Month: May 2014

A Real Life Look at the Rent or Buy Question

Howie writes in: My wife and I have been running our own home-based business for three years now. We rent and work out of a smallish 2-bedroom apartment in the very expensive SF Bay Area. One of those bedrooms is an office that we both share as an office. We spend day in/day out working …

Categories: Housing

Trimming the Average Budget: Housekeeping Supplies

Housing – housekeeping supplies – $639/year Garbage bags. Dishwashing detergent. Window cleaner. Vacuum bags. Laundry detergent. These are all housekeeping supplies and, over the course of a year, they really add up. $53 a month goes down the drain just to these supplies (and often, it quite literally goes down the drain). Fortunately, this is …

Categories: Frugality

Trimming? What About Earning More?

During the entire “Trimming the Average Budget” series, the focus has been on spending less money. It’s a walkthrough of every significant financial element of an average American family’s life – and a look at how they can spend less in each of those areas. Saving money is a powerful tool, but it’s equally important …

Categories: Careers

Trimming the Average Budget: Miscellaneous (Including a Surprising Biggie)

Miscellaneous – $808/year “Miscellaneous” seems like a vague category at first, but when I actually dug into the items included in that chunk, I quickly found that one big element makes up most of what falls under “Miscellaneous.” Cutting Down on Your Miscellaneous Spending Finance charges Every dime in interest paid on credit cards or …

Categories: Books and Reading

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Bugs Edition

Lately, I’ve been working with a coder to help me with some back-end issues with The Simple Dollar, as there have been a few bugs floating around in the software I use to update the site, the most onerous of which is that some small fraction of comments seem to disappear before I ever get …

Categories: Books and Reading

Trimming the Average Budget: Household Operations

Housing – household operations – $984/year Household operations? Think housecleaning services, nannies, babysitters, child care, and the like – services people pay for to keep their household running efficiently. Quite often, these expenses are purchased in order to buy time for other things, like leisure or spending time with family – and that’s understandable. However, …

Categories: Getting Started

I Want Something, But I Don’t Know What It Is

Six years ago today, I wrote that in my personal journal. It was the first sign that I was able to find that there was some level of serious unhappiness with my career, my financial state, and my spending choices. Over the next two years, I spent a lot of my time – and a …

Categories: Getting Started

Trimming the Average Budget: Education

Education – $945/year Education is another expense that varies widely from family to family. Many families have no education-related expenses at all. Other families have multiple children in college or on the way and are in a much different situation. Obviously, education spending is an area where I think it’s a strong investment to spend …

Categories: Education

Reader Mailbag #98

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. If I have to get an auto …

Categories: Books and Reading

Review: The Collaborative Habit

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a book of interest that’s not directly related to personal finance, but can provide deep insights into the elements of personal success. One of my favorite books I’ve ever reviewed for The Simple Dollar is Twyla Tharp’s excellent The Creative Habit. In fact, it’s one of the few …

Categories: Books and Reading

Trimming the Average Budget: Household Furnishings

Housing – household furnishings, equipment – $1,797 This category focuses entirely on furniture, decorative items, and some minor household items (like computers), but excludes major appliances (they have their own category). In other words, when you look around your house at the things that are there mostly for decoration, comfort, and communication and not for …

Categories: Getting Started

The Simple Dollar Time Machine: January 16, 2010

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

Trimming the Average Budget: Savings

Cash Contributions (optional retirement and cash savings) – $1,821/year The average American family contributes $150 a month to their retirement plans and/or to their personal savings – and that’s a commendable thing. In fact, this is one part of a budget that should grow bigger while other parts grow smaller. So, rather than focusing on …

Categories: Banking

Trimming the Average Budget: Apparel

Apparel and Services – $1,881/year Clothes make up the largest part of this category, in which the average American family drops $150 a month (on average). On clothing? It seemed a bit surprising to me, but then I realized that clothing is perhaps one of the areas of my life where I’m the most frugal. …

Categories: Getting Started

“The Thought of Starting This Project Overwhelms Me”

Right now, my office is a mess. There’s a huge pile of things waiting to be filed. There are a few stacks of books that need to be sent out for PaperBackSwap. I have several pieces of correspondence that need addressing. The closet is overstuffed with all sorts of different things. The floor has a …

Categories: Money

Trimming the Average Budget: Gasoline and Motor Oil

Transportation – gasoline, motor oil – $2,384/year The average American family drops $200 a month on gasoline and motor oil – and that’s at early 2009 prices for gas, which were significantly lower than prices today. However, this is one of the easiest numbers to trim in your entire budget. There are several simple steps …

Addresses, Corporate Changes, and Paying Attention to the Details

A few days ago, in the mail, I received a notice from my homeowners insurance company notifying me that they were cancelling my policy as of January 18 due to a lack of payment. I was shocked, to say the least. Back when we first bought our home and arranged our mortgage, the mortgage company …

Categories: Getting Started

Trimming the Average Budget: Eating Out

Food – food away from home – $2,668/year The average American family spends $225 a month eating away from home – dinners eaten out, quick snacks grabbed, and coffees ordered and consumed on the run. Much of this spending comes about simply because it’s convenient. Rather than investing the time to get my coffee machine …

Categories: Meals

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Stomach Bug Edition

For the last few days, my entire family has been suffering from a vicious stomach bug. I was the first to get it – and the first to seemingly recover from it. After that, my daughter got it, then my wife got it, then my son got it, almost in domino-like order. It’s been several …

Categories: Books and Reading