The Simple Dollar

Simple, applicable personal finance advice for the modern world.

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When Living for the Moment Gets in the Way of Living

A few weeks ago, I was absolutely struck by this article from The Atlantic, which talks about Sarah Manguso’s recent book Ongoingness: The End of a Diary. Manguso’s book focuses on her personal history of keeping a diary/journal, something I’m very familiar with personally. Her perspective on keeping a diary full of events was, at least in part, pretty negative: I didn’t want to lose anything. […]

How to Build Credit

When people ask how to build credit, the “chicken or the egg” conundrum often comes up. Having a solid credit history and credit score are important parts of your financial future. Here’s the problem: To get a loan for a house or car, you need to show a history of responsible use and payment of credit. […]

Beating Your Pace

I love spending time outdoors in the spring. In fact, it’s a constant push and pull this time of year as I balance the need to write and the desire to get out there and walk and jog. One of my favorite things to do is go on a three mile walk/jog out of my front door. I have a loop that I take that takes me right back to my front door at the three mile mark. […]

A Basic Guide to an Inexpensive and Incredibly Fun Family Camping Vacation

This summer, my family and I are going to be camping in northern Wisconsin for several days. We plan on camping at two different locations during the trip so that we get a chance to see and enjoy two completely different areas. Small camping trips are a staple of our summer – we usually camp two or three times within a couple hours of our home. […]

102 Things to Do on a Money-Free Weekend

Some time ago, I offered up the idea of the money-free weekend: For the last few months, my wife and I have been doing something every other weekend or so that we call a “money-free” weekend, in an effort to live more frugally. It’s actually quite fun – here’s how we do it. We’re not allowed to spend any money on anything, no matter what. […]

Setting Attainable and Exciting Financial Goals

To reach long-term financial health, start with attainable, short-term goals with an immediate payoff — like selling anything in your closet that you haven’t used in a year or more. Photo: Meagan Tintari When I look back at my personal finance progress, I’m most proud of the long-term success. […]

How to Save Money With a Balance Transfer

When is the answer to credit card problems yet another credit card? If you can use a balance transfer offer pay off your debt. Photo: Frankie Leon When you’re carrying a lot of high-interest debt, it’s hard to imagine how another credit card can possibly help your situation. […]

Starting Over Again at Age Eighteen

As I write this, I’m thirty six years old. My eighteen year old self existed literally half a lifetime ago. That’s scary to think about, that the person I was during my final year in high school, looking forward to a future education and eventually a great job and all of the dreams that I had, is half my age. Looking back, there were a lot of things I did right. […]

Questions About Guitar Lessons, 211, Convenience Foods, and More!

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. 211 2. Strategies for fast mortgage payoff 3. Breaking convenience food routines 4. Justin Guitar 5. Perspective 6. Storing food staples 7. Haggling in big box stores 8. Mementos worth having 9. […]

How to Create a Bare-Bones Budget

Keeping the lights on, the fridge full, and a roof over your head are essential expenses. Cable TV is not. Photo: Gisela Giardino Whether you’re struggling to get your debt under control or simply want to build up an emergency fund or a down payment as quickly as possible, a bare-bones budget is a powerful tool to help get you there. […]