Updated on 03.12.13

Reader Mailbag #33

Trent Hamm

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. Two different readers asked for suggestions on books on how to drastically cut their spending, so here are reviews of my three favorite books on frugality.
My review of America’s Cheapest Family
My review of The Complete Tightwad Gazette
My review of The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches

And now for some great reader questions!

My company is going to go public sometime in the next year. I really think [my company] is great and it’s going to do great business. All of the employees are getting some stock immediately at the IPO. I currently don’t own any stock in my company or anything else. When the company goes public, what should I do?
– Shawn

(I edited out the company name because I didn’t want any privacy to be blown to bits.)

I’d let the IPO happen, then sell some of the stock shortly afterwards simply to diversify yourself. Take the amount you sold, make sure the taxes are covered on it, and put most of that into a very diverse investment, like a total stock market index fund and perhaps even some into CDs or bonds.

The worst thing you could do is bet that your IPO will be another Google. Big skyrocket IPOs like that are pretty rare. You’re better off getting diversified pretty quickly after the IPO, even if it takes off on the first day. Remember Enron? It took off like a shot and looked like a steamroller for a while. Then this happened.

Don’t let even a chance of that happen to you. Diversify most of what you’ve got in that company (but you don’t have to sell it all, especially if you believe in the company).

What have you been reading lately?
– Millie

As I write this, I’m currently reading The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. Before that, my last ten books read (as best I can recall) excluding books for review on The Simple Dollar were:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

The top one on the list (by Diaz) was the best one, I think – an amazing book.

This list reaches back to early summer. I tend to read less during the summer, when the sun comes up at 5 AM and goes down at 9 PM. I’d rather be outside.

You imply that, if [a person] continues to save $2,500 a month, within fifteen years he would be able to drop out of the rat race. Is that really possible?
– Lola

If you do nothing but hold onto those savings as cash, it adds up to $300,000 in cash. But, on the other hand, if you saved it at, say, 5% annual return, you end up with somewhere around $700,000 in savings.

Now, let’s say you choose to live on 4% of your savings (if it’s getting 5% return, it’s still growing). That’s $28,000 a year to live on – $2,300 a month. And it’ll grow slowly over time. You could easily live on that, especially if you were already accustomed to living frugally (and you would be, socking away $2,500 a month) and you weren’t idle with the time you previously used to work – meaning, you did something productive with your time instead of just idling and spending money.

So, yes, if you lived frugally and socked away $2,500 a month, you could walk away and have your own living stipend in fifteen years, quite easily. You might wonder about inflation, but if you get cost of living increases at work and those cost of living increases were reflected in the saving, so that’s accounted for, too, more or less.

You advise to “link to sites with roughly 1.5 to 2 times as many subscribers as you have. You should also talk to other bloggers that are even more popular in your genre.”

I’m new to blogging and I wonder how you find these sites – ones that are somewhat more popular.
– Robyn

You find them by simply reading as many blogs as you can in your genre. You’ll eventually begin to gather the relative popularity of other blogs from the number of comments in a week, the diversity of comments, and the number of times you see that blog mentioned in other blogs in the genre.

You should also look at traffic numbers and compare them to your own. Look for ones that report actual numbers, like the SiteMeter logo on a blog, and don’t put much weight in stuff like Quantcast or Comscore, which is based on weird statistical models that don’t often give a great idea of relative popularity of smaller sites.

You ever heard of a Green Dot Card? Is getting one a smart way to handle your spending habits? I’m looking into getting one but not sure if there are any monthly or yearly fees. What do you think?
– A-Town

I’d never heard of a “green dot card” until I received this email, so I did some searching. It turns out that it’s a prepaid Visa or Mastercard, which could itself be a decent way to help you control spending. But then there’s the catch – a $4.95 a month maintenance fee? That’s $60 a year.

Instead of using something like this, open up a basic free checking account at your local bank with a Visa or Mastercard tied to the account and no maintenance fees. You get almost all the same protections as a “green dot card” without having to pay $60 a month in maintenance fees for the privilege.

What’s your feeling on “charity” gifts – meaning instead of giving someone a gift, you give them a card saying you donated some amount to that charity in their name?
– Will

Personally, I don’t mind them at all, and I’d be happy to receive one. I would expect, though, that if I received one in a gift exchange with a $20 limit, the giver would actually spend that limit (or even a bit more, since the contribution would be tax deductible for the giver).

Having said that, I wouldn’t necessarily give everyone such a gift without some consideration. Before I would give such a gift, I’d want to know more about the person and I’d probably make an effort to choose a charity in line with their values and beliefs. For example, giving an atheist a “charity gift” to the Christian Children’s Fund could be insulting, as would be giving a vegan a “charity gift” to Heifer International. Those are rather strong examples, but it shows why you should think about it a bit.

Just talk about it with your friends and family sometime. See how they really feel about these gifts. Some people will appreciate them, some won’t.

Trent, where did you get that figure about having 1.2 times your salary by age 30 as a retirement savings benchmark?
– Angie

It’s a thumbnail sketch based on Money Magazine’s retirement benchmarks from their April 2007 issue:

Assuming you want to retire at age 60 and plan to have no pension and no job in retirement, you need to have…
1.6 times your salary in savings at age 35
3.5 times your salary in savings at age 40
5.8 times your salary in savings at age 45
8.5 times your salary in savings at age 50
11.9 times your salary in savings at age 55
16.0 times your salary in savings at age 60

Let’s say this scale assumes you start working at age 22. If you have zero savings then and need to have 1.6 times your salary at age 35, you can figure a lot of possible targets for age 30. A 1.2 target is definitely on the safe side, so it’s often the one I suggest. You’re far better off being ahead of pace at age thirty before the big expenses of marriage, buying a home, children, and so on can stack on you during your thirties and forties.

I enjoy your posts about food shopping choices and I’d like to know what a typical week’s worth of meals at your house is like. What do you eat?
– Crystal

There really is no “typical” week of eating around here. However, most weeks include the following elements:
– Most weekday breakfasts are very simple: cereal or oatmeal.
– Many weekend breakfasts are also simple, but once every two weeks or so we’ll cook something complex, like a frittata or waffles or a quiche.
– Most lunches (both weekday and weekend) are leftovers.
– A few breakfasts and lunches are things like burritos and breakfast biscuits that we make in big batches in advance.
– For dinner, we have homemade pizza one night a week.
– We usually have spaghetti one night a week as well with a simple homemade sauce.
– Roughly two nights a week, we have a complex homemade meal. This past week, we made beef Burgundy and spanakopita, both from scratch.
– The other three nights usually involve a mix of meals: crock pot stews and roasts, meat and vegetables on the grill, a simple stir fry, casseroles, and so on.
– We eat out once every two or three weeks at most.

That pretty much sums it up. Most of our ingredients tend towards healthier but more expensive choices, like free range chickens and eggs and hormone-free non-homogenized milk.

I’m following Dave Ramsey’s Money Makeover plan and he suggests having a $1,000 emergency fund before you start paying off debts. Now that I have the $1,000 fund, I don’t think it’s big enough. It wouldn’t help my family get through if I lost my job, and the economy worries me. Should I have a bigger emergency fund or should I stick with Dave’s plan?
– Del

Don’t let Dave’s guidance deter you here. If you feel more comfortable having an emergency fund that’s bigger than the $1,000 Dave suggests, build up that emergency fund.

I struggled with this very problem when I started turning my financial life around. My solution was to make a pretty sizable payment each month automatically into the emergency fund, and I still do it to this day. It makes for a very large emergency fund, of course, but that fund makes me feel secure about things like job loss, career change, and so on.

Go ahead and boost that emergency fund some more. It’ll make you more secure and help you sleep better at night.

You mentioned a while back that you liked an occasional mixed drink. What are your favorite drinks?
– Danny

I like most mixed drinks, provided they’re made with quality ingredients. I’d rather not waste my time with inexpensive liquor. It often smells like turpentine, tastes rough, and is loaded with congeners, which cause hangovers. Give me a glass of water instead, please.

I also generally prefer simple mixed drinks – rum and Cokes, gin and tonics, and scotch on the rocks are probably my three favorites (room-temperature scotch melts some of the ice, creating a cool scotch and water).

I usually drink one as a night cap with guests or occasionally with my wife, perhaps once a week. It can be a tasty, pleasant way to end an evening.

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

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  1. Trent,
    I’m a gin and tonic fan myself. What is your favorite Gin?

  2. Nicole says:

    Hi Trent,
    Could you address how folks with disabilities or who suddenly become disabled can mitigate some of the financial issues they may face like long term care, life/disability insurance for those who often get refused, and perhaps resources folks should look to for a little bit of help?

    Most people don’t consider those things until they need to and when they need to, they REALLY need to. I have been lucky (heh) enough to have issues nearly at the beginning of my career so that I have learned to protect my healthcare coverage and other things, but I am sure that I could do better. Any advice you could give in general can go a long way toward helping people who are at the beginning of such a journey as I was 10 years ago. Thanks for reading.

  3. Frugal Dad says:

    Trent, a question for next time: I remember reading about a custom debt snowball you used to pay off debt. Apparently, you piled up savings until the balance was enough to pay off your next debt. Can you discuss a little more about the mechanics of this process, and why it worked better for you than the traditional debt snowball method of making large debt payments each month?

  4. Johanna says:

    “Let’s say this scale assumes you start working at age 22. If you have zero savings then and need to have 1.6 times your salary at age 35, you can figure a lot of possible targets for age 30. A 1.2 target is definitely on the safe side, so it’s often the one I suggest. You’re far better off being ahead of pace at age thirty before the big expenses of marriage, buying a home, children, and so on can stack on you during your thirties and forties.”

    On the other hand, if you’re in grad school making diddly-squat until age 27 or so, but you’re not planning on having a big wedding or lots of kids, then you can have significantly less than 1.2 times your salary in retirement savings at age 30 and still be on track to meet the target at age 35. Just goes to show that everybody’s different.

  5. Jen says:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and gin & tonic are two of my all-time favorite things. :-)

  6. leslie says:

    I’m confused. Wasn’t there a reader email post about paying off your debts before trying to build a savings?

  7. Geoff says:

    Re the IPO Q&A, a key point was left out: Staff (at all levels) of IPO firms faces restrictions that make selling the firms shares difficult!

    The key is to read all the information supplied by the company and understand what you can and cannot do with the shares – short, medium and long term.

    Then and only then can you put in place a diversification plan.

    As and FYI any firm that provides shares to staff typically places restrictions on the stock. So the key as noted is to understand the firms policies.

  8. SteveJ says:

    I’m glad you explained the 1.2 target. I thought I was just hopelessly inept, but it turns out you’re working on a different time table. Half of my social circle is married homeowners towing a couple rugrats, all around age 30. The other half is pretty much single and renting though. They also tend to be less savings-conscious, there’s cars, PS3s, big TVs, and nice vacations to buy.

    Sort of along those lines, I recently did some research and I can up my 401K and keep the same takehome pay by modifying my witholdings. I ran the numbers a few ways, but I should be ok at tax time, I just might owe a couple hundred bucks rather than getting a few hundred back. In retrospect, pretty basic stuff, but it’s giving me some hope for getting a little more socked away. Too bad my employer provided 401K manager is completely inept, but hey even if I lose 30% I’m still up 70% with the match, right?

  9. Teri says:

    RE the charity gift thing: I’m vegetarian and my aunt is vegan and we both LOVE Heifer International. Most of those animals don’t turn out to be food, they turn out to be sources of food or income, and the program is designed to help families become self-sufficient (and animal manure is also the best fertilizer out there, so they end up with more nutritious crops both for themselves and their markets). It’s a wonderful program that helps people learn about animal husbandry and management, and is generally anti-factory-farming, which is what most vegetarians and vegans object to. If we lived in the same situations as people who receive Heifer livestock, we would likely make very different food choices because the ethical and health situations are so different.
    While I don’t doubt there are some vegans who disagree with Heifer, most are likely to think the program has lots of merit. Plus there are other gifts from Heifer, like tree seedlings, for instance, that are perfectly in line with vegan principles.

    I don’t disagree that you should try to determine whether the charity gift will be in line with the recipient’s values–I just disagree with the example. The end.


  10. MegB says:

    I just started reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn yesterday. I tried to read it a few years ago with my book club and couldn’t get through it. I guess for whatever reason it didn’t “hit me” back then. But yesterday when I started it, I just tore through the first fifty pages! It’s funny how sometimes a book doesn’t always float your boat the first time you pick it up.

  11. You can’t beat a White Russian. If it’s good enough for Moss out of The IT Crowd, it’s ambrosia to me.

  12. DaveG says:

    The “Human Fund” is a safe alternative for the charity gift.

  13. troy says:

    FYI: $2500 per month for 15 years totals $450,000 in savings, not $300,000.

  14. Mule Skinner says:

    Charity gifts: Who gets the tax deduction?

  15. iDave says:

    “The Demon-Haunted World” changed my life. I had been a huge fan of Dr. Sagan’s before, but after reading that book, I saw the world differently (and in a good way). Sagan’s “Baloney Detection Kit” alone is worth the price of the paperback.

  16. Love gin & tonics, but I’d also recommend gin & ginger. The ginger ale makes it sweet, but not as cloying as many cocktails.

  17. Kitty says:

    Hi, question for next time: I’m a full-time college student, getting through school on grants, loans, and scholarships (parents can’t afford to help out due to father’s illness), and was wondering, since I do have a job, would it be smarter to start paying off loans now, while I’m still in school, or save my money for when I’m out of school to find an apartment/move/whatev. Any thoughts?

  18. Rebeckah says:

    Such great tips! I think I am going to make beef burgandy for supper tonight! Hope you have a wonderful week!

  19. anonforthis says:

    Well, the giver of the charity gift gets the tax deduction, of course, so it’s really a present for the giver!
    I wouldn’t say it’s never appropriate to “give” a gift of charity, but I’ve only ever seen it be ridiculous. Where I used to work, there were a few professionals who would pass out Christmas cards to all the staff announcing that a contribution to whatever charity had been made “in your name.” I got a few of these from people I didn’t even work with. Uh, thanks, I guess? Am I supposed to write a thank-you note for it? Seems more like they were trying to knock out perceived gift obligations while doing their year-end charitable giving. I don’t recall any controversial charities, and of course I am totally in favor of people giving to charity, but making it a “gift” just felt weird.
    I would never do this unless I knew for a fact that a particular contribution would mean a lot to a particular person, maybe because I knew he felt passionately about a cause but couldn’t afford to contribute (which means I would have to a least know him personally).

  20. Lola says:

    Trent, thank you very much for answering my question and giving me hope!
    But sorry, I still don’t get the 1.2 question. Let’s say I’m 45 and already have 16 times my annual salary (which is what you should have by the time you’re 60). Can I retire right now or do I still have to wait till I’m 60? Could you elucidate on that a little bit?
    For instance, if I’m 45 now, and my salary is 20,000 a year. I should have 16 x 20,000 = 320,000 by 60. If I have that now, should I wait until I’m 60?

  21. Kevin says:

    Lola – those are just benchmarks to guide you along the process. As others have said, everyone is different based on their spending habits. Congrats on having your age 60 benchmark at age 45.

    However, if you did retire now and start spending some of that money to live on instead of money earned from a job or business, would you still have 16 x $20,000 by age 60?

    I don’t think there is any “right” answer here, just guidelines to help along the way. Ultimately, you have to decide if you think that is enough money for the lifestyle you want in retirement.

  22. We have pizza once a week too.

    Like your reader, I feel like $1000 is a worryingly small emergency savings. That wouldn’t even pay our mortgage for a month, and that makes me nervous. I will feel much, much better when we have 3-6 months in the banks(we’re only a quarter of the way to three months at this point).

  23. Mule Skinner says:

    So it appears that to give a true “charity gift” you would also give away the deduction. The charity would get the $100, and the “recipient” would get a note indicating that they can now claim a tax deduction against that $100. Then you can feel doubly altruistic.

  24. KC says:

    Del – If I’m not mistaken Ramsey says $1000 will cover just about any unexpected expense. Of course that was written a few years ago before this current inflationary period we’re experiencing. Personally I think $2k would be a much better number today for a very basic emergency fund.

    But even Ramsey says it isn’t adequate, its just enough to Murphy at bay so you can seriously get rid of your consumer debts. Once you have those under control you beef up that emergency fund to 3-6 mos. of your expenses. I don’t think he intends for this meager $1k emergency fund to tide your family over if someone lost a job.

    But you may be on to something in this economic climate. That meager emergency fund may need to be a little more that $1k. Just don’t have so much cash on hand that you neglect the debt (especially that at a high interest rate). You’d be negating any progress if you did that by keeping all that cash on hand and not paying off the debts.

  25. Mister E says:

    I look at my emergency fund as being for an unexpected expense that’s larger than I can afford out of my week to week budget and $1,000 is maybe a little low but not too unreasonable. That’ll pay most random car repairs or what have you.

    The fund for paying bills and things should I become unemployed for an extended period is seperate (more of an “Oh, CRAP!” fund) and is, by neccesity larger.

  26. Ravi says:

    Hello Trent,

    I have been trying hard to pick up reading. As soon as I start reading, I tend to think of ways to avoid reading that book. Chances are it is because I have a ‘productivity’ book in my hands.

    Could you recommend a few books I can get started with, which don’t bore me. I am hoping to completely read one book and use that momentum to start reading more books.


  27. Justin says:

    Hi Trent,
    I’m a big fan of the site: I visit it almost daily. But there’s one topic I’d like to know your opinion on: pets! A lot of people have pets, but are there any good frugal ideas to save some money? We’ve got three dogs, and a couple of birds. I would imagine a lot of people have either a cat or dog, and as they’re great companions, and with your knowledge of personal finance, do you have any advice for trimming the fat for animal-based expenses. Thanks for reading!

  28. Shevy says:

    I work for a non-profit and the rules (in Canada) are that, in general, the person (or company) who actually pays for the donation is the one who gets the tax receipt no matter who pledged the donation. (So, if Joe Smith pledges $100 but writes the cheque from his company, ABC Holdings, the company will get the tax receipt.)

    If you want to deviate from that (say 3 of you got together to give a $180 framed certificate to someone and you put it all on your credit card but the other 2 paid you back in cash) you have to request it in writing to the non-profit and the tax receipt will then be issued (or, in the case above, split up between the 3) as in the request.

    But it has to be in writing because the auditors want to see that paper trail and so will the Infernal Revenue sooner or later. And only the person who actually receives the tax receipt can use it on their taxes.

  29. Shane says:

    be really careful about divesting of the IPO. Generally, your agreement with the bank that helped take you public will preclude the selling of shares during the lockup period, both before and after the IPO.
    Also, if you are the owner and a major shareholder, these sales transactions will be public information if they are above a certain level. There’s very complicated rules about how the insiders can sell shares; talk to your accounting firm, investment bank, and counsel about all of this before you take any action, or even mention to anyone that you are interested in taking an action.

  30. Carrie says:

    I gave my vegetarian Indian relatives a Heifer International donation in lieu of Christmas holidays gifts – I just specified a water buffalo intended for milk production. No one was offended and they all approve of giving gifts that make those in poverty more self-reliant.

  31. sortoffrugalstudent says:


    I’ve put Oxfam Novib stuff on my christmas list for a while now. When I realised that I was having trouble coming up with things I really wanted to ask for, I decided that that probably meant I already have enough stuff… and knowing that there’s people who don’t have enough by far, it was a simple choice.

    There’s a magnet on my fridge now showing that ten chickens have been donated in my name.

    I’m happy knowing that someone’s life was made just a little better and I don’t have something new to dust. :)

    (There are some cultural differences here, though. We don’t give as many gifts (nor spend as much money on them) as seems to be the custom in the US, and there’s no such thing as a gift receipt here. The gift might be accompanied by a remark ‘I still have the receipt’, but that’s just in case it’s the wrong size or you already own that item. You’d be expected to exchange it for something similar.)

  32. princess_peas says:

    When you send out the emails for The Simple Dollar (for people who do not visit the blog directly everyday), please can they have actual subject lines on them relating to their content? I have been avidly reading The Simple Dollar by email for two to three weeks and whilst I have enjoyed almost all of them, there have been several that I wanted to file away for future use because I thought they contained something very important. But if I’ve flagged a handful of such emails in just a few weeks, a couple of years down the line finding that one that I thought would be helpful for this situation (whatever it is at the time) amongst the many more there would be will be a nightmare.
    So please can they have the actual subject in the subject line rather than just The Simple Dollar? I get that in the from line!

    But it’s a great great blog, many many thanks for it!

  33. Chris says:


    With ING’s recent interest rate drop from 3.00 to 2.75 % for their orange Savings account, would you consider switching to other banks with higher interest rates, ie: Dollar Savings Direct (4.00%), or would you keep your money at ING?

  34. Tim Porter says:

    I enjoyed the responses regarding giving charity donations as gifts. Charity Card Mall has a new offering available now – Donation Cards. They work like a gift card. You purchase a Donation Card in the store and 100% goes to the charity on the card. A gift-able and easy solution. Currently you will find Easter Seals Donation Cards, $5 and $25, available in CVS stores, right on the Gift Card Display. Charity Card Mall makes giving to charity as “easy as buying a gift card”. I would appreciate your comments on this new program for giving.

  35. Chris says:

    At 9 p.m. I am in bed with my youngest reading a story until both he and I are asleep. My alarm signals a new day at 415 a.m. that next morning.

    There are so many things I would like to learn with regard to finances and other interests, but I cannot seem to find dedicated time during the regular day. My choices are forcing myself to wake-up after I put my son to bed and work “after hours” or I get up at 3 a.m.? Which would you do?

  36. Mol says:

    Do you keep tabs of your websites readers? How many did you have the day you began? How many at 6 monthes, 1 year, 2 years? Congrats Trent! Still love your work.

  37. Tim says:


    I have just recently gotten acquanted with Google Reader and must say that I love reading your blog posts!

    I have a question for possible inclusion in your next Monday of answering questions:

    I am currently a college student. Throughout high school I worked really hard to earn scholarships and save money for college. During my third semester in college, I started CoOping (if you are not familiar with this, it is where a college student works for a company that does work related to the student’s major, and the college student earns money and gets work experience). Not only am I funding my entire education, thanks to scholarships and CoOp, but I also have a lot of money just sitting in the bank earning no interest (on the range of about an extra $5,000 – $10,000). I am 21, and I have thought the best choice would be to wait until I make a down payment on a future house until I start investing long-term or putting money in a 401k. So I have been trying to put money in short-term CDs. However, I hear that CDs don’t even keep up with inflation at times (such as now – I think). Is there anything I can do with this spare money for short-term investing with little risk other than CDs? Is this the proper approach – waiting to invest after I purchase my first home (which I plan to purchase maybe 2-3 years after college)?


  38. silver says:

    What would be a better kitchen investment, a stand mixer or a food processor? I make bread about 2-4 times a month. I cook dinner at home 5 times a week (with leftovers the 6th night and we eat at the in-laws the 7th night). Dinners often have diced chicken breast, chopped veggies, etc. I bake cookies maybe 1-2 times a month.

    Can food processors make cookie dough or cake batters with the dough blade? Or just bread doughs? How do I determine the size that I need to get (for either appliance)?

  39. Angela says:

    Question about my parents: My dad has 50% of his 401K in company stock. My mom and I have been telling him that he should diversify, but since his company stock has grown so much in the past 15 years he never wanted to. Now we are in today’s market and everything has plummeted. Is it still a good idea for him to diversify now in today’s market?

  40. lizette says:

    In response to:
    “For example, giving an atheist a “charity gift” to the Christian Children’s Fund could be insulting, as would be giving a vegan a “charity gift” to Heifer International.”

    I agree with the sentiment behind this, though I disagree with one of the two examples (as a vegan atheist). Christian Children’s Fund is a secular charity; I’ve donated to them myself with no concerns whatsoever. The “Christian” in the name refers primarily to the organization’s founder (a minister). They do not proselytize. (In fact, they’ve come under criticism from conservative Christian groups for “misrepresenting” themselves.)

    On the other hand, I would be greatly offended if I ever received a donation to Heifer as a “gift”. It’s important to note that while you can choose a vegetarian gift like a fruit tree, etc. your donation does not actually go towards the specific gift you choose. It supports all of Heifer’s programs (including those that give away animals for food). Check the FAQs on their own website – they indicate that while they do separate gifts by category, they move funding between categories as needed and so they can’t guarantee that your donation will go to the item you “bought”.

    (On the other hand, Christian Children’s Fund has a similar program, “Gifts of Hope and Love”, which I believe does match your funds to the specific gift you chose…)

  41. katie says:

    Demon Haunted World is my all time favorite book! I have several copies and loan them out anytime I get a chance. I think it changes your entire perspective on information. I really would love to hear what you think of it. Shoot me an email and let me know what you think of it so far!

  42. M says:

    Justin @ 4:46 pm October 20th, 2008 (comment #24)
    Having dogs for over 20 years and having as many as 4 50+lbs dogs at the same time, I have a couple of ideas for you. We made our Vet our best friend, he was our vet for all our dogs and also raised cattle. By helping him out a little everynow and then with this or that (mostly computer stuff) sometimes we wouldn’t be charged an office call, if your pet is on medication, usually as they age, see if you can purchase it in large quanities, sometimes people medicine can be sub’d, ask and you will save money. Always feed the best food you can afford, some will disagree but our pets lived long and healthy lives, limit treats, forgo people treats (cookies, candy etc) and take them for daily walks, don’t do a marathon work out on the weekend. Seatbelt them in the car, never let them ride in the back of a truck, if you stop to fast they will slide off the seat or slam into the bed of the truck. Dog proof your home and yard, they will eat anything. All our dogs lived indoors but spent a great deal of time outside during the day in good weather, we used baby shampoo, and frontline for flees and ticks. Keep their weight down, call the vet at the first sign of illness or strange activity, you know your pet best if they are doing something out of the ordinary call. Keep up on the shots and limit activity with dogs you don’t know, we did not hit the dog park and let our dogs run free. Always use a leash, keep your pet under control or they could run into the street or fight with another. Have them fixed right away, if you can’t afford it contact your local shelter to see if it’s offered at a lower price or talk to your Vet and work out a payment plan. The biggest thing I tell people is 1. Dogs don’t speak English, you can rant and rave and it won’t do any good, if you hit you just become a mean person, if they have an accident don’t rub their face in it, would you do that to a child? 2. You are their whole world, they wait for you to come home at night, don’t shove them out the door if they are all excited to see you. In short prevention is cheaper than the cure. A pet crate used properly is not cruel, it can keep them out of trouble when your not there.

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