Reader Mailbag #55

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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.
Should I Eliminate Financial Support For My Child After High School?
Lying to Yourself About Money (and Anything Else)
How Much Money Does Turning Off the Lights Really Save?

And now for some great reader questions!

The stimulus package might have some provisions in it for A) interest payments on auto loans, and B) sales tax on purchasing a new car. Will this affect your decision of when to buy a new vehicle if they make it through?
- Deborah

To a small extent, yes, but I don’t think it’ll have a big positive impact.

When such provisions go into effect, the car companies will pull back on some of their discounts immediately because these provisions will bring more customers onto the lot. In the end, you’ll likely end up paying a price that isn’t much different than you would have paid before the provisions went into effect.

We’re certainly aware of these provisions, but we’re not hanging our hat on them by any means.

How do you decide when to replace a washing machine?
- Lily

Here’s what we did recently when we had problems with our washing machine. We had a repairman come to our home to fix the washer. While he was working on it, I made some small talk with him. I asked him if the model we had typically has this problem or other problems. I asked a lot of questions about what he was fixing.

In a nutshell, I got him talking about what he knew, and he was pretty happy to share it.

Based on his comments, we decided to stick with the washer we have. He said multiple times that these washers were pretty sturdy until the motor goes, so we basically decided to stick with our washer until, well, the motor goes.

I am getting a $1500 bonus in mar 2009. my question to you is this what do you think about a wife not telling spouse about this cause if she does spouse will come up with a way to spend it. I am not telling him cause I want to save it for the future examp. car probs/ kids needs shoes/ mom needs to go grocery shopping. I know I should tell him but I have a secret stash that I keep and believe me I have saved my family when the crapper has hit the fan. what is your opinion on this. I am the saver/ spouse is and always will be the spender!!
- Eve

It seems like there’s quite a bit of mistrust going on in your marriage right now, and it needs to be resolved as soon as possible if you want to have a healthy long term marriage.

The first thing you need to approach is your spouse’s spending problems. Instead of attacking, I suggest simply talking to your partner about the goals and dreams you share. Work together to figure out what you both really want, then work from there to develop plans for reaching those goals. It’s a lot easier to turn around bad spending habits if you have something to work for.

You seem to want to save this windfall as an emergency fund. The honest thing to do is to simply tell your partner about the windfall and simply say that you’re going to hold onto it until an emergency occurs. Honesty is the foundation of a good marriage – no matter what you do, don’t hide the money.

What do you think of the vegetarian lifestyle? Is that something you would ever consider for yourself?
- Mary

My feeling on what people should eat is perhaps best expressed by Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” In other words, I believe strongly in making sure that you eat more fruits and vegetables than non-plants, but I don’t necessarily believe a meat-free diet is entirely necessary.

I tried vegetarianism for a thirty day trial a few years ago. It went well at first – I felt pretty energetic – but I fell off a cliff and felt exhausted after several days. The problem was that I simply wasn’t consuming enough calories. Thus, if you try vegetarianism, I would make sure to include a lot of higher-calorie vegetables and fruits in the mix, because most fruits and vegetables have a surprisingly low vegetable count. I would eat pounds of vegetables and only take in 200 calories or so.

Having said that, I have an old friend who has been a vegetarian for twenty five years. He says the key is to eat plenty of beans and rice – make them the backbone of every meal – and exercise quite a bit.

I have a process question more than a “what is the answer” question. The postage rate is going up in May. The PO sells “Forever Stamps” now which means we can lock in the current rate. What process would you use to decide how many books of forever stamps to buy before May? It’s certain money unless one loses the stamps (fire, flood, inattention, poor storage), but it’s today’s dollars vs. inflated dollars, etc. (We don’t have any debt, but I’d be curious how that would affect the decision as well). Thanks!
- Hillary

Here’s what I would do. First, I’d calculate the percentage change in the price of a first class stamp. Since it’s going to $0.44 from $0.42, that’s roughly a 5% increase.

Next, I’d check out the current rate of inflation, which is around 4% annually (depending on the metric you use).

Then, I’d simply divide the percent increase by the rate of inflation to get a thumbnail of how many years it will be before $0.42 in today’s money is worth $0.44 in tomorrow’s money: roughly 1.25 years.

Now, how many stamps do you use in a year? Let’s say you use 100 stamps. That means, in order to get the maximum value out of the forever stamps, you should buy 100 stamps per year times 1.25 years, or 125 stamps.

That’s the procedure I would follow, anyway.

You’ve posted a couple times in the past about starting up a serious exercise regimen. I was just wondering how that is going and also if you have any tips on staying motivated. Thanks!
- Lauren

Currently, I’m going to the gym for an hour’s worth of cardio three or four times a week (depending on my schedule). I get on the elliptical, get the heart rate monitor going, and try to keep my heart rate at 80% of my maximum. I usually sweat a ton during this, so I bring a water bottle with me and drink it down during the exercise.

I’m also going through the one hundred push ups program and the two hundred sit ups program to focus on two areas where I really need to build muscle.

It’s going well. I use daily metrics to keep myself focused. I simply have these three things on my to-do list every day, and I also weigh myself every single day. Making these things part of my daily routine was very hard at first – I just committed to doing them for thirty days and if I still hated it, I’d stop. I hated it for about the first three weeks, but after that, it started to become fun – I would feel great at the end of exercising.

I was surprised by your car advice, living in Iowa as you do. We live in Michigan and the salt eats cars alive up here. Every single old car I have had has died of rust long before the working parts have worn out. (We had one we drove until it literally dropped…fortunately DH was only going 20 mph.) Now I always look for young cars with higher (highway if possible) mileage. Our experience has been that the engines will last practically forever; not so the body.
- Kathryn

I’ve lived in the upper Midwest my entire life and I’ve never had problems with rust on vehicles that were less than twelve years old. Modern paint does a great job of protecting the car and a good undercoating helps, too.

However, the real key is to just keep it clean during the winter. Just rinse the salt dust off of your car every week or two during the winter, or take it through a car wash regularly. It keeps your vehicle looking clean and good and keeps the rust away.

Now, I own a 1997 Ford F-150 and a bit of rust is beginning to appear on it (finally), but it’s still far from being a rust bucket.

Hi Trent. I’m new to blogging, only got 2 or 3 posts going atm. How can I get my blog to appear on Google? Even when I type in all the keywords I can think of, I can’t find it!
- Vanessa

First, you need to actually submit your site to Google. If you don’t do that, Google doesn’t know that your site exists.

Beyond that, you also need to get people to link to your site. The best way to do that is to simply write interesting or useful stuff and link to relevant articles at other blogs. Link to a mix of places – popular blogs and unpopular blogs, new blogs and old blogs. Then, make an effort to get to know other bloggers on your topic. You can do this by seeking out blogs similar to yours and writing to the authors. You’ll have more success building relationships with bloggers with smaller audiences, especially at first.

My question for next weeks mailbag would be surrounding 403b’s. I am 24, live in a big expensive metro area and get to save very little money, but the nonprofit I work for offers a 403b and there is no employer match or anything like that. I put away 5% or so (I think) per month into that account but I was wondering if that money wouldn’t be better off in a Roth IRA or anything of that sort. Thanks for any input you can provide
- Will

If you’re not getting an employer match and you’re early in your career, you’re almost always better off putting your retirement money into a Roth IRA and not worrying about the 403(b) unless you want to save even more than the Roth IRA cap.

Here’s why: with the Roth IRA, you use after-tax money for your savings, but the money you withdraw at retirement isn’t taxed. Since you’re early in your career, you’re likely paying a much lower interest rate now than you would be in retirement, so there’s a big tax advantage in using a Roth IRA.

Another advantage Roth IRAs have is the freedom of choice. Since you’re setting it up yourself, you not only get a huge choice of investment options, you also have a lot of choice when it comes to deciding who to invest with. I use Vanguard, myself.

I’m using a mobile phone to access The Simple Dollar, but the page is really big. Any way I can see The Simple Dollar well on a smaller screen?
- Steve

I’m currently looking into setting up a mobile version of The Simple Dollar, but there are a lot of solutions for reading the site in a mobile format right now.

One great option is to use Google’s free mobile view. Here’s the mobile view of The Simple Dollar. It simply displays the last ten headlines – you can then click on them to read the article in a very bare-bones format.

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

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54 thoughts on “Reader Mailbag #55

  1. I have a question for you regarding pets.
    Two years ago, Santa put a gecko under the tree for our then 7 year old. Unfortunately, Santa didn’t consider the fact that a gecko costs between $12-15 a month to feed (and that feed – live crickets and meal worms – can only be purchased in a town 50 miles away). How would you go about convincing a now 9 year old that the gecko needs to find a new home because the cost of keeping him (and the headache of reminding said 9 year old to feed him) is driving Santa and Mrs Claus crazy?!

  2. Re: “We live in Michigan and the salt eats cars alive up here.”

    I went to school in Michigan, and I don’t think that Trent understands the sheer amount of salt they put on the road there. At the end of the winter the roads and parking lots will be white – yes, white – with the crust of salt (and this is after the piles of snow have melted away, and all that water hasn’t come close to removing the salt).

    Your best bet is to get involved with your local government and try to convince them that they really don’t need to use so much salt. It’s a waste of taxpayer dollers, hugely expensive for people and buisness, and terrible for the environment. And totally unnecessary.

  3. Re the windfall

    When you say your spouse will find a way to spend the bonus, does that mean he will pester you and pester you until you give in, or does that mean he will decide, hey, great, big screen TV (or whatever), then go and buy one and put it on your credit card, so that whether or not you wanted to, you now have to spend your bonus to pay it off? If he is going to spend it on you so that you can’t stop him, then don’t tell him about it. Yes yes, address the spending issue, but it is at least as dishonest to go out and spend a large sum of money without consulting you as it is for you do get a bonus and not tell him.

    And there are degrees of honesty. “I just got a $1500 bonus, but I think we should save it in our emergency fund”, and he might just hear $$$1500$$$. Maybe he control himself better if he heard, “I just got a bonus at work and I am going to put it in our emergency fund”. And I can be even trickier: “Honey, we need to start an emergency fund. Remember when you hit that deer last year and it cost $2000 to fix the truck? That freaks me out. I think we should take an bonuses or rebates or lottery winnings and save them for emergencies.” Spouse, “Sure, whatever.”

    Of course, my spouse is completely uninterested in our finances as long as there is money in his acocunt when he needs to buy something. He actually gets annoyed when I try to give him details.

  4. I’m graduating from college this year, and my fiance will be next year. At present, we have $20,000 in Federal Student Loan debt between us and no other debts. We both anticipate working and aren’t planning on children. But, given my health problems, it seems unlikely that I will be unable to work full time much past the age of 40-45. What steps should we e taking now to ensure our financial future?

  5. Regarding the Roth vs. 403b:

    Another point in favor of the Roth is that employer-sponsored retirement plans (403b’s especially) tend to have an additional level of expenses–usually somewhere around 0.9% of assets annually–on top of the expenses charged by the mutual funds.

    Many places where you could open a Roth will have much lower expenses.

  6. My current company doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, matching or otherwise. We’re currently maxing out our Roth IRAs, but are there other ways to build retirement funds like a 401(k) would, without the tax penalties of a regular account?

    -Tim

  7. Eve, you have a very valid point. Continue doing what you have to do to keep your family safe. If telling him is going to make him think of a way to spend YOUR BONUS, DON’T tell him.

    You and I think – and do – alike. Hang in there.

  8. Eve, ITA. Keep doing what you’re doing to keep your family safe. I used to share ‘everything’ with (both) of my husbands and I was the only one sharing ‘everthing’. I love him like crazy, but this is one thing where I have leeway – to keep myself safe. Every marriage is different and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel bad.

  9. Question:
    Our son is turning 18 and will be attending college this fall. Right now he has a job with our school district, just a few hours a month and that will end in June. I say he needs to get a summer job (any job). He doesn’t want a summer job. His father/my husband says he should only get a summer job if it’s related to his future career plans, other wise he can just stay home and work on his hobby projects. We are NOT wealthy by any means and will need student loans for his education. I know this is a no-brainer but at least now it will be in print – what do you think?

  10. @Stacey

    Or, you could turn it the other way around. Are there other people in the area that have pets that need/want live crickets/mealworms? If so, I would recommend breeding your own. All it takes is a couple pieces of leftover fruit and some oatmeal for each batch, a few containers to keep every age group separate. I would personally recommend mealworms as they don’t chirp at night.

    The cool part is, you could actually sell the excess to somebody to make a positive net return. Not only that, but you could breed the gecko, hatch the eggs and sell them at reptile shows. I did that when I was 12-14 (little parental help) and made hundreds of dollars from each breeding animal, more than paying for the expenses of feeding and I learned a LOT in the process.

    We did this when I was a kid and it made the food costs go down significantly. Plus it might be a fun way for your 9 year old to learn more about the food chain and all the work that goes into feeding an animal.

  11. Trent, after reading this, I’m wondering if you had it already written before deciding on your car purchase. The first letter and the one about road salt both suggested that to me.

  12. Santa didn’t consider that a gecko requires food to live?

    Santa must be slipping in his old age.

  13. I had to laugh at the advice Trent gave to rinse away the salt dust. I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The salt from the roads forms a crust on the car within a few days. Cars up there have to be washed, not rinsed, to get rid of that build up! The salt really does eat cars alive.

    I have no answer to the problem, other that to agree that the car must be kept clean. But it sure made me smile, thinking of “salt dust.”

  14. Trent, would you ever consider giving vegetarianism another try, now that you know where you went wrong with it last time? To me, vegetarianism is really the natural response to my interests in frugality, ethics, health, and the environment.

    I should also point out that basing every meal around rice and beans isn’t nearly as boring as it might sound. First of all, you can substitute any grain or grain product for the rice: pasta, couscous, bulgur wheat, pita bread, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet are some of the possibilities. And Trent’s already written about some of the great things you can do with beans – there’s Indian dal, chili, hummus, falafel, refried bean burritos…

  15. Re: vegetarianism

    one also has to be concerned about the amount of iron and b12 one ingests. I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 10 years, starting as a teenager. At first, I became quite anemic, and had to take iron pills until I figured out how to get enough iron from my food.

    fat was another important issue, which was why I stuck with dairy products, and didn’t go vegan.

    I agree with Johanna that frugality, health, ethics and the environment lead to the consideration of vegetarianism, however, my hubby (and our picky eater kids) aren’t willing to eat veggie at every meal. Thus, I have bean, egg, or cheese based dinners 2 to 3 times a week, and I try to treat meat as more of a condiment than main course. (okay, we’re not there yet, baby steps!)

    When I began eating meat again, I decided I needed to be much more comfortable with the process from living animal to plate. My partner at the time was a hunter, and I helped in the process of cleaning, preparing and preserving what he’d killed. I plucked a goose, I cut up entire legs of venison to can the meat and broth from the bones. Now I’m considering raising chickens, first for their eggs, then later as meat birds (like I said, baby steps!) I think it’s important to have an authentic relationship to one’s food. (Thus, buying neatly packaged boneless, skinless chicken breasts seems a cop-out as a meat eater.)

  16. I’ve been vegetarian for around five years and I have to say that within a month of abandoning meat, I really began to feel a change in my energy. I feel fantastic, healthier than I ever did when I ate meat! Though you’re right in saying that it’s important to watch what you’re eating.

  17. Regarding the windfall.

    It all depends on how your relationship with your spouse is. If he is okay with you hiding this from him: do it. If hiding this from him will cause a fight / argument when he finds out: address it now.

  18. I think http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/ would be relatively easier to set up on your blog. I do see your site most of the times using google reader, sometimes using my mobile too.

    I am a lacto-vegetarian since my birth. Fruits are not part of my regular meals, though. My meal would be very spicy, but tastier… with a lot of South Indian dishes out there. Sure, planned meal is very important.

  19. I have to disagree with your advice to Eve. I think you are not reading between the lines enough. If Eve needs to hide money to get through emergencies, her husband is showing a lack of concern for his children’s welfare. Eve, it definitely sounds like you need some marriage counseling to address this issue, but before then, don’t tell your husband about the bonus.

  20. @Eve-
    I agree with tightwadfan: IF you are willing to address the trust/relationship issues with your spouse, I would put the money somewhere safe in the mean time, and bring it up in a counseling session (not the first).

    If you are not ready to address the issue(s), yet, what about splitting the difference- tell him that you got a bonus, you want to save most of it, but still spend $200 on something the entire family would benefit from?

  21. regarding the vegetarian lifestyle,

    me personally I don’t think I would be able to do it but I know plenty of people that do, having a meat-free diet just doesn’t sit right with me, like you said I would feel that I’m not getting enough calories in my diet but I have nothing against it if you can do it go for it Good post!!!!

  22. If a clothes washer is over 15 years old then I’d seriously consider replacing it for the energy savings alone. You can get a front loading energy star washer for around $540 now. That will save you $50-100 over a 15+ year old model. If you’re already looking at a repair bill for your current washer then IMHO that makes the decision to buy a new one that much easier.

    The newer the washer is the more energy efficient it should be. So if your washer is just 5-10 years old then replacing with a new one won’t save you as much in energy costs.

    But if you’re looking at 15-20 year old model then replacing it is probably a good idea.

    Jim

  23. re: 403B

    I contribute to a 403B thru work as well. I was under the impression that contributing to the 403B before the Roth IRA would be a better strategy than vice versa due to the following:

    -403B contributions are taken directly out of my paycheck (pre-tax) which in turn lowers my AGI for tax purposes
    -contributing a certain qualifying amt to my 403B makes me exempt from paying any FICA tax

  24. As always, great questions, great answers, great other takes in the comments.

    My question is this: a couple of months ago, one of my friends from college moved into my apartment— it was more affordable than her current place and more convenient to her work, and we’d lived in the same building before, and so had a good idea of where each others’ tolerances and foibles lay. Hurrah! The day before the movers came, however, she was let go from that work, and her boyfriend chose that moment to let her know that it wasn’t working out for him.

    Now I have no problem with her taking a few months off from sharing the bills— I’m sort of a closet Communist, from each according to abilities, to each according to need, and I was able to afford this apartment by myself with no problems, although I was looking forward to further accelerating some savings goals of mine. (I am quite direct about the above, and always have been.) But more and more, it seems like she is looking at me and seeing a dollar amount– how much she’s not sharing on things like rent, food, and utilities. I don’t like this getting in the way of our friendship, and I don’t see a way out. To make matters worse, because of my income, our “household income” is so high, she does not qualify for any government assistance (what emergency fund she had is now wiped out). I’ve thought about offering her dollar amounts for stuff on what would be my “honey do” list if I were married— things I’d do myself if I had the time and energy, as I work two jobs (neither of which she qualifies for, or I’d see about letting her have one), subcontract, and own a business— but she’s pretty depressed, and feel that at the end of the day, they wouldn’t be done and she’d feel worse about herself and me— plus she’s an incredibly generous person and there’s a danger she might feel these are things she should be doing anyhow, and do them WITHOUT compensation.

    What am I not seeing here? How can I save this situation?

  25. Full disclosure is good advice when your spouse is a responsible person with your and your children’s best interests at heart. But it sounds like Eve is married to someone who spends every penny of his money *and hers* on frivolous stuff until there is nothing left for groceries, kids’ shoes, or car repairs. In Eve’s shoes, I’d be saving up my secret stash for a divorce lawyer.

  26. Re Auto rust: I bought a new car some years ago, but hit a deer after only three months. The insurance paid up, and everything was repaired beautifully. In about a year, however, bubbles appeared in the paint in the repaired area. I took it back to the shop that repaired it ( big name dealer, no less) and had them fix the bubbles. A year after that, more rust appeared. Eventually the whole repaired area was a shambles. Expensive venison!

    The point of this is to say that although the original paint may be excellent at warding off rust, any breach may allow it a foothold.

  27. @laurah

    Wow, that’s a tough spot. I don’t think adding a boss/employee aspect to your strained relationship would help her feel anymore independent. You might try to use your connections to find some leads, but ideally she will find some degree of financial independence.

    1. I’d be encouraging her in job hunting or whatever, try to build up that rapport as someone to lean on. Encourage productive areas, even if they don’t lean towards cash flow.

    2. Be clear about your feelings, she’s not a burden to you.

    3. Show a large degree of appreciation for things she does around the house or make comments that make her feel appreciated.

    4. Ask her advice in other areas, find things that she’s good at and can help you with.

    My father-in-law lives with us and has some issues with it because he’s not paying the bills. I try to emphasize how useful his presence is for me: He does a good share of the cooking and housework, someone is home when I’m out of town on business, my wife feels more secure, someone to talk sports with, etc. I have some hands-on experience in odd household tasks, but I generally ask his opinion and thank him profusely for his input. I understand needing to be useful, so I try to fill that need to the level I’m comfortable doing.

  28. @Eve: Observation from a male perspective – He is very lucky to have you! You are saving the family from ruin. By all means stash that money in the deepest darkest hidey-hole you know of. And keep your mouth clamped shut about it.

  29. “First, you need to actually submit your site to Google. If you don’t do that, Google doesn’t know that your site exists.”>

    I have to jump in here because this is a common SEO misconception. No, you don’t have to submit your site. The rest of the advice is fine but the truth is that submitting your pages to Google is pretty much useless and has been for years. Google (and all the other engines) vastly prefers to discover pages than to ever go to the submission queue. What you can submit, if you must, is an XML Sitemap but for a site as small as Vanessa’s it isn’t really going to be an issue.

    Getting links is a way to encourage discovery but most importantly, ADD CONTENT. 2 or 3 posts isn’t going to be enough to ever get you to rank in the search engines, even in Google Blog Search. You need to add content and then you need to gather links back to that content.

  30. On the vegetarian question, you have enough options. If anyone is considering going vegetarian and finding difficulties like Calorie issue point by Trent, I would suggest you talk to any Indian vegetarian (I am one) and seek their help.

  31. Re: Vegetarian diet:
    I have been a vegetarian since birth (apparently by religion); I have never tried a non-veg. however, I don’t miss any. As you pointed out, we include Rice, Wheat, and Beans in our daily routine along with vegetables (although most times cooked vegetables and not raw) + plus add the spices to make it tasty. :)

    oh, we tried a vegetarian pizza (and even without cheese) after seeing your recent post, i will post the observation in my blog.

    http://ootathindi.wordpress.com

  32. @Alison: Did a doctor diagnose you with iron-deficiency anemia, or did you diagnose yourself? A lot of people think they have iron-deficiency anemia because of general symptoms like fatigue and weakness, but they’re not always right – these symptoms can also result from (you guessed it) not getting enough calories.

    It’s absolutely true that a lot of new vegetarians don’t get enough calories. It’s especially true of vegetarians who are hesitant to try new foods, or who rely on other people (like parents or college cafeteria workers) to cook for them, and those people aren’t very keen on making special vegetarian foods. If you take a standard omnivorous diet and just remove the meat, you get a vegetarian diet, but it’s not necessarily a very healthy vegetarian diet or a very interesting one. Salads and plain steamed vegetables are good for you, but you shouldn’t try to live on those things alone.

    Also, I’m not sure why getting enough fat in a vegan diet would be an issue, because there are a lot of plant foods that contain fat: olives, avocados, coconut milk, soy products, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, tahini, and (everybody’s favorite) chocolate, to name a few – and that’s not even including things like refined vegetable oils for cooking

  33. Eve — I have to agree with Margaret’s (#3) advice. Without actually telling your husband that you’ve got the bonus in hand; saying “I think we should turn bonuses and lottery winnings into an emergency fund. What do you think?” and taking that non-committal grunt as affirmative. I also like Trent’s advice of saying ‘I got a bonus and am holding onto it for an emergency’. On the other hand, how large is your secret stash in relation to your households monthly income? Does your husband spend because he (somehow) knows how much you have saved and considers it a more-than-adequate emergency fund? Perhaps, setting up a budget, dicussing an emergency fund, planning for retirement and, yes, checking in with a marital counselor are all good ideas.

    This is a tricky situation and Trent is right when he says marriage requires honesty. However, that only works with adults. Example story: My ex- never wanted to wait for the newest/fastest/classiest whatever – so he purchased immediately. We were going through financially tight times and I asked him not to buy anything new; he already had 3 different types of game playing consoles as well as a computer for his multitudious games. I said that it was only for January (post-Christmas payments) and he agree that bills had to be paid. Five days later he spent over a quarter of our monthly income on some handheld video console thing (miniturized Playstation?) and several games for it because he was “bored” while waiting at the physiotherapist’s office. I started my divorce fund with that week’s paycheck and it took me two years to recover from his extravagances.

    These days I say that I used to be the single mother of two children until I got divorced.

    Yes, I’m angry and bitter and sad. Things like that shouldn’t happen to two people who are (theoritically) on the same path, but they do. I wish you the best of luck.

  34. Dear Laurah, Your friend was let go from work, what am I missing? She files for unemployment compensation and has a nice financial bonus every two weeks for not working. With all this free time, SHE GOES JOB HUNTING, pounding the pavement, poring over Craigslist, networking, consulting Mondster.com. Taking a few months off from expenses? Of course she’s depressed, being a parasite is depressing. You say nothing in your note about her search for a job. OF COURSE SHE OUGHT TO BE DOING WORK FOR YOU AROUND THE HOUSE, OF STUFFING ENVELOPES FOR YOUR BUSINESS, WHATEVER SHE HAS THE SKILL SET TO DO, to pay her way. You are not helping her by letting / encouraging her to leach off you and produce / contribute nothing. That’s the problem with Socialism / Communism, people stop contributing and look to others so that they may remove money from the pocket of the producers, and insert the money in the pockets of the indigent. Send this leach out job hunting, and let her clean the apartment, shop for food and cook as her contribution to the household.

  35. I’m curious of your thoughts on the Watchmen movie. I saw on facebook you had seen it recently. I left a comment that my boyfriend had me read the graphic novel before I went, which I’m really glad I did. I thought they did a fantastic job.

  36. I’m going to be getting married in the middle of the year, and my fiance and I both have HSA plans. The question that no one can answer for me is what to do with them when we’re actually married. I’m planning on going his insurance, but from what I’ve heard I can’t just roll my HSA account into his. Am I able to continue funding my HSA (since I’ll still be under a high deductible health plan) and have it separate from his? What happens when we have kids and the insurance changes from employee + spouse to family coverage? If you can’t answer, can you point me in the right direction?

  37. Re: Vegetarian lifestyle

    My wife and I are both vegetarians, and we have a 2-year old that also doesn’t eat meat. He’s completely healthy.

    The Iron / B-12 issue is a concern, of course. But that’s what they make vitamin supplements for. :)

    We eat a lot of beans, rice, Tofu, TVP, Tempeh, Saitan, hummus, guacomole / avocados, etc. We’ve even started a website to promote vegetarian lifestyle in our region. http://www.waynecountyveg.org

    btw — Nice blog!

  38. Regarding cars and rust, it is important to keep the salt of the best that you can. Working in Steel, I know that cars are built using galvanized steel. They have been doing so since the mid to late 90′s. It makes a huge difference in rust prevention. Something to keep in mind when buying a used car.

  39. Question(s): I was just curious, what did/will you do with the car you replaced? Since it is starting to have a lot of problems I didn’t know if you would sell it, junk it, trade it, etc? I plan to drive my current car as long as I safely can do so. What’s the best option for getting rid of a car that’s not in the best condition?

  40. re: secret bonus money

    i don’t mistrust my husband and he doesn’t mistrust me. we’ve had a healthy marriage for 2 decades and we understand how each person operates… including the fact that i save and he does not.

    i tell him that i got a bonus of “$x”. however, my actual bonus is “$x + $y”; i stash that extra amount and use it as a quasi-emergency fund.

    this way, he knows we have a limited amount of “fun” money and i get the warm, fuzzy i need by having some extra funds.

  41. Laura, the fact that you are out of a generous heart letting her live in your home does NOT make your income of any relevance in her eligibility for assistance from organizations or government. Unless you are married or have adopted her, she is NOT a member of your “household.”

    That said, I would recommend that she immediately go get help for her depression. Yeah, job hunting, working around the house, etc. should be done, but trying to do those things while depressed is exceedingly difficult and she is extremely unlikely to get offered a job when depressed. There are

  42. Hi Trent,

    I have a question for a future mailbag.

    I have changed to a new job where the norm for my colleagues is to go out and purchase their lunch (and it seems, breakfast, morning tea and afternoon tea as well). While I bring my morning tea and lunch each day there is considerable pressure, at least once a fortnight, to go out for lunch at a restaurant in the interest of ‘team building’.

    I realise that, financially, we would be in a far worse position if I purchased my lunch each day and then went out for team lunches, but I still find it frustrating that attending the team lunches come at the expense of the saving goals my husband and I have set down. I feel that if I don’t attend the lunches (and drinks) I will be seen as not being a ‘team player’ and this will be reflected negatively in my performance appraisal, even though I have worked well in a number of team projects within the organisation.

    As I know you started on your frugal journey prior to leaving the workplace, do you have any suggestions arising from your work experiences for dealing with this kind of pressure?

    Thanks,

    Sarah

  43. Hey Trent, I have two related questions about credit:

    I’m a graduating senior this year with a lot of student loans, but no credit card in my own name. So, my credit score is based almost solely on the amount of debt I’ve taken out to pay for school. Now that I’m graduating, I’d like to finally get a credit card and start building up good credit. Do you have any suggestions for good credit cards for students/graduates just getting into the credit world?

    Secondly, I’ll need a set of wheels for after graduation to get to my job. I’m considering leasing a vehicle. Should I open up a new credit card before signing a lease, or wait until after? Does the timing even matter, and will it affect my ability to get a lease? I’m not too familiar with how car financing works, but I want to be in the best position I can.

  44. RE: vegetarian diet and frugality

    Legumes (e.g., lentils, beans, peanuts) are a very inexpensive source of protein. One just has to learn new cooking techniques to convert these items into delicious main course meals. The interweb is full of good tips on veggie diets. Although you can stay healthy on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is probably a good idea when switching over to a vegan diet to consult with a dietitian/nutritionist.

  45. Great tip on submitting your site.
    I’ve been blogging for a year … and I never thought to do that!!
    I’m not even sure if I have a sitemap!

  46. I live in Alabama. We have a Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program that in the poor economy has suffered. I am sure you are familiar with these programs, but basically you buy the plan for your child and when you enroll in college the tuition is guaranteed no matter the cost at a state school. You can cash out for the average tuition in the state if you choose to go to a private school. We are blessed that my grandparents purchased this for my 2 year old, but the state has decided not to allow anyone else to purchase the plan – in effect ending the program. I have a 6 month old and my grandparents had planned to purchase the PACT plan for her. That is not an option anymore and we are not sure how to proceed. They have $18,000 set aside right now. What would you suggest we do with the money?

  47. Is there a point in a job interview that it’s appropriate to mention a planned upcoming vacation (i.e. “I’ll need to take these days off if I get the job”) or should a person hold off mentioning anything until an offer is made?

  48. Otis –
    good point… didn’t think about having him raise his own food. we’re going to think about this one :)

    Mister E –
    Yes, santa knew the gecko would have to be feed – just didn’t think about the long-term effects of the hassle of finding out sunday evening at 7 that all of the crickets were gone and the next trip to town couldn’t possibly happen until the following saturday… if you have never lived in a rural area, you couldn’t possibly understand. but thanks for the sarcasm.

  49. Had a quick question- I realize baking items at home tastes better and also is comparatively more frugal..given the electricity consumption of an oven, wanted to see if you had done any analysis on what the effective savings would be..i.e will the increase in the cost of electricity make the effective savings of baking at home less attractive from purely a frugal perspective.thanks

  50. EVE- Don’t feel guilty about stashing the money. I learned from my mother AND grandmother that a woman needs to have a bit of money set aside “just in case”. You earned the money, so you have the right to make sure that your needs and the needs of your children are met, regardless.
    Trent sounds like he is in a very honest and forthright relationship, but trust me Trent, not all men are as good with money as you appear to be!!
    I’ve watched my co-worker cry on many occasions because her husband spends their money on fantasy sports, league passes, etc. and she’s wondering how she’s going to buy diapers and formula. IT HAPPENS!!

  51. EVE – If it was me I would hide it. Invest it, so you can’t get to it either. And then if you want to tell him its up to you. That’s what I did because I knew it would get spent on other stuff. I am glad its there because it is the beginning of the college fund for my daughter.

  52. Re: 403b’s and Roth IRAs

    I read your posts daily but as I am from up North (Canada) the posts do not always apply to me. I enjoy your articles and respect your advice and lately I have been wondering how you would invest if you lived in Canada.

    The big news lately is the recently created Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) which is another option to our standard Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Basically you can put $5000 into investments in a TFSA a year and withdraw at any time and you pay no taxes. In an RRSP you get a tax rebate now but pay taxes when you withdraw, the limit is set based on your salary.

    I would be interested to hear what you have to say and which you think is a better option, even though it will not apply to all your readers. This could be a challenge for you to look at a different system and maybe to gain a few extra readers or insights.

    Thank you1

  53. How does having more than one checking/savings account (all in good standing) affect credit? Would it be better to only have one or two of each?

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