How I bought an 8-unit apartment building with no money down and walked away with $1000 cash at closing

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 real estate investing mistakes I've made in my young life.

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More about...Investing, Home & Garden, Side Hustles

9 Sneaky Expenses That Eat Away at Your Income

Few concepts have had as great an impact on my family's financial decision-making as learning how to calculate our real hourly wage. The concept was introduced by (or at least popularized by) the amazing book, Your Money or Your Life. This book has had a dramatic influence over our financial turn-around (just as it did for J.D.).

The authors focus early in the book on ensuring that readers are aware of the true costs associated with their jobs and incomes — including accounting for the time we spend on activities that are often forgotten.

When Courtney and I first sat down to figure out just how many different expenses were associated with our income opportunities, it was an eye-opening experience. It unveiled a new layer of consciousness towards both our work and our spending. In one case we shifted from, "I make $42,000 per year" to "That really only results in $22,000 net after all expenses are considered."

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More about...Career

Are Americans Ready to Ditch the Dollar Bill?

Americans have been fairly resistant to the introduction of a coin form of our dollar currency. We have them in circulation, of course: The Presidential Series and the Sacagawea gold coins are both currently being minted. You can also occasionally bump into a Susan B. Anthony silver dollar or, if you're really lucky, an Eisenhower Dollar. (For some reason, it seems like this rare sighting almost always occurs in small-town gas stations and grocery stores. Don't ask me why.)

Despite several attempts to introduce a popular dollar coin, the dollar bill continues to enjoy its position as the dominant $1 currency.

Since traveling overseas, I've realized the story is a little different elsewhere. Both New Zealand and Australia have not only $1 coins, but $2 coins as well. And the dollar bill? Well it's non-existent. The smallest paper note is the $5 bill. Continue reading...

More about...Uncategorized

Start Saving For Next Year’s Christmas Today

I have some potentially shocking news for you: Christmas is coming! No, I'm not talking about the one in a few days; I'm referring to the one that's coming just twelve months down the road.

Far too many people — including me — let Christmas sneak up on us. Suddenly, somewhere around late October or early November, it hits us: Christmas is right around the corner and our budget is going to have to catch up.

I hate to break it to you, but Christmas takes place on the exact same date every year. There's no reason it should have the opportunity to surprise us or our budgets.

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More about...Budgeting, Planning

Ask the Readers: Do You Buy Christmas Gifts For Your Spouse?

At this point, I hope you've done most of your Christmas shopping (and/or making). Only the brave or the foolish have yet to form a holiday shopping plan of attack. *looks around* Alright, so I have a minor confession to make: Courtney and I don't buy gifts for each other.

To put it more bluntly, we just ignore the issue. We vaguely talked about it (albeit a couple years ago now), but somewhere in the mix we started assuming that we wouldn't exchange them.

If I remember correctly, we actually did exchange at least a little something before our daughter was born. We never were big purchasers, though. I'd say we might have exchanged one or two small gifts at most during the dating years. These days, it seems as if every year we have a new excuse to skip exchanging (and certainly purchasing) presents.<

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More about...Uncategorized

Suze Orman jumps aboard the “pay with cash” bandwagon

For years now, Dave Ramsey has recommended ditching credit cards and paying with cash. (Specifically, Ramsey advocates the use of an envelope budgeting system.) In fact, this anti-credit card stance is one of the biggest problems critics have with his philosophy; they often point out that "responsible" credit card use would yield a higher credit score.

But it looks like Dave Ramsey has some new company in the Cash Only camp. According to a recent MSN Smart Spending article, money guru Suze Orman is the latest proponent of paying for purchases with cash:

On her Saturday night show on CNBC, she asked viewers to join her in a Back to Cash movement. "Let's go back to the good old days," she said. "Let's go back to the times when you literally paid cash for everything. That's right. Cash. Stop using your credit cards altogether."

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More about...Administration

5 little-known websites that will save you time and money when booking airfare online

When booking airfare online, most people think of the popular online aggregation sites. You know the ones: They have the fancy commercials, catchy jingles, and washed-up celebrity pitchmen. While those sites aren't inherently bad, there are a few well-documented problems with relying solely on these larger engines:

  1. Many of the aggregation sites neglect to include smaller, budget carriers.
  2. Larger airline companies may temporarily exclude or intentionally block these aggregation sites from fares.
  3. Short-term specials or incentive sales aren't usually aggregated either. They're often only found by visiting the individual sites of the carriers.

Obviously, there isn't just one website capable of giving you the best deal every time. I wish it were that easy.

Many larger carriers make a significant amount of money off of the loyalty factor — meaning those individuals and companies who choose to fly the same airline every time for whatever reason. Because of this, they're not necessarily in a rush to make all their fare data open and available for the world to dissect. Continue reading...

More about...Travel

Creative Cleaning with Everyday Products

Recently my 19-month old daughter managed to get her tiny hands on a ballpoint pen. Normally, this wouldn't have been a major event. This time was different. In the 30-45 seconds it took for me to notice, she'd thoroughly covered two-and-half cushions of our microsuede couch with a beautiful masterpiece in ink slashes and squiggles.

While I'm proud of the her dedication to detail and new art skills, this wasn't exactly the platform I wanted to her display them on. I confiscated the pen and walked straight to the computer; I knew that time is of the essence with ink.

I found a wide variety of solutions on the internet. Two simple ones were most common: rubbing alcohol and/or Windex. Really? I knew water would only make matters worse, so my first though wasn't to use rubbing alcohol.

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More about...Frugality

Should you stop funding retirement to focus on debt?

Whether you should halt your retirement contributions in order to focus debt is one of the most heavily debated dilemmas in personal finance.

Unlike "spend less than you earn" or "track every penny you spend", there's no cookie-cutter answer to this question. Variables such as age, career, risk tolerance, and even personality type make each individual situation unique.

You'll Never Win a Race Against High-Interest Debt

Regardless of your personal situation, there are very few circumstances where high-interest debt should not be the top priority. What's high interest? Well, that's another fun question to debate. For the purpose of this article, we'll assume a broad range of anything in excess of 8-12%.

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More about...Retirement, Debt