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Like your fingerprint, or your RuPaul's Drag Race fantasy league, your emergency fund is unique to you and you alone.

You Must Be This Big to Be an Emergency Fund

Here’s a horrifying fact. 46% of Americans can’t come up with $400 to pay for an emergency. Instead of an emergency fund, those people have to use credit cards, borrow from friends and family, or just… not pay for the emergency.

Scary, right? That means almost half of my countrymen are one fender bender, one slip on the ice, one infant with pneumonia away from—at best—massive debt. And at worst, massive bankruptcy. Homelessness. Abject poverty and desperation.

Think I’m being dramatic? I’m not.

My purpose in bringing up the nightmare that is living just above the poverty line is not to nag those who can’t afford an emergency. What kind of monster would belittle people so poor they have no way of saving themselves from one minor stumble on the road to making ends meet?

I’m also not here to advocate filing for bankruptcy multiple times (let’s say six) as a legitimate means of making emergencies go away.

Instead, we’re here to plumb the depths of one of personal finance’s most enigmatic puzzles:

How much money should you have in your emergency fund?

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Investing has the reputation of being mysterious and intimidating. It’s something for older, more worldly, bebuttsticked captains of industry, not lowly millennials trying to make their way in a hostile economy. But like the president's reputation as a deal maker, this characterization is a complete myth.

Investing Deathmatch: Paying off Debt vs. Investing in the Stock Market

LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLE!

It’s time for another thrilling episode of Investing Deathmatch, in which two forms of investing enter the ring, and only one leaves victorious. Or, more accurately, we decide that investing is a far more complicated affair than wrestling and the outcome of the fight depends on a number of nuanced factors.

But I digress.

TO THE BLOOD SPORT!

This fight has a long and sordid history. We’ll be uncovering old wounds, dredging up arguments long held in stalemate. We’ll be discussing a topic about which every damn personal finance blogger on the Internet has a very firm opinion. And we’ll be demystifying an age-old enigma of financial independence.

Brawlers, take your corners.

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You need to learn to forgive.

If You Don’t Eat Leftovers I Don’t Even Want to Know You

Did you guys know there are people out there who just… don’t eat leftovers? Yes! These wasteful, snooty heathens exist! And they’re coming for your delicious yet frugal lifestyle decisions.

To combat this slothful, repugnant, and uncreative attitude, I’m going to extoll the virtue of leftovers in all their glory. Because I think leftovers are the cat’s pajamas and you should too.

What do you take me for?

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Let's get down to the EXTREMELY ANALYTICAL CARNAGE.

Investing Deathmatch: Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA

Two methods of investing in the stock market enter the ring.

Only one will leave victorious.

Welcome back to another installment of… INVESTING DEATHMATCH!!!!!!!!!

If you’re one of our Patreon supporters, there are four things I know for sure about you. One: you’re beautiful on the inside and out. Two: you’re powerful, also on the inside and out (like, you are spiritually intimidating and also extremely muscular). Three: You have excellent taste in blogs run by women who are emotionally in their mid-seventies but physically in their early thirties.

The fourth and most important thing I know about our Patreon supporters is that once a month, they get to choose a topic for an upcoming blog post. And this month they selected a battle royale between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs.

So if you enjoy this week’s post, you have our gorgeous, strong, good-taste-having, democratically-empowered Patreon supporters to thank for it. Please consider becoming one, or continue to aspire to grow up to be one.

So real.

Now let’s get down to the EXTREMELY ANALYTICAL CARNAGE.

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Hogwarts Arithmancy classes clearly do not cover compound interest.

When Money in the Bank Is a Bad Thing: Understanding Depreciation Expense

Here’s a riddle: when is $100 worth $97? 

The answer is: when you put it in the bank a year ago.

Being frugal and being money-savvy are actually two very different skills. The former requires self-discipline, planning, and a strong sense of the relative importance of resources. The latter relies more on understanding how to take advantage of existing financial systems, economic regulations, and mathematical quirks.

Think of it this way: a frugal person packs their own lunch, whereas a money-savvy person itemizes it.

Depreciation expense is one of those mathematical quirks. It sounds tricky, but it’s really not! And if you know how it works, you can make it work for you.

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Investing Deathmatch: Managed Funds vs. Index Funds

Two methods of investing in the stock market enter the ring.

Only one will leave victorious.

Welcome to… INVESTING DEATHMATCH!!!!!!!!!

Hey! Get back here! Don’t you dare click away. This is fucking important and I am stretching a goddamn WWF metaphor past the bounds of decency to make it interesting for you.

So sit your ass down and learn a thing.

Before we ring the bell and start this fight, we should get the basic concept of investing out of the way. Investing in the stock market means you buy tiny chunks of various companies and in return you get tiny chunks of their profits. These tiny chunks add up over time so that you make more money than you would if you just put your money in a savings account.

Got it? For more on investing, check out this beginner’s guide over at Half Banked.

Ok. Now I want a good, clean fight…

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Don’t Spend Money on Shit You Don’t Like, Fool

My darling, hyper-intelligent baby deer, I am going to share with you one of the best, most secret methods of saving money. It cuts down on wasteful spending. It increases your savings. It encourages you to be intentional. It even empowers you to live your best life.

Please hold onto something and prepare yourself spiritually. Ready? Here goes:

Don’t spend money on things you don’t like.

Wait, come back! I know it sounds obvious… but I find myself breaking this personal rule all the damn time. And whenever I do, I regret it, and not just for the wasted dollars I will never ever see again. So take my hand and let’s break it down, shall we?

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Like it or no, you can't find a romantic partner or benefit from networking with industry colleagues while staying home and organizing your collection of reusable cloth grocery bags.

The Unexpected Benefits (and Downsides) of Money Challenges

I fucking love money challenges. As a naturally competitive person, gamifying self-improvement is totally my jam. I’m one of those weirdos who sets a New Year’s Resolution every year and always finishes it. Turning money, exercise, or learning a new skill into a game to be won makes it feel like I’m leveling up with every grand I save, baby!

I’ve tried a number of money-based challenges to achieve my goals (like paying off my student loans in half the time). But some criticize money challenges because they risk starting you on a financial yo-yo diet in which your good habits wax and wane according to whether you’re currently pursuing a money challenge.

Preach it, Sir Ian McKellen! I think money challenges are a fresh and exciting short-term method of meeting long-term goals.

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Whisper "any investment you make in yourself is an investment toward your retirement" three times.

How to Save for Retirement When You Make Less Than $30,000 a Year

Retirement is a difficult concept for young people to wrap their heads around. It’s hard enough figuring out how to be An Adult, let alone An Old.

We’ll be talking more broadly in the near future about the general concept of retirement. (Spoiler alert: it’s as outdated as an avocado-colored refrigerator.) But today I’d like to talk directly about the concept of saving for retirement while pretty legit poor.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to define that as someone making $30,000 a year or less. Obviously there are lots of factors that can stretch this figure. A mom of three with a high school education in Washington, D.C. is going to have a much harder time than a single, highly-educated person making the same amount in Woodstock, Alabama. And actually, that number is still more than double the official so-called “poverty line,” which is just over $12,000.

But Piggy and I feel strongly that there isn’t enough realistic, valuable advice for people in this general bracket, and so we’d like to talk to them.

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