Getting Started

Discovery and Temptation

Anyone who has followed my “Pieces of Inspiration” weekly series knows that I have a big soft spot in my heart for folk and Americana/alt-country/bluegrass/whatever-you-want-to-label-it music. I find new music in those genres all the time that really excite me and when I do buy music these days for offline listening, it’s almost entirely from …

Categories: Getting Started

Friends as Financial Role Models

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn Excluding my children, the four people I spend the most time with are all in their mid-thirties, they all have professional careers in science and/or engineering, they’re all debt-free, and they all have a serious cheap streak. I’m …

Categories: Getting Started

The Cost of Decompression

If you work for a living, you know the feeling. You finish a day of earning money. You’re tired – mentally and/or physically and/or spiritually and/or socially exhausted. You go home, drop your stuff by the door, and just head to the couch for a while. You sit there in a daze, watching a television …

The Little Perks You Pay Big For (That New Car Smell, For Example)

Several years ago, Car and Driver had an excellent article about how car companies put in a lot of extra effort to engineer the right “new car smell.” The goal? They want that smell to feel both exciting and comforting, encouraging the car buyer to both desire the smell when they’re shopping and to enjoy …

Making Big Financial Tasks Small

My biggest dreaded personal finance task is filing papers. I absolutely loathe it. For starters, it’s a never-ending task. There are seemingly always more papers that need to be saved somewhere. If I happen to get behind a little bit, the pile of papers that need to be filed becomes a small mountain. I just …

Categories: Getting Started

The Allure of “Secret” Advice

I am almost immediately suspicious of anyone who offers “insider” or “secret” advice or information. First of all, if the “secret” or “insider” information were so strong, that person would be utilizing it instead of selling it. If someone is able to use their “secret” technique to turn $10 into $10,000 quickly, why are they …

Categories: Getting Started

Personal Finance 101: Comparing Saving and Investing

Just the other day, I was sitting at my favorite local library (if you happen to go there at the right time, you’ll probably find me sitting at a table with a notebook open in front of me with several personal finance, career, time management, and self-improvement books piled around me). I was browsing through …

The Money Trade

If I had to point to one idea that really shook my financial thinking and showed me the value of turning my finances around, it was the concept of exchanging my life’s energy for money, as explained in the wonderful book Your Money or Your Life. The idea is actually pretty simple on the surface. …

Projection and the Spotlight Effect

All of us want to be socially accepted. We want to have people respect and like us in the community and we also want to avoid easy criticism. For many of us, the solution to that challenge is to “project.” We spend time thinking about how we appear to others and then look for ways …

The Internal Feeling of Success

I don’t think there’s a better feeling in the world than having succeeded at some large goal. That moment when you send in your last mortgage payment? It’s magic. That day when you sign the papers to get your first novel published? Unparalleled. That day you managed that ten minute or eight minute or six …

Categories: Getting Started

20 Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Fund

At some point in your life, one or more of the following is going to happen to you. There will likely be moments where several of these happen at once. You lose your job and can’t quickly find another one at the same level of pay. The property tax bill you forgot about is due. …

Categories: Getting Started

The Idea Behind Habits

Whenever I want to make a positive change appear in my life, I usually approach it in one of two ways. I either try to get rid of a bad habit or I try to establish a good habit. Habits are at the center of both of those ideas. It’s around that hinge of habits …

Little Earthquakes

As much as I enjoy parenting, there are moments when it’s quite stressful and it just leaves me feeling miserable. As I’m writing this, a moment like this just passed. I was trying to get my three children ready for bed, but instead they chose to run in opposite directions. While focusing on my youngest …

Categories: Getting Started

Reflections on a Tiny House

Over the past week, I’ve been fascinated by a number of articles describing tiny homes – those measuring 100 square feet or smaller. Here’s an example: This type of house is outside the realm of possibility of most families. It would work for many single people and some couples, but I can’t imagine the five …

Living Life

One of the biggest arguments against being “frugal” is that it restricts you from “living life.” Whenever I hear that argument, I usually think that the person involved isn’t actually being frugal at all. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that making frugal choices actually does the opposite – it enables …

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 …

Categories: Getting Started

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 …

Categories: Getting Started

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 …

Categories: Getting Started

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 …