Month: May 2014

Five Frugal Lessons from My Parents

Over the last few weeks (since the passing of my grandmother), I’ve spent a ton of time with my parents, who live about four hours away. Because of these regular visits, I’ve been able to see lots of little details about how they’ve come to live their life since my father has retired. Here’s a …

Help! I Owe More On My Car Than It’s Worth!

“Michael” writes in with a common question: What do you do when you find your car is worth less than you owe on it? This is a pretty common question, particularly given the current state of the economy. Some people are out of work. Others are looking to seriously cut back. Thus, there are a …

Categories: Automobile, Debt

Ten Things I Wish I Had Done When I Was Twenty

I’m thirty years old. Over the last ten years, my life has changed radically. I went from being a college student to being an office professional, then to being a writer. I went from being single to being married with children. I went from owning just enough stuff to fit in the trunk of someone …

Categories: Getting Started

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Amazon Oddities Edition

Several people have asked me about two things that have popped up on Amazon with me as an author, so I thought I’d mention them both here. One is a “paperback” version of 31 Days to Fix Your Finances. Someone (I do not know who) downloaded the files that I give away for free, packaged …

Categories: Morning Roundup

A Graduation Gift That Matters

When I graduated from high school – and again when I graduated from college – I received quite a few gifts from friends and family members. Most of them fell into two categories: money inserted into graduation cards, or items intended to help with my life in the near future (like a gas card or …

Categories: Careers, Education

Do Personal Goals Have a Dangerous Side?

A recent Boston Globe article entitled “Ready, Aim… Fail” discusses the failure of setting a major goal at GM: In the early years of this decade, General Motors had a goal, and it was 29. Determined to boost its flagging profits and reverse a long, steady fall from postwar dominance, the automotive giant did the …

Categories: Goals

The Variables of a Purchase

My biggest criteria for most of my purchases is simply price. What’s the best deal I can get on an ear of corn or on a book? The answer to that question usually pushes me towards the checkout line. Yet, quite often, I find myself not always going for the rock-bottom price on specific items. …

Categories: Shopping

Reader Mailbag #60

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: Throw Out Fifty Things

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal development, personal productivity, or entrepreneurship book of interest. Whenever I see clutter, I see money lost. For one, the clutter itself is usually made up of unused items that have value. Books, decorations, games, DVDs, and so on – they all cost money to purchase and …

Eyes on the Prize

Right now, in our driveway, sits the oldest, most beat-up looking vehicle on our block. It’s a 1997 Ford F-150 with about 150,000 miles on it. It has some rust spots on the back bumper and a patch of rust near the door. In short, it shows its miles. I could easily look to the …

Thoughts on Work, Personal Life, and Frugality

I strive quite hard to create a dividing line between my “work life” and my “personal life.” Generally, that means setting pretty strict hours for work and for personal time and striving as hard as possible to not let either side cross that line. Let me give you an example of what I mean, drawn …

Categories: Careers, Frugality

Frugal Food Tactics from Trent’s Kitchen

I love to cook. Along the way, I often discover excellent shortcuts and money-saving tactics for home food preparation. I get excited, and I immediately want to share the idea, but it’s simply not enough to warrant a full article on its own. So, I usually save it. I jot the idea down somewhere in …

Categories: Food, Frugality

A Tour of My Messenger Bag

My laptop messenger bag is basically my mobile office. I take it with me whenever I leave the house for anything more than a trip to the grocery store. The contents of that bag let me quickly get to work anywhere I am, any time I want – and that gives me a lot of …

The Mother’s Day Debate – And Eight Sensible Ways to Solve It

Whenever Mother’s Day rolls around (and it’s just about here), people seem to congregate into two camps on the issue. First, there’s the celebrate your mother camp – the people who feel that Mother’s Day is a perfect opportunity to show your mother that you care for her, either through action or through a gift. …

Categories: Family

Personal Finance 101: What Is a 529?

Investing in a 529 Plan Fairly regularly on The Simple Dollar, I mention that I’m investing in 529 college savings plans for my two children. Each month, I automatically contribute $100 to each of their plans – and I’ve considered contributing more than that. But what’s a 529? Erin writes in with a typical query: …

What’s Next?

One of the biggest themes running through The Simple Dollar is the drive to get one’s financial house in order – eliminate that high-interest debt, learn how to live cheaper, build an emergency fund, and focus on spending less than you earn. Once that becomes a standard of your life, though, it is inevitable that …

Categories: Planning

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Survey Results Edition

The survey results are starting to appear from the survey many of you took a few weeks ago (thanks again for doing this). I found three things really interesting. 70% of the readership is between 18 and 39. Which basically means… most of you are my age or close to it. Sometimes, I’m concerned that …

Lessons in Fuel-Efficient Driving

One of the interesting features of our Prius is that it keeps a running tab on your current gas mileage. You can see both the mileage at any given moment or the average over your trip. Having such easy access to this information while you’re driving subtly teaches you how to drive more efficiently. Here …

Categories: Automobile, Frugality

Is Your Local Warehouse Store Worth Your While? Here’s How to Find Out

My wife and I have been members at Sam’s Club for years. We use it to buy tons of items in bulk – but over time, we’ve realized that some items simply aren’t cheaper there. While visiting, I’ve noticed the same trend with Costco as well – it’s got spectacular prices on some staples, but …