• Replacing Regular Purchases With One-Time Purchases

    Going to the grocery store is an exercise in frustration. Why? Almost everything you buy there is consumable. You buy it. You eat it or use it. Next week, you have to go back to the store and buy more. It’s an endless funnel of money straight out of your pocket. My solution to this …

  • Automating Small Decisions

    We have a programmable thermostat in our home. Twice per year, we change the programming on that thermostat – we have a set of “winter” temperatures and a set of “summer” temperatures that we put into the thermostat. The house’s temperature varies depending on our typical daily schedules which minimizes our energy usage. The temperature …

  • High Income, But Living Paycheck to Paycheck

    I receive emails quite regularly from people who are making well over $100,000 per year and yet are struggling to make ends meet. It doesn’t take much poking around on other personal finance websites to see that same story repeated many times over. For a long time, I struggled to understand why this was happening. …

  • Your Measuring Stick for Financial Success

    When I look around at the people in my life, I see some that are in very good financial shape and I see others that are in poor shape. I see some that live an affluent lifestyle, with annual international trips and new cars. I see others that live a much more stoic lifestyle as …

  • Working for Freedom

    When I left college in 2002 and stepped into my first professional job, I often felt as though I was working for the freedom to do what I wanted after work each day and on the weekends. I put in my eight to ten (or sometimes more) hours, so I should be able to live …

  • 5 Simple Ways to Make Any Financial Goal Easier to Achieve

    This article first appeared at U.S. News and World Report Money. All of us have financial dreams. We’d like to be completely free from debt. We’d like to retire early. We’d like to be able to build our dream home. We’d like to be able to pay for our children’s college education at a top …

  • What Defines Normal for You?

    A person’s sense of what’s normal in their life comes from the collection of decisions that they make over time. Sure, we all make some choices that are outside of our norm, but over time, it all averages out. We define ourselves by the choices we make on the whole. A person who chooses to …

  • “Getting Rich” Is a Code Word

    Whenever I go into a bookstore, I usually make a point of stopping by the personal finance section. I browse through the titles and usually take a moment or two to look through any books that I’m not familiar with that might be relevant to The Simple Dollar. One thing I can’t help but notice …

  • The Inner Child

    My three year old son is picky about what he eats, like most three year olds are. He doesn’t like most of the things that we serve for supper and isn’t afraid to be vocal about it. My six year old loves art projects. She draws and paints and cuts paper and glues things together. …

  • The Decision Stack

    Let’s say I’m sitting at a coffee shop waiting on a friend to arrive. I have a warm cup of something delicious on the table in front of me and I’m reading a website on my phone. It’s a simple story, right? However, it’s one built upon a stack of decisions with financial implications. Why …

  • The Idea of Cash Flow

    One idea I’ve mentioned regularly on The Simple Dollar is that of “cash flow.” It’s an accounting term that refers to the movement of money into or out of a business or project over a specified period of time. I really like to use the idea of “cash flow” to look at the state of …

  • Thoughts on the “52 Week Money Challenge”

    Several of my friends recently sent me copies of a “52 week money challenge” that several of them are doing to save up about $1,400 this year. The challenge is best described by this table: Note that I don’t have an actual source for this table. It was merely sent to me by multiple friends. …

  • Marketing, Frugality, and Fulfillment

    One of my favorite ideas I’ve ever come across in personal finance is the “fulfillment curve,” an idea I picked up from the wonderful book Your Money or Your Life. Here’s a simple conception of what it looks like (I’ll explain the numbers below): The idea is that once you reach a certain point, spending …

  • If the Reason You Earn Money Is Just to Spend It, You Will Always Financially Struggle

    The reason that people have jobs is so that they can earn money to pay the bills. You’ve got to earn money so that you can keep a roof over your head and food in your belly, right? Of course. We all have basic needs that we have to cover in our lives. Here’s the …

  • Are You Better Off Now Than You Were a Year Ago?

    For the last several years, I’ve done a personal “year in review” within a few days of the turning of the calendar. I sit down and try to assess, as clearly as I can, where I was a year ago, where I am now, and what I’ve improved. In short, I always try to answer …

  • It Doesn’t Matter How Much or How Little You Make

    I spent the last few hours preparing tomorrow morning’s Reader Mailbag column. The Mailbags require a ton of work, as I have to read through a small mountain of reader questions, eliminate some of them, give one or two of them a personal reply (because they genuinely need some help but they have far too …

  • Don’t Let Your Family Members Control Your Financial Decisions

    This article first appeared at US News and World Report Money It’s a pretty familiar refrain. “My parents think we should buy a house, but I don’t think our finances are ready for that.” “My grandfather says that only fools invest in the stock market.” “Uncle Lewis invests a lot of his money in gold …

  • How Phishing and Email Scams Work – and How You Can Avoid Them

    In yesterday’s reader mailbag, I answered a question from a reader who asked for simple ways to avoid identity theft online. I told the reader that the best thing that a person can do is to simply avoid clicking on links within emails. By the end of the day yesterday, I had several follow-up emails …

  • Finding a Middle Path

    The path that Sarah and I followed to find financial sanity seems extreme to a lot of readers. We gave up a lot of the “wants” in our life very quickly in order to turn our financial ship around. For us, this shift was possible because we discovered along the way that many of the …