Getting Things Done: How to take control of life

Taking control of your finances is easier when the rest of your life is in order. If your mind is swamped with worries about work, or home improvement projects, or obligations to friends and family, personal finance can become a low priority. You have other Stuff to worry about.

David Allen's Getting Things Done provides a system for tackling all of the Stuff in your life. I've avoided mentioning Getting Things Done before today. But I'm currently writing a couple of articles that will make more sense if you're familiar the concept, so an introduction is in order.


Getting Things Done (GTD) is about productivity. Its aim is to help you do more while feeling less stressed. Rather than explain the system — other sites have done so already — I want to share how I implemented it in my own life. Since I didn't follow things to the letter, and since many of you are probably unfamiliar with GTD, I'll begin with a brief description. The following has been simplified.

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A Brief Guide to Creating a Will

It's Halloween — time for a scary, morbid subject.

Young adults don't think about wills. The typical person graduates from college, gets a job, marries his sweetheart, has children, and never considers a will until he turns fifty. But not everyone lives to be fifty. You can't always see death coming. A will is for anyone with money and possessions that need to be distributed according to some plan.

A Lifehacker reader recently asked about drafting a will:

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How to Get the Most Out of a College Job

A college job can be a chore. Or it can be the doorway to future success. The choice is yours.

I asked Michael Hampton, director of career development for Western Oregon University, for advice on how college students should approach work. What should they look for in a job? What should they try to get out of it? Are college jobs really that important? We drafted the following seven tips, which we believe can help you to get the most out of your college work experience.

Connect Jobs With the Future
Try to connect your jobs — even part-time jobs — with something you enjoy doing. Ideally each job would relate to something you think you might want to do later in life. (This isn't always possible — it's an ideal.) This can help you determine if the job is actually a good fit. Test-drive jobs like you would test-drive cars. Students often think they want the prestige and feel of the glamorous BMW/Lexus job, but after a while they realize they're better suited for a Honda/Nissan job. The opposite happens, too.

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Frugality in practice: Shopping for second-hand clothes

On a street corner near our house is a store called The Dig, which advertises "most clothes $3 - $4 - $5". Many of these are items of the latest fashions, which have been rejected for whatever reason. Clean and organized, the store also has dressing rooms, something many thrift stores lack. I used to mock Kris for going to The Dig. It looked like a dive. Then I joined her for a trip a couple of weeks ago — now I'm a convert.

I buy most of my clothing at one of two places: Costco or the local thrift shops. It makes me wince to pay more than $20 for a piece of clothing. (Unless it's something top quality, like a Filson jacket, in which case I'll gladly pay $150.) Costco has styles I like, but the selection is limited, and the prices are three times those at thrift stores. Thrift stores have a huge selection, but the garments are often flawed. And to find anything good, you have to sort through tons of junk.

Used clothing stores like The Dig are a compromise. The prices are better than at Costco. The selection isn't as wide as you might find at a thrift store, but the quality is generally better. Here are some tips about shopping for second-hand clothes. (Kris gave a lot of help with these.) Continue reading...

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What happens when you try to get rich quickly

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 some suspicion about that) then, wow. Unbelievable." Casey at thought he could make a killing at real estate. He wanted to reach Financial Independence quickly.

I'm a 24-year-old aspiring real estate investor from Sacramento, California. After going to few seminars I bought eight houses in eight months across four states with no money down. I fixed and sold two and then ran out of cash. I am now facing foreclosure on six five houses. I'm learning my lessons, finding solutions and blogging about it.

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How to manage a windfall successfully

This entry is part of JLP's October project — a month-long, cross-blog review of the book The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing. Some of what follows is taken directly from the book.

You have won $50,000! So, what do you do now?

Every day I give advice on following the slow, sure path to wealth. But what happens if you do manage to get rich quickly? What happens if you win the lottery, or hit the jackpot in Vegas, or inherit a million bucks from your Great Aunt Tilley? Continue reading...

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Make a wish list of financial goals

If one moves confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. — Henry David Thoreau

What would you do if money were not a concern? Would you quit your job? Would you travel? Would you live in another state? Another country? Would you write? Would you garden? Would you devote your life to charity? Would you race cars? Would you enter politics?

Many people make poor financial decisions because they don't have long-term personal goals. If you don't understand that buying a new cell phone or playing a game of poker takes money from a larger goal — a new home, a new car, a vacation to Europe — then there's no incentive not to use the money for whatever seems fun at the moment.

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The high cost of being fat

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 personal finance? Your health is your most important asset. Not your house. Not your car. Not your job. Not your retirement account. These are secondary. Your health is your most important asset. Even someone as young as I am (37) can face serious financial repercussions from being overweight.

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Are You Normal About Money?

How much do families spend on food? How much has the average person saved for retirement? Do others balance their checkbooks every month? Every week? Every day? When shopping for homes, how much time do people take?

I recently spent $4 on a book that answers these questions and others like them. Are You Normal About Money? by Bernice Kanner purports to offer a statistical representation of the financial lives of normal Americans. While I question the methodology — it mostly comprises the results of surveys at, hardly a scientific sample — the results are interesting.

Here are some typical questions and responses:

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Basic tips on tipping: How much and to whom?

Waffle House CoffeeEvery time I get my hair cut, I'm faced with a dilemma — should I tip the barber or not? I usually get my hair cut in a small-town shop. I tip $2 on a $12 haircut. If I get to hear stories about Vietnam or histrionic political rants, I tip $3, even if I don't agree with the barber's viewpoints. (I tip because I've been entertained.) Sometimes, if I don't have enough cash, I don't leave a anything at all. Are these tips appropriate?

What about when I pick up Chinese takeout? Should I have tipped the guys who delivered our new gas range last fall? What about a hotel bellhop? A parking valet? Out of curiosity, I did some research on tipping practices in the United States. There's actually significant disagreement about how much to tip for even common services.

For example, you know you should tip your waitress. But how much should you leave? Some people claim that 10% is adequate. Others claim that 20% is standard. But I suspect that most of us learned to tip 15%, and to give more for exceptional service. (The wikipedia entry on tipping currently contains the bizarre claim that "18% is generally accepted as a standard tip for good service".) Which amount is correct? Continue reading...

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