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Home and Mortgage

  • Lifestyle inflation: How to decide if it’s ever okay (81 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. Despite that I don’t own it, I like my apartment. It’s got a mountainous view, it’s comfortable, and my neighbors are few but friendly. Sure, I’d like to own a home someday. But, unless I move to another city, that probably isn’t going to happen in the next few years. I’m fine with that. Like my neighbor said, I’d rather live here than anywhere else, at least for…

  • How not to approach rising home prices (31 comments)

    This article is by staff writer William Cowie. My wife and I took the dog for a walk the other day in our neighborhood. About half a block up the street we met Heather and George as they were unloading one of those moving PODS thingies. We introduced ourselves and asked their life’s story, or at least the part about buying the house they were moving into. Turns out they were buying something better than…

  • Fire: Oh, that will never happen to me (45 comments)

    This article is by staff writer William Cowie. Laughter and hooting filled the house as my wife had Karen and a few other friends over for a mid-morning tea. (Such are the joys of retired life.) The chirping of a cell phone rose from the pile of purses on the sofa. Nobody paid it any attention — whoever it is can leave a message was the general sentiment. Sure enough, the chirping stopped. But then…

  • Buying rental property: Sometimes getting rich means taking it slowly (50 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. I have two second cousins who serve in the military — both brave young men I am proud to call my family. We don’t always talk much, though. The age gap can be a roadblock and those boys are always traveling around, serving overseas and living on bases in order to fulfill their military duties and finish school. Still, social media makes it easier than it used…

  • The most money I’ve ever lost (31 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Several years ago, my husband and I were planning to build a house. We bought the land and cleared the build site. We then started working with an architect, which is how we lost $12,500 in a matter of months. Here’s how it went down. Losing thousands When I hired this architect, whom I now refer to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I thought I’d done my due diligence. The guy…

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

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

  • Starting a garden to pay off debt: Really!?! (85 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….

  • Looking out for your finances as a renter (26 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. Landlords and property owners have their fair share of problems: They have to manage, accommodate, repair, etc., their property. It’s a lot of responsibility, and with great responsibility comes great headache. But it ain’t all roses for renters, either. We’ve got rent increases, security deposits, and unannounced, inescapable construction. Last Saturday, I woke up to the sound of drilling on the wall next to which I sleep….

  • Challenging traditional measures of financial success: Homeownership (155 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. (This is Part II in a series about challenging traditional measures of financial success. Part I is The “Ivory Tower”: Reconsidering the college investment. Part III is The 9-to-5 job: Challenging how we earn a living.) Last week, I was having dinner with my neighbor, a magnetic woman with a free spirit and a really youthful soul. She’s been renting the apartment above mine for something like…

  • Saving your sanity (and your budget) this summer vacation (40 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. I am writing this article in silence, thanks to my kids’ 7 pm bedtime. And tonight is the last early bedtime night because – sob! – tomorrow is the final day of school. While I love my children, I admit to some qualms about summer vacation. How do I keep them entertained (that means out of trouble)? How do I keep the lid on my grocery budget?…

  • 8 Surprise expenses for new homeowners (83 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Over a year ago, I bought my first home. And while I’d been warned about the extra expenses that come with homeownership, there were still some surprises. I don’t mean the “unexpected” costs of property taxes and repairs — expenses that are often covered in articles about new homeownership. “Surprise! There’s no landlord to come fix your garbage disposal.” Is that really a surprise to anyone, though?…

  • Teaching life skills to your children (22 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. While I’ve tackled many kid-centered topics, like how to save on kids’ clothes, should you buy your kid a car, or pay for your child’s college, you know what is really important to me? Helping them learn to be responsible and self-sufficient, so they don’t need me (except for moral support, of course). So while I often hear that I am a mean mom, and no other kids have to…

  • Honey progress report: Big change edition (21 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Well, the last couple of months have been a pretty wild ride in The Honeycomb. We moved out of our old place and concluded our experience with Cash for Keys, we bought a house and moved, and I am experimenting with a new student loan payoff strategy. Let’s explore each of these big changes a bit further, shall we? Big change 1: The culmination of “Cash for…

  • Foreclosure from the tenant’s perspective: Honey’s story (32 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Honey Smith. In November, we thought we’d reached the last straw in terms of the condo we have been renting. We’d had numerous problems with our place and our landlord (namely, not fixing things when they broke — major or minor). However we ultimately decided that, although the right choice wasn’t obvious, there were too many aspects of our lives up in the air to move at that moment. Then, on…

  • Charity, hobby, or mistake? The cat we didn’t keep (61 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Jake and I have two cats and a dog. To us, having pets is one of the most important aspects of our lives and identity. You might even consider it a hobby. Unfortunately, it is a hobby that, as you will see, has not always been entirely strategic. Our love for animals has permeated much of our lives. I’ve been vegetarian for over a decade, and Jake was…

  • Why home prices are climbing again, and what you should do about it (29 comments)

    This article is by staff writer William Cowie. Chances are home prices in your neighborhood have been rising lately. Strangely enough, that only made the news when, for last November, Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 top cities fell the grand total of 0.1 percent. The Federal Reserve tracks a national composite home price index for the country, which looks like this: Home price index since 1987 (all data available) Is this…

  • Reader Story: Looking ahead pays off until “boom”! (49 comments)

    This reader story comes from JenB. 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 thought I had it all figured out, but the middle-of-the-night panic attacks have started again as a result of a little piece of mail I received this week….

  • How to spring clean your financial house (33 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. It’s almost spring, you guys. I don’t know about the weather in your neck of the woods, but that’s a welcome thought where I’m at, and I live in Texas! (Northerners, feel free to make fun of my idea of a cold winter. I don’t care. I did not sign up for anything colder than highs of 50 degrees.) At any rate, I’ve been on a cleaning…

  • Maximizing your dollar: Renovating a historic house for the rental market (6 comments)

    This story comes from Anastasia Mann. Anastasia Mann is an associate at Trimark Properties, a leading provider of historic house rentals, student housing and apartments in Gainesville, FL. To check out their historic infill developments, visit their website. 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…

  • Before and after: A $6 ceiling fan makeover (46 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Being a homeowner is expensive. Correction: Being a homeowner who wants to tear out and replace everything in the house is expensive. But my home is also my hobby. It’s one of those expenses that falls into the “needs list” (shelter) and the “wants list” (my complete kitchen remodel). Living in aesthetically pleasing surroundings puts me at ease almost as much as a really mean massage, the kind…

  • Food spending: When bad habits attack (94 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. In 2010, my husband and I were pregnant with our second child. And although we were making plenty of money, we were burning through all we made at lightning speed. Yep, we were wasting it. In fact, we were spending money we didn’t even have by financing cars, miscellaneous purchases, and trips. And, even though we had a baby on the way and two rental properties, we didn’t have…

  • How to winterize your home (71 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. As I write this, the back side of my house is mostly exposed to the studs with loose fiberglass hanging out in the area where landscaping will be someday. That’s right: Some crazy people choose to do remodeling projects in the middle of the coldest part of winter. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, considering this article is about winterizing your home. Having one wall with…

  • Ask the Readers: How much are you willing to spend to save a sick pet? (104 comments)

    This article is by managing editor Ellen Cannon. Four years ago, my beloved kitty Zito developed kidney problems. She was only five years old, and her littermate, Mikey, was fine and healthy. But Zito had stopped eating and wasn’t drinking much water. I took her to the vet. An x-ray by the veterinarian showed that one of her kidneys was tiny and the other was not the normal size it should have been. The vet…

  • Home remodeling — when you can’t (or don’t want to) DIY (41 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. When my husband and I walked into our last home for the first time, we felt like we were walking right into the ’70s. With disco-era fixtures and old smelly carpet, the four bedroom colonial was quite the sight. Oh, and let’s not forget the orange laminate flooring that graced the kitchen and bathrooms. Except for the master bathroom, of course. It had shag carpet. But, for every…

  • Saving money with my feet: The joys of a walkable neighborhood (73 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 regrets of the dying. On Saturday, I bumped into Rhonda at the local natural food market. Rhonda is one of Kris’s co-workers and friends. I haven’t seen her much since the divorce, although we live only a mile-and-a-half apart. For 20 minutes, she and I…

  • In the kitchen: When less is more (85 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. When I moved into my first apartment, my kitchen was stocked in an appropriate college-student fashion: cast-off pieces of stained Tupperware, cheap pots and pans that warped when they got hot, and a few new gifts that my practical relatives had given me for high school graduation presents. By the time my husband and I were engaged, I thought that “real” cooks had certain types of tools…

  • Surviving Christmas: A post-holiday checklist (4 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. After months of anticipation, Christmas day is finally here. And depending on your outlook, that could be a great (or an awful) thing. Just a few short years ago, I was a total Scrooge about the holidays in general, with a special hostility toward anything I perceived as forced gift-giving or wasteful spending. And while I still struggle with those notions to a certain extent, my perspective of…

  • Moving scams: Avoid the headache by checking consumer reviews (42 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Last month we moved a house full of furniture in the least frugal way possible. We hired movers. But, we felt that we were justified in the expense due to a variety of reasons. First, we’re getting older and no longer have friends or family members willing to sacrifice their Saturday for the promise of pizza and beer. Second, I’ve had chronic back issues throughout my 20s and 30s, so…

  • When the right choice isn’t obvious (69 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. What do you do when the right choice isn’t obvious? Earlier this month, I said that my husband Jake and I had reached the last straw with regard to our current place. Accordingly, we looked at a bunch of rentals. We anticipated that this was going to be a challenging process because Jake and I value different things in homes. Pretty much all I care about is a…

  • The small house experiment, Part 2 (98 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. A few months ago, my husband mustered the courage to try a new career only to discover that the grass isn’t always greener. In other words, he hated it. And, after some initial disappointment, I was okay with him leaving that job and going back to the industry where he began. Fortunately, once he began looking for a new job, we got lucky. After a week or so of sending…

  • 7 Money-saving strategies that can cost you more (44 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. I’m in the middle of renovating a house, a project that started in January 2013 and will end — well, who knows when it will end? We have a lot of plans for this house. Truly, the only reason we’re able to afford this project is because we’re doing the work ourselves. And the only reason that DIY is saving us money is because we have my…

  • The last straw: We’re moving (72 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. I mentioned in my goals for 2013 post that Jake and I wanted to move. In the last couple of weeks, however, there have been some extenuating circumstances that led us to start looking at rentals. Before I get to the circumstances surrounding our move, however, a little bit of background. When Jake graduated from law school, he moved to our current city. Giddy on the high of…

  • The small-house experiment (Part 1) (112 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my husband and I are moving to be closer to his new job. Well, it’s been a whirlwind of chaos and uncertainty ever since. Since I wrote that post, we put our house on the market and began the search for a new home. And despite the fact that we’re excited for the opportunity to move on with our lives,…

  • The day my dishwasher died (78 comments)

    This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. After a year off, J.D. is once again writing here at GRS. His non-financial writing can still be found at More Than Money. When I bought my condo in February, one of the things that impressed me about the place was the built-in shiny silver kitchen appliances. They were all so fancy and fun! My parents always had cheap appliances. When Kris…

  • 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….

  • How to make room for redecorating in your budget (40 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. After living in apartments with white walls for most of my adult life, I was excited to become a homeowner when my husband and I got married. Paint options! Landscaping! Curtains! My house was a blank canvas, just waiting for me to decorate it. Well, the decorating buzz wore off quickly after I found out how expensive everything was. I thought, naively, that asking my mother-in-law to…

  • Reader Story: Refinancing in the post-financial-crisis economy (40 comments)

    This reader story comes from Tony Kontzer, a freelance journalist who has written about business and technology since the dawn of the public Internet. He works from his home in the Bay Area town of Albany, Calif., where he and his wife are raising three boys and progressing on a years-long re-imagining of their entire home. His approach to home improvement projects could be called brute force: there’s nothing a power screwdriver won’t solve. His…

  • Declutter and save your sense (33 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. Once, I couldn’t find a matching pair of shoes, so I  put one foot in a ballet flat and the other in a tennis shoe and acted like I had sprained my ankle. True story. You may wonder then why this girl is writing an article on decluttering and disorganization and their relationship to finances, especially since I still have a lot to learn. While there are…

  • Spare Change: Housing edition (33 comments)

    This post is by staff writer April Dykman. For the last seven months, my husband and I have been renovating our new home. But before that, we spent months searching for the right house. There were a few times when I wondered if the right house even existed. This is my own fault because my list of wants was maybe a little difficult to satisfy. For instance, we wanted to be in the city, but I…

  • Sometimes the road to wealth isn’t paved at all (64 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. Is financial security eluding you? Maybe you should move to North Dakota. In 2012, North Dakota’s economy grew by 13.4 percent, which was significantly more than any other state. And according to this cost of living calculator, a $70,000 salary has the buying power of a $100,000 salary in Los Angeles. But perhaps you don’t want to move to the fourth least densely populated state. And moving…

  • 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…

  • Garage Sale Tips and Tricks (or, How I Made $2500 Last Weekend) (41 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. After a year off, J.D. is once again writing here at GRS. His non-financial writing can still be found at More Than Money. Last weekend, I hosted a garage sale with my brother, my ex-wife, and my girlfriend. It was a raging success. We cleared out tons of Stuff, and we netted over $2500 in the process. I’ve hosted many yard…

  • Ask the Readers: Post-divorce — buy out wife or sell house? (72 comments)

    This reader question comes from Rick. He’s asking for the readers’ advice on this common dilemma that many divorced people face. My wife and I had a pretty good handle on our finances and were on track for meeting all of our major financial and life goals…college for the kids and retirement for us. We are both 43 and have two kids, ages 10 and 8. My wife went through a mid-life crisis last year…

  • Ask the Readers: What will you repair this month? (36 comments)

    This post is from personal finance writer Gwendolyn Pearce, who, since contributing at GRS, has learned that you don’t haggle at farmers’ markets. You just don’t. It’s time for another monthly challenge. This month, we want to challenge you to look for opportunities to repair something. As with all of our challenges, this is open to some interpretation. Whether this is bringing an appliance back from the brink, taking steps to repair your credit rating…

  • Reader Story: I bought a foreclosure house on the courthouse steps (50 comments)

    This guest post is from Naomi Mannino. Naomi is a freelance consumer personal finance and health journalist who reports on health, medical and personal finance news and how it will affect your life today. You can follow Naomi on Twitter @naomimannino. 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…

  • Should You Prepay Your Mortgage? (40 comments)

    Welcome to Throwback Thursday! Many in the GRS community have been reading the site since J.D. Roth began posting in 2006, but many of you are new to the community. We’re going to start re-posting some of the most popular — and useful articles — from the past. The financial advice and ideas are still valid, and well worth bringing back to light. Originally published on June 17, 2006, this article offers various points of…

  • 6 ways to lower your home insurance (31 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. As a new homeowner, I recently had to buy a homeowners insurance policy. And as a personal finance writer, I tried to take my own advice and “shop around.” To be honest, it was a pain, and the rates I was getting on my own were way too high. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I wasn’t also trying to close on a house. In the end, I…

  • How to throw a yard sale when you’re an apartment dweller (13 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Kristin Wong. For someone who hates accumulating stuff, I sure have a lot of it. There’s the skirt suit that I haven’t worn in four years, for example. Or the ALF lunchbox that I just can’t part with. Oh, and my indispensable collection of PEZ dispensers. I could go on, but this is a money blog, not a humble brag about all the cool toys I have. At any rate,…

  • All the world’s a stage: 7 simple staging tricks to help sell your home (67 comments)

    This is a guest post from Tara Chila, a blogger for Transit Systems, Inc., who writes about moving, travel, house and home, kids, parenting and recipes. You may think that your home looks perfect and is ready to sell, but remember: not everyone likes green paint in their living room or a floral bedspread in the master bedroom. You’re going to need to stage your home. When we listed our home a few years back,…

  • Are you prepared to buy a home? (49 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer April Dykman. For many, owning a home is still “the American dream.” According to Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey, 56 percent of Americans own a home and 25 percent plan to purchase one in the next 10 years. But sometimes buyers fall in love with a home, only to find out that they don’t qualify. Or worse, they barely manage to qualify, but at a sky-high interest rate. That’s…

  • Defining a healthy dose of lifestyle inflation (100 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Holly Johnson. On April 1st, I got an unpleasant surprise, and it wasn’t an April Fools joke or gag. I found out that one of our renters didn’t have enough money to pay all of his rent. Since nothing like this has ever happened before, I was definitely caught off guard. Still, it wasn’t the end of the world. Since I pay all of our mortgages ahead of schedule,…

  • Reader Stories: I bought a duplex to save money on rent (35 comments)

    This story is from Karl Boericke. He is the author of The Frugal Berry, money-saving tips of all kinds for home, office, and small business. In 1990, I was honorably discharged from the Navy and quickly found a job in an electronics manufacturing company as a technician in their test department. While renting an apartment at the time, I wondered how I would ever be able to afford to buy a house with my meager…

  • 5 reasons to refinance your mortgage (67 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Holly Johnson. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I refinanced my mortgage for the second time in a year. The second refinance wasn’t actually part of my master plan, but I ended up having to refinance in order to remove my private mortgage insurance. And although refinancing our home again proved to be a huge pain, we are now saving $135 per month by no longer paying private mortgage…

  • Oops, I may have broken my nest egg (42 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. Financial success can be due to making good decisions or avoiding big mistakes. In many cases, the biggest mistakes happen after good decisions, because the stakes have become higher. As an example, let’s consider the dilemma of Motley Fool reader Jim, who emailed us this…

  • 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…

  • A spring-cleaning discovery (79 comments)

    It’s amazing the number of things we can throw out and not miss. I do not wish to backpack through Third World countries living on a dollar a day, I hate the tiny house fad, and I am staunchly against miserliness, but I have to say: I find the slavery of things to be more of an encumbrance every day. Really. I’ve had it with things, and I’m starting to detest them. Well, almost all…

  • Will a low appraisal wreck your refi? (28 comments)

    The 30-year fixed mortgage rate keeps getting lower and lower, making it a great time to refinance your mortgage and cut your monthly payment. But as Pat Esswein, associate editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, reports, homeowners have to clear a few hurdles before they can refinance. One of those hurdles is the appraisal, which determines the value the bank will assign to your home. That’s an important number because it determines your refinancing options…

  • Ask the Readers: How much rent should I charge my in-laws? (122 comments)

    Money issues among family members are difficult, to say the least. A reader named The Lessor wrote to us recently about his sticky family situation: I have a brother-in-law who decided to pursue ministry work overseas. He is married to a European girl and they live with her mother most of the year. Each year they return to the U.S. to keep citizenship/residency, visit with family, and fundraise for additional money to keep them living…

  • Ask the Readers: What should you consider when buying a house at 25 (or any age for that matter)? (78 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jenna Forstrom. I always wanted to have my own house.  My parents flipped houses while I was growing up and I like creating spaces and using my hands, plus it always sounded like a good investment.  I graduated college at 21 and decided my next goal was to buy a house by 25.  So, after graduation, I moved back home to Portland to live with my mom. Some people…

  • Reader Story: Pursue a dream to move to a new location (60 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jason Price from One Money Design. This summer, my wife and I took our kids on a family vacation to Disneyland in California. The Southern California weather, beaches and a trip to San Diego on Highway 1 made it an experience we’ll never forget. We are a beach family and we dream of one day living by the ocean.  The California trip fueled an existing passion that’s existed deep…

  • The ‘cost’ of gun ownership (215 comments)

    As some of you might know or remember, I have been considering the purchase of a firearm for some time. Two posts ago I mentioned it while talking about being victim of a robbery, and reader Tyler Karaszewski wrote a cogent and passionate comment that began, “I think it’s sad that so many of our responses to these sorts of events are to (quite literally) begin escalating an arms race.” My following post was about…

  • Stuff: How to protect it (92 comments)

    How much is your property worth to you? For all the discussion of emergency funds and disaster preparedness that goes on in the personal finance blogosphere, I rarely, if ever, read anything about protecting yourself from property crime. Perhaps because it’s an unpleasant subject, perhaps because many people have never experienced it, but I don’t hear a big conversation about the subject in PF discussions. And yet, for many of us, a sizable portion of…

  • How badly would a disaster affect you? (59 comments)

    The oceans are rising, the climate is warming. Is your house — literally — in order? No matter what we do, say scientists, the oceans are rising; anything we do to address climate change won’t help until, at the earliest, 2100. And the effects of carbon emissions on the climate lag the emissions by at least 40 years and as many as hundreds of years. In a report that was ironically delayed because of Hurricane…

  • Reader Stories: An ode to the condo lifestyle (63 comments)

    This post is from Ashley B. She’s 26 years old, lives in Minnesota, and works in the accounting department of a small company. This story is one of our Reader Stories series. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want to submit your own reader story? Here’s how. I have never quite…

  • Being a landlord: Is it worth it? (127 comments)

    This is a guest post from Holly Johnson. 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. In 2006, my husband and I bought our first rental property. We put 10 percent down ($8,500) on a small brick ranch in the same Midwestern community that we call home. I had gotten my real estate license several years…

  • Should You Buy A Fixer-Upper? (81 comments)

    Fixer-upper (noun). A home you purchase at a reasonable price, but one that requires an unreasonable amount of money in repairs and renovations. Okay, so I made up that definition, and it’s not always true. Buying fixer-uppers can get you more house than you would normally be able to afford at a reasonable price. They can be pleasantly inexpensive. But they can also be money pits, masquerading behind a façade of charming woodwork and arched doorways. As tempting…

  • Selling Your Home? Don’t Make This Costly Mistake (97 comments)

    This post is by April Dykman. Yes, you read that right. April was recently wooed back to Get Rich Slowly and will be writing here a couple of times a month. She plans to focus on interviewing experts on money-related topics, which also helps her justify that journalism degree… Bill had to sell his house quickly. He was being transferred out of state, and the company wasn’t footing the bill. Instead, they offered him a…

  • Earning More vs. Spending Less, Round 1: Housing (210 comments)

    Spending less than you earn can be accomplished by earning more, spending less, or both. Yet most people in the personal finance world tend to support one strategy over the other with greater fervor.  It’s not a logic thing: it’s a personality issue that may have to do with risk tolerance, optimism, entrepreneurship, class background, religious outlook, cultural practices, and other unknown factors. Sometimes this can be situational. When work doesn’t deliver one might focus…

  • 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…

  • Reader Story: Dream Home or Dream Life? (146 comments)

    This guest post from Holly Johnson 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. A few months ago, we were seriously considering moving. Frustrated by a few of the shortcomings of our current residence,…

  • Ask the Readers: Should I Buy a New House? (162 comments)

    Sometimes personal finance problems have clear solutions: There’s a right answer and there’s a wrong answer. When you’re new to money management, these answers might not seem clear, but they become clear with time. But my favorite personal finance dilemmas are those to which there are no wrong answers, only good solutions. For example, an anonymous GRS reader recently wrote wondering what to do with a large chunk of money. Here’s her story: This has…

  • Sheet Dreams: How to Shop for Bed Sheets (97 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 Lisa Aberle, who promises she could contribute stories on DIY projects and rural living. After finding holes…

  • How to Buy Quality Furniture (61 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 Karawynn Long, who writes about personal finance at Pocketmint. It’s an article she originally shared at GRS…

  • How to Host a Yard Sale (53 comments)

    Summer is coming, and the weather is warming around much of the United States. You know what that means: Yard sale season is upon us! Hosting a yard sale — or garage sale or tag sale or whatever you want to call it — can be a great way to clear out clutter and generate a bit of quick cash. In fact, Kris and I joined some of our friends last weekend to clear out…

  • Home Insurance and Pipes that Go ‘Pop’ in the Night (74 comments)

    This is a guest post by Suzanne Clemenz, who writes for Insure.com. Suzanne designed her passive solar home and remodeled two others. She worked with architects and contractors on floor plans, electrical work, painting, windows, flooring installations, flood prevention walls and stonework, major drainage issues, an irrigation system, and landscaping. It’s alarming to be awakened by the distant, mysterious sound of running water. But on Sunday, November 6, 2011, that’s what happened to me. Two…

  • Ask the Readers: How Much Do You Spend on Housing? (459 comments)

    Over the past few months, I’ve occasionally used the “Ask the Readers” feature at Get Rich Slowly to poll people about their budgets and spending habits. So far, I’ve asked folks to share their spending on food, clothes, gifts, and health insurance. Now I want to look at a bigger item in your budget — probably the biggest. Let’s talk about how much you spend on housing. More than other expenses, your housing costs are…

  • Going to the (Organic) Mattresses (143 comments)

    This post is by staff writer April Dykman. I’ve dropped a rather obscene amount of money on bodywork in the last few years. I’ve had an evolving team of chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists. I’ve bought books on physical therapy exercises. Some things have worked, others have not. In the end, the pain always comes back. I have chronic shoulder pain. My arms also frequently go numb in the middle of the night. I don’t…

  • How One Decision Can Help You Retire Faster (154 comments)

    This is a guest post by Dee Bauer from SmallHouseLife.com, where she shares information about abundant living in small spaces. Do you sometimes wonder if you’ll ever be financially stable enough to retire? Or maybe it’s not so much about retirement as it is about financial independence. Personally, I don’t want to wait until I’m in my 60s to enjoy financial freedom and extended leisure time! As a result of one decision, my husband and…

  • Let Go of the Spatula: Reconsidering Wedding Registries (237 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Tim Sullivan. My brother, my best friend, and my girlfriend’s sister are all getting married in the upcoming year, so I’ve heard a lot about wedding registries lately, and there seem to be many pros and cons. Personally, one of my least favorite things in life is going to Crate and Barrel, walking around with my scanner gun, and seeing that the only things that fit into my price…

  • Reader Story: The Money Fix (59 comments)

    This guest post from Christine 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 reader story is a little unusual. It’s the product of Daily Worth’s “The Money Fix”. But I’ll let Christine explain… My name is Christine,…

  • How We Paid Cash for Our First Home (262 comments)

    This is a guest post from Crystal Paine, the Money Saving Mom. Paine is a wife, homeschool mom to three, self-proclaimed minimalist, and wannabe runner. For practical help and inspiration to get your life and finances in order, visit her blog, Money Saving Mom, or purchase a copy of her brand-new book, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget. When my husband and I got married nine years ago, we had an audacious dream of paying cash…

  • A Place of My Own (577 comments)

    Two months ago today, I asked my wife for a divorce. I won’t be writing about the personal aspects of the divorce at Get Rich Slowly. In fact, other than some brief background at my personal site, I don’t intend to write it about it on the web at all. Kris and I are both emotional wrecks right now; the wounds are fresh and raw for both of us. Note: Kris and I are working…

  • Reader Story: Can a Saver Learn to Spend? (61 comments)

    This guest post from Felix 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 suspect I’m representative of a large group of Get Rich Slowly readers. Early on, my financial competency was average — I don’t have…

  • The Economics of Country Mouse vs. City Mouse (114 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. I’ve lived in a small town for most of my life. The drive home includes steep hills with panoramic views and winding country roads that ramble past ranches and wide-open fields. But I didn’t always have positive feelings about the country life. In high school, I hated it. All of the action was in the city, where coffee shops, museums, restaurants, and concerts happened. When I moved…

  • Reader Story: Long-Term Thinking Pays Off (81 comments)

    This guest post from Heather Roth 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. Heather lives and writes in Indiana, Pa., with her doctoral student husband and two ever-curious ferrets. She writes about life as a small-town…

  • The GRS Garden Project: October 2011 Update (22 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for October 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) This installment was written by Kris while J.D. is traveling in Peru. Our gardening season is complete for 2011. After an initial burst of cold and rain, our October weather was…

  • Our Roof Repair: A Typical Tale of Working with Contractors (95 comments)

    My wife and I have been homeowners for nearly twenty years. In that time, we’ve done a lot of home improvement ourselves. But we’ve also learned when it’s best to hand projects to the pros. (To be honest, this is most of the time.) It’s great to be able to do small jobs yourself, but it’s also important to recognize when something’s beyond your ability. During the past 18+ years, we’ve learned that working with…

  • The GRS Garden Project: September 2011 Update (32 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for September 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) This installment was written by Kris while I was packing for Peru. Our late summer this year meant that our crops were delayed, but when the sunshine came, it came on…

  • Preparing for an Emergency (80 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman, who recently wrote about ceviche and how to peel shrimp like a Hawaiian. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how hot it was in the Lone Star State. The update is that we’re literally on fire. Wildfires have destroyed hundreds of homes in central Texas, and they’re breaking out all over the state (more than 60 fires so far). We were at dinner last night when…

  • The GRS Garden Project: August 2011 Update (34 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for August 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) August finally felt like summer here in Portland. The entire month was sunny and warm, and there was very little rain. The garden rewarded us with productivity. Our harvest in August…

  • How Much Is a Clean Home Worth? (96 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. Last month I wrote a post on do-it-yourself beauty and personal care products. That touched a nerve with a lot of people: some loved it, some hated it; it seemed like everyone had something to say. At the time I’d planned to follow up with a post on do-it-yourself cleaning products for the home, but I’ve…

  • 10 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill (147 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but here in Austin, Texas, the heat and drought are the topic of 85% of conversations (that’s science). As a native Texan, I usually roll my eyes when people lament about the heat. One of my friends summed it up nicely: “I’m tired of hearing people talk about the weather. It’s hot in the summer and…

  • The GRS Garden Project: July 2011 Update (29 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for July 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) We had a strange July in our garden. First, the cool weather lingered longer than it ought to have. It wasn’t cold and wet, but the days were cool. Then we…

  • Reader Story: How I Sold My Condo and Saved $5,000 (110 comments)

    This guest post from Nick Rothacher, the self-taught economist, 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. Six months ago, my wife and I sold our two-bedroom, two-bath condo located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake…

  • The GRS Garden Project: June 2011 Update (40 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for June 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) Summer is finally here in our corner of the Pacific Northwest: The birds are chirping, the insects are humming and the garden is producing. June started cold and wet but has…

  • Big House, Little House (271 comments)

    I am constantly changing. While many people are much the same today as they were yesterday (or last week or twenty years ago), I’m always evolving. This isn’t necessarily good or bad — it’s just who I am. Some of my friends think I’m fickle. I get that. (Kris tells me that I go through “phases”.) I prefer to view this constant change as growth. I don’t want to be the same person tomorrow as…

  • My First Garden: What I’ve Learned So Far (45 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jenny Sandman, who writes at Broke Foodie. This summer is my first attempt at full-scale gardening. This is the first year I’ve lived in a house with a yard; previous gardening efforts were limited to containers of herbs and the odd tomato plant, on windowsills or apartment patios. To complicate matters, it’s my first year living in New England, so the climate is new (and frightening). We had an…

  • Ask the Readers: Pay Off the Mortgage or Keep the Money in Savings? (226 comments)

    It’s tough to write a personal-finance blog for five years without repeating topics. New readers come and old readers go. Meanwhile, the needs of existing readers are constantly changing. I try not to repeat material too often, but sometimes it’s clear it’s time to revisit a subject. Now is one of those times. Lately, I’ve received several questions like this one from Robin, who wants to know if she should pay off her mortgage: I’ve…

  • The GRS Garden Project: May 2011 Update (41 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for May 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) In my mind, Oregon has mild springs: plenty of rain, sure, but also lots of sunshine and hints of the summer to come. Since we started the garden project, though, that…

  • Buying a Home? Pay Attention to Property Inspection (65 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. A house is the most expensive thing most of us ever will purchase. If you plan to stay put for some time, you could be paying on your mortgage for the next 15 to 20 years. But as any homeowner knows, expenses don’t stop at the purchase price and mortgage interest. You’ll also pay a small fortune in insurance, upkeep, and repairs over the years. This is…

  • The Basic Allowance for Housing: Helping Military Members Afford a Home (58 comments)

    Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a federal holiday to commemorate U.S. soldiers who died while in military service. This is a guest post from Chris Birk, a recovering journalist and the director of content and communications for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated VA-approved lender. Birk writes about mortgages and military home buying for a variety of sites and publications, from the Huffington Post and About.com to Mortgage News Daily…

  • How to Run a Profitable Garage Sale (61 comments)

    This is a guest post from Katy Wolk-Stanley of The Non-Consumer Advocate, a blog about frugality, food waste, environmentalism, simple living and finding thrift-store bargains. When not blogging (or napping) Katy works as a high-risk labor and delivery nurse. Garage sales, yard sales, tag sales, boot sales. Whatever you call them, they’re a great way to make extra money while ridding your home of unwanted Stuff. A well-organized and well-stocked garage sale can bring in…

  • Reader Story: How I Built My Own House — Without a Mortgage (147 comments)

    This guest post from Ian is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. It’s the extended version of the story he shared in his prize-winning entry to this year’s GRS video contest. Some reader 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. It dawned on me…

  • Reader Story: Rental Properties from the Tenant’s Point of View (171 comments)

    This guest post from Avery 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. From time to time, stories on Get Rich Slowly talk about rental properties, usually from the perspective of a small-time landlord, and inevitably, there…

  • The GRS Garden Project: April 2011 Update (39 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for April 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) After a long vacation in February and a wet, dreary March, Kris and I finally were able to do a little work on our vegetable garden in April. Sort of. The…

  • How to Grow Your First Garden (32 comments)

    This guest post is from Jane Sanders of DebtManagement, a writer whose two biggest passions are gardening and personal finance. Starting a vegetable garden can be one of the most rewarding hobbies you ever pursue. Gardening is a source of relaxation and exercise, while yielding hundreds of dollars worth of fresh and delicious produce. It’s also extremely rewarding to watch the seeds you plant and care for grow into mature plants. If you’re ready to…

  • Ask the Readers: Should We Rent or Should We Buy? (100 comments)

    Is it better to rent or buy? We’ve discussed this age-old housing question several times in the past, but it’s always been on a theoretical level. Sometimes what seems simple in theory is tougher to figure out when you have to make a decision in Real Life. That’s the case for Erik, who dropped a line yesterday to ask whether, based on his personal circumstances, he should rent an apartment or buy one. Here’s what…

  • Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without (178 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. My shower is broken. The water comes out just fine, and it doesn’t leak. But the temperature control is busted, so it only comes out at one temperature: as hot as it gets. Here’s the embarrassing part: It’s been like this for a year. Frugal or lazy? When the temperature thingy broke (and here you see…

  • American Cookery: Magazine Ads from 1939 (26 comments)

    My wife knows me pretty well. At a recent garage sale, Kris picked up the November 1939 issue of American Cookery magazine. She wanted it for the recipes. But after she was finished, she handed it off to me. “You’ll want to look at the ads,” she said. She was right. Fun trivia: American Cookery magazine was originally called The Boston Cooking-School Magazine. The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book was first published in 1896 and written…

  • The GRS Garden Project: March 2011 Update (30 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for March 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) March is usually a time for Kris and me to get back to work in the garden. The weather warms, and we get to watch as our first sprouts poke through…

  • Emergency Preparedness on a Shoestring (130 comments)

    This post is from new GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes a personal finance column for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. Images of devastation emerged after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. We watched water sweep away vehicles and houses; we saw stunned men and weeping women in the ruins. But we also heard about survivors whose homes weren’t flattened or inundated, people who subsisted on stockpiled…

  • Recipe: Spicy Pickled Carrots (37 comments)

    This guest post from my wife is yet another installment in her ongoing quest to grow and preserve food for our household. I’ve had the canning bug pretty bad for the last week or two. But although Spring has officially begun, our garden is months away from producing anything worth turning into jam, pickles, or other home-canning treasures. Plus, farmers’ markets and produce stands are still closed for the season. Summer harvests can be beautiful….

  • Do Programmable Thermostats Really Save Money? (124 comments)

    Programmable thermostats save you money. That’s a no-brainer, right? You’ve seen that advice in books and magazines and on personal-finance blogs — even here at Get Rich Slowly. Well, it turns out programmable thermostats aren’t the miracle device we’ve believed all along. In fact, sometimes using a programmable thermostat costs more than not having one at all. But the fault doesn’t lie with the thermostat. The trouble, as my father used to say, is the…

  • Reader Story: Saving for Something Close to Home (38 comments)

    This guest post from Jeanne 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 reader story is a response to my article last week about how to spend your money. Until I was 34, I spent most…

  • The GRS Garden Project: February 2011 Update (53 comments)

    Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for February 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) Spring is around the corner. I think. After spending three weeks basking in sunny skies and temperatures of 20-30 degrees (yes, I’ve taught myself to think in centigrade!), it’s something of…

  • Reader Story: Living on Less in Mexico (65 comments)

    This guest post from Louisa Rogers 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. Louisa Rogers is a consultant who provides leadership, management, and communication coaching and training to businesses here, there, and yonder. Previously at GRS,…

  • Geographic Arbitrage: Save Money by Leaving The Country (76 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gary Arndt, who has been traveling around the world non-stop since March 2007 and has visited over 80 countries. He blogs at Everything-Everywhere.com, which was named one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2010 by Time Magazine. Let’s start with the obvious: Costs aren’t the same everywhere. You may already be aware of this on some level, but until you’ve traveled extensively, it isn’t something you really understand. The…

  • Setting Your Homebuying Priorities – Price, Quality, Location: Pick Any Two (42 comments)

    This is a guest-post from Tim Ellis, author of Seattle Bubble, a blog and forum dedicated to real-estate market conditions in the Seattle area. Tim is a long-time GRS reader. Previously on GRS, Tim has written about renting vs. buying and renting in a new city. A localized variant of this post appeared on Seattle Bubble earlier in February. Before I got into the blogging and real-estate analysis business, I spent the first decade or…

  • Compound Returns in the Garden: How Long-Term Planning Pays Off When Growing Your Own Food (52 comments)

    A lot of folks have been asking if my wife and I will be doing the Get Rich Slowly garden project this year. That’s the plan! After a one-year hiatus, Kris and I intend to track our spending and our profit for the food we grow on our land. January saw no spending and no harvest, though. To get us started, here’s a guest post from my wife about the long-term rewards of gardening. What…

  • Ask the Readers: Should We Move to a More Expensive Part of the Country? (175 comments)

    The Friday “Ask the Readers” column generally follows a set format: I introduce the topic, share a reader e-mail, give my best advice, and then ask for your feedback. Today’s column is a little different. Jennifer sent me a 1000-word question, and rather than write any sort of response, I’m just going to let her have the entire space. Everything that follows is from Jennifer. My husband and I are in our mid twenties (no…

  • When To Walk Away From A Bad Mortgage (251 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…

  • How to Lower Your Heating Bills This Winter (88 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 chilly season is upon us. If you live in North America, you’ve probably had at least a few cold nights by now. Up in my neck of the woods — in the Boston area — we’ve had our central heat running for a few weeks. Which means we’re in full swing…

  • Ask the Readers: How Can We Afford to Buy a House? (176 comments)

    Though they could fall farther, housing prices are starting to seem reasonable again in many parts of the United States. Mortgage rates are cheap, too. Naturally, that means some GRS readers are beginning to express an interest in buying a home. But prices are still high in a lot of places — including Washington, D.C., which is where William lives. He recently dropped a line to ask for advice: He’d like to buy a home…

  • 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…

  • How to Slay Energy Vampires (54 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. April is writing a series on money monsters for the recently launched Pageonce blog, including fighting zombie debt and how to Frankenstein your savings. There are demons that can suck the life force from you — and you unknowingly invited them into your home. Vampire electronics may not suck your blood, but they ‘ll drain nickels and dimes for every dollar you spend on energy. The cost…

  • Budget-Friendly Decorating Tips (26 comments)

    In April, Rebecca shared a guest post about how she generates extra income by letting strangers pay her rent. She has homes in Portland, Oregon and New York City. When she’s in one city, she rents out her place in the other. By doing this, she’s able to subsidize her housing payments. Rebecca’s full of good advice. Soon after sharing her story, she also entered the Get Rich Slowly video contest. In her two-minute video,…

  • Moving? Rent First, Ask Questions Later (56 comments)

    This is a guest-post from Tim Ellis, author of Seattle Bubble, a blog and forum dedicated to discussing real estate market conditions in the Seattle area. Tim is a long-time GRS reader. During my last trip to Europe, he shared a controversial article on renting vs. buying. Given the fact that each year around sixteen million Americans move to a new county, it’s likely that at some point in your life you’ll find yourself moving…

  • Reader Story: How We Became Reluctant Landlords (62 comments)

    This guest post from Jolyn 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 about Jolyn’s financial adventures at Budgets are the New Black. My husband and I bought our first home in Las…

  • Book Review: The Skinny on Real-Estate Investing (21 comments)

    Book Week at Get Rich Slowly comes to a close today. Well, I guess tomorrow’s Ask the Readers is about books, but this is the final review. I’ve saved the best for last. Over the past year, I’ve had a chance to read several titles in the “Skinny On” book series. And although I’ve only mentioned them in passing here at GRS, I love these books. Today I want to tell you about them. The…

  • Reader Story: I Paid for Graduate School by Renting out Rooms (49 comments)

    This guest post from Mike Choi 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. Almost two years ago, J.D. shared an “ask the readers” column about how to rent out your spare room. In that post, Penny…

  • 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…

  • Unusual Abodes: The Grain Bin Home (40 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. I’m a fan of unusual homes. From tiny homes to recycled homes, I’m fascinated by unconventional ways one can build houses that save on construction costs and future utility bills. Our own house plans are for plastered walls with straw bale infill, and we’re close to breaking ground. But when I picked up the latest issue of granola crunchy Mother Earth News, for a minute I…

  • Planning for Budget Busters: Home Ownership (41 comments)

    This video post is the third of a four-part series from staff writer Adam Baker. Baker previously featured a post on his own blog entitled Cost of Living Abroad: Dozens of Bloggers Share Their Expenses. Last week, I introduced the concept of a Budget Buster, which is any irregular expense that I fail to plan for. These are’t true emergencies, but rather expenses that pop up to surprise me, even though I should have easily…

  • Reader Story: Debt-Free by 30 — Including the Mortgage! (119 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…

  • Ask the Readers: Should I Invest or Prepay My Mortgage? (181 comments)

    Kelley wrote recently with the sort of dilemma I get asked about all of the time: Is it better to invest or to prepay a mortgage? We’ve covered this topic in the distant past, but it’s time to review the debate for current readers. First, let’s look at Kelley’s e-mail: My husband and I are on the right track. At age 25, our only debt lies in our home mortgage. We have the six-month emergency…

  • 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…

  • Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Remembering to Appreciate What I Already Have (196 comments)

    Walking home from work today, I decided to take the long way. Most of the time, I choose the easy quarter-mile stroll downhill from the office to our happy half acre (or happy .62 acre, if you’d like to be precise). But to celebrate the first day of summer, I took the river-forest loop. The river-forest loop is exactly what it sounds like: a series of quiet streets that wend along the east bank of…

  • How Quickly Wants Can Turn to Needs (42 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker recently featured a post on his own blog entitled, Are You Eating Yourself Into Debt? As some of you know, Courtney and I recently spent just under a year traveling abroad with our two-year-old daughter. A couple of months ago, we returned home to Indiana and decided that we’d take a six month break from our mobile lifestyle. Our decision meant we needed to start looking…

  • Home Safe Home? 27 Safety Precautions Under $40 (35 comments)

    I’m back from my Alaskan vacation, but it’ll take me a day or two to get my wits about me. More soon. Meanwhile, this post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. Dorothy was right: There is no place like home. Home is where we feel safe and relaxed in the familiarity of our surroundings — the sheets are just right, our favorite chair welcomes us, and we know, half-asleep and at 1 a.m., that…

  • Further Adventures in Home Maintenance (98 comments)

    As much as I’ve learned about money in the past five years, and as much as I like to share what I’ve learned, there are still times when I fail to follow my own advice. As I’ve mentioned, we live in a hundred-year-old house. This is a great and terrible thing. The house is beautiful and full of character, but it’s also a pain in the ass. In the six years we’ve lived here, one…

  • Reader Story: A Drastic Change for Drastic Results (37 comments)

    This guest post from Ian 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 think this story offers an interesting contrast to last week’s story. I used to think that…

  • The GRS Garden Project: April 2010 Update (39 comments)

    Kris and I aren’t repeating our annual garden project this year. We’re too swamped to take the time to track our expenses and harvests. In fact, our garden will probably be a bit smaller than usual this summer because we just won’t have the time to care for it. Still, the yard is an important part of our daily lives. Plus, there’s a certain segment of the GRS community — the die-hard gardeners, I guess…

  • Ask the Readers: Should I Stick With My Adjustable-Rate Mortgage? (55 comments)

    In February, Get Rich Slowly reader Abby wrote with questions about her adjustable-rate mortgage (or ARM, for short). She’s had an ARM for seven years now, and the rate is due to reset in 2010. She wants to know what her best course of action is. Abby writes: In Fall 2003, I began my career as a teacher and bought my first house at 23. I shopped around for a home loan, borrowing a little…

  • How I Generate Extra Income by Letting Strangers Pay My Rent (79 comments)

    This is a guest post from Rebecca Rosenfelt, the founder of RealSavvyRealEstate.com, a website devoted to demystifying the home buying process for first-time home buyers. I almost never pay the entirety of my rent. I don’t have roommates and I’ve never been evicted. In the four years I rented a one-bedroom New York City apartment, I paid the full rent only one month. I now own a condo in Portland, Oregon, and I almost never…

  • 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…

  • Living Like No One Else (99 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a quote from J.D.’s review of The Total Money Makeover: Printed on the bottom of every page…is the book’s motto: “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” My husband and I recently made an unusual decision, and I’m in need of a motto that I can repeat to myself every time I…

  • How I Made My Peace with Hiring a Housekeeper (165 comments)

    This is a guest post from my ex-wife. It’s a response to the debate on Erica’s recent article about outsourcing life. J.D. and I have been employing an independent housekeeper for about 10 years. The one who’s been working for us for almost five years, Michele, is fantastic and we feel lucky to have her. (We found her through Craigslist). Housecleaning is her full-time job. It took us some time to get over our self-imposed…

  • How My Real Estate Investing Adventure Came to an End (57 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker, whose own blog previously featured a comparison of money gurus in Dave Ramsey vs. Suze Orman. This is final article of a three-part series on how he stumbled into real estate investing at age 23. Be sure to read part one and part two. In the second part of this series, I discussed two mistakes I made when jumping into real estate investing. Despite running a successful property management…

  • Dinosaur Comics on the Rent vs. Buy Debate (33 comments)

    Thomas wrote in on Monday to share a comic strip related to our discussion last week about whether renting makes sense: Click on image to open a larger version in a new window. Ah, Dinosaur Comics — you gotta love them. As a reminder, I’m not opposed to owning a home. I own one myself and have no plans to move. But my recent research persuaded me that renting isn’t as bad as it’s been…

  • Lessons Learned from Rushing Into Real-Estate Investing (40 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker, whose own blog recently featured a must-see graphic on credit card transactions around the world. This is part two of a three-part series on how he stumbled into real estate investing at age 23. Be sure to read part one here. When we last left off, I’d just walked away from my first real estate closing with an eight-unit apartment building and $1000 cash in my hand. I was…

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

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

  • Does Renting Make Sense? (268 comments)

    Writing Your Money: The Missing Manual has been intense. I’ve spent a ton of time researching personal finance topics ranging from buying a car to funding a 401(k) to the relationship between money and happiness. My research has reinforced some of my convictions (index funds are the best investment for 99% of personal investors, for instance) but has toppled others. One of my beliefs that’s been set on its head is that Americans are better…

  • Reader Story: Rental Properties for the Average Joe (83 comments)

    This guest post from Barry 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. Barry’s post is also part of an accidental “real estate week” kicked off by Baker’s story. For years I’d heard the rental horror stories,…

  • How I Bought an 8-Unit Apartment Building with No Money Down and Walked Away with $1000 Cash at Closing (91 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker recently outlined his ambitious 2010 goals for his blogging, business, and life. When I was 23, I bought an eight-unit apartment building with no money down. And I walked away with $1,000 cash at closing! Sounds pretty fancy, right? Wrong. It was one of the dumbest (and riskiest) moves I’ve made in my young life. I escaped without a scratch, but it was due to an…

  • Reader Story: How I Cut 16 Years from My Mortgage in Just One Hour (124 comments)

    This guest post from Caitlin of ClutterCubed (a blog about ridding clutter from your life) 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. Back in September, one hour of my time cut 16 years off my mortgage!…

  • Energy-Efficiency Tax Credits Could Be Your Personal Government-Bailout Package (38 comments)

    David Kaplan wrote with the following: “A lot of personal finance blogs cover the same material. I’d like to see some quality content on the value added by investing in energy efficiencies. My prime interest is in windows/insulation and other items eligible under the current tax credit, perhaps you can consider several options.” Since I’m not an expert in windows, insulation, or energy tax credits, I asked around and received the following. This is a…

  • Does It Still Make Sense to Refinance in Today’s Market? (93 comments)

    Last winter, Kris and I refinanced our mortgage. Interest rates had dropped, and it seemed like a good idea to make the leap. Though it took us a couple of months to actually pull the trigger, we finally ended up cutting the interest rate on our loan from 6.25% to 4.96%. According to sites like ShopRate and HSH.com, mortgage rates are still low, with loans available in the low- to mid- four percent range. While…

  • Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You? (54 comments)

    This is a guest post from Francine Huff, a freelance journalist and writer at BestReverseMortgage.com and the author of The 25-Day Money Makeover for Women. She has appeared on a variety of TV and radio shows. Visit her web sites Huff Writes and Super Savvy Spender. Whether through recent news articles or over the water cooler, you’ve probably heard something about reverse mortgages. But if you (or a loved one) is considering this type of…

  • Furniture and Scambags: Adventures on Craigslist (99 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the advisor for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. I’ve already told you how the wife and I weed out our closets every summer and have a yard sale with the results. Last weekend, we did some big off-season pruning because — in…

  • Reader Story: A Very, Very Fine House (59 comments)

    This morning, April wrote about trying to figure out how much house you need. In the comments, Tyler K. shared a photo of the house he and his wife live in. It has 450 square feet: “Last year our joint gross income was about $170,000,” Tyler wrote, “but we still find this house plenty adequate, and it means our housing costs are proportionally half of the 30-35% of income that people generally recommend.” I was…

  • How Much House Do You Need? (157 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. For more than a decade, Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company has lived in an 89 square-foot home. His decision to live in a tiny house came from concerns about the effects a larger house would have on the environment, and his desire to not maintain a lot of unused or unusable space. Obviously Jay’s home is at the extreme low end of how small…

  • The GRS Garden Project: October 2009 Update (20 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for October 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) As those of you who follow me on Twitter already know, it’s been a l-o-n-g Saturday filled with all sorts of misadventures. Murphy’s Law has been in full effect this Halloween. I’d meant to post this month-end garden summary around noon, but now will have to…

  • Which Comes First: The House or the Nest Egg? (85 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. It’s also a part of National Save for Retirement Week A few weeks ago, J.D. asked me to consider writing a post on retirement for National Save for Retirement Week. As it was intended, National Save for Retirement Week made me reflect on the state of my and my husband’s retirement accounts. Currently, our retirement savings are a tad pitiful. I have a 403(b) through my…

  • 9 Ways You Can Knock the Socks off Your Next Landlord (41 comments)

    This article is by GRS staff writer Adam Baker. Currently, Baker is fat and in debt. We all know how to rent a typical, cookie-cutter apartment or house. Find a contact number. Set-up a walk through. Fill out the application. Pay your fee and wait for a response. But sometimes typical just doesn’t cut it. Maybe you’re looking to secure a unique apartment in an irresistible location. Or you might be seeking the only house for rent in a certain…

  • Use a Lease Option to Lock in Low Home Prices (28 comments)

    This article is GRS staff writer Adam Baker. In addition to his work at Get Rich Slowly, Baker blogs over at Man Vs. Debt, where he publicly tracks his spending on a daily basis. Everywhere I turn, people are speculating on whether housing prices have bottomed. While I personally feel things are looking better, I’m never a fan of trying to time markets. Attempting this often encourages people to make large financial decisions before they…

  • The GRS Garden Project: September 2009 Update (28 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for September 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) After a long productive summer, our September in the garden was kind of anticlimactic. Sure, we continued to harvest our home-grown food, but neither of us was particularly “in” to the garden this month. It was a chore instead of an obsession. September can be that…

  • 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…

  • Furniture Shopping Secrets: How to Tell Superior from Shoddy (53 comments)

    This is a guest post from Karawynn Long, who writes about personal finance at Pocketmint. Karawynn is a semi-regular contributor for Get Rich Slowly. She has been blogging since before “blogging” was a word. Here at the Koke-Long house we’re in the market for some furniture. Our living room is currently semi-furnished with a comfortable but deteriorating Ikea couch and some leftover dining chairs; we’d like a nice armchair or two and some tables. I’ve…

  • Renters Insurance: Peace of Mind for Ten Bucks a Month (132 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. On 02 August 2005, my friend Frank and his partner awoke at 2:45 a.m. to the dog barking and a neighbor knocking on their door. The apartment complex was on fire. They grabbed their dog and whatever they could carry and ran from the building. “We lost everything,” he says. Later they’d find out that it was arson. A former employee of the apartment complex stole…

  • Should You Buy It? A Flowchart for Evaluating Potential Purchases (69 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. My husband and I are in the process of building a home on 4.5 acres in the Texas hill country. At the moment, we’re still in the planning phase — not quite ready for blueprints. Last month, our architect asked us to start thinking about the make and model of the kitchen appliances we want for our home. Visions of sleek, Thermador cooktops and double ovens danced…

  • Sweating the Big Stuff (73 comments)

    This is a guest post from Sierra Black, a long-time GRS reader. She writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. When my husband and I first got married, we bought a house in the suburbs and promptly had a baby. Buying that house meant buying a piece of the American Dream — but we both figured out pretty quickly that it wasn’t our dream. I will never forget…

  • Further Adventures in My War on Stuff (102 comments)

    Long-time readers of Get Rich Slowly know that I’ve been waging an ongoing battle against Stuff — the clutter and crap I managed to collect during 20 years of wanton spending and debt. Though I’ve managed to curb my spending (and have slowed the influx of Stuff), I’m still surrounded by constant reminders of my old habits. Last week, Colleen wrote to ask for an update on this seemingly-endless war: I was wondering if you…

  • The GRS Garden Project: August 2009 Update (41 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for August 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) After late July’s blistering heat, August has been relatively cool around Portland. Our fruits and vegetables have been producing excellent crops. Kris is constantly busy in the kitchen, canning and preserving food. We’re eating fresh salsa all the time. And hard as it is to believe,…

  • Understanding Your Home Appraisal (33 comments)

    This is a guest post from Liz Freeman, who writes about mortgage and finance issues. Freeman is the spokesperson for ShopRate.com, an online tool for finding the lowest mortgage rates since 2000. “If I’m willing to pay X for the home, it must be worth X, right?” There’s a lot of truth to that statement. Most accountants will tell you that the proper value of anything is either the lower of what it cost to…

  • A Few Notes About Clotheslines (104 comments)

    Howdy, folks! Staff writer tryouts still have a few days left, but I jotted a quick post this morning and thought I’d squeeze it in this afternoon just to break things up. I wrote a MAMMOTH post about taxes yesterday, but I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day. It’s a sort of tedious subject. See you again on Monday! I had to smile to myself as I walked up to my…

  • The GRS Garden Project: July 2009 Update (34 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for July 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) Welcome to Oregon, where for the past week it’s been hot. How hot? Here’s the temperature graph from the National Weather Service for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday: The heat hasn’t prevented us from working in the garden. We’ve been watering the thirsty plants, and we’ve begun…

  • How to Buy a Mattress (140 comments)

    After my post about mattress shopping the other day, Garrison contacted me. “My home just flooded and due to renters insurance I was thrown into the market for a new mattress,” he said. “I called up my long-time best friend whose entire family is in the mattress business. I used his advice in my purchase and I’ve been completely satisfied.” Here’s what Garrison’s friend, Justin, had to say. I’ve written a lot here to help…

  • Preparing to Shop for a New Mattress (113 comments)

    On Monday, I mentioned that Kris and I are ready to replace our 15-year-old mattress. I don’t sleep well on it, though I sleep fine on other mattresses. I only mentioned this to illustrate a point, but I was surprised at how many readers commented on my situation. Jason’s comment was typical: I’ve found that sleep is the absolute root of everything. With decent sleep, I’m a better man, father, athlete, spouse, employee and all…

  • The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 14: Home Improvement (5 comments)

    Summer’s here, and for many homeowners that means it’s time for projects around the house. Since we bought our current home, Kris and I have spent a lot of money to make improvements. (At this very moment, contractors are painting the house!) Join Jim and me this afternoon for the 14th episode of The Personal Finance Hour. We’ll be discussing home improvement: what projects are worth the money, how can you keep costs down, and…

  • The GRS Garden Project: June 2009 Update (27 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for June 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) It’s the beginning of summer, and that means our garden is lush and green and growing. It also means there’s nothing exciting to write about. We’ve begun to harvest a couple of things, but mostly our chores have become routine. We weed and fertilize while we…

  • How My Parents Saved $14,000 on Home Repairs (35 comments)

    This is a guest post from MLR at My Life ROI. If you like this post, check out his website or subscribe to his feed. One thing I love about reading Get Rich Slowly is that J.D. is always willing to get his hands dirty and throw on a different hat. J.D. is a do-it-yourselfer. From writing monthly updates on his garden progress to giving instructions on how to make homemade pumpkin butter and muffins,…

  • Remnants of Things Past (96 comments)

    I did a little time traveling yesterday, and I didn’t like it. “I’m going to clean the workshop,” I announced at breakfast. “I know I should write or mow the lawn, but I’m going to clean the workshop.” “Sounds good,” Kris said. She rarely argues when I have an urge to do some cleaning. A glimpse at the past When we first looked at this property five years ago, I was drawn to the outbuildings….

  • The Accidental Slumlord (47 comments)

    Several years ago — as I was clawing my way out of debt — I did a dumb thing and subscribed to Newsweek. I didn’t subscribe for just one year — I subscribed for four. As penance, I wrote an early GRS article about how having too many magazine subscriptions is un-frugal. Recently, though, I’ve come to love my Newsweek subscription. The magazine underwent a radical re-design last month, and jettisoned all of the stupid…

  • Cut Your Food Costs With a Stand-Alone Freezer (65 comments)

    Kris and I recently bought another side of beef. Well, to be more accurate, we purchased one third of a cow. Every year, we go in with several other families to split an animal. This year, our portion of the purchase comprised: 46 pounds of lean hamburger (in 24 packs) 36-1/8 pounds of roasts (in 10 packs) 31-1/4 pounds of steak (in 20 packs) We also received 2-1/4 pounds of beef tongue that we’re giving…

  • The GRS Garden Project: May 2009 Update (50 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for May 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) What a difference a year makes! Our fruits, berries, and vegetables had a slow start last year (and then were further slowed by a cold, cold June). This May was warm — very warm. Our food crops loved the weather, and they’ve shown explosive growth. As…

  • A First-Hand Account of the Subprime Mortgage Crisis (54 comments)

    Sunday’s issue of The New York Times Magazine was all about “the dilemmas of debt”, and featured stories like: “Suze Orman is having a moment”, a profile of the popular personal-finance guru “What does your credit-card company know aobut you?” “The China puzzle”, which looks at the economic relationship between the U.S. and China And shorter articles about peer-to-peer lending, financial crises, and the nature of small banks The piece that caught my attention, however,…

  • Coping with Life’s Little Setbacks (52 comments)

    I had a lousy weekend. It was one of those weekends where anything that could go wrong did go wrong. The individual problems were minor enough, but taken as a whole, it was all rather overwhelming. Some examples: When I left the house to go on my marathon training run Saturday morning, the cover to porch light fell to the ground and shattered into a million little pieces. Our internet connection died. And, of course,…

  • Learning to Do It Yourself (39 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife. I am not handy. Given a garden tool or a kitchen gadget, I can usually find success. But I have neither the talent or inclination for wiring, plumbing, or carpentry. I come from a long line of un-handy people, too, so there’s no phoning home when the car’s making a funny noise or the garbage disposal is on the fritz. And, unfortunately for me, I also married…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do You Choose a Mortgage Broker? (58 comments)

    For most of us, buying a home is the largest purchase we’ll ever make. There can be a lot of pressure to get things just right; you don’t want to pay more than you have to. A good broker or lender can help — but how do you find a good broker or lender? That’s what Erin wants to know: My husband and I are in the market for a house as first-time homebuyers. We’ve…

  • The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 7: Home Gardening (5 comments)

    Kris and I are avid gardeners. A home garden is a great way to grow tasty food while saving a bit of cash, and that’s the subject we plan to address in this week’s seventh episode of The Personal Finance Hour, a BlogTalkRadio program all about personal finance. You can catch it live at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern) every Monday. During today’s episode, Jim and I will be discussing our gardening experiences. What plants are…

  • The GRS Garden Project: April 2009 Update (36 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for April 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) April was a slow month for our garden. We didn’t do much. Part of this is because we’ve become more efficient. But another part is because we did some of our chores earlier this year. Kris has been antsy to get plants in the ground. I…

  • The Neighborhood Plant Swap (19 comments)

    This is a guest post from Kris. Earlier this month, I shared the notion of SwapLucks. Kris recently participated in a similar event, trading plants with friends and neighbors. Last weekend, my friend Rhonda hosted a Plant Swap. It was so successful that she’s decided to make it an annual event. Although this story is specifically about gardeners sharing plants, the process could easily be adapted to parents sharing kids’ clothes and toys, cooks swapping…

  • 21st Century Real Estate: Use a Blog to Sell Your Home (24 comments)

    David Hobby at Strobist recently posted an interesting article describing how to use a blog to sell your house. Hobby and his wife have outgrown their townhouse in Columbia, Maryland, and are looking to move on. But typical real-estate brochures and marketing are often woefully inadequate. (I was just mocking a real-estate flyer last night, in fact.) Hobby decided that he could enhance his marketing by using a free Blogger blog to create a nice…

  • Why Our Heating Bill Ballooned This Winter (63 comments)

    Kris and I own an old house. During the winter, the cold air seeps in through cracks in the windows and beneath gaps in the doors. We’ve done what we can to keep our heating costs low, and we make a handful of additional improvements every year, but I still feel like we’re living in a “drafty old barn” (to quote George Bailey). Sometimes all of our hard work goes for naught. For example, we…

  • The GRS Garden Project: March 2009 Update (34 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for March 2009, which was written by Kris. (Here are the results for 2008.) In Oregon, the month of March is unpredictable. Every gardener is itching to get outside, but it’s wet and cold with a few precious — and fleeting — moments of sunshine. In those sunny moments, you can bet you’ll hear a…

  • Why We Chose a 30-Year Mortgage (125 comments)

    Last week, I announced that Kris and I have refinanced our mortgage at 4.96% for 30 years. In the comments, Ian expressed disappointment that we’d opted for the longer term when we could have afforded to take out a 15 year mortgage at 4.625%. “Starting your 30 years over is no way to get rich slowly,” he wrote. He has a point. Kris and I took out the 30-year mortgage because we wanted a safety…

  • 50 Tips for DIY Savings Around the House (19 comments)

    While researching for our upcoming home repairs, I stumbled upon an article over at This Old House. Josh Garskof has put together a list of 50 nifty tricks for big do-it-yourself savings. What sort of nifty tricks? Tricks like these: Close closet doors to lower the square footage you’re heating (and cooling). Shuttering closets along exterior walls also helps to insulate the house. Get gently used tools, electronics, and furniture from Freecycle, an online community…

  • Mission Accomplished: Our Shiny New Mortgage (71 comments)

    We did it! After two months of hemming and hawing, Kris and I finally closed on our mortgage refinance, dropping our rate from 6.25% to 4.96%. Bright and early yesterday morning, we made a trip to the title company, and we signed all of the documents. We were out of there in only half an hour. How’d we do it so fast? Don’t I advocate reading all contracts before you sign them? Absolutely. So when…

  • Why You Shouldn’t Keep a Mortgage Just for the Tax Deduction (107 comments)

    This is a guest post from CJ at WiseMoneyMatters.com. This post represents CJ’s viewpoints, which are not necessarily my viewpoints. (Although I, too, hope to pay off my mortgage early.) Note: This is embarrassing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a post with an error like this slip by me before. I apologize. I’ve removed the offending section, not out of any attempt at revisionism, but out of interest in accuracy. Please let me know…

  • Starting Seeds Indoors: Jump-Start Your Garden Today (56 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife, who has received several requests to describe her method for starting seeds indoors. In some parts of the U.S., vegetable and flower seeds can be successfully planted directly into the garden. But in many areas, the growing season is too short to allow this. Cool spring soil temperatures and cold weather can prevent seeds from germinating or kill young seedlings. If you wait until the weather warms,…

  • The GRS Garden Project: February 2009 Update (53 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for February 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) We spent a lot of time in our garden this month, which was unusual considering that it’s February. In fact, the twelve hours we spent working on our food crops was the most we’ve worked in a month since I began tracking the numbers in January…

  • Magazines (and Websites) About Homesteading and Self-Sufficiency (107 comments)

    When I was a boy, my father used to buy Mother Earth News from the grocery store. The magazine was filled with stories about self-sufficient country living, the sort of thing my dad aspired to. I’d read the magazine after he was finished, but never really understood the appeal of building your own greenhouse or raising goats. Now, as an adult, it makes a little more sense. Kris and I are not radically self-sufficient, but…

  • Save Money with Regular Home Maintenance (49 comments)

    In 2004, Kris and I bought a hundred-year-old farmhouse. We’d been living in a 1976 ranch-style home that was virtually maintenance-free. We knew that our new house was quirky, and that it needed some remodeling, but we didn’t quite understand the extent to which maintenance would dominate our lives. Every summer, we’ve had a major project. Or two. This year is no different. In previous years we’ve remodeled the bathroom, replaced the electrical system, hung…

  • Refinancing Made Easy: Our Story (93 comments)

    I recently had lunch with Winston, the Get Rich Slowly intern. We talked about our families, our finances, and our plans for this site. Winston mentioned that, at my prompting, he and his wife were refinancing their home. “The local credit union was able to give us a deal,” he said. “We got a 15-year loan at 4.625% for just 1/3 of a point.” “I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t done anything about my…

  • The GRS Garden Project: January 2009 Update (40 comments)

    Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for January 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.) Even with the other stuff going on in our lives, Kris and I found time to begin planning our summer garden this month. Soon the winter days will warm, teasing us with thoughts of working in the yard. But true gardening weather won’t arrive for about…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Rent Out Your Spare Room? (118 comments)

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

  • Repair, Restore, Rejoice: Making the Most of Home Appliances (67 comments)

    This is a guest post from Betsy Teutsch, who blogs about sustainable living and socially-responsible investing at Money Changes Things. As any homeowner can attest, appliance longevity is diminishing. For technophiles, the breakdown of electronics can be welcomed as an excuse to upgrade to a cheaper, faster gizmo. But constant breakdowns of household appliances frustrate harried homeowners, since it’s frequently impossible or extremely inconvenient to repair them, or so expensive as to be dis-economic. Having…

  • 7 Tips for Starting Your Own Vegetable Garden (75 comments)

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

  • The GRS Garden Project: Winners and Losers for 2008 (37 comments)

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

  • How to Save $5000 a Year — As a Homeowner or a Renter (63 comments)

    J.D. is on vacation. This is a guest post from Alison Wiley, who writes about more joy and less consumption at Diamond-Cut Life. Friendly married couple, both professionals in sustainability, seeks one competent, friendly person to serve as Home & Garden Manager in exchange for free rent. That’s the opener to the Craigslist ad that has saved us about $5,000, turned our weedy front lawn into a beautiful garden, and freed up six hours of…

  • Ask the Readers: When Does It Make Sense to Refinance a Mortgage? (111 comments)

    So much for vacation. I just can’t keep myself away from you guys! While surfing around this evening, I found a story at USA Today about how mortgages are at a 37-year low. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averages about 5.28% right now. I don’t usually pay much attention to these stories. We refinanced our first house (from a 9% 30-year loan to a 5.75% 15-year loan), but our current mortgage is in a kind of…

  • 6 Must-Have Characteristics to Look for When Buying a Home (59 comments)

    J.D. is on vacation. This is a guest post from G.E. Miller, author of the 20somethingfinance.com blog for young professionals. With home prices down, foreclosures up, there’s an influx of great homes on the market with less competition vying for them. The next year or so may present some prime buying opportunities for those willing to do some homework, and who meet the prerequisites of home ownership. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, one of the…

  • The GRS Garden Project: November Update (30 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for November. This month’s garden update is small. As winter approaches, there’s less for us to do, and all that we harvest are herbs (and those only occasionally). Our major garden task this month was raking leaves. For most people, this is simply yardwork, but for us it’s a chance to work on the…

  • Plant a Tree to Add Beauty and Value to Your Home (27 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife. She speaks for the trees. There’s nothing like a breathtaking autumn to make us notice the trees. And fall is the perfect time to start thinking about adding a tree to your property. J.D. and I are lucky to have many mature trees on our lot, but that didn’t stop us from planting more when we moved in. We added four fruit trees and a Japanese Zelkova…

  • 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…

  • The GRS Garden Project: October Update (39 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for October. October can be something of a relief for gardeners. The bulk of the harvest is finished, and all that remains is to pick the last straggling fruits and vegetables, and to begin cleaning up. While it’s sad that the harvest is winding to a close, it’s comforting to know there’ll be a…

  • The First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit (68 comments)

    First-time home buyers are now eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500 under the U.S. Housing and Economic Recover Act of 2008. To qualify for the tax credit, purchasers must close on a home between 09 April 2008 and 01 July 2009. Married couples with incomes up to $150,000 qualify for the full tax credit, as do single taxpayers with incomes below $75,000. (Those with higher incomes may be eligible for a partial…

  • Dealing with Disaster: A Brief Guide to Emergency Preparedness (34 comments)

    This is a guest post from JLP of All Financial Matters. JLP, who is a financial planner, was instrumental in helping me get started with Get Rich Slowly, and his blog remains one of my favorites. As a resident living fairly close to the Gulf Coast, I’m familiar with evacuating for a hurricane. There’s no way around it — evacuating for a natural disaster is a pain. But, there are things you do to make…

  • The GRS Garden Project: September Update (62 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for September. September generally brings the largest harvests for our garden. That was true again this year, but not by as much as we hoped. The bad weather at the beginning of the season means that things just aren’t ripe yet. Kris has been encouraging her tomatoes for weeks. I’m dying for the grapes…

  • 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…

  • Could Tithing Lead Some Americans to Lose Their Homes? (191 comments)

    Last week, USA Today featured an article on Christians who continue to tithe even as they face foreclosure. Tithing is the practice of donating 10% of your gross income to your church. It’s not a common practice (only 5% of American adults tithe), but it’s important to those who choose to do so. It’s a component not just of Christianity, but other religions as well. But what happens when tithing interferes with your ability to…

  • How to Prepare for Buying a Home (48 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jim, my friend and colleague at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. When I bought a home three years ago, the economic climate was different from today. Back then, a house would could be listed on Friday and a contract signed by Monday. It was easy to get a loan (too easy, in fact) and you could make every mistake in the book and still find yourself a home. Despite the…

  • The GRS Garden Project: August Update (31 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for August. The berry harvest continued this month at Rosings Park, our happy half acre south of Portland. Blackberry time is my favorite time of the year. And though August is often too hot for me, I’m willing to suffer the heat because I know it means the start of canning season. Sure enough,…

  • Fix Your Own Printer and Save Money (19 comments)

    Farhad Manjoo at Slate says your computer printer may be lying to you. He bought a cheap laser printer a couple years ago. When the machine decided it was out of toner, it stopped working. But the last page it had printed looked just fine. Manjoo was puzzled: I’m a toner miser: For as long as I’ve been using laser printers, it’s been my policy to switch to a new cartridge at the last possible…

  • Do-It-Yourself Landscaping Can Save Thousands (28 comments)

    This is the first post from Winston, the new GRS editorial assistant. My wife and I have saved thousands of dollars by landscaping our own yard. Four years ago, we were feeling overwhelmed by our back yard. We’d been in our home for a couple of years, had spent some time and money on the inside, and were ready to move on to backyard projects.  We spent a couple of seasons moving dirt around, trying…

  • Energy Conservation in Alaska: What Worked? What Did Not? (30 comments)

    Last April, Dan wrote to ask GRS readers for help with a sudden energy crisis. Because of a natural disaster, electricity costs in Juneau, Alaska jumped from $0.11 per kilowatt-hour to $0.53 per kilowatt-hour. In this follow-up, Dan explains how his family coped with high energy costs. It’s been over three months since an avalanche knocked out our hydropower supply in Juneau. At that time, Get Rich Slowly readers provided plenty of great comments and…

  • The GRS Garden Project: July Update (29 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for July. It was a berry, berry good month at Rosings Park (as we call our happy half acre). Gloomy June faded into memory, the sun came out, and the berries ripened. This is the time of year when there’s little to do in the garden but water the plants and harvest the produce….

  • Back to Basics: A Guide to Traditional Skills (39 comments)

    Based on reader suggestions, Kris and I made a trip to Costco on Friday to buy bulk yeast and a fifty-pound bag of bread flour. (We’re serious about this whole home-made bread thing.) While I waited for Kris to pick up some other groceries, I leafed through Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills edited by Abigail R. Gehring. “Wow,” I thought. “I am the target audience for this book.” I bought it….

  • Gardening Basics: What to Do with All That Extra Zucchini (41 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife. I could not have written this — I hate zucchini. Ah, summer. Or, as it’s sometimes known, zucchini season. If you were one of those brave souls that planted zucchini this year, it’s about to start exploding. Or perhaps where you live, it’s already mid-explosion! It’s time to start finding ways to use all that produce. Fresh zucchini is great when grilled with a bit of olive…

  • Selling Your Existing Home While Buying a New One (32 comments)

    Kris and I had been in our first house for ten years when our dream home fell in our lap one day. Until then, we had no plans to move. We were completely unprepared to sell our existing home while buying a new one. Eventually we made it happen, but we violated a number home-buying best practices as we scrambled to make our dream a reality. We were particularly worried about how to time things…

  • 11 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers (93 comments)

    This is a guest post from Mike at Quest for Four Pillars, a Canadian financial blog. Buying a house is a difficult process — there are large sums of money involved, the transaction costs and hassle of moving mean that you can’t just buy another house if you don’t like the one you end up with, and you don’t have enough information to make a completely informed decision. The best you can do is to…

  • Estimate Your Electricity Costs with a Web-Based Calculator (20 comments)

    It’s been a couple years since I mentioned Michael Bluejay’s fantastic Saving Electricity site. It’s a treasure trove of practical tips for household power management. Bluejay offers information on: The difference between natural gas and electric appliances How much electricity costs Electricity myths and much more While doing research for an upcoming post, I discovered Bluejay’s guide to how much electricity different devices use. This single page can answer most of your questions about power…

  • The GRS Garden Project: June Update (36 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for June. It was a miserable June for gardeners in northwest Oregon. The first two weeks weren’t just wet — we’re used to that — they were cold, too. The local media dubbed the month “June-uary”. Residents were quick to embrace the term. The cool weather pushed back a number of crops. Strawberry farmers…

  • Guarding Against the Invasion of Stuff (58 comments)

    Since August, I’ve been on a quest to reduce the clutter in my life. Back when I was a spendthrift, I bought a lot of Stuff. Stuff comforted me. When I was buying things (even on credit), I felt wealthy. Stuff doesn’t make me feel wealthy anymore — it makes me feel cramped. With time, Stuff simply becomes clutter. Slowly but surely, I’m banishing excess belongings from my household. I still sometimes buy more than…

  • How to Make Your Own Small-Batch Strawberry Jam (9 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife. Making your own jam doesn’t have to be a big production. While it’s sometimes most efficient to do things in bulk with all the right gear, the small-scale option can be better if you’re just starting out and want to make jam without much initial investment. Also, for the home gardener it’s common to have only a few cups of berries ripe at any one time, rather…

  • Don’t Raid Your 401(k) to Make Mortgage Payments (27 comments)

    What’s worse than not being able to make your mortgage payments? How about tapping into retirement savings to make ends meet? National Public Radio’s Morning Edition ran a story on Friday about the growing number of people making “hardship withdrawals” from their retirement plans. From the story: “It’s a terrible choice on so many levels, because we shouldn’t be messing with our futures for the present,” says Jane King, a financial planner who serves as…

  • The GRS Garden Project: May Update (56 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for May. Today I picked the first two strawberries from our garden. They weren’t particularly good strawberries — there’s been plenty of Oregon rain lately, and they were rather flavorless — but they were strawberries, the harbingers of summer. They signify the start of five months of food harvest from our yard. Final orders…

  • The Giant Pool of Money: Anatomy of the Subprime Mortgage Mess (31 comments)

    The American housing crisis isn’t over yet. The fallout from the subprime mortgage mess will continue to settle for months (or years). Though the various statistical models disagree on just how much further prices will drop before they hit bottom, most seem to indicate there’s another 10% to 20% left to go. What exactly is the subprime mortgage crisis and how did we get here? That’s the question tackled this week by Chicago Public Radio’s…

  • The Rise of Suburban Farming (40 comments)

    When our friends Mike and Rhonda moved into their new house a couple years ago, their yard was just like every other in the neighborhood: green grass. Chances are, that’s what the yards are like in your neighborhood, too. But over the past two years, Mike and Rhonda have transformed their lot into something different. They’ve created what might be described as a suburban farm. Mike ripped out all the sod and built stone walls…

  • The GRS Garden Project: April Update (27 comments)

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food in our garden. April finally saw some action in the yard, but not the sort we’d hoped for. The hail you say! Most of the month was quiet. Our vegetable starts continued to thrive under the growlights. By…

  • Frugality in Practice: Turn Your Junk Mail into Garden Mulch (35 comments)

    In yesterday’s discussion about how to stop junk mail, icup mentioned using junk mail for mulch. Intrigued, I asked for more information. Here’s what he had to say. I’m more interested in saving money than saving the environment, but when I see junk mail piling up every day, it makes me stop to think about the sheer amount of waste that junk mail creates. As a homeowner with multiple mulch beds, I also feel a…

  • The Bountiful Container: Gardening in Small Spaces (25 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife. I’ve been gardening for almost fifteen years. I started with flowers, added herbs and vegetables, then a few fruits, then a lot more. I’ve gardened in plots and pots and raised beds. I’ve drooled over bedding plants, spent too much on whatever was my obsession-of-the-moment (bulbs! daylilies! gooseberries! ornamental grasses!), and have certainly read my fair share of plant books and magazines. By this time, I’m somewhat…

  • How to Get Rid of Ants (Without Calling an Exterminator) (228 comments)

    I hate ants. At our old house, Kris and I were constantly at war with the little devils. Every time we suffered another invasion, every time they managed to find the pantry, every time they discovered the cat food, every time they ruined my chocolate chip cookies, I would berate them with colorful euphemisms. Eventually it got so bad that we had to bring in an exterminator. It seemed crazy to hire an exterminator to…

  • The GRS Garden Project: March Update (25 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I are tracking how much time and money we spend growing food in our garden. In my mind, March is filled with gardening activities. Not so much, as it turns out. I think April will also be light. Planting seeds Though we didn’t do much in March, we finally got to see some action from the plants. On March 1st, Kris planted the tomatoes and peppers (and some flowers). She…

  • Suze Orman’s Ultimate Protection Portfolio (and a Do-It-Yourself Alternative) (60 comments)

    For the past few months, I’ve been pursuing a paperless personal finance system. I’ve scheduled electronic transactions with my bank, and I scan important documents when I receive them. My method is still very much in “beta”, but I hope to write about it later this year. My sister-in-law, Tiffany, isn’t a computer geek, but she’s been trying to get her financial documents organized, too. So when she saw an advertisement for Suze Orman’s Ultimate…

  • Possessed: People Who are Ruled by Stuff (38 comments)

    When I was a boy, I hoarded Stuff. I had what my parent’s called a “rat’s nest”, a closet full of the Stuff I’d gathered. Why did I hoard Stuff? Was it because we were poor and I wanted to own things? Or was it something deeper? As I grew older, I became more discriminating. I didn’t hoard everything — just certain things. Books, especially. But it was difficult for me to throw anything away….

  • The GRS Garden Project: February Update (22 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I will be tracking how much time and money we spend growing food in our garden. (Important note: Kris tells me she is not going to track her time, which may throw a monkey wrench into the works, but I’m going to do my best to coax her into providing this information anyhow.) The yardwork begins Like last month, there’s very little to do in February. It was still quite…

  • Will the Subprime Mortgage Crisis Turn the Suburbs Into Slums? (44 comments)

    Is today’s McMansion tomorrow’s tenement home? Wrtiting in The Atlantic Monthly, Christopher B. Leinberger argues that modern suburban neighborhoods may be in decline, and not just because of the subprime mortgage crisis. Rising gasoline prices, for example, may prompt Americans to return to the city. And when they do, what will become of the subdivisions where they used to live? For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until…

  • Home-Made Treats for Backyard Birds (19 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife. If there’s one area of our household budget where frugality goes out the window, it’s the birds. There’s a large picture window over our kitchen sink, and I love to spend my Saturday mornings standing with a cup of tea, watching our neighborhood avian community. Or I keep an eye on the flight activity while I do the large-batch cooking that will see us through the week….

  • Ask the Readers: How to Choose VOIP Telephone Service? (78 comments)

    Lauren recently wrote with the sort of technical question I usually route to the Get Rich Slowly forums. (The forums are a great place to get help with your specific financial situation.) She’s looking to ditch her landline for VOIP (voice over IP) telephone service. I’ve had several friends ask me about this subject, so I figure it has fairly broad appeal. Lauren writes: I’m trying to find real information on savings for phone service…

  • Energy Star: Saving Money Through Energy Efficiency (12 comments)

    If you’ve bought a major appliance in the U.S. during the past decade, you’ve probably noticed the government-issued Energy Star certification. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Their goal is to “help us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.” But Energy Star goes beyond simply recommending energy-efficient washers and dryers. The web site offers a number of…

  • Mortgage Prepayment Made Easy: Own Your Home in Half the Time (205 comments)

    Because I recently eliminated all of my non-mortgage debt, I have a significant positive cash flow. The $1,000 per month I was putting toward debt can now be used for investing. I’m making maximum contributions to my Roth IRA, of course, but that still leaves several hundred dollars each month available for other purposes. This has forced me to evaluate my financial goals. Mortgage prepayment options For the past year, Kris and I have discussed…

  • The GRS Garden Project: January Update (35 comments)

    During 2008, my wife and I will be tracking how much time and money we spend growing food in our garden. (Important note: Kris tells me she is not going to track her time, which may throw a monkey wrench into the works, but I’m going to do my best to coax her into providing this information anyhow.) January is always a slow month in the garden, but it’s also full of promise. It’s time…

  • The Year-Long GRS Project: How Much Does a Garden Really Save? (108 comments)

    Kris and I are huge fans of gardening. We grow our own flowers, herbs, fruit, berries, and vegetables. We’re not able to supply all of our needs, but we do what we can. For the past two years, I’ve argued that this is an excellent way to save money if you have the time and the space. But is it really? An actual weekend harvest from August 2006. During the next year, Kris and I…

  • Advice and Tips for First-Time Homebuyers (61 comments)

    Over at AskMetafilter, somebody recently wrote: What is the single most valuable piece of advice you received when you were in the process of buying your home? Among the great advice in this thread are gems such as: Don’t go into debt to furnish your home. Get pre-qualified for the mortgage so you know how much you can work with…Then only spend 75% of what you’ve been pre-qualified for. Buy the worst house on the…

  • 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…

  • The Thrill of Paying Off a Mortgage (80 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…

  • The Pros and Cons of an Interest-Only Mortgage (49 comments)

    This is a guest post from Mrs. Micah of Finance and Life. Look for a related post later today. Getting an interest-only mortgage can seem like a great idea when you’re trying to buy a house and can’t afford a down payment (or if you have bad credit). Earlier this week, I read the story of a couple who are celebrating home-ownership under just such a situation. But while they’re happy, odds are that this…

  • Frugality in Practice: Keeping Warm in Winter (96 comments)

    Cold cold cold — I am cold. Remember George Bailey’s “drafty old barn” in It’s a Wonderful Life? Our place is like that. This 100-year-old farmhouse is cold all winter long. There are drafts at the doors, there’s inadequate insulation, and we have 30 windows in 1800 square feet. (Our old house had eight windows in 1400 square feet.) Every year, we do a little more to make this place energy efficient, but it’s a…

  • The New York Times Rent vs. Buy Calculator (43 comments)

    Is it better to buy or rent? It’s one of the eternal personal finance questions, and one that each person has to decide for herself. There are lots of non-financial factors that affect this decision, of course, including your hobbies, lifestyle, and personal psychology. Despite these non-financial considerations, often the choice comes down to money. What makes the most financial sense? In July, guest-author Tim Ellis shared his thoughts on the rent vs. buy debate…

  • How Much Do Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Really Cost? (132 comments)

    Valerie writes: “Someone in our family recently suggested that compact fluourescents weren’t worth it due to their high initial cost compared to incandescent light bulbs. We’ve switched all our lights to CFL, so my husband looked into the actual costs. I thought you might like the results” In this guest post, she lays out the numbers. It makes good economic sense to switch from Incandescents to compact fluorescents (CFLs) — it’s not just a bunch…

  • House Math 2.0: A Real-Estate Analysis Tool (19 comments)

    Earlier today, Justin asked for feedback about whether he should buy a condo or continue to save for his retirement. GRS reader Andrew forwarded a tool that may help Justin make his decision. HouseMath 2.0 is a web-based app designed to help users explore the costs of purchasing a new home. You enter the numbers for the proposed transaction, and HouseMath runs the numbers to let you know the financial implications. Rather than bombard the…

  • Ask the Readers: Buy a Home, or Max Out Retirement Savings? (78 comments)

    The toughest personal finance choices are those where your heart wrestles with your mind. Justin wrote because he’s found a great place to live, but it’s just on the edge of what he can afford. He wants help deciding what to do: I’ve been renting for the past two years (and several years before that in college). My roommate recently bought a place, and that’s thrown me into the hunt for new housing. Either I…

  • Learning to Love the Not-So-Big House (101 comments)

    I had lunch with my friend Cameron a few weeks ago. Over plates of Kung Pao Chicken and Mongolian Beef, the conversation drifted toward personal finance. We began to talk about the repairs and upgrades we’ve been making to our homes. Kris and I bought our current house three years ago; Cameron and his wife bought their home two years ago. Both were big upgrades from what we had previously owned. And though neither couple…

  • Two Quick Kitchen Hacks (19 comments)

    It’s always fun to find new ways to save time and money in the kitchen. Here are two simple ideas to help reduce clutter on the counters. Let the library store your cookbooks During my recent fight to reduce clutter in the house, Kris pointed out that I had a shelf full of cookbooks that I rarely use. “Why don’t we get rid of some of them,” she said. “Do we really need seven Thai…

  • Accelerated Mortgage Payments (and the GRS Amortization Calculator) (48 comments)

    What if you’ve reviewed the compromises required to pay your mortgage early and the idea still appeals to you? You might pay a bank to set up a bi-weekly payment plan or a money merge account. But you can do just as well by taking mortgage acceleration into your own hands. Here are three options I’ve considered: Rather than pay my mortgage, I could deposit my money into a high-yield savings account earning roughly 5%…

  • Is a Money Merge Account a Good Way to Pay Off Your Mortgage? (800 comments)

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve received several questions about money merge accounts (sometimes called “Australian mortgages”). I haven’t paid much attention to these because I’m unfamiliar the products. But when Abbie wrote last week, I decided to do some research. Here’s what she said: My financial guy handed me a DVD for United First Financial the last time I spoke with him.  Apparently they are a company that uses “sophisticated algorithms” to compute how…

  • Frugality in Practice: Home-Made Grape Juice (26 comments)

    Kris and I don’t grow a lot of our own food, but we grow enough to make a difference. In the fall of 2004, the year we moved into this house, we planted a row of grapes. Using only a shovel, I tore into the sod, double-digging a row about three feet by thirty. One of our neighbors had collected and split an old telephone pole, so he gave us some of these massive logs…

  • Frugality in Practice: Do-it-Yourself Home Maintenance (26 comments)

    I hate plumbing. Whenever a faucet begins to leak or a drain clogs, my stomach sinks. I know it means hours of frustrating work. It’s not that plumbing is difficult — it’s just that I’m not well-versed in the ways of home-improvement. Somehow I missed that part of Manhood Training. Despite my apprehension, over thirteen years of homeownership, I’ve made it a point to do as much repair work as I’m able. It has saved…

  • Blow-by-Blow Account of a Housing Addition, part four: Combating Murphy’s Law (5 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jericho Hill. In part one of this series, the author discussed the costs of a housing addition. Part two explored funding, and part three featured tips for saving money on construction. It wouldn’t be a housing addition without delays, problems, incorrect parts, contractor issues, and code problems.  These small things occur in every home remodeling project, and their primary impact is to delay your progress.   We find that by…

  • Every Penny Counts: Saving for Big Goals (29 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly readers submitted a couple dozen articles while I was on vacation, but one story was mentioned more than any other. Several people sent me a New York Times piece by Christine Haughney called “Every Penny Counts“. Haughney writes about six New Yorkers who scaled back their lifestyles to save for a larger goal: homeownership. Here’s how one couple did it: In a city synonymous with luxury and spending, Ms. Lee, 30, and…

  • Blow-by-Blow Account of a Housing Addition, part three: Construction (11 comments)

    This is a guest post from JerichoHill. For the past few weekends, I’ve described what I learned through the process of building a home addition. In part one, I covered costs. In part two, I covered capitalization (obtaining a loan). Today I’ll describe the actual construction. You can read through the whole process in the forums. I want to end this series with the tips and tricks we’ve learned that are helping us save money…

  • Extreme Personal Finance: From Penthouse to RV (41 comments)

    He’s back! The ever-controversial Tynan offers today’s guest entry on downsizing from an expensive condo to a 21-foot RV. On April 20th at 3am I was still awake. I stood on the balcony of my penthouse in downtown Austin and watched the traffic drive by. We were supposed to leave the next day, but I was too excited to sleep. I called my girlfriend. “Are you ready to leave now?” “Haha, sure,” she replied. I…

  • Blow-by-Blow Account of a Housing Addition, part two: Capitalization (13 comments)

    This is a guest post from JerichoHill. Last week I introduced the first of a three-part series on my experiences with building a major home addition. It dealt with defining your objectives and determining if the necessary resources were available and where they were located. To Recap: Because my fiancée, Julie, bought before housing prices rapidly appreciated, we had a large amount of equity to fund our addition, so we wanted to use a home…

  • Getting the Guts to Relocate to a Cheaper City (65 comments)

    This guest post is from Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. Trunk is a career columnist for the Boston Globe and Yahoo! Finance, and also dispenses wisdom on her blog. I recently relocated from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin. I made the move in order to have a lower cost of living, and to give me more flexibility to focus on things that will really make me and my…

  • Blow-by-Blow Account of a Housing Addition, part one: Costs (7 comments)

    This is a guest post from JerichoHill. Recently my fiancée and I have engaged in a bit of home-renovation. Several years ago, Julie bought half of a duplex in a suburb of Washington, D.C. It is rather small for a house today, with two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a finished basement. The bedrooms were small because the duplex was constructed in the early 1960s. Her place was large enough for a spoiled-rotten dog and the…

  • Renting vs. Buying: The Realities of Home-Ownership (315 comments)

    This is a guest-post from Tim Ellis, author of Seattle Bubble, a blog and forum dedicated to discussing real estate market conditions in the Seattle area. “If you rent, you’re throwing away your money.” “Owning your own home is a forced savings plan.” “Home ownership is an excellent path to build wealth.” You’ve probably heard statements like these plenty of times. On television, radio, the internet, and in casual conversation. Such sentiments are common in…

  • Ask the Readers: What if You’re Frugal But Your Roommates Aren’t? (62 comments)

    Eleanor wrote with a question that could test even the mightiest personal finance expert. “What,” she asks, “can you do when you want to save money and your roommates don’t care?” I share a house with four roommates.  This saves me at least $200 a month from what I would be paying if I lived in an apartment.  But roommates raise expenses in other, unexpected ways.  I have been trying to cut down on monthly…

  • Ask the Readers: What’s the Best Way to Save for a Down Payment? (50 comments)

    When I asked recently for topics you’d like to see covered at Get Rich Slowly, many of you expressed interest in learning more about how to purchase a home. Jason sent the following question: What’s the best vehicle to save money for a house? I’m probably more than a year from purchasing my first real estate. While maxing out my Roth IRA and building a nice emergency fund, I need to start saving specifically for…

  • Ask the Readers: Is It Better to Invest or to Prepay a Mortgage? (194 comments)

    Paul writes with a common question that illustrates how challenging personal finance can be, even when you’re doing the right things. Sometimes it’s difficult to choose between several good options. Here’s his dilemma: I refinanced my house a few years ago at a great rate (5-3/8%). At the time, we had a lot of equity in the house so we borrowed against it in order to build an addition. After we were finished, we had…

  • Save Big By Canceling Private Mortgage Insurance (21 comments)

    When you buy a home, you learn there are many little costs that accumulate over time: mortgage, interest, insurance, utilities, maintenance, etc. Many of these are recurring expenses about which little can be done. There is one expensive, however, that homeowners can eliminate, and should do so as soon as possible. Lenders require private mortgage insurance (commonly called PMI) from homebuyers who take out loans that are more than 80 percent of a property’s value….

  • Fact or Fiction: Can a Rain Barrel Save You Money? (51 comments)

    In the forums, robblat asked about rain barrels: Are they useful? How much do they cost? Where do you get one? My wife just installed a rain barrel last year, so I asked her to explain how they work. For my birthday last year, I asked my parents for a rain barrel. After doing some research online, I went to our local nursery and paid $100 for a complete barrel set up. While it will…

  • The Minimalist and the No-Frills Kitchen (30 comments)

    In the GRS forums, Fillanzea mentioned a New York Times article written by Mark Bittman, a.k.a. The Minimalist, who believes “a no-frills kitchen still cooks”. He writes: The question I’m asked more often than any other is, “What kitchen equipment should I buy?” … I contend that with a bit of savvy, patience and a willingness to forgo steel-handle knives, copper pots and other extravagant items, $200 can equip a basic kitchen that will be…

  • An Introduction to Square-Foot Gardening (73 comments)

    I grew up in the country — gardening meant a large plot, plowed and raked, and then planted with long, widely-space rows of vegetables. It also meant weeding and hoeing, weeding and hoeing. Gardening was a chore. When Kris and I bought our first home, we both wanted a vegetable garden, but we didn’t want the drudgery that came with it. Besides, we didn’t have a big space in the country — we had an…

  • Home Depot to Give Away Compact Fluorescent Bulbs this Sunday (30 comments)

    April 22nd is Earth Day in the United States. In celebration The Home Depot is giving away one million compact fluorescent lightbulbs to people who visit their stores this Sunday. Rumor has it that the free bulbs will be N:Vision soft whites, which were the best in a recent Popular Mechanics lab test. photo by David Hobby of Strobist Electric lighting consumes nearly a quarter of the average home energy budget. Because compact fluorescent bulbs…

  • Ask the Readers: Cheap Places to Live? (91 comments)

    Money Minx has decided to make a frugal leap of faith, to move to another city in order to save money. But she has one stipulation that’s causing problems. She’s come to Get Rich Slowly readers for help: My fiancee and I have cut back on spending and gotten better paying jobs and in addition have each taken on 2nd and 3rd jobs.  It’s still not enough, so the only thing left to do is…

  • Frugality in Practice: A Cheap Defense Against Weeds (35 comments)

    Spring is here, and that means lawn chores. “Grass is a weed,” my wife and I tell each other. But with 3/5 of an acre, much of it lawn, we have a lot of grass to care for. Aside from mowing, one of my first tasks every year is weed control. I’m not anal-retentive about this — though I used to be — but I do like to eliminate most of the worst offenders. Dandelions…

  • The Real Estate Roller Coaster (32 comments)

    Last summer I shared a graph of American home values from 1890 to present. I found it alarming: Click image to view larger version in a new window. Graph © NYT. This graph was taken from a New York Times article entitled “Read Between All Those For Sale Signs” [reg. required] by David Leonhardt and Vikas Bajaj. Now the folks at Speculative Bubble have decided to dramatize this graph by — what else? — plotting…

  • The Rentometer: How Does YOUR Rent Compare? (10 comments)

    Do you rent a home or apartment? Have you ever wondered if you’re getting a fair shake? Flexo at Consumerism Commentary discovered a handy tool called the Rentometer. Enter your street address and your monthly rent, then the Rentometer tells how your rent compares to others nearby. (Wow! You folks in California are paying a lot in rent. California dominates the Rentometer top 10 list.)

  • How to Find a Contractor: It’s Not Just About Price (12 comments)

    On Monday I mentioned that it pays to shop around for the lowest price. This skill is specially important when making large money decisions. You should always shop around when purchasing a car, obtaining a mortage, or hiring a contractor. We’ve discussed getting the best deal on a car before. We’ve touched on mortgages, and are sure to discuss them more in the future. Today I want to share my approach to finding a contractor….

  • Ask the Readers: Save for a Down Payment, or Put Money into Home Equity? (27 comments)

    Matt has a question about the best way to save for upgrading his house: My wife and I bought a small house before our wedding, and we know that eventually (say, within the next five years) we’ll need to move. We’ll want to start a family and will need more space. We purchased our current home with an 80/20 loan, instead of putting down the traditional 20% down-payment. At the time we could afford the…

  • When to Replace Common Household Items (34 comments)

    Smart Money has published a guide about when to replace common household items. Here are the items they mention and the recommended replacement periods. (The complete list includes “expert” reasons for replacing each item on a particular schedule.) Air filters — six months. I’ve always heard that furnace filters should be checked every month and replaced every three months. We replace ours in November and March. For more info, check out “How often should I…

  • How Home and Community Affect Our Wealth (20 comments)

    Where we choose to live — both home and community — can have a profound effect on our personal finances, and on the non-monetary “wealth” in our lives. Sabra at the Zillow Blog discovered this first-hand when she and her husband moved into a condo in downtown Seattle. The changes have been amazing — and somewhat unexpected. Our 3,200 square feet of Texas sprawl has been squeezed down to a cosmopolitan 1,200.  We’ve gotten rid…

  • Extreme Personal Finance: Homeless By Choice (10 comments)

    Several readers wrote to share this story of extreme personal finance from the pages of the Los Angeles Times: 26-year-old Andy Bussell has been living in his truck, homeless by choice, for the past year-and-a-half. The odyssey began in 2005. Bussell was working full time as a “Mac genius” at the Apple Store in Newport Beach, sharing a $1,600-per-month apartment in Aliso Viejo. He had racked up more than $10,000 in credit card debt and…

  • Loan.com: A New Site for Home Loan Info (8 comments)

    Chuck Hoover wrote to pitch a new web site, Loan.com: Here’s something that may be of interest to your readers — a new website, Loan.com, that provides consumers with the first tool to find home loans from a pre-qualified list of “ethical” lenders.  With all the recent revelations and regulatory actions against predatory lenders and other brokers who employ unscrupulous business practices, the lenders on Loan.com must agree to a Borrower’s Bill of Rights — a set of…

  • 15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own (27 comments)

    Lifehacker points to a MSN Real Estate piece listing the 15 tools every homeowner should own. I’m working on a longer article about home workshops, but this is a good introduction to the subject. If you don’t have a handyman in your family and don’t have a clue where to begin when it comes to assembling a proper home-repair tool kit, there’s good news: For $200, you can buy 90% of all the tools you’ll…

  • The Seller’s Gift: How To Buy a Home With No Down Payment (18 comments)

    Matt wrote to me with an unusual homebuying tale which he’s also posted to his site, Zero Down: My Homebuying Story. On December 29th, he closed on a $90,000 Texas home. His total out-of-pocket expense was $70. He writes: Anyone who can get a mortgage can pay zero down for their new home. I wrote this web page because I think I have an interesting story. Some of the home buying techniques I discovered are…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do You Buy One Home While Selling Another? (13 comments)

    Ryan recently wrote with a question: What things should you consider when you’re buying a new house while trying to sell the one you own? What’s the best way to coordinate closing dates to allow yourself a comfortable time to prepare for the move but while also minimizing financial impact? How can you calculate what sort of house you can buy outright (or nearly outright) elsewhere for what you can sell your house for now?…

  • Tiny London Apartment for $334,000 (17 comments)

    Do you think housing prices are insane where you live? You ought to see London’s Chelsea district. The BBS News reports that a “table-sized” apartment is selling for £170,000 (roughly $334,000US). Here’s the complete story: A flat roughly the size of a snooker table has gone on sale for £170,000 in London’s upmarket Chelsea. The former janitor’s storeroom measures 11ft by 7ft and has a cupboard place for a shower and kitchenette area. Potential buyers…

  • 7 Mistakes That Make Homeowners Targets for Burglars (34 comments)

    I received an advertisement in the mail yesterday for a publication called Bottom Line Personal. The ad included several money tips. My favorite was the list of “Top Mistakes That Make Homeowners Prime Targets for Burglars”. To get the real scoop on how to protect your home, we asked the best of all sources — a reformed burglar. This former burglar stole over $70 million worth of jewelry during his career, and spent 11 years…

  • How I Bought My House With Very Little Of My Own Money (13 comments)

    Susan at +amateur christian+ has some advice for first-time homebuyers — spend some time to search for grants, and you might be able to get into a home without spending a fortune. Two years ago I closed escrow on my very first home purchase. I did it with almost no money of my own, thanks to some free money programs I qualified for. Some friends have been showing interest in doing the same thing, so…

  • Save Money on Plumbing Whether or Not You Do It Yourself (7 comments)

    A few weeks ago I mentioned Curbly, a new community-based DIY site. Here’s a guest-post from one of the Curbly’s featured writers, Alex Russell. Copper’s proper. That’s the saying, anyway. But the problem now with copper for your plumbing has nothing to do with reliability. It’s cost. Over the past year, the retail price of copper tube for plumbing has almost doubled. However, there is a great money-saving alternative. Using PEX for your new water…

  • Cheap Ways to Stay Warm this Winter (52 comments)

    Winter weather has arrived in Oregon — it’s rainy and cold. This time of year, Kris and I search for ways to keep warm. A lot of guides to saving money on heating contain impractical advice: “consider heating with solar energy!”. They offer good suggestions for the long-term, but they aren’t useful if you want to save money now. Here are some frugal ways we stay warm in our drafty old house. Let in some…

  • Review: Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor (67 comments)

    In June I shared some tips for reducing home energy costs. Most of the information came from Michael Bluejay’s excellent guide to saving electricity. I was curious how much electricity invidual appliances use, so I ordered a gadget that Bluejay recommends: the Kill-a-Watt electricity meter. The official web site declares: Connect your appliances into the Kill A Watt™, and assess how efficient they are. A large LCD display counts consumption by the Kilowatt-hour just like…

  • Curbly: A Community-Based DIY Site (8 comments)

    Jeff V. writes: I just came across this budget-minded DIY site and I thought you and your readers would be interested in it. Curbly bills itself as a “web community for people who love where they live”. It’s a site designed to help users create do-it-yourself projects to improve their home and environment. In a way, it’s a social community designed to help people with home-improvement. The site includes the following sections: How-To — Articles…

  • Remodeling a Home, part two: A Leak in the Attic (10 comments)

    This is the second in a series describing our adventures remodeling a one-hundred-year-old home. Last week I shared our experiences with a nightmare insulation contractor. This week, we learn that the damage was worse than we had thought. As you’ll recall, when we bought this old house, we paid a company (GCS) to install insulation. They messed up the job in four ways, three of which were apparent immediately: they drilled holes in the wainscoting…

  • Remodeling a Home, part one: Little Surprises (22 comments)

    Luneray’s home-buying adventure is over, but I’d like to continue to share home-ownership stories every Thursday. Fortunately, I’ve got some doozies of my own to share. For the next few weeks, I’ll describe what it’s like to move into an old house. Two years ago — just before I developed my frugal side — my wife and I bought an old house. It was the place of our dreams: two stories, hardwood floors, lots of…

  • Buying a Home, part seven: First-Time Homeowners (5 comments)

    This is the seventh (and final) weekly installment in Luneray‘s homebuying adventure. Previous entries include: Week one: Looking at houses Week two: Making an offer Week three: A lifetime of debt Week four: The calm before the storm Week five: Preparing to close Week six: Closing the deal This week, Luneray is a homeowner! The paperwork has closed and the title transferred and recorded. We are homeowners. But all I feel is numb. Oscar and…

  • 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…

  • Buying a Home, part six: The Close (13 comments)

    This is the sixth installment in Luneray‘s homebuying adventure. In the first part, she looked at houses. She made an offer in part two. Next, she meditated on coming face-to-face with a lifetime of debt. She worried that things were going a little too smoothly, but then last week she prepared to close. This week, things turn ugly. (Bold emphasis added by J.D.) Today is one of those days that Oscar and I will look…

  • Free Home-Equity Information Kit (1 comment)

    My wife is addicted to the Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder, a site I’ve mentioned here before. She and I have have used it to send away for free samples of beef jerkey, pantyhose, shampoo and more. You can find useful stuff there, too. I found a free subscription to Workbench Magazine, for example. Today there’s a link to a free “BorrowSmart kit”, a collection of information on safely using the equity in your home. This…

  • Buying a Home, part five: Preparing to Close (3 comments)

    This is the fifth installment in Luneray‘s homebuying adventure. In the first part, she looked at houses. She made an offer in part two. Next, she meditated on coming face-to-face with a lifetime of debt. Last week worried that things were going a little too smoothly. This week we learn she was right. (Bold emphasis added by J.D.) So the house buying process was progressing smoothly. The last thing we had to do was be…

  • Buying a Home, part four: Calm Before the Storm (8 comments)

    This is the fourth installment in Luneray‘s homebuying adventure. In the first part, she looked at houses. She made an offer in part two. Last week she meditated on coming face-to-face with a lifetime of debt. (Bold emphasis added by J.D.) This house buying process is going so smoothly that I’m starting to worry that the Trickster God of First-Time Homebuyers is lulling us into a false sense of security before springing something nasty on…

  • 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…

  • 20 Free Ways to Save Energy (15 comments)

    Consumer Reports has a new publication entitled Complete Guide to Reducing Energy Costs. To promote the book, they’ve made twenty tips available for free online: Wash clothes in cold water. Most of the cost in running a washer is in heating the water. Hang clothes on a line. Don’t overdry your laundry. Remove clothes from the dryer while they’re still a little damp. Let the dishwasher do the work. Don’t pre-rinse dishes. (This shocks me….

  • Buying a Home, part two: Making the Offer (4 comments)

    Last Thursday I shared the first of Luneray‘s posts on buying a house. In today’s second part, she talks about the psychological impact of agreeing to an enormous loan. We looked at more houses today, but we didn’t see anything that we liked more than the 50s time-warp, so we made an offer on that. You remember the 50s time-warp, don’t you? The one with the freezer in the bedroom? It is a very cute…

  • Buying a Home, part one: Looking at Houses (19 comments)

    GRS-reader Luneray is in the process of buying her first home. I’ve been following her weblog with interest, as I well-remember the stress from the two times my wife and I purchased a house. Here, with permission, I am reprinting the first installment of her Seattle homebuying adventure. Oscar and I made a big leap into True Adulthood today. We’ve decided to buy a house, and we spent the afternoon with a realtor. Unfortunately, we…

  • 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…

  • Housing Bubble: Reading Between the For-Sale Signs (19 comments)

    Yesterday Jason Kottke linked to a graph of American home values from 1890 to present. It’s shocking. It’s one thing to hear that the U.S. is in the midst of a housing bubble, but it’s another thing to see a visual representation. Adjusted for inflation, homes are currently selling for about twice their historical value. Click image to view larger version in a new window. Graph © NYT. This graph is from a recent New…

  • Programmable Thermostats: A Three-Month Review (17 comments)

    How much can a programmable thermostat save you? A lot, says Adam Gurno. His is the first guest-post while I’m on vacation Due to the rising cost of, well, everything, my wife and I decided to make some changes to see if we could save some money. I had always heard that programmable thermostats were an easy way to reduce utility bills, so I took the plunge and bought one. Then I sat down and…

  • Extreme Personal Finance: How to Pay Off Your Mortgage in Three Years (31 comments)

    Most people who accelerate their mortgage make one extra payment a year. Maybe two. Or they refinance a thirty-year mortgage at fifteen years. Yahoo! Canada has a story of one couple who paid off their $220,000 mortgage in three years. How did they do it? When I finally finished my master’s degree in 2000, we had a total debt of $52,000 from my student loans. This is when we made the decision that changed everything….

  • Free Web-Based Home Energy Analyzer (0 comment)

    Andrew W. wrote in to share this free home-energy analyzer. This [site] is well done. It walks you through a set of questions about the kind of home you have, your appliances, and your sources of energy/fuel. It’s more helpful for people who live in houses rather than apartments — the level of detail for house-specific questions is impressive, such as whether or not you have a finished basement — but overall it does a…

  • Our First Lesson in the Costs of Homeownership (1 comment)

    This is a true story. My wife and I bought our first house in June of 1993. It was a nice ranch-style house in my home-town. The seller had prepped it for market by keeping the lawn a gorgeous emerald green. He kept it trim and well-watered even until the day we moved in (June 23rd). In this part of Oregon, brown-lawn season begins around June 21st. That is, if you don’t water your lawn…

  • Most Overpriced Housing Markets (4 comments)

    CNNMoney has published a list ranking 100 housing markets according to affordability. Though home prices are beginning to level out in parts of the country, they’re still way too high in other areas. The median home, however, is still overpriced by an average of more than 14 percent, … and homes in many markets are still way too high. This matters because those markets have much more potential for the kind of steep decline that…

  • 25 Cheap Ways to Keep Your House Cooler (1 comment)

    Yesterday I gave some tips on how to keep cool during the summer heat. MoneyCentral has posted 25 ways to keep your house cooler. The article includes advice on getting the most from your air conditioning, including such tips as: open windows and use fans instead of using air conditioners; shade the outside portion of your air conditioner; don’t place things that emit heat near your air conditioner; install shades or awnings. You might also…

  • Cheap Places to Live Rich (4 comments)

    Forbes has a report on 150 cheap places to live. Author Richard Karlgaard points out the obvious: it’s more expensive to live in some places than others. A $4,000,000 home in San Diego might only cost $700,000 in Bend, Oregon. Why hasn’t everyone moved to Bend? Karlgaard contends that most of us are trapped in old ways of thinking, that we believe we must live where we work. Technology is changing that. This is the…

  • Save Money by Switching to Compact Fluorescents (6 comments)

    How much can you save by switching lightbulbs? The Technocrat recently did the math and decided to replace all of his incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. The up-front cost was huge, but he calculated the new bulbs would pay for themselves in just six months. You can get a six-pack [of compact fluorescents] that costs less than $30, with each bulb putting out as much light as a 60 watt bulb, while only using 13…

  • 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…

  • Should You Prepay Your Mortgage? (29 comments)

    You can save tens of thousands of dollars by prepaying your mortgage. But is it a smart move? A CNN Money reader asks expert Walter Updegrave: The psychological freedom of not having a mortgage is very appealing to us, but the argument for trying to invest the extra cash at a higher rate is compelling too. What’s your take on paying off the mortgage early? Surprisingly, this is one financial point on which the experts…

  • Saving Electricity: How to Reduce Your Energy Costs (17 comments)

    How much electricity does your computer use? Your refrigerator? Your washer and dryer? Do you know how to save money on water heating costs? Michael Bluejay‘s guide to saving electricity answers these questions and more. Bluejay calls himself “Mr. Electricity” — the title is apt! My guide on Saving Electricity gives you a bit more than you might get elsewhere. I explain exactly what a kilowatt hour is and how much you pay for one….

  • 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…

  • Workshops and Craft Rooms (0 comment)

    Phil at the Make Blog is hosting an informal best workshop contest. There’s a Flickr pool for submitting workshop photos. Natalie, Make’s “crafts maker”, also found a set of craft room photos. These pictures are fun to browse — it’s great to see what other people build and create. Frugal folks love to make things. Learning to do-it-yourself is an important part of living with less. My workshop doesn’t get as much use as it…

  • Housing: Rent vs. Buy Calculator (6 comments)

    Should you buy or rent? That’s a question we each face at some point. It doesn’t always make sense to buy. Depending on your location, your marital status, your income level, how long you intend to live in a particular location, and a handful of other variables, renting may actually make more sense than purchasing a home. Here’s a web-based rent vs. buy calculator that can help you play with different scenarios. I used the…

  • How to Slash Summer Energy Costs (1 comment)

    SmartMoney has some ideas on how to save money on energy this summer. Typically, the average household spends $1,400 a year on electricity and gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But you can expect that amount to jump this year — by as much as 120%, warns Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. To save money, SmartMoney suggests that you: Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances. Energy-efficient appliances are generally more expensive, but…

  • Quick and Easy Yellow-Jacket Trap (1 comment)

    Just in time for summer, here’s a quick and easy way to deal with the hoards of yellow jackets that are just waiting for you to grill those steaks on a warm evening. This trap can be built from stuff you have around the house. And a piece of fish. You will need: A dish pan or wash basin. A tablespoon of liquid dish soap (preferably unscented). Three sticks about a foot long. A couple…

  • Why a 50-Year Mortgage is a Bad Idea (1 comment)

    I hope that most people understand that an extra-long mortgage is a fool’s game. If not, check out 50-Year Mortgages: No Shelter for the Strapped at Yahoo! Finance. Author Laura Rowley hits the nail on the head: A few lenders in California recently introduced 50-year adjustable-rate mortgages. The headline on the USA Today story was: “Need to keep house payments low? Try a 50-year mortgage.” This may be the worst possible way to portray this…

  • Quick and Easy Self-Watering Garden Planters (1 comment)

    The Make Blog has a quick-and-easy tip for all of you frugal home gardeners: how to make self-watering planters from old milk jugs. Awesome in its simplicity and utility. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back outside to plant my watermelon and to water my peas, peppers, and corn…

  • What I Wish I Knew Then About Home Buying (5 comments)

    Laura Rowley at Yahoo! Finance has written an excellent piece on buying a house. I felt inspired to write a letter to the home buyer I was four years ago, when I purchased my first single-family home with no small amount of dread and foreboding. Rowley offers opinions and advice on a wide range of subjects. She would tell her younger self that: The real estate agent works for you; don’t be afraid to ask…

Compare Mortgage Rates for Virginia

 Amount
$
 State
 Loan Term
 Loan Type

4.064% APR

30 Yr. Fixed

3.990% Rate

$715 / month (est)

GO

Updated 10/30/2014

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  • Low rates. Learn more now.

4.120% APR

30 Yr. Fixed

3.875% Rate

$705 / month (est)

GO

Updated 10/30/2014

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  • Free 60-day rate lock and no application fee

3.766% APR

30 Yr. Fixed

3.500% Rate

$674 / month (est)

GO

Updated 10/30/2014

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  • All Lender & 3rd Party Fees Guaranteed, per Online GFE!

4.082% APR

30 Yr. Fixed

3.875% Rate

$705 / month (est)

GO

Updated 10/30/2014

  • Competitive rates and no hidden fees
  • One dedicated mortgage banker from first call to closing
  • Simple, straightforward process

4.465% APR

30 Yr. Fixed

4.180% Rate

$732 / month (est)

GO

Updated 10/30/2014

  • We close our loans FAST - many in 30 days or less!
  • Rates are still historically low! Lock in a low rate and payment today.
  • Why pay more for your home than you have to? Check out rates now.

The advertised rates were submitted by each individual lender/broker on the date indicated. Rate/APR terms offered by advertisers may differ from those listed above based on the creditworthiness of the borrower and other differences between an individual loan and the loan criteria used for the quotes. More Info.. These quotes are from banks, thrifts and brokers who have paid for a link to their website in the listings above and you can find additional information about their loan programs on their websites.