Many newer readers of The Simple Dollar haven’t been exposed to the hundreds of great articles in the archives of the site, so this is a weekly series that highlights the five best posts from one year ago this week, two years ago this week, and three years ago this week. I call it … the Time Machine. One Year Ago (July 25 – July 31, 2009) Does Earning More Trump Frugality? To me, it’s kind of like asking if …

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What’s on the table this summer? Tuna Melts After returning home from two weeks of vacation, my wife and I planned out a very nice summery meal that would have made a great post for the Summer Meal Series. It required one key portion of the meal – either a pork shoulder or a few chicken breasts, depending on which way you wanted to go – to cook all day on low in a crock pot, then be used at …

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A good goal, no matter how big it is, gives you an exact target to shoot for, a way of measuring your progress towards that goal, and the possibility of activity today to move you towards that goal. At the start of my financial journey, I had no specific goals, either in the short term or the long term. That’s not to say that Sarah and I never thought about the future – we certainly did. The problem is that …

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I surrounded myself with friends who constantly encouraged poor financial choices. Most of my social circle during my early professional years consisted of people who placed a great deal of social worth on consumption. Respect and friendship were doled out based on the elecronics you owned, the clothes you wore, the golf clubs you had, the places you ate at, and so on. If you showed up to a social event with a new cell phone or a new driver, …

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What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. A pile of problems 2. Financially helping a boyfriend 3. Vinegar and water for cleaning 4. What debt comes first? 5. Subsistence farming 6. How much term insurance? 7. Thoughts on iPad 8. Entrepreneurship gone bad 9. Cell phones gone wild 10. Powdered homemade laundry detergent Taking a five day trip, …

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I treated my credit card as my emergency fund. In late 2004, the brakes failed (in a nearly catastrophic fashion) on my 1997 Ford F150. For whatever reason, the brake cylinders chose to collapse as I was attempting to stop at a stoplight. I nearly caused a very large accident, but I managed to get stopped after swerving into another lane and running a red light. The repair bill was pretty significant – about $300 more than I currently had …

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All through my life, I’ve spent time memorizing various poems. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. anyone lived in a pretty how town by e. e. cummings. Pioneers! O Pioneers! by Walt Whitman (probably my favorite). I like the way the sounds roll off the tongue and paint pictures. I like reciting them (or pieces of them) to my children. I like the flavor of the words. How to Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude Lately, I’ve been focused on …

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Gifts and Choices

July 28 2010

Recently, I came across (via jason kottke) a brilliant commencement speech given at Princeton by Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon. The main focus of Bezos’ speech was the difference between gifts and choices. Here’s an excerpt: What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your …

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I bought many expensive (and inexpensive) items without adequate time to enjoy them. One of the most cathartic things I did in the immediate aftermath of the choice to turn my financial life around was to simply go through our apartment in order to collect stuff to sell in order to give a big initial boost to our debt repayment. Accumulating Unnecessary Items What shocked me wasn’t so much the amount of accumulated stuff, but the amount of stuff that …

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I had a child without understanding the financial consequences of it. When I was in college, one of my closest friends was a young woman whose parents had conceived her at pretty much the last possible moment from a biological standpoint. While she had a great relationship with her parents, I couldn’t help but see that she would be facing end-of-life issues with them at a much earlier point than I would be. Her parents wouldn’t be able to be …

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