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

What’s Left Behind

Whenever a person makes a significant change in their life, some things are gained and some things are lost. Ideally, the things that are gained outweigh the things that are lost, but that doesn’t mean that the exchange was purely positive. When changing one’s life, there are some things that are left behind. During the …

Categories: Getting Started

Breaking Down Your Dreams

One of my biggest dreams when I was younger was to have a huge house. When I was a little boy, I used to draw floor plans all the time of a huge house that I would live in. There would be rooms for all of my family members, a giant library, an indoor gymnasium, …

Categories: Getting Started

Using Multiple Email Addresses for Personal Finance Organization

A long time ago, I made an offhand mention of how I use a special email address just for customer rewards programs: Get a new, separate email address. I signed up for a Gmail account specifically to collect the mailings that come from these programs. This prevents my normal email from getting inundated with such …

Categories: Getting Started

Energy Saving Tips & Mortgages

A casual acquaintance of mine completed an interesting project several years ago: he covered his roof in solar panels with the goal of generating adequate energy for his home. At the time, the solar panels were more expensive than they are right now and they were also somewhat less efficient. At the time he invested …

“Free” Upgrades Aren’t Always Free

A few years ago, I was stuck in a situation where I needed to rent a car. I had a bit of time before I had to rent the vehicle, so I shopped around. I only needed the vehicle to drive myself around, so I honestly wasn’t really concerned about having a giant vehicle. So, …

The Purge, The Splurge, and Back Again

I love attending yard sales. Our town has a yearly community yard sale and it’s fun to spend the day strolling around town looking at the items. Nearby towns have community sales on other days and we often try to make it to those, too. Having done this for several years, I can’t help but …

Categories: Getting Started