Author: Trent Hamm

Figuring Out the Path Forward

Most of the questions I get from readers about their finances have some things in common. They’re at a crossroads of some kind. Whether it’s triggered by a major life change or not, they have a sense that their current direction in life isn’t perfect for where they think they want to be going. They …

Categories: Getting Started

Questions About Insulation, Meal Tickets, Temptations, Kitchen Startup, 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. Two incomes, one strategy 2. Interesting tip about department stores 3. Insulation issues in apartment 4. “Debt up to our eyeballs” 5. Sandwich press 6. Nearby …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

My Ten Favorite “Healthy” and Inexpensive Foods (and a Great Recipe for Each One)

With five people living under our roof, our food budget quickly stacks up to become a major part of our family’s expenses for the month, which naturally means that we’re very interested in methods that can reduce our food spending while also putting a variety of meals on the table. At the same time, we …

Categories: Frugality, Meals

Warren Buffett’s Two Lists and Your Money

A few weeks ago, there was a pretty great story going around various business and finance websites about Warren Buffett. According to the story: One day Buffett went up to his pilot named Steve and jokingly said to him that “the fact that you’re still working for me tells me I’m not doing my job.” …

25 Smart Ways to Handle a $1,000 Windfall

A tiny windfall is pretty easy to spend. If you find $10 or $20 on the street, you can just use it to help pay for groceries or some other regular expense to give yourself just a bit of breathing room in your budget. A huge windfall – like an inheritance or a legal settlement …

Categories: Getting Started

The Parable of the Whopper: The Big Impact of a Little Treat

When I was a college student, I lived for about a year with a few other people in a shared apartment. None of us had much money at all, so we basically packed as many people in there as we could get away with to make the rent cheap. For me, that meant that the …

20 Money-Saving Tactics for Winter

A few days ago, we received our first measurable snowfall of the year, bringing us a two-inch blanket of snow that covered the world in white. It was a stark reminder that, although the calendar doesn’t quite say so (yet), winter has arrived. As anyone who has ever had to pay an energy bill north …

Questions About Coats, Politics, Retention Bonuses, Napoleon Hill, 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. Retention bonus versus retirement 2. Don’t want anything for Christmas 3. Angry about politics 4. Saving versus paying off debts 5. Buy it for life: coats …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

Sixteen Strategies for a Frugal and Wonderful Christmas

Like it or not, Christmas is less than six weeks away. If your family is anything like our family, the weeks around Christmas are jam-packed with events with friends and extended family members, wrapping and exchanging and opening gifts, preparing and eating meals, and generally fighting off the winter blues with a huge dose of …

Categories: Frugality

How One Simple Change Spreads Throughout Your Life

To me, personal finance is about far more than just dollars and cents. Not only does the money you earn open a lot of doors and give you a lot of opportunities, those things are connected to almost every element of your life. It’s not surprising, then, that making a change in one little part …

Categories: Getting Started

20 Financial ‘Rules’ I Hope to Instill in My Children

I relish being a parent. For me, it is deeply satisfying to see children develop from infancy to toddlerhood to childhood and onward through the teen years and into adulthood. I love having conversations with them as they figure out their own morality and sense of right and wrong. I love watching their faces as …

Categories: Family, Getting Started

The Pajama Principle

Most of the time, when I’m sitting in my home office writing something, I’m either wearing pajamas – usually an old tee shirt and a pair of sweat pants – or an old tee shirt and ragged, comfortable blue jeans. I’m not worried about appearances. I’m not worried about anything, honestly, other than personal comfort. …

Categories: Getting Started

Eight Strategies for Fuel Efficient Driving

A few weeks ago, I found myself following a strangely erratic driver while rolling along on US-163 here in Iowa. This driver was doing several very noticeable things. For starters, this person was driving several miles an hour under the speed limit, going about 57 in a 65 MPH area. Whenever we reached a dip, …

Categories: Automobile

Questions about Winter Clothes, Cheap Gas, Old Freezer Items, 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. Life insurance question 2. Buying gas when it’s cheap 3. Old deep freezer items 4. Keeping old financial documents 5. Debt repayment struggles 6. Buy it …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

Creating Motivation and Discipline for Change

As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, I’m currently rethinking my plans for how I save up for large personal “fun” expenses. My first trial run with this is saving for a trip with friends next August. What I’ve decided to do is use this trip as a motivating “carrot” to strongly push myself to get …

Categories: Getting Started

Balancing Spending, Saving, and Social Situations

Each year, I go to Gencon (a convention in Indianapolis held every August) with a fairy large and ever-shifting group of guys ranging in age from early twenties and still in college to mid-forties and in full career mode. Some are married with children, while others are married without kids and still others are single. …

Categories: Shopping

Ten Red Flags of Financial Infidelity and What to Do About It

Financial infidelity is one of the most dangerous things that can happen in a marriage. When one spouse is making significant financial moves without the knowlege of the other, it endangers the financial future of both people and exhibits a disregard for the most fundamental parts of a healthy marriage: trust and communication. Financial infidelity …

Categories: Family, Getting Started

Wine, Blind Taste Tests, and Your Money

You’re standing at the grocery store looking at a large selection of wines. You know you want a red wine to go well with your pasta meal this evening. One is $5.99 per bottle. Another is $19.99 per bottle and has a little tag bragging about the score it received in some wine magazine. Which …

Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase

There are few things that leave me feeling worse than an impulsive purchase that wound up being a piece of junk or wound up sitting in the closet gathering dust. Not only am I frustrated with the item itself, I’m also frustrated with me. It was my own personal choice to go ahead and make …