Philip Brewer's blog

Understand Capital Costs

Especially for things people often buy on credit, like a car or a house, there's a tendency to divide the ownership into two periods--while the loan is being paid off, where the it

The Three Interest Rates

I got a notice from one of my credit cards a bit ago, announcing that they were raising the interest rate. It's only of theoretical interest to me, of course--I use credit cards f

Optimize Your IRA and 401(k)

Your IRA and 401(k) (or 403(b) if you work for a non-profit) are great tools for deferring taxes, and have other advantages as well. But because they're labeled "retirement" accou

Managing Your Short-Term Money

It's easy to find books and articles on how to manage your money to support your long-term goals. You can read a lot about stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, investing in gold

Wage slave, debt slave

This article has its roots in an article I wrote some time ago that used the terms wage slave and debt peonage—terms that some people objected to. Those making free choices aren't

Watch Out for Surge in CPI

Just to be clear, I'm also worried about a surge in inflation, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I don't know the future, so I try to stay away from predictions. But yo

My best posts that got no attention

A few times I've written a post that I thought was good, but that seemed to vanish into the blogosphere without a trace. On my two-year anniversary of writing for Wise Bread, I

When to Use Savings to Pay Off Debt

One of the most common questions over on the Wise Bread forum is some variation on, "I have $X in savings but $Y in credit card debt. Should I use the savings to pay down the debt?

Book review: Life Inc.

Corporations were invented a few hundred years ago--created to increase the wealth and power of favored businessmen (and the governments that favored them). They have become such

Big changes or small changes?

There are two ways to make a major change in your life. One is to make a series of small changes--this month you might brown-bag your lunch one day a week; next month you might go

The new normal economy

The economy is way short of full employment, so naturally, consumer spending is down. Sooner or later employment, I think, will return to normal levels. Consumer spending will re

Things wear out

I have a pair of shoes that are about to wear out. This sucks because they're shoes I wear pretty often (which is no doubt why they're wearing out). I'll probably have to replace

Not driving your less-frugal friends crazy

A while back, I heard an interview with a guy who, troubled by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, decided the right response was to quit driving. The bit of the interview that stuck with

Getting by on a lot less money: 3 ways it's easier than you think

I spent my whole adult life trying to figure out how to get by on a lot less money, because I wanted to be a full-time writer and knew that it wouldn't pay enough to support the li

Teach yourself to cook

Everyone knows that cooking is cheaper and healthier than eating out. It's also better (i.e. more to your taste) than eating out, and easier than eating out (no driving, parking,

Stuff will never make you organized

There's a store near where I live that sells stuff for organizing your other stuff--racks, boxes, cabinets, and shelves for tools and toys, sweaters and shoes, spices and CDs. The

Oh noes! Inflation!

The Wall Street Journal has an opinion piece by Arthur Laffer that shows a scary graph of the monetary base, which has surged enormously in the past year. He suggests that this is

Don't let low interest rates make you stupid

When I went off to college in 1977, inflation was high and rising, but the maximum interest rate you could earn on a savings account was capped by the government at a fraction over

Crappy practice is a waste of time

If you want to get good at something, you need to practice. If you're not trying to get better, and just want to enjoy doing whatever it is, there's no need to practice--do what y

Simplify budgeting with personal money

Many couples keep their finances partially (or even completely) separate. One big reason is that spending joint money on individual expenses can lead to disputes, and keeping sepa