Month: May 2014

Does Your Energy Company Pay You for Efficiency Upgrades?

Earlier this week (just before the large blizzard hit central Iowa), our furnace went out. I took a look and couldn’t diagnose the problem myself, so we called a repairman (ouch). The guy we called was someone who was recommended by a few friends who told us that we’d be surprised how inexpensive his first …

Categories: Getting Started

Most of Us Have Never Experienced a True Economic Meltdown

My grandfather and grandmother came of age during the Great Depression. They both passed away when I was a young child (not all that much older than my own son now), but many of my memories of them revolved around their extreme frugality. They would buy bottles of the most inexpensive wine they could buy, …

Categories: Getting Started

Finding the Perfect Gift Without Spending Too Much

As I write this, I’ve spent about five hours online hunting down “perfect” gifts for various people on our Christmas shopping list. In almost every case, I wound up spending less than our target dollar amount on our list. In almost every case, as well, I found a gift that I think is utterly perfect …

Categories: Gifts

How Much Life Insurance Do You Really Need?

I can’t tell you how often I’m contacted by readers who tell me the story of their lives, then ask the big question: how much life insurance do I need? I’ll hear from twenty four year old single women and forty year old men with a wife and three children. I’ll hear from people with …

Categories: Insurance, Life

The Best Career Advice: Do Stuff

Yesterday, I read a really interesting article about career choices on Charlie Hoehn’s blog. A quick excerpt: I haven’t really talked about this before, but I’ve failed more times than I can remember. I’ve tried starting up several businesses, tried patenting inventions, tried starting up online communities, tried building several websites, tried to win contests… …

Categories: Careers

Taking Advantage – or Over-Advantage – of Customer Service

Cam writes in: I got a sweater from Land’s End for my birthday with the receipt included. I wore it twice, but I just don’t like the sweater. It fits fine and is well made and everything, but I just don’t like the look. I’m thinking of sending it back to them under their unconditional …

Categories: Shopping

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Educational Investment Edition

Several different people have asked me what gifts I’m getting for my kids this Christmas, mostly as a source for ideas for their own children (I think). Here’s the truth, though. For the most part, I don’t think it matters too much. The one thing that really matters to your kids is time. Time spent …

Categories: Morning Roundup

What’s Your Motivation?

As I sit in my office and look out the window, I can see a number of people and a few pieces of construction equipment busy at work about a quarter of a mile away. It just happens to perfectly line up that I can see the workers if I turn my head to the …

The Big Distraction

One of the most common coping mechanisms for a serious life/money/career/personal problem is to dive into escapism. We look for something to distract ourselves from the difficulty, whether it be through playing games, working in the garden, alcohol, or any number of other things. I’m no stranger to this. When I’m facing a major struggle, …

Categories: Getting Started

Brand Preferences and Frugality

I’m going to start out by saying something that might get some feathers in a ruffle: everyone in the first world has brand preferences. Simply by seeing a particular label on something, we draw some basic conclusions about the product itself. It might be driven by our own experiences, it might be driven by data, …

Categories: Getting Started

Reader Mailbag #92

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. Question re: online banks – How do …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

Review: Lifelines for Money Misfortunes

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book. A couple years ago, I reviewed Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine’s earlier book Die Broke. I found it really interesting for the first half – which focuses on investing in yourself – and completely faulty in the second half, which talks about specific investment …

Categories: Books

Personal Finance 101: What Does FDIC Insurance Really Mean?

One of the biggest things I encourage people to look for when they open a bank account is that the bank is FDIC insured. Most banks operating in the United States offer this insurance. In an era where people are more than a little worried about bank failures and the like, FDIC insurance is vital. …

The Simple Dollar Time Machine: December 5, 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: Time Machine

The First Step Towards Getting Out of Debt

A while back (has it been almost eighteen months already?), I wrote a very detailed article about coming up with a debt repayment plan. This plan works – it’s what I did when I realized that I was in serious financial trouble and needed to overcome it. Yet it’s not the first step in the …

Categories: Debt, Getting Started

Some Guys Have All The Luck

I am a very lucky person. I was lucky enough to be born in the United States with (reasonably) good health. I was also lucky enough to be born to parents who wanted me to be successful in life and constantly did things to push me to learn and to succeed. I have a wonderful …

Categories: Getting Started

Breaking Down the Numbers on Why Frugality Works

Marco writes in: Most of your “money tips” are stupid. Why would I waste my time doing this stuff to save fifty cents? I want to learn how to make money not how to save a nickel. Whether or not you take advantage of the huge benefits of frugality is all a matter of perspective. …

Social Supply-Side Economics

Almost immediately after my article yesterday about the costs of preparing for additional children, Eileen wrote to me with a very worthwhile comment: In that article you barely mentioned the value of family and friends who will give you lots of hand-me-downs and other items. Since you talk about the social value of things, I …

Categories: Community, Frugality

Why Are Oranges Always on Sale in December? Seasonal Food Sales and How to Take Advantage of Them

When I was a kid, each year my Christmas stocking had a large orange in the toe. I always thought of this as a bit strange, so when I was a bit older, I asked my parents about the orange. It turns out that oranges were pretty hard to get ahold of when my father …

Categories: Food, Frugality, Groceries