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Real-Life


  • Preventing failure before it is an option (29 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. When I wrote an article about poverty, I wasn’t sure where Brandon and Leah, the two people I shared about, would be in the next few months. I needn’t have wondered. Turns out, nothing has changed. Despite receiving money from various people for rent, access to free babysitting, and bags of groceries, the last few months have been peppered with evictions, arrests, jail, and now prison. Unfortunately, I…

  • 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…

  • A guide to managing your fear of money (23 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. My first year of high school, I was looking for an easy, goof-off elective — a class that would allow me to take a break in between Geometry and English, and maybe catch up on some magazines or take a quick nap. “Debate” sounded right up my half-assed alley. On the first day of class, I was told we’d have to attend tournaments, in which we’d debate…

  • Deals on wheels: Should you buy your child a car? (82 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. As far as I know, only one reader of Get Rich Slowly knows me personally. And last week, I was having lunch with my one-person fan club. (Actually, I am not sure she’s even a fan, but she did buy my lunch. Thanks, Lisa!) “You really stirred up some controversy with one of your recent posts,” Lisa said, a forkful of salad in hand. “You must mean…

  • Gratitude is good for your soul … and your finances (19 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. I’ll admit it. When I lost work last year, a tiny sense of entitlement crept up on me. Okay, maybe it was more than tiny. On the outside, I told people: “I just feel like I deserve a good job, you know?” On the inside, I thought: Why the $%^@ don’t I have a good job? I’m awesome. My awesomeness, however, is irrelevant. Sometimes these things just happen….

  • One year later: The benefits and tragedies of self-employment (76 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Almost exactly a year ago today, I quit my full-time job to pursue my passion — writing. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, but it was also terrifying. I had spent the last six years working alongside my husband, a mortician, in the funeral industry. My job certainly wasn’t perfect; but it was stable, well-paying, and sometimes fun. I also loved the people…

  • More on how to stop buying clothes you never wear (48 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. More than four years ago, I wrote a post for Get Rich Slowly about how to stop buying clothes you never wear. I wasn’t sure how it would go over, to be honest. We don’t discuss fashion much in our little corner of the Internet, and I also worried about being judged for my sordid, non-frugal past. But it was a problem I’d had struggled with, and it…

  • My year-long quest to create a guide to mastering money (25 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 how to be happy. “How would you like to write an Unconventional Guide?” my friend Chris Guillebeau asked me last spring. As long-time readers know, I’ve joined Chris to travel across the U.S. by train, travel across Norway by train, and produce the first three editions…

  • Another visit with the real Millionaire Next Door (16 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 how to be happy. It was sunny last Friday afternoon, so I decided to go for a ride. Because Kim has been riding motorcycles all her life, I took a training class last August and now own a used Honda Rebel. When the weather’s nice in…

  • The 10 habits of financially successful people (39 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 relationship between action and fear. A couple of weeks ago, a reporter from Kiplinger interviewed me about financial habits. “Do you think there are specific habits that make certain people more successful with money than others?” she asked. I generally don’t like to make generalizations,…

  • The joy of being average (94 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. When I asked the community whether we have the duty to live up to our potential, many of you balked at the notion of living up to anybody else’s standards but your own….

  • Money lessons I’ve learned since writing for Get Rich Slowly (43 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. For the past year and I half, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing for Get Rich Slowly. That’s not to say it hasn’t been a challenge. Some weeks, I’m completely run down and don’t feel like thinking too hard about anything, much less personal finance. But I do my best to jumpstart my brain and produce something that I hope at least some of you will find useful. Writing…

  • 2014: The year of change (45 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. A few days ago, I received a text message that made me smile. “We signed up for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University,” the message read. “We start right after new year’s day.” The message was from a family friend, a married father of four whose annual household income is close to $200,000, and in the top 5 percent of households in the U.S. according to the New York…

  • Money lessons from the Grinch, Scrooge, and Buddy the Elf (35 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Every December, my husband and I have a Christmas movie marathon. We watch as many holiday movies as we can between December 1 and December 31, which is a fun way to get into the spirit. (Here in Texas, we often have 70-degree days in December, so we have to get into the spirit somehow…) This year, I started thinking about all of the great personal finance…

  • In praise of financial resilience (55 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. I had lunch with my friend Craig a few months ago. Craig is an architect, and he took me on a tour of his company’s offices. “The cool thing about this building,” he told me, “is that it’s especially resilient.” I could tell from the way he said it that the…

  • Lifestyle inflation: Can it be done responsibly? (61 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. Lifestyle inflation gets a bad rap, and understandably so. It’s so darn tempting and so many of us seem to have a serious problem controlling it. But inherently, lifestyle inflation isn’t a bad thing. Lots of Get Rich Slowly readers have made this point, and I agree: if your finances are in order, what’s wrong with treating yourself to a little luxurious lifestyle upgrade? In fact, I’d…

  • Things that babies just don’t need (152 comments)

    Just the other day, I was grocery shopping with my husband and kids when we made an interesting discovery. We were in the baby aisle picking up some diapers for our youngest when my four-year-old picked up a small package and asked me what it was. “What’s this, Mommy?” I picked it up and looked. And looked. And got really confused. “Ummmm…..pacifier wipes?” According to the packaging, they were food-grade pacifier wipes. “What do you do with…

  • How I’m changing my relationship with money (27 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. As a teenager, I had a part-time job that was already mundane and dreadful enough, but then Kelly P. was hired. For whatever reason, Kelly and I were instantly repelled by each other. She thought I was too dorky to bear; I found her voice impossibly grating. She over-pronounced her esses. All it took was one shift. One evening, Kelly and I were stuck together. Alone. For…

  • Reader Story: Free at last (32 comments)

    This guest post is from Mary Newcome. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want to submit your own reader story? Here’s how. I remember what it was like to live in my first apartment at age 17. Although not old enough to legally sign a lease agreement, I guess my full-time employment…

  • How I Sold My Comic Books (and Why) (82 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. It’s fun to meet readers for coffee or lunch. It used to seem a little strange that random strangers knew so much about my life, but nowadays it just makes conversations easier. People always want to know about…

  • Ask the Readers: What personal finance skills should college students learn? (70 comments)

    Last Friday, J.D. asked you what concepts have contributed to your financial success, and you responded with lots of good thoughts. Today, reader D. Post has a question for you about personal finance skills college students should learn. Here’s his situation: GRS, I’ve just about made it through college and am about to start my senior year! I’ve had a fun time at school and still have a good-sized chunk of change in the bank,…

  • Confessions of a former stock broker (47 comments)

    This is a guest post from John S. John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, a husband and a veteran of the financial services industry. He’s passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. Follow him on Twitter. For four and a half years I dragged myself dutifully to a job I was not ideally suited for. I lived for weekends…

  • 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…

  • That time I got hit by a drunk driver (55 comments)

    This post is written by staff writer Kristin Wong. I’ve never liked Sundays. Especially Sunday evenings. They feel like denial to me. It’s like I’m clinging on to the last bit of weekend, and sometimes I actually convince myself that Monday isn’t just a few hours away. But then the shops close early, I realize I can’t stay up late, and there’s no escaping the inevitable: the weekend is over. Sundays are the worst. But one…

  • 4 steps to finding financial improvement (33 comments)

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

  • ‘Fallen Fruit’ and the concept of sharing abundance (32 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Kristin Wong. I was recently reading Lauren Weber’s book, “In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue.” On page 16, I got a little excited: “…www.FallenFruit.org, maps out public fruit trees in Los Angeles and encourages reader to gather up the bounty.” A-whaaa? I jumped out of bed and onto the Internet, where I discovered Fallen Fruit is much, much more than a bunch of maps…

  • Emotional and financial lessons from death (63 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Honey Smith. It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the Honeycomb. First, my husband Jake’s grandfather died. Then, the very next week, we had to put one of our cats down. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about death and how it affects us, both emotionally and financially. Funeral logistics: The flight out Jake’s grandfather was 91, and he is survived by his…

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

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

  • Reader Stories: How I built up the courage to quit a promising career with a six-figure salary (42 comments)

    This reader story is from a longtime GRS reader Sumitha, who blogs at afineparent.com. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want to submit your own reader story? Here’s how. I said goodbye to a promising career with a six-figure salary last month. I have dreamed about this moment for over…

  • Lessons from a widow: The real value of money (67 comments)

    Last year, one of my friends lost her husband. After decades of marriage, they said their final goodbyes. Since I work in a mortuary, I often witness some of the worst days of people’s lives. And that day was no different. My friend’s husband, the father of her children, was gone. No matter what anyone said or did, nothing could change that unfortunate truth. She was sad, but she had embraced the inevitable. My friend…

  • The time I was sent to collections over $4 (32 comments)

    There is an old nursery rhyme about tiny things having major consequences. It’s about a horseback rider who was charged with carrying orders to battle during a war, but the horse’s shoe comes off and the horse goes lame. The end of the nursery rhyme is like this: For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost….

  • Knowing when to be a squeaky wheel (100 comments)

    A few months ago, I decided that I needed new furniture. I didn’t want new furniture. My 3-year-old couch and loveseat were in great condition. On the other hand, I began to realize that I had once again been blurring the lines between being cheap and being frugal. Although my furniture looked nice, it was completely uncomfortable for my back. As someone who has had two spinal fusions, I must be very picky about where…

  • 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…

  • My New Year’s resolution: lowering the bar for happiness (68 comments)

    A blog to which I contribute recently won a contest, and upon finding out, my boyfriend suggested that we celebrate. “Oh, no, it’s not a huge deal,” I told him. “It was just a small contest.” He responded, “But if you wouldn’t have won, you’d be upset, right?” “Yeah,” I admitted. “So why not be happy now?” My friends, I have set the bar for happiness way too high. I’ve made happiness an emotionally expensive…

  • The morality of personal finance (80 comments)

    I was running last Sunday night. I had waited too long to start my run, and it was dark. I’ve taken to using my iPhone to track my runs, because I’m very motivated by the additive nature of all my runs over time. (I’m over 900 miles!) But I don’t like to use the earbuds when running in the city, especially at night, because of the need to stay alert for those pesky fast cars;…

  • Take a deep breath: Letting go of financial stress (31 comments)

    I’ve been reading through some of my old posts and thinking about what I wanted for this, my very-end-of-the-year statement on money. And what I saw was a lot (a lot) of angst and worry and stress. It was appropriate, as I’d spent most of the day in a kind of crazy wound-up worked-up state, getting ready for what should be a lovely, restful retreat with a few friends from my writer’s group. Part of…

  • 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…

  • Ask the Readers: Do you lend money to friends? (108 comments)

    “What’s a little money between friends?” That common question has wrecked more than a few friendships. Reader Alexa (who blogs at Single Moms Income) is in that situation now. She recently sent us a story and a question. Here’s her tale. I moved back home near the end of July where I immediately reconnected with one of my old friends — we’ll call him J — whom I hadn’t seen in several years. In just…

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

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

  • Be thankful for the present amid planning the future (18 comments)

    In 2008, I decided to travel to Europe. I’d never been, and I was just about to make a big change in my career, so the opportunity might not present itself for a while. Thanksgiving fell near the end of my trip, when I was beginning to feel homesick. While eating Moussaka on a patio in Santorini, I missed my family dearly; it was my first Thanksgiving away from home. I pictured the scene at…

  • Jiro Ono to all newbs: Be tough (49 comments)

    I was planning to wrap my review of the documentary about Jiro Ono with a nice, nearly clinical summary of all the extra “lessons” I had managed to extract from the film (one was “surround yourself with other specialists,” another one was “it’s not really about the money” and the last one was “success loves a rebel”). However, life recently gave me a boot to the head in the form of a burglary. Because of…

  • When you just can’t get the important stuff done (38 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. This post is not for those of you who have focused minds and empty “to do” lists. Nay, not for those rarefied people who go to bed knowing that they got just about…

  • Financial enlightenment does not come from charts (52 comments)

    I’ve always looked at websites and apps that purport to solve your financial woes and set you on the path to fiscal happiness with skepticism. It’s not that I think they’re not useful; but I think that making charts and graphs and having the ability to Tweet your receipts is, while fun, not essential to financial health, and sometimes even a distraction. I think of this association as breast self-exams are to breast cancer: useful,…

  • Mutual mooching: How my community saves me money, part one (40 comments)

    One of the greatest assets in my life is a priceless community made up of my friends, family, and other community members. My community is greater than the sum of its parts. Saving me money is just one benefit. Mutual mooching I first read about mutual mooching in Amy Dacyczyn’s “The Complete Tightwad Gazette,” but I paid little attention to it. Doing favors for people and getting favors back? Mmm, no thanks. I hate feeling…

  • Reader Story: I’m Retiring from Get Rich Slowly (69 comments)

    This post from J.D. Roth is part of the reader stories feature at Get Rich Slowly. J.D. founded this site and acted as editor for six-and-a-half years. He now writes at More Than Money. Want to submit your own reader story? Here’s how. First, the short version: I’m officially retiring from Get Rich Slowly. I may write an occasional guest post here, but from today forward, my online home is at More Than Money, where…

  • Reader Story: Go online to raise money-savvy kids (12 comments)

    This post from Doug Lebda is part of the reader stories series. Doug is a personal finance expert, father of three, founder and chairman of Lending Tree, the Lending Tree Foundation and co-founder of Tykoon. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. According…

  • Reader Story: Finding Hope In The Bleakest Of Situations (99 comments)

    This guest post from Sam is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Sam writes at Financial Samurai and is one of the esteemed colleagues with whom I’m exchanging ideas this weekend at the second annual Financial Blogger Conference. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit…

  • Friendships and Financial Inequality (168 comments)

    This article is from staff writer Kristin Wong. A few years ago, I started spending time with a coworker outside of work. She was cool, fun to hang out with, and we had a lot in common. Except income. She worked in a separate department and made significantly more money than I did. Hanging out with her and her friends usually involved dining at fancy restaurants, drinking at fancy bars, and talking about whether we’d…

  • Earning More vs. Spending Less, Round 2: It Takes Money to Make Money (121 comments)

    This is the second installment of a series. The first article can be found here. Last week I spent a thousand bucks on a phone.  I paid full price for it, in cash, no contract.  It’s not the phone I originally intended to buy though. I had first picked a little HTC phone that was cheap and had an old version of Android in it, and it was on sale for $180.  A modest, frugal smartphone.The…

  • 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…

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

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

  • Keeping Your Head During Estate Settlement (30 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jennifer Rose Hale. Hale first shared what to expect when settling an estate, then explained reading the will is not what you expect. Emotions will probably run high during estate settlement. Stopping to think — and setting goals — can help you make the most of any inheritance. Here’s the main problem with doing a “regular” series of pieces about estate settlement: Nothing is regular. You have fits of…

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

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

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

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

  • The Power of Personal Tranformation: Change Your Self, Change the World (116 comments)

    Note: On July 8th, I gave the closing keynote at World Domination Summit 2012. After listening to Brené Brown talk about vulnerability, Susan Cain talk about introversion, Scott Harrison talk about building wells in Africa, and Chris Brogan talk about bravery — after listening to all of these professional speakers, I took the stage. I’m just an average guy. I shared what I’ve learned about how to change your life. This is the text of…

  • Signs of Financial Relationship Trouble? (179 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. With my husband across the planet in Kuwait for most of the past two years, we don’t fight a lot. When we do fight, it’s about three things: what I’m doing with the kids. What things are going to be like when he comes back (for leave, or for good). And money. We started out so well? At the beginning of our relationship, I had a great…

  • Straying Off the Path or Changing Direction? (77 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes the Frugal Cool blog for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. The delightful Rita Rudner once said that she never gets lost — she just changes where it is she wants to go. I’d like to stand that joke on its head: If life takes a sudden, unpleasant turn, you might have to turn along with it…

  • Lost on the Career Path (89 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 Elizabeth Falwell. Her first audition piece was about what your loose change is really worth. I opened…

  • The Benihana Effect: Lifestyle Inflation in Action (60 comments)

    Although it seems strange to be noting this in a header, this article is from J.D. Roth, founder and editor of Get Rich Slowly. There are still plenty of staff writer auditions remaining, but I wanted to post this while it’s still timely. Kris turned 42 yesterday. And as we’ve done for 24 consecutive years now, we celebrated her birthday at the Japanese restaurant Benihana. This year was different for a few reasons. Most obviously,…

  • Estate Settlement: Reading the Will Is Not What You Expect (24 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 Jennifer Rose Hale. Jennifer’s first audition piece was about what to expect when settling an estate. Big…

  • How Saving Money Cost Me Money (86 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 Kristin Wong, who also writes at The Heart Beat blog for MSN Living. I used to have…

  • Changing Focus from Stuff to Substance (64 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 Ashley Kipp. Sometimes it seems like the U.S. can be described by just one word: SUPERSIZED. It’s…

  • Wills, Trusts and Drama: What to Expect When Settling an Estate (58 comments)

    This is a guest post by Jennifer Rose Hale, one of the candidates for a new staff writer position here at Get Rich Slowly. We all face times when we suddenly, necessarily have to become experts on a topic we’d previously given little consideration. Some, like pregnancy, accompany positive changes in our lives. Others, like dealing with funeral planning and estate issues, are entirely the opposite. Yet, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have to…

  • The Statute of Limitations on Regret (122 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes the Frugal Cool blog for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. Recently I read a blog post so glum I wondered how I might do a well-being check on its anonymous author. “The vacation high wears off” at The Quest for $85,000 describes the aftermath of a trip to visit aging family members. Now the writer’s own…

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

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

  • Trading Time for Money (70 comments)

    Last week, I was complaining to my Spanish tutor (who, by the way, thinks I always complain). “Ideally, I’d be writing less,” I told her. “I want to have more time to learn Spanish and to focus on other passions. But I just got an offer to write a couple more articles per week. And I would get paid for the work!” My tutor shook her head. “Por la plata baila el mono,” she told…

  • From the Trenches: An Update on My War on Stuff (105 comments)

    Though our divorce is final, Kris and I continue to see each other about once a week. We have lunch or dinner together, and sometimes we do chores around the house. One big chore is approaching: We’re going to hold a joint garage sale to purge our lives of some of the Stuff that has accumulated over the years. A few other friends are going to join us (in the hope that we can attract…

  • How I Got Rich Quickly, Then Failed…Miserably (62 comments)

    This is a guest post from Belinda James. Belinda is currently attending Trident Online University and earning her master’s degree in business administration. In her spare time she writes automotive articles for Nissan Minneapolis. A few years ago I had a regular administrative 9-to-5 job working for one of the three credit bureaus. It was an okay job with an annual pay of around $33,000 a year. In 1998 that was more than enough to…

  • Hunting for Health Insurance (223 comments)

    I am sick. For the past ten days, I’ve been wrestling with a high fever, a cough, a persistent sore throat, and a general malaise that’s kicking my ass. Basically, I’m the sickest I’ve been in over a decade. (The last time I was this sick? The evening that The Fellowship of the Ring premiered. I went to see it with friends, but don’t remember a thing about that night because I was sick with…

  • I Run My Errands, Too! (And Other Ways to Spend Less) (51 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. I was cleaning the kitchen and listening to NPR (my default state) when A.J. Jacobs came on, discussing the various diets he’d committed to for Drop Dead Healthy, his latest stunt journalism book — this guy practically invented the genre. Naturally, most of the diets were a bust, but he did conclude that exercise was always a smart way to keep slim. “I literally run errands! So,…

  • A Philosophy of Failure (80 comments)

    Though I’ve been reading and writing about money for six years now, I still do stupid things sometimes. Most of these errors are un-interesting — it’s the compulsive spending that’s interesting, and I seem to have that under control — but sometimes it’s instructive to look at the mundane mistakes I make, like shopping while hungry. Well, last week I made another relatively un-interesting mistake, but one that’s educational at the same time. Since it’s…

  • Shopping for the Sake of Shopping (85 comments)

    When I was a boy, my family had a series of dogs: a Saint Bernard, a Shih Tzu, a Golden Retriever and a whole host of mutts. Because dogs will be dogs, and because we lived in the country far from anything, our dogs would sometimes begin barking…and continue barking for minutes. Or hours. When this happened, my dad would shake his head and say, “That dog is barking for the sake of barking.” Barking…

  • A Magician of Time (92 comments)

    It’s strange sometimes to see yourself through other people’s eyes. Others see things — both good and bad — that you don’t see in yourself. “I see you as outdoorsy,” a new friend told me the other day, which caught me off guard. I’ve never thought of myself that way. Or a few months ago, a friend told me, “Every time I see you, you’re doing something amazing.” Me? I love my life, but much…

  • Q&A: My Current Financial State (144 comments)

    Fridays are typically “Ask the Readers” days at Get Rich Slowly, but today I’m doing something a little different. I’ve made a couple of big revelations lately, and those have generated a lot of questions. Today, I’ll answer a handful of these questions in order to give an outline of how I’m managing my money. There’s a lot to be said about the discipline it took to be conscious spender (and saver) even after a…

  • How and Why I Sold Get Rich Slowly (327 comments)

    When I started Get Rich Slowly — on 15 April 2006 — it made very little money. It earned a few pennies per day. Slowly, the income grew. A few pennies per day turned into a few dollars per day, and that turned into tens of dollars per day. Eventually I was making enough money from this site that I could quit my day job to blog full time. The last time I mentioned my…

  • The Calculus of Convenience (232 comments)

    For several years now, I’ve lived in a sort of financial sweet spot. After paying off my debt, I realized that Kris and I had everything we really wanted or needed, so we never had to buy much for the house (except when something broke). But now that I’m on my own, I’m finding all sorts of little things I need to buy again. And those little things add up. Last Friday, for instance, I…

  • 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…

  • Planning for My Financial Future (65 comments)

    I’ve been fortunate over the past few years. I’ve managed to get out of debt, quit my day job to write full time, build substantial savings, and am now able to do what I want when I want. I still work hard, of course, but I do so on my own terms. I’m a lucky man. Next year, though, is going to be a year of changes. For one thing, my income might actually decrease….

  • The Night That Mama Cried While Angels Sang (25 comments)

    This is a guest-post from my cousin, Tammy. I first posted this in 2006. Tammy has also shared information on how to raise a family on one income (part two). This story is set ten years after my aunt’s six-dollar Christmas and involves the same family. It was the year 1968. That year was an exceptionally hard year in every way. Pop was laid off due to too much snow in the woods. He was…

  • Reader Story: Recovering from Divorce (70 comments)

    This guest post from Gina 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. Back in 2007, I found myself experiencing an unexpected divorce. After the smoke, I realized where I was financially and panicked. However, my inner…

  • Saving and Spending in South America (77 comments)

    ¡Hola, todos! For the past month, I’ve been on the road — first at a conference of financial bloggers in Chicago, and then trekking through the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes. For most of this time, I’ve been without an internet connection. It’s tough to blog about money when you’re trekking to the top of a 5350-meter (17,650-foot) mountain! The adventurous part of my trip is over. I’m back with the ten million residents of Lima,…

  • Seven Years of Fiscal Responsibility (77 comments)

    It’s mid-September as I write this, and I’ve been spending the past few days scrambling to prepare for my trip to Peru. I’ve been packing, of course, but I’ve also been editing reader stories and writing blog posts for my absence. While bustling around, I stumbled across an old document. I’ve shared this before, but it’s been a while. Since it’s an important part of my financial history, I’m going to share it again today….

  • 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…

  • How Did My Phone Bill Get So High?!? Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Bills (45 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, renting in a new city, setting homebuying priorities, and gaming without breaking the bank. Recently my wife and I sat down for the first time in a couple of years to review and update our…

  • A Minor Mistake: Shopping While Hungry (87 comments)

    I often write that I still make financial mistakes, but it occurs to me that I don’t share them here as much as I once did. After April’s story earlier this week about the cost of healthy food, now seems like a good time to share a mistake I made on Tuesday. Generally, I work out in the morning. I get up at 5:15 and am at the gym for the 6:30 Crossfit class. On…

  • Logic and Emotion: Why Smart Money Management Isn’t Just About Math (86 comments)

    This is a guest post by former GRS staff writer Adam Baker of Man Vs. Debt. This week, registration opens for You vs. Debt, Baker’s six-week online class with daily videos, challenges, and accountability forums to empower your battle against debt. Eighteen months ago, I read Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. This book changed my life. Switch explores the difference between the life changes we eagerly embrace and…

  • Old Friends: Scenes from a Class Reunion (52 comments)

    I am getting old, my friends. I am getting old. It’s no longer just a feeling, either. More and more, there are objective real-world reminders that I’m not the young man I once was. Kris and I spent last weekend, for instance, hanging out with other old folks at our 20-year college reunion. We had a blast, of course. Though we don’t see most of our old friends as often as we’d like, when we…

  • How Much Do We Owe Others? (And When Should We Walk Away?) (239 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. Last January I loaned money to a friend who was in financial crisis: Her vehicle was about to be repossessed. The transaction troubled me for a number of reasons, which I detailed at my personal website in a post called “I’m not a payday lender. But…

  • On the Road to Nowhere: The True Story of My First (and Worst) Job (67 comments)

    It’s Labor Day in the United States, the holiday that traditionally marks the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year. Officially, it’s intended as “a day off for the working citizens”. As usual, GRS is taking a short break. This is a reprint of a column from five years ago. Your job is one of your most important assets. It gives you earning power. It can bring you personal fulfillment. But…

  • Social Capital and the Neighborhood Exchange (75 comments)

    It’s been a while since I’ve raved about the joys of social capital. For those who haven’t been exposed to the concept, social capital is the mutual goodwill generated whenever you volunteer at a soup kitchen, help your neighbor move a piano, have your Sunday School class over for a barbecue, or join a softball league. Any time you participate in your community, you’re generating social capital, both for yourself and for the other people…

  • Managing Mom’s Money: An Update from Happy Acres (149 comments)

    I’m sitting in the lobby of Happy Acres waiting for the business manager to return from lunch. I just spent half an hour talking with Mom, who’s doing much better than she was a month ago. She still struggles to find words, and she’s still confused, but now she’s able to conduct conversations and (more importantly) recognize people and tell the date. Mom’s main concern now is finding an apartment to herself. She currently has…

  • Sunk Costs and Smart Decisions (147 comments)

    As I write this, I’m on a flight back to Portland. I’ve spent the weekend with former GRS staff writer Adam Baker and his wife Courtney in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ostensibly, we were there to take part in GenCon, a huge gaming convention. We did play plenty of games, but we also had a lot of fun just hanging around and chatting. It was great to take a four-day break after months of being “on” all…

  • How to Save on Your Cell Phone Plan with Secret No-Contract Deals (132 comments)

    This is a guest post from social-media maven Laura Roeder. Laura first told me this story in January, and I used it as the basis for one of my columns for Entrepreneur magazine. Over lunch recently, she offered to write a guest post about her experience. I told her I’d be glad to share it. Secret phone plans? No contracts? Unadvertised payment plans with no interest? These are all available. But you’ll never know until…

  • Ask the Readers: Financial Success Stories? (325 comments)

    It’s been a long, dark week for me. My mother is now safely ensconced in the “memory care” unit at a managed-care facility, but she’s confused and scared. The staff says this is normal, and that she’ll adjust with time. I hope so. I want to turn my attention to something more positive. Normally on Fridays, I share a reader question, but I haven’t had time to sort through to find a good one. Instead,…

  • Drama in Real Life: A Place for Mom (259 comments)

    In my ideal world, you’d now be reading an article about the freelancing or entrepreneurship or extreme couponing or one of the half dozen other topics I’ve started to write about. In my ideal world, I’d go to the gym this morning, and then to Spanish lessons this afternoon. In my ideal world, Kris and I would go see the Portland Timbers play this evening. Unfortunately, I don’t live in my ideal world. Instead, I…

  • Crammed! A Shocking Utility Tale (79 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. My cell phone is billed directly to a rewards credit card, so I usually just give it a quick glance. Bad consumer! Bad! (Keep reading to see just how bad.) A few days ago I happened to notice a…

  • The Next Step: Preparing for Change (105 comments)

    For years, I wallowed in debt. I had no fiscal discipline. I used credit to buy what I wanted, when I wanted. My money skills were abysmal, and my life was in financial ruin. In 2004, I decided to turn things around. I started teaching myself about personal finance. I attacked my debt with vigor. I learned about saving and investing and frugality and thrift. I discovered the basics of self-discipline. Gradually, from the ruins,…

  • Reader Story: The Product of Frugal Parents (99 comments)

    This guest post from Simon Cunningham 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. A lot of reader stories featured on Get Rich Slowly are from people who got “saved” from bad financial habits, who were burned…

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

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

  • 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…

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

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

  • Reader Story (and Question): Financial Health vs. Mental Health? (191 comments)

    This guest post from “NotPollyanna” is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. 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. This week’s submission is a reader story and a reader question rolled into one. Hi. My name is Not Pollyanna. (Okay, that’s not…

  • 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…

  • Learning to Give (221 comments)

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

  • 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…

  • Follow-Up: Mason Shoe Company (15 comments)

    I get a lot of requests for follow-ups to reader stories and reader questions. People want to hear how things turned out. Because I want to know how things turned out, too, I’ve started a semi-regular feature at Get Rich Slowly. Whenever I hear back from a previous poster, I’ll share an update so that we can all know what happened. Last October, I shared a comic book ad from 1956. The ad explained how…

  • How I Invest My Money (58 comments)

    Earlier this month, I shared a new financial framework I’ve been developing, one that stresses earning, spending, and saving as the building blocks of personal finance. Two weeks ago, I elaborated by sharing how I make money. Last week, I turned to the other half of the basic personal-finance equation: I shared how I spend money. (Or, more precisely, the ways in which I try not to spend money.) Today, I’ll share the ways I…

  • Rebalancing in Real Life, Part II: Reading and Research (58 comments)

    Last week, I mentioned that I’ve begun the process of rebalancing my investment portfolio. When I opened my accounts with Fidelity Investments in 2009, I chose an asset allocation (though I can’t remember why). Because my investments have grown over the past two years, and because I think some of my former choices are goofy, I need to move some money around. Right now, my investments are allocated like this: 5.08% in Fidelity Canada (FICDX)…

  • How I Spend My Money (118 comments)

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

  • Rebalancing in Real Life (54 comments)

    Earlier today, Robert Brokamp wrote about the importance of rebalancing your investment portfolio. Over time, as your various investments rise and fall, your actual asset allocation drifts from your intended asset allocation, slowly pulling you away from your investment goals. I’ve recently been working to rebalance my own investment portfolio, so I thought it might be instructive to walk through the process over the next couple of weeks as I try to bring things back…

  • How I Earn My Money (73 comments)

    A lot of what we write here at Get Rich Slowly is theoretical. “This is how you should do things,” we say. Or, sometimes, the articles are meant for inspiration: “Here are some great ideas for taking control of your finances!” We don’t write as often about the things we actually do with our own money. In the early days of the site, I shared many of my own experiences. I’ve gotten away from that…

  • Ask the Readers: A Fool and His Money… (138 comments)

    It’s April Fool’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year at Get Rich Slowly. It’s the day I get to share the story of some foolish thing I’ve done with money in the past. This year, though, April Fool’s Day falls on a Friday, which is when I traditionally field reader questions. So, I thought it would be fun to mix things up. Instead of me telling you how stupid I can be…

  • Outsmarting Myself (117 comments)

    Every spring for the past decade or so, I’ve turned from a normal, healthy adult into a sniffling, dripping fountain of whine in just a matter of days. Something in the air doesn’t agree with me. Last year, instead of just complaining about how crappy I felt, I finally saw an allergist. After giving me a skin test, he told me the bad news: “Trees are your enemy,” he said — which made me laugh….

  • Calling the Shots: How to Be the CEO of Your Own Life (31 comments)

    This is a guest post from Flexo, creator of Consumerism Commentary, one of the first independent blogs to focus on personal finance. During the 1990s, my financial life was like a Caribbean cruise ship during hurricane season: I was in a cabin at the center of the ship, unaware of the storms approaching from the horizon. By 2001, I’d wandered onto the deck in the midst of Hurricane Debt and Failure; I found myself in…

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

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

  • How to Lend Money to Friends (Without Ruining the Relationship) (175 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. Lending money to friends and family is a generous act — one that could easily backfire and even ruin your relationship. Most of the time when someone is considering a loan to a family member, I think, “Don’t do it.” There can be other ways to help. But when it’s someone you care about, logic only plays one role in the decision-making process. Not too long ago…

  • The Laundry Agreement (102 comments)

    Yesterday, I made a passing reference to The Laundry Agreement. A couple of eagle-eyed readers noticed a further reference in the screenshot I posted to illustrate the article. Kevin and Samantha both searched for answers at GRS, but couldn’t find them. I guess that means I’ve never mentioned the Laundry Agreement before. The Laundry Agreement is a unique arrangement that Kris and I have used for fifteen years to play to our individual strengths in…

  • Old Habits for a New Year (114 comments)

    When I was younger, I didn’t track my spending. I kept a checkbook register, but that was out of necessity; I constantly flirted with a zero balance, and I had to know precisely how much was left in the bank so I wouldn’t overdraw my account. (I wasn’t so good at that game, actually; I had plenty of overdraft fees.) Ah, the good ol’ days… When I decided to get out of debt, I had…

  • Drama in Real Life: When Emergencies Pile Up (76 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. Last week, I mentioned that my cat just died. Not only was his passing heartbreaking, it was expensive. But as I said in that post, I was very happy to be able to write a check from my emergency fund and not worry about where the money would come from. Since I’m…

  • All I Want for Christmas (34 comments)

    This has been the most Christmas-y Christmas season I can remember in a long time. Usually Kris and I downplay the holiday. I know that Christmas is important for many people, but there are other holidays (like Thanksgiving) that we value more. This year, however, we seem to have some of that old-time Christmas spirit, and I like it. What makes this year different? I’m not sure, but it may be because: We’ve been listening…

  • In Praise of Work-Life Balance (47 comments)

    I went running with my friend Dan the other day. As we ran, we chatted. “You know, J.D.,” he said. “It seems like you have the perfect life.” I laughed. I think that Dan seems to have the perfect life — funny how the grass is often greener on the other side of the fence. “My life is good,” I said, “but it’s not perfect. Besides, I’ve had to work hard to get things where…

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

    This guest post from Mike C. is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. On June 26th, I married my best friend. Together, we entered married life debt-free and with six months of expenses in the bank….

  • Fantasy vs. Reality: Paving a Path to a Promising Future (45 comments)

    On Saturday night, I had dinner with Wendy and Dennis, two Get Rich Slowly readers who recently moved from Phoenix to Portland. We talked about a lot of things — most of them nerdy. We also chatted about the ever-evolving nature of Get Rich Slowly. “I’ve noticed you’re writing more about credit cards lately,” Wendy said. “Is that because you’re using them more often?” “Well, maybe,” I said. I thought about it for a moment….

  • Back to Basics (84 comments)

    “You know, you’ve been spending a lot of money lately,” Kris told me the other day. I’d just returned from yet another shopping trip to REI. “I have?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “Can’t you tell?” Actually, I guess I can. I’ve been buying relatively expensive clothes (I’ve lost 40 pounds and need to replenish my wardrobe, but I’m not doing it with thrift-store clothes as I have in the past), purchasing travel gadgets (new…

  • Budgeting For Mistakes (75 comments)

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

  • On the Value of Networking (56 comments)

    It’s hard to believe, but Kris and I graduated from Willamette University nearly twenty years ago. We enjoyed our time in college, and remain close to many of our classmates. It’s always fun when we get a chance to drive to Salem to re-visit the campus. We did just that tonight. The university hosted a “You’re Doing What With Your Major?” alumni career panel to connect current students with former Bearcats who are now working…

  • Reader Story: Since My Divorce (196 comments)

    This guest post from Mandy Walker 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. Mandy writes the blog Since My Divorce, a collection of stories mostly from women about life after divorce — the challenges, the hardships,…

  • Dinner with the Diehards: A Chat About Investing (37 comments)

    It’s been a long time since I wrote about investing at Get Rich Slowly. I haven’t abandoned the subject, but my mind has been on other things. Besides, I’ve been practicing what I preach. I’ve invested my money in low-cost index funds (and some bonds), and I never make a trade. Because I know it pays to ignore financial news, I have. Earlier this week, I peeked at my portfolio for the first time since…

  • Help! My Debt Snowball Is Melting! (74 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. The summer heat has taken a toll on my debt snowball. Two months ago, I paid off the last of my credit card debt, but I still have thousands of dollars in loans. I started the summer with over $10,000 in my savings account, no credit card debt, and a solid plan…

  • How Would Panhandlers Use Free Credit Cards? (44 comments)

    Have you ever wondered what the panhandlers you see on the street would do if you actually gave them a bunch of money to spend? Like many people, I generally give my pocket change to anyone who asks. I figure that if they have to ask, they probably need it more than I do. (Yes, I know that there are just as many folks who think this is ridiculous, and who never give anything to…

  • Life After Debt: What It’s Like in the Third Stage of Personal Finance (245 comments)

    I paid off the last of my debt in 2007, quit my day job in 2008, and have been working to build wealth ever since. As I wrote early last year, I’m in the Third Stage of personal finance: I’ve paid off my debt, built a cash cushion in savings, and am maxing out my retirement accounts. And after doing all of these things, I have money left over to spend on comic books and…

  • What is Retirement? (76 comments)

    I just returned from my annual weekend trip to Oregon’s Opal Creek Wilderness area. Every year, I join five other friends to hike into the forest, pitch our tents on the banks of the creek, and sit around the fire talking about life. We drank a lot of whiskey this year, and spent a lot of time at the swimming hole. Paul and Tim at rest above the Opal Creek swimming hole This year, we…

  • Reader Story: Widowed Young (64 comments)

    This guest post from Heather is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. In 2002, I was 28 years old with a dead husband. It wasn’t a total shock: He had been sick, and there was never…

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

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

  • Downshifting: The First Day of the Rest of My Life (75 comments)

    “This is it,” I told my wife last Monday. “This is what?” Kris asked. “This is the first day of the rest of my life,” I said. She knew what I meant. For the past few years, I’ve been living in a self-created whirlwind of busy-ness. I know a blog like this often seems calm and quiet on the surface, but underneath there’s usually a flurry of turbulent activity. “Look,” I said, showing her my…

  • Worth More Than Money: Taking A Detour on the Road to Riches (105 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Hola! My family is spending the month of July vacationing in Argentina. My husband grew up here, and his entire family still lives here: his parents, his brother and sisters, and my kids’ eight cousins, plus all his uncles and aunts and cousins. We’re having a long visit with the whole family….

  • The Rewards of Frugality and Thrift (or, Why We Scrimp and Save) (139 comments)

    Over the past couple of weeks, more than a few GRS readers have complained about the site’s tone. These folks are afraid that Get Rich Slowly is turning into a column that’s only about frugality and self-denial, one that is neglecting the “rich” part of the blog’s title. These concerns came to the fore in last week’s article about remembering to appreciate what I already have. In that discussion, ObjectiveGeek wrote: I want the best…

  • 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…

  • The Rewards of Routine Maintenance (69 comments)

    I had a great weekend. In fact, it was probably one of the best weekends I’ve had in years. I spent all day Saturday and Sunday doing chores. (Well, I watched the World Cup a little, too.) I spent nearly 16 hours doing yardwork, and I loved every minute of it. This passion for pruning may seem strange to you, but it seems even stranger to me. I generally don’t like yardwork. But here’s the…

  • Reader Story: Surviving and Thriving (36 comments)

    This guest post from Donna Freedman 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. A few years ago I had about $130 to my name and was struggling to balance…

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

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

  • 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…

  • How I Survived the Computer Castrophe of 2010 (115 comments)

    Sometimes I feel like I’m cursed. Computers hate me. I don’t think I’m particularly rough on them — I don’t toss them around or poke at the screen or douse them in water (though, on occasion, I do forget to close my window here at the office, and my printer gets rained on) — but for whatever reason, my Macs all seem to die after a couple of years. Maybe this is because I use…

  • Don’t Wait for a Discount — Ask for One (67 comments)

    This post is short and sweet and to the point. Folks, I cannot stress how important it is to check all of your accounts for possible savings at least once a year. This includes your bank accounts, your credit accounts, your utility accounts, and more. Basically, you should review every account that involves a financial relationship at least yearly. It’s easy to do this. Just call the customer service number and ask if there are…

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

    This guest post from Andrew J. is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity, and with all sorts of incomes. I am writing this for two reasons: First, GRS is like a big toolbox that I…

  • Reader Story: Our Financial Turnaround (102 comments)

    This guest post from William is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity, and with all sorts of incomes. My wife and I had some major awakenings in our lives at the end of 2008. In…

  • The Perils and Pangs of a Pricey Purchase (95 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. I must begin this tale of consumer conflict — both internal and external — with four caveats: I’m on the other side of 40, gaining weight, out of shape, and from a family with…

  • 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…

  • Confessions of a Gadget Junkie (100 comments)

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

  • Reader Story: How I Learned to Save LESS — and Loved It (62 comments)

    This guest post from Avistew 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. For the past year or so, Avistew has been an active and eloquent commenter on this site. Here’s her story. Many readers of this blog started their journey with debt, and…

  • Art and Entrepreneurship (28 comments)

    My pal Chris Guillebeau has a great interview up over at his blog, The Art of Non-Conformity. He recently profiled artist Tsilli Pines (who also happens to be a loyal GRS reader and a customer of my family’s box factory). The interview discusses Tsilli’s development as an artist, her initial steps toward starting her own business, and her decision to make the leap to full-time entrepreneur. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation: Chris What is…

  • Reader Story: A Cautionary Tale (165 comments)

    This guest post from Maria 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. This story very much reminds me of the book for unmarried couples I reviewed earlier this week. This is a story about a relationship between two people and some money. Part…

  • From Whole Foods to Food Stamps (102 comments)

    This post is from new staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. The recession has hit families where they live. For many, it’s forced a change of address. Think about all those foreclosed homes and urban deserts: One in every 400 homes received a foreclosure notice last year. Unemployment is approaching 10%. Some families no longer have a place to call home at…

  • 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…

  • Mastering the Art of Haggling (53 comments)

    Last weekend, The Washington Post published an article from Mike Rosenwald about the recent resurgence of haggling. To get a feel for the art of the deal, Rosenwald spent a week putting haggling to work in his own life: For consumers like me who have spent decades shopping at full retail, getting a deal on previously no-deal items is liberating and invigorating, as I found out during a recent week I spent haggling. At first,…

  • My Discretionary Spending for January 2010 (61 comments)

    For a personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly hasn’t been very personal in recent months. That’s partly because of the book project, but also partly because I’ve moved to a stage in my financial life where not a lot happens. I’m not repaying debt, I’m not learning lots of new stuff; mostly, I’m “getting rich slowly”, letting my savings accumulate, and pursuing long-term goals. One goal that Kris and I share is to take a…

  • 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…

  • Learning to Use Money as a Tool (82 comments)

    It’s pretty clear by now that I have a different relationship with money than when I started Get Rich Slowly. I’m by no means perfect with the stuff, but I’ve become firmly entrenched in the camp that sees money as a tool. (I used to see it only as a means to instant gratification.) Here’s a tiny example. Taking a page out of Trent’s book, Kris has been on a crock pot kick lately. This…

  • 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 Got Married on the Cheap — And Loved It! (122 comments)

    This guest post from Lars 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. I got married last month. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance — at the beginning of 2009, we’d been talking about an…

  • My 2009 Discretionary Spending: Bits and Pieces (160 comments)

    Every January since I started Get Rich Slowly, I’ve done an annual round-up of my discretionary spending. That’s not going to happen this year. The numbers are hopelessly muddled by events that created under-reporting in some categories and over-reporting in others. (Kris and I paid for our 2010 vacations in 2009, for example.) Rather than sort things out, I want to talk about a couple of my spending habits instead. One is a worrisome trend,…

  • Happy New Year! My One Goal for 2010 (73 comments)

    As an amazing 2009 fades into the sunset, it’s time to review my progress and look forward to the year to come. Am I a better person than I was a year ago? (I believe so.) How can I be even better at the end of this year? As in 2008 and 2009, I’m not setting resolutions for 2010. I’m setting goals. When I set goals, I don’t feel like I’m trying to become somebody…

  • How I Cut my Comcast Cable Bill by 33% (Without Losing Any Service) (249 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…

  • Comics and Cons: Adventures on eBay (58 comments)

    If you follow me on Twitter, you know that between writing chapters for Your Money: The Missing Manual I’ve been wrestling with eBay “customer service”. Note the quotes. It’s difficult to tell the full story in 140-character chunks, though. Since Robert started the day with a post about his adventures on Craigslist, let’s end it with with one about my adventures on eBay. I’ve been using eBay since September 1998. I’ve bought and sold items…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do You Handle Peer Pressure? (207 comments)

    Your friends and family influence you. They affect the way you view life. If your friends are frugal, it’s easier to be frugal yourself. But if they’re wrapped up in consumerism and materialism, and can be difficult to resist the urge to join them. It’s only natural to want to fit in. Rob wrote yesterday to ask how to handle a situation where he wants to lead a simple life, but those around him aren’t…

  • 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…

  • Is There a Generation Gap in Saving? (122 comments)

    I’m old-school: I went to the bank to make a deposit today. (I make most of my deposits in person, inside the branch.) While I waited, I chatted with the teller, whom I know from many previous visits. “I’m writing a book about money,” I told him. “What’s the one thing you wish you could tell people about banking?” “Save!” he said. He told me there’s a huge generation gap between savers and spenders. “The…

  • Dumb Money: J.D. the Junk-Food King (73 comments)

    It’s been a long time since I shared a good self-deprecating story about my own financial foolishness. Let me remedy that today. For the past month or so, I’ve been buried deep in writing my book. (I have bookhead, I tell Kris — my mind is wholly absorbed by this project.) I now spend most of every day (seven days a week) holed up in my office up the hill from the house. I walk…

  • Ask the Readers: What Do You Do for Frugal Fun? (144 comments)

    I used to wonder why my colleagues’ blogs became strangely silent when they were working on their books. Haha. I don’t wonder anymore. Writing a book is an all-consuming process that’s difficult to describe. I’m thankful I recruited April and Baker as staff writers before I began working on my own book. Progress on Your Money: The Missing Manual actually ground to a halt this week. Well, that’s not strictly true. I did miss my…

  • Are Pre-Nuptial Agreements For Everyone? (138 comments)

    This is a guest post from Andy Jolls, founder of VideoCreditScore.com. Andy ran the myFICO.com business for a number of years and now educates consumers with free credit videos. You can follow him on Twitter at @vidcredit. My wife and I were married a few years ago. I was working at myFICO at the time we got engaged, so I was already swimming in the world of credit, debt, and personal finance. In fact, Suze…

  • 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…

  • The Guilt of Wealth (167 comments)

    Yesterday I shared a guest post from Leo of Zen Habits. His guide to minimalist money was a sort of overview of good financial skills, useful information for those in the first stage of personal finance. But some long-time GRS readers couldn’t relate to Leo’s post. Today’s post goes in the opposite direction. It’s a meditation for those in the third stage of personal finance (or beyond), and it’s probably going to seem foreign to…

  • Born in a Small Town (44 comments)

    My wife just returned from a long weekend touring eastern Oregon with two of her co-workers. They drove from small town to small town, shopping for antiques and visiting museums. On Saturday — with an early October snow falling outside — Kris and her friends stopped to eat lunch at La Laguna in the small town of Joseph (population 1054). As part of the worst job I ever had, I spent several weeks selling insurance…

  • What Made You Care About Money? (49 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 discovered the secret to becoming financially responsible: Go into serious debt. Or get married, divorced, or pregnant. And reading a good book helps. At least, that’s what you told me. A few weeks…

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

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

  • Gone Phishing: How To Avoid Being Caught By Scammers (44 comments)

    This article is by Adam Baker, a new GRS Staff Writer. In addition to writing for Get Rich Slowly, Baker blogs over at Man Vs. Debt, where you can find his personal background story and read more of his writing. Last week, I adjusted several preferences on my PayPal account. I added and verified a new e-mail address and swapped my linked bank account. Shortly after finalizing the changes, I received a brief e-mail from PayPal…

  • My Debt Story: An Introduction (80 comments)

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

  • On the Road to Financial Independence (107 comments)

    It’s been a long time since I wrote about the general state of my financial affairs. A few readers have written to express concern that I’ve lost my way. I haven’t. If anything, I’m more devoted to this stuff than ever. But as I wrote earlier this year, I’ve entered a different stage of money management. During the first two stages of personal finance (debt elimination and establishing a foundation), things happened quickly. They did…

  • Personal Finance on Film: The Up Series (28 comments)

    “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.” — attributed to Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order Though there are many fine books about money available for the general reader, I’ve always been disappointed that there are so few movies about money. Anything directly about finance tends to be sensationalist in one way or another. Despite this, I think that excellent films about money do exist —…

  • Mr. Market’s Wild Ride (171 comments)

    The U.S. stock markets have provided a wild ride over the past year. The S&P 500 stock market index recently posted its best five-month gain since 1938. Yet many people missed out on this. And no wonder. During the previous five months, the market suffered one of its greatest five month losses, which understandably made investors gun-shy. In fact, many were shoveling money out of stocks instead of into them and so missed the turnaround….

  • A Call from Capital One (79 comments)

    I don’t often post follow-ups to previous articles, especially after just a few days. But following Tuesday’s post on two-cycle billing, a couple of things happened that deserve mention. Understanding Grace Periods Several readers suggested that what I experienced was not two-cycle billing but the lack of a grace period. Special thanks especially to Kitty, who linked to the American Express document on understanding grace periods. Kitty writes: If you didn’t pay your previous month’s…

  • What Got You to Get Better? Reasons for Change (86 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. (And note that this post is much less controversial than yesterday’s!) Let’s face it: Most of us weren’t born eager to delay gratification, invest in IRAs, diversify our assets, and give a hoot about…

  • A Small Mistake (129 comments)

    Important note: Despite what the credit card company told me, and despite my own mis-information, this story below apparently does NOT relate to two-cycle billing. Instead, my frustration stems from the way some credit card companies handle their grace periods. Thanks for all of the commenters who pointed out the error. Here’s a follow-up to this situation. For almost a decade, I refused to use a personal credit card. I knew that I couldn’t control…

  • Frugality in Practice: Alternate Modes of Transportation (118 comments)

    I’ve always been a car guy. It’s not that I’m mechanically inclined or that I get into the latest makes and models — neither of these is anywhere close to the truth — but that a car has always been my primary mode of transportation. When I was a boy, my family lived in rural Oregon, six miles from the nearest town. Automobiles were our only real option for getting around. Even when I went…

  • Discovering (and Challenging) Your Financial Values (48 comments)

    This is a guest post from Karawynn, who writes about personal finance at Pocketmint. Karawynn is a potential Staff Writer for Get Rich Slowly. In her first article, she visited the Island of Misfit Foods. Karawynn has been blogging since before “blogging” was a word. My parents taught me nothing about money management. My dad opened a checking account for me in high school and showed me how to use the checkbook register. Beyond that,…

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

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

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

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

  • What We Wish We Knew When We Were Younger (124 comments)

    Kris called me at seven o’clock last night, just as I was sitting down to write the Friday “Ask the Readers” post. I was sorting through this week’s questions when the phone rang. “Are you busy?” she asked. “Can you do me favor?” “Maybe,” I said. “It depends on what it is.” “Ryan’s car broke down,” Kris said. “He’s stranded here at the lab and can’t get home. Can you give him a ride across…

  • Impulse Spending: The Present and the Past (56 comments)

    I had a wave of nostalgia on Friday. My brother called to tell me that there was a problem with the computer network at the box factory. Though I no longer work for the family business, I’m still the company’s computer guy. So, I drove out to the office, tinkered with the network, and ended up having to make a run to Fry’s Electronics to pick up some parts. Not so long ago, Fry’s was…

  • Our Frugal Weekend (77 comments)

    I haven’t written much about frugality here lately. Because of that, you might think it’s become less of a priority for me. That’s simply not the case, although sometimes it feels that way — even to me. “I’m worried about our spending,” Kris told me early last week. “I feel like it’s a little out of control.” “Really?” I said. We’ve had a couple of big expenses lately — painting the house, for example —…

  • A Day at the Community Garage Sale (32 comments)

    Kris and I had a l-o-n-g day today. We rose early and drove to one of Portland’s nicest neighborhoods for the 24th annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale. Officially, there were 141 families hawking their Stuff. Unofficially, there were well over 200. For seven hours, Kris and I walked up and down the quiet residential streets — not so quiet today, as they bustled with a carnival-like atmosphere. (This year, there were plenty of people playing Michael…

  • 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,…

  • The Problem With Market Timing (76 comments)

    I’m in the process of consolidating all of my investment accounts at Fidelity. This isn’t because I think Fidelity is “the best”, but because I think they’re good and they’re certainly convenient. There’s a Fidelity “investor center” not far from my home. (In other words: I’m not endorsing Fidelity; I’m merely following my own advice to pick a good option instead of spending forever looking for the best.) As I gather my various accounts under…

  • My Sister’s Keeper: Sharing Financial Goals with an Accountability Partner (28 comments)

    “Don’t you have any tips for single folks?” I’m often asked. Like any writer, I tend to write from my own experience — that of a married man. Fortunately, there are plenty of single people in the GRS community who are willing to share the things they’ve learned. Here’s a guest post from Kinley Levack about how she and her sister hold each other financially accountable. Over Christmas 2007, my sister Michelle and I started…

  • The Wisdom of My Father (50 comments)

    This is a guest post from Ann Zerkle, a Get Rich Slowly lurker, and the founder of Heroes of Capitalism. As the daughter of a truck driver and stay-at-home mom, my family lived very frugally (and very happily). As an adult, I see the wisdom in the frugality of my parents. Below are the frugal ideas my father always espoused. Work smart, not hard. My dad believed in hard work. He constantly put in 60…

  • Reader Story: The Secret Millionaire and the Mathmobile (43 comments)

    I keep telling myself I’ll share reader e-mail more often. You folks send me great stuff. For example, here’s Ruth’s story about her own millionaire next door. I loved reading about J.D.’s “secret millionaire” neighbor. This is a story about my own “secret millionaire” neighbor. He actually lives in the next suburb. This local middle-school math teacher retired about five years ago, and became a private tutor. Since retirement, he works seven days a week…

  • Turning Garage Sale Junk Into eBay Gold (50 comments)

    On Saturday night, I attended a party with some of my former high-school classmates. Many of the other guests were artists. I don’t know many artists, so it was fascinating to listen to their stories, especially about the economics of selling art during a recession. I learned a lot. Later in the evening, I spent some time chatting with my friend Jonathan. He asked me about the blog. “What are you going to write about…

  • My Great Disney World Adventure (108 comments)

    Yesterday I wrote about my recent business trip to Orlando. This is the “rest of the story”, a behind-the-scenes look at how I spent way too much money for a one-day vacation. When Kris and I agreed to fly to Orlando for the unveiling of The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, we hoped to have time to explore the rest of EPCOT Center. But when we received the itinerary, it was clear that all we’d actually…

  • Office Space: Why I Rented a Place to Write (74 comments)

    I recently leased office space for Get Rich Slowly. For about a year, I’d been working out of an office I’d created in one of our spare bedrooms. This seemed like an ideal solution: I was able to work from home (with my cat companions!) while utilizing empty space. In reality, this arrangement proved a blessing and a curse. Yes, it was convenient to have a home office. But I also found that the boundaries…

  • The Boat Experience: The Means Justify the Ends (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from Michael H. It’s the story I alluded to when I first wrote about the third stage of personal finance. I was afraid to run this story when Michael submitted it last year. I thought it encouraged foolish behavior. Now I understand that it does no such thing. Instead, it points to goals, and the reasons for our frugality and saving. For the past 10 years, our family has gone…

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

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

  • 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,…

  • The Secrets of Financial Freedom: An Interview with the Millionaire Next Door (141 comments)

    Today is the last day of Financial Literacy Month. To tie everything together, I thought it would be fun to share an interview my real millionaire next door, a man we’ll call John. He used the basic tenets of money management to build wealth and to retire early. Here’s how I described John when I first wrote about him last year: John is a 71-year-old retired shop teacher who lives in a modest ranch house…

  • A Very Small Adventure: Riding the Bus (119 comments)

    I had a big day today, though I’m sure many of you will laugh: I rode the bus for the first time. Actually, I’ve been on buses many times before. I rode a school bus as a child, and I’ve used public transportation in other towns. I’ve even used the light-rail trains here in Portland. But I had never used the city’s bus system until this afternoon. Brave new world I took my new-used Mini…

  • The Turning Point (44 comments)

    I had lunch with my friend Bo recently. Over our enchiladas, we talked about how dumb we were when we younger, and how we’d do things differently if we could. To what point would we return if we wanted to change our lives? “I’d go back to the end of my sophomore year of high school,” Bo said. “That’s a long way,” I said. “But think of compound interest, J.D! And by then I was…

  • 84-Year-Old Social Worker Saves $1.4 Million (78 comments)

    Over the weekend, Kevin and Nathaniel both sent me an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that tells the story of Jane M. Buri, an 84-year-old social worker who quietly amassed a $1.4 million fortune. How did she do it? She practiced the art of thrift. From the article: In retrospect, friends say Buri’s savings made sense. They say she drove a 30-year-old car, watched an ancient TV, lived four decades in a house bought…

  • My Mini and the Power of Saving (225 comments)

    For the past two years, one of my top financial goals has been to save for a Mini Cooper. Just like a child with a toy catalog, I’ve spent hours on the Mini website playing with colors and options packages, building my own dream vehicle. Whenever I’m tempted to buy small indulgences, I ask myself, “Would I rather have this or a Mini?” Until the beginning of last week, however, I thought I still had…

  • Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (31 comments)

    We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric lately about how this is the worst economy since the Great Depression. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t, but even if it were, what would it mean? I have no frame of reference for these sorts of claims. They smack of hyperbole, but I can’t be sure. In my lifetime, the closest I’ve come to experiencing anything like the Depression was during the recession of the early 1980s,…

  • 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…

  • Finding Balance Between Time and Money (102 comments)

    Lately my personal focus has been on finding balance in my life. I’m trying to discover the proper place for money — and for time. Over the past few years, I’ve allowed money to become too important. I’ve worked too much, and that has hurt other aspects of my life. I don’t have time for anything else. As part of this process, I’ve been reading the new edition of Your Money or Your Life, the…

  • A Frugal Dinner with Friends (67 comments)

    Kris and I had dinner last night with our new acquaintances friends, Chris and Jolie. Dinner was fun. This was in part because our hosts made a point of preparing a frugal meal. “If you bring wine,” Chris told me on the phone, “bring something cheap. I can’t tell any difference from the good stuff.” I happily complied. I love good food and good conversation, but the truth is I’d rather have a great talk…

  • The $1500 Frisbee (52 comments)

    It’s April Fools’ Day! In 2007, I regaled you with lifestyles of the rich and stupid. Last year, I explained how to turn $500 into $7 the hard way. And this year I offer you yet another tale of my own financial foolishness. On the first day of college, I opened my first bank account. The gym was filled with registration tables, not just for classes and clubs, but also for local businesses wanting to…

  • My Financial Infrastructure (80 comments)

    While preparing for the first episode of The Personal Finance Hour yesterday, I was browsing Jim’s archives over at Bargaineering. I stumbled upon an old post about creating a financial network map: A map of Jim’s financial network Mapping your financial infrastructure is a mundane task. It’s not exciting. It’s not likely to save you big bucks. Instead, it’s the sort of Big Picture exercise that each of us ought to perform from time-to-time just…

  • Reader Comment: A Lifetime of Doing the Right Thing (60 comments)

    It’s been a while since I highlighted an individual reader comment, but I wanted to draw attention to some advice that Kenny left for Sara in Friday’s “ask the readers”. You’ll recall that 24-year-old Sara feels overwhelmed because although she’s making the “right” decisions, she doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Here is Kenny’s response, reproduced verbatim. (Well, I’ve done some formatting, but the text is completely Kenny’s.) I have the BEST answer for you…

  • Lighting the Way (38 comments)

    This is the fourth of a five-part series about the “stages” of personal finance. First, I described the zeroth stage of money management, in which I was fumbling in the dark, spending compulsively and accumulating debt. Next, I described the first stage, in which I finally saw the light and began to repay my debt. Last week, I shared the the light at the end of the tunnel: what happened after my debt was gone…

  • 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…

  • Ask the Readers: What Do You Do When Frugality Gets You Nowhere? (166 comments)

    In general, the frugal person who saves and invests will slowly build wealth, and will find herself far ahead of her peers. But sometimes the progress is slow — or even non-existent. When this happens, good financial habits can seem frustrating. Sara wrote to ask what to do when frugality seems to be getting you nowhere: Although I practice extreme frugality, I feel that I cannot get ahead financially. Every month I seem to be…

  • The Light at the End of the Tunnel (25 comments)

    This is the third of a five-part series about the “stages” of personal finance. In the first part I described the zeroth stage of money management, in which I was fumbling in the dark, spending compulsively and accumulating debt. Last week I described the first stage, in which I finally saw the light and began to repay my debt. Today I share what happened next. Last night at dinner, my friend Mike told me about…

  • 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…

  • A Candle in the Dark (46 comments)

    This is the second of a five-part series about the “stages” of personal finance. Last Sunday, I shared part one: “Fumbling in the Dark”. In June of 2004, Kris and I bought a new house. On paper, we could afford the upgrade. In reality, things felt pinched. For one thing, my consumer debt had grown to over $35,000. The increased housing payments didn’t help. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the extensive…

  • The Ongoing Battle with Lifestyle Inflation (61 comments)

    This is a guest post from Mike Young, who runs The Secure Student, a program that teaches high school students how to manage their money. In high school, I had a small allowance from my parents every week. When I spent my allowance on gas, food, whatever — that was it. I had to wait until next week before I saw another dime. I remember having to really think about what I spent my money…

  • Fumbling in the Dark (77 comments)

    I’ve had good control of my saving and spending for nearly two years now. I still make poor choices now and then, but they don’t have the consequences they would have a decade ago. A decade ago, I was in debt. Today, I am not. That’s one of the advantages of being debt-free: when you do something dumb, the repercussions are not as severe. But I remember a time when each bad choice brought me…

  • Outside Looking In: How Others View Our Spending (80 comments)

    Last week, I went running with my friend Mac. As we ran, we talked. Mac asked me how it felt to be out of debt, to actually be saving money. Like many of my friends, he’s watched my financial turnaround with interest. “It feels great,” I said. “I should have learned from you and Pam earlier.” Mac and Pam have always made smart financial choices. They’re not misers, but they’re thrifty, carefully choosing where they…

  • How I Cut My Television Bill in Half (145 comments)

    I’ve had several requests lately to update my two-year quest to find cheap alternatives to cable television. In March of 2007, Kris and I were paying $65.82 for a deluxe digital cable package that we rarely used – money that could have been used to pay down debt or increase the balance on my savings account. “$65.82 a month isn’t a fortune,” I wrote at the time, “but it’s a lot of money to pay…

  • Money Hack: The Monthly Checkbook Sweep (70 comments)

    At dinner the other night, T.S. told me about a new trick she’s developed to force herself to save money. It used to be that she’d just spend whatever she had in her checkbook. She didn’t spend more than that, so she wasn’t accumulating debt. But like many people, she wasn’t saving either. She spent whatever she had on hand. Because T.S. wants to save, she’s opened an account at ING Direct. She wants to…

  • 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 Razor’s Edge: Lessons in True Wealth (160 comments)

    Our friends have a profound effect on our personal finance habits. Some friends can lead us to spending and to debt. Others offer insight into the virtues of thrift. For me, my friend Sparky has been the latter. Through his example, I learned that frugality can help me achieve my goals. “Develop a plan that is so amazing, so glowing, that you are willing to walk blurry-eyed to work every day to make the money…

  • Ask the Readers: When Is It Okay to Spend Your Savings? (85 comments)

    Amanda wrote with a question this week that I think many GRS readers can relate to: When is it okay to spend your savings? My husband is currently unemployed so we’re just living on my salary, but at least we don’t have to pay for child care.  However, we are spending more than we make.  We had a fair amount stashed away from savings and some inheritance, and we’ve been dipping into this to help…

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

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

  • Follow-Up on the 63-Page Credit Card Agreement (34 comments)

    Several months ago, I took my own advice about how to choose a credit card and signed up for an American Express card from Costco. This is a business card and not a personal card. (I carry only one personal credit card.) In early October, I complained that I wasn’t willing to activate the card until I had read and understood the enclosed agreement, which was the equivalent of 63 normal typewritten pages. Many readers…

  • Credit Cards Can Pay You Money? (56 comments)

    This is a guest post from Sonia Coleman. It originally appeared in slightly different form at her blog, Coleman Unlimited. Last night I had to call my bank to follow up on a rebate check for my new Fujitsu ScanSnap that bounced (it’s that “crisis” thing again, I guess). It’s a great scanner, but I am a bit annoyed at having to do double to paperwork due to their third-party rebate service having insufficient funds….

  • Ask the Readers: How Much Money Would it Take For You to Compromise Your Principles? (207 comments)

    An Allegory There was once a man who became a vegetarian. Because he believed that all living creatures have souls, he swore he would never again consume animal flesh. For three years, he ate only vegetable matter. People offered him money to eat meat, but he steadfastly refused. “Will you try a turkey sandwich for $2?” a woman asked one day. “No,” he said. “Will you try this hot dog for $20?” a little boy…

  • How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick (77 comments)

    Yesterday a GRS reader named “P” pointed me to a New York Times article from Alex Williams, who writes that change isn’t easy. Williams notes that about 80% of those who make resolutions on New Year’s Day fall off the wagon by the middle of February. The article isn’t as depressing as that opening might lead you to believe. It offers glimpses of why people fail to keep resolutions — and offers tips for how…

  • One Year Later: Checking My Goals for 2008 (55 comments)

    Last year, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I set goals. “I don’t like long lists of resolutions,” I wrote. “You need focus to achieve a goal. If you set too many goals, it’s difficult to keep them all in mind. When you lose sight of a goal, you begin to drift.” At the start of 2008 I shared three goals for the year: To save a $10,000 emergency fund. To lose 40…

  • Coldplay and the Cost of Fun (71 comments)

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

  • Why 2009 Will Be a Fantastic Financial Year For Me (30 comments)

    J.D. is on vacation. This is a guest post from Katrina Ramser, a freelance writer who contributes to various websites, newspapers and magazines. She also writes about swimming at SquidKid and about cars at Vehix.com. I’m predicting 2009 will be a fantastic financial year for me. Not so much due to any income figure or increase or another form of windfall money, but rather because of my bottom-line affecting attitudes. Here are six reasons I…

  • December 24, 1958: A Six-Dollar Christmas (21 comments)

    I’m on vacation. This is a guest post from my aunt. It’s sort of a real-life “Gift of the Magi”. My aunt and uncle (who is called “Pop” in this story) celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past October. On Christmas Eve 1958, I had been married two months and seven days.  We were sixteen and eighteen — young but in love.  Pop had a good job in a mobile home factory. The pay was $2.10…

  • In Praise of the Adult Allowance (193 comments)

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

  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want: The Dark Side of Personal Finance (127 comments)

    I drove down to clean the moss of the roof of my mother’s house last week. I spent several hours on top of the house with my cousin Nick, scraping and hosing and blowing away years of green growth. We chatted as we worked. I told him that I was going to speak with a literary agent on the following day, and that I hoped I might soon have a book deal. “How does that…

  • My Family Financial History (As Told by My Mother) (28 comments)

    I’m giving a presentation at 1 p.m. this afternoon at the main downtown branch of Portland’s Multnomah County Library. I plan to cover a bit of my personal history, share some of the things I learned along the way, and offer some book recommendations before taking questions. As part of my preparation, I asked my mother for a brief family financial history from her perspective. (I never trust my own memories — are the “facts”…

  • The Irritation Threshold and Lifestyle Inflation (59 comments)

    This is a guest post by Scott L. from The Circular Ruins. Last weekend I went camping with my wife and our children. Because I was the one who accidentally left the camp stove at home, I was the one who had to make breakfast over the fire. In the morning. In the skillet. Pancake batter getting soaked in the rain. It was a very rainy morning, yet I had a big ol’ smile on…

  • Drama in Real Life: Burgled Again (203 comments)

    Four years ago — soon after we moved into this house — somebody broke into my car. We only have room for one vehicle in the garage, so I park on the street. One foggy February morning, I walked to my Ford Focus as usual, opened the back door, and put my stuff on the seat. But when I slammed the door closed, a shower of glass fell to the ground. Somebody had smashed the…

  • Creating a Will: It’s Not as Scary as You Might Think (42 comments)

    My friend Sparky called the other day. We chatted about work, we chatted about the economy, and we chatted about investing. We also chatted about our families. We talked about my mother and her health problems, and then we talked about his parents and their health problems. “I can’t believe they haven’t updated their wills,” said Sparky. “What?” I said. “Are you kidding me? How old are they?” “They’re both about 65,” he said. “Maybe…

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

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

  • Meeting the Diehards: Profiting from Shared Wisdom (22 comments)

    A GRS reader dropped a line last weekend. “I want to invite you to the Diehard Organizational Meeting on Wednesday,” he said. “I’m new to the group but obviously we’re all believers of value of index funds and John Bogle’s investment philosophy.” “Hope to see you there,” I replied. I’m still new to investing, but my reading continues to point in the direction of index funds. (An index fund is a mutual fund designed to…

  • Success Sunday: GRS Readers Share Their Stories (16 comments)

    One of the best parts about writing Get Rich Slowly is interacting with you, the readers. I especially love to read your success stories. For some reason, the past month has been huge for success stories — you guys are flooding my inbox with them. I thought it would be fun to share a few (edited) e-mails. First of all, Marisa wrote: I just wanted to write to say thank you. Your advice inspired my…

  • Back Up Your Computer to Save Time and Money (112 comments)

    Here’s a public service message: Back up your computer regularly. This has more to do with your pocketbook than you might think. Not only was I sick this week, but the hard drive on my laptop crashed. It’s gone. The Apple Geniuses (that’s what they call themselves!) cannot salvage it. I was able to pull the single most important document (the GRS spreadsheet) and a few posts-in-progress, but I lost a hell of a lot,…

  • When Is It Okay to Give? (30 comments)

    This is a guest post from my friend Kris, an American writer living in India. She and her husband recently arrived in New Delhi to participate in an educational exchange program. The juxtaposition of cultures has been interesting for Kris and Jeff: every day, their hosts bring ample meals to their rooms, but just a few blocks a way, people go hungry. Kris comments, “We’re from a small, rural community in the United States. Poverty…

  • What Does it Mean to Be Rich? (151 comments)

    I had lunch with my accountant the other day. Sabino is more than a financial advisor to me — foremost, he’s a close friend. I told him about my current circumstances, about how I’m now making more as a writer than I did when I worked at the box factory, about how I’ve been saving money, about how Kris and I are beginning to contemplate paying more on our mortgage. “How does it feel to…

  • Setting and Achieving Family Financial Goals (38 comments)

    When I finally paid off my consumer debt last fall, I set a new goal: build an emergency fund to cover several months of my expenses. Never before had I managed to accumulate more than $1000 in savings. In fact, I’d spent most of my life living paycheck-to-paycheck, constantly flirting with overdraft fees. For the past ten months, I’ve made saving my priority. Instead of using my positive cash flow to buy toys, I funneled…

  • The 63-Page Credit Card Agreement (48 comments)

    Taking my own advice about how to choose a credit card, I recently signed up for an TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express card because I can earn cash back virtually everywhere I go — 3% cash back for gasoline purchases at U.S. gas stations, including at Costco, up to $4,000 per year in purchases (1% thereafter), 2% cash back for purchases at U.S. restaurants, 2% cash back on eligible travel purchases, including at…

  • 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…

  • Burn After Reading: The $22 Movie (157 comments)

    I’m going to sound like a crotchety old man for a minute here — but it’s my blog and I can write what I want. Movies are too damn expensive. One of the luxuries of working from home is that when a friend calls me at 2 o’clock to go see a movie, I can do it. So when Paul called yesterday to ask if I wanted to see Burn After Reading, I said, “Sure.”…

  • The Never-Ending War Against Advertising (90 comments)

    I spoke with a reporter the other day. She was looking for ways to fight the urge to shop. “My top tip is to avoid advertising,” I told her. “That sounds nice,” she said, “but how do you actually do that?” I talked about how I used to read comic book blogs and participate in comic book forums, and how doing these things led me to increase my spending on comics. When I stopped visiting…

  • Frugality in Practice: Home Canning (58 comments)

    “What do you do with all that produce?” one reader asked recently about our garden. “Do you really eat it all, or does it go to waste?” We eat it, but not at once. Though we enjoy a lot of the food fresh from the garden, we preserve most of it for later. I’m fortunate that Kris loves to can, and so we enjoy the fruits of our labor year-round. Canning was once a vital…

  • Why I Don’t Track My Net Worth (59 comments)

    Earlier today I described net worth, and asked if it were the most important number in personal finance. Many people believe that it is. For them, it acts as a motivator, a sort of “life scorecard”. For others — and I’m one of them — net worth is just another number. As I do my finances, Quicken computes my net worth, but it seems largely irrelevant to me. I don’t even know what the number…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Cope with Spending Addiction? (94 comments)

    Nicki wants to get out of debt, but she can’t — she has a spending addiction. She’s hoping that other Get Rich Slowly readers can give her advice. Here’s an abridged version of her story: I am writing for advice on managing debt. I’ve been reading your website for the past month because my boyfriend recommended it after he noticed I spend a lot of money. Here’s a summary of my debt: Visa: $9900 at…

  • The Idea of Having (105 comments)

    My mother has been out of the hospital for two weeks now. She’s home and recovering well. The past two Sundays, Kris and I have driven down to see her, and the three of us have spent part of the afternoon sorting through mom’s Stuff. “Do you still want this?” I asked mom again and again, holding up an old computer printer, a plaque with a pithy saying, or a calendar from 1998. “No,” she’d…

  • This American Life: Something for Nothing (20 comments)

    Kris called me down to the kitchen this morning to listen to This American Life. While she baked a molasses cake and canned applesauce, I sat at the table and took notes on the show, which featured four stories about people trying to get something for nothing. Hands on a hard body The first story was about a “free” truck. Each year, a car dealership in Longview, Texas gives away a vehicle in a one-of-a-kind…

  • A Momentary Lapse of Reason (69 comments)

    I used to have two responses when faced with stress: spend more or eat more. I still sometimes struggle with stress-eating, but stress-spending hasn’t been an issue since I started this blog. My mother’s recent health problems, however, have brought a whole new meaning to the word “stress”. “I can’t believe this makes me so tense,” I told Kris. “I know Mom’s in good hands. She’s going to be fine.” “It’s understandable,” Kris said. So…

  • Reader Success Story: How I Gave Myself a Raise (20 comments)

    Jon wrote yesterday to share a success story of personal finance principles in action. Here’s a slightly modified version of his e-mail. I’ve been a reading personal finance blogs for some time now, and one thing I’ve seen repeated over and over is: if you are looking for a raise, the easiest thing to do is to ask for one. I was skeptical of this advice until this last week when I made it work…

  • Cleaning House: When Little Messes Become Big Problems (129 comments)

    Kris and I drove down to clean Mom’s house last night. Over the past decade, her place has gradually been overtaken by Stuff and clutter. Since Mom is still in the hospital, we figured this was a great time to tackle some of the mess. After three hours of cleaning clutter and sorting Stuff, there’s no mystery about where I acquired my compulsion to buy. I come by it honestly. But while I’ve managed to…

  • 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…

  • Missing the Target: Lousy Store Policies Can Thwart Frugal Intentions (81 comments)

    This is a guest post from The Tim at the Seattle Bubble blog, a site about the housing bubble. He also writes The Naked Loon, a Seattle-centric satirical publication. One way our family keeps the entertainment budget slim is by not buying new release DVDs, but waiting to buy movies until they drop below $10. About a month ago, my wife purchased the DVD movie “Never Been Kissed” for $5.50 from the discount shelf at…

  • Why I Fought to Save Three Bucks (and Why You Should Too) (201 comments)

    This guest post comes from Donna Freedman, a blogger at MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog. Donna is one of my favorite personal finance writers. This is a reprint (with permission) of one of her recent pieces. On Friday I visited Office Depot for school backpacks at the killer price of $2.99. Along with other loss-leader school supplies, they’ll be donated to a local social services agency. At the checkout, I handed over a “20% off…

  • Enough is Enough: Wealth is What You Make It (44 comments)

    This is a guest post from Steve Ross, a pastor at a church in rural Oregon. I learned something about how wealthy I am recently. I am a pastor in a congregation that is in a financial crisis. We’re reaching new people, but as our older givers die the losses exceed the gains in terms of financial support. This year we have a $100,000 deficit in our budget. Yikes! As our Finance Committee worked on…

  • Drama in Real Life: Caring for a Parent in Crisis (79 comments)

    My mother is in the hospital. Her health, which had been deteriorating lately, took a turn for the worse over the weekend. On Tuesday, she was admitted to a local hospital, where she’s likely to remain for a week (or more). My brothers and I have been sorting through mom’s financial documents, trying to piece together a complete picture. It’s difficult. If she had used Quicken, the job would be relatively easy, but she’s Old…

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

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

  • We’re All Going to Die Someday: Making Informed Insurance Choices (26 comments)

    This is a guest post from Amanda, a Colorado tech writer and an activist for children with congenital heart disease. This article is about Amanda’s personal experience with insurance. It’s not a prescription for other people, but insights into the value of insurance in her own life. It’s her hope that it will get you thinking. There was a time in my life when the thought of insurance made my eyes glaze over. I’ve never…

  • Drama in Real Life: Cancer Scare (42 comments)

    My sister-in-law has cancer. Last week, a biopsy revealed that Stephanie has a cancerous lump on her thyroid. She’ll likely have her thyroid removed, meaning she’ll need to take medication for the rest of her life. (She’s 37 years old.) She’ll also probably need a handful of radioactive iodine chemotherapy treatments. Prognosis positive Jeff and Stephanie have both settled down a bit after the initial scare. They’ve heard from many sources, including Steph’s grandmother, that…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Cope with Socially Obligated Spending? (147 comments)

    Allen recently attended a family wedding that put a hole in his budget. He wonders how to cope with societal pressure to spend: How do you deal with social situations where you have to spend? I just had to spend $300 to go to a cousin’s wedding. I couldn’t not go — it’s family. But I couldn’t get in wearing what I own, because it wasn’t “good enough” and I couldn’t just go rent something…

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

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

  • The Art of Frugal Living (43 comments)

    Christine just sent me a National Public Radio story about the frugal artists of New York City. Columbia University recently released a study of 213 visual artists over the age of 61. Their average income? $30,000 a year. According to the NPR story: Most of them said they were satisfied with their lives. However, many reported that they also have had to make daily economic compromises. They don’t eat out, buy clothes at flea markets…

  • A Small Bite: The Sensible Way to Splurge (41 comments)

    This is a guest post from my wife. I need dessert. After a fine meal — home-cooked or dining out — I simply don’t feel satisfied without a bit of something sweet. The slowing metabolism that comes with encroaching middle age means I must do one of three things: fight the urge and feel deprived give in wholeheartedly to my craving and regret it later find a middle ground With dessert, I’ve discovered a middle…

  • Financial Advice from My Father (When I Was Nineteen) (44 comments)

    Today is Father’s Day in many countries, including the United States. While sorting some old letters and photos recently, I stumbled across a letter my dad wrote to me during my sophomore year of college. This is my father’s financial advice to me when I was nineteen years old. I haven’t attempted to edit — any misspellings are his. J.D.’s Points to Ponder Warning — Make sure you read them all. There may be some…

  • Talking With Friends About Money (47 comments)

    We had dinner last weekend with our friends Pierre and Marcela. The food was fabulous. The conversation was good, too. Much of the time, we talked about money. If I were a rich man “If we were rich, I wouldn’t change a thing in my life,” Marcela said. “Except the food. If we made ten times what we make now, I’d keep everything else the same, but I’d eat like this every night.” The rest…

  • Elvis Talks About Money at the Gym (18 comments)

    I go to the gym every morning at about eight. There’s a guy who shows up every morning at about nine. He’s huge: big, buff, and tanned. But the thing is, while I’m lifting little tiny weights because I’m just starting out, he lifts little tiny weights because that’s his way of staying big and buff. Like me, he’s getting fit slowly. Apparently, as I learned this morning, he’s also getting rich slowly. I forgot…

  • Saving with Albert: Teaching a Four-Year-Old the Value of Money (33 comments)

    My friend Albert — age four — loves electricity. Ever since he was young (ha!) he’s been fascinated by the stuff. His parents have carefully nurtured his hobby. Now that Albert’s older, they’ve decided this might be a good way to teach him about money. In this guest post from my friend Lisa, she describes how they’re helping Albert take the financial plunge. My son Albert loves his collection of colored light bulbs with all…

  • Ask the Readers: Buy a Car or Pay Off Debt? (124 comments)

    Earlier this week, April wrote with a personal finance predicament. She and her husband need to buy a car, but it’s not something they’d budgeted to do any time soon. Fate intervened: My husband and I are trying to pay down our debt and to save money. This morning he called to tell me that he had been rear-ended in traffic. He’s fine, thankfully, but he thinks they’ll total his car, which was paid for….

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

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

  • 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….

  • Extreme Personal Finance: Crissy Thompson, the Coupon Queen (56 comments)

    Changed the title and URL, everyone. Sorry. I hadn’t planned to post anything this afternoon, but about a million people (maybe a million-and-a-half) sent me a story about Crissy Thompson from Gainesville, Georgia. Crissy sometimes spends just $10 a week on groceries. For her family of five. How does she do it? Coupons. Jay Watson spent a day with Crissy to learn the secret of her success. Crissy was pregnant with her third child and…

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

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

  • A Real Millionaire Next Door (135 comments)

    Kris and I love our neighborhood. People are friendly and helpful, yet mostly mind their own business. It’s a perfect combination. One of our favorite neighbors is the old guy next door. Let’s call him John. John is a 71-year-old retired shop teacher who lives in a modest ranch house on half an acre, the same house he’s had for over forty years. He has an old barn filled with salvaged lumber, outdated appliances, and…

  • Reader Story: Beware of Scams and Pyramid Schemes (107 comments)

    In the past, I’ve shared the story of the worst job I ever had. In a lot of ways, it felt like I was part of a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing operation. I’ve been approached to participate in similar operations since then: once by my veterinarian (?!?) and once by a stranger in a book store. Sometimes you cannot tell a scam is a scam until you see it up close, and then the…

  • A Rather Obvious Metaphor for Personal Finance Couched in a True Story About Physical Fitness (8 comments)

    This piece originally appeared at Andrea’s Consultant Journal in a slightly different format. Exercise is a funny thing. When you start a fitness regimen, you feel awful, especially if it’s been months (or years) since you’ve been physically active. The first couple of weeks can be grueling. But once you make it a habit, once you find the groove, exercise can become exhilarating, even addictive. During the summer of 1997, I lost 40 pounds. My…

  • Reader Success Story: To Wii or Not to Wii? (32 comments)

    I received another great e-mail yesterday describing a reader victory. Joshua has been wanting to buy a Nintendo Wii, even though he knows it’s not the best use of his time or money. On Friday, he stared temptation in the face — twice! — and triumphed through force of will. Here’s his story: I had a great “resist spending” story this weekend, and I had to tell someone. Last Friday I read about No Credit…

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

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

  • If I Can Do It, Anyone Can (26 comments)

    At this moment, Kris and I are driving home from a long weekend in Central Oregon. Every year, we rent a home in Sunriver, and spend three days with some of our best friends. It’s great fun. (Yesterday I played golf for the first time in eight years, and I have a nasty sunburn to show for it.) We also use this trip as a chance to see one of Kris’ college roommates. Eila moved…

  • Ask the Readers: Energy Conservation Tips? (76 comments)

    Dan wrote with a question unlike any I’ve received before. He lives in Alaska, where the residents of Juneau have been confronted with a sudden energy crisis (more here). Here’s Dan’s story: I am facing a unique energy situation. I live in Juneau, Alaska. Last Wednesday, we had an avalanche which affected the electricity generation within our community. Our energy costs went from $0.11 per kilowatt-hour to $0.50 per kilowatt-hour instantly. Imagine your electricity bill…

  • Some Thoughts on Goals and Adult Education (44 comments)

    Last night, Kris and I had dinner with Craig and Lisa. Craig is an architect. Lisa is a technical writer who has spent the past few years as a stay-at-home mother. (Lisa contributed two GRS guest posts last year: How to find great deals on eBay and Career advice for the college graduate.) Now that their children are a little older, Lisa has the itch to return to the workplace, to find some non-motherly pursuit…

  • How One Reader Uses Haggling to Save Big Bucks (66 comments)

    Last week, Jason shared a guest post on how to negotiate to save money. Daylily Diva wrote to share her own experiences, which I’ve reproduced here with permission. I love haggling — it’s second nature to me.  If I’m buying bagged mulch at the garden center and some sacks have small puncture holes,  I negotiate a discount because the sacks are damaged.  I negotiate on everything. For one thing, I’m in the antiques business, and…

  • Grocery Store Mysteries: Cheap Milk (66 comments)

    We ran out of milk this evening, so I made an emergency trip to the grocery store to buy more. Generally we purchase a half gallon of one-percent, which lasts us about a week. When I went to grab the milk from the refrigerator case, however, I was startled by the price: $3.19! Usually we pay between $1.99 and $2.29. Our of curiosity, I priced the full gallons. They were on sale for $2.99. That’s…

  • Frugality in Practice: The DIY Footrest (41 comments)

    I’ve been working at home for a month now. I like it. The first week was a little scary, but the past few weeks have been immensely productive. I’ve caught up on e-mail. I’ve conducted and given some interviews. And I’ve planned some posts for the future. Most of my day is spent at my desk writing. The first few days were awful. My wrists hurt. I couldn’t find the right chair height to match…

  • How to Turn $500 into $7 the Hard Way (91 comments)

    Back in our young and foolish days, Kris and I bought an encyclopedia set from a door-to-door salesman. This was in 1995, at the very cusp of the digital age. We had been on the internet for about a year, but we had no way to know that one day very soon the World Wide Web might make printed encyclopedias obsolete. So we bought an encyclopedia set. Naturally I charged the $500 to my credit…

  • Drama in Real Life: Wrecked Rental (184 comments)

    When we arrived in San Francisco on Thursday, I rented a car. It was the first time I’d ever done so — we’ve never used one on vacation, and this was my first business trip. The whole car rental thing was a mystery to me. When the man at the rental counter asked me what sort of insurance I wanted to purchase, I told him I had my own. In truth, I had forgotten to…

  • Would You Make a Ten-Minute Phone Call for $57? (35 comments)

    GRS reader Dan recently wrote to share a story I hear often. Many people are afraid to ask for a better deal — they think it’s not worth the effort. Dan has decided that it is: I thought I’d share a short story about credit cards.  I’ve been using them for eight years now, and have always paid my bill in full every month.  I use Quicken to keep track of what I’ll owe at…

  • Excited and Scared: One Week as a Full-Time Blogger (60 comments)

    I’ve had a week now to adjust to the idea that I’m a full-time blogger, that I’m completely in control of my financial success or failure. To be honest, I’m both excited and scared. I had the same job for sixteen years. I’ve never made a career change. I’m sure that many of you have moved or started a new job and felt similar fears. I need to realize that my fears are normal, and…

  • How My Net Worth Went from $-40,000 to $285,000 in Five Years (118 comments)

    This is a guest post from FrugalTrader, who blogs about personal finance from a Canadian perspective at Million Dollar Journey. In 2003, my girlfriend (now wife) and I graduated from university with nearly $50,000 in debt. This debt was a combination of my wife’s $30,000 in student loans and her $20,000 new car loan. Since I learned fundamental saving habits at a very young age, I managed to graduate university debt-free with $10,000 in savings. Combined, however,…

  • The Key to Wealth is Being Satisfied with What You Already Have (77 comments)

    For the past few weeks, I’ve been making sales calls with David, my replacement at the box factory. We’re visiting existing customers to explain the transition. Most of my clients know that I’m part-owner in the family business. “Why are you leaving?” they want to know. “What are you going to do now?” “I’m going to write,” I say. “About what?” some of them ask. “Personal finance,” I say, and that’s usually the end of…

  • Frugality in Practice: Home-Based Physical Fitness (90 comments)

    Lately, I’ve been making rumblings about getting in shape again. I want to get fit slowly. The trick is figuring out how to do it. It took a lot of reading and a lot of trial and error to take control of my finances, but I’ve finally achieved a healthy attitude toward money. Now I hope to do the same with physical fitness. But where to start? One approach would be to just throw money…

  • What To Do About Stolen Mail? (104 comments)

    When I came home on Wednesday, there was no mail in our mailbox. That seemed strange, but it happens sometimes. I didn’t think much about it. Tonight, though, we realized we were missing our latest Netflix movies. We checked the web site, and sure enough — they should have arrived Wednesday. “Uh oh,” I said. “This could be trouble.” “We mostly get catalogs and personal finance magazines,” Kris said. “We don’t get checks in the…

  • An Angel on One Shoulder and a Devil on the Other (45 comments)

    We received a Costco coupon book in the mail today. Costco — a membership warehouse store — has very low prices and generally does not take coupons. A few times a year, though, they send out flyers with special discounts. Kris flipped through the book first, clipping coupons for kleenex, cat litter, and ziploc bags. When she was finished, I picked it up to look for things she’d missed. On the first page, I nearly…

  • Ask the Readers: I’m Not Good With Money — How Should I Handle a Windfall? (76 comments)

    Mitch recently wrote to me with one of the toughest reader questions I’ve seen yet. He lives a paycheck-to-paycheck existence, but will soon be coming into a lot of money. He wants to know what he should do: It is now 11:45pm on 14 January 2008, the day before payday! It’s also about three days before being broke. With no savings and poor credit, I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck. For now, I bring home about $400 a week….

  • Some Thoughts on Making the Transition from Debt to Savings (28 comments)

    One of the most rewarding aspects of writing Get Rich Slowly is sharing success stories and strategies with the readers. In the forums, there’s an entire section devoted to financial success stories. Mostly, though, people share these via e-mail. Travis wrote today to tell me about his transition from debt to savings. Like me, he found it a bit of a challenge. Here’s our e-mail exchange: Travis I was reading about your progress on your…

  • Making Progress: An Update on My Goals for 2008 (31 comments)

    On New Year’s Day, I shared my three primary goals for 2008: To save a $10,000 emergency fund. To lose 40 pounds. To write a book about personal finance. Some readers thought setting only three goals for the entire year was “pretty weak”, but this has enabled me to remain focused, and to spend a little time every day working toward each objective. How am I doing? Let’s find out. Save a $10,000 emergency fund…

  • “Simplify, Simplify!” — In the Footsteps of Thoreau (19 comments)

    This is a guest post from Mark Cunningham, one of the co-authors of The Prosperous Peasant. Cunningham is a member of the Woodstock Writers Guild, the monthly writing group to which I belong. In my twentieth year I packed a large cardboard box with belongings and headed east by train to begin my artistic life in Massachusetts, 3,000 miles from California, where I’d been born and raised. I wanted to live near Walden Pond and…

  • 2007 Discretionary Spending: The Highs and Lows (76 comments)

    I write a lot about personal finance, but how well do I practice what I preach? For the most part, I follow my own advice. Much of what I write here is based on personal experience. But my financial life is not without weaknesses. Last January, I tallied my discretionary spending to see exactly how much these weaknesses cost me. This year, I’ve done the same. Looking at the Big Picture, 2007 was an amazing…

  • Money Talk at the Barber Shop (24 comments)

    I went to get my haircut yesterday. Wayne, my regular barber, wasn’t in, so I drew the new guy, Richard. “So what do you do?” Richard asked as he tied the apron around my neck. I smiled. “I’m a writer,” I said. I was trying the label on for size, curious to hear how it sounded. “A writer, huh? What kind of books?” “No books. Not yet, anyway,” I said. “I write about personal finance….

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

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

  • Car Trouble: A Real-Life Lesson in the Value of an Emergency Fund (155 comments)

    I drove south yesterday morning to meet with Mac, my partner at Get Fit Slowly. Between Portland and Salem, a warning light came on in my Ford Focus — the temperature gauge had risen into the red. I pulled to the side of the road, called to cancel our meeting, and cursed fate. I hate my car. After the engine cooled, I nursed the vehicle to the local Ford dealership. I gave them the keys,…

  • A Life Well-Lived is Not About the Bling (81 comments)

    I love real-life stories of people who get rich slowly. Paul Navone, a 78-year-old resident of Millville, New Jersey, is one of those. On December 21st, Navone donated $1 million to Cumberland County College. He still has millions left. How did he earn his money? The old-fashioned way: lots of hard work. Navone never attended high school. He began working in local glass factories at the age of 16. In 50 years, he never made…

  • Penny Pinchers: Mart and the $10 Boots (13 comments)

    I love family reunions. My cousins are bold and brassy. They’re loud, and quick with a funny story. They’re also cheap. At a New Year’s Day reunion last week, we swapped tales of extreme penny-pinching. One of my cousins told this story, which I thought was hilarious. A couple of years ago, my cousin Mart decided to buy a new pair of boots. On his way to the Oregon Coast, he stopped by the Wilco…

  • 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…

  • My Three Goals for 2008 (and How I’ll Tackle Them) (55 comments)

    On Monday I suggested that instead of resolutions, you should set goals for the new year — a subtle but important distinction. I also recommended that you keep your list of goals small and manageable. When you set too many goals, you can lose focus, and are more likely to miss your mark. This year, I have three primary goals: To save a $10,000 emergency fund. To lose 40 pounds. To write a book about…

  • It’s a Wonderful Life and the Value of Social Capital (38 comments)

    Yesterday I made a sales call to a local business, a nursery owned by one of my former high school classmates. Keith and I didn’t move in the same circles and were never friends, but I always appreciated his good nature and quick wit. In just twenty minutes yesterday morning, I got to know him better than I had the entire time we were kids. Like my father, Keith’s dad ran his own business. Both…

  • How Good Habits Keep Small Mistakes Manageable (23 comments)

    I have been swamped lately — absolutely buried. I’m busy at the box factory, busy with my blogs, and busy with holiday social activities. It’s been nearly impossible for me to juggle everything. Now I’m getting sick, and I can’t help but think it’s due to the stress. But the stress has done more than affect my health. It’s leading me to spend without thinking. You know how busy people justify their Egg McMuffin or…

  • How I Became a Millionaire While Working in My Pajamas (105 comments)

    This is a guest post from the Millionaire Mommy Next Door. At her blog, MMND shares her recipe for success, happiness, and financial freedom. This piece originally appeared on her site in a slightly different format. When my husband and I married (at age 23), I was working as an office assistant at a veterinary hospital earning $7.50 per hour. Unsatisfied with my low wages, I brainstormed ways to generate extra income. Going to the…

  • Walking the Talk: Saying “No” to Temptation (52 comments)

    Kris and I spent our Thanksgiving in Central Oregon, visiting my brother and his family. Because Tony’s in-laws were out of town, we set up camp in their palatial home. To my delight, I was even allowed to drive the MINI Cooper S that belongs to Tony’s mother-in-law. Though I’ve done a fine job at suppressing my urge to buy a MINI, it’s still there, waiting for me to let me guard down. Driving the…

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

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

  • My Millionaire Schemes (46 comments)

    I made a rare trip to Powell’s City of Books yesterday. This used to be one of my favorite hang-outs, but as I’ve learned to love frugality and to hate clutter, my book spending has plummeted. As a result, I spend much less time in book stores. I use the public library instead. Still, sometimes I allow myself to buy new books. Yesterday I picked up a stack of personal finance titles to review during…

  • 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…

  • How 15 Minutes Saved Me 15% on My Television Bill (58 comments)

    This is a guest post from Stephen Ward, who writes at Project Paradox. Although many frugality experts decry the need for television, my wife and I enjoy it too much to give it up.  That didn’t stop me from getting a better deal, though!  Just the other day, I called up my provider to get my rate reduced.  It took about 15 minutes on the phone to get a rate that was 15% lower.  Here’s…

  • Letter to a Godchild: Passing on Financial Wisdom (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from Suzanne S. I’m English and live in California. My goddaughter recently graduated in England (with a degree in Art). I’m one of those who regrets not starting off with good financial habits when I was younger. I thought I would write her a letter giving her the advice that I wish someone had given me when I graduated. I would love the perspective from Get Rich Slowly readers on…

  • Quitting the Day Job: Finding the Guts to Pursue Your Dreams (223 comments)

    Something amazing has happened in the past eighteen months. While I’ve been learning about personal finance — and sharing my knowledge with you — Get Rich Slowly has grown from a small site with a couple hundred readers into a real-life business. GRS currently has 35,000 subscribers and generates $5,000 in monthly revenue. It also takes most of my time. This is a blessing and a curse. The Blessing As my income from this site…

  • Beating the High Cost of Weddings: How We Did It, and How You Can Too (95 comments)

    Think you need to spend a fortune to tie the knot? It’s just not so. Kris and I got hitched for a couple grand in 1993. In this guest post from JerichoHill, he explains how he kept costs down for his wedding last summer. Weddings are expensive affairs. Couples often spend tens of thousands of dollars for an event that lasts only a day or two. I know, I know — the memories last a…

  • Beware of Citibank’s Retroactive Late Fee (46 comments)

    Here’s one way for banks to compensate for their losses during the subprime lending debacle: screw their other customers. GRS reader Morydd shared a scary story in the discussion forums. His wife has a student loan through Citibank, which this month decided to charge a retro-active late fee without any explanation. Here’s Morydd’s tale (as originally posted at his blog): When I went to check the statement on my wife’s student loan through Citibank for…

  • Get More Bang for Your Buck by Using Coupons and Sales Wisely (17 comments)

    This is a guest post from Amanda, a Colorado tech writer and an activist for children with congenital heart disease. My conversion to frugality began about a year ago, but it’s only been recently that I’ve become good at it. We’ve been saving money by being aggressive with a cash-only purchase plan. If we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it. This only works if you know ahead of time what you need and how…

  • Yardwork and Financial Setbacks: A Metaphor (11 comments)

    A metaphor Kris and I did more yardwork today — it never ends. We wheeled out the chipper and continued to grind away at the branches and the leaves. We spread the resulting mulch at the base of our blueberries and grapes. After about ninety minutes of work, however, disaster struck. Kris was pouring a tub of oak leaves and acorns into the hopper when the chipper ground to a halt. I crossed my fingers…

  • Basic Personal Finance: Know How Your Accounts Work (30 comments)

    Sometimes it’s the easy stuff that catches us off guard. We spend so much time trying to get the big stuff right, that we forget about the basics. I’ve had a couple experiences lately that left me feeling a little silly for missing the obvious. Hassles with the “no hassles” card This past summer, I signed up for my first personal credit card in nearly a decade. I went over all the legal stuff carefully…

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

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

  • Mystery Checks in the Mail (15 comments)

    Earlier this month, Julie warned us that Macy’s had flipped her store card and sold her data to Citibank. I recently experienced something similar. A few months ago, I received some “advance checks” in the mail from Bank of America. You know the ones — the kind of checks your credit card uses to entice you so take a cash advance. The problem was, I don’t have an account with Bank of America. I did…

  • 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…

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

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

  • Always Check Your Receipts (30 comments)

    IKEA opened in Portland recently. I’d never been to IKEA before, but had heard that it’s a great place to pick up inexpensive furniture and gadgets for the home. One recent Friday afternoon, Kris and I decided to go on a date to the new store. Not very romantic, perhaps, but oh-so-practical. IKEA stores are huge. Each one is laid out like a giant maze. You don’t browse aisles, but instead walk from the start…

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

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

  • On the Relationship Between Temperament and Financial Behavior (13 comments)

    This guest post is from Jaimie, who writes about personal finance at paidtwice.com. Do you look before you leap? Or do you jump right in with no reservations? Recently I’ve been watching my daughter navigate learning to walk. It is quite an experience, especially since I never really got to see this process in action with my son. As soon as my son could pull himself up to standing, he was letting go and stepping…

  • Countrywide and Me: A Real-Life Look at Risk Tolerance (42 comments)

    My month-long experiment with Countrywide Financial is over. As I’ve mentioned before, I keep a small portion of my investment portfolio designated for “fun” trading. That is, trading that is more speculation than investment, the sort of thing most people think of when they consider the stock market. About $80,000 of my retirement accounts are invested in index funds, but I have $1,000 set aside to buy whatever I want. Speculation is NOT investment In…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do Couples Combine Finances? (60 comments)

    Most young couples must eventually decide whether to keep separate or joint financial accounts. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of each method, but we’ve never explored the practical considerations: how do you make each system work? More importantly, how do you make each system work well? Recently, I’ve received a couple of questions about the details of combining finances. For example, Patrick writes: I am getting married next year, and know that our W-4…

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

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

  • 12 Investing Mistakes I’ve Made (and How You Can Learn From Them) (63 comments)

    This is a guest post from Pinyo, author of Moolanomy, a personal finance blog about money, wealth, investing, and more. I’ve been investing since 1996. In the process, I have learned a lot, mainly from trial and error. I’d like to share my experience with you. Here are some of the mistakes I’ve made: Not investing soon enough — I have been working part-time since my first year at college in 1991. If I had…

  • Shaking the New Car Itch: A Tale of Priorities (109 comments)

    When I went to the street to get the mail on Saturday, the latest issue of The New Yorker was in the box. Walking up the sidewalk to the house, I idly began to remove the subscription cards. I stopped, though, when I came to a full-page cardstock advertisement. I read the front of the ad. I read the back. At the kitchen table, I carefully removed the ad from the magazine, carried it upstairs,…

  • Drama in Real Life: “You’re Fired!” (75 comments)

    We just fired an employee. Letting a person go is never an easy thing, especially at a small family business like ours. We treat our employees well, and relate to them as real men and women instead of cogs in a machine. But there are times when an employee just isn’t working out, and we’ve got to let him go. The fellow we just fired was our 21-year-old truck driver. He’s been a little shaky…

  • 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…

  • How to Feed Yourself for $15 a Week (204 comments)

    Our discussion about how to eat for cheap generated a lot of great tips. Daiko shared a detailed explanation of how he once got by spending just $15/week on food. This is a great real-life example of how it’s possible to eat well without breaking the bank. I’m posting it here so that more people will see it. Although I don’t do this now, I once lived on $15 a week for food in the…

  • An Introduction to Financial Archaeology (37 comments)

    Despite past financial failings, I’ve always had at least one good habit: I save every receipt, bill, statement, invoice, and memo that I receive. For nearly fifteen years I’ve used the same low-tech system. At the end of the week, when I do my finances, I tuck my paperwork into a shoebox. When the shoebox is full, I place it in storage and start a new one. I now believe this system is flawed. I’d…

  • The Frugal Collector: 10 Ways to Curb the Habit (29 comments)

    I spent my Labor Day weekend scouring my bookshelves, sorting thousands of books and comics. I tried not to think about how much I’d paid for things, instead dividing them into two piles: Books and comics I intend to read in the future. Books and comics I have no intention of reading. I was alarmed by how many volumes fell into the latter category. Our living room floor is now flooded with books, most of…

  • Bank of America Demonstrates How to Alienate Potential Customers (64 comments)

    Last month I shared stories of good customer service Kris and I have experienced recently. Sadly, this sort of thing seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Tim wrote to share a frustrating experience he had with Bank of America, the kind of thing The Consumerist covers all the time. Here’s his story: My employer ran a promotional thing where if you completed a set of “healthy living” tasks, they gave you $25. …

  • When a Saver and a Spender Say “I Do” (25 comments)

    This guest post is from Sara Wallace, a member at Debt Management Talk. When my husband and I got married, we brought a lot more to our marriage than ourselves. Financially, I brought my entire life savings — while he brought just about the same amount in credit card debt. “So what?” you say. My savings meant we could clean up his debt and start our marriage debt free — not bad! While it’s true…

  • Grocery Store vs. Farmers Market: Which Has the Cheapest Produce? (47 comments)

    Last year I asked, “How much do you spend on food?” Answers varied widely. Some commenters couldn’t comprehend that others could spend so much — or so little. I’ve always believed that buying produce at the farmers market is a good way to cut food costs. But is it really? This weekend I decided to find out. Over the past two days, I’ve surveyed produce prices at five different locations: the farmers market, a produce…

  • Money Mistakes: That Old Black Magic (46 comments)

    I make a point of sharing my financial success stories with you — it’s only fair that I confess when I make mistakes. I’ve been doing so well for so long, that I’d forgotten what it’s like to “fall off the wagon”. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened since I returned from vacation. On my first day back at work, Nick told me, “There’s a new set of Magic cards out.” During my bleakest financial period,…

  • 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…

  • The Tyranny of Stuff (103 comments)

    “Did you learn anything in England and Ireland?” a friend asked the other day. I brushed the question aside; I didn’t have a good answer. But I’ve been thinking about it. Maybe I did learn something: being gone for three weeks taught me that I have too much Stuff. I’ve always been a packrat. When I was a boy, I had a closet that my parents called my “rat’s nest”. I stashed anything I could…

  • 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…

  • What I’m Doing Right (140 comments)

    Today’s guest post comes from M, a blogger and writer living in San Francisco. She keeps a fascinating personal blog, as well as Bay Area Love Letters, a site devoted to San Francisco and Northern California. Decide how much to save in an emergency fund…Research how to determine amount of life insurance coverage needed…Brainstorm ways to save on health insurance costs…Increase 401K contributions to take advantage of company match… All these items and more are…

  • 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…

  • Small-Town Personal Finance (35 comments)

    I’ve been saving this post for several months, waiting for a time to share it. After Penelope’s guest-post yesterday about moving to a smaller city, I figured now was the time. I grew up in a small town. Canby was a rural farming community when I was a boy. People made their livings from selling produce, raising livestock, and, especially, growing nursery plants. After college I returned to Canby. Over the next ten years I…

  • 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…

  • Good Customer Service Still Exists (40 comments)

    This is a guest-post from my wife, who recently had a great customer service experience. I brown-bag my lunch on workdays, often making enough dinner to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch. As such, I wanted to invest in some quality microwavable dishes. About three years ago, I splurged on a set of six “Rock n Serve” Tupperware containers of various sizes. They’re perfect for microwaving lunches, with a pop-up vent in the top…

  • Confessions of a Personal Finance Guru (37 comments)

    This is a guest-post from Liz Weston, one of my favorite professional personal finance writers. You guys send me more articles from her than from any other expert. (Except maybe Ben Stein — you like him, too.) Suze Orman set off quite a stir a few months ago in a New York Times interview. Although some folks were all atwitter to find out she was gay, what really had people in the personal finance world…

  • How to Start a Family Without Breaking the Bank (87 comments)

    This guest post is from Nickel, author of Raising4Boys.com and FiveCentNickel.   I recently received an e-mail from a reader asking about the “real” cost of raising kids. In short, she’s heard a lot about the high cost of raising kids, and was wondering if it’s really as bad as people make it out to be. More than anything, this question seemed to have been born out of angst over what it takes to be…

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

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

  • Frugality in Practice: Small Victories (23 comments)

    Sometimes I get giddy when I save just a little bit of money. The cyan ink in our printer ran dry yesterday. When I went to the store today I had the option of buying name-brand ink for $8 a cartridge or off-brand ink for $6 a cartridge. And the off-brand stuff was on sale at a 50% discount. Of course I bought the off-brand stuff. In fact, I stocked up. I cleared the store…

  • How to Save a Dollar (44 comments)

    Here’s a guest-post from my cousin, Mrs. Darling. She previously shared information on how to raise a family on one income (here’s part two). The third part to that series will appear here in August. It’s another gorgeous morning filled with birdsong. It’s also the beginning of another busy week. We spent all Sunday afternoon running from store to store in search of a TV. Now we didn’t just go out all willy-nilly. Oh no!…

  • Some Brief Thoughts on Life and Death (31 comments)

    My cousin Ron died of cancer last Sunday. He was 47. I spent much of the past two days preparing a video presentation for this afternoon’s memorial service. After scanning and processing scores of photographs, and after talking with family members at the funeral, I’m reminded of three important points. This advice is trite, but it’s important. Create a will. I know you’re young, and I know you’re not going to die any time soon,…

  • 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…

  • You Are Your Own Worst Enemy (108 comments)

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

  • Why I Applied for a Credit Card (and Why It’s Not the End of the World) (38 comments)

    Credit cards ruined my life. Between 1989 and 1998, I accumulated nearly $25,000 in credit card debt. During that time, I added about $2,500 of new debt every year (over $200 each month). I was a compulsive spender. Eventually, the debt load became so great that I was forced to face the problem. I cancelled my credit cards, rolled the debt into a home equity loan, and haven’t carried a personal credit card for the…

  • Ask the Readers: Personal Finance During a Health Crisis? (28 comments)

    What would you do if you knew you were dying? How would a cancer diagnosis affect your personal finance decisions? The Travelin’ Man from Stuff You Oughtta Know isn’t dying yet, but he’s had a scare. Here’s his story (this is not written by J.D.): I was given my very first cancer scare last week. I have to tell you — it freaked the hell out of me. For that matter, “scare” may not be…

  • The Debt to Pleasure: What is the Cost of Fun? (50 comments)

    Last weekend, I played paintball for the second time in my life. I had great fun charging through undergrowth, hiding behind logs, and shooting my friends at close range. Paintball is a blast, but I’m amazed at how much it costs to play. We each paid $25 to use the field and an additional $25 for paint. The total cost was $50 for about five hours of playtime — roughly $10 an hour. On the…

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

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

  • The Power of Yes: A Simple Way to Get More Out of Life (130 comments)

    For much of my adult life I’ve been shackled by fear. I’ve been afraid to try new things, afraid to meet new people, afraid of doing anything that might lead to failure. This fear confined me to a narrow comfort zone. Recently, however, I made a single small change that has helped me to overcome my fear, and allowed me to get more out of life. Last fall somebody at Ask Metafilter posted a question…

  • Convenience Store Economics (64 comments)

    I stopped by the 7-11 yesterday for the first time in years. I was thirsty and wasn’t willing to wait until I got home for a glass of water. I grabbed a $1.59 bottle of Aquafina and headed to the checkout stand. A woman and her two teenage daughters were in front of me. They were purchasing three Big Bite hot dogs, a Slurpee, and a couple pieces of candy. From the way they acted,…

  • Where Can I Invest My Money to Realize at Least a 10% Return? (50 comments)

    In a forum thread called “Why do so many people hate on Dave Ramsey?“, Rush complained that Ramsey’s advice is too conservative. Squished18 replied by saying: “You’re advising me to invest my $100K ‘at 10%’. Where am I going to invest my money? There are ZERO investments that will guarantee me a 10% return.” The following was Rush’s response. You asked the million-dollar question: “Where am I going to invest my money [to realize at…

  • 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…

  • Commandment #4: Be Frugal (20 comments)

    Last night while cleaning the house, I found some old papers. Among the many memories, I found a document entitled “J.D.’s Ten Commandments”. I can’t tell exactly when I wrote this, but I’d guess it was back in 1992 or 1993, just after I’d graduated from college. My ten commandments were: Be physically fit. Be attractive. Don’t waste free time. Be frugal. Maintain the automobile. Be curious. Be loving. Be productive. Have fun. Be rational….

  • Personal Finance on Film: The Farmer’s Wife (34 comments)

    “It makes me feel so greedy and selfish to see these people struggling, almost losing it all, over a $100 debt, and I go out and spend $100 on yarn.” — Kris, while watching The Farmer’s Wife last weekend Since starting Get Rich Slowly, I’ve been searching for movies and television shows that highlight the financial struggles of real Americans, shows about personal finance “in the wild”. The first one that I can recommend without…

  • Crossing the Line from Frugal to Cheap (51 comments)

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell when I’m being frugal and when I’m just being cheap. One side effect of losing weight — a positive one, mind you — is that I don’t fit into some of my favorite clothes anymore. Like most people, I have certain garments that I love more than others. For example, my favorite pair of pants are these lightweight dark-green things with a zillion pockets that I purchased for $6 at…

  • Frugality in Practice: One Man’s Trash (27 comments)

    On my drive home from work yesterday, I passed a stack of wood along the side of River Road. On top of the pile was a hand-lettered sign that read: FREE LUMBER — HELP YOURSELF. I drove past, not paying it much mind. (I was singing along to Kelly Clarkson at the top of my lungs. “Since you been gah-ohn!”) But then it occurred to me that a stack of free wood might be useful….

  • Feeling Broke: Little Things Add Up (54 comments)

    Every weekend, I enter receipts into Quicken. Usually I feel good about this process, but yesterday’s session left me bummed. I feel broke. My checking account is down to $38.90. After I get gas this afternoon, I’ll have about $10. Meanwhile, several major expenses are looming: I have a toothache, my car is acting funny, and we’re having some plumbing problems. At least I’m not frittering money away on comic books and video games. I’ve…

  • Coping with Unemployment: Blogging is NOT the Answer (41 comments)

    Lazy Man wrote to me yesterday with a crisis from one of his readers. I received this very distressing letter today: “Hi Lazy man, tell me how do you create a blog to get help to pay my bills. I was recently layed off work because of budget cuts with a non profit organizations that I was working for and I just purchased a home, and would like to keep it.  I have been applying…

  • Introducing: Fiscal Fitness Journals (1 comment)

    Several years ago I discovered John Stone Fitness, a site that documented the life of a man whose body looked like this: as he undertook a journey to make his body look like something else entirely: Stone had a problem, and knew it. He educated himself, discovered a solution, and applied himself to achieving his physical fitness goals. We can learn some valuable lessons from Stone, and not just about health and wellness. Stone’s example…

  • Money-Making Hobbies: Mystery Shopping and Belly Dancing (16 comments)

    Several readers have written with stories of how they make money from hobbies. Today, Scarfish talks about two ways she’s found to earn extra income while having fun. I’m a big proponent of having self-supporting hobbies, and I have two myself.   My first money-making hobby started simply as a way to make money. I had moved to New York City directly after college for an internship (which paid only a small stipend) and was…

  • How One Father Taught His Son About Money (27 comments)

    An anonymous reader e-mailed a story about the financial education he received from his father. Something my dad did for me when I was a kid — after I got my first job (delivering papers) at the end of the year, he gave me a gift.  He wrote a check for my annual salary ($650) and told me to pick a brokerage firm and open an IRA.  I didn’t have any idea what an IRA…

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

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

  • Frugality in Practice: The Garden in Spring (18 comments)

    On Sundays, I’ve been sharing how to earn money from hobbies. Some hobbies can also save you money, which is just as good. Like many advocates of frugality and simple living, Kris and I take pleasure in growing our own food. We started planning our garden in February. Today, on Easter — a day of rebirth — we paused to examine our work. Kris’ tomatoes and flowers are healthy and strong: In the vegetable garden,…

  • Dumb Things I Sometimes Do (34 comments)

    I’ve made great progress with my personal finances over the past year. I am paying off debt. I established an emergency fund. I even opened a Roth IRA. But I’m not out of the woods yet — I still do stupid things from time-to-time. Spending for the sake of spending For example, I just returned from a trip to the bank. I deposited a couple of checks which caused my balance to increase to what,…

  • When Did You Start Caring About Your Finances? (59 comments)

    Cap at Stop Buying Crap recently asked: “When did you start caring about your finances?” This is an interesting question. I’ve always believed that my finances were important to me, but I never actually acted on this belief until a few years ago. My parents set poor examples for managing money. In high school, I ignored the mandatory personal finance class. When I was offered credit cards in college, I signed up, and I used…

  • Ask the Readers: When Does This All Pay Off? (97 comments)

    Annie is a young woman who seems to be making all of the right moves. She has an emergency fund, she’s saving for retirement, she’s living frugally, and she’s paying off her debt. But she’s beginning to find the lifestyle overwhelming. She wants to know when the payoff comes. (And what should she do in the meantime?) I’m 28, I make $43k per year, and I’ve been putting 9% away in a 401(k) since age…

  • Money-Making Hobbies: Binding Books and Printing Buttons (20 comments)

    Every Sunday I share a little about making money by doing something you love. This week Matt writes that he and his wife both earn money from their hobbies. He likes to build websites, but his wife does something more original: We realized that nearly anything we do for fun — because we’re the kind of people that like making stuff — can be used to earn a little extra income. My wife’s current project…

  • 101 Things in 1001 Days (31 comments)

    After writing that the road to wealth is paved with goals, I realized that my own list of goals looks a little ragged. Some of the goals are outdated. Many have been met. And I’ve developed new priorities for which new goals should be set. I recently discovered an old internet meme that involves setting goals: the “101 things in 1001 days” list. Participants make a list of 101 things they’d like to accomplish over…

  • Frugality in Practice: Fashion on a Budget (37 comments)

    When I was in high school, I was enthralled by the world of fashion. This was the era of Miami Vice, of Tubbs and Crockett and their pastel suits. Of Footloose-inspired skinny ties (and knit ties, too). Of Alex P. Keaton. For several years during the mid-eighties I diverted a portion of my precious comic book money to purchase GQ every month. I was trying to absorb the Cool by osmosis. The trouble was I…

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

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

  • A Contrarian View: Why I Love a Huge Tax Refund (63 comments)

    Kris and I received $2789 in tax refunds this year. Already I can hear the sound of hundreds of heads thumping against hundreds of desks. Many of you are wailing, “Why?! Why?! Why?!” Of all the financial choices a person can make, getting a large refund is universally considered one of the dumbest. Magazines advise against it. Books advise against it. Blogs advise against it. Yet every year, millions of Americans like me use their…

  • An Introduction to Making Money Selling Digital Photos (61 comments)

    This is a guest post from reader Mike Panic, a freelance photographer and network administrator. In his spare time, Panic runs three sites: Randomn3ss, iPhotoForum, and iLikeCheapStuff. Who doesn’t want to make a little extra cash these days? The price of digital cameras is dropping on what seems to be a daily basis. Why not put yours to some use? For the past five years I have been selling royalty-free stock photographs and will share…

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

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

  • The New Math: Cheap Alternatives to Cable Television (148 comments)

    Here’s one of my dark financial secrets: even as I write about saving money by asking for rate reductions or cancelling services you don’t use, even as I post guest entries about the evils of television, I am paying $65.82 every month for cable TV that I rarely watch. The High Cost of Cable Our cable television bill is $65.82 per month. That’s $789.84/year. Comcast divides these charges as follows: $9.95 for a Digital Classic…

  • Sometimes a Cheap Meal is Expensive (20 comments)

    My sister-in-law, Tiffany, called yesterday. “Do you guys want to have lunch at the new Thai place?” she asked. We did. Kris and I are eager to find another cheap restauarant close by. We picked up Tiff and drove to the Thai place, but it wasn’t open. Instead, we walked over to Sully’s, a small diner nearby. The place was full. “It’ll be ten or fifteen minutes,” the hostess told us. We didn’t want to…

  • 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…

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

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

  • More Real-Life Prosper Experience (14 comments)

    Earlier today, Frykitty shared her experiences with Prosper, the person-to-person lending site. Her post prompted an excellent discussion. Here’s some follow-up information from Justin McHenry of Zen Personal Finance, who last month posted this collection of comments and reviews from Prosper users. He’s kindly granted me permission to reprint it verbatim. One of the most-read posts I’ve written at Zen Personal Finance was the one from last June titled “Why Prosper.com Will Fail”. To be…

  • Prosper: Investing on YOUR Terms (52 comments)

    Note: I’ve received many questions about Prosper, but I’ve never used it. Here’s a post from Frykitty, the very very quiet second author at Get Rich Slowly. She recently set up a Prosper account and has written to share her experience. Last December I discovered Prosper, a site that connects private lenders and borrowers, and manages the resulting loans. Because I’m not a fan of the stock market, this looked like a perfect opportunity to…

  • My Parents Ruined My Credit! (27 comments)

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

  • Money Interviews: Imagination Movers, part four (2 comments)

    This is the last installment of an interview with Scott Durbin. Durbin has made an entrepreneurial leap of faith, leaving behind a safe job to pursue a dream, starting a rock band for kids. In the first part, we learned how the band moved from idea to start-up. In the second part, Durbin discussed his family’s pre-band financial situation. And in the third part we learned how starting the band affected his personal finances, and…

  • Building Success from the Ashes of Failure (5 comments)

    When I was a young man, I had a poor relationship with money. The “money blueprint” I had inherited from my parents didn’t give me the skills I needed to build wealth. The only positive financial role-models in my life were Phillip Drummond and Ricky Stratton. It’s not a good sign when a boy is taking money lessons from sitcoms. And so I made mistakes. I accumulated credit card debt. I didn’t save for retirement….

  • Money Blueprints: What Our Parents Taught Us About Money (20 comments)

    I had dinner with two friends from high school last night. We shared good wine, good food, and, especially, good conversation. Much of our discussion focused on our shared history: the things we did twenty years ago (or 25!) that now seem as if they might have been done by a stranger. (Yet those strangers were us.) We talked about how we perceived money when we were younger. Sparky and Stew grew up down the…

  • Sometimes It’s Okay to Splurge (32 comments)

    I feel as if I’ve been a Scrooge here lately: “don’t watch Super Bowl commercials“, “don’t buy gadgets“, “bundle up to stay warm“, etc. While it’s true that saving money requires sacrifices, I don’t mean to make it sound like drudgery. Actually, I’m elated with my progress. When I was working with Lauren Muney to create my wellness program, she emphasized that fitness should not be a chore. “Remember that you’re working toward something positive,…

  • The Curse of the Money-Saving Gadget (40 comments)

    One of our friends has a Starbucks habit. He used to stop every morning for a venti five-shot white-chocolate mocha. Last summer he spent $300 on a fancy espresso machine. He also bought a few accessories and some expensive coffee beans. He had taken the latte factor concept to heart. “I’m spending so much on Starbucks,” he told us, “that this will pay for itself in no time.” For a couple of weeks he put…

  • Scary Story: Billed for Service I Never Received (43 comments)

    While cleaning cruft at my personal site, I found this little gem from 2005. It belongs here. In the middle of December I received a bill for $5.30 from Sprint. There’s nothing remarkable about this except that I’ve never had a Sprint account! I immediately called the customer service phone number on the bill. It only took a few moments to reach a live operator. “There must be some mistake,” I told her. “Why am…

  • Procrastination Can Cost You Money! (26 comments)

    As I was driving home from work yesterday, I passed a police officer. When his car pulled onto the road behind me, I thought nothing of it: my vehicle is in good repair and I was obeying the traffic laws. In fact, when the police officer activated his flashing lights, I pulled to the side fully expecting him to whiz by me on the way to some emergency. He didn’t. He, too, pulled to the…

  • Frugality in Practice: Cheap Neighborhood Entertainment (10 comments)

    When we still lived in a small town, my wife and I would sometimes walk the half-mile to the high school to catch the latest drama production, or to hear an orchestra concert. These performances were often free (or at least very cheap), and could be just as entertaining as driving into Portland for a night on the town. During the summer our town hosted a music festival in the park on Sunday evenings. A…

  • I Do Not Use Credit Cards (73 comments)

    I don’t like credit cards. Many smart people — including my wife — use them wisely and never have problems. I’m not one of those people. Most of my money woes stem from credit card debt acquired when I was first out of college. Eventually I wised up — I have not carried a personal credit card in more than five years. NCN at No Credit Needed has posted a detailed list of the reasons…

  • How a Wellness Coach Whipped Me Into Shape (41 comments)

    Three months ago I wrote about the high cost of being fat. I had spent $4500 over four years because of my weight. The problem wasn’t just costing me money — it had caused sleep apnea, a torn ACL, and mild depression, three conditions which eroded my quality of life. Then a reader issued a challenge. Lauren Muney wrote to provide her services as a wellness coach free for one month: “I’m offering this to…

  • I Make $6.50 an Hour — Am I Poor? (41 comments)

    Karen Datko at MSN Money writes that she had “a comfortable life with decent pay and health insurance”. Now she finds herself in survival mode. She wonders: “I make $6.50 an hour. Am I poor?” I lost my job as a managing editor at a small newspaper in Montana after the ownership changed hands. Six months later, I moved to Pennsylvania to take a similar job. My living arrangements fell through, and as I searched…

  • The Cost of Customer Loyalty (21 comments)

    For the past few months, I’ve made a point to buy gas at a nearby Chevron station because they gave me a customer loyalty card. After I fill up my tank ten times, I’ll receive a free “gold” car wash (a $5 value). By my calculations, this loyalty card ought to save me $.50/tank, or roughly five cents a gallon. But I noticed something yesterday. While this Chevron is charging $2.66/gallon for regular unleaded, the…

  • Book Review: Quarterlife Crisis (13 comments)

    When I recently mentioned my interest in the book Quarterlife Crisis, GRS-reader Laura volunteered to review it. She didn’t find it as useful as she had hoped. I’ve just finished Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner.  Let me be clear: I am not the right audience for this book.  I am 33, married with a young child, and have been out of college and active…

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

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

  • Personal Finance Puzzlers: The Check is in the Mail (14 comments)

    On Saturday, November 4th, I mailed my monthly home equity payment. I know I mailed the payment because that was the day I took my car in to have it serviced. I walked from the shop to the post office to mail the check. It was the only thing I mailed. I used a comic-book stamp — The Flash — hoping to speed the check on its way. (Yes, I really do silly stuff like…

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

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

  • Want to Save Money? Just Ask! (8 comments)

    Wrapping up “ask for it” day, 2 Pennies Earned suggests that if you want to save money, you should just ask! In the last two years, I’ve been given two weeks’ free rent, received several hundred dollars in bonuses from financial institutions, doubled the size of my apartment while lowering my monthly rent, and increased my gross income dramatically. I’m amazed at the things you can get in life by just asking for what you…

  • Reader Story: Ask to Save! (2 comments)

    Jac recently wrote to share a success story — he managed to get a bank to drop some fees simply by asking! I’m currently on a six month exchange in France. I opened a new account with Westpac (Australia) before I left because they offered free international ATM withdrawals with a set of banks. Recently I went through my online statements adding up all the fees I’d been charged, and it came to ~$45 in…

  • Reduction Quest: How to Save at the Money Game (9 comments)

    Darin has made a game out of saving money. Twice a year he sits down with his bills and tries to see how much he can save. Here’s his story. Each year between Christmas and New Years Day, I sit down with my bills and undertake a Reduction Quest: my twice-yearly process (I also do it around the 4th of July) to contact service providers, and to look for opportunities to reduce my family’s costs….

  • The Night That Mama Cried While Angels Sang (1 comment)

    Here’s a guest-post from my cousin, Mrs. Darling. She previously shared information on how to raise a family on one income (part two). This story is set ten years after my aunt’s six-dollar Christmas and involves the same family. It was the year 1968. That year was an exceptionally hard year in every way. Pop was laid off due to too much snow in the woods. He was a logger. Roads were impassable and snow…

  • You’re Never Too Young to Save (18 comments)

    I went to the credit union today to deposit my Christmas bonus. I waited my turn behind a boy who was about four years old. In one hand he held a wad of cash, and in the other he held his account information. His parents watched from the side of the lobby. “Why, hello,” said the teller when she saw the boy. He walked purposely to the counter. She leaned over and looked down at…

  • How One College Student Handles Credit Cards (25 comments)

    I’ve been blown away by your responses to the new Ask the Readers feature, especially to yesterday’s question about what do do if you have no credit history. Here’s a story Derek e-mailed me about his first-hand experience safely building his credit score. I am a college student, and I have a credit card. My parents and I have worked out a system for protecting me from possible credit card debt. Our system only worked…

  • Jump-Start Your Life With a Financial Plan (34 comments)

    I’ve recently exchanged e-mail with Wesley, a reader who has exercised self-discipline to become debt free while still in his twenties. He’s even paid off his mortgage. Here’s how he did it.   I’ve been following a fairly rigid financial plan for about eight years now.  It’s about to pay off in the next few months — I’ll be 28 and completely debt free (including no mortgage). My planning started on a small scale when I…

  • Warning: Identity Theft Doesn’t Stop During the Holidays (5 comments)

    Randy at Parable of the Talents warns that identity theft doesn’t stop during the holidays. In fact, it’s likely that crooks are more active than ever! I recently received an email that I thought was from my bank asking for some information because supposedly my online bank account access had been compromised.  The email looked like it was officially from my bank and at the time I was busy multi-tasking so I was not completely…

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

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

  • What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? (47 comments)

    How can you know what you want Till you get what you want And you see if you like it? — Steven Sondheim, Into the Woods We had some good friends over for dinner the other night. While we waited for the roast to finish, Wayne and I took the air on the back porch. We talked about work. I told him that this is a slow time of year at the box factory. “Yeah,”…

  • Cheap Clothing Jackpot (9 comments)

    Last month I wrote about saving money by shopping for second-hand clothes. Today, in a nearby business park, our neighborhood used-clothing shop had a warehouse sale. Everything was a buck (except coats, which were two bucks). Better yet, there was an all-you-can-stuff bin — for $2, you could fill a garbage bag with all sorts of less-than-desirable clothes. I bought a nice shirt and a nice pair of slacks for $1 a piece. I also…

  • Nintendo Wii: A Study in Planned Saving (12 comments)

    Last May, we held our annual garage sale on the same weekend that the Nintendo Wii was revealed. As I sat in my driveway, selling old stuff, I followed online coverage of the Wii on my laptop. I wanted one. “I’m putting this money in the bank and saving it to buy a Nintendo,” I told Kris. I opened a separate targeted savings account at my credit union specifically for this goal. But I was…

  • What are Your Experiences with Internet Banking? (71 comments)

    Based on reader feedback, this post has been substantially revised from its original form. What makes a bank good? Some people want great deals. Some want great service. Some want convenience. Many finance bloggers recommend online banks like ING Direct and Emigrant Direct because they offer excellent interest rates. A GRS reader (who asked to remain anonymous) warns that the deals at these places may not be worth the trouble. When he needed to withdraw…

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

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

  • You, Inc.: How to Be the CFO of Your Own Life (20 comments)

    Many people could improve their personal finances if they simply viewed themselves as a business. In this guest entry, Flexo from Consumerism Commentary explains how he’s become the Chief Financial Officer of his own life. In the very early days of 2002, I realized I needed to change a few things about my life. My girlfriend and I returned from a vacation in Phoenix, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon in the middle of December 2001,…

  • 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….

  • Reader Story: Two Approaches to Car-Buying (11 comments)

    Earlier I posted a link to a story that indicates that new cars are more affordable than they have been since 1980. This prompted a couple of you to e-mail me your car stories. An anonymous reader wrote to share the following: I’ve purchased two new cars in the past six years, but the experiences couldn’t have been more different. The first car was a Honda Civic purchased in 2000 just as I was finishing…

  • Follow-Up: Buying a Part at the Junkyard (7 comments)

    Several weeks ago I shared Matildaben’s question about junkyards. Should I get a car part at a junkyard/salvage yard/auto recycler, and how do I go about it? I need a side mirror assembly for a 1998 Nissan Sentra. Should I get it at a junkyard? Both AskMetafilter readers and Get Rich Slowly readers told her, “Yes, go to a junkyard. It’s worth it.” Matildaben wrote the following update: I went to Nix Auto Wrecking in…

  • 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…

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

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

  • Money Interviews: Imagination Movers, part three (1 comment)

    This is the third part of an interview with Scott Durbin, one member of Imagination Movers, a rock band for kids. Durbin is taking an entrepreneurial leap, leaving behind a safe job to pursue a dream. You may also want to read part one and part two. How did starting the Imagination Movers affect your personal finances? For a while, everything we did was out of personal pocket. As the organic nature of our project…

  • Personal Finance Breakdown: New iPod (24 comments)

    Personal finance is a journey. Each of us makes wrong turns along the way. Nobody’s perfect. We all have weaknesses — one of mine happens to be technology. Yesterday I succumbed to a long-term urge: I bought a video iPod. I had been resisting this impulse for months. I don’t need a new iPod — my old iPod mini works fine (though its battery life is rather weak). But when my wife said she wanted…

  • 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…

  • Reader Story: Broken Window, Stolen Goods (42 comments)

    This is a guest entry from Israel Lopez. This weekend I visited a friend at San Francisco State University. On Saturday, my friend and I had lunch downtown. At about 2pm, we parked my car about 1-1/2 blocks from the restaurant. We had some good sushi. We were gone from the car for maybe an hour. When we returned, my car had been broken into, and my valuables stolen. The thieves took my laptop bag…

  • My $300 Morning (19 comments)

    Yet another reason to practice sound personal finance, and to save an emergency fund: When I went out to start my car this morning, the ignition switch would not move. It was frozen. No amount of pounding, jiggling, or fussing could get it to work. I called a locksmith. “Yeah, this is a common problem with the Ford Focus,” he said when he arrived. “I must fix ten of these a week.” He spent twenty…

  • 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…

  • Money Interviews: Imagination Movers, part two (1 comment)

    A couple of weeks ago, I shared the first part of an interview with Scott Durbin. Durbin is taking an entrepreneurial leap, leaving behind a safe job to pursue a dream, starting a rock band for kids. This is the second part of the interview. What was your family’s financial situation at the time you started the Imagination Movers? At the time the Movers started, I was entering my sixth year of teaching. Picture if…

  • 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…

  • The High Cost of Being Fat (53 comments)

    I am fat. I am fat, but I am not obese. I do not pause to catch my breath when climbing stairs. I do not avoid hikes or sports for fear of failure. But — no mistake — I am fat. I am far above my normal weight. I carry 205 pounds on a frame built for someone forty pounds lighter. [PDF: Body mass index and health, from the USDA.] How does this relate to…

  • Reader Submission: Fritz Buys a New Car (16 comments)

    Fritz wrote to share his experience buying a new car yesterday. This story illustrates a number of principles, including the ever important: “it never hurts to ask for a lower price”. Last year, my wife was forced to get a new (used) car. Her ‘96 Caviler was on the verge of death, and she needed a reliable car to drive to her new job. Since we were in a rush, and neither of us had…

  • 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…

  • Frugality in Practice: The Library Book Sale (23 comments)

    Hi. My name is J.D., and I’m a biblioholic. I gather and hoard books. I have shelves full of them. I have boxes full of them. One of the high points of my life was the day I saw the marquee in front of a used bookstore: ALL BOOKS FREE. (The store was going out of business.) I believed I had died and gone to heaven. It used to be that I spent more on…

  • O, Cruel Fate, Why Do You Mock Me? (17 comments)

    In a twisted irony, the CD drive on my PowerBook just choked. The machine is two years old. I don’t have an extended warranty. Some sort of gasket inside the slot-loading drive seems to have come loose and worked its way inside with the CD that I was using to install a wireless keyboard. Now I may need to have this machine repaired. Will the repairs cost more than the extended warranty would have? Possibly….

  • Money Interviews: Imagination Movers, part one (2 comments)

    This is the first of a planned series in which I interview friends and family about their attitudes toward money. Most of these will be anonymized (and much shorter). Some will not. This first interview is with Scott Durbin, a member of Imagination Movers, a rock band for kids. This band is an entrepreneurial venture that required a huge leap of faith. Scott, what made you and the other Movers decide to form a band?…

  • No One Ever Went Broke Taking a Profit (11 comments)

    If you are interested, and can afford it, you might consider setting aside some personal “investment fun money”. This is money with which you allow yourself to invest outside the standard “buy-and-hold index funds” method. If nothing else, it’s an interesting psychological experiment. It certainly teaches you how willing you are to hang onto losses, and how afraid you are of losing gains. I already have a fine retirement account through my employer. I also…

  • I Was a Grade-School Entrepreneur (4 comments)

    My father was an entrepreneur. He was always starting businesses. Most failed. Some succeeded in a wild fashion. (The inheritance he left the family is in the form of his most successful business, the source of my day job.) It’s no surprise that as a child, I wanted to make money too. I made my first business venture when I was in the second grade. I sold lemonade by the side of the road. It…

  • 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…

  • How Not to Be Frugal: Too Many Magazine Subscriptions (26 comments)

    Sometimes a great deal isn’t. Because I have a small computer consulting business, I’ve been placed on a mailing list for “corporate rate” magazine subscriptions. Corporate rate subscriptions are unbelievably cheap, on the order of $10 or $12 a year for many magazines. Being the frugal fellow that I am, when I received my first offer for a corporate-rate subscription, I signed up. Sure, it was a subscription for Business 2.0, a magazine I’d never…

  • 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…

  • Frugality in Practice: Neighborhood Exchange (2 comments)

    Sometimes you can save money just by sharing among your neighbors. Our neighbor Tom brought over a wheelbarrow of stuff for us last night. For me, he had a box of old photography books and magazines. “I found some more darkroom equipment, if you want it,” he added. For Kris, he had two boxes of pears. Two big boxes of pears. He also brought back one of Kris’ jars — when she gave it to…

  • The Worst Job I Ever Had (83 comments)

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

  • 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…

  • On Meeting and Resisting Temptation (12 comments)

    A friend called this morning. “There’s a garage sale near me where a guy is selling old comic books. They’re from the seventies. You might want to come take a look.” I did want to take a look, though I knew it was dangerous business. One key to managing your money is to avoid temptation. It’s foolish to purposefully put yourself into a position where you’re likely to spend. And yet I drove to the…

  • Survey: What Does Money Mean to You? (44 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly is the final entrant in JLP’s Question-of-the-Day Marathon. There have been many thought-provoking questions over the past month; I hope you’ve had a chance to contribute at some of the participating sites. My question is: What does money mean to you? When I was a boy, my family was poor. Money then meant necessities to me. It was the key to obtaining essentials, especially food and clothing. Sometimes it opened other doors,…

  • Money and Values: Voting With Dollars (12 comments)

    My high-school history teacher refused to buy bananas. We thought he was crazy, but he didn’t care. “You don’t understand the conditions bananas are picked under,” he told us. “Those people are like slaves.” This was my introduction to “voting with dollars”. As part of the personal finance Question of the Day Marathon, Penny at Money and Values asks: Do you involve your values in your money decisions? If so, what are some examples? If…

  • You Don’t Have to Explain the Math to *Me*! (2 comments)

    The Woodstock Writers Guild met last night. We meet one Wednesday a month at the local pub. The food isn’t very good, but my fellow writers find it difficult to resist $2.50 pints. They quaff cheap beer; I drink diet soda. I arrive at the pub early to take advantage of Happy Hour. Very frugal. Cheap hot wings are hard to beat. I eat my hot wings and mozzarella sticks and drink my diet soda…

  • An Entrepreneurial Leap of Faith (18 comments)

    My friend Sparky called last night. “I’m thinking of starting my own business,” he said. “I need some advice.” I wondered why he wanted my advice until I realized that: I help run a million-dollar-plus family business; For the past six years I’ve operated a small computer consulting firm on the side; and I’ve often mentioned how I treat Get Rich Slowly as being similar to a business venture (in mindsest, not in application). Sparky’s…

  • Raising a Family on One Income (Part Two) (24 comments)

    This is a guest post from my cousin, Mrs. Darling. It originally appeared on her site in a slightly different form. The examples I give for living successfully on one income are real ways in which I make ends meet here at my home. Every week my husband gives me an allotted amount of money to spend. This is not grocery money or money for bills. This is money for anything extra we might need…

  • Raising a Family on One Income (Part One) (92 comments)

    This is a guest post from my cousin, Mrs. Darling. It originally appeared on her site in a slightly different form. I’m going to tell you just a bit about how to live on one income, but before doing that I will tell you how I’m qualified. Number one: I live on one income and have done so all our married life. Number two: we have successfully lived on one income. We are not in…

  • Frugal Tendencies on Vacation, Day One (21 comments)

    I’m in San Francisco. This is the first vacation I’ve taken since developing a frugal mindset. It’s tough for me to let loose. My pennypinching ways are causing me pain. For example, we drove to San Francisco because (a) I love to drive, and have never had a chance to do a long trip like this; (b) having our own car would allow us greater flexibility; and (c) I believed it would save us money….

  • How to Give Yourself a Raise (7 comments)

    This is a guest post from Stephen A. Smith. My fiancée, Kerrie, has a good job. She works for Hachette Book Group (formerly Time Warner Book Group), where she gets three weeks of paid vacation every year and pays only 1% of her salary toward health insurance. But her primary preoccupation is with raising her net salary, and she found some additional benefits that helped her do just that. Like most companies, Hachette offers a…

  • 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…

  • Use Purpose-Driven Investing to Achieve Your Goals (16 comments)

    Do you save for one thing at a time? Or do you pursue several goals at once? If you’re like me, you work toward several financial goals simultaneously, but you keep most of your money clumped in one account. It’s easy to forget how much you’ve saved for each goal. And it’s easy to borrow money from one objective to pay for something else. In his forthcoming book The Six-Day Financial Makeover, Robert Pagliarini advocates…

  • Frugality in Practice: Building a Cheap Personal Finance Library (14 comments)

    My wife and I went thrift-store shopping last weekend. She was looking for shoes. I was looking for personal finance books. I found several: The Millionaire Next Door ($3.99) The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need ($2.99) A Random Walk Down Wall Street ($3.99) The Richest Man in Babylon ($2.99) Because I received 15% off the entire order, these four books cost me just $11.87. I passed up several other good choices — $12 seemed…

  • 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….

  • My Cheap Uncle Norman (2 comments)

    My cousin Nick remembers: My dad was so cheap that he once drilled a hole in a nickel so that he wouldn’t have to pay eight cents for a washer. My first memory of gas prices is driving home from my grandparents. We drove into a gas station, and pulled up to the pump. The guy came out and said, “Can I help you?” My dad said, “33 cents a gallon? No you can’t!” We…

  • Pop Buys Pop (a GRS re-run) (0 comment)

    I need to take a break. Here’s one of my favorite tales of penny pinching, which I shared a couple months ago. It was written by my aunt. My husband likes quantity and sales. For example, we just moved, and in the process I ran across an old receipt from Wal-Mart. It’s a receipt for 366 pair of panty hose. Yes, that’s right: 366 pair of panty hose. Also on the receipt are batteries, motor…

  • Lattes, iPods, and Masterworks: New Ways to Look at Money (6 comments)

    My brother is selling his house. To get it ready for market, his family has been packing stuff in boxes. When it came time to pack his wife’s shoes, the kids were amazed. She had sixty pairs of shoes. “How much did these cost?” my brother wondered. “Only about $75 each,” his wife told him. Their kids are still a little young to understand money, so my brother tried to translate this for his oldest…

  • 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…

  • Sometimes Free is Expensive: A Cautionary Tale (5 comments)

    A couple of weeks ago I extolled the virtues of free stuff. In the comments, AB warned: There’s no such thing as “free” stuff. You still have to pay to store it, not to mention fixing stuff that only needs “this or that” done to make it perfectly good. Here’s an example: My friend Andrew called me on Sunday morning. He’d found a free piano on craigslist, and wanted to get to it before anyone…

  • GRS Reader Success Stories (5 comments)

    I love financial success stories. It’s fine to read about Warren Buffett, but I get more excited when I read about people like you and me who are shaking off debt, starting businesses, or learning to live frugally. These personal success stories from average folks rock my world. Tom sent in this photo, writing: “Slowly but surely, we move off the grid.” Way to go, Tom! Keep up the good work. IMG_0587.JPG Originally uploaded by…

  • The Entrepreneurial Spirit, a Tribute to My Father (14 comments)

    My father was an entrepreneur. He was always starting businesses. He was always selling things. When I was very young he operated Steve’s Lawnmowing Service. He also sold World’s Finest Chocolate. He carried boxes of chocolate bars with him to church, and sold them after Sunday School. I remember standing on the church lawn, waiting while Dad joked and told stories and sold candy. He tried lots of other things, too: he was a flight…

  • Tricks for Tracking Your Money? (13 comments)

    We all know that we should track our spending, but not everyone actually does. How does one develop this discipline? One AskMetafilter user pleads: Do you have any tricks to ensure that you track your money? I would like to track what I spend and what I spend it on. I have software to do this, but I hardly ever use it. I’m looking for more of a software-independent way of thinking about my cash…

  • Ask For What You Want (0 comment)

    Ramit at I Will Teach You to Be Rich writes about a friend who saved on ATM fees just by asking: I was just talking to my friend, who recently moved to New York [...]: She’ll be there for a few months and didn’t want to open a bank account, but instead of just shrugging and saying “Damn that” she actually called her bank. She just asked them if they would waive the ATM fees…

  • Is It Possible to Be a Frugal Collector? (14 comments)

    I collect comic books. I always have. As an affluent adult, I’ve gone from collecting the comic books themselves to collecting large volumes that compile six, ten, fifteen issues at a time. But these compilations cost a lot of money, even when purchased at steep discounts. The more in-tune I become with my money, the more my monthly expenditures on this hobby strike me as a vast, bleeding wound on an otherwise healthy financial body….

  • A Real Fighting Chance (17 comments)

    Yesterday I mentioned Fighting Chance, a service designed to help consumers get the best price on a new car. Here’s one reader’s first-hand experience using their techniques. VinTek writes:

  • Penny Pinchers: I Want My Four Dollars (13 comments)

    A new Barnes and Noble bookseller recently opened near us. To promote the store, they mailed out ten-percent-off coupons. I dragged Kris with me last Saturday, and spent half an hour learning the layout. I managed to hold myself to $51.93 worth of books, which, after the 10% discount, were only going to cost me $46.73. But when I went to pay for them, I ran into trouble. The clerk scanned my coupon and threw…

  • My Frugal Life (1 comment)

    Dawn at Frugal for Life has posted a collection of links to stories of frugality. ThriftyFun recently ran (and is still running) a series called My Frugal Life. It is a nice assortment of different people who give a quick run down of what makes their life frugal. I have linked to all of them I have found so far. I found them enjoyable and I think you will as well. My favorites are: Tips…

  • Penny Pinchers: Pop Buys Pop (2 comments)

    Here’s a tale of Extreme Frugality from my aunt. This is a true story. It’s long, but very funny, and a great example of a real-life penny pincher.

  • Organic Produce: Price vs. Ethics (8 comments)

    I was discussing Michael Pollan’s new book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, with some friends over dinner the other night. It was a conversation filled with frugal themes — we had just been talking about our vegetable gardens. “I wanted to borrow the book from the library,” said Rhonda, “but there were 76 holds on eighteen copies. Mike and I bought a community copy instead. We shared the cost with some friends, and we’ll all read it…

  • The True Cost of Car Ownership (43 comments)

    The American Automobile Association (AAA) says that, on average, it costs 52.2 cents to drive one mile. To drive a Ford Focus like mine 20,000 miles per year, the average cost is 37.6 cents per mile. How close are the AAA estimates? I ran some numbers. Based on the purchase price of my vehicle ($16,500), the interest paid ($1,300), and the number of miles on the odometer (81,762 in 66 months), I calculated that for…

  • Couples and Their Cash (0 comment)

    What do couples fight about more than anything else? Sex. But what’s a close second? Money. USA Today is running a seven-week series of articles about relationships and finances. Each week the paper profiles a different couple, examining their relationship with money and then asking a financial planner to offer recommendations for improvement. For example, this week’s couple — Willie and Jennifer Jackson — have good incomes, but are burdened with debt and a late-start…

  • Penny Pinchers: More Frugal Than You (0 comment)

    “That’s a nice shirt,” José said to me today. José is my shop foreman. “You like it?” I asked. “I got it cheap!” “I’ve got one just like it,” he said. “Same color. Same brand. Same everything.” “How much did you pay? I only paid six dollars for mine,” I said proudly. “I got it at Goodwill.” “Yeah?” said José. “I paid a dollar-fifty. I got mine at the Salvation Army.”

  • Pep Talk: Pay Yourself First (7 comments)

    All the money books tell you to do it. All the personal finance blogs say it, too. Even your dad has given you the same advice: Save ten percent of everything you earn. But it’s hard. That money could be used someplace else. You could pay the phone bill, could pay down debt, could buy a new DVD player. You’ve tried once or twice in the past, but it’s so easy to forget. You don’t…

  • Frugality in Practice: Using the Public Library (19 comments)

    Most of us have financial blindspots. One of mine is books. I love books. I have a large library that grows larger all the time. When I first embarked upon my quest for frugality, I began tracking every penny I spent. I was shocked to learn how much I spent on my book habit. In the past eighteen months, I’ve cut my book expenditures in half, and I’d like to trim them even further. One…

  • Frugality in Practice: Shaking That New Car Itch (19 comments)

    I want a new car. An Audi. Or a BMW. I’ve got that New Car Itch. I’ve never been a fan of my Ford Focus. I like the leather seats, it’s true, and I know it’s relatively safe, but the car just doesn’t suit my style. It’s no fun to drive. Acceleration is unresponsive. Every little piece of it rattles and squeaks. Sometimes the road noise is oppressive. The whole car just feels cheap. It’s…

  • Auto Insurance Tip: Monthly Sucks (4 comments)

    While doing my finances last weekend, I realized that my monthly auto insurance check hadn’t cleared. I have a frugal friend who works with the local agency, so I dropped her an e-mail to ask what I should do. She volunteered this bit of additional information: Monthly sucks. You’re paying an extra $36 a year in fees for them to “handle” your account. Also, you have a “month in reserve” that you never get to…

  • Playing the Stock Market: Don’t Second-Guess Yourself (0 comment)

    Earlier this year I decided I had enough extra income to to begin making regular investments. Since January, I’ve invested $400 in a Sharebuilder IRA plan. This move was inspired by David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire. I realize that $100/month is not a lot to invest, but it’s a start. (Ad: Buy Stocks for $4 at ShareBuilder.) After doing some reading, and after evaluating my personal goals, I decided that I wasn’t comfortable investing directly in stock yet, particularly not in…

  • From Bank to Credit Union (13 comments)

    I was an account-holder with US Bank for eighteen years. I paid an $8 “service charge” every month, as well as many other fees. Worst of all, I had to put up with truly awful customer service. Many people have similar experiences with US Bank. Yesterday, The Consumerist posted a story of one man’s encounter with US Bank customer service ineptitude. It’s typical of stories I hear. I finally switched my accounts to a local…

  • Money Changes Everything (2 comments)

    Yesterday’s New York Times style section featured an article by Jennie Yabroff entitled Money Changes Everything (NYT registration may be required). If, as Samuel Butler said, friendships are like money, easier made than kept, economic differences can add yet another obstacle to maintaining them. More friends and acquaintances are now finding themselves at different points on the financial spectrum, scholars and sociologists say, thanks to broad social changes like meritocracy-based higher education, diversity in the…

  • Frugality in Practice: The Lunch Special (4 comments)

    While practicing frugal habits, it’s easy to become absorbed in a life of self-denial: “I will not buy this shirt. I will wait for this film to come to DVD. I will not eat at the steak house tonight.” Even so, there’s room to treat yourself once in a while, especially if the treat is cheap! One treat I allow myself is the Lunch Special. I am a regular at Imperial Garden, a local Chinese…

  • The Science Fiction of Coupons? (6 comments)

    Nick over at Punny Money decries what he terms the science fiction of coupons: I acknowledge that coupons exist (much like groundhogs, oak trees, and faeries exist), but I don’t believe that using them religiously is a good way to save money. In particular, Nick complains that: Coupons make people buy things they don’t need. Coupons are rarely the best option for saving money. Coupon-clipping is not worth the time. He is going to try…

  • Best Decisions vs. Financially Smart Decisions (0 comment)

    Ramit at I Will Teach You to Be Rich has a fine post about how sometimes the Best Decisions are not the Financially Smart Decisions. The financially smart decision isn’t always the right one. When I say this, it usually irritates engineers and economists, who love to believe that we all behave rationally. He provides a couple of examples based on the behavior of his friends. One worked hard to pay off a low-interest debt…

  • Frugality in Practice: Back Porch Furniture (1 comment)

    This is the first in a series of practical examples of how people put frugal notions to use in real-life. I often claim that the back porch is “my favorite room in the house”. It’s true. This is partly because it’s situated at the home’s northeast corner, which is perfect for Portland weather. But mostly I love this place because I’ve been able to furnish it cheaply and effectively. This is a self-portrait I took…