Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps (and Why I Ignore Them)

Believe it or not, I have had multiple conversations about Dave Ramsey over the past couple weeks.

Dave Ramsey appears to be the introduction to personal finance for a lot of people out in the real world. While there are hundreds of great personal finance blogs, people are much more likely to stumble across the best selling personal finance book or the radio host that wrote it. Continue reading “Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps (and Why I Ignore Them)”

One Tax Season Tip to Save $9,000

I spend a good deal of time preparing taxes this time of year.

My own, sure, but also lots of other people’s. I prepare taxes as a side hustle.

As far as side hustles go, it’s pretty good. The money is solid for a side gig. I can work as much or as little as I want. I get to work with numbers, which is something that I miss in my current day job.

And yes, I recognize that that last line may not be a selling point for most people.

I have learned a lot through this job, but there is one lesson in particular that I want to talk about today.

Nobody is putting enough money in their 401(k)! Continue reading “One Tax Season Tip to Save $9,000”

How to Buy Happiness

I apologize in advance for the inherent humblebraginess of vacation pictures. I did warn you, though.

I am generally a pretty frugal person. Three of my last four posts have been about saving money. I’ve written about cognitive biases that get in the way of saving money. I’ve written about the best way to hit savings goals.

And yet, I just spent a whole bunch of money on a three-week vacation to South Africa and Spain. This came thirteen months after a trip to Peru. Which itself came eight months after a honeymoon in the Bahamas (which, to be fair, was paid for with hotel points).

The sun setting over the Atlantic from Cape Town

This may seem out of character or incongruent with my savings focus. But I don’t save money for the sake of saving money. I don’t intend to be the richest man in the cemetery. And while I would love to reach financial independence, I am not aiming to get there as soon as possible by any means necessary. Instead, I want to live my best (and happiest) life with as little waste as possible. Continue reading “How to Buy Happiness”

Actually Saving Money

Recently I’ve spent some time here discussing the most optimal ways to save money. First, focus on the big wins and then take a look at your recurring expenses.

This is a great start, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t actually put that money away. Instead, our natural tendency towards mental accounting may be eating into, or completely negating, our savings.

Continue reading “Actually Saving Money”

Saving Money Better – Recurring Expenses

As a preliminary note: Thank you all for the well-wishes in response to my last post! I had a lovely month out of the country (although everyone everywhere wanted to talk about Trump and the American election). If you’d like to see some pictures from Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, Durban, Cape Town, and Barcelona, feel free to check out my wife’s Instagram page. I also have some articles on vacation and travel coming up, in which I will include some photos from the trip.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

I recently wrote about how to save money better. I argued that you should focus first on housing, transportation, food, and taxes. My explanation was that these are the areas where we spend the largest amounts of money, and so they are also the areas where we could save the largest amounts of money. Continue reading “Saving Money Better – Recurring Expenses”

Saving Money Better – Focus on the Big Wins First

A lot of people set resolutions to save more money. In fact, it was the third most popular resolution for 2015, behind only “lose weight” and “get organized.” But as we’ve noted before, only 8% of people successfully achieved their resolutions. So how do we go about making sure that we are the select few who actually do save more money?

Do you focus on the Latte Factor and cut out your daily coffee? Do you drive around in search of the best deals or spend your Sundays clipping coupons?

I would argue that if you want to save the most money, you need to first look at the areas where you spend the most money. Continue reading “Saving Money Better – Focus on the Big Wins First”

Your Instinctive Thinking Is Losing You Money

Imagine for a moment that you are in the market for a new suit. You find one that you like for $200. A fellow customer then tells you that the same exact suit is on sale across town for only $100. Do you go?

Imagine that you are buying a new car. You’ve done your test drives and made a final decision on which make and model you want. You go to the dealer near your home to find that the car costs $30,000. A salesman sees you eyeing the car and says, “My manager would kill me for saying this, but the dealer on the other side of town has this model for $29,900.” Do you go? Continue reading “Your Instinctive Thinking Is Losing You Money”

Why Have Houses Gotten More Expensive?

Today I want to revisit the world of housing. As an (almost) 30-something, buying a house is something that I have spent significant time thinking about. If my Facebook feed is any indication, then I am not alone in this.

Specifically, I want to explore the idea that it was more affordable for our parents to buy houses. Is this actually true? And if so, how does it square with the (previously-discussed) fact that the value of your house generally only grows at the rate of inflation? Continue reading “Why Have Houses Gotten More Expensive?”

Your Emergency Fund

Everybody knows that they need an emergency fund (despite the fact that not enough people have them). Nobody wants the stress of being unable to handle a medical emergency, the loss of a job, or a car that needs repairs. But what priority level should your emergency fund be compared to paying off debt or saving for retirement? How much do you actually need to save? And should it be in all cash or invested? These are the issues we’ll be looking at today.

When to Start Saving

The loudest voice in personal finance is Dave Ramsey. Ramsey tells his readers and listeners to first save $1,000 in an emergency fund, then pay off all non-mortgage debt, then build the emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses. And all of this before contributing anything to retirement savings.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know from my framing of the last paragraph that I am about to disagree. Continue reading “Your Emergency Fund”