Month: May 2014

Personal Finance 101: How Averages Lie

Whenever a personal finance writer – or a writer of any kind – wants to make a bold, shocking point, they’ll often pull out an “average” of some set of numbers. That average, when read without further investigation, is often really shocking. Could that really be true? Here are some examples. The average square footage …

Categories: Getting Started

Should I Save for Something or Not Buy It At All?

Andre writes in: I’m interested in replacing a piece of home audio equipment that is experiencing occasional malfunctions, but works OK most of the time. The receiver I’m looking at costs $500 on Amazon. I’m a little conflicted. The more frugal side of me says to not even buy it. Make do with the broken …

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Home Movies Edition

For the longest time, I didn’t really see the point of taking home movies. I would take some because I’d be encouraged to do so, but they always seemed to just wind up in boxes collecting dust somewhere. Until last night. I was digging through one of our closets and came up with a few …

Categories: Books and Reading

My Garage Sale and Thrifting Toolkit

I really enjoy visiting garage sales, yard sales, and thrift stores. I almost always find an item or two that I’m either looking for myself or I’m sure I can sell on eBay for a small profit. Plus, I’m always amazed at the things other people have largely decided to throw out. Whenever I head …

Categories: Frugality

Starting a Lifetime Savings Journey

Recently, my son Joe had his fourth birthday. Sarah and I had made the decision that we were going to introduce the idea of an allowance to him after his fourth birthday, along with the idea of saving for specific goals. In order to accomplish this goal, we decided to get him a Money Savvy …

Categories: Family

What Are You Buying When You Buy a Car?

Over the last few months, I’ve been slowly shopping for a minivan to replace my truck. Since the truck will not seat three young children safely (I could jam them in there in an illegal fashion), I will have to replace the vehicle by April at the latest. That’s on top of the fact that …

Categories: Automobile

Reader Mailbag #89

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. I’m 34 years old; live and work …

Categories: Books and Reading

Review: Unclutter Your Life in One Week

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal productivity, personal development, or career book. If you’ve been reading my weekly roundups for long, you know I’m a big fan of the Unclutterer blog and its chief writer and editor, Erin Doland. I link to Unclutterer frequently because I believe there is a strong connection …

Is Saving for Old People?

A post on a “savings generation gap” at Get Rich Slowly the other day caught my eye. In it, J.D. argued that there’s a “generation gap” between spenders and savers. People who are over some particular age threshold – somewhere around 35 or 40 – tend to save their money, whereas people who are younger …

Categories: Getting Started

The Simple Dollar Time Machine: November 14, 2009

Many newer readers of The Simple Dollar haven’t been exposed to the hundreds of great articles in the archives of the site, so this is a weekly series that highlights the five best posts from one year ago this week, two years ago this week, and three years ago this week. I call it … …

Categories: Books and Reading

Some Thoughts on Black Friday

In a little less than two weeks, Thanksgiving will be upon us, immediately followed by “Black Friday,” the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is quite often the day that pushes retailers over the line into profitability for the year (from the red to the black), hence the name. Naturally, since it’s the …

Categories: Shopping

The Second Life of Food

This morning, I was doing a bit of advance planning for our dinner this evening. It’s Friday, which is traditionally homemade pizza night at our house, but tonight we were intending to use some left-over beef stew and transform it into a beef pot pie using a pie crust and some corn starch for thickening. …

Categories: Frugality, Meals

Give Experiences This Holiday Season

The holiday gift-giving season is upon us once again. For many of us, that means stress. What gift can we give to the people we care about that actually means something? Why do the holidays have to be so expensive after we buy gifts for everyone on our Christmas list? Then, on Christmas Day, we …

The Power of Analyzing Your Life

Over the last month, I’ve mentioned a technique I call “the five whys” two or three times. The technique itself is simple: when you see something in your life that’s not working like you want it to, you start asking “why” until you come to something where you can’t say “why” any more. When you …

Is the Dollar Store Really a Bargain?

Before he passed away a few years ago, my uncle Ken (who I still miss greatly) was a fanatic shopper at dollar stores. He did most of his shopping at a pair of local dollar stores, where he would buy virtually all of his household supplies and quite a bit of his food. He was …

Categories: Frugality

The Hawthorne Effect and You

We all do it. When we know we’re being watched, we’re on our best behavior. We often tend to perform better and we usually tend to make better choices, too. Then, when we think the focus is off of us, we relax and sometimes make different choices. This effect, in which we act “better” when …

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Post-Book Lull Edition

After turning in my book a week ago, some of my friends who had already published books wrote to me with an interesting point. “After your book is done,” they said, “you’ll find that you go through a bit of ‘writing burnout.’ You won’t want to write anything for a while.” At first, I didn’t …

Categories: Books and Reading

Using Net Worth as a Psychological Carrot

I like keeping score. Keeping score is an easy way for me to know how well I’m doing. It lets me judge, in a very clear way, whether I’m improving and whether I’m making forward progress towards my goals. For a long time, I was obsessed with keeping score in various aspects of my life …

The Meaning of the Dow Jones Industrial Average

Mickey writes in: In the last week, the Dow Jones Industrial average closed at a thirteen month high and, at the same time, unemployment hit double digits for the first time since the early eighties. I thought that the Dow Jones was supposed to represent how the economy was doing, but that’s not the case. …