save money on restaurants
Last month, I challenged my readers and myself to cut restaurant spending to zero as part of the Lifehacker Ultimate Money Challenge. At the end of the month, I asked readers how much they saved. The typical reply? About a few hundred bucks. Not too shabby! I loved this particular thread:

save money on restaurants

I did the math. In 10 years, that adds up to $86,542.00. Compound interest is a beautiful thing, at least when it comes to saving. Debt is a different story.

I saved about $300 myself, and that even includes a few of slip ups: a drink at a friend’s going away party; another friend’s birthday weekend.

A big part of this challenge is practical. Some of us have a hard time saving money, so a challenge can be a helpful kick in the butt. More importantly, you learn a lot about your spending habits, and that intel is helpful for lasting change. Here are a few things I learned from saving money on restaurants this month, followed by February’s challenge.  [click to continue…]

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Saving money
I never want to hear the words “duvet cover” again.

If you’re wondering, a duvet cover is a blanket for your blanket. It’s a thing you buy when you’re an adult and you want a nice, clean bed to sleep in after a long, hard day of work. I’m not down on duvet covers. I get it. You spend a lot of time in bed; you want to be comfortable. But duvet covers are expensive. And if you don’t have the duvet itself, you have to buy that, too. Maybe even some matching pillowcases. And a nice throw if you’re feeling fancy.

Over the past several years, my fiance and I have shopped around for bedding more than I care to admit. The thing is, I’ve always insisted on the cheapest option. Here’s how our conversation usually goes:

BRIAN: We need new sheets. It’s cold and ours are uncomfortable.

ME: Cool. Let’s go look.

(GO TO THE STORE)

BRIAN: This one looks nice.

ME: Yeah, it does–WAIT FIFTY DOLLARS? Nope. Put it back. I know a dude that sells them outside the gas station for 20.

I’m not exaggerating. The first time we went shopping for sheets, we bought them from a dude outside the gas station for twenty bucks. Needless to say, they were stiff and uncomfortable and in the next few months, we wanted different bedding. So we went back. I cheaped out again. This happened a few more times in the next several years.

Recently, Brian said, “Hey we need a new duvet cover. This one warped in the washing machine.” I snapped, “How many times are we going to buy a new duvet cover?!” And then I realized: if we would’ve just spent the money on quality bedding in the first place, we wouldn’t be replacing it every six months or so.  [click to continue…]

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money lessons
Right now, in theaters everywhere, there’s an entertaining, Oscar-nominated movie brimming with A-list actors, and it’s not about an exploding bus or unlikely romance or talking pets.

It’s about the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

It’s hard to make a topic like the housing crisis sexy or even appealing to a general audience (Ryan Gosling is a good start, though), but The Big Short delivers. It takes a corrupt, complicated moment in recent U.S. banking history and makes it digestible and compelling. And I think part of the aim of this movie is to get us to understand the intersection between banks, the economy, and our individual finances. So let’s jump in. Here are a handful of personal finance lessons learned from The Big Short. Keep reading

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MARRIAGEI was excited when Luke Stansfield over at Finance and Forever pitched this guest post idea to me. As a soon-to-be newlywed, I’ll take all the insight I can get about dealing with finances in marriage. I hope you’ll enjoy Luke’s post as much I as I did.

After countless hours of planning, taste testing, dress shopping, tux renting, invite sending, flower picking, and rehearsal dinner-ing the Big Day finally comes. Vows are exchanged, a kiss is shared, and family, friends, faith, and fun fill the atmosphere. Happily ever after, right? Perhaps, but many newlyweds blissfully fail to acknowledge another “F” word that could make or break the quality of their marriage. And, no, it’s not the one you are thinking of… 😉

Finances.  [click to continue…]

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Every Christmas, my fiance’s parents make us a big batch of chocolate peanut butter balls, and they’re as delicious as you’d imagine. So delicious, in fact, that the first year they made these for us, I ate the entire bag that night. I was miserable, not only because I’d gorged myself like a greedy maniac, but also because I wanted peanut butter balls the next day, but they were gone.

Last year, I vowed to learn my lesson. Instead of eating the entire bag right away, I saved them. Every single ball. I had zero that night, zero the next day. After a few days, I got so used to depriving myself, I forgot about the balls entirely, until I opened the fridge in late January and found them there, stale and sad. I’d wasted them. (I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still ate them, but they weren’t nearly as good).

The point here is: balance. The more I learn about money, the more I understand that it all comes back to balance. It’s important to save for the future, but at what point do you actually get to enjoy your money? It’s important to splurge every now and then, but at what point does splurging rob you of your future savings?

Somewhere in between those two extremes lies a balance–a compromise between gorging yourself and depriving yourself so much, you never get to enjoy your hard earned money (or peanut butter balls).

The good news is, it’s easy enough to find that balance. It just takes some planning. These steps should help you find your own compromise between spending and saving.    [click to continue…]

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