• For Hotel Rooms, Call the Local Branch and Negotiate (346/365)

    Several years ago, Sarah and I visited the Amana Colonies in eastern Iowa with another couple. We decided to stay in a hotel there for two nights so we could stay up late with friends we hadn’t seen in a long while. Our friends had chosen a hotel online and booked a room, so we …

  • The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Synthroid Edition

    I’m working on a freelance article concerning thyroid conditions and Synthroid use. I’m looking for a few people that take Synthroid (or another thyroid medication) in their adult life that would be willing to answer a few questions about the experience (your name would never be used anywhere without your permission, and pseudonyms would be …

  • Explore Your Local Area (345/365)

    Several years ago, I picked up one of those tourism guides for Iowa, similar to the ones that many states put out to attract travelers to their state. I live in central Iowa, of course, so everything mentioned in that guide was within three hours of my house. About four days and a lot of …

  • Twelve Gifts That Encourage Frugality

    My favorite gifts (besides board games, I suppose) are ones that encourage me to make positive changes in my life. Items that encourage me to cook at home, lose weight, learn a new skill, or save a little money are ones that I really value, because I know that they can help me push toward …

  • Pack Food and Beverages (344/365)

    Whenever I leave my house and expect that the travel to my destination is going to take more than an hour or so, I pack snacks and beverages. It’s just part of my routine. Usually, I fill up a water bottle and add a bit of lemon juice to it, and I’ll look in the …

  • Reader Mailbag: Popcorn, Old Movies, and a Warm Blanket

    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. Using Roth to buy house 2. Children and educational tools 3. Is a charity legit? 4. Preparing for higher taxes 5. Shaving expenses 6. Inexpensive board …

  • Stay Away from Tourist Traps (343/365)

    In 2004, I had the professional opportunity to travel to Mexico multiple times in a short span. On those trips, I had a few chances to visit some of the sights of rural Mexico. One of the stops that really sticks in my mind is the opportunity to climb up a small Aztec pyramid at …

  • What Seems Simple Rarely Is Simple

    I enjoy watching cooking shows – you know, the ones where they actually focus on presenting a recipe and show off some of the techniques used in preparing that recipe. My favorite cooking show host is Julia Child, by a fair margin. There’s something I’ve always found really comforting about her – I don’t quite …

  • Consider All Forms of Transportation, Including Train and Bus (342/365)

    A few months ago, I took a trip to Indianapolis. The first leg of the trip – a flight from Des Moines to Chicago – was uneventful, but it was the second leg that got interesting. I was scheduled to fly from Chicago to Indianapolis, but my flight was cancelled, as was the subsequent flight. …

  • Ten Pieces of Inspiration #103

    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. Quentin Crisp on career direction It’s really tempting to switch careers, but sometimes it’s worth asking whether or not our skill set wouldn’t best be served staying put or …

  • Consider Camping (341/365)

    When Sarah and I visited the Pacific Northwest for our first anniversary, we didn’t stay in a hotel for most of the vacation. We camped, using borrowed camping equipment, first on Mount Rainier and then in Olympia National Forest. When we went on our first vacation after having our first child, we didn’t stay in …

  • Confirmation Bias and You

    Let’s say you’re worried that your finances aren’t being organized effectively. You’re not really sure what’s wrong, but you have a gut feeling about it. You decide to go to a financial advisor, who tells you that, indeed, your finances are in a bad place. He points out several perceived flaws and pledges that he …

  • Be Flexible When You Plan Vacations (340/365)

    During the last few years of my previous job, whenever Sarah and I began to plan a vacation, I would request time off in a block that was significantly larger than the length of the vacation we were planning. Sometimes, I’d wind up with several days off before the vacation. Other times, I’d wind up …

  • Reader Mailbag: Questions and Answers

    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. Refinancing and personal challenges 2. Winning the lottery? 3. Investing with little money 4. Showing kids what they have 5. Family business and money 6. Energy …

  • Do Your Own Travel Planning (339/365)

    When Sarah and I were talking about our honeymoon in 2003, we were a little intimidated by setting up our travel plans. It was the first major trip either one of us had taken where we would be responsible for all of the planning, and it seemed like a ton of confusing work. So, we …

  • The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Basketball Edition

    A long time ago, I used to play basketball every single day. I’d stand in my parents’ driveway shooting baskets for hours. In high school, I gradually moved from completely terrible to reasonably good. In college, I dominated an intramural season (though my back would start hurting so badly that I’d have to quit in …

  • Plan Far in Advance (338/365)

    After a few weeks of discussing bill paying strategies in this series, we’re going to shift gears and look at vacations during much of the month of December. Vacations? The kind of things that most people take in the summer? Why would we talk about them in December? Frankly, right now is about the latest …

  • Designing a Lucky Life

    “Luck is the residue of design.” – Branch Rickey I don’t believe that luck is a supernatural thing that we have no control over. It’s not represented by four leaf clovers and gold pots at the end of the rainbow. Luck is simply the result of some of the many random events in life bouncing …

  • Schedule Regular Bills To Be Paid Automatically (337/365)

    As I mentioned yesterday, one of the big advantages of online bill pay is that you can schedule payments on many of your bills in advance so that you don’t have to worry about paying them on time. Online bill pay just fires them off for you at the correct time. Of course, that really …