The perfect gift is cheap and easy

If you're panicked because you still haven't thought of the perfect gift for the people on your Nice List, you'll be relieved to know you don't need to spend as much time as you might think looking for something thoughtful. You also don't need to run up your credit card bill.

Why? Because neither of these things is likely to be appreciated by the gift getter.

In fact, a 2008 study from Stanford University researchers found that spending a lot of time and money to select a gift doesn't make a bit of difference to the recipient. According to Francis J. Flynn, an organizational psychologist at Stanford, the price of a gift is more important to the giver than the getter. (Plus, most recipients actually prefer cash or something from a gift registry, such as their Amazon wish list.)

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More about...Giving, Psychology, Relationships

Hourly vs. salary: Which is better?


I had a conversation with a friend, we'll call him Joel, who had two job offers. One was a low-stress 9-to-5 gig but paid $10,000 less than the other offer, which would require longer hours and greater responsibility. He didn't like a lot of things about the higher paying position, but he accepted the offer because it was more in line with the salary at his last job.

In the months that followed, he was regularly putting in 12-hour days at the office and working Sundays. My guess is that it was at least 60 hours per week, and that's being conservative. His gut instinct was right — he wasn't enjoying the new job. Continue reading...

More about...Career

The Happiness of Pursuit

Historically, personal development has been a big part of Get Rich Slowly. Back in 2012, founder J.D. wrote, "I'm a firm believer in personal development. Self-improvement is part of living a rich life. In fact, when I started this blog … the self-improvement category was one of the first I implemented."

But not so long ago, I'd never read a self-help or personal development book. In fact, I avoided that section of the bookstore -- it was all too woo-woo and mushy for me. Then I got hooked on yoga, and I read a lot of woo-woo titles, like "Living the Mindful Life" and "Yoga and the Quest for the True Self." Gross, right?! (But I loved them both.)

Fast forward to today, and I've read a lot of personal development books, even non-yoga ones. I've paid for several online business courses that also tackled issues like how to stop feeling guilty and how to stand tall and own your pricing. Continue reading...

More about...Books

The most money I’ve ever lost

Several years ago, my husband and I were planning to build a house. We bought the land and cleared the build site. We then started working with an architect, which is how we lost $12,500 in a matter of months.

Here's how it went down.

Losing Thousands

When I hired this architect, whom I now refer to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I thought I'd done my due diligence. The guy was profiled as one of the top architects in green building. He specialized in the type of house we wanted to build. We met with him, we toured two homes he designed, and we met with one of his past clients.

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More about...Home & Garden

Starting a garden to pay off debt: Really!?!

Some personal finance advice is just plain ridiculous. I'm talking about the kind of advice that's great for filling up a webpage but that had neither saved nor made anyone money ever. Or maybe you could follow it and save money, if you wanted to hate your life.

I'm not entirely innocent, I admit. I'm sure I've espoused my share of well-meaning-yet-impractical advice in the last seven years. (Okay, stop searching the archives right now!) But I do try, people. I really do.

So today I wanted to talk about one of these questionable nuggets of advice that I frequently come across: Pay off debt faster by starting a garden.

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More about...Debt, Food, Frugality, Home & Garden

How to eat on $4/day

I spend a lot of money on food. (More than I spend on my mortgage.)

Part of it is need, of course. But much of it is want, because I'm both an enthusiastic cook and a health nut. I view food as a cross between health care and hobby. And I know I'm fortunate to be in a position to buy things like freshly pressed olive oil and porcini mushrooms. I know that not everyone has that option. For some people, food is about survival. They have to stretch their food budget as far as they possibly can. Sometimes they go to bed hungry.

Being Realistic

From time to time, I read GRS comments asking for advice for people who are struggling just to make ends meet. They can barely afford to eat, let alone save a six-month emergency fund or open a Roth IRA.

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More about...Food, Frugality, Planning

How do you know if a vet procedure is really necessary?

On Monday at 8:30 a.m., I found myself at the veterinarian's office -- where, unknowingly, I would spend the next three hours.

The night before, my cat Mia threw up at least five times. In the morning, I found her wedged into a corner of the bathroom. I could tell how she felt just by looking at her.

I called the vet's office near my house right when they opened, hoping to get her an appointment as soon as possible. I was relieved when they said they could see her in an hour.

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More about...Budgeting

Money extremes: From spendthrift to tightwad to somewhere in the middle

Many years ago, when I was paying off a car loan and some credit card debt, I became really frugal. Almost obsessively frugal. I looked for every possible way to save money, and I dreaded ever having to spend money.

Then one morning my husband accidently broke our coffee carafe. I helped him clean up the glass and caught myself feeling anxious about having to buy a new carafe. How much was that gonna cost?

As it turned out, only $12. That's when I knew I had swung too far in the tightwad direction. I'd gone from not really being in control of my money to being a control freak. And it was making me miserable.

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More about...Frugality

How I paid less in property taxes

Today I present the second and final installment of my property tax saga -- the informal hearing. (You can check out the first post here.)

To briefly recap, I'm a new homeowner and my assessed property value shot up by 31 percent from last year. So that, along with the fact that I have a tax-protesting father to please, landed me in County Appraiser Brad's cubicle for an informal hearing.

The bad news<

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More about...Taxes

Cheap ways to enjoy the sunshine (or hide from it) this summer

"You + me + swimming date at the springs."

That was the text message I sent to my friend Kacey last week. "Are you flirting with me?" she replied. "Let's make this official."

See, every summer I solemnly swear that I'm going to spend the next several months in the water, yet I never do. (I say several months because I live in Texas, where it's summer for most of spring and fall.)

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More about...Frugality, Planning