bowl of instant ramen

Like many people, I spent my college years being extremely frugal. I did all kinds of things in college to save money. I ate absurd amounts of ramen noodles, as it was an extremely cheap form of calories. I lived in a tiny apartment with as many as seven other people to get rent well below the $100 per month line. I went to all kinds of on-campus events mostly under the lure of free food. I avidly traded textbooks …

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Sure, I acknowledge this may seem like a pretty silly question. After all, why in the world would you send your 18-year-old off to school with the massive buying power associated with a credit card? I mean, certainly it’s better for them to not learn how to use plastic properly and, instead, carry around a bunch of cash or a prepaid debit card that charges fees so they can use their own money. (Is this where I insert a #sarcasm …

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What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Credit and unpaid medical bill 2. Buying mattress through the mail 3. Cheap startup camping? 4. Getting rid of parents’ papers 5. Value of financial advisor? 6. Stock market basic question 7. Afraid of retirement 8. Explaining financial goals to wife 9. Moving away from a bank 10. …

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Worried about paying too much in investing fees? It might be time to take stock of your investments and their ongoing costs, then search for a better deal. Expense ratios for mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) fell to a record low in 2016, according to Morningstar, with the average investor paying just 0.57%. But this isn’t the result of mutual funds and other investments lowering their ongoing management fees; on the contrary, these lower costs are the result of investors shopping …

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I used to think anyone who lived in in their vehicle was facing a crisis. In some ways, I even thought of them as failures. A famous ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch, featuring Chris Farley as a sad-sack motivational speaker who lived in “a van down by the river,” solidified the notion that living in a vehicle should be your last resort. That stigma still exists, but it’s starting to erode. A growing number of people are reclaiming the idea that living in a …

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If you spend much time at the Ames Public Library, you’ve probably seen me there at some point. I can often be found on the second floor, either at a table or in a study room, surrounded by a pile of personal finance magazines and books and other assorted materials, usually with my laptop open or with a notebook and pen open before me. Why? To come up with the content for this site and to constantly expose myself to …

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“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – Paul Theroux My wife and I traveled to Europe for our honeymoon in 2003. The trip was a memorable one, but when I look back on it with honesty, most of what made it memorable was that it was our honeymoon. We were taking our first steps into our life as a married couple. The reality is that I have traveled extensively over the last dozen years or so and three things really …

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When I was growing up, my family lived on the edge of poverty – and sometimes perhaps over that edge. My father worked in a factory most of the time, when the factory wasn’t struggling and laying people off for months at a time. Five people were supported on that factory wage – him, my mother, myself, and my two older brothers. In addition, we also provided housing for other people for long periods during my childhood – various uncles …

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When it comes to money and personal finance, there are so many behaviors that seriously grind my gears. For example, it bothers me when people in serious debt don’t try to help themselves – as in, they’re complaining about credit card debt one minute and shopping for shoes the next. And I hate it when someone invites me out to dinner then tries to split the bill in half, even when I only had a salad. Bank fees annoy me, and ATM …

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I like to talk about financial independence on The Simple Dollar quite regularly. It is the big financial goal on my horizon, a state in which the money I’ve saved up and the investments I made are returning enough money so that I don’t have to actively work for income any more. Whenever I talk about it a bit too much, though, I usually hear from a few readers who tell me in no uncertain terms that financial independence is …

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