Another visit with the real Millionaire Next Door

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 Portland, I like to do my errands on the bike so that I build skills and confidence.

My ex-wife had told me I ought to pick up mail from her house, so I rode down to visit Kris and the cats. When I got there, she wasn't home. To kill time while I waited, I went across the street to say hello to my former neighbor, the real millionaire next door.

"Who can that be?" John blustered when I rang the doorbell. He's a 77-year-old former shop teacher who spends summers on his boat in Alaska and winters doing volunteer carpentry on farms in New Zealand. But for a month in the spring and two months in the fall, he lives in the same home he's owned for more than 50 years.

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Pick your hobbies strategically and save

For the most part, we think of hobbies as activities that we naturally gravitate toward. The idea of being strategic in our selection of hobbies may seem contradictory to their very nature! However, I think that being strategic in the selection and pursuit of hobbies isn't mutually exclusive with enjoying yourself. What's more, you have options in how to strategize.

The Hobby-as-Side-Gig Option

One obvious method of making your hobbies work for you is by getting others to pay you to do them! Maybe you enjoy making quilts but hate the outlay of money and Stuff. Plus, how many quilts do you (and the friends and family you make gifts for) really need? By selling what you make on sites like Ebay or Etsy, you can keep your house uncluttered and come out ahead financially.

This method may work best for hobbies that produce an end result that takes up space, especially if the process of making the item appeals to you as much or more than the item itself. You can always take a picture of the item you made before selling it. That way, you can look back and admire your handiwork without having to store and dust it.

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Before and after: A $6 ceiling fan makeover

Being a homeowner is expensive.

Correction: Being a homeowner who wants to tear out and replace everything in the house is expensive.

But my home is also my hobby. It's one of those expenses that falls into the "needs list" (shelter)and the "wants list" (my complete kitchen remodel). Living in aesthetically pleasing surroundings puts me at ease almost as much as a really mean massage, the kind where they throw elbows.

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My grandmother’s home remedies

This reader story come from SB, a regular reader and commenter on GRS. SB writes about personal finance and personal development topics at One Cent at a Time.

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. 

This is my second guest post at this blog. I am grateful to J.D. and his team's humble gesture in allowing me to do it. I hope to provide the same value regular writers of this blog provide to you.

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Saving money with my feet: The joys of a walkable neighborhood

On Saturday, I bumped into Rhonda at the local natural food market. Rhonda is one of Kris's co-workers and friends. I haven't seen her much since the divorce, although we live only a mile-and-a-half apart. For 20 minutes, she and I stood in the freezer aisle and chatted about life and the neighborhood.

"Do you know any other places to shop for groceries?" I asked. "We like this store, but it's pretty expensive. I know there's another market near your house, but its prices don't seem any better and the food quality is worse." (This is actually the subject of an already-written but yet-to-be published post I've produced for GRS.)

"I know," Rhonda said. "That store has great seafood at good prices, but that's about it. Their produce sucks. You could always hit the fancy supermarket across the river, I guess."

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Do expiration dates make us wasteful?

Before I dig into this topic, let me just put this out there: Expiration dates are important and you should always consider them so you don't get food poisoning and end up in the hospital or whatever. Please don't interpret this post as my arguing that expiration dates are total bull.

That being said, expiration dates are total bull. Just kidding! Well, kind of. I recently came across an alarming study from Harvard, which found that Americans waste 160 billion tons [Editor's Note: Kristin pointed out that she should have written 160 billion pounds] of food annually. A similar 2012 study from the NRDC calculated that waste in terms of dollars: We throw out about $165 billion worth of food and beverages each year. On average, that's between $275 and $400 per household.

The Dating Game

The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic titled their study "The Dating Game," and they came to the conclusion that many "sell by" dates don't really have anything to do with safety. Companies mostly determine those dates based on taste tests.

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The power of speaking up

Last month, my boyfriend and I took a weekend trip to Seattle to celebrate our anniversary. We got a great deal on a hotel using a discount app. We'd stayed at this hotel before, and the view was gorgeous. The price was also reasonable and the room was clean. We checked in, unloaded our bags and pulled back the curtains, preparing to take in Seattle's beautiful skyline, which we'd flown a thousand miles to see.

Lo and behold, the parking lot. A man getting into his car looked up at us, startled.

"Eh," I said. "We didn't come here to hang out at the hotel."<

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How to meal plan and save some cash

Few questions are as unwelcome or unanswerable (at least in my house) as "What's for dinner?" Every few months, I make futile attempts to meal plan or grocery shop smarter. I spread out cookbooks, I write down recipes, I make shopping lists, and then everything disappears (it seems) and I am back to my usual chaotic "It's 4:45 and what are we going to eat again?!"

In these moments, I am much more likely to order pizza or stop by for a supermarket rotisserie chicken. Not only are these choices probably not as healthy as what we could make at home, but they are also more expensive. And at the moment, we need to cut our eating out/convenience food spending as much as possible.

I am no domestic diva, as you have already discovered. But there are plenty of people of who are. And some of them don't even require googling. Take my mother-in-law, for example. She raised eight children on a tight budget, and I think she came up with a genius idea. Listen to this: She served the same seven meals every week. For instance, Monday was always spaghetti night, Tuesday was always chicken potpie, and so on. It meant her shopping list was the same every single week. Of course, it also means that my husband was burned out on repetition, so we definitely can't adopt the same policy in our house. But I do think it's a great idea.<

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Buy Nothing Year: Changing how we spend

Julie Phillips was planning to move into a new apartment when a massive flood in Alberta damaged her would-be building. Suddenly, she found herself displaced.

"The reason I wanted to move is I wanted to save on rent," Julie says. "I wanted to save more, I wanted to live with another person. I wanted that camaraderie."

After searching extensively, Julie grew discouraged.

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A wine guide for frugal folks

Kim and I first connected on a wine tour 18 months ago. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that we've continued to build our relationship over glasses of chardonnay and (especially) Champagne. We enjoy wine, and we've had a lot of fun creating a shared wine library.

At the same time, we're frugal people. We're not willing to spend $50 on a bottle of wine. Heck, it hurts to spend $20 on a bottle of wine! No, we'd prefer to spend less than $10 per bottle, if possible — but we still want to drink the good stuff.

A highlight from our European vacation: Tasting wine and cheese in Paris!

It's been three years since I shared strategies for wine-buying. With the holidays approaching, I thought now would be a good time to review my techniques, and to share the things I've learned since I last wrote about the subject. Continue reading...

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