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Money Hacks


  • YNAB App Review: Serious Budgeting Power (7 comments)

    Money and Budgeting App Reviews 2016-2017: You Need a Budget If you’re ready to account for where every cent of your money goes, You Need a Budget could work for you. The app is based on the premise of “giving every dollar a job,” meaning you budget for every expense — fixed, discretionary or otherwise. Want to buy a new purse or pair of shoes? If your monthly clothing budget is $100, then you may…

  • What’s your best personal finance tip? (81 comments)
    This article is by editor Linda Vergon.

    We started a project on our Facebook page a couple days ago. We asked the scrimpers and savers to give us their best personal finance tip — and, so far, a few people have offered their advice: “The early bird gets the worm.” “Stop eating out.” “Buy what you need, not what you want – and never what society tells you you want!” “Ditch cable/satellite, make meal…

  • 5 ways to keep your financial information safer from hackers (19 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle.

    Hey, do you mind if I try to guess one of your passwords? No? Okay, how about “123456″ or “password”? Maybe “Max123″ or “Bella2011″? Although I hope no Get Rich Slowly readers are using any of these passwords currently, “123456″ and “password” are among the most common passwords chosen. And “Max” and “Bella”? Those are some of the most popular pet names; and since pet names…

  • Free online background check — Could a specialty consumer report be costing you? (10 comments)

    This article is by Suba Iyer, who currently writes for FiveCentNickel.com. Ever wonder why you had to pay a deposit to get your utilities turned on when your friend didn’t? Have you noticed that the health insurance premiums for two self-employed people can be different? Well, there are consumer reporting companies in many industries that “… collect information and provide reports on consumers that are used to decide whether to provide consumers credit, insurance, or…

  • How I use negative feelings about finances to my advantage (14 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong.

    I have never had much patience for dwelling. Time is a limited resource and I want to use it in the best possible way. Dwelling is a waste. I also have little patience for sweeping things under the rug and pretending to be happy when I’m not. Ignoring a problem is a great way to ensure it will come back to haunt you later. Plus, in…

  • Improve your negotiation skills with BATNA (21 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Sam. Sam spent 13 years working in Equities on Wall Street and discusses financial independence strategies on Financial Samurai. Sam is also the founder of the Yakezie Network, the largest personal finance blog network on the web. If you want to know how to get the best deal possible, learn this simple acronym: BATNA. “BATNA” stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.” Often times the bulk of money…

  • How to negotiate when you hate negotiating (19 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need to go negotiate. In an ideal world, the weather would be perfect, there would be no war, and your employer would simply say, “Hey, your value to our company has increased. Here’s ten thousand dollars.” If only, right? When it comes to earning more, negotiating is usually a necessary part of the equation. The negotiating masters among us have a serious leg…

  • Ask the Readers: Do you stress-test your finances? (23 comments)

    This article is by editor Linda Vergon. As J.D. Roth put it, “Failure is okay.” We all experience it, and we each have to figure out how to deal with it. Some people even study it. In fact, studying failure is a very productive thing to do. A stress-test can be used to study failure in a proactive sense. It can help predict how and when failure will occur within the confines of a safe,…

  • Money challenges: Why I’m OK with them, and a few of my favorites (52 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. I’m not usually a fan of gimmicks. But if the sole purpose of a gimmick is to save some extra cash, I guess I’m OK with it. We talked about this recently, but there seems to be a heightened interest in frugality lately. Maybe that’s why I’ve noticed a whole crop of money-saving challenges popping up all over the Internet, from personal finance blogs to Pinterest. And then,…

  • 8 hacks to help you keep your resolutions (35 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. When I was in the first stage of personal finance, I had two obvious goals: Pay off my credit card Save $10,000 for an emergency fund It was by no means easy. But, I had a plan, and I hit my goal, and it felt so great. And then I set another goal: automatic deposits into a Roth IRA. And I did that too, gaining more confidence and…

  • Spare change: Spending studies, money hacks, and Tina Turner (23 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. I tried to finish my Christmas shopping early, both to avoid crowds and to save money. For instance, my gift to my youngest niece was a baking kit. The girl watches Cake Boss religiously, and every time I see her, she immediately asks if we can bake cupcakes, which she will then douse with sprinkles. So my husband and I bought her the really good baking stuff,…

  • Ask the Readers: Which Concepts Have Contributed Most to Your Financial Success? (57 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. Over the past few months, I’ve been brainstorming ideas about future book projects. It’s been four years since I started writing Your Money: The Missing Manual, and I’m eager to delve deeper into the subject of personal finance….

  • Reader Stories: 5 money-savvy tips for recovering from a divorce (13 comments)

    This story comes from reader Julia Lawrence. Julia thoroughly enjoys writing about finances, pop culture and selling diamonds! When she isn’t hard at work writing, she spends her time wither with an absolutely adorable Mini Golden Retriever, Jake, and her [new] husband, Mr. Julia Lawrence. Follow Jules at Google+ & @DiamondLining. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with…

  • Reader Stories: The shocking truth about medical bills that can save you thousands (241 comments)

    This reader story is by a longtime GRS reader Sumitha from afineparent.com, a blog founded on the simple belief that “Good Parents Are Made, Not Born.” 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. How much would you think it would cost to…

  • How to save money on vet bills (62 comments)

    A few years ago, a little orange cat showed up on my front porch, and I fed him. You can probably guess what happened next. Yep, he never left. But as with any “free” pet, Hans cost a lot of money. This was especially true in the beginning when we had to have him neutered and vaccinated. We also paid for a six-month supply of flea treatment. Then, Hans injured his paw. It swelled to…

  • Reader Stories: Adventures in negotiating (34 comments)

    This post from Cortney Jansen. Cortney is 29, works as an engineer in the Bay Area and has been reading GRS for a couple of years now. She’s in the third stage of personal finance: debt-free and trying to figure out the best balance for multiple savings goals. This post is part of the Reader Stories series. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or…

  • Reader Story: How I Use Superfrugality Month to Curb Lifestyle Inflation (52 comments)

    This guest post from Marisa Bell-Metereau 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. Every year in February, once the holidays are over and life is slowly returning to normal, my boyfriend and I…

  • How to Buy Brand Name Items at Generic Brand Prices (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from Halina Zakowicz of Your Money and Debt. Like many of you, I’m always looking to save money on brand name items. Aside from drug prescriptions, generics have just never quite “done it” for me — the generic soda I bought went gone flat in hours, the generic toilet paper I’ve purchased has either shred in my hands or never come off the roll, and the generic snack items I’ve…

  • Free Money from Banks! (But Watch the Fine Print) (53 comments)

    This post is from 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. I earned $200 in less than an hour the other day, without removing any of my clothes. A bank gave me the money (or will, a few months from now) in exchange for opening a business checking account. Why would a bank or a credit union…

  • The Mighty Power of the Lowly Coin Jar (or, How I Saved $723 in Seven Months Without Effort) (136 comments)

    This guest post is from Danny Iny, an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the program that teaches expert marketing for non-marketers. If you like what you read here, check out his free video course or follow him on Twitter. In January, I started an experiment, a savings experiment. The experiment was designed to save money for my “emergency cushion” account without feeling the loss from my pocket or budget. I figured…

  • A Primer on Finding Unclaimed Property (74 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. Finding free money lying around with your name on it seems a little too good to be true, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought when I learned about Missing Money, a website that offers to help you track down unclaimed property that may belong to you. Sometimes free money is for real, though. The site is…

  • My Financial Roadmap and Making Course Corrections (58 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. One of the hazards of blogging is that you can’t always be right. When you’re wrong, you get to be wrong in front of a lot of people. Which can be embarrassing — but also a great learning experience. In April, I wrote about my “frugal” decision to let my broken shower languish, and the critical…

  • A Penny Saved is a Penny Spurned? What to Do with Pockets Full of Change (176 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes a personal finance column for MSN Money. She also writes about frugality, intentional living, and life in general at her own blog, Surviving And Thriving. I regularly empty the change from my wallet. Pennies, nickels and dimes go into a pink piggy bank. Quarters go into “Mr. Nest Egg,” a bank shaped like Humpty Dumpty. The quarters are for when I finally get around…

  • 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…

  • Nine Lessons in Wealth-Building from The Millionaire Next Door (103 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. Want to become a millionaire? Then perhaps you should start by studying the behaviors of people who have done it. But don’t worry – you don’t need to stop the next Mercedes you see…

  • How to Take Control of Your Finances in 2011 (58 comments)

    The new year is upon us! I’ve talked to a lot of folks lately who have resolved to make this the year they get out of debt. Or start an emergency fund. Or earn more money. These resolutions don’t mean a whit, though, if you don’t have a plan. For the past five years, I’ve shared the following road map, adding one new tip every January. Many GRS readers have used this info to plot…

  • Getting Paid to Tell Lies: Mystery Shopping as a Frugal Hack (61 comments)

    This post is from new GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes the Living With Less personal finance column for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. Two persistent rumors about mystery shopping: It’s a scam. It’s not a scam — and you can get rich doing it! Allow me to set these rumors to rest: Mystery shopping is not a scam. (Well, sometimes it is. More on that…

  • Finding Financial Benchmarks and Milestones (116 comments)

    In last Wednesday’s link round-up, I pointed to an article over at Gen-Y Wealth in which RJ has listed 20 financial milestones you should reach in your twenties. “I like this list,” I wrote, “and I’d actually love to see similar lists for different age ranges. People could use it as a sort of road map to where they ought to be.” What sorts of milestones were on the list? Things like: Pay off your…

  • Money Magic That Really Works (16 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. It’s Halloween, the season of ghosts, ghouls, and witches! To celebrate, I thought I’d share a little money magic with you that really works. It’s an old Southern folk magic spell called Money Stay With Me. This version is adapted from Cat Yronwood at Lucky Mojo, a hoodoo shop in California. This…

  • How to Replace Six Vital Documents (29 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. Could you produce your birth certificate, car title, or an old tax return at a moment’s notice? You’re supposed to store vital documents in a fireproof box or keep them in a safe-deposit box, but how many of us actually do that? We may not need these papers often, but when we do need them, we really need them. You need vital documents to sell your…

  • How to Find Unclaimed Money (and Unclaimed Property) (79 comments)

    July 21st was the fifteenth anniversary of my father’s death. He died of cancer at age 49, just ten days shy of his fiftieth birthday. When Dad died, he left behind a meager estate. Aside from the custom box business (which, admittedly, was not “meager”), he managed to leave each family member with $5,000 in life insurance proceeds, and that’s about it. His personal finance skills had never been great, and that included estate planning….

  • How to Safeguard Your Social Security Number (57 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. In articles about how to prevent identity theft, I’ve often read that one should never give out his or her social security number (SSN) unless absolutely necessary. That sounds like good common sense. But I recently found myself asking, in what situations is it actually necessary? I’ve mentioned that my husband and I own land on which we are starting to build a home. The land…

  • Ask the Readers: Methods for Effective Money Management? (132 comments)

    On Monday I confessed that since I stopped tracking my spending, I’ve actually had some trouble paying my bills. It’s not that I don’t have the money — I have plenty! — but that I no longer have a system in place to remind myself to take care of routine financial tasks. Quicken was my system, and when I stopped using it, order vanished. In the comments on Monday’s post, Rob Bennett made an astute…

  • Taking Care of Business: Expense Reimbursement (53 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. Most employees have to submit expense reports at some point — be it for out-of-town travel, client dinners, special events, or other expenses you incur due to your job responsibilities. Keeping track of these expenses is important, otherwise you’re losing money while on the job and probably not endearing yourself to your company’s finance department, which relies on accurate records and timely reports from employees. It…

  • Save Money by Carrying a Water Bottle (63 comments)

    I’ve intended to begin featuring entries from the recent GRS video contest, but things keep getting in the way. Let’s change that! Starting today, I’ll use Saturdays to highlight some of my favorites, both winners and not-winners. To begin, here’s a tip that didn’t win a prize. Austin from Foreigner’s Finances is teaching English in Japan. He says that one of his favorite ways to save money is to always carry a water bottle with…

  • Get Kitchen Gadgets for Less at the Local Restaurant Supply Store (24 comments)

    My pal Chris Guillebeau is out of town on another one of his around-the-world jaunts. While he’s living the high life in Equatorial Guinea, his wife Jolie (the artist behind my Kermit painting) is left to entertain herself here in Portland. What does she choose to do? While away her hours with me and Kris. On a whim, yesterday the three of us made a trip to the local restaurant supply store. This wasn’t my…

  • Busting the Myths: Why Coupons Are a Valuable Part of Your Financial Arsenal (112 comments)

    J.D. is on vacation in Alaska. This is a guest post from Tara Kuczykowski, who is introducing the basics of couponing to a new generation of coupon clippers through her money-saving blog, Deal-Seeking Mom. Tara is teaching readers across the U.S. how to stretch their budgets in order to make room for occasional splurges. Living the good life while spending less is possible with just a little effort! I was a deal seeker long before…

  • New from the IRS! Use Your Tax Refund to Buy Savings Bonds (29 comments)

    Here’s something cool I learned at Mapgirl’s Fiscal Challenge. Apparently you can now use your tax refund to automatically buy I-series bonds from the U.S. government. As recently as three years ago, I was a huge fan of tax refunds. Despite the arguments against them, I liked getting a tax refund because it was the only way I’d found to save. I’m able to save on my own now, so I no longer aim to…

  • Reader Tip: Pay Your Bills as They Arrive (99 comments)

    Andy sent me a tip by e-mail the other day. This isn’t long enough to be a reader story, but I think it’ll be useful advice for some GRS readers. Andy says he’s learned that if he pays his bills as they arrive, he feels a lot less stressed than if he puts them off to the end of the month. When he got his first credit card, Andy made a habit of paying his…

  • 9 Sneaky Expenses That Eat Away at Your Income (58 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker is a founding member of Untemplater.com, a new multi-author blog focusing on personal finance, entrepreneurship, and life design for people in their 20′s and 30′s. Few concepts have had as great an impact on my family’s financial decision-making as learning how to calculate our real hourly wage. The concept was introduced by (or at least popularized by) the amazing book, Your Money or Your Life. This book…

  • 10 Steps to Financial Success in 2010 (51 comments)

    Ah, the new year. The perfect time to get your life back on track. If one of your goals for 2010 is to take control of your finances, this crash course in financial basics can help guide the way. Here are ten simple but effective steps you can take to build a better financial future. Step #1: Track every penny you spend The authors of Your Money or Your Life urge readers to “keep track…

  • How I Cut my Comcast Cable Bill by 33% (Without Losing Any Service) (254 comments)

    Last week, I wrote that you can negotiate anything. This guest post by G.E. Miller gives a real-life example of using negotiation to save money. For more from G.E., check out his personal finance blogs 20somethingfinance.com and microfrugality.com. For the third of the country who has no choice but to turn to Comcast for cable television, the thought of price haggling is about as appealing as a root canal. Comcast has a notorious reputation for…

  • 9 Ways You Can Knock the Socks off Your Next Landlord (47 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…

  • Green Sherpa: An Online Cash-Flow Management Tool (21 comments)

    A couple of months ago, I posted a list of 16 alternatives to Microsoft Money. GRS readers left nearly 200 responses evaluating the various personal finance programs available on the web and for the desktop. One feature that many users crave is the ability to project their future cash flow. While it’s important to track where your money’s gone, some folks find it valuable to predict where money will go in the weeks or months…

  • How to Earn Free Plane Tickets and Cash Back by Shopping Online (100 comments)

    This is a guest post from April Dykman, an avid GRS reader, and a writer and editor by trade. April is a potential Staff Writer for Get Rich Slowly. In her first article, April described how she discovered freedom from mindless spending. April is an active commenter at this site. When my husband and I went to Italy in 2006, we spent $2500 on plane tickets. We’re planning to spend much less for our next…

  • Online banking: Choices for higher interest rates and increased security (86 comments)

    In its July 2009 issue, Consumer Reports Money Adviser published a brief overview of the best online banking options according to their research. “Online banking, despite a rocky start, is becoming the rule rather than the exception,” the article says, noting that online banking can net savers better interest rates and increased security. I’d love to be able to point you to an online version of this article, but none exists. And I’m not about…

  • Prepaid Cell Phones Can Save You Money (148 comments)

    Last week, I spoke with personal-finance writer Greg Karp about how young adults can save money. We brainstormed ideas for one of his upcoming newspaper columns. “I’m willing to bet that many young people can save money by cutting back on their cell phone,” I said. “It’s kind of shocking how these have become a Need instead of a Want.” “Yeah,” Karp said. “And what about prepaid phones?” “I don’t know anything about them,” 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…

  • The Per-Diem System: An Easy Way to Budget Your Spending Money (54 comments)

    This is a guest post from Spencer, a GRS reader in New York. As a guy who just finished paying off $14,000 in credit card debt, I wanted to share one tip that helped me get over the bad debt hump. I allocate my spending money on a per diem system. At the beginning of each cycle of my monthly budget, I set aside funds for: Every fixed expense that I have (rent, cable/internet, groceries,…

  • WhiteFence Helps You Find Deals on Utilities (37 comments)

    I’m a huge advocate of calling your utilities to ask for rate reductions. But some people are uncomfortable making these sorts of calls. It would be helpful if these folks had a way of using the internet to find better deals. WhiteFence is a web-based service that allows users to do just that. From the about page: WhiteFence is a free service that helps people who are moving or looking to find the best deals…

  • Continuous Service? Dumb Moves from Smart Money (314 comments)

    As part of my ongoing effort to bring you interesting and informative personal-finance information, I subscribe to several magazines, including Smart Money. Smart Money isn’t my favorite money magazine, but it has some useful articles. In 2005, I paid $20 to subscribe to Smart Money for two years. In 2007, I paid $20 to subscribe for another two years. Today I received my latest issue, which included this wrap-around “cover” announcing that “as part of…

  • Safe Money in Tough Times: Questions and Answers with Jonathan Pond (58 comments)

    My wife is a public broadcasting fanatic. I recognize its value, but mostly I just tolerate it. (I often joke that NPR is “noise pollution radio” — I can’t think when it’s on.) Usually the television pledge breaks annoy me, but one night last week, the local station employed a clever tactic. They had a financial expert answer viewer questions between pleas for more money. Jonathan Pond bills himself as “America’s financial planner”. He runs…

  • 25 Useful Financial Rules of Thumb (100 comments)

    Lately I’ve found myself using more and more financial rules of thumb. A rule of thumb is a general guideline, an easy way to approximate a value quickly. It’s not meant to be completely accurate. On a whim this weekend, I gathered together many of the general rules I’ve been using, as well as several others I found online. Thanks to those who follow me on Twitter, who also contributed suggestions. For example, @FourPillars wrote,…

  • Save on Cell Phones with Employee and Student Discounts (48 comments)

    Consumer Reports is one of my favorite personal-finance magazines, and for a variety of reasons. Not only does it help readers find quality products at great prices, but it also gives tips for saving money by changing behavior. Even the CR letter column is great! For example, in the most recent issue (March 2009), there’s a letter from Richard Guibilo that offers a tip for saving money on cell phones: Your January report “Best Cell-Phone…

  • Ask the Readers: Are Local Banks Better Than Big Banks? (109 comments)

    Personal finance is about more than just money. People make financial choices because of emotion, of course, but they also make decisions based on their principles. Some people are guided by their faith. But that’s not the only way a person’s conscience can guide him. Josh recently wrote with a question about finding a bank that better matches his personal philosophy: I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the economic crisis, and about the…

  • How to Compute Your REAL Hourly Wage (39 comments)

    Like many Get Rich Slowly readers, I credit Your Money or Your Life with changing the way I approach my personal finances. This book transformed my relationship with money, and helped me to understand that by spending beyond my means, I was sacrificing a secure future for today’s passing pleasures. One of the book’s key insights is that time really is money. Or, approaching it from the other direction, money is time. The authors write:…

  • 10 Unconventional Money-Saving Tips (65 comments)

    For me, the hardest part about learning to save was changing my relationship with money. I understood intellectually that I needed to spend less than I earned, and I could see the debt accumulating as I spent, but money management isn’t just about knowing the math. It’s mostly about knowing yourself. It’s about building self-discipline, and about learning to see money in new ways. While browsing at Passion Saving the other day, I discovered an…

  • Ask the Readers: Should I Chase Higher Interest Rates? (88 comments)

    Almost eighteen months ago, I wrote a post listing the best on-line high-yield savings accounts. Over 750 comments later, the discussion is still going strong. Kyle recently chimed in with a question many people have: In January, before I started reading Get Rich Slowly, I opened a high-yield investor checking account with Charles Schwab. The interest rate was around 3.75%, but it’s fallen to 2% now. After starting to read your site, I decided to…

  • Use a No-Spend Month to Become Mindful of Money (45 comments)

    Yesterday, Amy Jo pointed me to a site called SmallNotebook.org where Rachel is nearing the end of a self-imposed No-Spend Month. Though the name is something of a misnomer — this exercise is more of a Spend Less Month — it’s still an interesting concept. For the entire month of July, Rachel’s family of three set a budget of $250 to spend on food, gas, clothing, household items, and entertainment. They’re doing this “to stretch…

  • Turning $5 into Thousands (62 comments)

    I love to read about the little tricks people use to force themselves to save money. Apparently I’m not the only one. Yesterday Jeff sent me a brief story from The Boston Globe that describes how Marie Franklin saves every five dollar bill she receives. She’s been doing this for three years, and in that time she’s managed to save $12,000. She writes: This idea will only work if you are disciplined. When I decided…

  • How to Avoid Bank Overdraft Fees (45 comments)

    Last fall, I discovered my Quicken data file from the mid-1990s. It contains all my transactions from 01 January 1995 until 06 April 1998. There are many fascinating insights to be gleaned from my crazy spending a decade ago, but as I was looking through my checkbook register, one thing in particular stood out. Before nearly every paycheck, my bank balance would dwindle to $12.33 or $7.14 or something similar. When I was paid, the…

  • Subscribe to Craigslist Search Results to Grab Great Deals (26 comments)

    You’ve been watching Craigslist for a good deal on a hedge trimmer, but you just aren’t having any luck. By the time you find a good listing, it’s been up for an hour and the HedgeHog XR is long gone. You could sit and refresh the farm+garden category constantly, but that’s a waste of time. (Besides, what would your boss think?) Fortunately, there’s a better way. Did you know it’s also possible to watch Craigslist…

  • Personal Finance Made Easy: Pay Yourself First (84 comments)

    Yesterday I shared some financial tips my father gave me when I was a sophomore in college. He didn’t stop there. After I graduated, he continued to offer advice. One of the things he told me was, “Pay yourself first.” To explain, he gave me a copy of George Clason’s 1926 classic, The Richest Man in Babylon. I didn’t read it. In retrospect, I ought to have been a little less stubborn. It took years…

  • The Benefits of Barter (24 comments)

    This is a guest post from Andréa Coutu. So you’ve got big ideas but no way to pay for them: a home renovation, weekend getaway, successful business, dream dinner date, leaner body, new bedroom suite…the list goes on and on. Maybe your bank account has seen better days, or maybe you just don’t want to tie up more money in pursuing a dream. Well, money is just one medium of exchange. By using barter, you…

  • My Paperless Personal Finance System: A Work in Progress (128 comments)

    Last summer, as a part of my quest to get rid of clutter, I began to move toward paperless personal finance. I had planned to share my system only once I’d perfected it, but yesterday Daniel e-mailed to ask for a glimpse of its current state. To go paperless, you might need a scanner (or some other way to convert your documents to digital files). I also recommend using a shredder to dispose of paperwork….

  • Use a Freedom Account to Prepare for the Unexpected (54 comments)

    My wife has always maintained a sizable savings account, but having extra cash is new to me. Until recently, I had always lived paycheck-to-paycheck, often treading close to a zero dollar balance in my checkbook for months at a time. Now, though, I’ve not only established an emergency account, but set up a couple of targeted accounts as well. (One is for vacations, and the other is for a new car.) My method works for…

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

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

  • Missing Money: Finding Unclaimed Property (43 comments)

    On Monday, I received a strange letter in the mail. It was addressed to my father, but sent to my home. My father has been dead for twelve years, and he never saw the house we live in now. The letter purports to be a settlement of some sort of $400 annuity. (I’m unclear on the details and don’t have it with me right now.) Though I’m deeply skeptical that this is anything but a…

  • 8 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances in 2008 (60 comments)

    The new year is a time for goals and resolutions. If one of your goals in 2008 is to take control of your money (instead of letting it keep control of you), this crash course in financial basics can help guide the way. Here’s a summary of everything I’ve learned about personal finance. Track every penny you spend The authors of Your Money or Your Life admonish readers to “keep track of every cent that…

  • Is a 6.25% Checking Account the Best Deal in Portland? (48 comments)

    I’m a recent convert to the world of online high-yield savings accounts. Now that I have my debt paid off, I can finally afford to save some money. It was difficult for me to choose an account: Should I go with the highest interest rate? Or should I opt for the best customer service? I’m not a rate-chaser, so I chose ING Direct. Their current 4.10% rate is lower than most places, but I’ve heard…

  • How to Buy and Sell Gift Cards (14 comments)

    Did you get a lot of gift cards for Christmas? Would you rather have cash? Would you rather have a card for another store? Richard O. Johnson at the fascinating Beyond Barter has created a page highlighting smart gift card strategies: how to best acquire or dispose of them. This page offers a wealth of sound, practical tips about gift cards, including information on: Why you should beware of bank gift cards Gift card traps…

  • Paycheck and Withholding Calculators for Year-End Money Moves (14 comments)

    Ah, winter. It’s the time of year that a young man’s thoughts turn to taxes. It used to be that I would rough out our tax situation as soon as the forms became available. Because I insisted on having too much withheld from my paycheck, I was anxious to know how large my tax refund would be. (This was the only way I could make myself save.) Paycheck calculator Next year my financial situation will…

  • Gift Card Tips and Tricks (33 comments)

    This morning’s post on the pros and cons of gift cards generated some great discussion. GRS readers seem fairly evenly divided on the topic. Some of you like gift cards, but many do not. My favorite parts of the conversation were the various gift card hacks people shared: Greg noted “You can frequently get 90-105% of the cash value of a gift card on eBay. For example: here and here.” I’ll suggest this to my…

  • Money Hack: Prepay Your Monthly Bills (75 comments)

    Note: While I think this is a good idea, it’s clear that many readers strongly disagree. Before deciding whether to try this, please read the arguments in opposition. Earlier this year, on a whim, I did something a little odd: instead of just paying my monthly cable and internet bills, I wrote large checks, pre-paying for several months of service. I didn’t have a reason for doing it at the time. I had a momentary…

  • A Brief Overview of Estate Planning Software (22 comments)

    It’s that spooky haunted time of year — my annual post about estate planning! Last year I shared a brief guide to creating a will. Today I’m going to look at a recent New York Times article by Christine Larson that provides an overview of will preparation software. Larson writes, “Recently, the increasing sophistication of software and services for estate planning, combined with growing consumer comfort with online financial management, has led to a boom…

  • A Quick Trick for Tracking Credit Card Expenses in Quicken (30 comments)

    Some readers are worried about my change in stance regarding credit cards. Misuse of best rewards credit card was the chief reason I came to be buried in debt. For years after coming to my senses, the only way for me to cope with credit cards was not to have one. I still believe that this is the proper course of action for anyone who hasn’t gained control of her finances, and I would never…

  • How to Find Great Deals on eBay (29 comments)

    My friend Lisa is something of an eBay addict. I’ll be at her house admiring something or other and she’ll smile confidentially and whisper, “I got it off eBay.” She recently showed up at a dinner party wearing a smart cocktail dress. When the other women admired it she smiled confidentially and whispered, “I got it off eBay.” At Christmas she made some crafty little things that amazed and delighted the recipients. When we asked…

  • Best yard sale checklist: The ultimate guide to garage sale prep (61 comments)
    This article is by contributor Lisa Aberle.

    Have you ever hosted a yard sale with dismal sales? You made a dollar per hour for your efforts. No fun. If you want to add to your savings account or start an emergency fund by throwing a yard sale, use these tips to host an epic event. Yard Sale Tip Sections Define your goal Scheduling your sale Merchandise Differentiate your event Advertising Supplies Pricing Staging Avoiding…

  • Track Your Spending with a Cash Notebook (25 comments)

    I had dinner with my friend TJ tonight. He paid for his meal with cash. After we’d settled the check, he pulled out a small spiral notebook and jotted down some numbers. “What’s that?” I asked. “I’ve started using a notebook to keep track of what I spend,” he told me. “Whenever I pay in cash, I write it down. Otherwise I don’t have any idea where it goes.” “That’s a great idea,” I said….