• The Value of Unavailability

    Let’s roll the clock back to a particular weekend in the middle of 2006. Sarah and I had just begun our financial turnaround, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here. That weekend, Sarah’s parents had come to visit – I think her youngest sister may have been there, too. We were …

  • Using the Reality of the Moment

    Yesterday, I read a wonderful article by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits entitled The Reality of This Moment. The article encourages people to think about how we’re okay in the moment: As we go through our day, we’re often stressed because of all the things we have to do, the things we’re not doing. We …

  • 7 Excuses People Use to Avoid Financial Responsibility – And Why They’re Useless

    This article first appeared in U.S. News and World Report Money. The recipe for finding financial success is an easy one. Spend less than you earn and do something sensible with the difference. If you do that over and over, you will see financial success. The challenge is actually making that happen. It’s not easy …

  • Discover the Forest

    One of the coolest online tools I’ve seen in a long time came to my attention this past weekend as I was thinking about our family’s weekend plans between now and Memorial Day. With the arrival of spring, I was looking for outdoor activities, when I came across DiscoverTheForest.org. DiscoverTheForest is a website that allows …

  • Underpromise. Overdeliver.

    One common tactic that people use to wow their clients or bosses is to promise a little less than what can be achieved, then deliver more than what was promised. If you promise everything you think you can achieve, you create a very tight and difficult schedule for yourself, one that’s prone to disaster if …

  • What Does It Mean When “Interest Accrues Daily” or “Interest Accrues Continuously”?

    Some version of the above question pops up in reader emails perhaps once a month. I thought it might make sense to explain exactly how it works. Along the way, we’re going to get into the ideas of APR and APY and how they affect you. Interest Accrued Annually Most of the time, we deal …

  • Considering Self-Employment? Six Things You Need to Know from Someone Who Has Done It for Years

    I’ve been fully self-employed since 2008, starting from a side business that was around in some form since 2004. Over that decade, I’ve learned quite a lot about the financial and practical realities of self-employment. When I first made the leap to full-time self employment, it was scary. It felt like the number of things …

  • The Mistake-Free Choice

    I make mistakes. A lot of them. I spent too much money. I said something I shouldn’t have said. I wasted a bunch of time doing something foolish and unnecessary. I made a statement without properly knowing the facts behind it. Each time I make a mistake, I’m left with two things. I’m left with …

  • Five Simple Things to Prepare Right Now for Your Estate

    This article first appeared at U.S. News and World Report Money. Everyone knows about the big things that people should prepare for their loved ones in the event of their untimely passing. A will. Life insurance. A living trust. Those are the big things. After that, there are a number of little things you can …

  • Seven Principles of Yard Sale Season

    I enjoy going to yard sales. On our free spring and summer weekends, our family will burn part of the day going to these sales, looking for Have a plan. Rather than simply trusting that we’ll find sales by serendipity, we take some time to locate sales beforehand. Sites we use include Craigslist, YardHopper, and …

  • Celebrating Your Achievement Without Undoing Your Progress

    At one point, Sarah and I had almost $200,000 in total debt. Several years later, after a ton of hard work, we sent in the last check to pay off our final debt. We had achieved debt freedom. It was really tempting to celebrate that achievement. We had worked so hard for so many years …

  • Should Your Partner’s Debt Keep You Out of a Relationship?

    Recently, a reader wrote to me with what would have been a stellar reader mailbag question except for the fact that it was full of personal details. I attempted to edit the email down to something that could be shared without identity concerns (as I never want material readers send me to ever come back …

  • When Your Spouse Passes Away

    A few days ago, I received an utterly heartbreaking email from a reader whose husband had passed away a week ago. She is in her fifties and has two grown children who are fully independent. One of them lives nearby and is helping her get her life back in order, but it’s going to be …

  • Is the Middle Class Collapsing?

    A few days ago, I put an hour aside to watch this amazing presentation from Elizabeth Warren. Entitled “The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class,” Warren’s presentation makes the case that many, many factors are working against the ability of the middle class to maintain their standard of living. She delivered this presentation at the …

  • Alternatives to Payday Loans If You Need Cash Immediately

    Payday loans are an incredibly poor deal for the customer. It’s a loan with an absurdly high interest rate. If you take out a payday loan, you’re going to come out the financial loser almost every time. They almost always cause more problems than they solve. Almost everyone knows that payday loans aren’t worthwhile, so …

  • The Danger of Results-Oriented Thinking

    For a month, you scrimp and save. You deny yourself a lot of little treats. You sell a few things on eBay. You make some meals in advance and eat at home a lot more. You make careful grocery lists. At the end of the month, you sit down and reassess your financial situation… and …

  • 4 Ways to Minimize Your Home Energy Bill This Spring

    This post first appeared at U.S. News and World Report Money. Winter is over! Spring is here! Spring offers many opportunities to save money. Spring makes it much easier to go outside and get some exercise. You can start a vegetable garden. Plus, when you’re outside, you can turn off all of the lights and …

  • Personal Finance 101: What Is Rebalancing?

    One topic I see referenced quite often in personal finance books – especially books focused on retirement – is the idea of rebalancing. It’s often discussed as though the writer assumes that the reader knows what rebalancing is, but given the confusion I sometimes see in reader emails, I don’t think the idea of rebalancing …

  • An Unhealthy Dose of Optimism

    It isn’t very hard to come across stories of people who thought they had everything planned out, only to see everything come apart at the seams. They lost their job. Their car fell apart. Their apartment building burned to the ground. They got sick. Their child or spouse got sick. Someone stole their identity. They …