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 …

The Art and Psychology of Self-Control

One of the most difficult aspects of personal finance – for me, at least – is the art of self-control. I have always found it difficult to just say “no” to my spending temptations. For many years, I’ve found success in putting up barriers. This works, to a large extent. By making it more difficult …

Chasing Money

“Don’t think money does everything, or you are going to end up doing everything for money.” – Voltaire It’s not too uncommon for a frugal person to hear the criticism that they are “cheap.” At the same time, it’s also not too uncommon for a wealthy person to hear the criticism that they are somehow …

Categories: Getting Started

The Challenge of the “Best” Choice

As I write this article, my three year old son is perched on my lap with my arms around him. He’s playing with one of his favorite toys, a Transformer that’s easy to transition from a fire truck to a robot, and he’s telling me stories about them. He’s happy and safe and secure sitting …

“If Only I Had This Thing, I Would Be Happy”

Something has captured your imagination or your heart. Maybe it’s an expensive physical item, like a tablet computer or a shiny car. Maybe it’s something like a relationship with another person, either real or visualized. You get wrapped up in this thing that you want. You keep visualizing yourself with this thing in your life …

Approaching Fears

All of us have a fear or two that keeps us up through the night. Maybe it’s debt or being unable to take care of your family. Maybe it’s a lack of money for retirement. Maybe it’s a health issue or early death. My biggest fear, without a doubt, is passing away before my children …

Categories: Getting Started

Failing at Personal Finance

Recently, I’ve been reading the wonderful book The Up Side of Down by Megan McArdle, someone whose writings I’ve enjoyed for a very long time. The premise of the book is that, at some point in our lives, we’re going to fail. We’ll fail at a relationship or at launching a business or at a …

Categories: Getting Started

Does the Investing Advice of a Billionaire Help Ordinary People?

A reader passed along this interesting interview from the Wall Street Journal with Mark Cuban. For those unfamiliar, Cuban is a billionaire who made a significant amount of his wealth in the early days of the internet era. His argument in this interview? Diversification is “for idiots.” First of all, let’s talk about what diversification …

Don’t Cut Spending Where It Hurts

The one part about turning around your personal finance situation that everyone dreads is the cutbacks. It’s easy to see why. Your normal, everyday life is what has led you to this financial corner. In order to turn the ship around, you’re going to have to make some changes to your normal, everyday life. People …

The False Belief of Invincibility

When things are going well, it can be really easy to buy into your own invincibility. You can’t possibly lose your job. You’re dominating in the workplace and taking care of everything that can be asked of you. Your performance numbers are incredible. You can’t possibly get sick. You feel great and your health has …

Categories: Getting Started

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

A long time ago, I wrote an extremely well-received post in which I outlined the basics of personal finance on the back of five business cards. After that, I converted the cards into a presentation that I’ve used many times when I’ve been invited to speak on personal finance topics in my area. A few …

Categories: Getting Started

Forgotten Purchases

Forgetting purchases is my number one personal finance challenge. How does one “forget” a purchase, you might ask? It’s pretty easy. I’ll buy something, but then I’ll forget to take note of it later on where I keep track of my personal spending. Then, later on in the month, it will appear as though I …

Categories: Getting Started