27 Comments

  1. Susan

    So very true Penny! I’ve learned so much from all of the various blogs and use the information to work on the pieces that are important to me. What’s happened though is that I’ve been able to improve in so many other areas that I may not have even thought of even if in some small way and those small areas add up! At 52 and only having just 10 months left on the big mortgage payment I can finally reclaim my paycheck for what matters most to me – experiences. Well worth the peace of mind of not having to stay employed to meet the higher expenses, have the ability to save more and say yes to more travel.

  2. Catherine

    So much yes.

    The biggest advice that doesn’t work for me is having an enormous emergency fund. The size of your ER fund is so multifactorial. For us we live in Canada, I’ll never need to worry about astronomical medical costs, we have social assistance programs that, God forbid we do lose our jobs we have a tiny cushion to use since we pay into the universal employment insurance program (as long as we don’t eff up and get fired on reasonable grounds)… We have medical insurance through husbands job, we have wiggle room in our budget if needed blah blah blah…my point is, at no point in my life can I see our emergency fund ever exceeding something like 10k (Max)… Also, this is a financial goal (the 10k er fund) which I will not work towards until other goals are met because I like to go against expert advice and live on the edge 😉

    • I hadn’t even thought of that, Catherine! When you point out all of those factors, it does seem much less pressing to build up an e-fund.

  3. Catherine

    Also, I did not have my financial life completely in order when I started my family. I don’t care. I wasn’t interested in waiting until I was 35 to start having babies. We made it work just fine and having children prioritized a lot of financial decisions for us, they helped if anything even with added expenses.

    • That’s a great one, Catherine! We both looked at each other and said, “We can’t keep waiting. We’ll never feel like we have enough.” And I think that’s so true.

  4. Ahhh, tough one. Advice like “Just ride your bike everywhere!” doesn’t work for me. I dunno, maybe I’m just a wuss, but if you ride your bike ANYWHERE in the Texas summer, there’s a good chance someone will find you dead, keeled over and frying in the sun. The hills in our area also make it unbearable (nothin’ like cycling up a 30-degree hill for 30 minutes!). So while I applaud people who are car-free, I’ll happily pay the extra money to just use a car.

    • I cannot agree with this enough, Mrs. Picky Pincher! Unfortunately, the suburbs in the Midwest aren’t very bikeable. My commute takes me 10-15 minutes. I guess I value my time too much to bike it. And the winters here!

  5. I’m with you, Penny! And also so guilty of reading a post and thinking, “I should really do that!” I think the work of my life is authenticity–figuring out who I am (and by extension, who my family is) and doing the things that are in line with what I really want for my life. That sounds like so much teenage angst, but by golly, I’m still working at getting better at stuff I figured out I was terrible at years ago!

    • That’s a really lovely perspective, Laurie. It is so important to be authentic to ourselves. And I think it’s one of the hardest things to do. I lose sight of me all the time when I read other posts.

  6. We don’t follow the 4% withdrawal rule. Or really early retirement in general. Mini-retirement seems to work because the reality is that I’m just going to do whatever I want on any given day. 🙂 We’ll probably take it easy for a few more years, then ramp into something else for a while.

  7. kddomingue

    Definitely the advice about not paying off your mortgage if your interest rate is very low. My husband and I have lived through three oilfield recessions during our marriage. One recession was so bad that the standing joke was “Last one out of Louisiana, don’t forget to turn the lights off”. But this is our home and our families are here so we rode it out. However, the fear of losing our home during the bad times was a constant source of stress and anxiety. Living with that level of fear and anxiety and stress, day in and day out for months at a time, is horrible. During the last recession my husband lost his job. I told him that I couldn’t bear the thought of living for who knew how long with the fear of losing our home eating me up inside again. We paid off the mortgage with our savings account. The comfort of knowing that our home was ours free and clear no matter what else happened was totally worth it.

  8. Personal finance is so much like the myriad weight loss/gain/maintenance diets out there. There are basic principles that work for everyone to some degree, but there’s no magic bullet that will work 100% of the time for 100% of the people that use it. Heck, even the plans we follow in our own lives fail from time to time! Seek counsel from many, but look to be a carbon copy of no one.

  9. I completely kddomingue for a different reason though. I was laid off from my first real job as a recent college grad and I had to decide between continuing to rent with my best friend and moving back in with my parents. My unemployment Che KS wouldn’t cover my car payment and rent payment so back to my parents I went. That hurt my pride a lot. I was unemployed for a year and worked my ass off to get to where I am today. I promised myself then that I would never be in a situation like that ever again. Paying the house off for me represents that freedom for me and my family.

    • I am absolutely in the pay-off-the-mortgage camp. I hate, hate, hate, HATE it. Congrats on all of your hard work, Omar. That’s really inspiring!

    • kddomingue

      Smart move on your part even though it stings your pride something awful. I told both of my children when they moved out that their dad and I couldn’t support two households if they couldn’t meet their financial obligations while renting. But I also told them that there would always be room for them in our house and they would never want for food or clothes on their backs as long as we were alive. Both had to move back home a couple of times and it did hurt their pride but they got back on their feet and both are financially wiser from having had those experiences.

      I understand the feeling of freedom that not having a mortgage hanging over your head represents….. it’s like being able to take a deep, deep breath at last, isn’t it?

  10. This: “The only person that knows your exact situation, that understands your true talents, that comprehends your biggest fears is you.”

    Many times someone says you can’t do something just because THEY couldn’t.

    Like, credit cards are evil, or you’ll go broke if you move to an expensive city, or having a gazillion dollars in your emergency fund.

    I’m pretty sure you know where I stand on all of this 🙂

  11. Good advice Penny. The cocktail of life that brings the most happiness to a person has a unique recipe, different for each of us. We should always question everything, especially if it comes from a guru (unless, of course they have the market cornered on adorably lovable, frugally awkward weirdness).

  12. Yes to this! Me and the hubby were only talking about this the other day. Do we push for early retirement (we think we could do it in about 9 yrs) OR do we take the kids round the world for a year before it becomes way too tricky with school. We’ve been reading so much around these things and so much of it is conflicting, and we keep having to come back to OUR wishes, goals and fears to piece it together.

    Thanks for articulating it so well (especially if you’re writing this in the baby haze….!)

    (Sidenote. I was reading some of your older articles during a night feed the other night, I couldn’t comment at the time but you guys REALLY need some decent tea over there. Lipton?! Twinings? Seriously, I’m not sure how you’re surviving the sleep deprivation without a good cuppa!)

  13. For me it’s the advice to plan meals in order to reduce grocery costs. When I was doing regular meal planning, I ended up wasting a lot of food (and money) due to my irregular schedule, which would often leave me with not enough time to cook what I had planned. Since I stopped meal planning, I’ve shopped more often (probably 3 times/week), but I eat most of what I purchase and waste a lot less. And shopping isn’t all that inconvenient for me, as I drive past the grocery store on my way home from work.

    I also don’t plan to follow the recommended advice regarding the amount one should have saved in an emergency fund. I currently have a lot of cash set aside because I’m saving for a down payment on a house, but I’m planning to get a line of credit as well (once I stop being lazy), and I plan to use the LOC as most of my emergency fund. Personally, I would much rather have that money invested and earning good returns than sitting in a safe but low-return bank account, although I appreciate that everyone’s comfort level is different.

  14. I’m not a big fan of only using cash to pay for things. Experts always argue that it will keep you more honest about your spending but for me it’s the opposite…cash in my wallet is way more likely to get wasted on small things like coffee or ice cream. Using credit cards makes it easier to track purchases and know how much I’m spending, plus there’s the added perk of reward points. As long as you can pay off your balance, I don’t see the upside of cash.

  15. Molly

    I usually tune out when I see anything about the only way to be frugal is to give up . Maybe giving up cable or never drinking soda again works for someone else but it doesn’t for me. We all have something we splurge on, those are my somethings. Almost nothing is black or white in life 🙂

  16. Jan

    Definitely the mortgage and the credit cards. Even my father keeps telling us to not pay off our mortgage but I always remind him that he is looking backwards at his situation and our view backward from retirement may not look the same, so I would rather not worry about owning our house.

    And we never carry a balance on our CCs but use them like a debit card to pay for everything (and then move the money over immediately after) in order to accumulate points. I am sure using credit vs debit has allowed us to make some impulse purchases we may have not made otherwise but it also has paid for most of our flights for our large vacations like:

    2007 – 2 business class ticket to Europe
    2009 – 2 business class tickets to New Zealand
    2010 & 2012 – 4 economy class tickets to Florida (twice)
    2013 – 4 economy class tickets to Bahamas
    2014 – 4 economy class tickets to England
    2017 – 4 economy class tickets to New Zealand

    and many other small flight rewards we have cashed in over the course of the last 15 years.

    So for us the diligence in making sure we don’t carry a balance or abuse our credit has greatly paid off in our own quality of life.

  17. Yes to all of this! Your blog is such a breath of fresh air and a wonderful reminder that the common prescriptions we see out there from PF experts (or “experts” ha) are not for everybody.

    The main one I struggle with is the 3-6 month emergency fund – I know how important this may be if you do not have job security, support a family on a single income, etc etc. But I am totally on board with Catherine, the other Canadian further up in your comments – medical costs not a big issue here, we have okay unemployment if laid off, and my job is fairly secure. Plus side hustles give a nice cushion – if I did lose my job, I always have other income streams. Just makes sense for me to prioritize other things right now!

  18. While I don’t agree with going into debt using credit cards (been there, done that)… We use ours. We each have one, but we only use it out of the convenience of not having to update our budget except for the one time that we pay the credit card bill. We already have the money to pay the bill before we make any purchases though.

    And by the way, great article. I always say that people will do personal finance in a way that works best for them, which I have no problem with. I only take issue when I hear people complain about their situation, but they’re not really trying to do anything different to change their situation, especially when you offer them advice or your opinion. That’s the part I don’t understand.

  19. There is so little advice that is as universally “true” as folks would have us believe. I trust that folks are making the right decisions for them. We all have different needs and safety-nets. Even the idea of always spend less than you earn is not necessarily true. While I’ve been building a business, I’ve had to spend more than I’ve earned for the short-term. It’s an investment in my future life and lifestyle.

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