions about student loans. You folks e-mail…

  • Ask the Readers: “Help! I Co-Signed on a Loan and Now I Wish I Hadn’t!” (146 comments)

    Ah, relationships. Without other people, money management would be easy! Easy-er, anyhow. But love, family, and business relationships tend to make people do things they know they really oughtn’t. Take Patrick, for example. He fell in love, and it led him to commit a financial faux pas. Here’s Patrick’s l-o-n-g story and his questions: A couple years back, I met a girl, fell in love, and we moved in together. A few months into our…

  • Worth More Than Money: Taking A Detour on the Road to Riches (105 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. Hola! My family is spending the month of July vacationing in Argentina. My husband grew up here, and his entire family still lives here: his parents, his brother and sisters, and my kids’ eight cousins, plus all his uncles and aunts and cousins. We’re having a long visit with the whole family….

  • Reader Story: Debt-Free by 30 — Including the Mortgage! (120 comments)

    This guest post from Jesse (who juggles) 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. My wife and I paid off our house in April while we were both still 29 years…

  • What Happens to Your Stuff When You Die? (49 comments)

    Most of us have some sort of vague idea about what happens to our assets when we die. The stuff we own gets passed on to the people we specify — assuming we’ve jumped through the right hoops. But what happens to our debts when we die? That’s what Matt wants to know. He wrote recently looking for clarification: My parents are both in their sixites, and don’t have the best financial position. They have…

  • Beyond Credit Card Debt (54 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. I made my last credit card payment this week! That final payment ends more than ten years and $20,000 of credit card debt. Getting out of credit card debt is a familiar story to readers of Get Rich Slowly. You wake up to that fact that your finances are a sinking ship,…

  • Reader Story: The Other Side of Bankruptcy (213 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. J.D.’s note: Over the past couple of months, I’ve shared a couple of reader stories that involve bankruptcy or…

  • Casting Stones: When Is It Okay to Judge? (239 comments)

    I’ve been stewing over something for the past few days, and I’m finally ready to write about it. I’m not a fan of judging others and their actions. Like Atticus Finch, I believe you never really know a person until you stand in their shoes and walk around in them. But I’m human. Like everyone, there are times I can’t help passing judgment. And although I know that judging others isn’t productive, sometimes I’m at…

  • Reader Story: I’m Done with Debt (112 comments)

    This guest post from Andrew J. is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and 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. I am writing this for two reasons: First, GRS is like a big toolbox that I…

  • Money, Stress, and Your Health (46 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. A 2009 AP/AOL survey, Debt Stress in the United States, found that American adults are experiencing significantly more debt-related stress than reported four years ago when a similar survey was conducted. The survey also found that those with high stress levels were likely to experience health problems, including headaches, back pain, muscle tension, depression, anxiety, ulcers, and heart problems. It seems that a high level of…

  • Reader Story: Our Financial Turnaround (102 comments)

    This guest post from William is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and 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. My wife and I had some major awakenings in our lives at the end of 2008. In…

  • Reader Story: I Was Drowning in Debt (29 comments)

    This guest post from Steven is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. (Note that Steven is the author of Hundred Goals, a blog about achieving you goals while managing your finances.) Three years ago, I was drowning in debt. Week after week, I found myself…

  • Calculate How Much Your Debt Costs You Per Month (46 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Read what Baker had to say about J.D.’s new book, Your Money: The Missing Manual, in his recent review on Man Vs. Debt. As you all know, April is Financial Literacy Month. To celebrate, my weekly contributions throughout the month will cover basic techniques to raise your financial awareness. In my opinion, raising awareness is the first step to tackling financial literacy! When initially dealing with the problem…

  • Confessions of a Gadget Junkie (100 comments)

    Ah, April Fool’s Day. Such a special day at Get Rich Slowly. Every year, I share a story of my own foolishness with money. And there are so many stories to choose from! Stories like The $1500 Frisbee and How to Turn $500 Into $7 the Hard Way. This year’s story is about my love for computers. When I graduated from college and went to work for the family box company, I had no concept…

  • Reader Story: I Bought a Fire Station for My First Home (64 comments)

    This post is part of the new “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others will be examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. Today’s reader story is a little bit different; I wrote it after interviewing the subject. For Your Money: The Missing Manual, I knew I wanted to include stories from average folks like you and…

  • Reader Story: How I Ruined My Credit Score, and How It Didn’t Ruin My Life (146 comments)

    This guest post from the redoubtable Tyler K is part of the new “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others will be examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. Tyler is an active commenter at GRS, and never afraid to share his opinion! Like J.D., I once had a big problem with debt. Unlike J.D., I didn’t…

  • Reader Story: How I Paid Off $18,000 in Student Loans While Still in Graduate School (84 comments)

    This guest post from Andrea is part of the new “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others will be examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. I am a graduate student, working towards a PhD, and I hope to graduate in 2012. Prior to starting my PhD program I acquired a significant amount of student loan debt…

  • Just Saying “No” to Credit Cards (110 comments)

    For nearly a decade, I lived without a personal credit card. In 1998, I destroyed all my cards and canceled my accounts in a last-ditch effort to curb my compulsive spending. It worked (sort of), and it wasn’t until 2007 that I finally felt like I was responsible enough to use credit wisely without going into debt. (And so far, it’s been smooth sailing.) What was it like without credit? Surprisingly easy, actually. Though a…

  • Reader Story: Turning Debt Repayment Into a Game (99 comments)

    This guest post from Amanda is part of a new feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Every Sunday will include a reader story (in the new “reader stories” category). Some will be general “how I did X” stories, and others will be examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success. In May of 2008, I graduated with my MBA from a great school. I went straight from my undergraduate career into an MBA program, so…

  • Reader Story: How I Paid Off $18,500 in Debt (69 comments)

    This guest post from Rita marks the start of a new feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Every Sunday will include a reader story (in the new “reader story” category). Some will be general “how I did X” stories, but most will be like this: An example of how a GRS reader achieved financial success. I discovered Get Rich Slowly from a link on MSN Money in the fall of 2008. I’d just purchased a…

  • Should You Stop Funding Retirement to Focus on Debt? (81 comments)

    This article is by GRS staff writer Adam Baker. In addition to his work at Get Rich Slowly, Baker blogs over at Man Vs. Debt, where he compiles the most famous and inspiring quotes on debt. This article is a part of National Save for Retirement Week, and a sort of follow-up to yesterday’s post about the choice between retirement or a down payment. Whether you should halt your retirement contributions in order to focus…

  • Pros and Cons: 30-Year Mortgage vs. 15-Year Mortgage (114 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. My husband and I are in the early stages of building a house. As we modify our floor plans, the amount we’ll need to borrow to build is on our minds. It’s probably going to be the most expensive thing we’ll ever purchase, and we need to decide what we want to borrow and what loan term we’ll want. The main differences between 15- and 30-year…

  • Your Credit Report Card (69 comments)

    Mark Frauenfelder is the co-founder of my favorite sites, Boing Boing (which is a “directory of wonderful things”). Mark’s also a GRS reader. He dropped me a line the other day to tell me about a new project he’s been following. Today, Credit.com is launching a free new online financial tool called Credit Report Card. This tool is designed to provide users with a quick snapshot of their credit reports. According to the site’s FAQ,…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Face a Family Financial Crisis? (91 comments)

    With the arrival of the GRS staff writers, the semi-regular “ask the readers” column has a new home. Look for this feature most weekends. “Ask the readers” is your chance to get (and give) advice about real-life financial dilemmas. An anonymous GRS reader submitted a question last week that hits close to home: I have a family member that this past year has been in serious financial trouble. He is one of the most ambitious…

  • My Debt Story: An Introduction (80 comments)

    This post is from April Dykman, a new GRS Staff Writer. April was a typical GRS reader who used the things we talk about to improve her financial situation. Now that she’ll be writing for the site, she wanted to start by sharing some background on her financial history. In April 2008, I got married. My in-laws graciously gifted my husband, Luis, and me with an adventurous honeymoon in Mexico, complete with scuba diving, climbing…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Prioritize Medical Bills? (153 comments)

    Eila dropped a line this week to get advice on how to tackle her debt. She and her husband are trying to turn things around, but they’re overwhelmed by medical bills. They’re hoping GRS readers can offer direction. Eila writes: How do I prioritize my medical bills? I have about $8000 in medical debt that’s broken up into $300 here, $200 there, $1000 over there, etc. The bills are to different medical centers, doctors and hospitals —…

  • Reader Success Story: Debt Free on $2,000 a Month (76 comments)

    We interrupt this series of Staff Writer auditions to bring you a brief success story from a Get Rich Slowly reader. I receive several of these a month (often several a week), and sometimes wish that I had a place to share them all. Instead, I just make the time to share a handful every year. This morning, Jay wrote to share his own tale of dedication: Hey JD! I am very excited to tell…

  • Beyond Frugality: What I Learned from Failure (63 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jason Barr, who writes about personal development at Start Being Your Best. Jason is a potential Staff Writer for Get Rich Slowly. He’s 32 years old, has been married for seven years, and has a 2-1/2 year old son. He’s now a financial analyst, but he spent five years in the army as a Chinese linguist. I’m the son of a man who advises people on retirement planning. I…

  • Hoping to Finish Ahead by Starting Behind (174 comments)

    This is a guest post from A.J. Clark, a long-time lurker at Get Rich Slowly. A.J. is a potential Staff Writer for GRS. He is a recent college graduate who writes software in the financial services industry, while trying to find his financial footing in the Real World. $76,133.53 — I owe this total to various lenders, who decided four years ago that trusting an eighteen year old with this sum of money was a…

  • The First Three Steps to Financial Freedom (54 comments)

    The hardest part of money management is just getting started. Once you have some momentum, it’s easier to make the right choices. Kay has been reading personal finance blogs for almost a year now, and she knows that she needs to make some changes, but she doesn’t know how to begin. She writes: I want to get serious about being good with my money, but I don’t know where to start. I never developed good…

  • Your Secret Credit Scores (21 comments)

    During yesterday’s episode of The Personal Finance Hour, Jim and I spoke with Liz Pulliam Weston, financial columnist and credit score expert. Weston provided background on how the credit scoring system works, and offered tips for how to maintain (and improve) your credit score. During the show, Weston mentioned a past MSN Money article in which she wrote about 8 secret scores that lenders keep. These lesser known (and confidential) scores are also a part…

  • The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 13: Credit Scores with Liz Weston (13 comments)

    Join us this afternoon for the 13th episode of The Personal Finance Hour. Today, Jim and I will be joined by a special guest, money writer Liz Pulliam Weston. Weston, “the most-read personal finance columnist on the Internet”, writes regularly for MSN Money, and is the author of Your Credit Score: Your Money and What’s at Stake. We would love to have you call with questions and share your own experiences! There are four ways…

  • The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Debtor (32 comments)

    This post is about running. Except that it’s not. It’s about mental toughness, the mental toughness necessary to run a marathon — and to pay off debt or to build wealth. I rolled out of bed early yesterday morning, pulled on my shorts, strapped on my heart-rate monitor, and headed out the door. I zipped my Mini to the other side of Portland and there I joined a group of about 100 other hardy souls…

  • Should Repaying Debt Be an Obsession? (75 comments)

    Some people never take control of their finances because they’re afraid that doing so would require them to give up everything they enjoy. I don’t believe that’s true. Getting out of debt requires hard work and sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way. Aaron recently sent the following e-mail: You paid off $35,000 in debt in just over three years. Does that mean you were balls-to-the-wall dedicated and had no…

  • Ask the Readers: Debt Consolidation or Consumer Credit Counseling? (79 comments)

    One of my favorite parts of Get Rich Slowly is the weekly “Ask the Readers” section. It’s fantastic to see how well this community pulls together to help each other find solutions to financial dilemmas. Most of the questions come via e-mail, but last week I met a man named Aaron who reads the site. He told me that he could use some reader advice for his situation. Here’s Aaron’s story: My girlfriend has managed…

  • How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously (50 comments)

    Once or twice a year, my wife and I spend a Saturday combing the local thrift stores looking for bargains. Kris is mainly after clothes. I target books — especially personal-finance books. On one recent trip, I picked up a two-dollar copy of How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously, a 1988 book from Jerrrold Mundis. How to Get Out of Debt is built on the principles of Debtors…

  • Like a Drug: Suze Orman on Credit Cards (42 comments)

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

  • American Household Debt Declines, Personal Saving Rate Increases (36 comments)

    This morning, Karl sent me a link to a CNN/Money article that is simultaneously happy and sad: In a sign that Americans’ spending habits are shifting, household debt fell for the first time ever, based on data going back to 1952. According to a Federal Reserve report released Thursday, consumer debt fell an annualized $30 billion, or 0.8% in the third quarter to $13.91 trillion. Think about that for a moment. In the 56 years…

  • 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…

  • Data Mining and Credit Profiling: How Lenders Lure You to Borrow (33 comments)

    Although responsibility for every penny of debt ultimately rests with the borrower, lenders have developed tempting baits to lure consumers into their traps. A recent New York Times article by Brad Stone describes a system that works against Americans, not for them. Using sophisticated data-mining algorithms, banks and other financial institutions craft tailor-made offers that many find difficult to resist. Stone writes: The American information economy has been evolving for decades. Equifax, for example, has…

  • Drama in Real Life: Foreclosure! (128 comments)

    Most of the time, the talk about the housing bubble and the credit crisis and the faltering U.S. economy seem rather abstract to me, as if people were discussing a problem in Canada or Mexico. Or Norway. I’ve spent the past four years focused on my own financial situation, ignoring the outside world. The national economy often seems remote from my own personal economy. But there are millions of average people who have been affected…

  • Free Debt Snowball Spreadsheet (27 comments)

    Vertex42, a site devoted to Microsoft Excel templates, spreadsheets, and calendars, has posted a free debt snowball calculator. From the description: This spreadsheet allows you to choose different debt reduction strategies, including the debt snowball effect (paying the lowest balance first) and highest interest first. Just choose the strategy from a dropdown box after you enter your creditor information into the worksheet. This file contains two worksheets: A debt reduction calculator, which allows you to…

  • Reader Survey: How Did You Get Into Debt? (187 comments)

    Last week, National Public Radio’s “On Point” program highlighted credit cards, consumers, and a nation in debt. I was honored to be a guest on the show. Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, an expert on the credit card industry, was the main guest, however, and she had a lot of great things to say. (I admire Warren and her work, including the personal finance book, All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.) After hearing…

  • The American Way of Debt (182 comments)

    On Sunday, The New York Times published a series of articles on The Debt Trap, exploring the surge in consumer debt and the lenders who made it possible. The main article profiles a Philadelphia woman who made some bad choices, bought into the myth of easy credit, and now finds herself struggling with insurmountable debt. “I regret not dealing with my emotions instead of just shopping,” she says. Through compulsive spending and an unaffordable mortgage,…

  • The History of Debt in America (Now in PDF!) (12 comments)

    In Wednesday’s links roundup, I mentioned a long article on the history of debt in America. Rian dropped me an e-mail to say that he liked the essay, too, but found a way to make it more accessible: I have been in contact with the author of the long article about the history of debt in America that you posted recently. I cooked up a PDF version because I like to read long articles offline,…

  • The Dirty Secrets of Debt Reduction (and What to Do About Them) (74 comments)

    When I was a sophomore in college, I got my first credit card. I thought it was awesome — it was like free money. Soon I got another credit card, and before long I’d maxed them both out. I entered the work force with a handicap. I had the start of a nasty credit habit. Because I’d grown up in a poor family, I had no notion of proper money skills. I made some bad…

  • Life Without Credit Cards (78 comments)

    For some people, best credit card deals are useful tools. For others, they’re a gateway to debt. My first step toward controlling my spending was to cut up my gas cards and move to a cash-only system. It was nearly a decade before I felt I could trust myself with a personal credit card again. You might believe that credit cards are a necessary part of modern life, but it’s just not true. During my…

  • The New Thrift and Seduction By Debt (40 comments)

    In today’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks writes about seduction by debt. The United States was founded on a moral structure that emphasized hard work and thrift, he says, and this helped the country grow affluent. But somehow we’ve lost our way. He writes: The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do I Find Who My Creditors Are? (18 comments)

    Even during my bleakest financial periods, I was able to make payments to my creditors on time. Not everyone is so fortunate. Some people give up and eventually lose track of where they owe money. Nick wrote last week wondering what to do when you’re done running and ready to take responsibility for your debts: I’ve made some bad choices financially in the past, and now I know that I owe companies money, but I’m…

  • Now and Then: How My Current Financial Situation Compares with a Decade Ago (64 comments)

    I spent the 1990s addicted to credit cards. I was mired in debt. Recently while cleaning the garage, I unearthed a box full of old receipts and bank statements. I spent a couple hours sifting through them, aghast at my former spending habits. It was like peering into the life of a stranger. Addicted to debt The oldest documents I have are from April 1994, less than three years after I graduated from college. Already…

  • Ask the Readers: “I’m Doing Well Financially But My Family Is Not” (147 comments)

    Personal finance would be easy if it were only about the numbers. But it’s not. Money management not only requires that we master our own whims and emotions, but that we navigate the sometimes rocky waters of our personal relationships. Rachel wrote looking for help with a stormy situation. What happens when you gain control of your finances but the people around you continue to struggle? Here’s her story: I’m having issues because I’m doing…

  • Sallie Mae’s Screw-Up May Cost YOU Money (22 comments)

    Several readers wrote to sound the alarm that student loan giant Sallie Mae has screwed up, and their error may cost you money. Bethany writes: I had been keeping an eye on my credit, making up for my past mistakes by paying on time meticulously and paying off my credit card debt. Yesterday my Equifax score dropped 76 points because Sallie Mae changed the way they report graduated loans. Turns out, I am not the…

  • Ask the Readers: Pay Down Debt or Save for Retirement? (75 comments)

    Personal finance is filled with tough decisions. Prepay the mortgage or invest the money? Pay down high interest debt first or use a debt snowball to tackle the small balances? Roth IRA or traditional IRA? Sara wrote recently with another dilemma I think many of us have faced: is it better to pay down debt or to begin investing for the future? I’m 28. I work at a job with no retirement benefits and I…

  • Ask the Readers: “Help! I’m Living on Credit!” (75 comments)

    Jason sent me a question yesterday that neatly encapsulates a lot of the mail I receive, as well as rounding up some of the topics we’ve been discussing this week regarding life after school. “I’m living on credit,” he wrote. Here’s his story: I graduated a year ago with a useless degree but what I thought was a good job.  I had recently purchased a new car, but only had $8800 in student loans and around…

  • Reader Success Story: “We Paid Off $23,000 of Debt in 16 Months” (50 comments)

    The best part about running this site is reading stories from readers who have managed to take control of their finances and kick debt to the curb. Some people share their success in the comments, but many people e-mail me privately to celebrate. For example, Jodi wrote on Friday to say that after more than a year of focused intensity, she and her husband are debt-free: Before we were introduced to Dave Ramsey in December…

  • The Negative Saving Rate and the Age of Easy Credit (81 comments)

    “My generation doesn’t know how to be thrifty,” writes Eve Conant in the current issue of Newsweek. She describes how her grandfather — who fled his native Ukraine during World War II — would store plastic bags filled with leftover bread crusts in the closet of his new home in California, a house he bought with $13,000 cash. “He couldn’t shake old habits,” Conant writes. “Or were they old virtues?” Now, many decades after Arkady’s…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do You Prepare for Enormous Debt? (74 comments)

    Consumer debt is bad. Buying lots of Stuff on credit cards is a sure path to financial woe. But while some people argue that all debt is bad, most experts agree that certain debts are acceptable (good, even). The two most common examples are mortgage debt and college loans. The average person cannot afford to pay for either of these outright; borrowing money allows one to invest in her future. So what happens if you’ve…

  • Book Review: Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover (149 comments)

    Dave Ramsey changed my life. In the fall of 2004, I had over $35,000 in consumer debt. I was making a solid middle-class salary, but I lived paycheck-to-paycheck. My money habits were terrible. When I looked into the future, all I saw were years of toil to pay for the things I’d already purchased. Then a friend loaned me a copy of The Total Money Makeover, a book by some guy I’d never heard of…

  • The Wise Use of Credit: Money Lessons from 1960 (18 comments)

    “To develop a better understanding of the wise use of credit, let’s spend a few minutes with a certain individual we’ll call Mr. Money.” Here’s another short video from Sutherland Educational Films designed to teach young adults about their finances. In this installment, Mr. Money teaches John and Judy about the ins and outs of credit. To earn credit, first you have to develop your character. You have to be trustworthy. Second, you have to…

  • The Power of Positive Cash Flow (42 comments)

    When I lived paycheck-to-paycheck, there never seemed to be enough money to go around. I was perpetually $50 or $100 short of what I needed. Because I was spending more than I earned, I fell further behind every month. I had a negative cash flow, which led to more debt, which put me deeper in the hole. It is mathematically impossible to get ahead with a negative cash flow — in order to save money,…

  • What Are Debt Snowballs Made Of? Debt Snowflakes! (53 comments)

    During the twenty years I carried consumer debt, I made several attempts to change my habits. Every time I decided to lick the debt monster, I would follow the advice in the financial books: I’d arrange my debts in order, listing the one with the highest interest rate first. I’d pay extra on this bill for a couple of months, but then give up in frustration because I didn’t seem to be making any progress…

  • In Which My Sister-in-Law Decides to Get Rich Slowly (23 comments)

    On Saturday, I joined Kris and her sister for a quick tour of local thrift stores. They picked up clothes; I picked up books. After a few hours of shopping, we took a break to grab some cheap tacos for lunch. “You’ve inspired me,” Tiffany said as we waited for our meals. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I’ve been reading Get Rich Slowly,” she said. “I’ve realized there’s more I can do to save…

  • Ready to Tackle Your Debt? Two Alternatives to Home Equity Loans (18 comments)

    Earlier today I wrote about using a home equity loan to pay off credit cards. I suggested that this may be a good option for somebody who has arrested her spending and is ready to focus on debt elimination. It’s a move that carries a big downside, though, and is certainly not a good choice for everyone. When I took out my home equity loan in 1998, I wasn’t aware of any other options. I…

  • Using a Home Equity Loan to Pay Off Credit Cards (49 comments)

    This is a “dueling bloggers” post between me and Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. Read his post about not using home equity to pay off unsecured debt, and share your thoughts about this issue with us! You’ve spent the past few years being dumb with money. You realize that now. Your credit cards are maxed out, you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, and you cannot see a way out. You plan to sell some stuff and to…

  • Free at Last! Saying Good-Bye to 20 Years of Debt (245 comments)

    Twenty years ago I was a freshman in college. I was a poor kid from a poor family, but my roommates came from wealth. In order to fit in, I went out and picked up a department store credit card. I bought some new clothes, an electric shaver, and a bottle of cologne. From that day on, I’ve been in debt. Getting hooked My debt grew slowly at first. The department store credit card had…

  • The Thrill of Paying Off a Mortgage (81 comments)

    This is a guest-post from Free Money Finance. It’s a follow-up to Mrs. Micah’s post earlier today. A few weeks ago, J.D. and I were chatting when he asked me what it felt like to be debt-free. He’d read on my blog that I had no debt and was curious if I’d write about it for Get Rich Slowly. In particular, he asked me to communicate both how I managed to pay off my mortgage…

  • Will the Credit Crisis Cost YOU Money? (36 comments)

    USA Today recently featured a nervous article about the economy. According to the authors, the U.S. credit crisis isn’t just a problem for big banks — it’s also a problem for you and me. As the credit crisis seeps into farther-flung corners of the economy, more of us will find it harder — and costlier — to borrow money. The value of the funds in our retirement accounts could shrink. People with subpar credit will…

  • Are You a Shopaholic? Six Steps to Curb Compulsive Spending (89 comments)

    I had dinner with my friend Sue the other night. Over pasta and clams, we talked about life and money. She told me about her brother. “He’s a compulsive spender,” said Sue. “He spends money even when he doesn’t have any.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “for one thing, he spends his money before he gets it. For example, when he was still working with Big Computer Company, Inc., somebody told…

  • A Rough Guide to Repaying Student Loans (62 comments)

    There are certain aspects of personal finance that I’ve never had to deal with. Student loans are one of these. But student loans are a huge concern for many people. This guest-post from SJean is an introduction to repaying these debts. There are really two things to know about student loans: How to get them, and what to do when you have to start paying them back. I’m going to write about the latter, as…

  • Credit Crisis: Personal and Global Perspectives (37 comments)

    This morning’s discussion about credit cards and emergency funds was interesting. Many commenters noted that if you have a history of using credit responsibly, a credit card can actually make an acceptable buffer in case of the unforeseen. JenK made an analogy I like: “Credit cards, like knives, are not risky in and of themselves. People chop onions and peppers all the time without cutting themselves — though someone with a history of cutting might…

  • A Credit Card is Not an Emergency Fund (84 comments)

    Sometimes I wonder: Have I always had personal finance conversations all the time? I don’t often initiate them, but money seems to be a constant topic, even when people are unaware that I write about it every day. Just this morning, for example, I met with a fellow who needs some boxes to ship his woodworking products. (By day I am the sales force for my family’s small box factory.) My customer gave me a…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Live Debt-Free? (101 comments)

    I will be debt-free by Christmas. In just a few weeks, I will have repaid all my consumer debt. Only my mortgage will remain. It’s taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but the end is near. I’m wondering, though, if I’m ready for the transition. For three years, I’ve focused on becoming debt-free. Many of you are making the same journey, and you’ve begun to e-mail me the same question: What’s it like…

  • Smart Money on How to Live Debt-Free (21 comments)

    Brad Reagan at Smart Money has advice on how to live debt-free. His article is really about how to get debt free, and it contains some useful tips. Keeping your debt load as light and as cheap as possible is the key to a more secure future and to guilt-free spending on the things you need and want. It’s a skill that’s often neglected and seldom discussed, but understanding how to manage your debt will…

  • Ask the Readers: Help! I’m in Debt! (66 comments)

    I’ve received several questions lately from young adults, just out of school, who are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Here’s one from Ryan, who is feeling overwhelmed by debt: I’m 21 years old, working a full-time job and a part-time job, and going to school part-time on weekends and evenings. After high school graduation, I immediatley fell into credit card debt, which I’m still drowning in. I had barely any financial guidance from…

  • Book Review: Debt is Slavery (43 comments)

    While on vacation I found time to read five personal finance books, each of which was good in its own way. Rather than swamp you with book reviews, I’m going to space them out over the next few weeks. Here’s the first. One of my goals for the next two years is to write a book about personal finance. I want it to be a practical volume filled with great tips, while also exploring the…

  • An Imperfect Credit Score is Not the End of the World (13 comments)

    This is a guest post from Kim McGrigg of Money Management International, the nation’s largest nonprofit credit and debt counseling firm. I often warn consumers about the little things that can have a big impact on their credit score. Today, I’m in more of a “don’t sweat the small stuff” kind of a mood. It is apparent that some people take this credit reporting stuff very seriously. In fact, one consumer recently took time out…

  • How to Eliminate Debt in Bursts Instead of Incrementally (42 comments)

    This guest post is by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, one of my favorite blogs. Most of the time, the standard advice about debt elimination is to pay it off incrementally, over a period of time. We’re advised to be patient, and to hold on tight until the day comes when we pay off our debt. That’s good advice, and I endorse it — however, many people have trouble doing things gradually. For them, I…

  • Ask the Readers: How Can You Help a Family Member in Financial Trouble WITHOUT Loaning Them Money? (73 comments)

    “The Tim” is in a bind. He’d like to help his brother-in-law out of a tight spot, but he’s not interested in loaning him money. What are his options? Here’s his story: My brother-in-law is currently in his third year of college at a private university. He is paying for his schooling without any financial assistance from his parents, as they had somewhat of a falling-out a few years ago. Recently, his job came to…

  • Gary Coleman Pitches Outrageous 99.25% APR Loans (78 comments)

    You guys are awesome. I’m scrambling to get things organized before I leave for London this weekend, and GRS readers continue to send me great story ideas and guest entries. I won’t get to all of them before I leave (not even close!), but you’ve given me lots of fodder for when I return. Here’s one I can’t pass up, though. Two readers — Jeremiah and Matt — sent me the exact same story, and…

  • Ask the Readers: Should You Carry a Loan When You Can Afford Not To? (76 comments)

    Monday’s collection of car links sparked more discussion than any link dump I’ve ever posted. A lot of you have strong opinions on the subject. Katie writes that all the talk about cars made her think about her own situation. My husband and I have both saved enough money to cover the price of the new car that we want (plus taxes and fees) and have a comfortable amount left over — at least three…

  • 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…

  • Reader Story: What My Father Taught Me About Debt (12 comments)

    Happy Father’s Day! Louise from Our Odyssey dropped a line the other day to share a story of how her father taught her about debt. When I was fresh out of college in June of 1985, my Dad gave me $500 to buy furniture and as an apartment rental deposit.  This was an interest-free loan and we were both lax about setting up a payment schedule.  Nothing was in writing.  He said, “Pay me something monthly.” …

  • Proper Care and Feeding of Your Credit Score (46 comments)

    Your credit score is like a pet monster under the bed. Feed it and care for it, and it will do your bidding. But if you neglect it, it will turn against you. But beware! Taking good care of it can bring you dangerously close to its sharp teeth. Your credit score determines the types of credit you can obtain, and how much you will be charged in interest. Last year I described the anatomy…

  • The Poverty Business (37 comments)

    Vincent sent me a story from the latest issue of Business Week. On its surface, “The Poverty Business” is similar to pieces I’ve featured before, including Marc Hedlund’s guest-post on the dangers of the payday loan trap and my own review of Maxed Out, a film about the credit industry. In this new article, authors Brian Grow and Keith Epstein offer a complex view of the subprime lending problem. In recent years, a range of…

  • Real-Life Choices: Retirement Savings vs. Debt Reduction (47 comments)

    I’ve accumulated $3500 and I don’t know what to do with it. As you may recall, I am carrying the remainder of my credit card debt in the form of a home-equity loan (or HELOC). The current balance on this debt is $15,000 and I’m paying a 9.25% finance charge. I intend to have this debt eliminated by March 2008. It’s an ambitious goal. In order to make this happen, I’ve had to forego investing…

  • What’s It Like to BORROW Money with Prosper? (34 comments)

    I recently posted two entries (1, 2) with experiences from people who loaned money through Prosper, the person-to-person lending service. “But where are the reviews from borrowers?” some of you asked. Tricia at Blogging Away Debt has borrowed money from Prosper. Here’s her story. When I first heard about people-to-people lending through Prosper.com last year, a light bulb went off in my head. Would everyday people be willing to lend me money so I could…

  • A Review of MAXED OUT, a New Film About the Credit Industry (33 comments)

    Maxed Out is a new film that examines the credit industry — its profitability and its effect on consumers. It’s a sort of Super Size Me, but with credit cards instead of hamburgers. Here’s the trailer: The film discusses the role of banks, of government, and of consumers in creating an industry that is, in the words of Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, “obscenely profitable”. Here’s how the press kit describes the movie: Maxed Out…

  • Reader Story: Tackling Debt Through Volunteer Work (8 comments)

    An anonymous reader sent the following story about the approach she is taking to tackle her debt. First I need to point out that this won’t work for everyone. I only have a two-year degree from a community college, so my total school loans were only up to $10,000 — a drop in the bucket compared to some people. After making regular payments for a couple years I was left with a little over $8,000…

  • Ask the Readers: Credit Emergency! (42 comments)

    Jana writes in with a credit emergency. She’s been following Get Rich Slowly, and is learning how to handle her own personal finances, but she has a friend who is in a predicament beyond her realm of knowledge. (And beyond mine, as well.) Can any of you offer advice? She writes: Kerry is a 23 year old living in Utah. She works a full time job, pays rent on an apartment, and has a car…

  • Radio Interview with David Koch, Australian Financial Expert (2 comments)

    I recently did my first radio chat about personal finance. I crashed and burned. I had terrible stage fright, and turned into a brain-dead zombie who could only repeat one thing over-and-over. It was a learning experience, one which makes me all the more appreciative of the work done by Rodney Olsen, a regular Get Rich Slowly reader. Olsen is the host of the morning show at a radio station in Perth, Western Australia. He…

  • Getting Out of Debt: Oh What a Relief it Is! (22 comments)

    JLP at All Financial Matters recently shared the story of how he got out of credit card debt. It’s not exciting or glamorous, but then paying off debt never is. We paid off our last two credit cards nearly a year ago. It was an amazing feeling to write those two final checks. Our debt came mostly while we were in college. We also stupidly charged up stuff right after college. Most of our debt…

  • My Parents Ruined My Credit! (27 comments)

    Last month a reader wondered how her family’s credit history affected her own. This month Daniel has a slightly different problem: his parents did ruin his credit, though indirectly. He writes: When I was 19/20 years old, my credit was ruined. I had a decent job and got a few credit cards. I went to college, which my parents said they would pay for and support me during, so I quit my job. When money…

  • Blogging Away Debt (14 comments)

    Paul forwarded a piece from yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Debtors search for discipline via blogs”. This front-page article profiles several personal finance bloggers whose primary focus is debt. A decade after the Internet became a public stage for revelations from the bedroom, it is now peering into the really private stuff: personal finance. The blogs open a homey and sometimes shockingly candid window on the day-to-day finances of American households in a time of…

  • Retirement Savings or Debt Reduction: Which is the Top Priority? (30 comments)

    Edited to correct mistaken math. Deep in the bowels of the internet, we personal finance bloggers have a secret hideaway where we gather to hone our craft. In a recent discussion some of us wondered which we ought to prioritize: retirement savings or debt reduction? This is a question that’s bugged me recently. As I’ve begun to get my finances under control, I’ve found it difficult to prioritize money allocation. Should I continue to pay…

  • Counterpoint: Debt-Free Living Has Its Drawbacks (33 comments)

    Yesterday I posted a reader comment on the virtues of a debt-free lifestyle. This prompted responses noting that debt-free living creates its own set of problems, and that responsible use of credit can be a valuable tool. Greg C wrote: Some people think credit = debt. It does not. Anyone who can budget can use credit the same as cash. You can also get credit cards and never use them. Millions of people somehow manage…

  • Reader Comment: It’s Not Wrong to Avoid Debt (19 comments)

    Marie recently made a terrific response in Ask the Readers: What if you have no credit history? This thread is a month old and most people probably missed the comment, so I’m featuring it here. I am a bit shocked that someone would be so irresponsible as to tell someone else to “suck it up and get a credit card”. Are there hassles about not having a score? Yes. But there are a lot more…

  • Ask the Readers: How Will My Family’s Credit History Affect My Own? (15 comments)

    An anonymous reader is worried about her family’s poor credit history: How will my family’s credit history affect my own? My family has an awful credit history. My father was once a very successful business man and sold his company years ago for a hefty sum. Not long after this, my parents divorced and my father got in a very nasty accident. He was in hospital for a year receiving treatment and surgery and has…

  • Who Is Responsible for the Payday Loan Trap? (16 comments)

    Last month, Marc Hedlund shared a guest article about the dangers of the payday loan trap. He wrote: The basic lesson for personal finance is the same you’ll have heard many times, but it always bears repeating: If it seems like you’re getting easy money, watch out! Easy money is the hardest kind there is. Hedlund’s piece was inspired a New York Times article profiling the payday loan industry. Now the Times has published a…

  • Become a Consultant to Defeat Debt Quickly (13 comments)

    The recent discussion about job-loss included a debate on the merits of becoming a consultant. Regular reader Andréa Coutu is a consultant. She wrote this guest article on how to become a consultant in order to explain the concept to Get Rich Slowly readers. Getting rid of household debt is one of the best ways to put your financial house in order. But sometimes debt can seem insurmountable. The percentage of disposable income used to…

  • Ask the Readers: Escaping from an Upside-Down Loan? (29 comments)

    Many of us are in similar positions: we’ve discovered sound personal finance skills, but only after making some dumb decisions. I’m still paying down a $16,000 home equity loan that represents my residual credit card debt. John writes with a similar problem, one that he hopes he might escape. A little over a year ago, I bought a new VW Jetta. I now have a hefty car and insurance payment, which I’ve been making every…

  • Ask the Readers: Emergency Fund or Debt Snowball? (40 comments)

    Ben writes with an interesting predicament, and he hopes GRS readers can provide some guidance. He’s trying to dig out of debt and establish an emergency fund, but which is more important? I recently accepted an offer for a 0%-for-12-months Citi credit card. (That’s 0% on both purchases and bank transfers.) I opted to get the money in a check, which I intend to disperse to my other cards in the debt snowball method. However,…

  • The Dangers of the Payday Loan Trap (20 comments)

    Need quick cash? Don’t use payday loans, advises guest writer Marc Hedlund. Payday loans offer a quick path to debt. The New York Times published an article last week about the growth of “payday loan” stores — places that give a short-term, high-interest loan as an advance against your next paycheck. The article revealed some bleak results for people who use these services: Mr. Milford is chronically broke because each month, in what he calls…

  • The Light at the End of the Tunnel (38 comments)

    It’s an odd feeling to be accumulating money for the first time in my life. When I was young, my family didn’t have much money. Any money I earned, I spent. This was a learned behavior. I was imitating my parents. After college, I allowed myself to be trapped in a life of credit hell. About five years ago I began to wean myself from credit. And in December 2004, I began the process of…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Get Started in Life? (18 comments)

    Over the past week, I’ve received a barrage of messages from people seeking specific personal finance advice. While I’m willing to offer help where I can, many times the questions lay outside my area of expertise. I’m just a regular guy who is learning about personal finance and sharing the information with the world. I’m not a trained financial advisor. I can offer generalities, but the specifics are sometimes beyond me. Lifehacker has a feature…

  • The Secret History of the Credit Card (repeat) (17 comments)

    I originally shared this piece on June 12th. I’m reposting it because many PBS stations are rebroadcasting this show tonight. How did the United States become a nation of debtors? When did credit cards become popular? Did you know that many modern credit card policies are the creation of one man? The Secret History of the Credit Card was a 2004 “Frontline” presentation from the Public Broadcasting System. The program examines the nation’s use of…

  • A Profile of Young People in Debt (26 comments)

    Each generation believes it faces greater challenges than those that came before. In a way, each generation is correct. The challenges keep changing, forcing young people to cope with problems there parents didn’t face. Our grandparents may have struggled with poverty during the Great Depression, but many modern young adults face a slightly different crisis: a crisis of debt. Mindy Fetterman and Barbara Hansen of USA Today have written a piece exploring the debt problems…

  • How to Get Out of Debt (207 comments)

    Nick writes with a common question: I am a college student with $8,000 of debt. What is the first step in paying this off? Debt elimination involves three steps: Stop acquiring new debt. Establish an emergency fund. Implement a debt snowball. Here’s how to approach each step. (I’ll use Nick’s situation as an example, but the principles apply to everyone.) Stop acquiring new debt (This step can be accomplished in an afternoon.) This may seem…

  • Huge Debts Paid Off Fast (3 comments)

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

  • You Can Learn a Lot From a Rich Girl (8 comments)

    A reader pointed me to at post a Violent Acres. “You Can Learn a Lot From a Rich Girl” [profanity] is a cautionary tale of how anyone — even the wealthy — can find themselves struggling with debt. Driving home from the bar one evening, my friend Marilyn confided in me that she was afraid. In six months, she would be graduating from grad school and her parents were going to cut her off financially…

  • What Happens When You Try to Get Rich Quickly (31 comments)

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

  • Fortune’s Fools: Why the Rich Go Broke (0 comment)

    Have you ever wished you were rich? Have you ever believed that your money problems would disappear if you had more money? Have you ever told yourself that you’d be able to shake your debt, shake your bad habits, if only you won the lottery, inherited money from Aunt Madge, sold a screenplay? It ain’t necessarily so. Even the rich have trouble with money. Several GRS readers (including Vincent and Jeff V.) sent me a…

  • Real Financial Heroes (4 comments)

    Mr. Impulse-Buyer Guy Mrs. Addicted-to-Sales Shopper Mr. and Mrs. Too-Much-Home Buyer

  • Buying a Home, part three: Dealing with Debt (21 comments)

    This is the third installment in Luneray‘s homebuying adventure. In the first part, she looked at houses. Last week she made an offer. In today’s third part, she discusses coming face-to-face with a lifetime of debt. (Bold emphasis added by J.D.) This house buying experience has been a real eye-opener when it comes to finances, besides the overwhelming shock of sheer indebtedness. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get everything paid off…

  • In Praise of the Debt Snowball (69 comments)

    During my twenties, I accumulated nearly $25,000 in consumer debt. I had a spending problem. With time, I was able to get my spending under control (mostly), but I still owned overwhelming debt. How could I get rid of it? The personal finance books all suggested the same approach: Order your debts from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. Designate a certain amount of money to pay toward debts each month. Pay the minimum…

  • 35% Interest: The Curse of the Unsolicited Loan Offer (9 comments)

    This is a real check for $6,000! Because I have not yet performed the opt-out prescreen, I still get credit card and loan offers in the mail. I usually shred them without looking. Today I opened one on a lark. Holy cats, this is a terrible deal. Who signs up for these? Let’s take a closer look at why these offers should be avoided. The letter starts with a tantalizing offer: $6,000 for anything? To…

  • The Worst Job I Ever Had (84 comments)

    Your job is one of your most important assets. It gives you earning power. It can bring you personal fulfillment. But what happens when you’re stuck in a job you hate? Here’s the true story of the worst job I ever had. I made some poor choices at the end of my college career; as a result, I graduated without a prospect for work. No matter — I lived off my credit cards for a…

  • Beware of Nightmare Mortgages (5 comments)

    Business Week has a fascinating story about “nightmare mortgages” — adjustable rate home loans made over the past few years that now haunt consumers. For cash-strapped homeowners, it was a pitch they couldn’t refuse: Refinance your mortgage at a bargain rate and cut your payments in half. New home buyers, stretching to afford something in a super-heated market, didn’t even need to produce documentation, much less a downpayment. Those who took the bait are in…

  • How to Escape from Debt Hell (6 comments)

    Reader Russell Heimlich forwarded an excellent MSN Money piece on Escaping from Debt Hell. It’s hard to escape the news that Americans are drowning in personal debt, but you hear less about the many people who…have been able to dig out of debt. Ordinary people use a variety of methods to shake off their past credit mistakes. Some use credit counselors. Some take second jobs. Most live frugal lives until they’re back on their feet…

  • Ain’t We Got Fun? – The Dawn of the Age of Credit (11 comments)

    Have you ever wondered how we became a nation of debtors? When did credit become something we take for granted? Here’s a passage from a book called Ain’t We Got Fun? that reveals how credit rose to prominence. I’ve annotated the passage with links to supplementary material. [During the 1920s] an ever-increasing proportion of the population became urban dwellers, leaving behind the isolation and grueling routines of farm life. Spread out before these workers in…

  • Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford (11 comments)

    Live from New York! It’s Saturday night! Okay, it’s really live from Portland, but here’s a skit from Saturday Night Live that features excellent personal finance advice. The best personal finance advice. You can watch the clip for free at Salon, or you can just read the script below: Scene: a typical American kitchen. A husband (Steve Martin) and wife (Amy Poehler) are puzzling over their finances. Wife: Oh, I just can’t get these numbers…

  • Put Yourself on a Debt Diet (2 comments)

    Lifehacker points to Oprah’s Debt Diet, which is a sensible approach to debt elimination and sound personal finance. The “diet” is divided into two phases of four steps each. Short-Term Within a month, you should be able to complete each of these four short-term goals, perhaps pursuing one task per week. These are steps that can be taken now to stop the bleeding and to begin the financial healing process. How much debt do you…

  • How Do Bad Credit Marks Go Away? (5 comments)

    One AskMetafilter user wonders how old bad credit marks go away: I had a few months in 2004 where I could not afford to pay my bills — mostly credit card bills. I have a few accounts that have 120 day delinquencies reported in 2004, but since about the end of that year, I have made on-time payments for 24 months or better. Is there anything I can do to get these accounts out of…

  • Pep Talk: Climb Out of Debt (8 comments)

    A reader at Lifehacker writes: Over the past few years, I’ve accrued some painful, albeit modest, debt. Since I trust Lifehacker readers with my life(hacking), I’d love to hear some tips and strategies for getting out of debt. So, any advice? First of all — and this is important — DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. You might notice that there’s some conflicting advice in this thread. “Pay off your highest interest rate debts first.” “No!…

  • How to Obtain Your Free Credit Report (10 comments)

    Ralph writes: I’d like to know how to get a free copy of my credit report from the agencies. A recent federal law gives consumers access to their credit reports; however, it costs extra to obtain your credit score. Your credit score is not an actual component of your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with…

  • Ben Franklin’s Advice to a Young Tradesman (1 comment)

    TO MY FRIEND, A. B.: — As you have desired of me, I write the following hints, which have been of service to me, and may, if observed, be so to you. Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour and goes abroad or sits idle one-half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only…

  • Necessary Hints to Those That Would Be Rich (0 comment)

    (by Benjamin Franklin, from Poor Richard’s Almanack (1737)) The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money. For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty. He that spends a groat a day idly spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds. He that wastes idly…

  • Coping with an Adustable Rate Mortgage (3 comments)

    Interest rates are on the rise, and that means the 25 percent of homeowners who hold adjustable-rate mortgages are beginning to feel the pinch. Gerri Willis at CNNMoney has some advice to help these folks guard against higher rates. She recommends that homeowners: Know the stakes. The increased rates can make hundreds of dollars of difference in your monthly payment, all of which goes to interest. Buy some time. Though it will cost now, you…

  • National Credit Score Index (1 comment)

    The National Score Index is a handy little web app that displays U.S. average credit scores by state (683 in Oregon) and for the entire country (677). Based on the most current data available in the industry, the Experian National Score Index provides the most up-to-date look at U.S. consumers’ credit and is a powerful indicator of the country’s overall financial health. The Experian National Score Index monitors several components of consumer credit behavior to…

  • Reader Question: Buying a House Without a Credit History? (3 comments)

    A reader e-mailed wondering if it were possible to obtain a mortgage without a credit history. I posed this question to Robb Severdia of Guarantee Mortgage in Portland. If a couple came to you with a combined income of $75,000/year, 20% saved for a down payment, but no credit history whatsoever (as unlikely as that might be), would you still loan them money? Does the system allow for personal evaluations in situations where no credit…

  • The Secret History of the Credit Card (9 comments)

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

  • Federal Student Loan Consolidation Primer (3 comments)

    Paul — who recently shared tips on socially responsible investments and on cheap world travel — is a financial aid counselor at the University of Oregon. He’s offered to share a presentation he’s been giving to students about loan consolidation. Recent grads who have unconsolidated federal student loans may also find this useful. This information may make your eyes glaze now, but if you act on it, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in…

  • Anatomy of a Credit Score (21 comments)

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

  • The Psychology of Spending (3 comments)

    For many, it’s not the rules of personal finance that are difficult — it’s implementing them. We know what we should do, but we make poor choices. In The Psychology of Spending Money, Deborah Fowles explores our “urge to splurge”. Facing the factors that give you the urge to splurge can be uncomfortable, but if you don’t face them, you may never get control of your spending and your debt. If you’re always trying to…

  • From Zero Percent to Thirty Percent in Just One Month (6 comments)

    Here’s a nightmare credit card story. John, of New Falmouth, Massachusetts, said he answered an ad for Household Bank’s Platinum Mastercard, which offered a 0 percent introductory fixed rate for the first 12 months for purchases and balance transfers. John’s existing credit card charged just over 9 percent, not a bad rate these days. But being a thrifty consumer, John said he wanted to take advantage of the offer of 12 months without interest. So…

  • How Many Credit Cards Should You Carry? (16 comments)

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

  • What Actually Happens in Credit Counseling? (0 comment)

    For some who are deep in debt, bankruptcy and consumer credit counseling may seem like the only options. But what’s it like to go through credit counseling? On AskMetafilter this morning, one user asks: What actually happens when one goes through credit counseling and/or debt consolidation? I’m in an ugly mess and I’m scared–everyone tells me it’s not that bad, but that’s only in comparison to horror stories. I see that it’s not getting better…

  • How to Get Out of Debt (3 comments)

    As a personal finance site, The Motley Fool is hit-or-miss. It’s mostly an investment site targeting average folks, though sometimes its articles miss this target. Still, it’s a valuable site. One useful feature is this How to Get Out of Debt on-line seminar. The seminar includes a PDF workbook and several pages of information. Here’s a summary of the lessons: Lesson One: Setting the Foundation Debt is simple to understand, but difficult to master. It…

  • Two Approaches to Debt Elimination (22 comments)

    Nearly every financial adviser — from accountants to brokers to books — advises that debts should be paid off in a particular order: from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. While this method makes sense from a mathematical point of view, it makes less sense from a psychological point of view. Assume a typical young woman in her mid-twenties who awakes one morning to realize that she’s in debt and who decides to do…