Author: Trent Hamm

The Money Onion: Peeling Back the Layers of Personal Finance Success

One of the most interesting things I’ve found over the years of working on The Simple Dollar, charting my own financial progress and changes, and talking with countless readers is that personal finance is a lot like an onion. An onion? Yep. It’s like an onion in that it’s made up of a bunch of …

Frugality, Financial Independence, and the Bigger World

Fairly often, I give interviews to media sources – newspaper reporters, radio hosts, and so on – where I share my story of financial recovery and how I managed to achieve it. Most of the questions are pretty straightforward, as they’re simply related to the story of my own life and some basic financial strategies. …

How to Avoid Getting Cut by the Cutting Edge

When I graduated from college in 2002, smartphones were just beginning to become popular. There were several different types floating around out there, most with LCD screens that enabled you to check your email and send text messages, both of which were beyond the capacity of the “dumb” phones at the time. I immediately got …

20 Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Fund

If you don’t think you need an emergency fund, think again. No matter how financially prepared you are, life has a way of throwing curve balls that you never expect. Those “unexpected expenses” are the reason many financial professionals suggest keeping three to six months of expenses tucked away in a savings account or investment …

PANIC MODE! Why It’s Dangerous and How to Avoid It

In 2006, I realized that I couldn’t pay my bills any more. I did the math and I realized that we just didn’t have the cash to go around. Sure, I did the smart thing and started reading and planning, but I also panicked a bit. I dove into cleaning out my closet and selling …

Categories: Getting Started

Questions About Student Loans, Social Isolation, Free Software, Old Cars 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. Facing huge student loan burden 2. Selling my house 3. Pantry organization 4. Dealing with frugal social isolation 5. Free software for memorization 6. Bulk buy …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Rental Property

When I was a little kid, a cousin of mine owned several rental properties in the small town near my home. This was basically his livelihood, as he spent his time taking care of the properties as needed, collecting rent, and so on. He spent about 20 hours a week on his collection of properties that …

Categories: Real Estate

A Romantic Reality

Donald Liebenson wrote an interesting article at Business Insider entitled “Most people aging out of the workforce consider retirement ‘a romantic fantasy of the past.’” Retirement. “A romantic fantasy of the past.” The article focuses on an Allianz Life study of 1,000 Baby Boomers (people aged 49 to 67) and 1,000 Generation Xers (ages 35-48). …

How to Maximize the Value of Abundant Fresh Foods: Lessons from a Gardener and CSA Member

One of the pleasures of the summer season is the abundance of fresh foods available. From early summer through the middle of fall, gardens and fields are producing in such impressive abundance that we can scarcely take it all in. In fact, in all honestly, it’s too much right now. Between our CSA share (which …

Categories: Frugality, Meals

Why We’ve Given Up on Coupons

About a week ago, my parents came to visit us for a few days. During the visit, my mother gave Sarah and I an envelope full of coupons she had clipped for products she thought that we bought but that she herself didn’t use. As Sarah leafed through the coupons, I began to realize something …

Deep Thinking: 14 Books That Will Change Your Perspective on Work, Life, and Money

It’s a story I’ve told quite often. When I first realized the extent of my personal finance troubles several years ago, my first reaction was to go to the library and grab a giant pile of personal finance books. Some of those books were utterly forgettable. Others offered really good practical advice. One of those …

Questions About Retirement, Identity Theft, Bread Makers, Towels 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. Handling financial issues in marriage 2. Buying LED light bulbs 3. Library book sales 4. Finding better housing options 5. Protecting elderly from identity theft 6. …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

The Broken Rules of Mass Media – and Better Ones to Live By

Almost every time I turn on my television or go to the website of a cable news network, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated by the things that pass for “news” that are mostly just commercials, like breathless announcements of the latest product from Apple or the latest car models or the latest antics of some reality …

The Deceptively Tiny Wardrobe: A Clever Method for Saving Money and Time With Clothing While Still Having Plenty to Wear

Over the last few years, I’ve bought almost no new clothes. The only exception I can think of at all is some replacements for my socks and underwear. As clothes have worn out, I’ve simply tossed them in the trash or the rag bag. My goal, in the end, is to have a “deceptively tiny …

Nine Fantastic and Inexpensive Summer Recipes Using Fresh Seasonal Foods

For me, the best part of summer is the seemingly endless variety of fresh produce. It’s everywhere, from gardens to CSA baskets, from farmers markets to family gardens, from roadside stands to your local grocery store. The variety of produce available this time of the year is out of this world – and the best …

Categories: Frugality, Meals, Shopping

Six Simple Changes to Your Grocery Routine That Can Save You a Lot of Money

As I’ve alluded to a few times recently, a Fareway just opened in the small town in which my family lives (for those unfamiliar, Fareway is a discount grocer). The new store is close enough that I can easily walk or bicycle there, as the round trip is just a little over a mile. Prior …

Passions, Obsessions, Time, and Money

Recently, I listened to episode #161 of the Pen Addict podcast, which featured a long discussion on the topic of buying with intention. For those unfamiliar with the Pen Addict, it’s a podcast about pens and notebooks, a topic of which I have some degree of interest. The hosts and the guest on that episode …

Questions About 529 Plans, SUVs, Emergency Funds, Washing Machines, 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. 529 plan thoughts 2. Feeling stuck at Staples 3. Underwear that doesn’t disintegrate? 4. 770 plans? 5. Traveling with just a carry-on 6. Studying philosophy 7. Reliable …

Categories: Reader Mailbag

Inspiration from Hermann Hesse, Ingmar Bergman, Buckminster Fuller, and More

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life. 1. Hermann Hesse on knowledge and wisdom Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds …

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