• Update on the Flooding in Iowa … And Some Tips on Protecting Yourself

    Hundreds of people have emailed me asking questions about the current flooding situation in Iowa. Has my home been affected? How bad is it really? Well, I’ll let the front page of the Des Moines Register speak for itself. Where I’m at (luckily), there’s been only minor ill effect. We’ve had some minor flash flooding …

  • Does It Make Financial (and Social) Sense to Consider Moving?

    My recent career change means that I now have the freedom to write from wherever I happen to be. Similarly, my wife can pretty easily find work in any sufficiently-sized town – her skill set and resume would make her an attractive candidate pretty much anywhere. Given that we currently live in one of the …

  • The Nonsense of “Rent Vs. Buy Myths That Ruined the Housing Market”

    Earlier today, I ran across an article at eFinanceDirectory entitled Rent vs. Buy Myths That Ruined the Housing Market. Amazingly, this article was being linked to by a number of reputable blogs – apparently ones who haven’t actually done the research and investigated the real scoop behind the issues in the housing market. First of …

  • The Why and How of a Household Inventory

    One personal finance project that a lot of people overlook is the household inventory. It’s one of those “once in a great while” tasks that’s easy to overlook and forget about, but it’s not very hard and it can pay huge dividends if you’re carrying homeowners’ or renters’ insurance and something goes wrong with your …

  • Investing Versus Paying Ahead on Your Mortgage: Which Makes More Sense?

    Recently, I mentioned a Consumer Reports article that encouraged people to invest instead of paying ahead on their mortgage. It left me thinking quite a bit about debt repayment and how I should handle my mortgage. Our situation My wife and I are planning on eliminating our student loans in the next year to a …

  • The Finances and Interactions of Alternative Living Arrangements

    Recently, there has been some talk in our house of inviting my wife’s sister to live with us on a permanent basis (in fact, my wife and I have already extended the invitation and she is thinking about it, though it is far far far from a done deal). We have the room to allow …

  • Eight Frugal Ways To Face An Iowa Winter

    The northern Midwest often faces some very rough winters, often including periods of many days with temperatures below zero Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius). Since I’m about to face my first winter as a homeowner, I spent some time contacting many of the homeowners I know in the area and asking for tips on reducing winter heating …

  • The City Versus Rural Debate: Which Is The Better Place To Live?

    In the past, I have made many references to my preference for living in a small town over living in an urban area. For me, there’s no question – the advantages of small town rural life far outweigh the advantages of city living. That’s not to say that I think city living is foolish – …

  • The One Hour Project: Do Some Preventative Maintenance

    This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices. Preventative mainentance is a phrase that makes many homeowners’ eyes glaze over. For many busy people, there’s nothing more …

  • The Do-It-Yourself Dilemma: When Things Go Wrong

    For the most part, I prefer doing home maintenance tasks myself rather than hire someone to do the tasks for me. It saves on labor costs and I often learn a new thing or two during the process. But I also know that different projects require varying levels of home repair experience — when do …

  • Is A Roommate Worth The Financial Benefit?

    A new graduate is wondering about the financial benefits of having a roommate – are they worth the drawbacks? I’m finally at a place where I’m able to afford living alone – and though I much prefer the cost savings of having a roommate (about $400 a month) I’m heavily considering living alone. My only …

  • The Lawn Care Dilemma: How Much Time And Effort Should You Spend?

    I had been considering writing a post about lawn care for a while now, but I had decided to wait until early spring to face the topic. That is, until a reader wrote to me with the following question: I am curious about your opinion concerning lawn care. The weather in Indiana was a killer …

  • Six Maintenance Lessons I’ve Learned During My First Month As A Homeowner

    As a first-time homeowner, there are a lot of things going on in the house that were basically a mystery to me. Being the curious sort, I’ve wanted to understand why things are happening, how things work, and how I can keep them working well. This has resulted in a few interesting lessons that are …

  • Two Commenters Disagree: Why Risk Is Interesting

    Recently, two commenters disagreed strongly in a thread about 15 year versus 30 year mortgages. I thought they both made a worthwhile point in a way because they are both looking at risk, but in completely different ways. Tristan wrote first: Mortage=Risk, No Mortgage=No Risk=No interest payments=you work for yourself not the bank. Debt is …

  • 30 Year Versus 15 Year Mortgages Continued: What About Income Tax?

    Earlier this week, I compared the real cost of 15 and 30 year mortgages of $200,000 at the current market rates, assuming 4% inflation on average over those years. It turned into an interesting discussion that’s well worth reading. The high point: The fifteen year mortgage is still cheaper, but by much less than before. …

  • A Down Payment Dilemma: Buy A Car Or Keep Saving For A House?

    Jerry wrote in recently with the following problem: I and my wife are both graduate students; we recently paid off all our debts and started on a savings plan for the next few years that I am hoping will be our big downpayment on our first home. With our current salaries, we have been saving …

  • Fixed Rate Mortgages: Are 15 Year Mortgages Really Cheaper Than 30 Year Mortgages?

    I recently read an article at Finance is Personal entitled Why You Shouldn’t Get A 30 Year Mortgage. It presents a great argument for why one should get a 15 year mortgage and not a 30 year mortgage – you pay fewer dollars in the long run because of the lower interest rate and fewer …

  • A Few Notes About Private Mortgage Insurance And Other Debts

    Note: I was informed by several readers that PMI traditionally stands for private mortgage insurance, so I updated the article to reflect that. Many first time homebuyers are daunted with the prospect of saving up six figures to afford that 20% down payment, so they often take out home mortgages for less than a 20% …

  • Using Mozilla Sunbird To Schedule Infrequent Home Maintenance Tasks – And Other Irregular Tasks

    A while back, I posted an extensive checklist of monthly home maintenance tasks. There were some items on the list that didn’t need to be done every single month, but most of them are really quite useful to do each month if you want to keep your house in tip-top shape. There’s one big problem, …