Getting Started

Are “Rural Opportunity Zones” a Good Deal?

Shelley writes in: My husband and I have been considering moving to the Great Plains in order to enjoy smaller town life and much lower cost of living. I have been reading about Rural Opportunity Zones in Kansas and I am wondering what you think of them. Rural Opportunity Zones are just that – rural …

The Free and the Priceless

What is the financial value of a hug from one of your children? You might scoff at this question or think that it’s somehow foolish, but I’m serious. What is a hug from one of your children worth? Five dollars? Ten dollars? Thousands? Nothing? It probably has a lot to do with your own internal …

The Addiction of Immediate Gratification

I really enjoy a big gulp of orange juice. That mix of tartness and sweetness across my tongue is just sublime. I relish the feeling I get from pulling the plastic off of a new board game and popping out all of the pieces. The smell, the sound, and the tactile feeling all bring me …

When I Dropped My Excuses, I Found My Results

Them. It’s easy to blame them. If it wasn’t for them, I would have a good job. I would have a publishing contract. I would have more money. I would have that promotion. If it wasn’t for them, I would have the life I dream of. Here’s the truth: whenever you waste a second of …

Categories: Getting Started

How Much Time Do You Invest in Your Job?

When I first started The Simple Dollar, I was employed full time in a research environment. My job mostly involved handling and sharing significant quantities of data – I did a bit of data mining and a lot of software development, among other things. One of the first big realizations I made during the process …

When You Repeatedly Fail at Financial Change

During 2004, 2005, and early 2006, I made a lot of feeble attempts at turning our finances around. I’d make these little commitments to myself to stop spending so much money or to start paying off credit cards. It never took very long before those commitments fell apart and, before long, I didn’t even really …

Categories: Getting Started

The Small Windfall

Every once in a while, I’ll get a big windfall. For example, not too long ago, one of my books was reprinted in Korean and I received a surprisingly nice advance from that, almost completely out of the blue. When I get a nice windfall like that, I usually do smart things with it. I …

Categories: Getting Started

Where Will You Be If Nothing Changes?

Quite often, I encourage people to visualize their future in five years or ten years. I usually suggest that people try to visualize their perfect future so that they have a goal to work towards. However, some people don’t thrive on looking forward at a goal. Instead of running toward something, they make more progress …

Categories: Getting Started

The Pictures

Yesterday morning, I played a fun little game with my two oldest children. I think one of them picked it up at school. It’s a simple game, really. You start off by writing a very simple sentence of the form [adjective] [noun] [verb] [noun]. So, for example, you might write “The big dog chews on …

Categories: Getting Started

There Is No “Magic Bullet”

Whenever I face a problem in my life, I want to solve it. Now. The sooner the better. When Sarah and I first started to face up to our financial troubles in 2006, I wanted a solution. Now. The sooner the better. I went to the library and checked out a mountain of books. I …

Categories: Getting Started

Building a Better Day

On Tuesday, I woke up, got the kids ready for school, spread organic fertilizer over our back yard, got in contact with a local Congressional campaign about volunteering for them, spent two hours at the library doing research, wrote three articles, read a few chapters of a challenging book, played with my children for a …

How Does “Pay Yourself First” or “Bank on Yourself” Really Work?

I often see and hear ads for programs that involve the ideas of “banking on yourself” or “paying yourself first.” They’re pretty prevalent on talk radio and you’ll sometimes see ads for programs like these in the newspaper or in the back of financial magazines. The claims made in the ads seem extraordinary. Many of …

Does Consumption Smoothing Really Work?

Several weeks ago, a reader suggested that I listen to the latest episode of the wonderful Freakonomics podcast. If you have a chance, I highly suggest listening to it – while I don’t always agree with the conclusions, I find most of the topics discussed to be really entertaining and often thought-provoking. Since then, I’ve …

Categories: Getting Started

The Single Most Important Financial Skill

Investing? Frugality? Entrepreneurship? The most valuable personal finance skill, in my opinion, lies under all of these things. It seems incredibly simple, but it’s also incredibly difficult to master. It’s simply control over your emotions and desires. Control over your emotions and desires keeps you from buying things just because you want them in the …

The Thousand Mile Journey: Making Long-Term Goals Matter in Your Day-to-Day Life

I have a long term goal of publishing a novel. I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, but I’ll often write short stories or novellas and find myself really dissatisfied with them, so I’ll toss them aside. I’ve written a few novel-length pieces too and felt the same way – I was just never happy with them. …

Categories: Getting Started

Hindsight Bias and Personal Finance

We’ve all heard the old nugget: hindsight is 20/20, right? From the perch we sit on right now, the mistakes of the past look obvious. Why couldn’t we have predicted it? At the same time, we often look back at our past successes and see them as practically inevitable. That’s just how the story goes, …

The $2,000 Question

If an emergency arrived in your life, could you come up with $2,000 in cash to cover that emergency? Believe it or not, if you’re an American, it’s a coin flip as to whether or not you could pull this off. According to this study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “approximately one quarter …

Categories: Getting Started

Spending Time, Spending Money

During a given day, I spend time on a lot of things. I usually spend quite a bit of time doing things to earn an income – writing posts, sending emails, doing research. I spend some time doing household tasks, which generally don’t earn much money but don’t cost much, either. I spend some time …

Categories: Getting Started

Card Tricks and Life

When I was a teenager, I went through a period where I was obsessed with card tricks. I learned a bunch of them – some that relied on preparing the deck beforehand, some that relied on a bit of sleight of hand, and some that relied on mental math. I was always better at understanding …

Categories: Getting Started