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. Help getting out of debt
2. Supporting newly frugal friend
3. Frugal movie night
4. Prioritizing debt repayment
5. Outdoor exercise in winter
6. Managing recipes
7. Parent fearing theft from kid
8. Satellite radio replacement
9. Handling advisor change
10. “Share this” messages
For me, the worst part of adopting a new exercise routine is the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
We’ve all felt it. We exert ourselves pretty hard one day, only to wake up in the morning feeling incredibly sore in every area that we exerted the day before.
This is actually a very normal response and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong, but it does make me feel like an old man, especially at the start of the day. I’m stumbling around like I’m in my seventies until I loosen up a bit, and I still usually feel sore all day long.
I used to take it as a sign that I should slow down. Now, I know what it feels like and I just push through it because I know it’ll go away in a week or so.
Q1: Help getting out of debt
I recently changed professions, and it took me a little over a year to start earning a steady income, as it was strictly commission based. I am now making a decent paycheck, but nearly all of it goes to bills a debt. During the period of not making much money, I built up about $8,000 worth of credit card debt. I have a few investments, with one of my mutual funds totaling about $12,000. I am not sure what the penalties and taxes would be for pulling money out of this mutual fund, but should I take $8,000 out of this mutual fund to pay off my debt? I just recently incurred about $3,000 worth of lawyer fees as well, which threw a wrench in my credit card payment plans.
Since I don’t know the specifics of this mutual fund, it’s really hard to say what the cost will be for you. You’ll want to take your statements from your brokerage and have an accountant look at them to figure out your tax liability.
If you’ve had the funds for a while, though, the money will probably be a long term capital gains, which means you’ll be paying a relatively low amount for federal income tax on it, though you may still have state liabilities.
Unless the mutual fund is being built up for a purpose, this is likely a very good use for it.
Q2: Supporting newly frugal friend
A friend of mine has finally reached bottom (I think) and has really been taking her finances seriously for the last few months. She’s almost eliminated her excess spending and has really been working hard at improving their financial situation. What can I do to help her out without going overboard on it?
I wouldn’t do anything radically different than what you do now. Just compliment your friend sometimes on her progress and on any financially positive moves you see her making.
I don’t think there’s any reason to really behave differently around this friend. Sure, it’s good that your friend is making some positive life changes, but that shouldn’t change the nature of your friendship.
Just be positive a little bit and continue to be a good example of how to have a good frugal life.
Q3: Frugal movie night
My wife and I have started to have home movie nights in order to save money but our setup at home is just terrible. We have this ancient 27″ CRT TV that looks really bad, to the point that it’s distracting. I don’t want to go dump a grand on a big new television just to “save money” on our movie nights. Any ideas?
What did you type this email on?
Your computer can solve this problem, particularly if you have a laptop. Our family has a nice television, but Sarah and I still sometimes watch a DVD or Bluray on our laptop.
The screen is usually pretty good and the audio is good enough. We’ll sit the laptop on our shared laps and just cuddle together as we watch the show.
Card 1 – about 1k at 26% min payment 40
Card 2 – about 2k at 16% min payment 40
Card 3 – about 2k at 16% min payment 40
Loan 1 – about 1.8k at 8% – monthly payment of 126
Loan 2 – about 6.7k at 22% – monthly payment of 195
I’m working on card 1 first (highest rate and almost done with it), but then the question I’m not sure about is if I should focus on the other two cards since the loans are fixed payments or if I should tackle loan 1 (can eliminate it in 1-2 months) and use that extra 126 a month to hit loan 2 then go after card 2 and 3.
Believe it or not I’m in a much better financial situation now than I was last year. Spending is way down and I started a new job a few months ago and have been really tackling my debt and have even started putting into my Roth again (starting off with 100 per month, once the debt is clear I’m going to max it each year) and my net worth is finally growing (currently at a positive 15k)
There are differing philosophies about this. Some philosophies focus on minimizing your monthly payments as quickly as possible, while others focus on minimizing the total amount you pay toward your debts.
I’m in the latter camp, which means that I recommend paying all of your debts in order of interest rate, from highest to smallest. That would mean that as soon as you pay off Card #1, you immediately jump to Loan #2 as your next goal.
The long-term result of that move is that you’ll end up spending less money in the long run on your debts, even though it might mean periods where your total monthly payments are higher than they might otherwise be. If you’re tossing a certain specific amount each month toward your debts, then this method will get you to debt freedom the fastest.
Q5: Outdoor exercise in winter
I would highly recommend picking up some YakTrax for winter jogging. They are not too expensive (and can usually be picked up for a song in early spring). I live in Wisconsin and use them to train for the half-marathon I run in warmer climes every January. I can sprint across ice without a second thought, and they are not too weird to still have on when are on a cleared sidewalk or trail. They take a little getting used to, but they are fantastic. I get a new pair every year or two and put the older ones on my back-door shoes in the winter time.
Another piece of advice that keeps me running happily through the winter (think 10+ mile training runs in -10F weather) is to wear a balaclava. Aside from keeping your face from chapping and your lungs from seizing up from the cold, this has the added bonus of letting you see yourself as a ninja/Master Shredder every time you pass a store window.
Recently, I found out our local gym has an indoor track, so I purchased a seasonal track-only pass to use the indoor track until late February. The price was surprisingly low – I’ll be paying about $0.30 per walk for use of the track if I keep up my daily walks/jogs.
I have a balaclava and it works really well unless I’m sweating profusely and panting, in which case it often seems to get caked with ice due to the moisture in my breath.
I’m unfamiliar with YakTrax, but they seem like a great idea for winter running in cold climates.
You’ve said before that you love cookbooks and cooking magazines and you love to make new things, but you’ve also said that you make meals based on grocery flyers. How do you go through thousands of recipes to find ones that match the food that’s on sale?
Most of the cookbooks I use frequently have an index at the back that helps you identify recipes by ingredient. So, if I have rutabagas, I just look up “rutabaga” in the index and I get the page numbers for recipes with rutabagas in it.
As for the cooking magazines, I rip out pages from them that have recipes I want to use, then scan those pages into my computer and save them as PDFs in a folder. Since the PDFs are searchable, I just search this folder for the ingredient I have (“rutabaga”) and see what recipes show up.
Between those two resources and the internet, I find lots and lots of good things to make.
Q7: Parent fearing theft from kid
Here’s an idea to the person that suspected his kids of taking cash from his wallet. Maybe it would be enough if he simply wrote a short note and paper-clipped it to his cash. Sometimes just calling people out on what they’re doing wrong, even though it’s indirect, is enough to get them to stop.
I agree with this.
Sometimes, I think it’s hard to distinguish the role of the “parent” away from the other roles that parents sometimes fill. One of the big jobs of a parent is to confront your child with the mistakes they’ve made, talk it through, and guide them to a better path. That can be a very hard job, particularly as the child approaches adulthood and is showing signs of independence.
If your kid is doing something wrong – and by “wrong” I don’t mean a bit of teenage mischief, I mean something criminal or life-altering – confront your kid. Don’t hide and stew about it.
Q8: Satellite radio replacement
My wife and I had satellite radio in our car for several years. We really liked the commercial-free radio, but we decided it cost too much and cut the service. Regular radio is terrible as it’s loaded down with ads. Any suggestions on a cheap alternative?
There are a number of options, but it depends on what resources you have on hand.
One option is to take your CD collection, convert them to mp3 on your computer, and use an inexpensive mp3 player to play them through the stereo in your car. That would be the option I would use. You could also play CDs if your car has a CD player, assuming you have any CDs.
If you don’t have a CD player in your car but you do have a cigarette lighter, get an adapter that allows you to plug things in, then use a portable stereo in your car to play CDs.
There are a lot of options for commercial free audio on the cheap if you think outside the box a bit.
Q9: Handling advisor change
Once upon a time, I started a Roth IRA because I met an Edward Jones advisor I really liked. Now he is getting ready to retire and is turning his clients over to new reps. I haven’t lived in the same town as my advisor for many years and will not make the trip to meet the new ones. So without this personal relationship, I’m wondering what my best options are.
I’ve been learning more about investing since then and would like to start investing with Vanguard (probably a target retirement fund). I work in freelance TV and film production and don’t feel I would be able to contribute to both a Roth IRA and a second/new plan right now. You guessed it – “freelance” also means I don’t have an employer matched 401K for retirement.
So what do you think? Keep going with new reps at Edward Jones and pay fees? Roll the Roth over to a new company? Roll the Roth over to a new company and new type of fund? What would a reasonable, steady, “new type of fund”, best bang for my buck be?
If you’re uncertain about the relationship with your advisor, now is a great time to change your finances around.
I have all of my retirement savings at Vanguard in a target retirement fund. Setting things up and moving them there was quite easy and I’ve been happy with them.
The entire purpose of having an advisor is to have someone you trust and have a good relationship with that you can ask questions if needed. If you don’t have that relationship, why have an advisor?
Q10: “Share this” messages
Why do people send messages in email and on Facebook that say that you must “share this” or “send this to friends” or else something bad will happen? What’s the point?
To tell you the truth, I have no idea why people do this.
Of course, I never understood chain letters or chain emails, and this is the same thing.
I guess it’s just superstition, but I’m the kind of person who just smiles at black cats in my path and walks under ladders if it’s convenient.
Got any questions? The best way to ask is to email me – trent at thesimpledollar dot com. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.