Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Christmas (and Beyond!)

This guest post from Shelley Turner 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.

They're coming! Like it or not, the holidays — and all the stress of buying the Perfect Gift — are just around the corner. I actually like brainstorming gift ideas, and have been told I'm pretty good at it. Today I'll share my secrets with you.

The best gifts are appropriate for the recipient, yet don't cost a small fortune. You want your gift to say "I know what you like", not "I didn't have a clue of what to get you for a gift for but here it is anyway". I once received a leopard-hair belt. Anybody who knows me, or has seen how I dress, understands that there's never been (nor ever will be) a time that I'd wear a leopard-hair belt. A gift like that screams "I just bought you something because I had to".

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More about...Frugality

How we bought a new car

This guest post from Nicole 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. Nicole is an active GRS commenter. She's also half of the blog Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured, where she and her partner-in-crime write about personal finance, novels, academia, and cats — among other things.

Four years ago, in November, my husband and I had one car (a tiny Hyundai Accent), a house that was too big, and not enough money to furnish the house. It was our first year with real jobs since leaving graduate school and we hadn't quite caught up yet, especially with all the unexpected expenses that come when you buy a house. But that's another story.

On top of that, I was hugely pregnant with our first child. We knew we were going to need a second car once our son was born because, on any given day either one of us could be called to use the car in case of emergency. With no parental leave (FMLA doesn't cover first-year employees...that's also another story), we wouldn't be able to make commuting and baby care work with just one car. At the rate we were saving, we would have enough by January (just in time for our son) to buy a fancy new Honda Civic Hybrid so long as we didn't bother to furnish any of the empty rooms.

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More about...Transportation

Working for Uncle Sam overseas

This guest post from Mike 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.

Traveling to exotic new places is a passion of mine. My wife reminisces fondly over a dinner conversation we had about nine years ago while we were still dating. I emphatically told her, “I am going to show you the world.” Sure, she probably took it as a pick-up line, but little did we know that those words would become prophetic for us.

At the time, I was a federal employee living in San Diego, California, working within the Department of Defense as a civil servant (non-military) employee. Over the next four years, we wed and my wife gave birth to our first child. Prior to marriage, we made the decision that having my wife stay at home with the kids was important to us. Anyone who has spent some time and money in San Diego knows that the city's cost of living makes choosing to be a single-income family difficult. As our family grew and our costs increased, we decided to consider looking for a more affordable place to live.

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I quit my job and joined the Peace Corps

This guest post from Bon is part of the "reader stories" feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes.

I've always been a bit of a capitalist so to speak, so when I decided to join the Peace Corps several years ago, not only was it a shock to my family and friends, it was a little bit of a shock to me. At the time I loved my job but knew that I would regret staying too close to the corporate path I had been following.

Calculating Opportunity Cost
One of Bonnie's young friends

When considering a major lifestyle change, ask yourself if you're really losing your entire salary when you take a break from work. When I was weighing the financial impact Peace Corps would have, I knew the program would cover my travel, living expenses, and health care, so I wouldn't really be giving up my entire salary for two years. I'd only be giving up what I might potentially have saved at the end of each year. Instead of my opportunity cost being something like $100,000 for two years, it was actually closer to $14,000 total. This seemed like a reasonable price to pay for the experience. Continue reading...

More about...Career, Giving

Traveling cross-country dirt cheap

This guest post from Michelle Russo 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. This story is perfect for Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the summer holiday season in the U.S.

I've traveled the continental United States, sampling a wide variety of cuisines, and I can say without reservation that the best meal I've ever eaten was a hamburger at a fast food chain just outside Mount Rainier National Park. But in all fairness, I'd spent the past nine hours climbing a mountain, the granola bars were long gone, and I was beginning to see spots.

Twice I've spent a month driving across the country, from Philadelphia to San Diego and back. I've logged over 20,000 miles, and I've seen more during that time than all the rest of my vacations combined. I've also done it for less than $2,500. Continue reading...

More about...Travel, Frugality

How I ruined my credit score, and how it didn’t ruin my life

This guest post from the redoubtable Tyler K 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. Tyler is an active commenter at GRS, and never afraid to share his opinion!

Like J.D., I once had a big problem with debt. Unlike J.D., I didn't dig myself out from under that problem gracefully.

About eight years ago, I was a college student, living in an apartment near campus, and working full time while going to school. I felt like I was on top of the world. Here I was, seeing all my friends making $6 or $8 an hour, while I was making about $17. That seemed like a lot of money. It was about $35,000 a year — not just a college student's salary, but a real salary. I felt like I deserved to be living it up a bit, especially considering all the work I was doing with a full-time job and a full time class load.

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More about...Credit, Debt

Beware of scams and pyramid schemes

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 sunk-cost fallacy will sometimes force you to make a poor choice. GRS reader Bozemblem recently sent me this story of his close encounter with a "business opportunity" that turned out to be a scam.

I've been reading Get Rich Slowly for about a year now, and I can definitely relate when you talk about your struggles and triumphs with money. Here's an experience I recently had.

I currently work and live in one of the most expensive parts of the United States. I'm going to school part-time to get my MS in Computer Science. School is very expensive, even with my employer paying a great deal of the tuition.On top of that I'm getting married next year and I have a tiny amount of credit card debt. I do a very good job of budgeting my money; I follow it quite closely and it won't be long before I've rid myself of the debt. However, as you might be able to tell, money is a bit of a concern and so I'm always looking for way to either decrease my spending (which I think I've done a good job of so far without going crazy) or increase my income (which is much harder to do, and it is my attempt to do so which is why I'm writing you).

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More about...Career