• The Mistake-Free Choice

    I make mistakes. A lot of them. I spent too much money. I said something I shouldn’t have said. I wasted a bunch of time doing something foolish and unnecessary. I made a statement without properly knowing the facts behind it. Each time I make a mistake, I’m left with two things. I’m left with …

  • Can “Churning” Credit Cards Really Work?

    There are a lot of credit card offers out there that reward you for signing up by giving you a bunch of frequent flyer miles, hotel discounts, or big gift certificates. If you weren’t particularly worried about your credit in the short term, wouldn’t it make sense to sign up for a bunch of these, …

  • Reader Mailbag: Helicoptering

    What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. New company 401(k) question 2. Freezing in plastic 3. Eating cheap on road trip 4. Leasing an electric vehicle 5. Too much money into retirement? 6. …

  • The Pasta Sauce Conundrum

    Two or three times a month, my family enjoys an evening meal that features pasta of some kind. We might enjoy spaghetti or lasagna or something else, depending on the mood. However, when I go to the store to buy pasta sauce, I absolutely cringe at the prices. The “cheap” sauces are loaded with high …

  • The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Take Action Edition

    A friend recently pointed me to the research work of Jennifer Aaker, a researcher at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. From the article: “The results show that acts designed to improve the well-being of others will lead to greater happiness for givers when these acts are associated with concretely framed, prosocial goals as opposed …

  • Five Simple Things to Prepare Right Now for Your Estate

    This article first appeared at U.S. News and World Report Money. Everyone knows about the big things that people should prepare for their loved ones in the event of their untimely passing. A will. Life insurance. A living trust. Those are the big things. After that, there are a number of little things you can …

  • Seven Principles of Yard Sale Season

    I enjoy going to yard sales. On our free spring and summer weekends, our family will burn part of the day going to these sales, looking for Have a plan. Rather than simply trusting that we’ll find sales by serendipity, we take some time to locate sales beforehand. Sites we use include Craigslist, YardHopper, and …

  • Drawing the Line

    I define “frugality” as meaning “cutting back on the things that aren’t as important to you so that you don’t have to compromise on the things that are important to you.” For example, I don’t particularly value anything about laundry soap except for whether or not it gets my clothes clean, so homemade laundry soap …

  • Reader Mailbag: Spring Rain

    What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Car loan versus mortgage 2. Childhood identity theft 3. Shopping in Wal-Mart community 4. Tax refund questions 5. Change fonts to save money? 6. Phantom energy? …

  • Rethinking Allowance: Taking Off the Training Wheels

    As I mentioned recently, Sarah and I have noticed how our children’s relationship with their allowance has changed over the years. When we first started giving them an allowance, we used a simple strategy where they split their money up among several items – investing, charity, saving for a goal, and free spending. We only …

  • Celebrating Your Achievement Without Undoing Your Progress

    At one point, Sarah and I had almost $200,000 in total debt. Several years later, after a ton of hard work, we sent in the last check to pay off our final debt. We had achieved debt freedom. It was really tempting to celebrate that achievement. We had worked so hard for so many years …

  • Heating, Cooling, and Saving

    I really enjoyed this talk from Paul Wheaton on the reality of energy savings at home: Essentially, Wheaton breaks down the various ways to heat and cool your home into three groups. He mostly focuses on heat, but these ideas apply almost the same as cooling. The first group includes things that you touch for …

  • Ten Pieces of Inspiration #173

    Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well. 1. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on relationships and risk “Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very …

  • Should Your Partner’s Debt Keep You Out of a Relationship?

    Recently, a reader wrote to me with what would have been a stellar reader mailbag question except for the fact that it was full of personal details. I attempted to edit the email down to something that could be shared without identity concerns (as I never want material readers send me to ever come back …

  • Price Per Unit Isn’t Always Useful

    The idea of “price per unit” is a pretty useful one to have when you’re shopping for goods. It’s a simple idea that many of us know about, but it never hurts to break it down again for new readers. When you’re at the grocery store and you’re considering items, you’ll compare a lot of …

  • When Your Spouse Passes Away

    A few days ago, I received an utterly heartbreaking email from a reader whose husband had passed away a week ago. She is in her fifties and has two grown children who are fully independent. One of them lives nearby and is helping her get her life back in order, but it’s going to be …

  • Reader Mailbag: Little Steps

    What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Help disputing bill 2. Requesting credit increase 3. Most valuable thing you’ve learned 4. Finances and dating 5. Buying electronics for life? 6. Frugal social circle …

  • Experiments with Homemade Dishwashing Detergent: What Works Best?

    A few weeks ago, I was greatly inspired by this HouseLogic article where several different homemade dishwasher soap recipes are compared. I have struggled in the past with finding a homemade dishwashing detergent recipe that worked well, so I had high hopes for these recipes. Note: I took several pictures for this post, but most …

  • The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Focus on Happiness Edition

    Try this little experiment. For the rest of the day (or tomorrow, if you’re reading this late in the day), whenever you interact with someone, take just a second and ask yourself what you could do during that interaction to make that other person walk away happier. Then, try to do just that. Offer a …