Reader Mailbag: Headache Solution

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. Realities of extreme debt reduction
2. Husband makes more than me
3. Sharing lawn equipment
4. Vegan cooking and recipes
5. Steam sale
6. Unable to save money
7. Walking as exercise
8. Honeymoon or bills?
9. Selling a car
10. Dealing with interest

Every once in a while, I’ll get a pounding headache. There are three things that I do in response to it.

The first thing is water. I go downstairs and drink at least a pint and a half of water. Dehydration is the cause of a lot of headaches.

If that doesn’t work after about twenty minutes, I take two Advil.

If that doesn’t work after about twenty minutes, I go take a nap.

These three steps have cured every non-migraine headache I’ve had. If these three steps didn’t take out a headache, I’d probably head for the doctor.

Q1: Realities of debt reduction
If you owe 10x your annual salary in debt, is it ever realistic to pay it off?

– Rodney

It depends on a number of things. First of all, can you work more or get an increase in pay? These two steps will reduce that multiplier immediately.

Second, are these low-interest loans? No one could survive this if the interest rates were very high, but if these loans are in the 3-4% range on average, it’s manageable. Interest would be eating up 30-40% of your income at that point, but with careful planning you can make headway.

Finally, can you put some of them in forbearance? There are situations where some loans can be placed in a holding pattern so you don’t have to address them immediately.

You should also make sure to talk to all of the people you owe money to simply to find out if there are plans to reduce your interest rates and possibly even reduce the balance of what you owe.

Q2: Husband makes more than me
Anyway my issue is (((not sure if you can help with this but not sure who else to ask))) that my Husband makes a larger wage then me and he does get regular increases , and this gap is starting to concern me. We have a great relationship, and I can attribute this partly to the fact that we stated right at the beginning “we each pay half”. It makes sure we don’t nickle and dim each other to death over who should pay X amount more for grocheries/ Hydro etc.(I hear so many couples breaking up because of constant fighting over finances) For now it is ok, he just spends his money on whatever, but we have been thinking of getting a car. He can get the money lickaty split, where as me it would take much longer.

I was raised in a household without a father figure and I was taught that woman should be able to provide for themselves, not depend on a male’s income to pay for most of everything. Having said that I worry that one day he will begin to pay for more (why should he just sit on his money, not putting it to any use?) That he will end up buying all the dinners when we go out, even contributing a muchmuch larger portion to our eventual house, which might cause a rift.

My mom once told me many years ago when she was with my father that things went peachy creamy until she quit her job and was unemployed for a few month’s. She said his whole personality changed, it was like he was a totally different guy. He’d go out to the bar and bring friends over to party and they faught constantly, and his standing would be “I pay for everything, you don’t have an opinion”

I don’t think my husband would be like that but I worry, do you know of anything I can do to prevent this from happening??
– Julie

If your father really did that, then he was not showing even an ounce of respect for your mother as a person and was showing off a severe character defect. Normal people in healthy relationships don’t behave like that.

If this worries you, talk it over with your husband. The entire point of marriage is for your partner to be there for you, come thick or thin. Talk it over with him sooner rather than later.

If you find out that his response is anything like your father’s, that’s not a normal or healthy response.

Q3: Sharing lawn equipment
My neighbor and I have discussed sharing yard equipment in a broad sense, but we’re kind of stuck how to move forward from there. How do you start up such a working agreement?

– Angie

I don’t think it needs to be formalized unless you want it to be. Just simply agree to open borrowing of tools.

If you’re concerned about long-term ownership, get a simple metal engraving kit and cut your initials into each item so that it’s clear who actually owns what.

The only potential sticky wicket here is deciding who will buy new tools. My suggestion would be that you each agree to spend a certain amount on tools each year. If that means one person buys a tiller while the other person buys four garden tools, that’s fine. As long as your spending is roughly equal, it’s fine.

If you decide it’s not working out, ending it is straightforward if everything is marked.

Q4: Vegan cooking and recipes
I read that you switched to a vegan diet. I have noticed on all the budget sites that they have menus/recipes that do not have the vegan in mind. Where do you get recipes?

– Andrea

My favorite source for vegan recipes has been cookbooks, mostly checked out from the library. Veganomicon is a great example of this, and it’s one I’d like to own.

If you’d like online sources, I’d suggest hitting up vegan blogs. The best resource for this is probably veganblogs.com, which is an index of such blogs. They vary in quality and in the number of recipes they post, but you can find a lot of great recipes and ideas if you dig around.

If I were you, I’d hit the library and start perusing the cookbook section. If you can’t find ones that match your needs, ask about inter-library loan.

Q5: Steam sale
I enjoy playing computer games, especially “point and click” puzzle adventures like the old King’s Quest series. Of course, that means spending money on computer games. My tactic for that is to use Steam, which lets you buy and manage and download computer games online. I usually don’t buy any games during most of the year and wait until Steam has a big sale, which they usually do during the summer and around Christmas. If you watch those sales and wait, you can usually find some great games at enormous discounts. I bought some adventure games at 60-80% off and my brother bought a big collection of civilization games at 82% off.

– Ronald

This is a great tip. I often hit the Steam sale myself. In fact, in the last year or so, the only money I’ve spent on any sort of electronic games (I think) has been during the Steam sales.

The trick is to simply be patient. There are a lot of games discounted during those sales, but many of them also get an additional discount during the daily deals, so just wait.

Q6: Unable to save money
I am unable to save money. What do you suggest I to do to change my mind set. I have no debt. I have read every book plus spent the last 19 years in Debtor’s Anonymous. Changing my behavior. I have retirement because I married well.

I want to have my own saving and not rely on my husband. I am author plus a house wife of 8 years I am only 51 .
– Patricia

There isn’t really a magic trick to this. You just have to decide that something else is more important to your life than the desire to spend in the moment.

For me, I came to realize that the future of my child was more important than spending in the moment. Before that, I didn’t really have anything in my life that trumped my immediate desire to buy things.

If you don’t have that motivation, it’s very difficult to convince yourself to delay gratification.

Q7: Walking as exercise
If you want to get sufficient exercise, walking is a terrible use of your time. If you value your time at all, you’d see that the calories you burn per minute while walking pale compared to some time on an elliptical, running, or lifting weights. Anyone who advocates walking as exercise is a joke.

– Andrew

First of all, walking is rarely done solely for exercise. Environment aesthetics, convenience, and company are big reasons why people choose walking as an exercise, not caloric burn per minute.

Second, going on a walk is a lot better for you than sitting at home doing nothing at all. You burn 0.036 calories per pound per minute while walking on pavement, and 0.037 calories per pound per minute while walking on fields and hills.

Third, there’s not a huge jump between walking and some of the exercises you mention. For example, according to this chart, free weight training burns 0.039 calories per pound per minute, only 0.002 to 0.003 better than walking. Running is substantially better, of course, ranging near 0.1 calories per pound per minute for fast rates of running.

Finally, you’re ignoring the fitness level of the majority of the population.

Simply put, three minutes of walking burns the same calories as a minute of very fast running (or about two minutes and forty-five seconds of free weight training) and it’s accessible to virtually anyone who wants to do it regardless of fitness level.

Walking might not be the most efficient thing for your fitness level, but that doesn’t mean walking is useless. It is far, far better than doing nothing at all.

Q8: Honeymoon or bills?
Backstory – my fiance and I are trying to save for our Wedding/Honeymoon in July 2013; we are trying to pay cash for everything and therefore are looking at about $20,000 that needs to be saved. We are currently at about $1150 (we both have/are getting second jobs that are basically devoted to this savings account, and parents who are looking to help where they can so I think we can make this work). I am planning on saving about $1,200 per month and basically putting any extra money in there when I can.

Additionally, my fiance lost his job in April and, although he’s since found a new job,we are about $1000 behind on bills from having only one income for about 2 months.

My question is – do I put what we’ve currently saved for the wedding onto the overdue bills and start fresh (for the 2nd time), or do I keep adding to what I have in savings and then try to pay as much as I can on the past due balances?
– Bonnie

Well, you have to decide which thing is most important to you. Is it having the event in July 2013, or can it be later than that? Is it having the expensive wedding you are planning? The expensive honeymoon you’re planning? Is it starting your marrige off in the best possible financial place?

You can’t have all of those things. You have to choose among them, and decisions like these are never easy ones.

It comes down to what you want the most. I will say that I’m glad we didn’t spend a ton on our wedding, though the planning could have easily spiraled out of control. Our wedding and reception was about the people, not the decorations and the location.

Q9: Selling car
After spending two months without using my car at all, I’ve decided to sell it and just rent one for the very rare occasions when I might need it. My challenge is figuring out how to sell it. What would your approach be?

– Cliff

How immediately do you want results on the sale? How much effort and time are you willing to put into the sale?

There are a lot of options available to you. You can park the car somewhere with a “for sale” sign in the windshield and/or list it on Craigslist or eBay Motors, which will involve a fair amount of time and effort on your behalf but earn you the best return. You can try to sell it through a car dealership, which will minimize your effort but reduce your return (they’ll buy it if they think they can flip it pretty quickly for a nice profit).

If you do sell it yourself, do not transfer the car in any way without the cash in hand. There are some scams out there, so protect yourself.

Q10: Dealing with interest
Three years ago i left my high paid job in a advertising agency to work in a ngo that helps children in need. I like it, and makes me feel much better. Times are changing and i’m now,sadly, looking for another job, still in the no profit world, but better paid. In the place where i work, they told me that they cannot give me what i need. I think that is going to take about 6 months before i find the perfect job. Maybe even more.

Let’s talk money, then. I get fourteen paychecks a year, each for 1272€. My mortgage, 17 yrs to go,it’s set at 422€ per month, 12 times a year. I spend around 200€ on fuel a month and… a huge amount of money on paying off my credit card. I did very little research on it when i agreed on getting a credit card, and i’ve now a debit of 3067€. Want to know the interests rate? That’s 18.9%. this is what Barclay’s asks me. And what, sadly, naively, i agreed to give em.

As you can imagine, it’s an incredible amount of money wasted. I’m 31 and i didn’t put a cent in a saving account so far. I bought a house, and most of my savings went there. I’m getting worried about my future. I want to get rid of my debit as soon as possible. As i told tou, i’m very naive moneywise speaking.. It’s been 2yrs paying all those interest.. I never realized. I feel stupid.

In the next three months i’m gonna have some big expenses to cover. Around 3000€ for my house. It’s expenses i can’t avoid, or postpone. I can take care of it, and i won’t have to pay interests on those. But still, cant sleep now that i realized how much money i’m giving away to Barclay’s.

What would you suggest to kill the credit card debt? I actually thought about asking for a loan to my bank, that has an interest rate of 8.9%, writing off barclay’s and any credit card from my life, allowing me to take it easy on a much easier debt to handle. I asked barclays to lower the interests, but didn’t get any answer. In this moment i pay 50 € a month..plus 43€ interests!! It’s a robbery!!!!! 93 euro…and only 50 goes to kill it.

Because of the expenses that i have to pay, i won’t have much money to spend on lowering the debt until december…what shall i do? I’m looking for extra freelances jobs, and if everything goes ok, i might have 1000€ on my way.. Not much, but better than nothing.

You always asks what do we expects from our lives.. Well, i’m not married nor engaged (that would help cut expenses ;-) i just want to start to be clean, and start saving. I’m a humble person, i enjoy a chat with friends at my place or theirs.. I don’t spend money on futiles things.. I also asked my bank to renegotiate my mortgage, with a little extra money, but in this moment it’s not worth it.

How do you suggest i should do?
– Frederick

What you’re describing here is the standard practice for credit cards. They often have an enormous interest rate attached that isn’t hidden, but many people just don’t care in the moment because they just want to buy something.

If you can get a private loan from your bank at a much lower interest rate than the credit card, I would go for that. Anything you can do to lower the interest rate on that debt is a good thing.

You might also want to look at other cards available to you, particularly if any involve a 0% (or low interest) balance transfer. The balance of the Barclay’s card would go to the new card, but that new balance would have a 0% (or low) interest rate.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and 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 hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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  1. graytham says:

    The writer of Q6 is an author? After reading her comment, I suggest she consider a different career.

  2. T'Pol says:

    Q6 an author? Really?

  3. Carole says:

    Q8 I suggest the couple go to the courthouse on a Friday lunch hour, legalize things then go away for the weekend. When they have the time and money take a nice vacation. After several years of cohabiting it’s anti-climactic to make a big splash.

  4. Johanna says:

    Right, because authors never make typos or grammatical mistakes or write informally – especially when writing in a language other than their native one.

  5. Johanna says:

    Q2: Surprised Trent didn’t break out his “if you keep separate finances, you’re not really married” idea.

  6. Johanna says:

    I don’t agree with that idea, but I do think that members of a married couple are entitled to equal quality of life. Whether you achieve that by combining finances or by dividing expenses in proportion to your incomes is up to you.

  7. Joan says:

    #6 Is this post a joke?

  8. Carole says:

    I thought Q2 was a joke! After all someone in the family usually makes more money than the other. Traditionally it’s the husband, but nowadays it may be the wife.

  9. Johanna says:

    @Carole: Just because it happens a lot doesn’t mean it can’t be difficult to deal with, especially when the income difference is large.

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