Month: May 2014

Pay Your Bills on a Weekly Cycle, Not a Monthly One (334/365)

When Sarah and I first graduated from college and entered the “real world,” we paid our bills on a monthly cycle. I would just collect all of our bills in a basket and pay them on the first of the month. It wasn’t long before I noticed that I was getting late fees on several …

Categories: Frugality

Breaking Away from “Having It All”

There are so many dimensions of modern life in which people would like to see success. They want to have plenty of money to spend. They want to be in a financially strong state with little or no debt. They want to have a challenging and fulfilling career. They want to have strong connections with …

Categories: Getting Started

Always Ask for Fees To Be Waived (333/365)

Companies love to tack fees onto your bill, no matter what service they’re providing. Why wouldn’t they? Fees are pretty much pure profit for them, and for most customers, fees are glanced at and forgotten. A couple monthly fees per customer times a million customers and you’re talking about a pretty nice chunk of change. …

Categories: Frugality

Reader Mailbag: A Thousand Stars

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. Roth IRA conversion question 2. Topical television versus cost 3. Board games for two 4. Collection plate? 5. ING Direct changes 6. Mobile apps for life …

Categories: Books and Reading

Know What Every Fee Is on Every Bill (332/365)

This one’s simple: whenever you receive a bill in the mail that contains even one item that you can’t immediately explain, you’re probably losing money. There are two big reasons for this. One, the item on the bill might be misapplied to you. For example, you might have a surcharge on your bill that applies …

Categories: Frugality

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Organized Life Edition

As I’ve mentioned before, my life tends to oscillate back and forth between organized and disorganized. Sometimes, I’ll feel like my life is chaotic and unproductive, whereas at other times I feel like my life is incredibly well organized and really productive. At the moment, I feel like I’m on the “productive” end of one …

Categories: Books and Reading

The Case for Debt Freedom

A couple times a week, I’ll get an email from a reader asking some variation on this question: If I can refinance my house at 3.5% why would I ever want to pay it off early if I can earn 7% over the long term in the stock market? Debt freedom seems like a bad …

If You Have Large, Irregular Bills, Save for Them Automatically (331/365)

We have a small handful of large irregular bills that hit us throughout the year. Property taxes. Income taxes (they’re lots of fun for the self-employed). Homeowners insurance. Automotive insurance. Life insurance. Car registration. These aren’t monthly bills, but they still come in the mail pretty much like clockwork, and the amount of each bill …

Categories: Frugality

Ask About Termination Fees (330/365)

Quite often, when people are locked into long-term contracts with their internet provider or cable/satellite provider or cell phone service provider, they consider themselves to be permanently “stuck” and unable to even consider switching until their contract runs out. I know that several of my relatives just shrugged their shoulders recently and dealt with a …

Categories: Frugality

Reader Mailbag: Christmas Cards

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. Career and life dilemma 2. Christmas at home? 3. Child choosing risky career 4. Christmas frugal and thoughtful rules 5. Stocking stuffer games? 6. Spouse and …

Categories: Books and Reading

Leverage Competing Deals (329/365)

One of the best parts of living in a modern capitalist country is that, in many industries, lots of companies are competing for your business. They all want you as a customer and they’re quite willing to cut their profit margins down to little slivers in order to win you over, because a sliver of …

Categories: Frugality

Ask for Introductory Deals, Even If You’re a Regular Customer (328/365)

Companies will sometimes offer astounding deals in an effort to acquire a new customer, because they know that once you’re a customer, the contract will keep you for a while and then inertia will often keep you for longer. Because of that, shopping around for a new provider for your cell phone service (or your …

Categories: Frugality

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #101

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. 1. Abraham Lincoln on enemies and friends When you have someone that you’re in conflict with, you’re far better off finding common ground with that person and getting past the …

Avoid Long-Term Contracts (327/365)

Cell phone companies want you to sign a contract. It’s just a fact of life when picking out a cellular deal. It makes a lot of sense for the cell phone company. It locks in a revenue stream for them that persists for two years (and has a solid chance of being extended beyond that). …

Categories: Frugality

Giving Gifts That Can’t Be Bought on Black Friday

Two Christmases ago, Sarah and I gave almost everyone we know gifts that we made ourselves, from scratch. It was the single most fulfilling Christmas either one of us has had in a very long time. The fulfillment didn’t come as a result of the savings, although our financial cost for that Christmas gift-giving season …

Categories: Shopping

If You Rack Up “Out of Calling Area” Charges, Upgrade Your Plan (326/365)

Sarah and I each go on a significant trip about twice a year. Usually, one trip is together, another trip involves Sarah visiting her sister on the East Coast, and the other trip usually centers around one of my hobbies. Those trips are the few times each year where we leave the upper Midwest. Almost …

Categories: Frugality

Things I’m Thankful For This Year

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m thankful for my oldest son, who shows astounding maturity and thoughtfulness for his age. With almost every action, he not only demonstrates hos own trustworthiness, but sets a tremendous example for his friends and particularly for his younger siblings. I’m thankful for my daughter, whose boundless energy and creativity bring a …

If You Go Over Your Cell Phone Minutes, Upgrade Your Plan (325/365)

When Sarah and I signed our first cell phone contract, we signed up for a plan that gave us roughly 400 minutes per month, which seemed like a reasonable amount based on our estimates. After the two year contract, we found that we had only gone over that limit twice, so we signed up again …

Categories: Frugality

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Black Friday Edition

I know several people who often use Black Friday sales as a method for reducing the cost of their Christmas shopping. They do it the sensible way, though. They already have a list of a few items that they would consider buying for the people they need to purchase gifts for, and they simply cross-check …

Categories: Books and Reading