Getting Started

Why You Shouldn’t Lease a Car (and Other Similar Money Moves)

More than once on this site, I’ve argued on behalf of renting instead of buying a home. Renting comes with a number of financial advantages, not the least of which is that it’s far cheaper per month than owning your own home. You’re not responsible for homeowners insurance, property taxes, property maintenance, or any of …

Throwing Away the ‘Retail Therapy’ Crutch

Mary wrote in with a brilliant question that I feel deserves a much longer answer than what fits into the weekly mailbag. Here’s Mary’s problem: First, the facts: I am 26 years old. I graduated two years ago with a masters in accounting (so I’m not writing to you about crunching the numbers as I …

Be Careful When Reading Financial Advice! Three Strategies to Keep You Safe

A few days ago, I came across this article from Betterment entitled Safety Net Funds: Why Traditional Advice Is Wrong. The article argues that the idea of having a cash emergency fund is a bad idea because a cash emergency fund earns a relatively poor annual rate of return. Here’s the crux of that argument …

Categories: Getting Started

How to Write a Thank-You Note

With graduation and wedding season upon us, you may be faced with the arduous task of finding the proper way to thank others for their generosity. In some ways, it can be difficult to be on the receiving end: Not only do you have to accept your gift graciously, you also have to make sure your loved …

A Random Walk on Life’s Street

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” ― Abraham Maslow This quote sums up in two brief sentences what I view to be the chief challenge of personal finance: choosing positive personal finance progress when we …

Categories: Getting Started

Nine Cognitive Biases You Need to Understand to Master Your Money

In our daily lives, we constantly rely on our instincts to navigate through all kinds of situations, from how to relate to other people to what kind of shampoo we buy. Without those instincts, daily life would be a complete decision overload, making it impossible to even get outside your front door. We have to …

Categories: Getting Started

When Living for the Moment Gets in the Way of Living

A few weeks ago, I was absolutely struck by this article from The Atlantic, which talks about Sarah Manguso’s recent book “Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.” Manguso’s book focuses on her personal history of keeping a diary/journal, something I’m very familiar with personally. Her perspective on keeping a diary full of events was, at …

How to Build Credit

When people ask how to build credit, the “chicken or the egg” conundrum often comes up. Having a solid credit history and credit score are important parts of your financial future. Here’s the problem: To get a loan for a house or car, you need to show a history of responsible use and payment of …

Beating Your Pace

I love spending time outdoors in the spring. In fact, it’s a constant push and pull this time of year as I balance the need to write and the desire to get out there and walk and jog. One of my favorite things to do is go on a three mile walk/jog out of my …

Categories: Getting Started

A Basic Guide to an Inexpensive and Incredibly Fun Family Camping Vacation

This summer, my family and I are going to be camping in northern Wisconsin for several days. We plan on camping at two different locations during the trip so that we get a chance to see and enjoy two completely different areas. Small camping trips are a staple of our summer – we usually camp …

Setting Attainable and Exciting Financial Goals

When I look back at my personal finance progress, I’m most proud of the long-term success. The changes that have happened in my life over the last several years have been absolutely incredible, and I feel a strong sense of personal pride when I think about it. Here’s the kicker, though: if I flip the …

Starting Over Again at Age Eighteen

As I write this, I’m thirty six years old. My eighteen year old self existed literally half a lifetime ago. That’s scary to think about, that the person I was during my final year in high school, looking forward to a future education and eventually a great job and all of the dreams that I …

Categories: Getting Started

How to Create a Bare-Bones Budget

Whether you’re struggling to get your debt under control or simply want to build up an emergency fund or a down payment as quickly as possible, a bare-bones budget is a powerful tool to help get you there. It’s just what it sounds like: your essential expenses, and nothing else. A simple, stripped-down budget can be helpful for an aggressive …

The $64,000 Question

A few weeks ago, I was at a fundraiser for my children’s school when I struck up a conversation with a friend, who then introduced me to a third person that I didn’t know before. We chatted a bit and then he learned that I wrote The Simple Dollar, so the conversation turned to the …

Categories: Getting Started

A Look at the Average American Budget – and How the Average American Can Start Saving More

Recently, I saw this infographic about the average American budget in 2013 and it left me thinking about the stories people tell about their money. It’s no secret that many people live paycheck to paycheck. 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, which definitely includes a lot of people earning both more and less than …

Categories: Getting Started

Money and Time Are One and the Same (and Seven Other Unusual Personal Finance Ideas I Use in My Life)

Over the years, I’ve tried many, many different approaches to my own finances. I’ve read countless books, done countless calculations, and tried countless frugal tactics. Again and again, I’ve found myself coming back to a set of core ideas that always work for me. Some of them are pretty commonplace, like spending less than you …

Categories: Getting Started

The Cost of Feeling Secure vs. Feeling Stressed

Sarah and I have a large emergency fund by almost any standards. If everything collapsed, we could live for more than a year simply on our cash reserves without touching any of our other investments. That’s a huge emergency fund. So, why do we have such a big fund? Why not invest some of that …

Categories: Getting Started

Rising from the Absolute Bottom

Daniel writes in: I have been a reader of The Simple Dollar for several years. I am writing to you for the first time today because I really need your help and I do not know what to do next. In the last eighteen months, I have lost my job and I have not been …

Categories: Getting Started

Some Thoughts on Procrastination

During the year or so before I reached my ultimate financial bottom, I had this faint sense in the back of my head that I needed to make some financial changes in my life. I knew that I needed to start doing things differently or else I would never build the life that I wanted. …

Categories: Getting Started

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