• Spring and the Awakening Garden

    Spring is awakening here in Iowa, and for us that means getting outside, doing some yard work, and getting some early work done with our garden. With a three year old and a one year old in the house, we try to get everyone involved in the gardening process. My wife journals extensively, so for …

  • Talking to a Child About Home Foreclosure

    I received a heart wrenching email from a reader that I’m going to call “Peggy.” Here’s a few excerpts from that email: [...] In short, we are going to have to be out of our house by October 24. We’re going to move in with [my brother] and his family for a while and then …

  • Opening the Door to Helping Your Parents

    Yesterday, I called my parents just to see how they’re doing. I usually give them a call two or three times a week and talk for most of an hour, mostly with my mother. During the conversation, we talked about my father’s health. He’s in his mid-sixties and still in pretty good shape, but he’s …

  • The Economics of Children’s Birthday Parties

    Recently, a young child that lives nearby (age six or so) had a large birthday party at his home for all the children on the block that were approximately the same age (four year olds to eight year olds, roughly). The party was in the family’s fenced-in backyard and included a magician, two horses, and …

  • Holding a Monthly Family Financial Meeting … And How It Can Benefit Your Marriage and Educate Your Children

    Prior to our financial meltdown, my wife and I simply never sat down and talked about our finances. Right after our meltdown, we talked about things almost every day, but through our recovery, our discussions have slowly reduced themselves to the point where we’re effectively already having monthly family financial meetings. And these meetings have …

  • Personal Finance and Intrusion

    I’m worried about my grandmother’s finances. She lives on Social Security and a small pension from the state, but if that were all there was to her story, it would be fine – she owns her residence and is just fine in terms of taxes and debt. The problem is that her oldest son still …

  • The Value of Personal Trust

    A really good discussion about personal trust and honesty developed out of the most recent reader mailbag that I thought was worth discussing on its own. First of all, I made a pretty big mistake in my answer. I made a giant assumption that the readers called me on, and it’s worth discussing further. On …

  • Daycare: Personal, Family, and Financial Responsibilities in Balance

    One of the most controversial subjects that I often touch upon is that of daycare. Some people are adamantly opposed to even suggesting the topic, stating unequivocally that taking your child to a daycare is a detriment to them. Others speak very positively about it, looking at it as a way to balance a child’s …

  • Does It Make Financial (and Social) Sense to Consider Moving?

    My recent career change means that I now have the freedom to write from wherever I happen to be. Similarly, my wife can pretty easily find work in any sufficiently-sized town – her skill set and resume would make her an attractive candidate pretty much anywhere. Given that we currently live in one of the …

  • Defeating Superman Syndrome: How to Progress Beyond the “Need” to Be the Financial Hero

    When I was freshly out of college with my first high-paying job, I would constantly insist on paying for everything. Meals out with friends, lattes at the coffee shop, even sometimes shopping purchases – I felt this deep need to step in, bust out my plastic, and say, “I’ll take care of it!” This burning …

  • The Costs of Having Children

    Recently, I had coffee with an old friend of mine who was torn over the decision to have a child. His spouse wants a child, as do his parents, but he doesn’t feel ready to take that leap. I told him that I thought he should stick to his guns on the subject, and he …

  • The Financial Implications of a Third Child

    Now that life has settled down with two children in our home, my wife and I are starting to look at the decision to have a third child. Our plan always has been to have our children close together in age so that they can be peers to each other (roughly) during their school years, …

  • The Over-Gifting Relative

    Each year, my grandmother gets me and my wife an exorbitantly expensive gift, usually something way out of her budget. One year, she managed to procure a small library of Kurt Vonnegut novels all signed and with individual notes inside in his handwriting. Another year, she managed to find me several pounds of fresh imported …

  • The Real Value of Stay At Home Parenting

    Until recently, I viewed the choice of being a stay at home parent solely as a loss of income in a couple’s life. If both adults are working and one chooses not to pursue professional employment, then the incime at that house is going to go down. Over time, though, I began to realize that …

  • A Talk With My Niece

    My niece is fifteen years old. She’s a social girl with a kind heart and just enough social awkwardness, intellectual curiosity, and introspection that after spending five minutes with her, you can’t help walking away thinking that the world is potentially her oyster. Among school subjects, she’s most passionate about mathematics, but she tends to …

  • Should You Help People Who Won’t Help Themselves?

    When I was young, I was very, very close to a particular relative of mine. He was about ten years older than I was, yet he was always there for me in a very supporting way, almost exactly in the way you would hope a loving and caring older brother would be. I have a …

  • Seven Quick Tips To Make Your Thanksigiving Dinner Cheaper, Tastier, and Faster

    Many of you are sitting there browsing The Simple Dollar but thinking about tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner and wondering how you can make it even better. Here are some quick tips you can add to your meal to make it cheaper, tastier, and perhaps a bit faster. For the first thirty minutes of cooking a turkey, …

  • The Finances and Interactions of Alternative Living Arrangements

    Recently, there has been some talk in our house of inviting my wife’s sister to live with us on a permanent basis (in fact, my wife and I have already extended the invitation and she is thinking about it, though it is far far far from a done deal). We have the room to allow …

  • Preserving The Things That Money Can’t Buy

    A few days ago, I bought an external hard drive and started the process of archiving a lot of items that basically would be irreplaceable. I’ve started making high-resolution scans of old family pictures, personal documents, and so on, and saving digital copies of videos as well. Eventually, I plan to take this drive, encrypt …