Author: Trent

Christmas in July

The average American family spends $749.51 on Christmas gifts. That’s a painful amount – it’s approximately 2% of the annual take-home income of an American family. As I’m writing this, Christmas is five months away. For me, that means it’s time to start planning. After all, if you know an event is coming in the …

Categories: Christmas, Gifts

Music for Free – Comparing Nine Free (and Legal) Online Music Options

Right now, there are a ton of legal ways to listen to music online for free. Sure, you can buy mp3s so that you have complete freedom in terms of when and where you want to listen, but if you just want a radio-like service with a bit of control, there are many free options …

Categories: Music

“Lock In” and Escaping the Trap

Over the course of my career, my single biggest fear – and obstacle – has been “lock in.” What’s “lock in”? It’s probably easiest to explain it with a story. Early on in my career, I found myself working at a pretty nice job. I enjoyed the work and enjoyed going into the office almost …

Categories: Careers

Twelve Inexpensive Strategies for Saving on Medical Costs and Improving Your Family’s Health

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average American incurs $9,807.50 in medical expenses each year. Let me repeat that: according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average American incurs $9,807.50 in medical expenses each year. That is an extremely heavy financial burden for anyone. While it’s obviously not …

Categories: Getting Started, Health

Questions on Windfalls, Identity Theft, Groceries, and Credit Cards

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Credit cards and miles 2. Buy it for life: backpack 3. Lending Club? 4. Unexpected $5,000 windfall 5. Completed journals and identity theft 6. 2-for-$3 deals …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

Twelve Money-Saving Tactics for Disney World

In late June, my family went on a lengthy vacation through the south, including a long stop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a large chunk of a day in Savannah, Georgia, a visit to a relative in rural northern Florida, and eventually a trip to Walt Disney World with our children. Sarah went to …

Categories: Travel

Spend Less? Earn More? Which Is the Best Path?

Pretty much everyone who writes anything about personal finance will agree that the best way to get ahead financially is to increase the difference between what you earn and what you spend. There are, of course, two major ways to make that happen. You can either earn more or you can spend less. No matter …

Home Cycling as a Financial Strategy

Home cycling is a pretty nifty financial strategy. At its core, the idea revolves around buying a low-end home, fixing and upgrading it, and then selling it for a profit off the back of your own time and energy investment in that home. It bears some similarities with the idea of “home flipping” that was …

How to Build a Successful “Shopping Hierarchy”

Last month, I wrote a popular article for U.S. News and World Report about “shopping hierarchies.” Here’s how I defined “shopping hierarchy” in that article: However, there’s stronger strategy you can apply that affects the price of almost everything you buy. I call it the “shopping hierarchy” strategy. It’s a simple strategy: Whenever you go …

Categories: Shopping

The Emotional Cycle of Change

As many of you know, I had a bit of a financial epiphany in April 2006. I came home from work one day, picked up the mail, and sat down to pay our bills, only to realize that we didn’t have enough in our checking account to pay all of those bills. Because neither of …

Questions About Clotheslines, Old Credit Cards, Pens, and $2 Bills

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Buying a house for mom 2. Is Roth IRA enough? 3. Serenity prayer 4. Ice machines and hotels 5. Using a small clothesline 6. Question editing …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

Eight Strategies for Preparing Your Kids Early for an Inexpensive College Education (or Other Options)

It’s a worry that pops into the mind of most parents not too long after their child is born. College. How on earth are we going to pay for a great education for our child? Prices at top-tier schools like MIT have seen annual tuition jump to over $50,000 a year, with no end in …

Categories: Education, Parenting

Personal Finance Data and Meaningful Decisions

A few months ago, I read a great article by Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com entitled Bridging the Analytics Gap. First, some background. Over the past fifteen years or so, there’s been a huge shift in how sports are analyzed. The amount of data collected on sporting events has grown exponentially and professional sports teams have …

Categories: Getting Started

The Six Pillars of a Strong Personal Finance Foundation

Just last week, I shared my list of fifteen essential personal finance and career books (if you haven’t checked out that list, I highly recommend it). Each of those books has proven to be an inspiration to me in one way or another, but one book stands out because of how the ideas were presented. …

Categories: Getting Started

Tactics, Strategy, and Money

I love playing tabletop games – board games, card games, role playing games, pretty much anything like that. Ever since I was a little kid playing Acquire at my aunt’s house, I’ve loved sitting down at the table with other people and playing a game together. You’ll find me playing games with friends many weeknights …

Categories: Getting Started

Setting Powerful Short-Term Personal Finance Challenges … And 25 Examples to Get You Started

Much of our day-to-day lives has personal finance implications. We’re constantly making choices that either directly spend money or use up resources that are going to have to be replaced. When we eat, we shop, we go to work – all of those things, and many many more, have financial impact. At the same time, …

Categories: Getting Started

Questions About Insurance, BPA, 529s, National Parks, and More!

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Insurance and breast pumps 2. Donations and religious groups 3. Cosigning on a mortgage 4. Cashing out whole life policy 5. Planning a “national parks” vacation …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

How to Start a Blog: A Side Business Primer

One of the most common requests I get from readers is for detailed information on how to start a side business of some kind. With minimal equipment and ample time, how can a person construct a side business in order to earn a little extra money? This is the first in a series of articles …

How to Switch to Collecting Experiences Instead of Things

In the old apartment Sarah and I used to live in, I had one whole wall filled with books. The bookshelf stretched from the floor to the ceiling and from wall to wall and, frankly, it was overstuffed. That bookshelf wasn’t too surprising, though. I’ve been a voracious reader since my early childhood, reading more …

Categories: Psychology, Shopping