Getting Started

Making an Unconventional Choice

Currently, we have exactly one television in our home. I use that television approximately two hours a week. If it were solely up to me, I would simply disconnect it and go without a television. To my extended family (and probably to quite a few readers), this is just bizarre. My parents have four televisions …

Categories: Getting Started

Avoiding Doing It Yourself

I like doing things myself, whenever I can do it. Yesterday, when I posted a list of eight DIY tasks for spring, I relish the opportunity to do things like that. Sometimes, I even go beyond what I think I should be doing … in fact, that’s why our basement toilet has the water supply …

Eight Simple Money Saving Do-It-Yourself Tasks to Do This Spring

Spring is here! (At least, according to the calendar. We received about an inch of snow overnight, which I hope will be the last snow until the late fall.) For the five of us in central Iowa, spring means that it’s time to get outdoors again after a long winter. We usually gorge on the …

Little Excuses

I’m not going to set up my Roth IRA today. It’s complicated and I feel kind of tired. I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m not going to exercise today. My leg is a little sore and I have this project I’m working on… I’ll exercise tomorrow. I’m not going to shop around for insurance today. I …

Categories: Getting Started

Personal Finance 101: What Is a Dividend?

A few days ago, I was working on an article where I referred to dividends. Since I didn’t really provide any sort of explanation of what dividends were, I went looking for an article where I explained in detail what a dividend actually is and, to my amazement, I never found a good, thorough explanation …

Swinging for the Fences or Settling for a Single

Several different books I’ve read in the last few years – Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers being one – have argued that the best way (without an inherent genetic advantage) to become an “outlier” in a particular skill is to practice a tremendous amount. The number often used is 10,000 hours of practice. If you divide that …

A Day of Consumption

One of my favorite achievements during my early financial recovery was discovering the power of “money free weekends” and, later, “money free weeks.” Money free weekends are a really powerful way to keep your spending in check – and it’s also a great way to discover free things that you enjoy doing. Here are 100 …

Personal Finance 101: Percentages

Markie writes in: My biggest struggle with personal finance is the numbers. I am terrible at math. When I look at percentages and stuff, I just want to lock down and tune out. This is actually a pretty common thing. One of the brightest people I know – an amazing writer who is a creator …

Categories: Getting Started

Ten Useful Things To Do With Your Tax Return Money

We try really hard to not get a tax return each year. For the last several years, we’ve usually had to pay some money on April 15, which is fine with us – that means more money for us throughout the year. For many people, March and April means that a sizable check will arrive …

Categories: Getting Started

How I Made a Pocket Recording System Work for Me

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I rely heavily on a pocket notebook for recording ideas and jotting down expenses or things I want to investigate further. At least once a day, I run through these notes and deal with them in whatever way is appropriate for each note. I have found this system invaluable …

On Splurging and Regret

About a month ago, I spent about $150 on a giant pile of used books for a tabletop role playing game. A friend of mine was moving out of the country so I “borrowed ahead” on my personal spending money and dove in headfirst. I deeply enjoy tabletop role playing games and I will likely …

Categories: Getting Started

The Gap Is More Important Than Anything (At First)

Quite a few of the letters in the reader mailbag boil down to figuring out which of two or three options is the highest priority. People will want to compare investing options to paying down their mortgage or whether they should have an emergency fund or pay off a credit card. The reality is that …

Categories: Getting Started

Feeling Defeated? Here’s How to Rebound

Sometimes, no matter what you do, life will hand you some lemons. It’s really easy to respond to that with a trite “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Things you’ve been preparing for and working on for years have blown up in your face. The big dreams you …

Walking the Tightrope

I was really affected by this story about Travonn Barnett, a young man working for $10 an hour as a security guard and struggling deeply with his money. When you figure up the numbers, he’s walking a financial tightrope every day. Here’s his reality: His weekly checks range from $189 to $308, after taxes and …

Categories: Getting Started

A Deeper Look at Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps

I would estimate that as many as 10% of the emails I receive from readers reference the books, classes, or radio shows of Dave Ramsey. For those unfamiliar, Dave Ramsey hosts a weekly radio show on personal finance topics and focuses on straightforward but tough plans for handling personal finance challenges. The centerpiece of Dave’s …

A Great Weekend

My three year old son loves to cuddle with me first thing in the morning. He’ll climb into bed, find a warm spot next to me, and then lay there for a while. He’ll whisper things in my ear and squirm around, but he mostly lays still and sometimes dozes a little bit. I’ll see …

Categories: Getting Started

Establishing a Difficult but Rewarding Habit

The process of moving from spending all that you earn (or more) to spending significantly less than you earn is an absolutely essential part of gaining control over your finances – and it’s not easy. It involves upsetting a lot of the habits that you’ve established in your life. At the same time, you also …

Letting Up

When people find themselves first recovering from financial disaster, they often bear down very hard on every dime. They scrutinize every expense and every receipt, looking for a way to squeeze a few more dollars out of their life so that they can push down those debts a little bit. At that point, fear is …

Handling Social Reactions to Changes in Your Spending

When I first started cutting back on my spending, a significant portion of my social group took notice. They saw that I was less interested in expensive excursions like golfing and that I was sometimes skipping after-work meetups (and drinking only water at most of the ones I attended). Quite a few of the people …