Ask Me Anything You Want!

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I’m going to try a little experiment here, just to see how it goes. From now until Saturday, March 8, 2008, you can ask any question you’d like in this thread – a specific personal finance question, a philosophical question, a personal development question, a pop culture question (maybe you have a video game related one you’d like to get off your chest), a cooking question, even a personal question about me. The only guidelines are to keep them family friendly and to avoid asking for personal information that, well, no sane person would provide. If you’ve ever had a simple question you want answered, now’s the time.

After the deadline, I’ll go through this thread and collect questions. Many of them will be answered in one long question-and-answer style post in the next week or so. Most of the rest will be turned into individual posts – researched and posted over the next month or two.

So, fire away in that comment box. What would you like to read about? What do you want to know? I’m listening!

(This is something of a test run for the idea. If it’s a success, I may do this regularly. If it’s a failure, I’ll quietly relegate this to the dust bin of history.)

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323 thoughts on “Ask Me Anything You Want!

  1. Here’s the sitch:

    1. 30K debt on a line of credit
    2. 110K principal owing on a mortgage for a $400K house
    3. one steady income, one not so much

    What would you do — refinance mortgage to roll credit line debt or leave it as is?

  2. I’m looking to open an ING Electric Orange Account and would like the free $25 from a referral. Could you provide one?

  3. Ok, you have kids, a full time job, hobbies like blogging and cooking, you play video games, and you manage your home and finances. How do you find time to do it all??

    I am single with no children and cannot seem to be able to carve out time for blogging and other more productive hobbies.

  4. Trent,
    I’m a new reader, and might have missed this in one of your early posts, but when you realized that you needed to turn around your own personal fiscal Titanic, what did you do to persevere when the going got tough? (You had to experience some tough moments, right?)

  5. Makeup: necessary expense of both time and money for ladies who want a decent job?

    In other words, can I be taken seriously by prospective employers for a job above the service industry if I don’t wear makeup?

  6. How is the decision to leave your full-time job affecting the idea of having a baby #3?

    I also think your wife should write a guest post about being the partner of someone obsessed with personal finance and how that affects her day to day life. My spouse wants company. :)

  7. To what Christian denomination do you belong? Is it one in which you were raised? Are you closely aligned with its “personal finance” doctrines?

  8. This might be a divisive one, but which presidential candidate/nominee do you support and why?

    If you don’t feel comfortable sharing that, then in general, what qualities are most important to you in deciding who gets your vote?

  9. I have encountered people who get financially locked in to less-than-frugal contracts, like for cable TV, or cell phones. They’re already living paycheck to paycheck, and then when they’re forced to cut things back, they’re unable to cancel those things because of the huge fees if they break the contract. What could these folks do differently? (I’m still wondering when cable and cellphones became “necessities”, but that’s another question for another day!)

  10. How much did you and your wife spend on your wedding? Where did you honeymoon?

    Who is your cooking blog going to be geared for? Do you know of a website that has recipes that explains things in detail for those of us who don’t know anything about cooking? Example would be a recipe that says to saute something. What does that mean? I want the recipe to explain saute!

    This is fun! I might think of more…. :)

  11. I write a personal finance blog as well, and have over the past year. I’ve been reading The Simple Dollar since before I began Sabrina’s Money Matters and wanted to ask you…do you feel a responsibility to your readers, a protective nature even? I find that when I see a scam on a commercial or hear one on the radio, I immediately want to bust it on SMM – do you have the same protective nature regarding your readers’ money?

  12. Why are so many people aiming their retirement to ensure they leave behind money for their heirs?

  13. Funnily enough my qn is about a gaming system. I want to purchase a Nintendo Wii system but I have heard they are out of stock. What comes with the Wii pack and where should I start my research?
    ps: we are not crazy spenders and this is my first attempt at a game system though I play free online puzzle games.

  14. What are some tips to resist peer pressure to spend when in college?

    Most of my friends go out often, shop a lot, have lovely new furniture, etc. We do do free activities once in a while, but most of the time I end up staying home because I cannot afford to follow them. This can get quite depressing even if I know I’m doing the right thing staying within my budget while they will end up with huge student loans.

  15. I second Sara.

    I asked you this question once before Trent – how many of you are there? I would LOVE to see a blog post that walks through your activities on a normal weekday/weekend.

  16. now that you left your job, can you tell us what you did for a living? What was your title? Also where did you go to college?

  17. I am 36 years old and am quite a risk taker (but not foolishly). What should the percentage of my investments pie should be for risky, middle of the road, low risk?

  18. I am in great financial shape and looking to buy a home in NV, one of the worst areas for foreclosures and short sales in the country. We are practically begging to buy a home, and the banks have an infinite amount of inertia to looking at offers on short sales, which are 95% of the homes. Any advice?

  19. I have a question that has been nagging at me for a little while. I understand how compounding interest works, but I don’t understand how compounding in 401k’s work. I have around $45,000 in my 401K in stocks, but how does that compound? If the value of the stocks goes up, the value of my 401K goes up, but I don’t see how it compounds? Or doesn’t a 100% allocation to stocks compound? Thanks.

  20. Why are you not publishing my comments? I think they are harmless & modest…just curious to know the reason.

  21. A guest post from your wife would be great to see!!

    Anyone who is married knows that support from the spouse is crucial to success in the decisions we make. In what ways does your wife support your new full-time career as a writer? Day to day what does she do to help make this blog a success?

  22. How much is enough — at what amount of savings/net worth will you effectively retire, even if you continue to pursue activities that provide residual income after that?

    And, how long before you expect to accumulate that amount?

  23. Okay, you asked for questions. This isn’t really a personal one, but I actually want your advice! My husband has a 401K from a company he worked for 10 years ago. When he left we didn’t roll it over because we moved out of state and were just trying to keep head above water while we got situated. We then went overseas for a few years. All along he has not worked for a company that he could roll it over to. Now, I am thinking that maybe that wasn’t necessary. But now he is working for a company with a 401K plan that he could roll it over to, should we do that? Or do we roll it over to something else? Or do we just leave it where it is? I have too many questions and don’t know where to start so it just sits. Help!

  24. If money was not an issue, where would you live?

    Where do you think the best country for retirement would be?

    Do you think there will be Social Security in 30 years?

    Do you consider yourself happy? Did you when you were in debt?

    What do you think is the best thing you did to increase your subscribers?

    Now that we can make diamonds (better than mother nature), do you think once we speed up the process that it could impact the world economy? If so, would this be good or bad?

  25. So how are the book revisions? BTW, is it a personal finance book, or do you have a creative writing side? I’m looking forward to seeing “Trent On Money” or “Bimbos of the Death Sun” or whatever it is! :-)

  26. So here’s what I’d like to know.. What do you do when you know you’re about to go into debt and have a fear of it? My husband and I have no debt, good savings accounts established, a nice emergency fund, we’re well underway in our retirement planning, and he’s about to start dental school (200K). How do you conquer a fear of debt?

  27. 1. Are you now also going to try writing fiction, like you mentioned wanting to do ideally? If not yet, why not or when?

    2. Do you ever imagine your life if you’d been somewhat better about money (so you never had your meltdown), but then didn’t have this rebound effect to become so pointedly frugal?

    3. Does this high productivity stem from your financial meltdown (as with your frugality), or were you already this productive before then?

  28. 150,000 combined salary
    150,000 in IRA/401K
    250,000 mortgage (20 year, just refi’d) on a 350,000 house
    No car payment, CC debt
    20% contribution into 401k every year (with 6% match in each)
    300/mo per kid into 529
    2200/mo for daycare, will contribute this amoount for each child for they year they are in kindergarden
    Both 30 years old

    See any reason why we couldn’t retire at 50, if all things continue?

  29. Hey Trent,

    My wife and I have about $14,000 in credit card debt. She doesn’t know about it either. It is my secret and I am trying to get it to go away. Most of it is from my college years and early in our marriage when things were a little tight.

    How do I bring the topic up softly?
    I want her to know so we can really snowball it down, but I am freaked out about telling her.

    Our marriage is awesome! No problems at all, I can see this becoming a problem if I don’t tell her, or a problem when I do tell her.

    Tips, advice, comments, concerns, thoughts?…etc

  30. I love the Lost posts! (My theory, somewhat cryptic to try to avoid spoiling for the holdouts: J won’t look at the baby because he’s Aaron, as in Claire, and there’s some trauma related to why A is with K and not C.)

    Question: when I’m paying ahead on debt do I have to specify that the overage be applied to principal? I don’t think so, because it must be lowering the amount owed, therefore the next time interest is calculated it’ll reflect the lower balance. But I’d hate to be wrong and can’t figure out the answer.

  31. regarding working from home: how do you get things done with constant interruption from kids / babies? My 4mo baby does not allow me to free up my time for more than 15-30 minutes, and for me it is difficult to work efficiently since I have to warm up my work every time there is interruption, and I have to interrupt my work once i become really hot at work. Help!

  32. I would like to see advice geared toward people just starting out of college/grad school. What did you do right? What should you have done that would have made a big difference? My husband and I want to work a lot at first and then cut back. What’s the best way to make that happen?

    Do you have advice for the first job? If you have many prospects, what’s the best job to take from a personal finance point of view? Nobody ever seems to advise taking the job that pays the most…

  33. I am an engineer and just switched jobs. My previous employer asked me if I would be willing to work on a consultant basis for them and I would like to do so.

    What is involved in this from a financial or legal standpoint? Of course, I know you are not a lawyer but you do have your own business so you probably have some ideas.

  34. I’d like to know some suggestions for what to do when your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan (I’m working on them) but you and your spouse make too much combined to contribute to a Roth IRA. Thanks!

  35. What would you do if your kids turn out not to be as financially responsible as you are? Would you help bail them out of debt? Give them a loan when they are broke and have no rent money? Give in to one of their expensive wants?

  36. How do you convince your siblings that they need turn their financial situations around without coming accross as a self-righteous jerk?

  37. Ok, you asked:

    1. What’s your net worth?

    2. Who did you support in the recent Iowa caucusses?

    3. Who are you supporting for president?

    4. What’s your monthly income from this blog?

    5. Someone already asked about religion, but I’ll go deeper — do you have a statement of faith or something you believe in (in detail)?

    ;-)

  38. 1. Will there be coupons for TSD subscribers to buy your book…so we can live frugally :-D haha

    2. What did you major in and what was your previous job before you left it?

    3. How much was your student loan debt and what is your advice for those looking at ~60 thousand after undergrad alone?

  39. I’ve recently (couple weeks) started reading your blog, and find it very ‘hands on’. Thank you!

    I have 2 questions:-
    1. You advise to pay down mortgage before investing in Index-funds. However, elsewhere, the consensus seems to be to maintain some mortgage for it’s tax benefits. Have you done research to arrive at a break-even point when paying down mortgage is equal to investing in Index funds? Eg. I just got my tax refund; my mortgage is the only debt I have; should I put it towards mortgage (currently paying 6% interest on it) or should I buy Index funds (historically 10% return over the long term)?

    2. I would like to start a side-business or have a ‘paying hobby’. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but haven’t found enough information. Can you suggest resources for brainstorming for ideas?

    Cheers

  40. I think from your posts about college you started down one major and did like it and switch half way through to one that you like better. My question is what where you two degrees you study for in college?

    Also, what does you wife do. I know she works but doing what?

    thanks,
    m-

  41. My Question:

    What in the world were you thinking opening Pandora’s Box!?

    I realize there are a lot of duplicates above, but WHOA! Good luck man!

  42. Trent,
    Where do you stand on the issue of tax returns and what to claim? I claim 0, because I’m more likely to be responsible financially with a lump sum than a little bit extra each pay check. I know some people hate the idea of giving Uncle Sam a tax free loan.

    What’s your take?

  43. 1. Do you think investing in stocks is equivalent to gambling ? Yes/No/Why/Why not ?

    2. While investing in mutual/managed funds, Do you believe in the dictum “Do not try to time the market, but spend time in the market (meaning, stay on investing in the long term)”. ?

    3. What do the terms “long term”, “short term”, “medium term” mean in the context of investing in stocks ? I mean, how many years is long/short/medium ?

    4. Do you agree with this view : Nobody has actually figured out how the markets work, everyone is still studying heavily but has not actually figured how the machine works and much of the talk about the predictions about markets is just vain talk, and what turns out to be true is only by fluke or chance ?

    5. In terms of smartness in money matters, what would you think is one important difference between you and Warren Buffett ?

    6. Do you agree with the view presented in the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, about how owning a house can be more of a liability than of an asset ?

    7. This is on the article of making your own bread. Where do you think is the line between self-reliance and outsourcing, making and buying ? Washing your own clothes and pressing them .vs. giving it out to laundry? LoL. Why didn’t you grow your own wheat/maize to make your bread ? It would have been simple, sweet, self-reliant and of course, I am sure, you would have found an argument to show how it can be cost-effective (like owning a small wheat farm and co-operatively distributing the wheat to all like-minded breadmakers in the community). :) :)

    8. Do you think America is losing its family values fabric (I mean, family life, marital life, care for elders, togetherness getting thoroughly messed up) because of too much focus on moneymaking ? If yes, what are the primary reasons for such a degradation in family happiness ?

    9. Can you name 5 countries that are not as rich as America but you think are happier than America and 5 reasons you think it is so ?

    10. Your views on frugality and self-reliance have commonalities with Gandhi. Were you influenced by his writings ?

    11. Don’t you think to review one book a week is a little too much ? I mean, I am sure, often you have to read “some” book because you have to review “something” because your bloggers will expect and you have set the compulsion for yourself ? The flip side being, you might have had to choose a book, which you actually didn’t feel like reading, probably you thought of reading philosophy or sports this week but you had to skip that because of the compulsion Or you fast-tracked a book, without deeply thinking about its contents. Would you be better off to set the standard as “one month a book” and therefore read books better and review them better and probably able to read other books apart from personal finance ?

    12. Do you think too much money might be a hindrance to true love, between life partners, between friends, between brothers, between parents and wards ? What might be the pitfalls we need to avoid for this not to happen ? What’s your advice to people getting rich but losing out their loved ones on money issues ?

    13. Do you think, as an absolute rule, for individuals, “Zero Debt” and “Strictly live within your means” is a better philosophy to live by than by availing credit ? Or would you moderate this by saying “Avail credit that you can afford” ?

    14. You must have heard in your history lessons about “Reasons for the decline of Roman empire” and so on. If you were to write a futuristic piece, say in a history book 1000 years from now, on “Reasons for the decline of the American civilization”, what would the top 5 reasons be ?

    15. The current wave for ideal economics school seems to be capitalism and more capitalism. What would you think the next wave might be, I mean, just in case people give up capitalism after suffering its demerits if any, what would they take up next ?

  44. One credit card from 8 years ago, original line of credit less than $500. Card was closed 6 years ago and the fees from the collection agency have pushed the total to over $1500 dollars. I want this card either paid off or removed from my record somehow, but am not sure how to go about it. Do not want to pay over $1000 in collection fees, and do not want to reactivate the negative impact on my credit report by talking to the collection company without researching this first. Is there a way to have them remove the fees to a more reasonable amount, or forget the debt since it’s so old at this point? Also if I pay it off, can I ask them to remove the black mark on my credit? WA state if that helps.

  45. I’m 28 and just finally opening my eyes to my bad debt situation. I have about $1,000 on credit cards and about $4,000 that has been charged off by the companies because I stopped paying – should I contact them to begin repayment or wait two or three years until it drops off my credit report?

  46. I’m 26, graduating with a JD/MBA in May. Starting a job in June. Company match on 401k is 6%, should I max it out or put my money somewhere else?

  47. Have you done any research on the financial and time cost/benefits of cloth diapers? Especially along the lines of getting quality products that can be used through 2 or 3 kids?

  48. I am going to be getting married soon.

    We will start out with roughly $70K in debt. 50K in my student loans, 20K in her CC debt.

    My salary is going to be $52K, but with obligations I’m going to have very little left over to apply to debt.

    This is with cutting out frivolous stuff.

    Blogs are not an easy way to make extra money, as I’m sure you know. You work very much at getting what you do.

    How would you recommend making extra money, with a job that has a very demanding workload?

    I can fix computers, but if I went back into doing that, I’d have no life. No good way to start a marriage.

    I desperately want to get out of debt, but I see no way how.

    I have about $3K in savings, for the emergency fund… so I’ve got a start…

  49. What are the some of the other personal finance blogs you would recommend from around the world (ex-USA)? I live in the states, but having come from Australia and travelled Europe, I feel there are tons of great sites/blogs out there (I’d like to think mine would make the list from Australia). I think Get Rich Slowly did a post on this but it would be interesting to get your opinion in a post down the line.

    cheers,
    Andy

  50. Americans are confronting the plummeting dollar, monumental levels of national and personal debt, foreclosures, bankruptcy, unemployment, skyrocketing gas and food prices, and the list goes on. Do you think we will experience a short-term recession or something inconceivably worse like another Great Depression? I know this is a “sky is falling” worst-case scenario but what do you think? Depressions usually occur in 60 year cycles so by that standard we’re overdue for one…

  51. Hey Trent, awesome blog!

    I saw a few posts back you commented on financial planning for self-employment. I hope you can help me out with this, because ive never been able to find a good answer. I work for the man during the day and run my own business at night. I have maxed out my Roth IRA and 401(k) for my day job.

    Is there any pre-tax retirement vehicle I can use to invest money from my night job and lower my business (and therefore my AGI)? Can I start a solo 401k even tho I have a funded 401k thru work? What about a SEP IRA? Can I invest in a SEP IRA even tho my Roth is maxed?

    Thanks for your help! Great blog…

  52. Do you believe that parents should pay their kids way through college?

    It seems to me that most parents set up college funds for their children but personally I feel that kids need to shoulder at least part of the expense themselves through scholarships or loans.

  53. Ditto the requests for a post from your wife.

    My biggest financial woes are family-related (My husband’s side seems to believe that money = love. They pout if we don’t spend massive amounts of money on them at every holiday. We always remember birthdays, but don’t spend much; a sibling who forgets but makes it up with lavish gifts is deemed the “better” child.) I’d love a post on working around these issues without damaging relationships for my kids.

    Do you and your wife have arguments about money? Ever? What about?

  54. Trent,
    I might be an older version of yourself. I am in my late forties and like you had a lot to learn about money and investing when I was young. Long story short, met my wife 11 years ago and together we have accomplished the following:
    1. Mortgage paid off.
    2. No credit card debt.
    3. 500,000 in Roth IRAs,401K,SEP IRA,Mutual Funds Money market Fund.
    4. Both vehicles paid off.
    5. No kids. (Moved out. Thank Goodness)
    6. Income-Wife 40k Me 60k.
    7. Net worth 900K
    My wife is a nurse and loves her job. I work in the wholesale field and want to move on to something that makes me happy.

    What would you do??

    P.S. Love reading your blog and all the posts.

  55. Hi Trent! Congrats about quitting your job. I’m so excited to hear about what happens. I have a lot of faith in you!

    Here’s my question. I am in my late twenties and would like to buy a house in the next 3-5 years. I’ve been contributing to my IRA regularly and maxing out my contribution. I know that I could use IRA funds for a 1st time home purchase five years from my deposit. Is this the best choice for savings? Is there another path you would recommend?

  56. How do you keep coming with such great posts? Do you ever feel scared as to what will happen when there isn’t anything more to write about personal finance, especially given the slew of PF blogs out there?

  57. would you discourage your children from choosing fields of study that traditionally have been lower paying if that is what they loved? art, music, theater, writing(!), etc

  58. @ susan. I can tell you that in the previews for next week’s episode on thursday you’ll most likely realize who the oceanic 6 are.

  59. Here is a question you will probably NOT ever see in this forum.

    I am a religious Sister, have been for 30 years, and I am considering leaving the convent. (I still love God, still love my Church, but I think God is calling me to something else and I’ll still use my gifts and talents for others.)I want to know if I can live a modest, but decent life on what I will have if I leave. I hope to live modestly and be able to retire by 70 or younger and travel a bit. I already know how to live frugally and on a budget! But, I would want some money to help others, being free enough to be generous, and do some things with my friends.

    Here is the data:

    age 54, hope to retire by 70 or younger
    current salary = $65K (which I currently do not keep or spent; I give it to my Order. If I leave, I keep it, of course. I get about a 4% raise every year.)
    TIAA: about 74K in the traditional plan
    Inheritance from my family that I can use:
    house: about 250K
    stock: about 4K if sold
    matured treasury bonds to be transferred to me soon: about 20K cashed
    cash: about 15K
    one CD: 22K, getting a very stupid low interest.
    no debts of any kind yet
    great credit rating – have had credit cards
    Social security is a mess because the Sisters only put in the bare minimum so, as of TODAY, I will get $680/mo. Of course, I have NO idea how they determine what your social security is. I heard it is based on the last ten years of your working life.

    I hope you can help with this question.

    Thanks for writing this column; I have been reading it for a year now and it is helping me become less clueless.

  60. I’m about to sell my first house (settlement is next week). I’ll come away with about $180,000 free and clear from that sale. I have a home equity line of credit balance of $147,000 on my new house (part of the down payment) that I was planning on paying off with the proceeds from the sale of my old house. The interest rate on the LOC is pretty low: prime minus 0.25 (currently 5.75% and possibly going lower). Is there any reasonably safe investment where I can return more than I would be paying in interest on the LOC?

    Another question involving this house sale: Assuming I pay off the line of credit, I’ll have about $30k left over. I was thinking of splitting this pretty much equally in 5 parts between:
    1) an emergency fund
    2) a home improvement fund (new roof, etc.)
    3) an exotic vacation (my girlfriend and I deserve it after working on the old house for 4 months)
    4) a car fund (for next car in year 2010 or so)
    5) long term investment

    The first 3 would be money market accounts. The car fund (since I hopefully won’t need it for at least two years) would probably be CDs. The long term investment might be something more interesting like an environmental ETF or maybe just an index fund. Do you have any comments on or ideas about these plans? Where would you go on vacation if you could go anywhere in the world for 2 weeks?

    Another question completely unrelated to this: Do you have an exercise regimen that you stick to? What does it consist of?

    Thanks.

  61. How about also delivering your blog as a podcast? I have a reasonable (30 minute) commute and would enjoy hearing the blog when I don’t have time to read it.

  62. Ok, here it goes
    $31,000/year salary
    $3500 in 401(k) (I save 15%)
    $4000 in Roth IRA (will try to max out 2008
    $25,000 and growing savings all in CDs
    no cc debt
    $5500 car loan at 9%
    25 years old
    Am I doing ok? I feel like i have some kind of illness where i have to save money to feel good..is this normal?
    on average i’m saving about $650/month cash.
    Do you have any recommendations on how to relax on the savings spree?
    I guess i’m always worried that i won’t have enough if some disaster strikes.
    any advice would be appreciated!

  63. my wife and I are going to move from Washington state to Knoxville, TN this summer to go back to school. What advice do you have for a cross country move? Also we are looking to by a house but are not really sure how to do this from across the country so any thoughts on that would be appreciated.

  64. I’m planning a road trip to the U.S. sometime next year (I’m from Canada). Can I stop by and bring you home made desert?

  65. I come from a family who had poor spending habits and subsequently learned them myself. I have recently been seriously thinking about becoming a financial planner so I could help people like myself and my family learn to use their money better. I have noticed that you don’t tell people to use financial planners (at least in the posts I have read). Is there something about their help that you don’t agree with? It seems like the average person just doesn’t have the time to learn everything about investing and putting their money to work for them in the most effective way possible. Blogs like yours help people get a lot of the good basic things fixed, but going beyond that seems like it would be very difficult on your own with the investment world becoming more and more complex. I am just wondering because I don’t want to work to become a financial planner just to find out I can’t really help people like I thought.
    This really is a good site. I read it every day. Thanks for all of the work you put into it!

  66. I understand your reasons for choosing cheap index funds rather than managed mutual funds or individual stocks, and I don’t disagree that this is financially prudent. However, I don’t think of stocks as merely representing “money”, I think of them as part-ownership in (big) companies that have the power to change our world, for better or for worse. For that reason, I have so far avoided index funds and bought only mutual funds that specialise in socially responsible investing (I don’t have the time to investigate individual companies, nor the money to make it worthwile).

    You have written about your favourite charities, you allow your readers to report “unethical ads”, you reflect on consumerism. Can you write about socially responsible investing and why you think it should or should not be a consideration in planning a personal financial strategy.

  67. Thanks for doing this; I have been waiting for a chance like this. I’ve been a busy grad student, but now I am trying to get my finances organized. Normally, I only looked over my account statements. I have not balanced my checking account. How can I start doing this? I have looked on the internet for “how to balance a checkbook”, but nothing tells me how to start balancing after the account has been in use for a while. The current balance is always changing due to funds not being available right away, etc. I can look at my accounts online, I have MS Money 06, and I save all receipts and statments. Thanks for any advice you can give.

  68. You seem kinda arrogant. Are you really happy with your life? Like, really? What area of your life are you disappointed with? Come clean.

  69. Since you are considering attending the Iowa MFA program, can you please write about the specifics of choosing among MFA programs? How would you choose a program for an older adult who already has a vocation and grown children but is now ready to pursue an avocation?
    How will you pay for the MFA? Would you consider going into debt to finance it?
    btw, your blog is great, I even enjoyed the hygiene post. For the readers who felt talked down to, don’t read it.

  70. Have you ever considered investing in real estate? If not, how come? I think I have read about how hard it is to be a landlord in some comment on your site, but I don’t think I have ever seen a post / guest post on the pros and cons of investing in real estate.

  71. I would love to see a post about commercials and money. What is your reaction to commercials like the debit card one. Wife is watching TV when it goes out. She says “yes, we need a new TV.” Man rejoices and “wisely” plans how much to spend on TV by looking at his bank balance on his handy-dandy debit card. I could see a whole post what is right/wrong with this commercial alone.

  72. Since you are in the process of leaving the 9-5 world, what non-financial fears did you face and how did you overcome them?

    I am wanting to take a couple years off from work for traveling and international volunteer work. My main hesitations are the impact it would have on my career/finances and dealing with the non-approval/lack of support from family and friends. Are these similar issues you faced? Any advice is appreciated.

    (Additional info: I am single, in my mid-twenties with well-paying job, decent savings, and no debt.)

  73. What are the best parenting/baby books? I plan to be a new parent within the next few years, and I’m looking for a list of books that will help me w/ the whole experience. And I know you read like a madman. ;) Thanks.

  74. Like another poster, I am interested in your take on the cost effectiveness of cloth diapers vs. disposables.

  75. My boyfriend and I are both over 45. He has only his Social Security contributions for retirement. He has a mortgage, is pretty frugal, has no CC debt, and has a good emergency fund. BUT, I cannot convince him he really needs to get a Roth IRA or some other additional retirement investment going.
    I’m trying to be a good example; I have a pension plan at work, plus a 403b plan, and I have my own Roth IRA I am funding to the max each year.
    I don’t want to see him working til he’s 75, but without anything other than SS, I worry.
    Is there any way to ease him into the idea? or does he need a good dope-slap?
    :-)

  76. Have you ever in hindsight regretted blogging something, maybe because it was too controversial, too personal, or something of that nature?

  77. We’ve just decided that we’d like to send our *gulp* three children to Catholic school (my husband spent 12 years there and we agree that it’s a priority for our family). Our oldest will start in the fall, our second in ’11, and our youngest in ’13. My husband brings home the bacon (around $105,000) and I clean it and cook it up (meaning I don’t contribute financially to the picture).
    We’ve read a bit about the Coverdell account, but I’m wondering if there are any other options out there to help fund this expense (a bit more than $4000/year/kid) or reduce our tax burden. Any input would be so appreciated!

  78. What kind of problems/issues/pros/cons have you faced from blogging with your real name and identity?

    I’d love to see a post from Mrs. Trent too!

  79. How much time per day do you devote to this blog and how is it broken out (all at once, in parts, etc.). If I can get in another question, how do you handle your email – do you have a system of only reviewing and answering, say, twice per day for 30 minutes each, or some other plan?
    Just curious how you manage your time. Thanks!

  80. I am 14 and want to start saving for retirement as soon as I get a job. What is my best investment option?

  81. Hey Trent,
    I just received a full tuition scholarship to a small university around my home and I wanted to know if the name value of a school really matters (Northwestern vs. Oklahoma State). Does it matter on where you go or what you took away from the college and how you maximized your experience? (parting vs. studying)

  82. Hi Trent, here is my question: what job would you suggest a PhD in the Humanities (e.g. history, philosophy, etc.) could do in the non-academic world?

  83. What is your opinion on affirmative action? Also, what is your opinion on reparations for native americans?

  84. Two questions:

    Is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian almost all new material or has he just cut out the meat part of How to Cook Everything?

    Have you ever considered tailoring some posts towards your Canadian readers? I can understand why you wouldn’t but it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on financial situations where you can not claim your mortgage interest (for example).

    Great idea btw having a question session!

  85. Trent,

    First off this is my first post. I’ve been reading your blog every day for the past few months, however, and I love it! Keep up the good work! Anyway. . .

    I’m nineteen years old, living at home. I’ve got $140 worth of bills a month (not including gasoline or anything like that). It’s finally sank in that I need to start saving, so I started: I’ve got $700 in the bank. I work two jobs (taking a semester off to save some money) and I make roughly $350 every two weeks from one job, and 130-200 from my other job every week. How much should I be setting aside every week? Or should I pay my bills out of the 130-200 check and bank the other? Also, I have no credit, and would like to establish some. Is there any other way to establish credit (keep in mind my age) besides getting a credit card?

    Thanks for reading!

  86. How about showing a balance sheet and income statement. I would like to know:

    1) What is your net worth (with MTM and YTY changes)?
    2) What is your income, broken out by income source?

    Completely understandable if you don’t want to share, but would be very interesting!

  87. If you were standing in front of a grocery store, had a five dollar bill in your hand, and had to spend it on one meal for yourself (not your family)…what would you walk out of the grocery store with?

    If you had to move away from Iowa, and didnt have a family, where would you move to in the US?

    Conversley, where would you go in the US if you had to suddenly find a new home with your family?

  88. What is your opinion of the “Can I afford it?” segment on the Suze Orman show? All of the callers seem to have $60,000 to $140,000 in savings and yet are not smart enough to know if they should take a $4,000 vacation. Do you think the callers are real?

  89. I live in a 1 bedroom condo that is owned by a family trust set up by my parents (they are the grantors, and my brothers and I are the trustees). There’s no mortgage for my unit, but I still pay “rent” to my parents every month.

    I would like to renovate my place, and I know you’re not a real estate or legal guy, but in your opinion, who should pay for the upgrades? I suggested going 50/50 with my parents. What do you think?

  90. ISO stock options vs. non-qualified Stock Options. When is one choice better than the other? How can you keep from messing up with one or the other? What’s the best approach to maximize your potential returns from either?

  91. Here’s something I’d like to see you do, a regonal take on an area and potential suggestions for people that live there. Some areas have unique blessings when it comes to living simply, some areas are a little more challenging. I really feel for someone who buys a house where I live right now (San Francisco Bay Area). I just reviewed an average property tax statement for a new home buyer here… YIKES!!! Anyway, consider this a big vote for hoping to see you do a colum geared towards a specific region :).

  92. I haven’t read the other questions (101? not right now) so I hope this isn’t a duplicate.

    I have a gift card (American Express) for $100.00 that I’m thinking about how to spend it. It’s quite a bit a money for me – DH and I are on a low fixed income. I “need” so many things. Do I get personal (new sandals for summer, I don’t have any), household linens (my bottom sheet is torn, my bathroom rugs are really old), small kitchen electrics (could use a slow cooker, and/or a rice cooker). Is there some way I can turn it into cash and put it in our (again small) savings account? So many choices. Right now I’m leaning toward either 1) new shoes or 2) convert to cash if I can and put in savings.

    What’s your take on this unexpected gift?

  93. Trent,

    Let’s get controversial! :)

    1. What’s your stance on gay marriage?
    2. What’s your stance on abortion?
    2. Are you a Republican or Democrat and who are you supporting in the upcoming elections?
    3. Would you give up your right to vote for a million dollars?

    -Raymond

  94. I am a 27-year-old who recently got married. One of the first things I want to do is to pool our resources, combine our accounts, draw up a budget, and save for our main goals (a house and kids). However, I have found that my wife is just not all that interested in moving as quickly as I would like – what with the name change, a lack of availability of her payroll dept, and a host of other reasons that I find a little too excuse-ish. The root of the problem really seems to be that she is not as enthusiastic about planning for, and executing for, a stable financial future. Is there anything you might recommend (a book, a line of conversation, etc.) that might get her interested in our financial future?

  95. One of my exam questions for philosophy…

    If somehow you were able to know the exact time of your own death, what projects would you undertake now and what goals would you set for yourself, time permitting, so as to faciliate closure to your earthly existence?

  96. Did you tell coworkers about The Simple Dollar (prior to your announcing your resignation). Feel free to expand your answer with thoughts on blogging with anonymity or being an open book. Thanks for providing this forum.

  97. Every month I update my yahoo portfolio (taxable, deffered and roth accounts) with 401k additions, drip purchases etc. When my broker calculates my loss or gain those drip purchases are “free shares” and lower my purchase price of my share bundle. However I count those as purchased shares in my yahoo portfolio.
    Which way is the right way to figure losses or gains?

  98. Not a specific question, but I’d be interested in some discussion on how to handle college expenses for kids.

    Is college worth it? Who should pay? The costs are so much higher than when we went to school so that it’s almost impossible for ordinary kids to pay for it themselves, and so kids are racking up huge student loans that can cripple them at the beginning of their life. (And it’s possible to spend all that and still not make any money when you graduate.)

    I’m struggling with paying for college our children. We are currently paying for our son’s college at a small private school because we really believe that he needed that environment in order to succeed. Total cost per year is about $40000; he’s borrowing about $6000, and gets about $16,000 in scholarships and grants, makes enough for books in a summer job. We’re paying the rest — ~$17,000 a year–and it’s really hard. At first we borrowed (PLUS loans) but now I’m squeezing it out of income…but we NEVER eat out, don’t buy any clothes, and I don’t have enough money to fix the leaky roof. And most serious of all, we’re not putting enough away for our retirement (we’re in our early 50s). Did we make a mistake? What do we do now?

    And more importantly, what do I tell my daughter, who’s hoping to start college in 2009? I’m not sure I can keep this up for another round, so do I tell her she’s “on her own” or do we say that she has to go to cheaper school? Do we make her borrow $20,000 like her brother…just to be fair?

    How much is enough? Too much? to contribute to your child’s education? How do you decide? (Have you taken a look at the governments “Expected Family Contribution” calculations?…it’s way more than WE expected.) How do you save? How do you pay for this if you didn’t save?

  99. The LOST questions are hilarious- but I really like the idea of a guest post from your wife.

  100. The LOST questions are hilarious! But I really like the idea of a guest post from your wife.

  101. Do you think financial bloggers post their honest and unbiased opinion on personal finance ? Are they following the same advise that they post for readers ?

  102. Or could you suggest the best way for a six year old to start saving for retirement?

    For example, can my six year old start an IRA? She makes about $300 annually from work for neighbors.

  103. Trent,

    My wife and I purchased our first home last May. We had planned to be here at least five years. Over the last six months we have decided to move out of state to pursue PhD studies next July (2009).

    Assuming housing prices continue to fall, what should be out cutoff point for losing money on the house? That is, at what potential loss should we decide to try and rent from out of state?

  104. Love the Blog. I have currently bought a new house and am debating whether to sell the old house or rent. I can afford both even though it is tight. I would like your thoughts on renting houses. I am currently engaged and she has a townhome that we may rent as well. I have an emergency fund as well as contributing to my 401k and a Roth. Haven’t seen much on these situations. Also as a side to this should I start an LLC for the rental properties? Good luck with your future and thanks for sharing

  105. I am 25 (almost 26) years old and work full time making $52,000 per year and somehow have nothing to show for it. After rent, utilities, truck, insurance, gas, and food there is not much left to dent my credit card debt that I incurred during college and the years just after college. At current, I have around $15K in credit card debt (4 accounts) ranging from 21 to 33%.

    My employer is very generous with retirement and they contribute 12%/year automatically without me contributing anything. I have been there for just over 3 years and have just over $16K split between two different (Fidelity and TIAA CREF) accounts. I have heard some about 403B loans and think that this might be a decent option to get out of my credit card debt. Starting over on my retirement sounds like a bad idea but this credit card debt is really killing me.

    Is this a good idea?

  106. Have you organized you blog and/or consulting business or other ventures as an LLC, sole proprietorship, or some other type of official business entity? If so did you do this from the start, or did you wait to see some success before filing all the legal paperwork? Also, is each venture its own separate business, or does it all fall under something like Trent inc, with each venture officially named something like Trent Inc doing business as the simple dollar, the frugal gourmet, trent consulting, etc?

    Have you read the FairTax book?

    Isn’t being a dad & husband the best thing ever?

  107. For a a college student graduating and moving into an apartment with some friends this year, do you have any financial advice you can give us? I have heard of people saying not paying more than one wee’s salary for rent & utilities (which I am looking not to do…it will be hard living near New York City). Besides investing in my retirement and such at the age of 20 (which I already do), is there anything else I should plan for?

  108. 1. When is the last time you saw a movie in the theaters? What was it?

    2. What’s your biggest fear about being self-employed?

    3. How much money does a blog with 27,000 subscribers make (before/after cutting ads)?

  109. “Why are you copying posts like this from zenhabits ? ;-P”

    Hey, Leo is doing this same thing, isn’t he? I’ve been incredibly busy this week and hadn’t even noticed.

  110. A few questions @ your writing:
    How do you manage your writing process? Do you sit down and write the whole post, or do you have a bunch of in-progress articles which you start with outlines, etc. and finish up later? With your post frequency and the fact that you have said you write well in advance, it seems like it would get complicated. What do write your posts with-Word, text editor, etc. Do you keep them all in separate files or write them in wordpress?
    Also, do you post @ a certain number of topics weekly? Such as 3 on frugality, 3 on investing, etc? So you try to map out your topic selection well in advance as well?

  111. I too have wondered about your wife. Does she just let you make all the financial decisions? Is she goal oriented like you? Does she even read your blog?

    For the food blog, I would like to recommend to you the book “Magic Foods” (isbn 0762108959). It has a silly title, but I found it amazing. Americans eat such complete garbage in terms of health.

  112. How, exactly, does re-aging work for debts (revolving debts, I suppose)? What are the advantages and disadvantages (if there are any)?

  113. What are you views on dating in high school? More specifically, what age difference do you feel is acceptable, and are your views different based on which gender is elder?

  114. Great blog!
    Can you recommend a resource for financial planning for low-income families? Not help with credit card debt (we don’t have any of that,) just good, solid, ethical financial planning counseling. Our local credit union charges $1000, and while I’m sure it’s worth it, we don’t have 1K.
    I’ve called around and googled a fair bit, and there seems to be just 3 options: pay a CFP a huge sum (for us), consumer credit services for those w CC debt, and self-help books and blogs. ;^) Surely there’s a more affordable option for those who want to meet with a financial planning person but are in the low-middle income brackets…
    thanks!

  115. I know that, in the past, you’ve written about blogging, but that seems to be more on the general level. What advice do you have for somebody wanting to have a successful financial blog?

    I have another question, but it relates to the first one. Overwhelming, I notice that you have a big gap between pf blogs and frugality blogs, with very few blogs combining them. I’ve noticed that you do a bit of both. I’ve also noticed that, overwhelmingly, it seems to be the women with the “frugal” blogs and men with the PF blogs (although, of course, there are a few noticeable exceptions). Why do you think this is and how can a blog combine both without driving away either audience?

  116. Put up a picture, Trent! I can’t take an author seriously unless I can imagine what he looks like, how he might speak the information, etc.

  117. Hi, 2 people living on SSI, We are always playing catchup, no cable, cell or home phone. We have internet, its our only contact with the outside, we live in the country. Drive once a month to town to shop, pay bills, etc.. go to the local store about once a month. Gas is about $3.15gal currently, takes $20 to just do that little bit of driving. We dont eat out, I shop sales, discounts, coupons, etc… I dont know what else to do! I would love any and all suggestions! Thank you!

  118. I’m employed by a University and have an auto retirement of 6% (unmatched). I’ve also got a Roth IRA (currently funding about $1200 a year). I also have a 403b available to me – I’m having a tough time finding information on 403b’s that’s accessible to the fiscally challenged newbie. Can you tell me a little about this option, along with your thoughts on funding priorities and tax repercussions?

  119. I just recently bought a BlendTec Total Blender (the one in those Will It Blend? ads). It’s terrific, so far. What are some of your favorite blender recipes? Smoothies, soups, anything. I’m really looking forward to your cooking blog!

    PS – I’ve been enjoying TSD since the start… you do an incredible job, Trent!

    PPS – I think the Ask Me Anything! idea is a great one. Should give you plenty of material to write on for some time to come.

  120. Question:

    What are the most likely outcomes for a poor assetless person when they get old and can no longer work?

    I’ve done the math, and there is no way without help I could keep a roof over my head, food on the table, and myself insured (Medicare B and D, plus Medicare Supplemental) on even a full Social Security retirement benefit (i.e. without any cuts to the program). I see a very ugly future for a lot of Americans.

  121. Did you always enjoy the art of writing, as in during grade school and college? Did you write in your free time?

  122. Hi,

    I had couple of questions I make close to 90K $. I am 28 years old. My wife does not work and I current rent at 1200. I am planning to buy a house , how much worth house can I afford. I have close to 60K in my savings and my 401k is close to 10k.

    I bought a new toyota corolla, I have read a number of places where people say I should never buy a new car since it gets depreciated in the first year. When i started hunting around the second hand cars were as expensive as the new one. Did i make a mistake?

    I financed it at 8% and even though I can pay off my car loan (since my bank balance has the requisite money in my bank). But I have kept the money in etrade , I understand the math says that I should pay off but I wanted to get your opinion about it.

    Third I read some finance books and have just started to get into investing, which should be the best place to start investing (Is buying index funds through zecco a good place to start)

    Thanks,
    Kal

  123. trent! so excited for this :)

    my question is more on the range of advice for young couples. my boyfriend and i are planning on moving in together after 6 years of dating (4 of which was long distance). he is relocating to where i live to be with me. we are both frugal in different ways however i have some $ saved while he doesn’t since he’s just graduated.

    what advice can you give people moving in together to start their lives? i am more of a spender than he is, but i see to be more open about long term goals (which i save for). i worry that our thoughts and habits about $ will be the only thing we ever fight about.

    book suggestions? planning ideas? should we combine our incomes or pool our $ in any particular way? do we keep separate or joint emergency funds??

    thanks!! looking forward to your responses to all these great questions – and i agree, bring you wife on for a guest post!!!

  124. When am I going to receive my “economic stimulus”? I have filed my taxes and received my return, but have not heard anything in the news about when my check will arrive? Do you have any idea?
    Thanks and love your blog!

  125. Wow. A zillion comments.

    With your busy schedule, do you ever have stress or anxiety? If so, how do you deal with it? If not, how do you avoid it.

  126. Fairly new reader, but keep up the great work!

    Do you have any financial goals you keep in mind according to your age or family size for your retirement?
    By goals, I mean, how much you should have in savings or investments by the time you are in your mid-20′s, 30′s etc? How would one go about calculating this or what tools do you recommend? To make things more complicated, how do you adjust for high/low cost of living areas and your earning potential? (With no plans to retire early)
    Along those same lines but for fun: When you retire, what are your plans/goals? (For example, I just met a couple that sold everything and now just travel around to national parks in an RV)

  127. Financial Armageddon?

    First, let me say that I’ve enjoyed reading your blog off and on for the last few months; however, one question has nagged at me – that is if the “financial armageddon” you claimed to have faced was ever really as dire as you portrayed. It seems to me you turned around your situation with minimal effort and, as often and excessively noted through your posts, now have a huge emergency fund, plenty of money for debt payments, a diversified portfolio, additional savings, and the financial freedom or flexibility to quit your job. Thus, you’ve never really had to manage and cope with debt and finances as many of your readers may have, because your debt (in relation to your income) has never very great to begin with (which I applaud, btw). Another commenter phrased it another way, and asked if finance bloggers actually follow their own advice. I guess my question is more specific – have you ever really needed -truthfully- to follow the advice on debt management and frugality you’ve espoused?

  128. Don’t you ever feel like Ecclesiastes and ask what is new under the sun?

    Why do we devote so much time working, or saving money or spending money? What is the point? What is there to show for everything?

    The way I see it we can either be hedonistic and spend our time trying to get the most for ourselves during our short life, or sacrifice our lives in order to help other people be hedonistic.

    Any comments?

    Essentially I guess the question is: What is the meaning of life? :)

  129. Do you think it makes sense to sacrifice the early years of ones life to work hard in order to save enough money to retire and then enjoy life, or is it better to take life steady, work 9-5 and retire very late in life?

  130. In line with last post, would you be willing to work 15 hour days when you were 24 and single making $200k a year?

  131. Would you rather be broke but happy, or rich and contented?

    Or to put it in more detailed terms, imagine yourself at age 70 with two possible scenarios:

    The first scenario is that you do not have a single cent in the bank, yet are filled with the warm happy glow of family and friends around you everyday, you doing the exact thing you love, but broke and dependent on relatives for support.

    The second scenario is that you have five million dollars in the bank with comprehensive health insurance coverage and a successful business that runs itself that will provide a healthy income for the remainder of your years. Yet you feel there is something missing – that warm happy glow is not there. All your needs are taken care of, and you are content. Not unhappy, but content.

    Which scenario would you choose and why?

  132. I want to train as an organizational psychologist. Before I can do my Masters degree, I need a LOT of work experience in the HR/Psychological consulting business. In order to get this, I’ve had hold down several internship positions. I’m completing one in Macau, and am hopefully going into a new one in Bombay.

    The consequence of all these intern positions is that I haven’t had a real salary after graduation. Is this normal? Am I going about this the wrong way?

  133. Question: My husband has a Simple IRA at work with a matching employer contribution. The problem: The mutual fund is a dog with high maintenance fees. Are we allowed to move the money to a different mutual fund at any time during the year without penalty? We want to take advantage of the matching employer contribution, but we think our money could be managed better. HELP!

  134. Trent, this is not your particular area of expertise, but anyway—-there is a growing population of single women over 40 who plan on staying single. Many of us are educated but underemployed and have frugality running through our veins. I’d love to see some creative financial advice for this group (of which I am one!)
    Also wondered about your take on angelfoodministries.com.

  135. What is the beast age for children to start studying for the ACT college admission test? What is a good program to get them started as soon as the 7th grade?

  136. Here’s one we’ve been mulling over . . .

    We own a beautiful, charming old dream house in a highly desirable suburb of NYC . . .lots of room for 4 kids, good schools, etc. Unfortunately, we are classic “house” poor and our 2 (!) mortgages combined come to 700,000! The house itself is worth about 1.2 mil, though (we bought for 880,000 4 years ago). Every month we struggle to make ends meet, and have wracked up credit card debt on top of the mortgages (which we are paying off – should be gone by next year). We are maxing out dh’s 401K and saving a bit for college – but mostly we are working on debt eradication right now. We love our house almost like another member of the family, but we definitely over-bought and we are constantly debating about whether or not we should downsize. My dh feels we should just continue our newly found frugal ways so we can hang on to this old beauty and do what we need to keep her – that a beautiful old home in a solid, affluent suburb is always a good investment. I’m not so sure – do you think that struggling to hang on to such a a home is ever a good thing in the end?

    Thanks, Trent.

    Kate in NY

  137. I have one for you! Could you give us some ideas on how you’ve built up your subscriber list? This is my current challenge. It’s growing, but not fast enough!

    Thanks. This is a great idea.

    Lia

  138. My oldest of 4 is in the 9th grade. Each child was given money by their grandparents when they passed away; not a fortune, but it will certainly help as we are in no position to pay the high cost of college. I am told this money shouldn’t be in their names when they are applying for college financial aid, but I am unsure what to do with it. Suggestions?

  139. 1) When you calculate the amount you spend on groceries do you include only food items or other household items like soap, toilet paper etc.?

    2) how much are you willing to spend on concert tix to see your fav orite band, if you have one? ( this is an ongoing debate in my life! )

  140. Vanguard Mutual Funds.

    Often financial books recommend investing in VFINX, The Vanguard 500 Index….but at $123.23, it seems very pricy as compared with, say, Vanguard’s Star Fund @ $19.95. The Vanguard Star Fund (VGSTX)is a Fund of Funds. Is it better to buy a cheaper, newer fund that is diversified than a more established fund to allow room for greater growth of the fund? It seems to me that the FINX fund is really expensive and offers less value than, say, the Star Fund. Both are diversified, the Star Fund seems even more so….

    How does all that work when you are choosing between two good fund, where does the cost of each factor in? Obviously, I would have many more shares of the Star (VGSTX) over the VINX as well….

    I haven’t read a book or blog that addresses this specifically and I am just not at that experience level yet on my own.

    Thank you so much….
    I have enjoyed your blog for some time now, although I am more of a lurker than a poster. I do alot of gardening myself and start most of my veggies indoors under grow lights in late winter.

    Best Wishes to you and your family!

    Great Blog idea, btw!

  141. I am a college student, and I am an avvid planner. I need to plan my plans. I am always giving myself a headache though, because I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Do you have any advice on finding your calling? I think I read you had changed your major – was there anything that helped you realize what you wanted to do?

    Wonderful idea! I love all these wonderful questions!! Ditto on wanting to see what Mrs. Trent has to say.

  142. FMF, you’re such a hack. Please don’t soil this blog with your presence. Keep trolling, where you belong.

    Trent, will you promise to never talk about religion? (or personal faith statement, or whatever pansy new-age title people want to place on it)

    You’re doing such a good job so far staying off the issues, so will you please keep it up?

    Also, would you like help with your graphics?

  143. My Questions:

    1. I have bad credit. What are the easiest and quickest things I can do to improve my score?

    2. When it comes to renting apartments — is it a good idea to spend a little more to have a higher standard of living or save money by living in a cheaper (and somewhat rundown) place? When comparing prices how much should the various amentities be worth? (Ex: Apartment #1 has heat + water included in rent and costs $600; Apartment #2 has dishwasher; no utilities paid costs $500 — Which apartment is cheaper overall?)

  144. Dear Trent,
    As a parent of four kids one who is severly disabled, went from 4 healthy to one severly disabled and uninsurable in 24 hours. I was wondering what you are doing for health insurance for your family since you are no longer working. Full coverage, castrophic,does your wife carry the insurance or chancing it without. I am tied to the job till I can retire at 65 to keep the insurance. Thanks Julie

  145. Thank you for this opportunity. I’m finding conflicting responses to this question on the IRS and social security sites.

    I am two years widowed. I’m told that when I turn 60 (in 4 years)I can start collecting my husband’s social security. So far so good. But I’ll still be working and by the time I actually want to start collecting my OWN soc. sec. (probably at 66 or later) it’s more than likely my payout will be larger than his. If I take his UNTIL I take mine — will my own amount be reduced or will I get my full amount?

    Thanks,
    Helen

  146. Eric – try Prosper.com. Depending on your credit history/score, you could easily cut the interest rate on your loans in half and just have one consolidated payment to make.

  147. My husband got in a bind with the IRS while self employed. His $20,000 debt to them has become a $200,000 debt with the interest on the penalties and penalties on the interest and interest on the penalties and interest in a never ending spiral. Our wages are garnisheed, our IRA’s and bank accounts have been levied and our home has a lien on it for more than it’s worth, so we can’t even sell it to help pay the debt. We have no mortgage, no car payments, no credit card debt, and about $50,000 in medical bills. I managed to protect what was left of my IRA in a 401k I became eligible for just in time. We have “hired” an accountant/attorney at a high powered firm who apprears to be sitting on our account. Any advice?

  148. Do you think married couples with financial problems should have seperate checking accounts and each be responsible for certain bills, and not know who has how much money?

  149. Howdy!

    Just one question. Given the fact the our currency is falling faster than a penny off the Empire State Bldg., our national debt is growing faster than weeds in my yard and the foreclosure rate along with it, why is it the American public are not scared out of their recliners enough to go out and vote to correct this horrible problem. I appreciate all your sound ideas about managing personal finances. But, without taking a careful look at the national economic factors that are affecting our personal finances, we fall short of solving personal financial crisis’ when they occur. I’d like to throw out to all your readers the importance of voting and showing support for an American running for the highest ranking office in our country who supports and completely abides by our U.S. Constitution. And while I know this is not strictly a political forum, I’d like folks to take a look at Ron Paul, an American who has been reelected by his constituency for over a decade now. What is it they know that our media sources don’t? How can a man be reelected over and over again as a Congressman, have one of the most consistent voting records in Washington and be ignored as a possible viable candidate as our President? I know all Americans want to believe that our representatives in Washington that we put there are looking out for our best interests, one of those being our financial security. But, how many Americans can still believe, after our currency has plummeted, our banks are being bailed out by foreign investors and our children have less chance of buying a home and not losing it to foreclosure, that they’re doing a good job for us. Please, before it’s too late to turn things around for us, could you relay to our hard-working folks here in what can still be called the United States of America, that there is a man who would be proud to call himself the leader of a waning nation and help pull us all up with our bootstraps to fight a war of freedom for America right here at home. Please tell them about Ron Paul, a man who’s brought American babies INTO the world for a living, a man who has faithfully served our country as a Navy pilot and now as a consistently reelected Congressman for his people in Texas…what do Texans know that we don’t…RON PAUL is a man that can be trusted to represent us in Washington and hold up the United States Constitution as a breastplate against anyone who would threaten our livlihoods. He can bring fiscal stability and security back to America and WE ARE AMERICA. Please spread this word, a vote for Ron Paul is a vote for everything that is the United States of America.

  150. If you were 25 again, but completely single, done with your college and master’s degrees, debt-free (except a small, very low interest student loan), have a small retirement savings and an emergency fund, are just renting a place, live in an area with a low cost of living, and are very happy with your field…what would you do?

    And, in the above scenario, would you consider it foolish to relocate to a much more expensive area where you’ve always dreamed of living to follow passions and dreams?

  151. Trent,
    Thanks for opening it up! You’re brave!

    1. What are the most effective sources of income for bloggers and at what cost? I know your stance on ads matching your values, but what else?

    2. Would you advise against starting a business if personal debt is already a major issue?

  152. We have no debt (besides $116K mortgage on a $190K house) and have $7K in emergency fund and want to build a house in a much better school district. How does one juggle building a new home with selling the current home financially? Daughter will start kindergarten a year from August so we have until then to move. (Can you tell we’re Dave Ramsey fans?) ;)

    P.S. What do you think of Dave Ramsey?

  153. I am interested in how much you make in revenue off of this blog and how much time you invest in it each day/week to make that happen? I am a SAHM and am looking for an additional income source for our family. I enjoy writing and working on the computer, but there are other things I enjoy too, so I’m weighing my options in terms to investing my time (what little there is of it!) into something that will increase our family income stream. Thanks.

  154. Been following your blog for a while now and enjoy majority of the articles.

    My questions:
    - What factors or events that made you decide to become self-employed?
    - What additional cost did you have to pay when you became self-employed? (Example: Private health insurance, full fee of social security, etc…)

    Wish list:
    - Would like to read guest post from Mrs. Trent.

  155. I,too, would love to see a guest post from your wife. If she doesn’t want to write a post, maybe she would consent to having you interview her for The Simple Dollar.

  156. Should I move back to my parents’ house?

    I’m going back to school for a Master’s, and don’t want to work while I try to get the best grades I can. I have some money saved to support myself. I won’t need loans, but I’ll be broke when I’m done. If I lived with my parents I’d have saved between $7,000 and $10,000 in a year.

  157. Oh boy, so much reply!
    I’ll go with the family:
    What is your monthly income from this website? and how stable is it?

    What was your monthly income and what will you prospect it to be without the job?
    How do you allocate/plan to allocate your income (necessities (food, mortgage, other), pleasure, savings…)?

    How do you allocate your time, before and after you left your job

    That’s about it for today

    Ciao

  158. I’ve heard that you can pay a collection agency the amount of the original transaction (minus fees etc) and they have to take it and remove you from “the system”. Now, they may try and harass you a little bit to recoup some of the fees but you don’t actually have to pay them. Any truth to this?

  159. Ok, so I live with my boyfriend and have watched him struggle to recover from a divorce that happened about two years ago for some time. Here’s the breakdown:

    1) 10K on Credit Cards
    2) 12K left to pay off care
    3) Already works 2 jobs
    4) Little to no savings account
    5) Currently living what we consider to be a “frugle” lifestyle

    Is there anything besides living as frugally as possible and just keep on paying things off that we’re missing to get him out of this hole quicker?

    Thanks!

  160. I started to read through the comments so I wouldn’t put in a duplicate, but got tired after the first 30 or so. Hopefully my question hasn’t been asked too many times:

    I have about $20000 in credit card and student loans, a well-paying job, a good strategy for getting out of debt, a modest retirement fund, and some savings. But I would like to buy a house, and I’m wondering if I should clear up some more debt first, or start looking for a place now? And part two of the question is how do I turn my modest retirement fund into an extraordinary one while still saving up for a down payment at the same time?

    Just wanted to say that I love the blog, and I hope you keep up the good work. Good luck with the move to full-time blogger, I have to admit I envy you.

  161. Trent,

    This has being one of your best ideas yet. You should do this once a year, just a thought.

    Covering all aspects of life, usefulness towards webportal (thesimpledollar)- book writing, cooking etc…

  162. Ditto the requests for a post from your wife…

    Question… You’ve inspired me to consider “multiple streams of income” and I’m thinking about a blog…How can I tell if I have a topic for a blog that would actually be able to pull in advertisers/etc? I can’t find any of the things that are out there but I don’t know if it is just because people are not curious about/would read about the topic?

  163. Hi Trent,
    I am an avid reader of your blog and just love reading the articles.
    I am an internation student and owe 28K USD in loans back in my country, taken to fund my MS in here(US).With my current internship I have managed to save around 10K.
    -Should I start repayment of my loans at simple interest of 9.9% APY
    -hold on to it or part of it till I graduate and get a full time job.
    The unstability of the USD currency is making it hard fo me to decide.
    Thanks.

  164. This summer my husband graduates and gets a job, as for now I’m a stay-at-home mom and we’re living on a $50,000 loan. I’m not sure how we should structure our new budget to allow for loan repayment and savings. The loan is from my parents who are charging us the lowest possible interest, probably around 3.4% and we will have 3-4 months before we need to start repaying on it. We will have around $700-800 a month to devote to loan repayment and general savings (emergency fund and saving for a house and a new car). Should we:
    1. Split it equally to repay a few hundred to the loan and save a few hundred
    2. Pay on the loan aggressively for the first few years and then worry about taking-out a larger car loan maybe 2 years later and forgetting about home ownership for awhile? (we will need a new car within a couple years)
    3. Save for a new car/home aggressively and repay the loan over a longer period of time with lower payments. (my parents would be ok with this, we can pretty much do it however we want to)
    4. Other? (we’ll probably be putting around $300 toward retirement and everything else goes toward bills and other needs.)
    By the time the job starts, we will have pretty much depleted our bank account that we’re living-on and will only have, if anything, a thousand dollars or two.
    Thanks for the help!

  165. Great idea, Trent. I may be echoing others here, but:

    1. What is your net worth?
    2. If my husband makes 27K, and I make 80K, but we have over $100K savings (non-retirement, supposed to be for house dp, but haven’t gotten to that), on a scale of 1 to 10, how stupid would it be for me (80K earner) to quit job for a year after baby comes this fall? I just hate my job, and he doesn’t.
    3. What do you think about non-married couples (that can get married, ie, straight) combining finances?
    4. How strong a role does religion play in your life?
    5. Back to the net worth- I would love a graph showing your progress since the financial meltdown.

  166. I’ve seen so much negativity toward DEBT in the personal financial management blogs. My goal for this year was to ACCUMULATE and organize my debt….strange and bizarre concept. I can now brag that I’m a single mom over a quarter million dollars in debt and considering getting more. Now, before I get burned at the stake for such hypocrisy. We DESPERATELY NEED a series on the BENEFITS of debt. FYI: I have no credit card debt, no car payment, no little loans, and a Masters in Financial Management.

  167. Trent,

    What advice would you give a person that wants to be financially stable when we retire but does not have the support of her spouse? Most of our income comes from his business. I have a 4o1k set up at work and thats it. We have four teen daughters whos needs are great(two in college, two in high school)Three of the girls have part time jobs.

  168. Holy comments Batman!

    Anyway, my question might not be so relevant anymore since you quit your full-time job and are now working for yourself but at what age do you plan to retire? Do you plan to retire at all given that you don’t have a traditional job to retire from?

    On a side note, the Lost-related questions made me laugh. I know Trent is smart but even he can’t possibly know the answers! I’m not convinced the writers/producers know the answers :)

  169. Great blog Trent! I love reading it.

    Questions: My husband and I are expecting our first child in June. How can we save money on all the things a new baby needs? And what baby things does the industry and other people make us believe we ‘need’ that we can reasonably go without in order to save money? This will likely be our only child. Also, what is the best brand of diapers for the best price?

    Thanks!

    Keep up the good work and lots of luck in this next phase of your life!

  170. I am so excited you are doing this!!!
    Here’s my question, please do this more I have lots of them!! Thank you!!
    i want to start donating to my 401k but when you divide up your percentiles to what percentage you are going to put where it is really confusing. with our economy the way it is now, how do you suggest a person divid it up. My boss has helped me, but we are curious if there is a better more profitable way out there.

    These are my options and how i am currently thinking of dividing it:
    Alger American Growth-15%
    AmCent International Growth-10%
    AmCent Small Cap Value-0%
    AmCent Ultra-19%
    AUL Fixed Interest Account-0%
    Fidelity VIP Contrafund-10%
    Janus Aspen Ser Worldwide Growth-0%
    Janus Aspen Series Flexible Bond-0%
    Old Mutual Large Cap Growth-0%
    One American Asset Director-0%
    One American Value-25%
    Pioneer Growth Opportunities VCT Portfolio-0%
    SSgA S & P 500 Flagship-0%
    T. Rowe Price Equity Income-6%
    Vanguard Explorer-15%

    So what do you think? Should i change this? Do you see areas when i need to change up the mix?
    any help would be great! my boss and I would love it! Have a great day and thanks again for doing this! I love my Simple Dollar!! Red

  171. Hi Trent, I’ve learned a lot from reading your blog, and others like Get Rich Slowly and Paid Twice. But most PF blogs are written by – and address – people in their twenties and thirties. I’m a late bloomer in the PF area. I’m 53; I have a decent 401(k) but I also have quite a bit of student loan and cc debt. What’s your best advice for someone late in getting serious about money? Thanks, much appreciated!

  172. Please share the spreadsheet or system you use to track your net worth (without your financial details of course.) It would be great to have a model or template to track my own, set monthly goals, etc.

  173. Why would you pay for your children to do extended international travel, but not pay for private school? And how will you and your wife determine what you will spend for children’s hobbies/activities, especially if you have a child that is promising in an expensive area, such as music? Would you fund a child’s living expenses through a professional degree?

    How did you make the calculation that it wasn’t worth going to grad school after your bachelor’s degree?

    How much are you prepared for your income (as a percentage) to decline (if it does) before taking on a day job again? Would you and your wife focus more on her career advancement before going back to a day job yourself? Thanks.

  174. My question is about the practical side of what you went through, and is really less a question than a request to hear more about how you interacted with your wife during all of this.

    When you write, you use first person singular (I did this, I decided this, etc), and I just wonder about how the interactions off-the-blog go. You often mention how wonderful and supportive she is, so I can only imagine that your financial life is fairly collaborative (now, anyway).

    Thanks.

  175. Hello Trent,
    I like 2 of the ideas mentioned above.

    1. Guest posts, from your wife would be great, but maybe even from others?

    2. Please try not to comment on religion. You’ve done a great job so far.

    And, I know this isn’t a question, but for all the people who were upset by the hygeine post…
    If you don’t think some people needed that info, just go to Wal-Mart and look at people. :)

  176. I’m generally a lurker here, but I read your blog religiously. I’m a new mom, love to cook from scratch, and have green leanings. I see a lot of my experiences reflected in your blog! My goal is to someday earn the Certified Financial Planner designation and go into business serving the deaf and hard of hearing communities, who are sorely underserved. Blogs like yours not only help me with my personal financial struggles and goals, but they also let me see what other people are struggling with. That being said, I have to ask something that’s been bugging me:

    Is it common or is it the exception for people to max out their IRA and 401k contributions? You are always talking about how you’ve done so, and others who comment or blog about finance also say they’ve maxed them out, but I can’t reconcile that with the fact that for one person to do so, $19,500 of income is gone. For a married couple, double that. Now my husband and I make a decent salary, yet we are nowhere near able to contribute the max for each plan. For a couple, that’s $3250 per month! How is it possible people of average income are capable of doing this and still keep a roof over their head? Or are all the readers and bloggers blessed enough to have above average income and below average expenses? Is my math off? I just sit in awe of folks who find the money to max out these accounts. So how do they do it?

    Thanks Trent!

  177. I’m currently teaching a class on Your Money or Your Life at my church — here are some of the questions we’ll be discussing…

    What does fulfillment mean to you? What does “enough” mean to you?

    Where do your beliefs about money come from?
    What do/did you hear about money from your family? friends? religion? society at large? other sources?

    If you had only 30 days to live, what would you do with your time? What does that tell you about your values?

    Are you motivated solely by frugality, or do environmental considerations also enter your thinking when you are making purchase decisions? When do both factors work in the same direction, and when do they work in opposite directions?

    What did you enjoy doing as a child? What did you want to be when you grew up? How does it relate to what you’re doing now?

    If you could design a job or volunteer activity or some other way of spending your time that fulfilled your values and life purpose exactly, and left you happier at the end of the day than when you started, what would it be? Would you be willing to do it for free?

    What can I do to find more time in my life?

  178. You mention often that you regularly pay more than the minimum monthly payment on your student loans. I was advised to set aside money every month in a checking account, then make a lump sum payment at the end of the year. That way I can earn interest on the money I’ve saved. Considering my loan interest rate is only 3.25% and I earn more than that in my ING savings interest, is that good advice? I’m just curious because that’s not a strategy you’ve used.

  179. Question: There are many companies that make it their business to offer assistance in credit repair to people with credit card debt. But, some folks don’t accrue credit card debt. They incur other kinds of debt, and as we all know the bank doesn’t think about lending money to folks with “other” kinds of debt. For example, medical bills, bounced checks, collections. Short of bankruptcy repairing your credit with a high amount of debt in that bracket almost takes a miracle. Any ideas? I am sure this is a question you have covered, but I am a newbie so bear with me. Ini

  180. Wow! I scanned some of the post…interesting questions…Anywho! I’m looking for financial advice for the non-traditional student. I’ve not been aiming too much for retirement but by the time I start medical school, I plan to have only student loan debt ($40K or so), with about $5,000+ in savings/investments. Any advice? Oh and I am applying for the Air Force scholarship so hopefully I won’t have to pay for med school with loans. If I don’t get the scholarship I plan to work for a company/mission organization that does debt repayment.

  181. Question 2: Aside from a 401k I should have started when I was 2years old, what other ways would you suggest a person invest to make more money. I would write a book, but the publishers want cash up front. Ini

  182. Trent,

    I have been following your blog for a while now and I enjoy reading them. Thanks for a wonderful blog that is of tremedous value to financial novices like me.

    My question: I started my first Roth IRA last year and opened it with Charles Schwab. I went with Schwab because of familiarity [that's where my company 401(k) is at]. But in all your posts and reading other blogs and PF magazines, I learnt that Vanguard, Fidelity, and T.Rowe Price are the preferred mutual fund companies to go with for an IRA. I have about 7 different mutual funds (3 are Index and 4 are non-Index) in my Roth IRA and the average expense ratio is close to 0.764. Would you suggest I move over to lower expense ratio funds by opening an account with Vanguard or Fidelity? I usually do NOT have a lumpsum amount to invest and use the dollar cost averaging method. The only reason I rushed into opening the Roth account with Schwab was after reading at the Get Rich Slowly (GRS) blog where it was mentioned that ‘The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good’ and so I just wanted to get started.

    Any advice is appreciated!

    Thanks a Bunch and Good Luck!

  183. I have always wondered about your wife. You seem to have all of your daily activites planned down to a science so I wonder, what does your wife contribute on a dy-to day basis? As someone with a newly turned 3-year-old, a 5 month old, husband’s full time job and my part time job, I know how difficult it is just to get LIFE under control, but your posts make it seem like you cook from scratch every night and perform routine household maintenance on a daily basis as well as enrich your personal, professional, and spritual lives constantly! How do you do it all???

  184. I know that most people at a young age don’t think (or maybe don’t want to think) about the inevitable…Now that you have your finances under control and are building wealth, do you have a valid will in place? Have you though about ‘sheltering’ your assets (naming someone like your wife on life insurance policies,making your checking/savings accounts joint accounts, making sure that your new home is owned in joint tenancy instead of a tenancy in common, etc.). Although there are pros/cons to this, having more non-probate assets can often be more beneficial than probate assets. For instance, if something happened to you, any joint accounts, joint tenancies, etc. would automatically go to the named beneficiary instead of going thru probate. Are you familiar with your state’s probate code?
    (It should be available on your state’s web site under statutes)
    If you kicked the bucket tomorrow, would you be certain that the things you have worked hard for would be going to your loved ones instead of to your creditors?

  185. The other day on the news, the local newsanchor ‘do-gooder’, who truly provides miracles for people, has been on a furnace-fixing kick. He describes this family who is in desolate need, furnace broke last year, no money to fix it, kids wear coats in the house (this is michigan), hanging sheets on the windows to keep cold out. So when he does the suprise interview to tell them he’s providing them a new furnace and 1 year of paid utility bills, they are playing guitar hero, on PS3, on a big screen LCD TV, in stereo video game chairs, while wearing their coats and hanging sheets on the windows.

    I was outraged, emailed the station, and ended up getting a mass emailing back (hundreds of people found it rediculous) and the anchor explained that when the family became needy, that all was a gift from a relative so the kids could enjoy themselves. THat has nothing to do with the fact that they are freezing in their own home, and were in need.

    Now, my question is, is it just me, or does that sound like the biggest bunch of bologna? Any relative seeeing a need anywhere would supply food or money in lieu of thousands of dollars in video game equipment. I just found it an interesting cover-up for some ‘lucky losers’ who got their way – bought frivolous things and let someone else deal with the costs of their necessities. And worse of all, someone truly deserving of a miracle, a victim of circumstance rather than a victim of consumerism, is out that wonderful gift.

  186. How often do readers flag ads as “unethical?” How often do you agree with them? Are some readers overzealous?

  187. What is the weight of Canada?

    My husband and I are saving to buy a laptop, but we are not sure which one to get yet. He is a gamer, but I’m happy as long as I can play cribbage on yahoo.
    Do you have any suggestions on what type of laptop to get?

  188. Trent, I’m a sophomore in college. I have a car that’s paid off and my dad covers all of my school expenses. I’m sitting great right now thanks to everything he’s done. I pay for anything that I don’t need but want and social activities. This generally eats up the money I make over the summer, which is the only time I work.

    I’ll be graduating in a couple years, what’s the smartest thing I can do? Like I said, my car is paid off and my credit is the best it can be. I want to avoid debt and start saving early without it impacting my life. I’d like to get quick turnaround on my money that I can invest and put a smaller amount away

    Thanks

  189. My question: How to handle aggressive friendships from a previous stint as an over-consumer?

    I’m a 24 year old female, and I had my act together through childhood savings, teenage jobs, and graduated college with $500 worth of debt I paid off within 60 days as I began working at my first job.

    After graduation and officially moving into an “adult” apartment on my own (with a roommate) at 21, I began slip sliding into more debt, job dissatisfaction, and an aggressively distracting party life.

    Now that I’m back on track, and I’m pumped up by my self-employment status (own online marketing company…until my NEXT business begins), my huge retirement savings, emergency fund, etc, I still have one friend who refuses to believe that I am happier living this way rather than the way I had been for the past 2+ years.

    She is 32, and while this is a specific question related to my life, it’s been really difficult to explain my return to a more authentic source of conscious living that I have practiced since before I began a friendship with this individual. For example, it’s difficult at 24 to explain to her my retirement savings and excitement regarding my growing emergency fund when she has created neither for herself nor does she intend to.

    You’ve explained male friendships in this context, but perhaps this could be a good exercise for your wife or another female PF blogger to write a guest post about changes in lifestyle choices and impending changes in friendships from a female perspective?

    I like to think of myself as a pretty ambitious and assertive person, so I’m not sure why after 8 months, this is still an issue between me and my friend (albeit, possibly a former friend soon enough).

  190. Two questions:

    1. Why did you choose to have children? (This is actually a question I have for anyone who has children. I have never had a desire to have kids, and I just don’t get it but would really like to!)

    2. When are you going to go an entire week without showering? (I’d settle for 3 or 5 days if you haven’t done that.) I’d love to see some posts on, for example, the amount of money you save on your water bill by showering every other day, and how your life (personal or professional) was affected by the change.

  191. I’m having a heck of a time trying to figure out how much I’ll need for retirement (assuming no Soc Security), in about 22 years. I’ve looked at bunch of different calculators and the estimates they come up with are drastically different.

    Is there a retirement calculator or formula that you trust? Please keep in mind that I really suck at math, so I need something that I can just fill in and hit a button!

  192. Is there a good online resource or cohesive list of things that an individual can write off on taxes personally and as a small business owner? I am making the jump into running my own small business and taking advantage of tax write-offs is something that I’ve not really learned much about but feel that it will be necessary in the small business world.

  193. I’d like it if you’d be willing to share hard numbers associated with your personal situation – income from writing and “projects”, the income you’re leaving by quitting your job, your wife’s income, etc.; then expenses in as much detail as you’d be willing to provide – mortgage principal and monthly payment, student loan and other debt payments, essential and non-essential expenses.

  194. Hey Trent… I wanted to second the suggestion above that you NOT talk about your religion or politics. I don’t think that that’s something that needs to be discussed at all, no matter how curious some of the madding crowd might be.

    Apart from that, I’m looking forward to your responses. :)

  195. Any thoughts on being a former credit card idiot, (My biggest CC debt is to BOA and they are raising me to 34%, just because they can), who is now the sole earner supporting an elderly mother? Unfortunately, I earn too much for help and she gets the max for SS payouts. She also owes too much on credit for hospitals and meds. I’m paying my credit card debt (14k), the mortgage (950 per mo) and student loans (25k) but her care and costs are now also my problem. I can’t find a second job because she can’t be alone for 14 hours straight. Where do I start? Any suggestions?

  196. Trent,
    Awesome idea.

    I agree with a few people here about sharing your spreadsheet you use with your budgeting, and also I am curious about your wealth, income, investments, and debt. I know I would not like to publish my actually figures, but I think it could be just as useful to use approximate numbers with the correct ratio.

  197. Hey Trent,
    What is the best strategy for paying back college loans? I’m still in college right now: half way through and about 10k deep.

    I’m studying for a BS in EECS (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science — a fairly well paying degree) at Berkeley. I’ve heard estimates that graduating students make from 50-60k a year.

    Should I pay off as much as I can early on? Or should I just make the minimum every month? I’ve heard that students who payed too much too early (before the 6 month graced period with subsidized interest) have had their payments started and nullified however many subsidized months they had left. Also, my friend tells me I should invest my left-over money and only pay the minimum on my loans.

    Thank you for reading my question.

  198. Hi- I would like to know what the cheapest way to have things appraised would be. I don’t want to be one of those folks who sold some very valuable item at a yard sale for 25 cents and then , later, see my item on some antiques show for who knows what! But my income is limited due to a chronic illness and would like to get rid of some items that I have had many years but have no idea what the value may be. Please give me your most valued opinion as to what I should do. Thank you very much as I would like to start some kind of savings account with the money that we can hopefully make from the stuff ( that we hope is actually worth more than 25 cents!)I am 51 and it is time to let go of things that I know my daughter and husband don’t want. I don’t want them cursing me after I am gone for all the junk that they will have to go through.Many of the items were passed down to me so that is why I have them in the first place. Thanks again!

  199. My husband is French, and although we live in the US, we have a bank account in France. To be allowed to have that account (since we don’t reside in France), the bank says we must keep 8000 Euros with them in savings or investments. We would like to invest some of that money, but the fees seem outrageous (2% front end load, 1.5% annual expenses), and I am wary of trusting someone from the bank to guide us in our investments (obvious conflict of interest). They don’t seem to have index funds similar to what I do here with Vanguard. I don’t know where to get advice – my husband knows little, and I cannot read French, so I can’t find out things online easily. Maybe this is why real estate is such a popular investment over there. If I could find some source of information in English, it would be nice. Any suggestions?

  200. Should I spend this year 2008 saving my goal of $10,000 and then paying off debt(which is under $20,000)next year 2009. Or do the exact opposite?

    I assume if I choose to save first I will still at least be building credit??

  201. First, I love this webside.
    Q.#1. I’ve worked since I was 18 I’m 34 now & I’m getting tired of commuting everyday. I have payroll/Accounting experience. I’d like to work at home for myself or for someone else. Can you give some ideas to make a living at home or mention some of the companies that allow employees to work at home.
    I’m sure your test will be a success! We need this type of webside permanently.

  202. I’m graduating from college in May and I have a job all lined up (~$40k). My parents are letting me stay at home for a while so I can get a jump start on my retirement savings (compounding interest and all) and to save as much as possible towards a down payment for a house. I plan on maxing out a ROTH and putting some aside in a money market as an emergency fund. Should I be trying to do more than that in terms of retirement or should I just save the rest towards my house? Also, should I be looking at a mutual fund type investment for my house money or something like a money market? Aside from that specific question, a section for recent grads or people in their 20′s would be great.

  203. Trent, My 23yo daughter is about one year into a her first job after graduating college. I’d like more info/posts to assist me in writing an ‘if I’d known’ type of letter to her ‘younger self’ for her birthday in a couple of months. I want to share key points to help her invest her time wisely. I’m in the process of moving overseas & retiring from the military and am already on full throttle until after her birthday. Therefore, since your previous investments in learning about finances and living frugally are a quite a few steps ahead of me, I would appreciate any information or response you choose to provide. Thx, Helen btw, good luck on your updated goals over the next few months.

  204. change 1 – Trent, My 23yo daughter is about one year into a her first job after graduating college. I’d like more info/posts to assist me in writing an ‘if I’d known’ type of letter to her ‘younger self’ for her birthday in a couple of months. I want to share key points to help her invest her time AND MONEY wisely so she creates has the choice to retire young. I’m in the process of moving overseas & retiring from the military and am already on full throttle until after her birthday. Therefore, since your previous investments in learning about finances and living frugally are a quite a few steps ahead of me, I would appreciate any information or response you choose to provide. Thx, Helen btw, good luck on your updated goals over the next few months.

  205. When I make a Vanguard fund purchase from the Vanguard website, when will the the purchase actually take place?

  206. What is the minimum down payment you would make for a house? My husband and I are looking to buy our first house. We have no debt (at all), but only a little in savings. We have purchased a car (cash) and paid off all of my student loan debt in the last two years. If we can make the monthly payments without a problem is 5% ok, or should we wait a year (must be a full year b/c of apartment leases) and save up more?

    Elizabeth

  207. What was the daytime job that you resigned? What was your field of study in college?

  208. I started to read a few of the other comments but got overwhelmed so I apologize if these are duplicate questions:

    1. How old are you and did you attend college right out of high school?
    2. Does your wife work outside the home?
    3. What type of industry did you work in before you decided to try self employment?
    4. Are you South of Des Moines or North – just curious due to cost of land, taxes etc – the cost of living is lower South of Des Moines in my opinion. We are in the process right now of trying to find a lot that isn’t ridiculously over priced near Ankeny – it is a challenge!!
    5. Is Michael in the coffin? :) I think so!

  209. I remember an anecdote you wrote about your relative who hijacked your aluminum can collection. Has there been any family comments about your exposing the relative to the world for ripping off a kid?

  210. Without reading through over 230 comments/questions (YIKES!!!) I’m not sure if this has been asked but here goes:

    I get the impression from some of your entries that your marriage is quite successful. But certainly your marriage is not without it’s flaws (whether big or small, real or imagined), no? As such a voracious reader, I wonder if you’ve read any books about marriage/married couples you’ve found helpful/inspiring/any other superlatives. Thanks Trent and keep up the great work!

  211. I’m 25 and she is 20. She was introduced to me by my brother. We haven’t met face to face. She thinks she likes and even loves me. I’m not sure, and just don’t know what to do?

  212. Have you ever watched Good Eats or read Alton Brown’s books on cooking, baking and kitchen essentials?
    He rocks my socks, and I think you’d find yourself aligned with him.

  213. I’m a student in Russia. Lessons are in russian and i do have difficulties coping up with school work. I wish to be brilliant, to understand and know what I’m thought. I think the language is not a barrier because there are other foreigners that do very well.
    So I believe I need some healing, some advice as to how to be a bright student.
    My second question is: how many hours do you sleep every night? I wish to cut down the number of hours(about 8) I sleep. Any tips?

  214. I wish to pursue my masters/Phd in the US. I’m not that financially sound to fund my studies should i get the chance. So I’ll be glad if u could provide me links to organizations/universities that will give scholarships.

  215. I’ve wondered this for a while, but this post sealed it for me. Is there a way for you to number the comments that people make. I often don’t have time to read through them all and would like to be able to easily pick up where I left off.

    Thanks!

  216. I too would like to see something about opening up a side business or a money-making hobby. I am MISERABLE in my job and looking for a new one but have deciede that I want to be in a financial situation where if this ever happend again I would be able to just walk away. Any suggestions on getting started? Books? Websites?

  217. Hi Trent!

    I seriously don’t know how you’re going to get through all these questions, but you asked for it, so here’s another one for ya!

    I’d like to become a better writer. In fact, a much better writer. I do know that I have to read and write a lot and it’s quite obvious. I’m not an English major and I’m sure I make quite a lot of mistakes here and there, but I do enjoy writing.

    Is there any one resource you’d recommend, whether it be a book or a website that would help me achieve my goal of becoming a much better writer? I’d greatly appreciate it.

    Keep up the great (and hard) work.

  218. MES (comment #257): Your wish is my command. There may occasionally be some comment reordering with very recent comments as I approve them out of my spam filter.

  219. Hi Trent,
    I want to know what i should do with my life. I don’t really know what i am really interested in. Is there any way that I can determine what my real passion is?
    Thanks a lot,

  220. When doing a Net Worth calculation, how would you suggest valuing your 401k? At the moment, I just use the account balance but I know if I cashed it out today it would not be worth that much because I’d be taxed on it (and pay penalties). Should I multiply the account balance by 1 minus my last blended tax rate? It’s safe to say that I’ll be in a higher tax bracket when I cash it out than I am now so do I just take a guess at what that would be?

    Thanks!

  221. Hi Trent,
    Hope you get a chance to haev a look into this one. I know you have a plethora of info to go through so its cool if you dont. My situation – im 22 and would like to go work in finland or germany or austria. I am currently an research analyst for a property company and i love to travel and would love to live in one of those countries (I fell in love with finland when iw as there 2 years ago). Ive completed a bachelor degree and currently reside in Australia. I can speak fluent English and Russian unfortunatly very basic german and no finnish. Nonetheless i would like the challenge of working in one of those countries and not basing myself in England (as i know there is quite bit of demand for what i do there and it would not be as difficult to get a job there). Im also hoping to get more work along the lines of my degree sort of in the development property sphere of things (not so much a bar or teaching job). Anyway it would be great if you – or anyone else out there that may have some experience or useful advice would be great!
    DK

  222. How about a word or two from your wife, I want to hear from her. It would be amazing to see how she thinks when it comes to frugality. I understand that you can wear same clothes all the time but ladies sometimes want an extra pair of shoes, nice lotion, make-up, etc. How is she “dealing” with that?

  223. My current life:
    27 years old
    45K in student loans (liberal arts and communication degree)
    20k income (bank teller- this is sad I have a Bachelor’s and I am a teller- so far college was not a wise investment)
    = no extra cash to stash for savings
    I live pay check to pay check and it is so scary not having a back-up fund
    Marriage may be in the near future and I don’t want to bring debt into the relationship…
    I have a 35K annuity coming due in 3 years
    should I put it toward student loans or use it to buy a house etc.
    I just can’t fathom living like anymore what advice do you have?

  224. Hi Trent,

    Can you please write personality development, management book summaries like, Jack Welch – Straight from the gut, Winning by Jack Welch, The 360 Degree Leader, Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono, Speak Like a CEO and any good self improvement book which you like ?

    Your articles have influenced me a lot and have changed my way of thinking. It has been great finding out your website..

    Thanks a ton.
    RK

  225. I have a fear. My parents are in their early 50′s. My mother had a retirement fund but used it to help me when I went through a very rough custody battle. My Dad was in a motorcycle accident recently and can not perform the same type of work he used to, so he works on lawnmowers at a farm and home store. He works but does not make the same kind of money he used to when he could work on cars in his spare time while holding down a labor intensive full time job. They both have student loans that they have been paying on for at least 25 years that have not budged in the slightest bit and these were from trade/technical schools, it is not like they got a full on doctoral degree or anything. And on top of it all my mother just lost her job this last week. They own land and have a dream to build a house on it. They work on the land every week cleaning the ground and burning small trees to clear it out. Well as I learn more and more about how to fix my own financial situation, I get more and more nervous about theirs. They are close to standard retirement age and have nothing saved. I never foresee the home on the land being built. I am scared they will never be able to retire. All of the things an adult should worry about for themselves I worry about for my parents. What if something happens? I would never allow them to be homeless -they would stay with me, but there is no way they will be able to keep working until the day they physically die.
    Would you happen to have any advice? Anything that may help me dramatically turn things around for them. I am looking for a miracle here I know.

  226. Would you write about the things self-employed folks need to pay for to replace benefits, such as health, disability, life insurance, retirement, etc.? And also what is deductable as a business expense when self-employed that is not deductable as an employee?

  227. You have discussed Roth and Traditional IRAs in detail. I am now hearing more and more about IRA Savings accounts and IRA CDs. I think this would be good for all of us who have a good handle on the basics of personal finance but would like to know more about other financial products out there!

  228. What is (going to be was) your job? I’m just wondering. You don’t have to name the company so much as the occupation.

  229. One more:

    What do I do about the financial disaster that is my in-laws? They have nothing, except for three adult children that still live at home and mooch like mooching is going out of style.

    I don’t have too many fears, but I exceedingly afraid that someday I will have to pay for them to exist.

    HELP!!

  230. hi, i will be coming to the USA fro m a European country (Armenia) i read a lot labout living in America but what would be your suggestion about not going into debt!from the first steps, if i can handle a low to medium job.
    thank you in advance
    V A

  231. I have a question about canceling your oldest credit card.

    My concern is that my oldest credit card is a bank issued Visa that I got when I first moved out of my parents house to go to college. The card was issued based on the idea that I was going to college and needed a way to purchase things (books, supplies etc.) and build a credit score. The card was issued in 2005 & since then the limit has climbed from $500 to almost $2,000 which must imply that I’m making progress on my credit score.

    However, the card offers no reward points and has no other benefits. I had considered canceling it and signing up for a credit card that would have some kind of benefit to a 20-something college student such as an airline miles reward program. I have 2 total credit cards, the Visa and my American Express/Costco membership card. Both get paid off in full every month. I use the AMEX as my primary credit card because I get a percentage of my spending back in cash once a year.

    Ideally I would like to have no more than two credit cards in my name. One being my American Express since it is tied to my Costco membership
    & then another (Visa or Mastercard) for those times when AMEX is not accepted. I would like to have my second card offer some sort of rewards program (or airline miles etc.) but don’t want to cancel my oldest credit card.

    What are your thoughts?

  232. 1. My in-laws have no savings for retirement. They spend all their money on their selfish brat of a daughter. (They paid for her college, cars, meals out, a huge wedding with no budget, etc. She is a married adult. My husband does not receive any of these perks. They have repeatedly proven that they love their daughter more than their son in non-financial ways as well.) We are broke (both grad students, with scholarships but no “parentships”), but I suspect that when his parents run out of money we’ll be expected to contribute as much to their upkeep even though it is his sister that is draining them. My parents don’t give us much, but also avoid announcing that we are their “retirement” as do my ILs. I would be happy to help either of our parents if they were in serious trouble, but I don’t feel that I should be indirectly funding his sister’s extravagent ways. (Her husband makes double our combined income.) What do you do about parents who make poor choices and then expect you to be able to bail them out? I’d prefer to just cut them out of our lives, but that really isn’t an option for my husband.

    2. What is the total breakdown cost for having a baby, including startup costs (everything from maternity clothes to bottles) and monthly bills? We both really want a family, but it may never be possible. (See above.)

  233. I’m currently in debt payoff mode, and have a question aboutreyirement. I’m in my mid-twenties, andmu husband is in his early thirties. Neither of us has any retirement savings! We both recently graduated from professional school,and are doing high-prestiege, low-pay jobs in our field for the next two years. After this period, we will receive a 50k bonus and a private practice salary over 200k each. We both having outstanding jib offers from multiple firms.

    Although we don’t make much now, we plan on paying off all student debt by the end of the year. We have high interest rates on our debt. Do think we should continue on this path, or should we instead contribute to a Roth ira? We will probably never again qualify for a Roth, but I wonder whether paying off the debt early makes more sense. I think that our income will be high enough to allow us to catch up on retirement savings, but I am a little worried about having no retirement savings. What do you think? Apologize for any typos. I’m submitting from a PDA.

  234. Hi Trent-

    Thanks for offering this Q&A!

    We were in credit card debt so needless to say we never invested or saved much. Well, the good news is we paid off the cards a few months ago and are ready to make some decisions on what to do next. The remaining debt is our van. I’m close to paying it off – maybe 8 more payments which are normally $400 but we’re adding to them now that the credit cards are paid down so they will be about $700. We also got $1,000 emergency fund set up. I already contribute the maximum amount to my 401(k) that the company will match (around 5-6%).

    We’re trying to figure out where to go next. We will have that extra van payment of $700-$800 per month to invest/save hopefully this fall.

    Should we:
    - Start adding a couple of hundred to the house payment? (owe 65,000 @ 6.125%)

    - Start a college fund? (my kid graduates high school in 4 years and we have $0)

    - Start saving for a second car (our second car is almost 20 years old but runs and gets me to work)

    - Add to the emergency fund?

    I’d like to do “all of the above” but how much of the $700-800 do we allocate to each item to save for. Also, is there anything else we should invest in that’s not on the list?

    Thanks for your time!

  235. 1. Do you play the lottery?

    2. If I ran for office with the promise to just print more money to pay off all debts, do you think a lot of people would vote for me thinking that is a good idea?

    3. And finally, What is the meaning of life?

    By the way, Great Blog!!!

  236. Here’s my question…
    What do you do after frugality? Let me explain. My husband and I are in our late 20′s, with no debt. We’ve worked hard and paid off all student loans, CCs, cars, everything. We’re maxing out IRA contributions, putting money away for the kids college and I’m a stay at home mom to our 2 kids. We’ve got plenty of money in the emergency fund, and are well on our way to paying cash for our next car. What do we do now? We’ve lived frugally since getting married and now we have money that’s just there. I guess, once you’ve acheieved the goal of being debt free and self sufficient, where do you go from there? Should we keep saving, or should we enjoy some of the fruits of our labors? How do we get over the mental block of “save, save, save” to actually enjoy the money we have?

  237. Being financially savvy after reading pf blogs, I now realize term insurance is the best. But I have in the past, enrolled in 3 wholelife policies, 2 of which are for my children’s education. My question is should I continue or redirect those funds into investments channels?

  238. Hi Trent,

    I’d like to hear more about Dance Dance Revolution. I have been using it as my primary exercise method for two years now, and there’s still songs I can’t beat. What version do you play, and what songs do you find the hardest?

    Also, I love you blog, and I read it daily. You convinced me to track my net worth on excel, and open a Roth IRA. Both were things I needed to do.

  239. Were you expecting this type of response to your invitation to questions? (I know that even though many people would be curious about things I didn’t think there would so many questions already.)

    How do you handle comments you feel are offensive or hurtful?

  240. When a woman ends a relationship that has been going on for a long time and the man finally starts to fight to keep the relationship going, why is that? She gives us all the clues and we have little fights here and there, but we just do not get it till she is DONE.

  241. I am a poor graduate student with a growing pile of school loans, and about $5,000 left on my car loan.

    I received $2000 in inheritance. Since I have no real savings, and rates are dropping, I was thinking of investing. I could probably add another $1000 to that within a few months. I’m fine not having access to it, otherwise it will just get consumed by regular usage / debts. I could also add to it occasionally. Where should I put this money?

  242. Suggestions for Posts/Questions:

    1) How to start a side business and make sure that one is pricing themselves properly in the market? (Have in the past worked w/ small buisnesses helping them with analysis – would like to expand beyond prior employers and their peers)

    2) Basic Budgeting (both % and $ based)- How low can a family of 4 go with groceries?

    3) Value of college: college vs non-college and college vs ivy league

    4) What factors to look at when buying a home

    Thanks for all of the work!

  243. Hi Trent,

    I’ve been reading your site for over a year now, and find it very insightful. Keep up the good work!!!

    1. My husband and I made about 300K together this year (base + bonus). When we went to the accountant to do our taxes, it was shocking to find that we still owe about 12K in taxes this year. Our accountant told us that with our salary, we are at an income bracket where for every dollar we make, we pay 50 cents in taxes. Both my husband and I contributed max to our pre tax 401K account this past year. We also just bought a townhome last year so the taxes and the interest on the mortagage was tax deductible. Are there any other ways to reduce the amount of tax we have to pay? It’s very disheartening to see half of our hard earned money go to Uncle Sam.

    Thanks!

  244. Hi Trent,

    Here’s our scenario:

    Combined Annual Income : approximately 300K
    Mortgage: 275K remaining (200K paid off)
    401K : 35K (we started contributing only last year)
    Ages: 28 and 30

    Most of our money that we have made in the past, we have invested in real estate back in our home country. The return on the investment has been good, but don’t have a solid plan yet of how to bring that money back (btw, I know you’re not a lawyer or accountant, but do you know how we would be able to bring money back without having to pay too many taxes on it again – the money we sent over to start with is post-tax).

    If we don’t count the money we invested back home, what investment strategy would you suggest where we can retire at 58 with 75% of our current income in retirement? How good of an option is investing in real estate currently in U.S?

  245. Hi Trent,

    My husband and I work both work in Wall Street, making good money (about 300K together including base and bonus), but the hours are really long and the jobs are sometimes stressful. Ideally we would like to start a small business on the side while we are working, which we can slowly develop until we get to a point where the business is successful enough to allow us to quit our jobs. Do you know of any good business ideas that would eventually help us make approximately the same money we now make working?

  246. Hi Trent,

    I have some older family friends who have made some bad decisions in the past. The husband is 53, wife is 52. Husband is inbetween jobs now and is currently looking. Wife is a housewife. They basically have no savings, and no money put away for retirement. I guess its a little late for them to start putting away money for retirement, but better late than never. Once the husband gets a job, what would you suggest their investment strategy be so that they can save some money for retirement? Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  247. Hi Trent,

    As a person filing a tax return for the second time in my life, I am wondering what you have discovered as the best means of getting them done. Last year I used H&R Block TaxCut and received a refund. This year, I decided to use it again and now it shows I owe quite a large sum. My wages have not drastically changed since 2006 either.

    How do you do your taxes each year and what have you found to generally be the best way to go about doing them? I just want to make sure I am paying or receiving the correct amount.

    Thank you very much!

  248. Can you offer any suggestions on how to stay on track once you’re out of debt? Its so hard when you now have lots of extra cash around, to start spending it again.

  249. Any comments on how to quit a job without burning your bridges? I’ve been at 2 jobs for 21 and 16 years, both part time, working 6 days a week, and with healthcare costs going up I need to get one job that has benefits. Both jobs are with small mom&pop operations, so I am like family. It’s been hard for me realize I need to go but the reality has been getting clearer. I’ve taken Dave Ransey’s Financial Peace University class twice now and I come back to the fact that I am loosing money by staying where I am in my jobs. especially with having to pay my own healthcare. I am debt snowballing my credit card payments, paid on off this month :) but am finding myself pedaling harder only to go backwards. So any enlightenment on finding a new job?

  250. What do you do with all those referral credits on PaperbackSwap.com? Reading wise, you’re set for life!

  251. my question is: I am a recent graduate, work and earn a decent salary, contribute to my 401K, and have decided to start investing outside of the 401K. I do not plan to invest to be rich but to have another source/stream of income; I would probably invest conservatively (I have loans to pay off) but with a steady return. Besides Bogle’s advice on index funds, which book would you recommend for investment for the sake of income? Thank you.

  252. As you may well know, when people don’t have money they tend to cut costs where ever they can to maintain their lifestyle. One of them is health care. As a California resident, and shopping for insurance for my not quite elderly mom (not 65 yet) is difficult. So many of them have tax pitfalls and complicated rules that I’m at a loss. I’m having a hard time understanding what my options are. Can you advise?

  253. What did your spending look like before your frugal change and what does it look like now? Could you show us your income and expense for a full year before and after?

  254. Have you seen Aaron Russo’s documentary “America: Freedom to Fascism”?

    The 16th Amendment and the Federal Reserve Bank (no more federal than Federal Express) are the greatest frauds in American history.

    THERE IS NO LAW and there is no statute that mandates a direct unapportioned tax on the wages and labor of the American people.

    What are your thoughts?

    Will you be in DC on June 21 for the freedom march?
    Monica

  255. I would love to hear more about what your wife is like and her take on this blog and your financial situation.

    Also, I was wondering what a reasonable grocery budget is for a single person with no income except student loans. Any tips on handling medical school debt?

  256. I just had my “finacial meltdown” and have reduced our credit card debt by 33% in the last 3 months and we should be debt free except mortage and student loans in 1 year and have an emergency fund. Should we start aggressively paying down our mortgage and student loans or fully fund our retirement accounts. Now each of us contribute 2400/year in a ROTH and 1200/year in a TSA. We both are 30, teachers and plan to start a family in a year or so.

    I am in grad school andmy dad is paying for my tuition. Should I take out a student loan to help pay down my higher interest debt?

  257. I’d love to see your grocery list, how much each item costs you, and what you do with it — ie. all resultant meals, snacks, etc. for a week (or however long you shop for).

    My grocery budget is the hardest for me to control and, like you, cooking and food are some of my favorite splurges.

  258. Would it harm my FICO score to ask creditors to reduce my available credit? I’ve started to focus on my credit score (est. 730), because of the national credit crunch.

    Banks frequently increase my credit line and I fear my FICO score may be lower as I don’t use that much credit. (An important part of the FICO score is based on responsible use of available credit.) At times, I have requested reductions from credit card companies. I use about 10 – 15% of my current available credit; that is, about $1,500 – $2,000 in a given month of $21,000 available.

    I have two credit cards with a good payment history that I have had for over seven years, and a new 1-year, interest-free revolving account for furniture I recently bought. I pay the credit cards balances off monthly and am using the furniture account interest free until paid in full.

    How do we find out more about the effects of elective actions on our credit reports and FICO score?

  259. I am a klutzy, clueless Newbie in Second Life, but other players seemingly accomplish miraculous things. I have looked for a guidebook, or any other way to *learn* to play Second Life, to no avail. I would especially like to learn how to make new objects. How can I do this?

  260. 1. What is the most romantic thing you’ve done for your wife in the last year? What’s the most romantic thing she’s done for you?
    2. How big is your wife’s wedding/engagement ring? Since that was before your financial turnaround, do you wish you had done something more economical? (I ask because I see a lot of young couples drop big bucks on multi-carat diamond rings that lose their value faster than a new car.) When you first started paying down debt did you ever consider selling it? Did she?

  261. Trent,

    Here is a general comment and question. I’ve been reading PF blogs for a while now and I have noticed that there is a tendency towards Environmentalism or “Green Living”. Why? Why is it so universally accepted that global warming is occuring when the climate change theory is, well, just a theory? And why are “Greenies” so damn smug and self-riteous about their “faith”?

  262. Trent,

    Here is a general comment and question. I’ve been reading PF blogs for a while now and I have noticed that there is a tendency towards Environmentalism or “Green Living”. Why? Why is it so universally accepted that global warming is occurring when the climate change theory is, well, just a theory? And why are “Greenies” so damn smug and self-righteous about their “faith”?

  263. I’m very sorry for the double post. I tried to stop the first one when I realized I made a spelling error. Didn’t work.

  264. What practical, step by step, things do you do to live off of only 35-40% of your income? Would you consider posting your monthly budget? Thank you

  265. My situation is that I am 34 years old, single, living in a flat (that I own) and my monetary assets now are roughly equal to all my debt. So financially I am in excellent shape. I am currently finishing a Ph.D., and I am expecting to earn about $100 000 per year in the not too distant future. (High salary by Norwegian standards)

    There is a lot on this blog about monetary freedom and choice makes you happy. But I am still not happy, for all my wealth, good friends, intelligence, and possibilities in life, I seem to not be able to attract a girl, and with nobody to share my wealth, there is nothing to be happy about. Any thoughts on this matter? Do I have a life situation that is enviable and should I just shut up whining about it, or do I really have some concern? Is wealth equal to happiness?

  266. I have just paid off my credit card and have 15k in student loans left. I am okay with paying them off at the rate my bank wants me to, but my parents really want me to pay them off sooner. I am 30 years old and just starting to get stable jobs with good pay. I have not started saving for emergencies or retirement yet. Is it better to take $500 a month to pay off that loan, or should I just make the minimums and put that $500 to other uses?

  267. WWTD (What Would Trent Do)?

    Reformed shopaholic seeks to finally start saving at age 45. Here’s the scoop:

    )Left a much hated high paying job to take the job of my dreams for which I get paid pennies ($23,000 per year).
    )I cashed out everything to leave my previous job, and used it to pay off all of my debt except for my home.I no longer even own a credit card(too tempting for a shopaholic)
    )My current savings is $5 in an ING account.
    )Monthly mortage is only $780 with escrow
    )I’m single but my mother now lives with me, however, she is unable to contribute to monthly bills due to her medical and insurance payments.More often than not, I have to help her out a bit with her expenses.Also, she was recently diagnosed with a tumor on her adrenal gland. We are currently awaiting a visit to an endocrinologist~so it is a worry of what will happen & I want to be able to be there for her, monetarily as well as supportive.
    )My monthly expenses consist of only basic bills. We do not eat out or make unnecessary purchases (I haven’t bought anything new in 2 years, simply because of the lack of money) My only splurge is the basic satellite service (mostly for my moms entertainment).
    )I have recently started a 401K at work.
    )I do have a pet sitting service on the side, but it provides a spotty, minimalistic income, however with my current work and home situation, it is all I can afford the time to do.
    )I am going back to school soon to get my BS in Criminal Justice to hopefully boost my income, but this will be several years in the making.
    )I have had numerous yard sales already and have sold all of my more expensive, frivolous items on Ebay. I am down to the bare bones & feel I have run out of options.
    )More often than not, after the bills are paid each pay period, I only have less than $5 left to get me to the next paycheck.
    )I know I am one paycheck away from disaster, and that is what keeps me awake at night.

    So Trent, can you see anything I may have missed? Something that I can do that will allow me to start putting away something each month so I won’t be constantly worried something will break or tear up that I can’t fix. Not too mention, I will need additional savings for when I do retire.

    Thanks for any wise ideas you may be able to come up with.

  268. Dear Trent,

    I am trying to start a blog to bring in a little cash to help pay off debt and start some savings. (Like you, I am a frustrated wanna-be writer.) The focus will be time- and budget-conscious beauty advice for busy mothers. My question is, what are the very first things I should do, besides writing a few posts so I have a blog to show?

    PS–Sorry I missed the deadline, but I hope you are still sifting through your replies. Good luck!

  269. Hi Trent,
    Great site! My husband and I read it all the time. I would also like to hear from your wife. My husband is obsessed with paying down our student loans (which is good), but sometimes I feel a bit alone in my feminine perspective.

    Anyway, we are thinking about getting a new car in 1-2 years. I was wondering your thoughts on hybrids: do you think they are the frugal choice? I know they are not quite cost effective yet, but would you buy one anyway? In light of the rising gas prices, do you think there is a gas price per gallon that would make hybrids worth it? I have been trying to compare the standard civic with the civic hybrid to determine if it is worth the extra money. Your opinion on hybrids would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

  270. What did you major in in college? Can you tell us what line of work you were in before you recently gave it up>

  271. i’m moving abroad. what’s the best way to save money overseas but still have cash accessible for when visits back in the US? know of any banks that work in both europe and the US?

  272. you asked for questions and this will be quite a different one for you.

    I have always been an avid fan of garage sales and thrift stores and have saved a bundle over the years along with the thrill of the hunt that goes with it. Lately I have become concerned with the thought of acquiring bed bugs. Am I being ridiculous?

  273. Have you considered doing this kind of post by topic next time? For example, personal situation (retirement or credit card debt), investment opportunites, graduate starting out, costs of living (children or medical, etc)?

    ‘Cause it was kind of hard to get to the bottom of 319 posts, and I can’t imagine being expected to reply to all of them.

    Ditto on hearing from Mrs Trent, btw, although she may not want to become an interenet celebrity :P

    My question is about the pros and cons of living out of home and at home while going to college (university). I’m planning to live at home, but it’s going to be a issue of quest for freedom vs. natural frugality.

    That, and the fact my brother owns a drum kit.

    I was wondering what you, or people you know, or people on the site, have to say about the pros and cons of each. This includes things like car insurance- I’m in Australia though, so student loans are interest-free-ish, and healthcare is taken care of in a basic sense. This is just the best frugality site I’ve found so far, and I know I’ll good advice about reconciling two basic- and equal- instincts.

  274. can you tell me why small businss is encouraged greatly ie SBC, chamber of commerce, ect. would it be better to be a small business rather than a larger one. or are there other options. i am researching on becoming an entrepreneure. any suggestions is greatly appreciated.
    the yearling

  275. Dear Trent,

    What are your One Hour Projects for 2009 & 2010?

    That was a great topic from the simple dollar blog!

  276. Stupid me lent my sister $7500 because she was crying on the phone about not being able to get her money from her Money Market Account until January. Promised to pay back the whole amount in January. Asked her to do a Promissory note confirming the loan and that she would pay the entire amount back in January. After weeks, she sent me a letter saying she would pay me $250 a month for the next 2 1/2 years…and that she thought this was fair and equitable!!!!! I was/am furious and let her know…that I would never have lent her the $7500 under those terms and asking that she stick to what she had promised when she originally asked me for the loan. She ignored my letters and e-mails. I got ONE CHECK for $250 in February..and nothing else. It’s almost May now. Called a relative who is a lawyer in LA. He said I’d have to come out to LA and represent myself in small claims court to ask for the $7500 be repaid. That means me flying out and back for a 12-13 hour round trip, paying for hotel and food, etc., and not knowing if the court date might be rescheduled or if she’d even show up. I am writing all this to warn others about making loans to family members. After the fact…I looked at the Clark Howard Show..and he said that 46% of loans made to family members are NEVER paid back vs 4% of loans made from commercial sources. SO!!! If you make a loan to a family member…there is nearly a 50% chance that the loan will never be paid back to you!

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