Month: May 2014

Five Frequently Asked Questions – Answered!

In this post, I’m going to compile five of the most common comments and questions I get from readers, along with my response to them. A Dire Situation 1. Help me! My complex financial situation is incredibly dire! While I’m quite happy to offer suggestions to readers about their finances, I make it clear that …

Review: The Path of Least Resistance

Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal productivity or personal development book. The premise of this book is quite intriguing to me, a person who spends much of his time engaged in creative work. The Path of Least Resistance argues that creativity functions best when you put as little resistance against it as you …

Spending Far Less Than You Earn

Quite often, I talk about the value of frugality and spending less than you earn. For many of us, that’s a valuable mantra to repeat, because our tendency is to spend more than we should. Our challenge is to avoid spending, and we have to carefully talk ourselves out of it. Yet there are those …

The Little Things Do Matter

Twelve Little Hacks That Add Up To A Lot 1. Switch your savings account from your local bank to ING Direct. That’s the bank I switched to about a year and a half ago in order to get a higher interest rate (over 4%). They made the whole thing easy as pie – it took …

The One Month Coupon Strategy: A Really Clever Way to Make Coupons Worthwhile

Many people don’t bother to clip coupons for various reasons, mostly revolving around the belief that a fifty cent coupon doesn’t make it worth the effort. On the surface, I agree – without a very clever coupon strategy, it’s probably not worth the effort. About two months ago, I was talking about this very fact …

Categories: Frugality, Meals

Review: Grow Your Money

Each Friday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book. 101 Easy Tips to Plan, Save, and Invest. That’s the subtitle of Grow Your Money, and the concept intrigued me. It basically takes the concept of blogging – short, bite-sized narrowly focused articles about the length of, say, this book review – and turns it …

Categories: Books and Reading

Preparing Your Own Skillet Meals In Advance

Many busy familes (even on occasion, our own busy family) often resort to prepackaged skillet meals in order to get a hot, prepared meal on the table quickly at dinnertime. With both parents getting home at five or later and a desire to get a meal on the table early enough so that there is …

Categories: Frugality, Meals

The Ballad of the Rusty Bumper

While filling the air in my tires yesterday, I happened to look up at the rear bumper on my truck, and I noticed something I didn’t like: rust. There was just two little spots of it, barely noticeable unless you’re looking for it, but in the harsh and variable weather of Iowa, it doesn’t take …

Categories: Frugality

The Costs of Having Children

Recently, I had coffee with an old friend of mine who was torn over the decision to have a child. His spouse wants a child, as do his parents, but he doesn’t feel ready to take that leap. I told him that I thought he should stick to his guns on the subject, and he …

Categories: Family, Getting Started

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Walking the Ad Line Edition

So, the big brouhaha lately has been the fact that, after talking about abandoning unethical ads and also decrying The Secret, I then sold an ad on the site to Jack Canfield, the guy who wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, who has written a book about The Secret. Multiple readers called me …

Categories: Books and Reading

The Long Journey

Out of all of the challenging times since I began to turn my financial life around, I may be facing the most challenging of all right now. It’s not anything immediate or urgent. I have a nice healthy emergency fund to take care of that. It’s also not a temptation to buy anything, nor a …

Maximizing the Free (or Nearly Free) Things That Make You Feel Good

On my recent flight home from the west coast, I spent most of my time thinking about my family – my wife and two children that I couldn’t wait to see. I thought about embracing my wife and holding her close. I thought about playing with my toddler son, a game we play where I …

The Souvenir Debate

After an offhand mention of souvenirs recently, several people commented on the topic, indluding Cyde Weys, who left this one: And as for souvenirs while traveling, my solution is simple: I don’t buy them, period. Souvenirs are synonymous with schlock in my mind. I can return from a trip with the memory card in my …

Categories: Shopping

Changing Values, Changing Priorities

Over the course of one’s life, there are a number of events that occur that change one’s value structure significantly. Marriage can be one. Having children almost always is one. Figuring out financial independence is often one. These events often alter our day-to-day life and our overall life plans. For example, financial independence has removed …

Categories: Getting Started

Handling Unexpected Social Spending Situations

I’m currently on the west coast in the midst of a business trip. My hotel sits across the road from a shopping mall far nicer than any in the entire state of Iowa. Unsurprisingly, during a break in meetings, a group of us went over there to wander around. It didn’t take long before most …

My Favorite Bargain: The Free Newspaper

Perhaps my favorite bargain in any city of significant size is the free community newspaper. These are newspapers that are distributed for free and pay for themselves through ad support – they’re usually loaded with advertisements for local events and businesses. If I see one of these, even in an area that I don’t live …

Categories: Frugality

Review: Buffett – The Making of an American Capitalist

Each Friday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been reading Roger Lowenstein’s excellent and thorough biography of Warren Buffett. I didn’t pick it up to learn investment secrets – in fact, it’s pretty clear from the get-go that this book isn’t for you if you’re looking for …

Categories: Books and Reading

Airport Frugality in the Era of New Security Regulations

As you read this, I’m likely somewhere in the sky over the western half of the United States. I’ve flown quite a bit over the last decade, but I haven’t flown since the most recent restrictions on carry on items. These restrictions really shoot in the foot most of my strategies for saving money in …

Categories: Frugality, Travel

Turning Things Around: The Basics

Tessa, an email subscriber, wrote to me recently with the following thoughts: I signed to receive your emails last year and I like them very much. But I need the basics, and you have so much in your blog I cannot find it. I don’t know how to live within my means. I don’t know …

Categories: Getting Started