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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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I've come to think that's the ideal role for credit cards to play in a debt-free person's life.

Why You Might Not Need Your Emergency Fund

Excluding my mortgage, I’m a debt-free individual. That means my credit card is a pretty lonely lil’ guy. He doesn’t even get to live in my wallet. He’s entombed in my office with my library card, my old student ID, and that Best Buy gift card with only $3.52 left on it. He has a zero-balance and a $10,000 limit.

I used to keep $6,000 in cash squirreled away as part of an emergency fund—enough to make a few rent payments if I lost my job or had to cover an unexpected accident deductible. I was very lucky, and none of those things ever came to pass; but this meant my emergency fund sat in my savings account, slowly depreciating. Meanwhile, I was toying with the idea of closing my credit card altogether—after all, I never used it.

But eventually, I saw a wonderful opportunity to justify that card, and put my emergency fund to better use: I invested the $6K and designated my credit card as my new emergency fund. I’ve come to think that’s the ideal role for credit cards to play in a debt-free person’s life.

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When you get down to it, there is really only one way to "save" money: not spending it.

It Really Does Add Up: On Saving Your Little Savings

“If you don’t start saving your money when you’re young, you’re going to die impoverished, overworked, and alone!” says every personal finance blogger ever to young people just starting out in the world.

And while it’s only a slight exaggeration, this kind of enormous pressure can be overwhelming and demoralizing when you’re just starting to get your financial life under control and barely bringing in enough money to make ends meet.

So what’s a young, financially inexperienced person to do? What’s anyone with bills and debt to do with the specter of an empty savings account looming and no solution in sight?

The answer, as with most personal finance, is to start small. Because when saving, your little savings really do add up.

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