Month: May 2014

Contribute Regularly to That Retirement Account (59/365)

If you’ve been following the advice of the last few days, you should have a retirement plan in place. Now comes the hard part: contributing to that account. When it comes right down to it, retirement contributions are another bill. Contributions reduce the pool of money that you have with which to pay your bills …

Categories: Frugality

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Tired Headache Edition

A few nights ago, I stayed up until 1 AM working on a project. The following night, I stayed up until 12:30 AM talking to friends. Both of those days, I had to get up at 6 AM. The second night, my oldest son woke up twice in the night from bad dreams. That next …

Categories: Books and Reading

Use a Simple Method to Choose Investment Options (58/365)

When people sit down with their retirement advisor to sign up for their 401(k) or other retirement plan, they often think it’s just a matter of signing a few documents and deciding how much to have held out of their check each pay period. Then, when the advisor shows them a plethora of investment options, …

Categories: Frugality

Career Stereotypes and Their Costs

An email I received from a reader recently left me thinking. Be aware, this person describes some stereotypes that may be painful, and I’m going to talk about them below: When I was growing up, the adults I knew made fun of lots of different career paths. My dad was a lawyer and my mom …

Categories: Getting Started

Open Up a 401(k) or 403(b) Now (57/365)

This tip is directed at everyone who has a job where a 401(k)/403(b)/other individual retirement savings plan is available, but you’ve not yet signed up for it out of laziness, forgetfulness, or some other non-retirement-based reason. This tip is doubly directed at everyone whose employer offers matching money for that retirement plan and they’re not …

Categories: Frugality

Reader Mailbag: Pulling Up Friends

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Buying a rental property 2. Building focus 3. Using a bad 401(k) 4. PMI or empty emergency fund? 5. NCAA tournament brackets in office 6. Employer …

Categories: Books and Reading

If You Overdraft for the First Time, Ask for the Fee to Be Waived (56/365)

Whenever I encounter a fee that I don’t feel I should have been charged, I will call and find out the details of that charge and whether or not it can be removed. The same is true for the first time I make an error and incur a charge due to my own mistake. I …

Categories: Frugality

Some Thoughts on Higher Gas Prices

I’m lucky. I don’t commute to work, unless you consider a stroll across the house to be a commute. I don’t put daily miles on a vehicle, though I do need to travel to the library and the post office for different work-related tasks. My wife, Sarah, does commute to work, though. She drives about …

Balance Your Checkbook as Often as Possible (55/365)

You should always know what your checking account balance is. Let me repeat that. You should always know what your checking account balance is. That includes outstanding payments you’ve made that haven’t posted to your account yet. That does not include income that hasn’t been deposited yet. The more you deviate from this, the more …

Categories: Frugality

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #61

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well. Last week, I had a long conversation with my oldest child about happiness and motivation. What makes a person happy? What makes a person decide to keep going when things …

Learn How to Use Online Banking (54/365)

When I wrote 365 Ways to Live Cheap in 2007, online banking was a feature that was far from standard, yet well on its way to becoming a standard. I often recommended to people that they seek out banks with online banking because it was a useful and valuable feature to have. As I write …

Categories: Frugality

A World without Sarah

Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows that my wife, Sarah, is not only my best friend, but the rock upon which our family relies in countless ways. A day doesn’t go by when she doesn’t do something amazing for me or for our family, whether it’s finding energy and time to …

Categories: Getting Started

Opt Out of Courtesy Overdraft Protection (53/365)

A lot of banks offer what they call “courtesy overdraft protection.” On the surface it seems like a good program. After all, they do cover the bad check you wrote, right? Actually, most “courtesy” overdraft protections can end up putting you in a worse situation than just dealing with a returned check. Most courtesy overdraft …

Categories: Frugality

Reader Mailbag: Hair Cutting

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. When to dump a car 2. Comparing home features for energy 3. 401(k)s, IRAs, and taxes 4. Cultural events, cheapness, and children 5. Blogging for money …

Categories: Books and Reading

If You Can’t Get These Features, Start Shopping for a New Bank (52/365)

Over the last few days, we’ve talked about several features your bank should have: compatible hours, few (or no) fees, solid interest, and a large ATM network. On top of that, I’d add robust online banking as well. The question then becomes what do you do if your bank doesn’t offer these things? I’d suggest …

Categories: Frugality

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Games and Drinks Edition

For some reason, three people have contacted me within the last day or two asking me for suggestions on how to deal with drinks and snacks when playing board or card games with friends. They do make a mess. If we’re just playing a game with an ordinary deck of playing cards, I don’t sweat …

Categories: Books and Reading

Make Sure the Bank’s Hours Match Yours (51/365)

The bank my parents use keeps some rather unusual hours. A few times recently, I’ve been visiting my parents and wished to accompany them to the bank to sign papers or other such things, only to discover that the bank is improbably closed at what seems like a completely reasonable hour. This is a common …

Categories: Frugality

Chores, Allowance, and “Above and Beyond” Tasks

I’m often asked about our allowance and chore policies for our children. Recently, some snow on our driveway made us carefully think about these policies and decide exactly how we wanted to handle them. About two weeks ago, we had a snowstorm that covered our driveway with about two inches of snow. While it wasn’t …

Categories: Family

Don’t Tolerate These Four Fees (50/365)

One of the surest signs that it’s time to switch to a new bank comes when you examine your monthly statement and see a lot of unnecessary fees. About a decade and a half ago, I was a customer of a large bank chain (Firstar) that was later swallowed up by an even larger bank …

Categories: Frugality