Reader Mailbag #45

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags.

As usual, we’ll start things off with a few links to older articles that directly answer questions I’ve heard recently. Here are some thoughts on preparing to add an additional child to your family.
The Financial Implications Of A Second Child
The Financial Implications of a Third Child
Money and the Two Year Old Child

And now for some reader questions!

My daughter graduated college in May and has a pretty good job working for salary plus commission. She is still living at the college level – sharing a house, living low on the status chain, etc. She has no debts. She is also saving 10% of every paycheck (it’s in CDs and ING at the moment). Where would you suggest she invest her savings? I figure she is in a great “no lose” situation with regards to the current stock market and should be buying in, since it’s so low. Is this a good idea? Where would she go to accomplish this?
– Debbie

I don’t particularly believe in market timing when it comes to personal investments. We do not know what the future holds, though we can make some reasonably educated guesses about it.

The question one should really focus on is their personal risk tolerance. Are you okay with putting your savings at risk in the stock market given ho turbulent it can be? Take a look at the annual returns of the S&P 500 from 2003 to 2007 – -23.37%, 26.39%, 9.00%, 3.01%, 12.80%, and 3.81% – and I’m not even including the nightmarish 2008 return in that. That kind of turbulence is enough to make many people’s stomachs churn.

Talk to your sister about her goals and find out about how much risk she can tolerate. Those will be your best signs as to how she should invest.

What games do you usually play with your wife during the kid’s nap time?
– Ed

For those unaware, I mentioned before that on days when my wife and I are both at home and the children are napping, we tend to play a game together while they sleep if there’s nothing pressing that needs to be done.

We usually play board games, actually – ones that work well with two players. Our favorites include Ticket to Ride and Puerto Rico.

On occasion, we’ll play video games, and when we’re playing together it’s almost always Wii Sports or Guitar Hero: World Tour.

Aside from making more money, do you have any advice for someone who might suddenly have a school-age child to take care of?
– Griffin

Spend as much time as you possibly can with that child. Quality time, too, where you’re both engaged in an activity together. Communicate extensively. Ask lots of questions about what the child is doing and let the child follow up.

At the same time, don’t be a pushover – you are the guardian and you need to set boundaries and rules.

A strong relationship with the child is far more important than having plenty of money. Many career-oriented parents who focus on working themselves to the bone so their child can have “everything” sometimes forget that, even though their hearts are often in the right place.

Do you ever find it difficult to come up with topics to write about?
– Meg

Not usually. I sometimes have a hard time getting back on track after I take an extended break from writing, like when my family goes on vacation. The week after such a trip is usually pretty painful, as I’ve fallen out of my writing routines.

The best antidote for that is to simply keep my idea notebook with me at all times. I just keep a little notebook that fits in my pocket along with a pen, and whenever I have the nucleus of an idea for a post, I grab that notebook and jot my idea down quickly. Then, when I’m faced with a period of writing, I simply turn to my notes and I’m ready to go with plenty of ideas.

How do I deal with parents who have absolutely no idea how to manage money? They have declared bankruptcy once, and are close to doing it again. My mom literally has a room full of clothes, but not enough money to fix the car when it breaks down. My husband and I have our financial house in pretty good order, and sometimes I just want to shake them and yell, “It’s not that hard!” What can I do? Is there anything I can do? I hate seeing them head down this path, but I honestly feel very hopeless. Thanks!
– Michelle

You can’t make people have a money epiphany – they have to find that path for themselves. The best thing you can do is keep your financial house nice and tidy and set a good example as to how to manage your money.

The question I would have in your situation is how your parents are planning for retirement. Do they have any plans? Are you their plan?

Other than that (because it will impact what you’re doing in the future), you need to let them live their own life. Just make it clear to them that if they want to talk about money, you’re ready, willing, and able to talk about it.

Is the new version of Your Money or Your Life worth picking up if you have the old one?
– Bill

In the new version, virtually nothing has changed conceptually from the earlier book. Based on my browsing of the new version, there seems to be just a bit of updating and modernization, but Dominguez and Robin’s message is basically untouched.

You know what? That’s how it should be. Your Money or Your Life – or at least the basic message of it – is timeless. There’s no need to update it. There’s no reason to update it, other than to polish up a few numbers and specifics.

It’s simply the best personal finance book I’ve ever read, and I wouldn’t change a word (unless it were to polish up a fact).

What back-up is there [for online banking] if there is an overall problem with the internet? Or satellites? Will you have a record of your money, and be able to get at it easily?
– kristine

This isn’t just a concern with online banking. Virtually every bank is run electronically – all of their records and data are stored in databases, and there are many disasters that could put a serious crimp in your ability to clearly and fairly access your money.

My solution is to just print off regular statements from my online banking account (I use ING Direct). I have a printed-off record of transactions, account information, current balances, and so on.

In the end, this is the same protection you have with your local bank. The mere fact that there happens to be a branch office down the road doesn’t really make that much of a difference. You can march in there and demand all you want, but if an apocalyptic scenario happens, the door will likely be locked.

When you went away to college, did you have friends that you knew from high school at college or were you “on your own”? How did you make friends? I’m leaving for university in the fall and I know no one that attends the school. I’m not particularly social, but I have nightmares about sitting alone in my dorm room all the time.
– Len

I was “on my own.” I knew no one at the school I attended, at least for the first year (the next year, my wife-to-be started attending and I had already known her before college).

I met most of the people that I became close with on my dorm floor. I simply made a conscious effort to meet everyone on the floor and eat with all of them in the cafeteria a few times to see who I clicked with. One of the people I met on my dorm floor wound up being the best man at my wedding seven years later – another one drove ten hours to attend the wedding.

I also joined a lot of groups on campus that were centered around my own interests. I wound up becoming heavily involved with one of them, built friendships with two other people who attended my wedding (each driving about three hours to attend), and that group wound up paving my way directly into my first post-graduation job.

What are your feelings about investing in gold bullion?
– Arne

While I can see the use for investing in rare metals if you have a very large portfolio and you want to diversify further, I don’t see a strong case for actually having gold coins or gold bars in your home. How exactly will you easily liquidate those assets? Will gold coins and gold bars suddenly become valuable?

The only scenarios I’ve seen where a good conclusion comes from owning a bunch of gold at home are ones that involve a global financial meltdown like the world has never seen without a resulting civil war or other catastrophe.

Natural disasters don’t cut it, either – did you see people trading in gold after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans?

While it might be symbolic to directly own a bit of gold bullion, if you’re going to invest in it, just buy a rare metals fund from a reputable brokerage (like Vanguard).

What personal finance guru do you like the most? The least?
– Charlie

For the most part, I think most of the “personal finance gurus” provide sound advice, and I don’t really have anything against most of them. Your Money or Your Life is my favorite personal finance book, but I’m not sure if I’d call Vicki Robin a “personal finance guru.” I’d probably have to vote for Dave Ramsey – his debt plan is simple and easy to follow and he’s got the “coaching” aspect of it down cold.

My least favorite is Robert Kiyosaki. I found Rich Dad, Poor Dad to be largely insulting, although I can see how it might be inspiring to people who are entrepreneurial but haven’t actually invested any time in deep reading or deep contemplation about what they want to do. I have no respect for anyone who refers to people who choose to work a 9-5 job as “hamsters”.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll use them in future mailbags.

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  1. KC says:

    To Debbie – Make sure your daughter has an adequate emergency fund in cash (CD or high interest bank account). Since her monthly expenses are pretty low she should probably have 6 months saved (or probably $6000). If she is in a car accident then she might need to buy a new one before the slow insurance company sends her a check. Or she might need to pay for repairs. I’ve learned from experience that you can’t have too much cash on hand. When I was her age $6000 seemed like a small fortune to have in cash, but looking back there were times when I should have kept more than the $2k I usually kept on hand.

  2. Johanna says:

    @Debbie: What is your daughter saving for? If the savings are for retirement (as at least some of them should be), then stocks are the way to go. A recent college graduate has decades to go before she retires, and the ups and downs of the market will average out over the long haul.

    If she’s saving for a shorter-term goal (car, house, wedding…) then the question becomes, how important is it for her to have a given amount of money at a given time? If some of her wedding fund (for example) is in stocks and the stock market tanks, she could either delay her wedding or have a smaller wedding. Would she be okay with taking that risk? That’s a more concrete and relevant question than, “Does the thought of seeing your account value drop by 25% make your stomach churn?”

  3. two of my best guy friends and one of my best girl friends attended the same college as me, but I chose to live in a different dorm than them. Most of my best friends met in school were in the dorm. One was my roomate for the last 3 years there.

    I still hung out with my best friends, those two guys are two of my groomsmen in my upcoming wedding. But you will have no trouble finding friends in the dorm.

    I like Ramsey as well. His plan does not make the most sense from a mathematic perspective, but psychologically it’s hands down the best.

  4. Johanna says:

    @Len: College is probably the easiest setting for socializing that you’ll ever encounter. I’m not a particularly social person either, and there were only a few people at my university that I knew beforehand (and I wasn’t close friends with any of them), but I ended up making a lot of friends.

    Unlike Trent, I didn’t really “click” with any of the people in my freshman dorm. But my university offered the chance to join a “selective living group” where people with similar interests could all live together (like fraternities based on activities other than keg parties). I joined one of those in my sophomore year, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    I agree with Trent’s advice that you should join extracurricular groups based on your interests, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to join “a lot” of them. If you’re joining groups just for the sake of joining groups, it’s very easy to burn yourself out. It may be better to stick to just a few that you really enjoy.

    Also, do not underestimate the power of study groups. I changed my major at the end of my sophomore year, and I didn’t know anybody in my new department. But one day after class I saw some people talking about organizing a study session for an upcoming exam, and I said, “Hey, can I study with you guys?” and they said “Sure!” and they ended up becoming some of my closer friends too.

  5. Kiran says:

    @Len: Of the five closest friends I have from college, one was from my home town (we weren’t really friends in high school though; literally he was the quaterback, and I was the nerdiest geek), two lived down the hall freshman year, one I met thanks to those two, and the fifth I met sophomore year in the base course of my major.

    One word of advice, is seek out friendly sophomores (or older), who live down the hall. Assuming its two men to a dorm, they are likely to be good friends already, probably lived in that dorm the year before, and they have a whole year of the school experience in their belt. They, at the beginning, served as a focal point for our little community in 3rd floor NW.

  6. Melanie says:

    @Len: It sounds really cheesey, but if you’re going to be in a dorm, make sure you have both a good stapler with a full supply of staples and a good, sturdy hole-punch. When the first round of papers is due, you will be everyone’s best buddy if you have those two essential tools, which are two tools people often forget that they’ll need. Just make sure you spend a minute or two chatting with anyone who borrows your stuff – the assignment they’re about to hand in is a great topic to start with.
    Also, don’t lend your stuff out – make them come to you to use it!
    It sounds like a dumb idea, but I formed friendships with people I met that way, which was very valuable for a shy girl like me!

  7. Saver Queen says:

    Re: the Games – My partner and I love playing the Settlers of Catan (card game.) It’s involved, requires a lot of concentration and thought, is continually changing, and tons of fun. We have saved a lot of money but playing this engaging game at home. A glass of wine or hot chocolate or snack make it a great evening.

    Re: Your Money or Your Life – haven’t read the new version. It’s a brilliant classic. I do wonder if they updated some of the funny outdated stuff in there. As much as I love that book some things are pretty ridiculous – like their suggestion to buy a mobile home instead of a house or apartment.

  8. liv says:

    To Len:
    Everyone is right. Join groups. Keep track of the calendar, most colleges have an “Organization night” where all the school’s organizations try to get you to join. Mine did. I picked some athletics and some academic orgs that surrounded my major. Pick whatever interests you. Good luck!

  9. leslie says:

    I went to a college 800 miles away from home and didn’t know anyone! I definitely was not social but since there were so many free events around campus, I attended a few (movie nights, craft nights) and met some people there.

    All of my serious college friends I just met through classes. Between group projects and study groups, you end up seeing a lot of these people anyway so it’s just inevitable that they turn into friends.

    I also used the free gym facilities on campus and started talking to some of the people who I saw there every day. Even just chatting with people at bus stops and such is an easy way to be social.

  10. K says:

    I think a couple of your answers are a little simplistic.

    For the college graduate, the 1st thing she should do is set up a small emergncy fund (which she probably already has) then start saving for retirement. 1st choice would be a 401k with employer match, 2nd choice is a Roth IRA. Stocks are always a good choice for long term investing. After she’s done that she should pay off any debts, continue to beef up her emergency fund and start saving for the next major purchase (such as a car or house down payment). These savings should be mostly cash investments depending on the time frame.

    For the person with a school aged child to take care of, Trent’s advice is right on that a relationship with the child is most important, especially since the child may still be dealing with whatever issues landed him with a new caregiver. Even though you don’t need a lot of money, you will need to adjust your budget and lifestyle since this expense may not have been something you were planning on. Shop second hand for clothes, clip coupons, and maybe look into saving at least a little for college. Also make an effort to get involved with the child’s school and meet other parents.

  11. Carrie says:

    I have a question to add to your list.

    When shopping for a used car do you think it is better to focus on a younger car with higher mileage or a older car with lower mileage?

    (For example, choosing between 2 Honda Civics of equal price; One is a 2005 with 30k miles and one is a 2007 with 60k miles.)

  12. Elizabeth says:

    How do you play Puerto Rico with just two people?

    Also, if you don’t have the Switzerland expansion of Ticket to Ride, it works much better for 2 people than the original.

  13. almost there says:

    Carrie @ 12:12, I think that would depend on if you are going to purchase the car for a short time and then sell it. The newer car would have the higher retail if you didn’t drive it much. But if you plan to drive it into the ground, there isn’t much difference between the 05 and 07 so go with the lower miles, = less wear and tear before tihe time you owned it. But have the cars checked out to see which is the better mechanically. I purchased in 03 a 94 Civic del Sol
    as an entry level car with modern safety (4 wheel disc brakes and 2 airbags) for a new driver in my family. It had 140K on it and now has almost 227K on it, proving that oil changes per the maint. manual (every 7500K in this case) and proper maint.- Brakes, tires, timing belt, water pump, will keep the car running a lot longer.

  14. mel says:

    I met one of my very best friends from college when she came and knocked on my door and said she was making a late night run to Waffle House and did we (my roomie and I) want to join her.

    The other thing to do to make friends at college- leave your door open if you are just watching TV or goofing off. Door Closed= Do Not Disturb. Door Open= Come in!

  15. I totally agree with your assessment of Robert Kiyosaki. Anyone who would rather live out of their car than take a job that might detract them from becoming a millionaire should have their head examined.

  16. imelda says:

    Debbie–If it helps you to know what others are doing, I graduated from college in 07 and I am buying more aggressively into the stock market, putting more money than usual into my IRAs. Based on what I’ve read from all the financial gurus, this down market is a blessing for young people like me– buy low, sell high, after all. This market guarantees that we buy low, and since we won’t be retiring for something like 40 years, we will have plenty of time to recover any losses!

    As Trent says, you never know what will happen. But we can only base our expectations and plans on history. And based on history, every financial guru I have ever read would tell your daughter and me to buy now.

    Michelle– Oh, man. I feel your pain. For years, ever since I cottoned on to personal finance as a hobby, I have been trying to change my parents. No, better put, I’ve been trying to SAVE my parents. But it can’t be done. The best I can do, I’ve decided, is to build up my own finances as much as possible, so I can help out my parents when they really need it.

    I do have one encouraging piece of advice– when I lived at home, I would watch Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, etc. on the TV. I talked to my parents about the emergency fund I was building for myself, and included them in my retirement planning. And over the past year, I have seen my Mom start an emergency fund (she now has $3K saved), and my Dad start watching Dave Ramsey’s show and looking for alternate income streams. I honestly think this happened so suddenly because I added personal finance discussion to their environment. Maybe they still have nothing saved for retirement (yeah, they’re 59) and maybe they still are hopelessly in debt. But they’re a little better off now than they used to be. And it’s not because I talked to them or scolded them about their finances, it’s not because I pushed them into having a money “epiphany,”–as Trent says, you can’t do it for them. But I think I’ve changed their mindset a little bit because they’ve seen me behave differently.

    Sometimes children, as much as parents, can lead by example.

  17. CPA Kevin says:

    Trent – I agree 100% on Your Money or Your Life. I just finished it a couple weeks ago and it has me thinking about my life and where to go from here. Thanks for the recommendation.

    @Len – I agree with everyone above on meeting people at college. Virtually everyone is in the same boat as you – going alone trying to meet new people. I am one of the shyest people you will meet, talking and being in large groups used to really freak me out, but you can’t help but be social in that kind of environment. Look at different campus organizations and groups as well if you don’t click with anyone in your dorm. Also, I found I had a few of the same people in multiple classes since we shared majors. (This may not hold true for big schools, though.)

    I joined the roller hockey team my Sophomore year and I still talk to about 8-10 of those guys on a regular basis.

  18. IRG says:

    RE: Parents who went bankrupt and can’t manage their finances

    Trent, a bit disappointed with your answer here. Depending on their age, the kids may have to seriously step in and do some “tough love.” Especially if the parents are close to or are already in retirement.

    Because the likely scenario is that their kids will end up having to fund those parents’ lifestyles, which is way different than contributing to the care of our elders.

    We’ve been through this in our family with our late mother and it was a nightmare for all of us, since we were not (as many families are not) in the position of paying for her vast debits (that is excluding huge medical and related fees). We put ourselves and our family in jeopardy to ensure that she had things and it caused a lot of other problems and basically compromised what was already a difficult relationship.

    Parents who expect their children to just sweep up their financial messes, which happens all too often, are not acting like responsible people. And just because someone is your parent doesn’t mean you owe them your own financial stability and that of your family.

    This is a huge issue today that is rarely talked about. Parents of all ages and incomes face problems like huge medical debt, loss of jobs with no replacements and sights…things that can’t be controlled. But many more create their own messes with excessive spending and gambling. Gambling…as in spending hundreds of dollars a month on lottery tickets, for example, or lots of bingo on very limited income…is a huge, undiscussed problem.

    Even telling parents that you don’t have the resources to pay for them should they need huge monetary support isn’t enough to scare people who have money problems into getting help. They are very good at conning money out of family and friends, as we’ve seen first hand. Money that is NOT spent on food or other genuine needs.

    And the best way to help people with these kinds of problems is not to just pay their bills, if you even can. (It’s the reverse of what some families have where the parents basically subsidize adult children.)

    I’ve seen friends who were fiscally prudent, frugal and careful end up in dire straits because they had to basically compensate financially for the mistakes of their parents. (And if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s rarely a family with a good, close relationship where this happens. It’s all too often parents who put their kids through hell psychologically and financially while growing up who continue this into the future.)

    Wanting to help our elders as best we can is NOT the same thing as being responsible for folks who have deliberately (and I’m not talking about people who have lost in the stock market) been irresponsible with their money and who have often told others: Oh, let the kids take care of it.

    And we won’t even get into the expectations that some parents have that they should be able to just get into debt and assume that their wealthy and/or financially successful kids should just pay for it… BECAUSE. That’s a whole other issue.

  19. Carrie says:

    almost there @ 12:35 pm Thanks for the feedback! That is an excellent way to look at the problem and does help clear things up for me.

  20. pam munro says:

    For parents or friends who can’t handle money – I would suggest taking them to a local Debtor’s Anonymous Meeting – there they would find support in untangling their finances and figuring out why they have dug themselves into such a hole.

  21. Imani says:

    To IRG,

    Yikes! Parents actually do that? Really, really?

  22. Elisabeth says:

    @ Michelle – you might consider joining Wesabe, and posting your question in the community there. I’ve seen a couple other people post similar things there, so I’m sure there are people there who can relate.

  23. brooke says:

    Did anyone else notice that Debbie wrote about her daughter, and Trent responded to talk to her sister about her goals? Did I miss a reference to a sister?

  24. Sharon says:

    Len – I didn’t know anyone when I went to college either, and your fear was my greatest fear, too! I guess my solution was actually money-related. As a financial aid student, I had to get a campus job, starting just about in week 1. And that’s where I met my first friend. It turned out her birthday was in September. I thought this was a bum deal, as few people would know it was her birthday, so I made her a cake and brought it to share with the food crew on her birthday. Gradually, I met other people in my dorm (turns out my food-crew friend lived in my dorm too) and after that, I had a nice little circle of friends. Also, speaking of baking… I like to bake and our dorms had mini-kitchens. I found that if I baked cookies, a few people were sure to pop in the kitchen and say hello. Hang in there – it’s a tough transition, especially for an introvert, but everyone is right – surely there are others in the same boat.

  25. For the one about the daughter looking to invest. See if she would like to pick out a good mutual fund. Mutual funds are great for the passive investor.

    On my site I have an article about the 7 Best Mutual Funds for 2009 at: http://www.investorpitstop.com/page0/files/7-best-mutual-funds-for-2009

    I hope that helps!

  26. Noah says:

    Trent: Pick up Dominion for a two player game. It goes 2-4, but it’s the best two-player I’ve seen in years, and my fiancee and I consistently enjoy it. Seriously, you’ll really enjoy it.

  27. Missi says:

    Question for next week. With the LOST premiere on 1/21, what kind of predictions do you have for this season? Where do you think the island went? Do you think Jack can convince the rest to return? Do you think Jin is really dead? Any other thoughts you want to share?

  28. Mol says:

    I’ve been calculating my networth, and I was wondering. Is there a rule of thumb for guesstimating how much your cars value depreciates each month?

  29. Sara says:

    I am currently working with a Primerica (a citigroup company) financial rep. and he is trying to sell my husband and I on refinancing our mortgage. We built a new house and signed a 30 year mortgage (6% interest) about a year ago. The rep. says with a Primerica mortgage we would make a payment every 14 days instead of every month. The payment is applied immediately and the loan is reammortized (every 14 days). Every payment we make would pay more towards principle than with a regular bank. The rep says we could have our mortgage paid off in 22 years with lower monthly payments than we have now. He did say that the interest rate may be a little higher than what we are at currently. Is this a legit mortgage? Is it worth refinancing (and paying closing costs again)? Thanks!

  30. Lara says:

    What is your advise when one spouse wants to take control of a huge debt and work at paying it off (by the snowball method) and the other doesn’t agree and has no other plan? We are drowning in debt and my husband will not help me–he just pays the minimum payment and sometimes sends a little extra. We are also in our fifties and I worry about the future.

  31. Lauren says:

    Trent, have you heard of BrettspielWelt? It’s a client that allows you to play a large number of Eurogames online, with friends or strangers (my husband and I use it to play each other when we just want a quick game). It’s a good way to try out new games, and is legal as far as I can tell. A lot is in German, but there are handy tutorials available as well. Another good way to save money!

    (we use it mostly for Dominion. Just like Noah commented above, it’s a fantastic game. It is a lot easier to play on BSW, though, cause you don’t have to deal with shuffling)

  32. Johanna says:

    @Sara: Yes, it’s most likely legit (although I’m not sure how the rep figures that you’ll have lower monthly payments if the interest rate is higher); no, it’s not worth refinancing for.

    It’s not a magic trick – the idea is just that if you make half a payment every two weeks (instead of one full payment a month), that’s 26 half-payments in a year, or 13 full payments instead of 12. And even just paying that little bit extra is enough to shorten the term from 30 years to 22. That’s because in the early years of your mortgage, the vast majority of your payment goes toward interest. But the extra payment goes entirely toward the principal, so you’re drastically increasing the rate at which you’re paying down the principal.

    You can probably do pretty much the same thing with the mortgage you already have: In the months when you have three paychecks instead of two, make an extra half-payment on your mortgage. That’s it. 30-year term reduced to 22, and no refinancing required. (But first you should talk to your mortgage provider and ask what the rules are for making extra payments against the principal. Sometimes, I think, they require you to make an extra full payment or it doesn’t count.)

  33. Nate says:

    2 Questions:

    What happened to your Monthly Reviews?

    How can you handle the switch from a negative net worth (or net debt as you say) to a positive net worth???

  34. Kim says:

    A question for you, Trent:

    Last February, the interior door handle on the driver’s side of my car broke in a way that meant you could not open the car door from the inside. I figured out pretty quickly that I could open the door from the outside if I rolled down the window and used the exterior handle. So I didn’t do anything about it, figuring that since it wasn’t an emergency that impaired the operation the car, it wasn’t worth putting it on my credit card and since my emergency fund was drained at that time, I didn’t have the cash to fix it.

    Fast forward to where I’ve been opening my window to get out of the car for pretty much 11 months. This is generally not a big deal, since I only drive the car maybe twice a week (I live close enough to work to walk). Except, sometime over the summer my window went off its track and now doesn’t close properly. And then we got hit with a big snowstorm/extremely cold weather, which meant I had to drive, since I’m medically restricted from any outside activity if it’s under freezing. Well, of course the windows and doors froze shut on the car, so getting out of the car was becoming a quickly insurmountable challenge (I’m not that flexible and it’s a really little car). So I threw my hands up and took it to the mechanic. I’m still waiting to hear how much it’s going to be (I should know later today). My question is, at what point did I cross the line between frugality and well, idiocy? Or is there a line to cross? I thought it was a good idea to just put up with the inconvenience, but now I’m wondering if I should have got it fixed sooner (like, maybe before the window got messed up, although I don’t know that the two are related). Sometimes this frugal stuff is hard!

  35. Jason says:

    Trent – what is your opinion on engagement rings? I plan on proposing to my gf very soon – I am in my mid 20s, have no debt, a substantial emergency fund and a monthly income (after tax) of over $5,500. Do I really need to spend the 3 months of salary (ie over $16,000!) that most people/websites seem to be recommend??

  36. princess_peas says:

    One question I’ve been wondering about recently:

    I always seem to overrun when doing errands and hence end up really hungry in town. Aside from taking a packed lunch, what is the best way to eat something for cheap? Our town has supermarkets as well as Subway, McDonalds and the chippie (I’m in England) but getting bread & cheese or meat plus juice works out almost as expensive as just going to Subway and spending £6!

    I am reluctant to buy just crisps or a chocolate bar for about 50p because they won’t be filling for more than 20 minutes, if that, and have no nutrition at all. Any suggestions?

  37. almost there says:

    Kim, next time call dealer to see how much a new door handle is. Then shop for one on ebay. I did this for my car and really saved. Replacing them isn’t hard. One can go to a car freak site or just google “replace (car model year)interior door handle”

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