"My family's coming over for Thanksgiving," I told Kim last week. "Really?" she said. "Where are they going to sit?" Good point.
When I moved in, my condo was sparsely furnished. In the divorce, I took a handful of items that were clearly mine -- a couch, a chair, a liquor cabinet -- and let Kris keep the rest. During the year I lived alone in an apartment, I filled the gaps with inexpensive stuff. Now, in a larger home, there was lots of empty space. The dining room, for instance, was a sea of of emptiness because my IKEA table was acting as a desk in the spare bedroom. Part of this was by design. I hoped that Kim would agree to merge households, so I intentionally left parts of the canvas blank.
Sure enough: In July, she moved in, bringing her own hodgepodge collection of furniture. This meant we could use the IKEA table for its intended purpose...but we never did. After being moved to the dining room, it sat there alone and unloved. It was too small to meet our needs. We both wanted to replace it with something that allowed us to host friends for dinner parties, but it hadn't been a priority -- until I volunteered to host Thanksgiving.
Sometimes my personal-finance articles make my friends feel guilty.
“I read your article about saving money, and now I feel bad about the shoes I just bought,” says Guilt-Stricken Friend. “I don't need them. I think I should return them.”
Perhaps she's waiting for me to tell her that she's right, that she should return them. And then she should take that money she almost blew on something fun and put it into her 401K.
Editor's note: Knowing how to file a consumer complaint is a necessary part of being an informed consumer. Here's one experience from a Get Rich Slowly contributor with a list of tips and tricks anyone can use.
A few months ago, I decided that I needed new furniture. I didn't want new furniture. My 3-year-old couch and loveseat were in great condition. On the other hand, I began to realize that I had once again been blurring the lines between being cheap and being frugal.
Since we are now free of consumer debt, my husband generously offered to upgrade our current furniture. I was stoked. After shopping at a few local stores, I quickly fell in love with a reclining sectional sofa. And this wasn't just a reclining sectional, it was the fancy power-operated model. This meant that I wouldn't have to endure the jarring motion of manually reclining it myself. Of course, that probably doesn't sound like a big deal to someone who doesn't have back problems. Yet, those of you who have experienced recurring pain can probably attest to what a big deal it really is. Being in chronic pain can make almost everything a burden, and it is often something small that has the potential to set off some sort of episode. Anyway, I was thrilled to be offered the option of "push button" reclining and I eagerly bought the couch on the spot.
With my husband across the planet in Kuwait for most of the past two years, we don't fight a lot.
When we do fight, it's about three things: what I'm doing with the kids. What things are going to be like when he comes back (for leave, or for good). And money.
We started out so well?
At the beginning of our relationship, I had a great job I was leaving, along with my ex-boyfriend, to move back home to Portland and my to-be-husband. It was easy to find a new job (this was 2001), and we settled quickly into the financial structure that existed then. I made most of the family's money and paid all the bills. My husband and I, honestly, were thinking ahead only in general terms. "I want to save money for retirement," we would say. "Let's have college savings funds for the boys," we'd say.
Recently I outed myself as an occasional lottery player and as a person who thinks that lotteries in and of themselves aren't so bad.
I don't think they're good. Rather, I think they're not-too-terrible in the way that potato chips are not-too-terrible. Enjoy a few every so often and you'll likely be okay. Eat nothing but chips? Problem.
A number of readers admitted they sometimes buy in, too. But one responded in this way: “I wish the people who spend more than a dollar or two a year would put their money to a better use, such as donating to a soup kitchen or to the Salvation Army. Continue reading...
When I was a boy, my family had a series of dogs: a Saint Bernard, a Shih Tzu, a Golden Retriever and a whole host of mutts. Because dogs will be dogs, and because we lived in the country far from anything, our dogs would sometimes begin barking...and continue barking for minutes. Or hours. When this happened, my dad would shake his head and say, "That dog is barking for the sake of barking."
Barking for the sake of barking started as yet another silly father-ism (I'm sure your family has some too), but it morphed into something more. Whenever somebody did something irrational, we'd say they were "blanking for the sake of blanking".
As most of you know, I used to be a compulsive shopper. I lived beyond my means. I used credit cards to fund a lifestyle I couldn't afford. Though my wife and my family tried to get me to change my ways, I wouldn't listen to reason. And, of course, one day my father told me, "J.D., you've got to stop. You're shopping for the sake of shopping."
Prom dresses have started to appear in the windows of downtown department stores, signaling that in the next few months, another crop of seniors will be heading off to college. By now, the ones on their game have kept the grades up, participated in extra-curricular activities, researched the value of a college education and the best-value colleges, applied for scholarships, and found a good deal on housing.
Still, a whole new world of financial responsibility awaits them. I thought I'd share some of the best (and worst) financial decisions I made as an undergrad.
Find a good place to put your money.
One of the first things I did was join a local credit union, instead of one the big banks that setup tables on campus and offered free checking accounts, t-shirts, and laundry bags that read “off to a clean start.” By joining a credit union, I avoided overdraft fees. (One of the big banks handed out a card to new customers that said “sh*t happens.” It was a get-out-of-jail-free card for your first overdraft fee.)
You can have more money. And you can have it — get it — without turning your life upside down or driving yourself nuts. Seriously.
I got it that way, quietly, simply, and still am. You can, too. Maybe only a modest amount more, maybe a lot more. I don't know. But I do know that you can have more. I'm not doing anything so far as concept and technique go that you can't either. I just work the simple little four-point program that follows. You're welcome to it.
Here's what I do — and don't do.<
The morning is my time. Five days a week, I'm up at 5:30. I come downstairs, sip a diet soda or a cup of tea (lapsang souchong), and spend a few minutes checking e-mail and approving comments. By 5:45, I'm in my gym clothes and out the door.
I walk through the quiet streets of my neighborhood, greeting the birds and the cats and the dogs. I admire the flowers. I notice all the small changes in the yards. If it's cold, I jog until I'm warm. I walk down past the retirement village to the railroad tracks and then make the five-minute crossing of the river. On the other side, I walk along the tracks through the tall, stately trees until I reach the highway, which I follow into town.
After 2-1/2 miles and 45 minutes, I reach my Crossfit gym. I spend the next hour working out with the men and women of the 6:30 class. We run and jump and climb and stretch and lift heavy objects into the air. We sweat together and we joke together. We share our lives. After an hour of exercise, I walk home again, basking in the sun, soaking in the warmth.
Today I'm going to rant.
I get a lot of requests from reporters who want quotes for their stories about personal finance. That's fine. I'm happy to help when possible. What bugs me, though, is that nearly every single reporter pitches her story with the same caveat: "I need tips about saving, but I don't want the same old stuff. I need new, unique ways to save money."