Tag Archives: personal finance

How open should we be about our finances?

In my post about finishing my taxes I referenced how much our refund was going to be. Sarah asked why I included the number with the implication that information about our finances is personal and should be held back from public discussion. Ever since I graduated from college and started moving towards financial independence, personal finance has become an interest of mine. Growing up I never really knew much about our family’s finances, sometimes money was tight, but we always lived within our means. That’s the number one thing I’ve learned about money and is the key to saving for the future and being financially secure.

Personal finance is an important part of our lives, so why are we reluctant to talk openly about money? It might be that we still see money as a symbol of status. We might be ashamed of debts. We might not want to feel like we are bragging or putting ourselves above others. Whatever we feel though, it is most likely tied to emotions and as far as I can tell emotions and money don’t mix. In my life I have “unpersonalized” personal finance.

But how open should we be? I’m not suggesting we announce our income and current portfolio value when meeting someone, but when talking to friends and family I’d be open to asking for and offering advice. Getting advice and working out finance problems is incredibly important considering the opposition we face in our consumer spending driven society. I think we should be open enough to discuss our tax situation and tactics we use to reduce our tax liability. We should be open to discussing how we are saving for retirement. We should be open to talking about problematic debt and helping each other eliminate it.

What do you think, are finances open for discussion or private matters?

Is it Better to Buy or Rent?

Came across this nice calculator at the NY Times that lets you fill in a number of parameters to help make decisions about renting or buying. While prices are out of whack compared to income you are better off renting and investing the difference (if you have anything left over each month) rather than buying. With prices dropping, inventory rising, and more and more loans resetting into the middle of next year that might change. As prices come down to realistic levels over the next few years it might not be a bad time to think about buying. This calculator can help you make a decision based on your particular situation.

Is It Better to Buy or Rent?

Textbooks: Save your hard earned money

Some of you reading my site are in college or at least like to read so this should be a great site for you. It took me one semester to figure out that the bookstore at any college is a corrupt operation explicitly designed to gouge and rip off the students they vow to be serving.

Since I pretty much pay for my own books, I have always tried to save the most money possible when I buy textbooks and get the most back from the ones I do not keep. Here’s a quick list of what I do to cut my textbook costs by up to half:

  • Never sell books back to your bookstore, sell on Half.com or Amazon Marketplace
  • Never buy books from your bookstore unless absolutely necessary
  • Find the lowest price of used and new books on the entire Internet at AddALL
  • Compare that price to your bookstore’s new and used prices, purchase accordingly
  • Take shipping and taxes into consideration, a $3-$5 cost for shipping is offset by no tax being charged
  • Make a spreadsheet to see how much you save!

I think my all time high in savings was close to $200 and I have even sold books for nearly the same or more for what I paid for them.

One thing to watch out for on books that seem to have prices too good to be true is a growing popularity of International editions of books. These are usually printed in India or somewhere and are the exact same book, but they will always be softcovers with black and white print on inferior paper to the US editions. If you don’t mind the loss in quality go for it but I’ve only bought one and will shell out the extra money for the nicer hardcover.