The Simple Dollar
It’s a simple question, and one I think about surprisingly often.
Let’s say I could magically roll back the clock to the end of my final year in college. I’m single at the time, but I’m planning on getting married in the next few years. I have a job lined up, but I’m not sure how secure it is. At the same time, I have a pile of student loans that I’m about to face – $40,000 or so – along with a car loan and some credit card debt.
What’s my game plan? What would I do at that point to get myself in the best possible financial shape today?
Here’s exactly what I would do. I believe that most people in financial or professional challenges can draw some useful ideas from what I’m describing here.
First, I would continue to live much as I did in college. That first job out of college is a big raise in money and it’s really tempting to “live a little.” However, “living a little” without a good financial foundation is a pretty big mistake. I’d avoid it like the plague. ( Continue… )
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of playing board games. A good board game can be played hundreds of times and fill countless evenings with family and friends. A good board game can make you think and make you laugh. A good board game makes a great gift, too, and they can often be found at a pretty nice price if you’re patient and wait for sales.
Readers often write to me with mailbag questions related to boardgames, particularly focusing on how to start a board game night. The first step, of course, is to have a good but straightforward and, ideally, inexpensive game. Here are seven such choices (beyond the many games you can play with an ordinary deck of playing cards, of course).
In Forbidden Island, each player is an explorer of an island, which is represented on the table by a set of double-sided tiles. Hidden on this island are four treasures. Your goal is to find the treasures and get off the island, and each turn you can make a certain number of moves to try to do this. One problem, though: random sections of the island are sinking, so you may have to use your moves to shore up the sinking areas and make sure there’s still paths to the treasure. As time goes on, the island sinks faster and faster.
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The game is cooperative, meaning all players are working together to try to defeat the scenario, and the setup is randomized with different difficulty levels. It has very nice components and comes in a nice tin to boot. This makes a good choice for a couple, a pair of couples, or a small family (up to four adults and children).
$14.99 at Amazon.com
Deductive social game with a mild sci-fi theme
15 minutes to play, 5 to 10 players
Similar, but with a bit more depth/complexity: Battlestar Galactica (both involve hidden roles and a sci-fi theme)
In The Resistance, each player receives a secret card at the beginning of the game. Most of the cards are blue, meaning you’re trying to work together to win the game. A few of them are red, which means you’re trying to secretly undermine the other player’s efforts. The game is played through secret cardplay using a very clever and simple ruleset that allows clever blue players to guarantee mission success and clever red players to undermine the missions. ( Continue… )
All of us have that dream of sitting back and just opening the mailbox to watch the checks come in. It would bewonderful to be in a position where those checks care of all of our day-to-day financial needs, freeing us to use our time in whatever way we saw fit without income as a requirement.
That’s the dream of passive income. Passive income is income received on a regular basis, with very little or no effort required to maintain it.
Obviously, achieving passive income is a tricky thing. From my personal experience, at least one of three things need to occur before passive income can begin to put significant money into your pocket.
The first option is that you need to be lucky. Being in the right place at the right time can sometimes set you up with a great passive income stream.
My favorite example of luck playing a big role in passive income is the story of Ozzie and Dan Silna, who owned a low-rent American Basketball Association franchise in the late 1970s. At that time, ABA franchises were worth about $2 million each, give or take. In 1976, when the NBA and the ABA merged (mostly with the NBA absorbing parts of the ABA), the Silnas agreed to fold their team and not sue the NBA in exchange for 2/7ths of an ordinary franchise’s share of television revenue. Currently, the Silnas each receive an annual check for $14.57 million from the NBA for their revenue share without having to lift a finger. That’s luck – there’s no two ways about it. ( Continue… )
I have children who get into all sorts of messy situations. They’ll get all muddy and pet the neighbor’s dog. They’ll roll around in the grass and get all sorts of dried grass on themselves. My daughter has long, thick, wavy hair, too.
The end result? Our bathtub drain gets clogged on a fairly regular basis. The weird things they get themselves into coupled with my daughter’s long hairs means that every few months, the water stops draining very quickly out of the bathtub in the children’s bathroom. Every year or so, the same thing happens with the sink in there.
This means that Dad has a fair amount of experience when it comes to clearing out clogged pipes.
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Of course, the first response a person might have would be to get a giant bottle of drain cleaning goop from the hardware store, dump it in there, and see if that works, but I’ve never had strong success with that stuff and, frankly, it’s pretty expensive. Instead, I rely on a repertoire of other tactics.
Boiling Water This is my first line of defense for a clogged drain. I’ll go get a kettle of water boiling on the stove, then take it straight to the drain and dump it in there. The rushing action of the boiling water along with the heat will dislodge some smaller clogs pretty effectively. Cost: A penny or so. ( Continue… )
One of the easiest ways to trim your budget is by taking a serious look at your food spending. Let’s start with a few quick facts about how Americans eat:
+ At least 1 in 4 people eat some type of fast food every day.
+ Americans consume 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food.
+ Americans spend 10 percent of their disposable income on fast food every year.
The truth is that fast foods and convenience foods are expensive compared to making your own meals. We’re not even talking about eating at a nice restaurant, which is incredibly expensive compared to making your own meals.
The problem is that, for many people, cooking seems like a serious chore. It seems much easier to just order some food, eat something incredibly basic, or pop a ready-made meal in the microwave or the oven. It’s not so much a matter of laziness, but of time. A lot of people have overstuffed schedules and convenience foods, at least at first glance, reduces the time devoted to food preparation.
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When it comes to frugal living, creativity is a virtue. That’s why we were excited (but not at all surprised) to receive such clever responses to our most recent “Reader Tip Tuesday” question: “How do you reuse things around your house?”
Over the years, we’ve shared a lot of our own ideas about reusing kitchen and laundry items like Ziploc bags, dryer sheets and other single-use items that usually end up in the trash, but as it turns out, it’s The Simple Dollar audience that has the most ingenious frugal tricks and secrets to share. Readers offered up their best solutions to running a more frugal, eco-friendly, and even fashionable household.
Here are some of our favorite responses with minor edits!
- I use old muslin from making a sewing pattern for kitchen rags…bandanas as our everyday napkins rather than paper towels…unmatched tube socks for dusting. I make cleaner out of vinegar and lemon peels. And coffee grinds make a good lawn fertilizer that also cuts down on mosquitoes….Also, veggie scraps are put in the freezer. (No cruciferous veggies). When I have filled a gallon bag I make veggie stock. -Larry F.
- I use old carpet for path covers in my garden. I cut them in strips about 12 inches wide…cuts down on weeds and they can be used over and over again.(place newspaper under the carpet, reuse 2 things at the same time). -Cindy H. ( Continue… )
My immediate family has a tradition of celebrating birthdays. Everyone gives a gift to each other that involves a surprising amount of thought and planning. The person whose birthday it is might throw out some ideas along the way, but the gifts they receive on their actual birthday tend to be a surprise.
As I write this, my own birthday is approaching, and you’d have to have blinders on around our house to not see people planning various things. All of the children have asked me what I want for my birthday and have ran off to make plans based on what I’ve told them.
Here’s the thing, though: most of the things I want for my birthday aren’t just things you go pick up on Amazon. I realized that the gift ideas I was sharing with my kids were, for the most part, good gift ideas for anyone with a frugal bent or anyone who “has everything.” Here are a few of those ideas.
A batch of my favorite cookies I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but it’s pretty hard for me to turn down soft peanut butter and oatmeal cookies. If I have several of these, I hoard them.
Handmade art By this, I don’t just mean that kids scribble on a piece of paper. I mean something that they spent some significant time on, first thinking about what they want to create, then spending some time creating it over a period of days, then signing it and framing it. These can make for wonderful office decorations. ( Continue… )
As this school year approaches, our situation is different than it has been in a very long time when it comes to child care. We have two children enrolled in school full time, with another child in a full-time preschool setting.
In other words, the era of crushing child care costs is pretty much behind us. There was a period where we spent almost $20,000 in a single year on child care. That era is long gone.
When I look back to that time before our first child was born, when we were searching for the right child care and trying to figure out what we should be doing, I feel a sense of pride mixed with regret. We did some things absolutely right and we did a few other things completely wrong.
Here’s the advice I would give to Sarah and myself circa 2005 regarding child care and child care costs.
First, look at your own schedules and see how you can minimize child care costs. If you’re looking at child care, that likely means you’ve eliminated the possibility of one parent staying at home with the child (or children). However, that doesn’t mean that you truly need full-time child care. ( Continue… )
Well, “ultimate” might be a bit of hyperbole, but I thought it would be useful to collect together all of the things I’ve learned about saving money on Amazon.com in one place. If you ever buy items at Amazon, you might find some of these tactics to be useful.
If you are a heavy user of Amazon’s services and products, I think that Amazon Prime more than pays for itself, so let’s focus on it first.
Prime is a service that allows you to get two day shipping on virtually any item that Amazon sells. There’s no minimum purchase threshold for this, either. Once you have it, you’ll find that it’s much easier to buy gifts and many household items via Amazon than it is to go to the store and shop for them – and it’s often cheaper, too. You can truly use Amazon as part of your price comparisons, even on small items.
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Along with that comes the Prime Instant Video library, which is a service that’s very comparable to Netflix. While the streaming video selection isn’t quite as good as Netflix (in my opinion), there’s enough unique content here that you’ll have more than enough to watch for years. If you’re thinking of ditching cable, this is a pretty solid Netflix-esque replacement for it.
The Kindle Lending Library is another perk if you own a Kindle device. If you have a Kindle and are a Prime user, you can borrow one book a month from the Kindle Lending Library. It’s essentially a free book. I consider this a pretty minor perk considering I can get ebooks from my library, but there are a lot of good books in the Lending Library that are well worth reading. ( Continue… )
My first reaction was to laugh a bit. A $120 plain white t-shirt? Seriously? I can get a low-cost version of that same thing for a buck or an extremely comfortable and breathable one for about $8. Why would I pay $120 for the same thing just to have the name “KANYE” emblazoned on the neck?
The more I thought about it, though, the more I began to see this for what it really is: a very easy way for this man to make some cash. If he can take a white t-shirt, print his name on the neck, and sell it for somewhere around a 10,000% markup, why shouldn’t he?
Put yourself in his shoes. If you could buy some plain white t-shirts for, say, $1.20 each, put your name on the collar, and sell them for $120, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you be a fool not to?
In my eyes, Kanye West is making the sensible choice here. The person who’s making the strange choice here is the person spending $120 on the t-shirt.
This is an extreme example, of course, but the same thing can be said for virtually everything that’s sold out there.
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