Month: May 2014

Review: After the Darkest Hour

Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal productivity, personal development, or business/entrepreneurship book of interest. When I was a young boy, my grandmother passed away very suddenly, on Mother’s Day, actually. While I don’t remember her passing away very distinctly, I do remember my grandfather living alone afterwards, and I remember that he just …

How to Stay Productive No Matter Where You Are

Over the past month, I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling – family-related trips, vacations, and so on. That basically means that I’ve been managing my writing and other professional obligations out of my travel bag for the most part. How do I do that? How do I manage to keep up with my …

The Personal Finance Secrets “They” Don’t Want You to Know About

I get asked to review all sorts of crazy personal finance books, plans, programs, and schemes all the time, ranging from the reasonable to the completely outlandish. For the most part, all of these programs share more or less the same content. Get your spending under control, call up your creditors and negotiate lower rates …

Categories: Getting Started

How to Avoid the Trap of Splurging as a Reward for “Being Good”

Before I got control over my spending, I used to splurge all the time on small things that I wanted. I’d buy a new book (or three) every Friday in order to “reward” myself for getting through another work week. I’d often buy a new CD or DVD whenever I received a paycheck. Whenever I’d …

Everything’s So Easy for Pauline

My father has the most innate, natural grasp of mathematics of anyone I’ve ever known. He can’t tell an equation from Greek, but when you back away from explaining things in terms of equations and instead talk about it conceptually, he understands intuitively a great deal of mathematics. Conceptually, he understands it as well as …

Categories: Getting Started

Your Child’s College Education Fund

One question I often get from new and expectant parents is how much they should be saving each month for their child’s college education. Obviously, if you’re looking at paying for college eighteen years down the road, there are going to be a lot of unknowns: how will college funding change by then? How much …

Overspending on Gifts? 6 Things to Think About

One of my readers related a story to me over a long conversation that, rather than posting a bunch of long quotes, I’m going to paraphrase. This reader, who we’ll call Maggie, receives an over-the-top lavish gift from her great aunt each year. Her aunt loves buying the perfect gift for everyone in her family …

Categories: Gifts

Nine Things to Do When the Going Gets Tough

Every once in a while, I get an email from a reader that rips my heart out. Through a long series of choices and decisions and life events, they’ve reached a financial situation that’s almost impossible for them to dig out of. It usually involves children, a mountain of bills, and a job that doesn’t …

Categories: Getting Started

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Book Review Changes Edition

After listening to feedback and my own changing interests, I’ve decided to change how I do book reviews on The Simple Dollar. Instead of reviewing a personal finance book on Friday morning and a personal development book on Sunday afternoon, I’m going to just post one review a week on Sunday afternoon, alternating between a …

Categories: Morning Roundup

Why Buying Things on Sale is an Awful Way to Save

For years, I’ve been on a closed email list with a group of like-minded people who enjoy sharing internet links with amusing comments (think of an email version of fark or reddit). Lately, though, the list has been completely overrun by a group of about two or three people who have become completely obsessed with …

The Retirement Perspective

Lois had an interesting question about retirement: I asked if, by calculating our monthly expenses, we could multiply that by 200, and if that would be enough to retire. So, if one’s expenses were about $24,000 a year, if having $480,000 would be enough. And you said – rightly so – that this figure doesn’t …

Is a Positive Attitude Enough?

Yesterday, Carrie made a very interesting comment in response to my review of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: if being happy is a matter of attitude [...] then shouldn’t people be able to make anything work [...] by simply changing their attitude? Carrie’s question strikes right at the …

Categories: Uncategorized

Reader Mailbag #25

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags. As usual, we’ll start things off with …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

Review: I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This

Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal productivity, personal development, or business/entrepreneurship book of interest. I’m lucky in that I’ve never been truly dissatisfied with my job. I’ve yearned for different challenges before, and I’ve also wished for more flexibility in my schedule, but neither of those actually led me to dislike what I …

Personal Finance 101: Money Market Accounts Versus Normal Savings Accounts

Kathleen writes in with a good question: A lot of personal finance books I read suggest putting your savings – especially stuff like emergency funds – in money market accounts. I’ve looked into them but I can’t figure out what the difference is between a money market account and a savings account. Why is a …

When Should You Downgrade Your Car Insurance?

One of the common nuggets of financial “wisdom” tossed out there by personal finance writers is the idea of downgrading one’s car insurance to save money. “Cut your collision or comprehensive coverage or raise your deductibles and save a mint!” they’ll say, but such comments don’t take into account the current status of the car …

Categories: Automobile, Insurance

Starting a Bulk-Buying Co-op with Your Friends, Family, and Neighbors

One of the biggest knocks against warehouse stores like Sam’s Club and Costco is that you have to buy many items in large bulk quantities. The price per unit is low, but what exactly are you going to do with 36 rolls of toilet paper? While I personally don’t mind this (we have a ton …

Categories: Shopping

Review: Financial Infidelity

Each Friday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book of interest. Financial infidelity – in other words, the situation in which dishonesty creeps into a relationship due to money – is probably the most common source of emails that I receive. I’ve heard some incredibly devastating tales of woe – suddenly discovered five-figure credit …

Cheap Supper Night

Right now, I’m reading the book Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy for future review. It’s a very solid book on frugality, but one concept from the book (only mentioned on a couple pages) really stood out at me: institute a soup and bread night. Basically, McCoy’s argument is this: if you have one supper per …

Categories: Food, Frugality