Updated on 07.29.10

Reader Mailbag: When Do I Write Mailbags?

Trent Hamm

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. Netflix for family bonding
2. Guilt over income
3. Dishwasher versus hand washing
4. Cancelling a new card
5. Pushy parents and hotel rooms
6. Trust money for college
7. Getting “wants” under control
8. Used deep freezers
9. Apply now or later?
10. Blogging and personal information

A couple people asked me recently about my posting habits. When do I actually write my mailbags?

I usually try to keep a few mailbags ahead, simply because they consume a ton of time to produce and if something is happening in my life, I don’t want to miss a posting.

I usually write two or three of them a week, all roughly at the same time. I go through my reader mailbag email folder, pull out thirty or so questions, and make up columns out of them.

stop me if you have heard this–netflix–but wait. I pay for my 85 year old grandmothers subscription. Giving netflix is not unsual but I think a group that could actual benefit from it most are left out of the loop–the elderly or non-internet friendly. I rejected the idea several times thinking “she isn’t really comfortable with the actual internet”. She uses a dial up AOL account for some limited email but the internet as a whole is just a little too much. But then I had a revelation. Why can’t I just mange her account. It works wonderfully. She writes down whenever she gets a recommend from a friend or sees a preview on tv and then every couple of weeks via phone we update her queue (I live far away thus the phone). Now she gets to avoid doing things she doesn’t like (driving, wandering around the blockbuster, using the internet) and replaces them with things she does (watching movies, talking to her granddaughter, getting the mail like she does anyway, watching old movies or series that are hard to come by in the local store). It does cost me the regular subscription fee but I get use of the on-demand (which enabled me to get rid of my own subscription) and she gets all the movies and shows she wants without any hassle.Her house has become the place to be on Saturday night “for movies that katie sent me from the internet” with all her friends. It also has opened a new area of discussion with us about old movies and how she saw them the first time. It has become one of my crowning gift achievements because I know how much she likes it because she knows if she ever doesn’t want it anymore I can cancel the subscription anytime (also she tells me every time we talk about how much she loved the movie she got yesterday/ last week).
– Katie

Given that Netflix costs $9 a month for this service, this is an absolutely great way to bond with a family member, particularly one with limited mobility.

Think of it this way. She’s giving her grandmother a yearlong Netflix subscription for Christmas – $100. Or, alternately, six months for Christmas and six months for her grandmother’s birthday – $50 a pop. That gift, because of its nature, keeps a relationship going between Katie and her grandmother.

This gift isn’t about Netflix. It’s about maintaining a very valuable relationship – and building on it. That’s well worth the price of the gift, in my opinion.

I am a 23 years old and my salary is $70k. My boyfriend and I live in a condo I purchased last year, and he makes $50k a year (he’s 23 as well). To get the basic money stats out of the way I have a $12,000 car loan, $15,000 student loan and mortgage of $160,000. Weirdly, all these loans have the exact same interest rate at 5%. I have no other consumer debt and my bf has no debt at all. I contribute 10% to a Roth and my employer contributes 10% to my 401k. My bf saves 3/4 of his income.

My problem is, I just have so much guilt about the money we make, I don’t know what to do about it and feel sort of depressed. We both worked hard at state schools to get technical degrees and make connections, but I just feel almost like I didn’t pay my dues or that my life is going too easy. We have so many hard-working and creative friends who can’t find work through absolutly no fault of their own. I’m under no illusions that I somehow “deserve” my job and someone else doesn’t. Sometimes I literally feel sick to my stomach knowing we make more than the average 4 person family. Our parents are quick to remind us that they raised us on less then we’re making now.

Even with our income, I worry about money a lot. I feel like I’m not spending it in the right ways, or that I don’t have enough saved, or I’m not paying debt down enough. Even though rationally I know we’re pretty ok with where we stand. Sometimes I get motivated and for a few months I’ll chuck some extra money towards my car loan, but that just isn’t satisfying. I have an emergency fund of $8000, and contribute $500 to it monthly, but I’m having a hard time saving more beyond that. It seems kind of pointless so we end up going out to eat a lot, buying items for the condo, better clothes, etc. (all with cash) There a some things I know we should be saving for (probable wedding, a larger place for kids) but those feel pretty far away, and anyways, if they come to fruition, that would be the purpose of my bf’s savings.

How do I reign in my spending when I can’t find a reason to save even more? How do I find satisfaction? How do I stop feeling guilty about the things I do choose to buy? How do I formulate a 5 year plan without feeling like I’m tempting fate to come spite me? I track my net worth and budget, but what are better tools I can use to project my total debt repayment/ future earnings? How do I know if I am in a good place financially? I know it could be better, but I also know it could be way worse. Some blogs will tell me I’m diving too far into the consumer culture and I should pinch my pennies and run as fast as I can the other direction, while some blogs (and friends and family) seem to say I’m being too conservative and need to live a little. Help!
– Amy

If you feel guilty about what you’re making, give that money to someone or something else. If you feel guilty about what you’re spending your money on, spend it on something else.

There are no rules about what you have to do with the money you earn. Channel it towards charities. Channel it towards a 529 for your nieces and nephews. Channel it towards making sure you have enough to live on for the rest of your life so you can quit your job when you’re 40 and do volunteer work for the rest of your life.

It’s your life. You make the rules. If something makes you feel guilty, do it differently.

I’d love to see a comparison between handwashing dishes and using a dishwasher. I know some of it depends on your brand/model but it would be an interesting read.
– Mavis

This is another comparison that’s very difficult to do because there is no consistent standard for handwashing dishes. We all do it differently. In general, methods of handwashing that conserve resources tend to eat more time.

That’s generally the case with comparing handwashing to dishwashers. Handwashing is significantly less expensive per load, but has a significantly higher time investment per load. In short, when you buy a dishwasher, what you’re paying for is time.

Based on the Consumer Reports articles I’ve read about dishwashers, you’re better off in terms of total cost over the life of the dishwasher to buy a high-end one rather than a cheap one. The high-end ones last longer than two or three low-end ones, plus they use less resources per load and often get the dishes cleaner as well, reducing the need for re-washing.

Today my wife informed me that she applied for a store credit card in a panic for the immediate $20 discount. She was buying something for her mother at a store that we’ve never been to before and we don’t have any plans to return. She just got freaked out when she saw the total balance. We have a few CCs already between us, but the only one I’ve ever applied for in the past is the one I have from my bank, which I asked for while in a Wells Fargo branch. So my question is this, Is there another step beyond the initial application before we find ourselves with a new credit card we will never use? And if we do end up with it, what should we do with it? I’m a university student and my wife teaches at a high school so we’re still pretty young in our financial life and aren’t making much. How will affect our credit (which is currently good) if we have to cancel it? The card doesn’t carry any annual fees, so what would happen if we just cut it up?
– Mike

I wouldn’t worry at all about cancelling the new card since you already have a few credit cards. Cancelling the card will only have a minor and very short-term impact on your credit rating, one that I would deem to be of less concern than having an unused credit card just sitting there.

It’s important to remember what actually makes up your credit score. From an earlier article:

Components of the FICO score
Payment history – 35%
Amounts owed – 30%
Length of credit history – 15%
New credit – 10%
Types of credit used – 10%

You’re not altering your credit history length, your payment history, or your amounts owed by cancelling the card, and the effect on the “new credit” part will likely be positive. I simply wouldn’t worry about it.

My parents recently called up and told me they would like to take a weekend trip to visit me. They have not visited me since I moved to this new city. I am living with my wife in a cramped 1 bedroom apartment, so they agreed it would be better for them to stay at a hotel. But then they said that they expect for me to pay for the hotel. I was appalled and declined, but they kept pressing the issue so I just reluctantly agreed. So…

(1) Were they out of line for basically demanding that I pay for their hotel room, or was I out of line for not agreeing or offering in the first place?


(2) I am a bit confused as to what kind of hotel I should book for them. It is just one night, so I could technically “afford” to have them stay anywhere from the Bates Motel to the Four Seasons. But I do not know what would be appropriate in this situation.
– Bruce

You’re seeing a culture clash more than anything else here.

Your parents likely think it’s completely reasonable that their child would put them up when they come to visit. Since you don’t have adequate living space, a hotel is the next reasonable option. I think that’s reasonable logic, with one exception: it sounds like they’ve invited themselves. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t feel required to host them.

You’re going to have to sit down and talk this whole thing through with them. You’re in an area where hard feelings are obviously at work on both sides of the coin and if you don’t deal with it now, it’ll just fester and put poison in the relationship. Settle this together in a reasonable way. I can’t tell you what that reasonable way is because I don’t know the ins and outs of your relationship with your parents. I can say that I can see situations where very different options are appropriate.

My grandfather is fairly wealthy, with an approximate net worth now of about $12 million at age 92. (He still works at the financial corporation he started in the ’70s, so he hasn’t touched his retirement accounts at all, and lives on his income.) The way his estate is set up, his Roth IRA will be split between his 4 grandchildren (including myself) in such a way that when he dies, we will each be required to withdraw a certain percentage of the IRA each year based on our ages. He has business partnerships in various high-end agricultural commodities, and my mother and uncle, and then my cousin and siblings and I, will inherit the partnerships. All of this, to me, is highly speculative, since none of this money has ever equaled cash flow to me. It’s just hypothetical to me right now, and I have no real sense of what this will mean in future dollar amounts to me.

He also has four separate trusts for each of the four grandchildren, each of which currently has about $115,000 in it. Those trusts had always been explained to me as being educational trusts, intended to support our educational endeavors. I didn’t use mine for undergrad, since I won tuition scholarships. Now, I will be entering graduate school in the fall — a 2-year master’s program in anthropology. My tuition will be $12,000 per year, and my living expenses (I live in San Francisco) will be around $2,000/month, including rent, health insurance, expenses, groceries, cost of public transportation and owning a bike (I don’t own a car), books, and various incidental household expenses. I am reluctant to commit to a job that will support me that much since my degree program is full-time and has a reputation for being very demanding. I hope to get a part-time job after a few months of being in school to see what’s actually manageable for me.

So, here’s the clincher. My grandfather informed me a few months ago that what I had originally thought was an educational trust is actually just a general-purpose trust, and he doesn’t want me to take money from it for living expenses. So, my tuition can come out of the trust, but not my living expenses during graduate school. So, panicked, I applied for financial aid. (Since I am not the trustee of my educational trust, it doesn’t count as one of my assets.) I was offered $16,000 in federal unsubsidized loans at a 6% interest rate. Having never had loans for anything (not even consumer debt!), I only have a very foggy idea of what this means and how much it would cost me to take out these loans. And I’m not fundamentally opposed to taking out student loans.

But here’s the thing: I was raised (though it might not sound it) solidly middle class — my mother is a teacher, and my father was a stay-at-home dad. They never had any debt aside from the mortgage, and raised me and my siblings with solid financial principles. Pay cash when you have it. Don’t go into debt. Save 30%. Don’t borrow from your future. So even though there’s always been this promise of money from my grandfather, since it’s never turned into cash flow, we’ve always acted financially as if he were your average middle-class Joe. So it feels really, really counter-intuitive to me to take out student loans when there is $115,000 in cash in a trust in my name — what I thought was an educational trust to boot. And when he dies, that money will become mine anyway. It could be a down payment on a house (in SF, it could really only be a down payment on a 1-bedroom apartment, though I know in some parts of the country it could buy an entire house), it could go into college savings accounts for my future (hypothetical) children, it could be used for a wedding, for retirement… The trust is currently invested in various things, and I’m not sure what its annual returns are, but I think right now probably not much more than 8%?

So what should I do? Should I take out student loans at 6% interest rate? Or does it make more sense to try to convince my grandpa that it’s not wise to borrow money when I can pay cash?
– Eva

When you can pay cash?

This is your grandfather’s money, not your money. He worked to earn it and he has the full right to choose how to spend it. If he wants to give it to you with stipulations, that’s his choice, and it’s your choice whether to accept it. After all, many people survive without a millionaire grandfather as a benefactor.

Most people go into debt for their education. How did your parents pay for it? Unless they were very lucky with scholarships, they either took out loans or someone wrote a check for them.

The biggest financial mistake people make is counting their chickens before they’ve hatched, and that’s exactly what you’re doing. Plan as if there is no money coming from your grandfather at all. When it does arrive, use it as best you can.

I am deep in credit card debt & digging my way out. However, I have been doing a lot of thinking & reading about WHY people get into debt. I will stay on track for approx 3 mos with paying down debt. Then, I will get something in my head that I want to do or buy. I cannot stop thinking about. I think about getting the cards out and using them, or how can I scrounge up enough to buy that shirt, movie, etc. How can I figure out WHY I get that way? Often, I don’t act on it but it does consume my brain for a few days.

I realized that part of the reason I got into debt was a)never learning how to manage money at a young age b)growing up in a modest home but yearning for a more expensive lifestyle that included new clothes, stuff, and vacations.

I am worried that if I pay off my cards, I will get myself right back into debt because of this mentality of wanting things. How do I address this & find the root of the problem so that I can start to work on a solution? Its exhausting to always be thinking about this. I wish I could get everything on an automatic path & forget it about it, while my debt is paid down.
– Becky

You have a choice: do I buy or do I not buy? If you make the right choice on that question, it doesn’t matter how much you want something. You’ll always end up in the right place.

I can name a lot of things I want to have. Do I own them? No. Will I own them? For the most part, no, and the ones I do own were likely saved and planned for.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting things, nor is there anything wrong with buying them sometimes. The key things to remember is that you need to make sure you can fully afford it and you also need to make sure that when you buy something, you aren’t just going to want something else tomorrow. Be patient with wht you do buy.

What make and model is an efficient and economical deep freezer? Or do you recommend purchasing a used one in good condition?
– Missy

Whenever you’re asking a question like that, the best place to go is to your local library. Visit the magazine room and start leafing through recent issues of Consumer Reports until you find their most recent freezer roundup. You’ll rarely go wrong with their “best buy” option.

I never recommend buying a used freezer unless you’re getting an incredibly steep discount or getting it for free. The cost of a repair bill on a freezer often adds up to a large chunk of the cost of the unit itself and a used unit is much closer to needing a repair than a new unit is. It’s just not worth the risk to all of the contents you’re going to have in the freezer.

That being said, a deep freezer will save you money because it allows so much more economy with one’s food purchases.

I am currently working on a masters degree where I will finish in December 2011, and be finished with course work and any research obligations in August of the same year. My wife recently got accepted to Duke to work on her masters starting in August of 2011. Therefore, we will be moving to the area at that time and I need a job. If there is a job posted now that is perfect for me should I apply for it now knowing I will not be able to start for a year?
– Jacob


Most academic jobs – and if you’re headed to the Research Triangle with a degree, you’re probably looking at them – will stay open for a while if the right candidate comes along. In my previous work, I saw it happen many, many times.

Even more important, interviewing now allows you to start meeting and connecting with and building positive impressions with people in that area who might not hire you now, but might hire you down the road. These relationships are invaluable.

I’ve become a recent follower of quite a few PF blogs, including yours, and they inspire me to want to create my own. Not just on personal finance, but the topics that interest me, of course.

1. I notice some blogs have quite a bit of personal info out there, sometimes including pictures of children, the house, etc etc. How do you know what personal information or how much of it to put out, beyond what is common sense (e.g. SSN, home address, and all that)?

2. What kind of website/software would you recommend starting out with and/or would be useful in blogging? I’m not looking to host my own site, or have my site with an independent domain (sitehere.com). I have some experience with WordPress, having had to use it for a school assigned blog project, but if there’s something else I don’t know about that you would recommend, that’d be great.
– Huan

There’s no exact art on how much information to put out there. It’s more about your own comfort level than anything else. I usually solve this dilemma by altering enough little details about personal information that people who might try to use it maliciously will end up with a big pile of confusion. Almost always, the personal specifics don’t make the story, so changing those specifics only serves to protect you and doesn’t alter what you’re saying.

If you’re just starting out, you have to make sure that you’re going to be able to produce the content. Content is king – everything else is secondary. I would suggest starting with a free host, like Blogger, and making sure that you can actually write enough stuff consistently to build any sort of audience.

If you can, there are a lot of options out there. I would probably move to a shared hosting service from there and host things yourself with WordPress, but then you start introducing monthly costs to the equation – which is why I usually tell people to figure out if you can blog before investing money.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag. However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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  1. Kevin says:

    “Handwashing is significantly less expensive per load. […] When you buy a dishwasher, what you’re paying for is time.”

    Is that accurate? I’ve seen studies that have shown that dishwashing is actually LESS expensive, because it uses so much less water. When you wash dishes in a sink, you’re consuming several liters of hot water, whereas a dishwasher gets the same job done with much less. Even factoring in the electrical expense of running the dishwasher (which works out to pennies), it’s the cost of the hot water that makes the difference.

    Have I been mislead? Does anyone have any hard numbers on this? All this time, I’ve been believing that not only is my dishwasher saving me time, it’s actually CHEAPER than handwashing, too. Am I wrong?

  2. Molly says:

    @Amy – It is OKAY. You have worked hard, and you earn money for that. That’s ok. I make ~63K, and my partner makes ~27K. We’ve found that the easiest way to save money is to make it hard to get to – so we’ll put more in Vanguard when we get raises, or when we get a chunk of money, we’ll put it in a CD. When it’s in my linked savings/checking accounts, it’s just too tempting. It’s also helped us to have a set “fun budget” line for each of us as well as a join one (for dates/eating out/entertainment). And then a line item for charity.
    Maybe it would help to change your perspective on the money – it’s not “savings is left over”, it’s “we have this budget, and we stick to it the best we can, and we have set savings amounts, and whatever’s left goes into savings.”
    Good luck.

  3. George says:

    @Amy – guilt to the point of feeling ill is not normal. Please seek medical help.

  4. Maggie says:

    @Amy – Is your BF saving 3/4 of his income into a joint account? If not, I would suggest you beef up YOUR personal savings. I would hate to see your choices limited in the future because you do not have enough money in your name.

  5. Johanna says:

    @Amy: There are a lot of interrelated things going on in your letter. It sounds like you’re saving plenty of money already, but if you want to motivate yourself to save more rather than spending a lot of money on things you don’t find satisfying, I like the exercise in “Your Money Or Your Life” where you add up how much money you’ve made over your lifetime, and you compare that number to your net worth. They tell you to calculate everything down to the last penny, which I’m not sure is really necessary – it’s more the way of looking at things: You’ve earned a certain amount of money so far in your life, so what do you have to show for it?

    As for figuring out what you do find satisfying: Is there anything that’s part of your life right now that makes you genuinely happy? If there is, spend more time on that. If there’s not, try doing some different things. Take a long weekend and go to a place you’ve never been before. Read some books, or take a course, about something you don’t know much about. Try a new hobby, join a club, or do some volunteer work. These are just ideas.

  6. Stephanie says:

    @Amy Save in case you decide to have children. Save money now so that you can take a year off of work to stay with your baby if you decide that is what you want to do. Save even more and you might be able to scale back to part-time until your baby is old enough for school. I consider myself a feminist. I was always one who never knew if I would have or want a kid and if I did was just sure I would have no problem sending the kid to daycare. Fast forward after a few years of not saving as much as I could have and I’ve spend the last couple of years patching together enough free-lance work so I didn’t have to leave my baby in daycare. You never know. I wish someone had suggested this to me when I was your age making good money. If you decide not to have kids or stay home with them for much duration, then you have a nice chunk of change for their college fund, braces, summer camps, and family vacations.

  7. Kim says:

    @Amy – I understand why you might feel guilty but try to look at another way. I have first hand experience. My husband and I both graduated with engineering degrees and great paying jobs out of college. During our 20’s we socked away almost one entire paycheck and lived on the other. It is one of the best financial moves we have ever made! By the time kids came along, we already were set financially and had most of our retirement funds socked away. Then came all a baby and I was able to stay home. Next came some of life’s everyday tragedies with a kid diagnosed with a severe neurological/learning disorder and then I was diagnosed with cancer. With our nest egg, we were able to weather the storms. I would recommend looking at your current incomes as an opportunity to work towards financial independence and be thankful. Saving $$$ in your 20’s is one of the best thing financially you could ever do to set yourself up for a life a financial stability. You have the power of time and compounding interest on your side.

  8. Paul says:

    @ Amy:
    I didn’t even finish reading the mailbag after your letter, I felt the need to post a reply so strongly that I wanted to write it right away.

    My family and I are in a very similar situation. We make a significant income and constantly feel guilty watching those around us struggle with todays economy. Whenever we think of what we have in the savings account, we feel guilty knowing that others are losing their jobs and wondering how they and their families are going to get by. I’ve even seen the looks on the faces of others when purchasing items that they may feel are extravagent. Not having experienced any open hostility yet myself, but having heard stories from others who have, I’m never really sure what others are thinking.

    I have found Trent’s suggestion helpful though. Our neighbors are very poor and lending DVDs to them and purchasing small gifts for their children has helped the family psyche in our household. I guess that what I really wanted to say is this: you’re not alone.

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

  9. Adam P says:

    I agree with #3 George. Amy needs professional help. Trent is averse to psychology, but I think Amy suffers from some sort of mental affliction and would benefit from seeing a therapist. Johanna is right as well to point out “Your Money or Your Life”, that book is great at this stuff. But I think Amy is just beyond that, she sounds unbalanced.

  10. JonFrance says:

    @Eva, from a distance you must realise how funny it looks to be going off to do a 2-year master’s program in anthropology, in SF, and then in the same breath claim you have hard-working middle class values. Surely you realise that it is a tremendous luxury to be able to dedicate two years in a city like SF (and, I hope, a prestigious institution of learning), all to study a subject that you find fascinating (so do a lot of people), but which has no real job prospects beyond the ones you already have with a bachelor’s degree?

    Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like a great way to spend two years, but so would spending two years backpacking around Europe. I don’t know that I would consider either one a very necessary part of a long-term plan, though.

    Anyway, that’s just to give a stranger’s point of view on what your plans look like; you should be aware that many people will view these kinds of ‘fun’ degrees as slightly self-indulgent luxuries, quite unlike the attitude society has towards career based ones. Heh, could be a topic for an anthropology paper :)

    As for specific advice, I think Trent’s was pretty good.

  11. Gretchen says:

    Is Amy doing all the spending/ bill paying while her bf does all the saving?

  12. Pam says:

    I agree on the netflix! I get my 87 year old dad netflix, he tells me what he wants and I add it to the queue. I think if Netflix found a way for the elderly to subscribe, the might have more business. But this also works for me in that I get to watch these classic movies with my dad, or watch my own choices online. One thing I notice, it would help if more classic movies had closed caption for the hard of hearing.

  13. Johanna says:

    @Maggie, @Gretchen: I got the impression that the condo is in Amy’s name, so she pays the whole mortgage and all the equity belongs to her. That would explain some of the spending/saving imbalance, anyway.

  14. Margaret says:

    Katie — what a thoughtful thing to do for your grandmother. Good for you!

    Bruce — I would be awfully tempted to tell the parents that you really don’t have the budget for paying for hotels, so I guess they’ll have to stay at your place on an air matress in the living room. Then see if they can scrape up their own money for a hotel. In my family, if you have room, people stay with you instead of a hotel, but if there is no room left, then you pay for your own accomodations. If this is something that is only going to happen every couple of years, then sure, pay, but if it seems likely that you are going to have to start paying for a lot more, I’d sure be reluctant, unless you lived off your parents well into adulthood and owe them big time.

    Eva — I get it that you say you have always lived as if you do not have a potentially big inheritance coming. But as far as the student loans go, you sound as if you feel entitled to your grandfather’s money and are getting ripped off because your grandfather isn’t forking over the cash now. I do think it is a nasty trick for parents/grandparents to tell kids that there will be money for college etc so that the kids rely on it and then are messed up when it doesn’t come, but I don’t actually think anyone is entitled to have their parents pay for anything once they are adults. I think you should consider yourself darn lucky that your tuition is being paid for. So yes, take the student loans. Who knows, maybe your grandfather will collapse the trusts (if they are not irrevocable) and donate all his wealth to charity and you’ll get nothing. If you ever do inherit, then you can pay off your loans. My mom has given all of her kids low interest loans for things, mostly university and help with down payments. However, they were always very business like, papers signed, interest rate charge, payment schedule set (one year’s worth of postdated cheques handed over annually) and while I figure she wouldn’t haul me to small claims court if I were in a bind and missed a few payments (assuming I let her know what was going on), I know that I would still be paying later and that interest would be accruing and that if she would eventually sue if she had to to recover the funds. Nothing personal — just business. If you think your grandfather can handle that kind of business arrangement with family, and I would think that with his experience he could, you could let him know about the loans you’ve signed up for, and ask if it is possible to instead take the loan out of the trust and then pay the interest back to the trust (so effectively, you hope, to your future self), or if he would be interested in offering the loan at the same interest rate and with the same terms so that at least the interest went to family instead of the bank. MAYBE he would decide to just let you use the trust money instead, but if not, at least, if he did the loan, your interest would be going to the person who is giving you a hundred thousand dollars, which is a pretty darn good deal for you.

  15. Nate says:

    Amy – I am in your same shoes exactly. Let me tell you something that others have not mentioned. When you come out young making good money like that (I make 80K @ 24 in a relatively cheap area of the country) — it really does feel like you are “skipping steps”. And in a sense you are… But that’s a good thing. You must realize one important thing that it took me a while to understand. THAT MONEY MAY NOT ALWAYS BE THERE! You could lose your job – your BF (possible husband) could lose his. I know it’s hard to imagine that when you haven’t had to LIVE IT through the stress of losing an income yet. But it is very true. I can tell you though just crunching some quick numbers that your emergency fund won’t last you long if you did lose your job – and you have some pretty serious debt you need to clean up. Another thing you can focus on is that you DON’T have good/high net worth. Seriously – even if your friends are struggling – if they have NO DEBT – they might very well have a higher total net worth then you (not saying this to be mean – it was just a realization that helped me). I had those same feelings you are having. The feeling will pass if you set GOALS. Start saving for you wedding, start saving for a house (if you want out of the condo in the future). The biggest motivator for me was having a stint with less income and realizing it could all go way – save so you will be OK if it does. Also get involved with a charity or help people in your community. I will pray for you!

  16. Gal @ Equally Happy says:

    I’m doing the same thing with my mom. She gets the mailed movies and I get the streaming. She loves the service, plus the fact that she gets extra visits from me to deliver the movies :)

  17. Jules says:

    @Huan: I’d have to say that, after a couple years worth of blogging (one dead blog and one that might just make it), by far the hardest thing is to come up with interesting things to write about. The most frustrating aspect of blogging, though, is not having anybody but spambots read it.

  18. DiscoApu says:

    @Katie: Fantastic idea! I will definitely spread that around.

    @Bruce: When did the simple dollar turn into Dear Abby?

  19. Isobel says:

    @AMY: Please make sure your boyfriend is paying his fair share (food, a reasonable rent, utilities, etc.). I’m sure you guys are in love and happy together, but you’re not even engaged. What if he decides to take all of “his” savings and travel the world all by himself? You’d have a broken heart AND an empty bank account.

  20. Johanna says:

    @Becky: Are you allowing yourself any “fun money” at all? If you’re not even letting yourself see a movie once in a while, that’s not a long-term sustainable plan, so it’s no wonder you’re having trouble staying on track.

    If you can fit a reasonable amount of fun money into your budget (say, $100/month), so that the new clothes and the movies are no longer completely forbidden fruit, you might find that they don’t have nearly the same kind of power over you that they have now.

    If you really can’t afford to do that and still have enough money to pay down your debt and pay for your needs, then see if there’s not a way to reduce the cost of your needs (e.g., move to a cheaper place) or earn more money.

  21. valleycat1 says:

    @Mavis – I don’t find any time savings in a dishwasher vs. handwashing. The water use comparison applies mainly if you’re running water while you handwash rather than using a sink or dishpan of water. Almost everyone I know with a dishwasher wipes and rinses dishes before putting them in the machine. Maybe if we were a larger family, the dishwasher would be a time saver. I’d rather just go ahead and wash them myself while I’m at the sink anyway, get them dried & put away all at once instead of having to listen to (even the quietest) a machine run. Water therapy & a chance to visit with whoever’s helping!

  22. valleycat1 says:

    Bruce – we have lived with the same issue for the past 15 years. We are not set up to host overnight guests. I agree with Trent – if someone lets us know they want to come visit, we explain the situation & in most cases feel it’s their responsibility to pay for their own lodging. If we invite someone to come visit, we’re happy to pay or share the cost of lodging. When our adult kids visit, we pay.

    As far as what type of lodging to get, I’d go with what’s convenient to your home while being safe for them, clean & comfortable, but not necessarily high end unless that’s what your family historically is most comfortable in.

  23. Amanda says:

    Amy you don’t have that much $. Pay off your debt including mortgage instead of buying new clothes.

    Becky I agree w Joanna. You need some fun $ even if 20 a week!

  24. Jackie says:

    Missy – Freezers are electricity hogs. When shopping for a new one, look for the tag inside that lists how much electricity they are expected to use. Bring a calculator and figure out what each will cost you per year. I would recommend against a used freezer, as energy standards change every few years, and a freezer that is 10 years old can use a lot more electricity than is allowable now. EnergyStar does rate freezers so you can look for the EnergyStar logo make sure you’re on the right track energy-wise.

  25. Dan says:

    To be honest, Amy has less money than she thinks she does. Since she has a condo for $160k, I assume she lives in a somewhat moderately expensive area. If her and her bf ever decide to have kids, and they decide that one should be a stay-at-home parent, then they’ll be down to a single income. $70k, with a kid, in a somewhat expensive area is a lot less money than most people think it is.

    So I’d pay down the existing debts and sock away a “kid fund” (or kid’s college fund?) and enough so that one can stay home if that’s what they choose to do.

    But at this point, I really wouldn’t donate significant amounts to charities.

  26. jim says:

    Amy: Please don’t feel guilty about having a decent paying job. You didn’t do anything wrong. Its ok to get paid a decent wage and nothing to feel bad about. I think you are turning your concern for your less fortunate friends into punishing yourself but you have nothing to do with their lack of good jobs. I would not respond to your guilt by simply giving your money away. Thats not fair to you. Your guilt is not warranted. Don’t feel guilty.

    You are currently saving about 20% of your income for retirement and about another 10% towards emergency fund. You say your boyfriend is saving 3/4 of his income. Between you it sounds like you’re saving about 40% of your income. Between the both of you, you are doing perfectly fine as far as savings. At that rate you will probably be millionares by the time you’re in your 40’s. Thats nothing to worry about. If you worry or feel bad about spending some money then consider this: Budget yourself a % system with 40% towards savings, 40-50% towards expenses and 10-20% for luxuries. Then you can spend that 10-20% without worrying cause you know you’re saving the 40%. If you did that you’ll be better off than 99% of people.

  27. KC says:

    @Amy – Right now you and your bf are young – you are making lots of money considering your age. But in a few years you might find this isn’t as much as you thought. You’ll probably need another bedroom or two if you have kids. You might need a bigger car, you might want more yard. In other words there are plenty of things to save for. And once you have children you’ll go through that money.

    What you need to do now is pay off that non-mortgage debt and fully fund your 401k (or at least company match) and Roth IRAs (both of you). This will get you one heckuva foothold in the retirement door. Then when you have children and changes down the road you can throw more of your current income at that and not worry so much about retirement. Even if you think you won’t have kids your life will be full of changes and they’ll take some cash, too.

    Another thing I encourage you to do is spend on experiences. There was a great article in the NYTimes yesterday (Business section) about happiness and money. It was a great article. Maybe if you were buying less clothes and were instead traveling to places you’ve always wanted to go you might feel better about what your money does for you.

  28. reulte says:

    Katie – Wow! That is a great idea.

    Amy – I think that you would find some guidance in speaking with a counselr or psychologist that deals in money issues as well as self-esteem. You compare yourself with your parents or friends, but you aren’t them. You can try to put more in to your Roth, or consider yourself lucky and save for less lucky times. You can take on non-financial type challenges. You compare yourself to creative friends — take up a creative challenge. Or take up a challenge to save up $100,000 to set up a scholarship fund in 10 years to benefit creative people. You would do well to read Your Money or Your Life, but I think, first, you need to work on a purpose to your life. It sounds as though you are deeply upset and if you aren’t careful, you could start doing things that are subconsciously self-destructive.

    Bruce – I think this mostly depends on one’s family. In my family, we wait for an invitation although we are allowed to ‘hint’ that we’d love to visit. If there is room, the host provides accomadations. If there is not room at one’s house/apartment then there is room for negotiation. In your case, if it’s only for one night and it’s been a while since you saw your parents and they are coming to visit you (and not merely use your hospitality while they act as tourists in the your city), then I’d say spring for a nice but nearby hotel.

    Eva – You applied for financial aid, take it. You can discuss them with your grandfather or not — you’re an adult. However, what I do suggest is that you speak with grandfather about the terms of the trust and his Roth; not as a possible heir, but simply as how this might affect you in the future. Your grandfather sounds like he has a lot of good advice.

  29. ASsuming one uses a dishwasher in an efficient manner, and equal comparison will generally show that handwashing uses much more water than dishwashing. Obviously one doesnt want to run a dishwasher with item, so couples would probably run every three or four days. I know that there is a german study showing that hand washing uses almost double the amount of an efficient dishwasher for the same amount of dishes-see below.

    “Seventy-five volunteers from seven European countries were recruited and assigned the task of washing dishes. Each volunteer washed a typical family load of 140 pots and plates coated with hardened egg, spinach and margarine. They found that handwashing used between about five and 86 gallons of water compared to the water consumption of a conventional European dishwasher that uses about four to five gallons of water.
    (Americans were not included in the study, but the American Water Works Association web site provides information about hand washing dishes in this country. According to AWWA information an automatic dishwasher uses approximately nine to 12 gallons of water while hand washing dishes can use up to 20 gallons”

  30. tarynkay says:

    Sorry- but most dishwashers are more efficient than most people. Especially the new ones- these usually have a tag saying how much they cost each year to run. We recently got a dishwasher, and it claims to cost $34 a year to run- that’s with using the heated dry option. $34 a year! That is pretty cheap. That is $2.83 a month. This DW was only a couple hundred bucks, so it’s not like this is high end crazy stuff. We do not use the heated dry, this allegedly saves a lot of energy.

    We did not have a dishwasher before and while I am a pretty efficient handwasher, our water and power bills still went down some after getting the dishwasher. We also do not rinse or prewash the dishes at all before putting them in the DW. If you have a decent DW and use the kind of detergent with enzymes, you do not need to prewash.

  31. Vicky says:

    Yeah I’m curious about the dishwasher too. I flat out don’t use mine under the assumption it costs more than I do.

    I fill my sink with hot water, wash the dishes, rinse, and set them in a rack to dry. There’s only two people in my house – so we’re talking 2 plates, 2 forks, 2 cups and whatever we used to cook with that night. Not a full dishwasher load, so wouldn’t it be counter productive?

    My electric bill is down from last year this month, and the only thing I can figure in is the cost of the dishwasher, as it’s the only thing I’ve done different.

  32. Megan says:

    Katie–I’ve been paying for a Netflix subscription for my mother-in-law for YEARS and never thought to use the on-demand for myself. THANK YOU!!! I can now cancel my own Netflix subscription!

    Bruce–I’d be flabbergasted if my parents expected for me to pay for their hotel room!!! When we welcomed our daughter to this world a few years ago, family was welcome to stay at our house until we came home from the hospital. Then it was everyone out! When my husband and I visited family for a funeral, we booked, payed for, and stayed in a hotel, even though there was room for us to stay with family and we were on an extremely tight budget.

    If someone invites themselves to MY house and there’s no room to put them, give them the phone number of a local hotel.

    If you feel you absolutely must pay for their hotel room, find them the closest Motel 6/Red Roof Inn/Super 8 motel.

  33. Eva says:

    Thanks for your advice, Trent, and others who have responded to my situation.

    It isn’t lost on me that my situation sounds frivolous. The reason I live in San Francisco is because this is where my grandparents live, and the rest of their immediate family lives across the country in New York. When I graduated from college, my mother asked me to move out here to help take care of them, since it was a time in my life when it was easy to just move anywhere. I spend a substantial amount of time here with them. It’s now been two years since I graduated from undergrad, and for those two years I worked at a law firm with the idea of going to law school. It made me miserable, and almost all of the lawyers I related to in any way told me not to do it if it didn’t speak to me in some way. What speaks to me? Human connection, studying communities, evaluating social policy. Things that require my intellect, that challenge me. I loved writing my undergrad thesis, and I want more of that. So doing this degree program isn’t frivolous, it’s not a 2-year detour for pleasure. It’s part of my life plan. I will continue with a Ph.D. after two years (which will be funded by my university) and I plan on either becoming a professor or working at a social institute/think tank. Just know that I didn’t want to give my whole life story in my question to Trent, and I’m sorry you didn’t decide to give me the benefit of the doubt.

    @Margaret — your suggestion of borrowing from the trust and paying it back at the same rate I would pay student loans is a really good one!! It’s actually what I’ve ended up doing. (It was about a month ago that I sent Trent this question.) I crunched some numbers with the help of my grandfather’s estate planner, and we figured out that it makes more sense financially for me to be paying back his estate rather than the government. My grandfather was thrilled with the idea, and thought it showed a lot of initiative and ingenuity on my part. Once I get a part-time job, I will lower the amount of my loan from the trust.

    And Trent, you’re right that it’s not my money. Thanks for the reminder. I often feel like I’m being duplicitous by telling friends that no, I can’t actually afford to take a cab home, I’ll have to wait 20 minutes for the next bus, or I feel guilty for applying for government loans when I know the money is in my family and that money ought to be going to someone else. Add to that the fact that my grandfather LOVES to talk about money and show things off materially, and I feel in a way like HIS money is actually the FAMILY’S money. But, in truth, it’s not, and anything could happen between now and the time he dies (he could get really sick and have massive medical bills, for example) and you gave me a needed reminder.

  34. JuliB says:

    re: dishwasher vs handwashing. Not only does it depend on the eating and cleaning (pre-rinsing, etc) habits, on the dishwasher itself, but also the person who washes the dishes. I would stack my mother up (so to speak) against nearly any disherwasher! But for me on the other hand … bet on the dishwasher being more effective.

    @Amy – I’ve felt guilt in the past too. Believe me, there will be times in your life when you get the raw end of the deal, so enjoy what you can when you can. Using money unselfishly is the rest antidote. I am a monthly donor to modestneeds.org after seeing them written up in Forbes over a year ago. This is the only secular charity that I donate to on an automatic basis.

    Charity is unselfish, but I’ll confess that I get more pleasure out of donating to this organization than I do from shopping, dining out, etc. You can pick the recipients of your money, and when they post a thank-you note you can receive a copy of what they wrote. You realize that you are making a REAL difference that you can see within a month or so. Just this month, I’ve helped someone get desperately needed dental surgery, helped a premature baby get continued medical care in a family where one parent is unemployed and the other had their hours cut… The thank-you’s are the icing on the cake.

    I LITERALLY cannot say enough good about this charity. And, I add my ‘modest need people’ to my prayers as well.

    @Bruce – This might sound kinda harsh, but man up and spring for a nice hotel. You have 2 living parents who cared for you, paid for you, and put up with your crap for at least 16-18 (or more) years while you were growing up. The time and money invested in your over that time is impossible to calculate. And you are going to complain about paying for a hotel night? And treat this as an etiquette issue?

    Pay, be thankful for what you have, and be gracious about it. I don’t have kids but I would be upset by the lack of generosity on your part.

  35. Diane says:

    Amy–When my husband and I started out, we were in your position–both making high salaries, with no kids. I felt guilty about it too, because my family always had trouble managing their money. Before anything else, I contributed 10+% to my 401%, then 10% to charity, then squirreled more away for “something big”. after 10 years in the corporate world, my husband’s job became too horrific, so he found a university job in another state, I quit my job, and our income dropped 60%. With my savings I was still able to take a year off, then went back to school for a second (low-paying) career, paying all my own expenses. After 10 years at the university my husband was laid off, and didn’t find employment for a whole year. During that time, it was SO good to know that our retirement funds were front-loaded, and that we had an emergency fund to pay for repairs to our house to make it sellable. So yes, save your money now, and give some away to charity, and don’t feel guilty–you have no idea what will happen next year. Best to you!

  36. Jonathan says:

    Dishwasher vs Handwashing – Based on the research I’ve done it seems that part of the confusion on which is more efficient stems from differences in how people handwash dishes. Before doing this research I had not realized that many people rinse the dishes under running water, which does use more water than a dishwasher would. From what I found, however, there are cases where handwashing is more efficient if the water is caught in the sink or dishpan instead of letting it run. Of course it all depends on how much water you put in the basins and how much water your dishwasher uses per load.

  37. Des says:

    RE: Dishes

    Treehugger has a comparison with actual dollar amount (which is probably more what you were expecting to see from Trent). Their conclusion is that, generally, a dishwasher is more efficient. You *can* beat a dishwasher’s efficiency, but you have to try very hard and be very misery about your water use. For most families, the dishwasher saves time and resources.

  38. Piggy Bank says:

    Netflix is an awesome way to save money. We have found so many of our favorite shows to watch in our instant que that we have opted not to have cable. Between watching shows a week later online and optimizing netflix we are saving an extra 70 dollars a month.

  39. Todd says:

    It’s not just a financial issue. I love washing dishes, and I hate loading and unloading the dishwasher. It seems so mechanical and takes two different sessions of dealing with the dishes. (In our house, my wife is a foodie and loves to cook, so she cooks and I then clean up the kitchen afterwards. That’s always been our arrangement.)

    I usually handwash and use the top rack of the dishwasher (right by the sink) as a drying rack. Even when I occasionally used the DW, I often had a few pans or wooden spoons or knives that needed to be handwashed anyway–so now I just handwash everything. I like having everything done and put away at the end, and the little extra time it takes to handwash and dry is my “alone” time to listen to music after dinner.

    I have fond memories of washing and drying dishes with my parents as a kid. (Believe me, that was the only way that we in any way resembled the family on “Leave it to Beaver.”)

    Does anyone else enjoy handwashing dishes?

  40. Erin says:

    Amy – keep in mind when your parents “remind” you they made less than you do now – there’s a little thing called inflation to take into account. Don’t let other people make you feel guilty because you are reaping the rewards of hard work.

    @Todd #28 – I had to re-read your comment twice to make sure you seriously said you love washing the dishes! I HATE washing dishes – and I grew up without a dishwasher too. It may have built character, but my sister and I hated having to wash and dry every night after dinner. At this point in my life I would never consider living anywhere without a dishwasher!

  41. Jennifer says:


    I think it is totally normal to feel how you do. I felt the same way when I graduated from college, and was already making more than my parents made. I would just reiterate that things can change, though. Right now you are in a great place financially, and it sounds like you are doing some good things, like funding your retirement, setting aside emergency money, and buying a home.

    What I would challenge you to do is to look at what your life would look like over the next few years if your situation were to change. What if you stopped being happy at your job, or lost it altogether? What kind of protections would you want in place? I think the advice of paying off all non-mortgage debt is very good, but I would add that paying down the mortgage would be amazing as well. Looking into a program like Dave Ramsey might help you to get your financial goals in line at a great time for you to tackle them. Imagine being married in a few years with no mortgage, or single with unlimited freedom to travel, take on part time work, or do whatever you want. Right now you have a tremendous blessing, and it sounds like you know that, but aren’t sure what direction to go in with such a large income shift.

    I also want to say that everyone who counsels Amy to seek professional help so quickly need to consider that she is 23, and has a great job right out of college, without a lot of financial guidance from people she trusts. I think that is why she asked the question. Why is it considered okay to be rude to people just because it is an internet forum? Would you say that to someone you just met face to face?

  42. Cathie Rohleder says:

    Becky, I feel the same way as you. One thing that has been a tremendous help to me is reading a bit on consumerism in America. I first read about getting my budget on track, and that caused me to explore why I shop, browse, and buy. Why do I have so much unused junk collecting dust in my house? Part of the reason is due to advertisers. It is their job to encourage us to want things and spend our money on items we think we need. Thinking of myself as a sucker to their methods really helps me dig my heels in and vow not to fall prey to advertising, and helps me stick to my goals of getting out of debt…..now, if I could just convince my husband….Good luck!

  43. deRuiter says:

    It depends upon your dishwashing technique, and your opinion, no naswer is wrong if it’s what suits you. In our small kitchen, there isn’t room for a dish washer, can’t give up the under counter storage. Then we are only two and the idea of dirty dishes sitting in a dish washer for a couple of days is not attractive. We do the dishes in a dish pan, and rinse over a second dish pan. This technique uses very little water. The “New York City” technique is to squeeze some dish washer liquid on a rag and do dishes under constantly running water, very wasteful method. In nice weather, when the heat isn’t on, all the dishwashing and rinsing water is toted outside and poured on the potted plants on the terrace, or the flower bed, so we get a second use from the water. The little bit of mild soap keeps insects off the plants. Since our water is metered, it’s nice to be able to use some of it twice!

  44. Maria says:

    @Becky – There is a different between “I want this” and “Oh my GOD, I WANT this SO MUCH I could CRY”… I suspect you might be talking about the latter statement. Many people in debt got there acquiring goods to replace something else or for the adrenaline rush. The root problems are still there and the rush goes away when you get home and the visa bill comes in. Perhaps you might want to consider finding a way to ease your DESIRE to purchase – that might take the burden off your commendable financial path! Although this one is off topic, it was very useful- Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Don’t buy it!! Get if from the library :-) – then search for compulsive shopping… you’ll find many ways to take the edge off.
    And I wish you the very best of luck!

  45. Katharine says:

    @Bruce – You need to consult with your WIFE. You barely mentioned her but she has the most important opinion. I think its rude of your family to insist that you pay for a hotel – that is also presumptuous. You can talk to your wife about paying for dinner or something along those lines but that is it.

    @Jacob – As a Durham local and researcher – Trent is right. Absolutely go ahead and apply for anything you see. Hiring in this area for those types of jobs take time and due to most being grant funded it is often that the start date is not very soon. Even if they are looking for a candidate to work sooner it will still help to get your name out in the area.

  46. getagrip says:

    @ Amy I echo jims advice in comment number 18. You don’t need to feel guilty, just make the big decisions on percentages saved, lived on, and for fun, and spend consciously, more for decent experiences than for “stuff”. If you’re actually using and enjoying the things you buy, there should be no guilt.

    However, I get the feeling that since you mention it’s kind of pointless to “save” more, that you’re spending because you can and you are aimlessly buying or spending money on things that hit your fancy of the moment and then when you mention it to your family or less well off friends you’re getting the looks or comments which are making you feel guilty.

    Maybe you would feel less guilty if you realized it’s kind of pointless to spend gobs of money on things that don’t really matter to you.

    That said, if you are meeting your current goals, then you shouldn’t feel guilty no matter how you spend your money. Frugality isn’t about hoarding money, it’s about spending it consciously on those things that give personal joy, despite what others think. If your other goals are met and you love shoes, buy shoes. Love motorcycles, buy motorcycles. Love art, buy art. You are going to have to find the balance for now, and understand that it will change as your life changes since what may be important to you now will be meaningless in ten years.

  47. Pat says:

    @Todd #28 – I really thought I was the only one who loves to wash dishes! People think I’m really weird when I say I do, but I find it very, very relaxing. Occasionally I listen to music but I truly enjoy listening to books on CD while doing my dishes. After a long day working at a middle school doing dishes by myself is a wonderful tonic. Though I have to admit when we have dinner parties I do load the dishwasher a few times a year.

  48. DougR says:

    To Amy: first off, I think your guilt feelings are a little misplaced, but I respect your awareness that things are easy for you and hubby because of the path you chose and plain good luck, rather than assuming “I’m making all this money therefore I must be better than everyone else” (the “born on Third and thinks he hit a triple” entitlement attitude all too common today [end of sermon]). I think suggesting a therapist is WAY extreme, unless you have excessive self-stinting behavior going on elsewhere in your life; therapists aside, there are some good suggestions here (I’ll be looking into modestneeds.org myself later).

    Becky: All too familiar to me!: “I am worried that if I pay off my cards, I will get myself right back into debt because of this mentality of wanting things.” I’d just like to plug Debtors Anonymous, which I’ve found extremely helpful with that mindset. It’s a 12-step org that addresses compulsions, money management, debt repayment, and enlightened self-care all at once.

  49. Ruth says:

    This Reply is for EVA.

    The response is never count your chickens before they are hatched.

    My great grandmother was in a similar situation at age 90. She had set up some inheritance for her family members. She also wanted to move into assisted living. At 90 she didn’t think that she would be there long, costing over $7000 weekly. Well, she is now 105 and still going very strong. The inheritance has been wiped out.

    Secondly, it’s not your money. If your grandfather decides to change his mind and leave everything to charity. Guess what, there is nothing that you can do.

  50. Lisa says:

    I love the Netflix comment, as the “by-proxy-through-grandchild” was the only way my Nana ever experienced the internet. Nana was in her mid-80s by the time the internet even got to be useful, and I was in college/grad school. She had NO intention of even touching a computer (was afraid she would break it) but was interested in hearing me talk about the things I found/learned there. When she would see something mentioned in the newspaper, the AARP magazine or on TV that involved the internet, I’d often get a call asking “could I find out more about XYZ on the computer?” So off I’d search, print out what she wanted or needed; usually a health related article, something about nutrition or something about a charity she liked. I’d mail her the info, she’d be so happy. Very analog for her, but time helping my Nana for me. Smile.

  51. CAT says:

    Amy~ I would be very happy to take 10% of your income off of your hands. I work to pay the bills, I technically have a “good job” with benefits, but the nice perks are not paying rent. And I’m a frugal fanny to a fault, my friends think I’m nuts when I wash out zip lock bags and save tinfoil.

  52. cathy says:

    I’m not sure if I agree with your thought on used freezers. I bought a large used freezer 25 years ago for $20 and it has never caused me any problems. You buy a freezer today and I doubt it will last that long and then you have to fork out the money for another new freezer. With all the hype about energy use, I know I’m way ahead of the game with this old freezer and will use it until it dies. Our family actually has two used freezers and very low energy bills compared to others with a family as large as ours.

    As for dishwashers, we save a lot just by doing our dishes by hand. Breakfast dishes get done in extremely hot soapy water, then I use the same water for cleaning up my bread making/baking utensils, then the same water for wiping stuff down.

  53. JonFrance says:

    @Eva, I wasn’t being critical, and I thought it went without saying that you have a real passion for your subject. (For the record, I would find the person from my analogy who spent two years vagabonding through Europe to be a fascinating, interesting person as well.) I was only saying that you wouldn’t get a lot of *respect* for it (at least not the same kind of respect as, say, the JD would have), because ordinary people can’t relate to such a pursuit. Really I was intending to soften the ground for any unsympathetic comments you were about to receive, but as they never came, I needn’t have bothered.

    For what it’s worth, I have four degrees, three in subjects as ‘frivolous’ or more so than yours, and paid for all of them with inherited money. Warning you about alienating the middle class came more from my own past experience, than from any uncharitable interpretation of your situation.

  54. Georgia says:

    I love to do dishes also. But it is because, when I was 15, I lied about my age and got a job washing dishes in a very fancy restaurant. It is still in business in Springfield, IL and is over 150 years old. It took us from 11:30-5:00 p.m. just to do the lunch dishes. They were done by machine and there were 2 people working the machine-one to put it and one to take out. Both of us cleaned the dishes off before putting in the machine.

    I went home and told my mother I would never complain about doing dishes again, even at Thanksgiving. And I never did. When my sister & I had an apartment together, I loved to wash and she loved to dry. Good combo for us.

    Now, since I am alone, I put 1/3 – 1/2 tub soapy water in one sink and 1/3 – 1/2 tub water with 1/2 – 1 cup vinegar added. This keeps me from wasting water and I then use the water for other things, such as watering plants, flushing the stool, etc. A dishwasher would be a big waste of money for me.

  55. sara says:

    I’m a little behind on your posts so just got around to reading this one. I’m a little confused about post #2 where the person says she makes $70k and puts 10% in to her Roth (I assume IRA not 401k). Wouldn’t that be $7k, which is $2k above the maximum allowed limit?

  56. Dash says:

    This is a minor technical issue I just noticed: now that you have the handy summary at the top of each reader mailbag with the ability to click on the number of the question and be taken there… you run into the issue that if you have two reader mailbags on the same page which is the case here (as of August 12th, 2010) – when I click on the numbers in this entry (8/9/10) I am actually taken to the questions from the entry from 8/12/10. Just figured I should let you know.

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