My favorite posts in 2017/2018



This is my 60th post – hard to believe but it’s already been a year since I started this blog (June 4th 2017 was my first post, “think smarter”).  A lot has changed but much remains the same.     .     .   I’ve researched and opined about many topics:  millennials, music streaming, cord cutting, home buying, car buying, etc.  I’ve learned a great deal about these subjects, and maybe even more about myself.  I still feel somewhat unqualified to give you tips on personal finance.  But I don’t think writing is about creativity as much as it’s having the patience to discover those ideas worth passing on.


Many of you have encouraged me along the way and I’m gratified that these posts have helped some of you along your financial journey.  If we are supposed to learn from our failures then maybe I am certified (or at least certifiable); qualified to pass along things from those times when I swerved head long into self-made problems.  Maybe some of you have been there.   .     .


I thought I would take this opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts along the way.  Oddly enough, some of my most popular posts (800+ views) are not my personal favorites (e.g., “tax planning”).  Maybe there’s a lesson in that – personal finance isn’t really that exciting – it’s more like a chore – but there’s satisfaction and a reward to be had from a job well done; so I encourage you to keep up the good fight and keep on keeping on.


I decided to look back over the past year and tried to look over my posts to see which ones were the most impactful and most likely to “hold up” over time.  I’m hoping you agree and will take the time to review (or read for the first time) my favorite posts over the past year – maybe these are just the posts that I enjoyed writing but I’m hoping that some of these ideas helped you along the way.


Your career is your biggest asset.  You should maximize your potential by being the best version of you (that you can be) and increase your salary in the process.  Many surveys indicate than an overwhelming majority (between 70 and 80%) of Americans hate/dislike their jobs.  Don’t complain about it – do something about it!  Read this post as I give you some practical advice on how.


Learn some innovative personal finance strategies from generation Y – those born from 1980 -1995.  There are some traits that are quite common among this generation – traits that set them apart from other generations.  I list the top 10 things that I admire about the millennial approach to personal finance.


This is probably my deepest and most philosophical post.  I employ critical thinking and skepticism in this introspective inquisition.  It explores what might be holding you back from succeeding in your quest to become financially independent.  I seek to challenge the way you think about your finances (agreement is not required).  How are you doing financially?  What’s the hole in your pocket?


You might think you don’t need to read this one but chances are many people reading this need to think smarter about their next car buying decision.  85% of new cars are financed.  The average car payment is approaching $500 per month, with an average loan amount of over $30,000 (financed over 68 months) – yikes!   My philosophy is a little counter to conventional wisdom but I hope you will indulge my strategy as I hope it helps you make a smart choice on your next vehicle.


Half your income for rent?  Say it ain’t so!  Craziness I say.  I think you should aim for 25% (or less).  I’ve read some crazy articles (talking to you USA today) about house buying tips and I think they are intellectually bankrupt!  Just because somebody posted an article on the internet doesn’t make it so.  In this post I give you some tools and ideas to help evaluate if you should rent or buy and how much of your income you should allocate to your monthly housing expense.  I also have some practical, but not necessarily easy or convenient, advice on how to get to 25%.  If you don’t have a plan.   .     .


Who are you?  It’s another deep/philosophical question that I want you to ponder before you respond.  In this post we explore the habits of successful people (as well as not).  Spoiler alert – there are differences.  I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to contemplate the consequences of these habits and then consider your own.  Hint, there’s probably room for improvement.


68% of Americans in debt doubt they’ll ever pay it off.  In this post I argue that’s an excuse, a method for putting off the necessary and pragmatic steps – that you can take – to become (and stay) debt-free.  I’ve heard this frustration first hand and really want to do something helpful for those people who are sick and tired, of being sick and tired.  This is a tough love post but I believe some have come to think of their debt as an unavoidable circumstance and are unwilling to change their lifestyle, because there is nothing they can do about it.  I list some common causes of debt as well as some practical tips on how to get out of debt (if you’re already there).  Permanent fixtures in your life should be faith, family, friends, not debt.    .     .


This was done via special request.  At the corner of crisis and opportunity, job loss is a real threat that each of us should prepare for (unless you’re retired).   In this post we explore some steps you can take to be prepared (kinda-sorta-maybe) for the proverbial “pink-slip”.  I also lay out some steps you can take if you find yourself in the unemployment line.  I was laid off once myself, so I have first-hand knowledge of what this feels like.  This is an emotional as well as a financial problem – one that should be prepared for before getting laid off.   .    .


Your financial dream, this is the fun part, go ahead and dream, but make sure you dream BIG!  Let your imagination go.  What do you want your financial future to look like?  Does it involve debt?  Harassing calls from collectors?  Living paycheck-to-paycheck?  That’s not a dream, that’s a nightmare.  I believe writing down your financial dream is the first step to success.  But don’t stop there, set some goals in order to make your dreams a reality.


I watch way too much HGTV (fixer upper anyone?).  They make home improvements look easy, but are they really?  When is it smart to spend some of your hard-earned money on home improvements?  In this post we explore some practical steps you can (and should) take before you embark on a reno project.  I also pass along some ideas for home improvements – things that you can do right now – regardless of your budget.


Honorable mention:


Imagine the strong magnetic pull of the debt star (star wars reference – going to see SOLO today).  There are lots of opinions about debt.  Some think it’s a great way to borrow your way to becoming rich (Robert Kyoski, author of “rich dad poor dad”) and some are super-negative about it (Dave Ramsey).  In this post we back up and take a fresh look because I think it’s a really good question.  We explore what the Bible has to say about debt and when it’s a really bad idea to go into debt.     .     .


Seriously, I really do.  I want you to take a long, hard look at your financial decisions.  I want you to question (at least ponder) your financial strategy.  In this post I show you some practical ways to measure how you’re doing financially.  I realize some of my recommendations seem downright unrealistic – I agree!  I struggle to make smart financial decisions myself.  I also address some of the personal finance myths and excuses, because you might have bought into a lie.   .    .


In finances, you aren’t competing against your neighbor or your co-worker, you’re competing against yourself!  Are you making progress toward your goal of financial independence?  Or are you getting in your own way?  Let’s walk through 6 ways to measure financial success and see if there are any areas you need to work on?  I include my answers as I take some of my own medicine.   .     .


I know I do.  How do you recharge your batteries?  I think I’m suffering from frugality fatigue (I’m not – don’t feel sorry for me – seriously – no one else does); when you’re tired you’re tempted to make bad financial decisions.  So what’s the secret?  How can I recharge my batteries?


In this post we explore the BLS generational report; a great way to see how much others (in your age group) spend on their everyday, normal expenses.  How do you compare?  Are you better (or worse) than “average”?


If you read all 15 posts then I’m sure you’re tired of reading.     .     .  Having said that I wanted to let all my faithful readers know that I’m taking a break.  I’m going to spend some time with family and friends over the summer and wait for some new personal finance topics/ideas to come my way.  You can help!  Please send me ideas for topics you want me to write about.  Let me know if any of the posts above helped you on your financial journey.  Please forward any posts you liked to family and friends.  I hope you have a great summer and we’ll be back together again in the fall (probably September).

I want to give a special thanks to some folks who have really helped me along the way.  I want to go back to the very, very beginning.  I want to thank my buddy Steven for encouraging me to take a chance and start this blog (its been a crazy ride).  I want to thank Phyllis for all the engaging financial conversations we’ve had, as well as her guest post “Financial Tips from the School of Life”.  A great post from someone who has already achieved her financial independence.  School is in session, I suggest you take notes.

I also want to thank my lovely wife for being my ever faithful editor.  She is probably the only one brave enough to read all my posts – who am I kidding?  She only read all my posts because she had to.    .      .

I want to give a special shout out to my buddy Marcus.  He helped me much more than he knows.  Many of our conversations were the spark for some of my best posts.  Writers block is a real thing.  Marcus really helped me on that front, although I doubt he knew he was my source.  He was also kind enough to guest post twice.  If you haven’t read them yet, you really should.   .    .

Catch ya on the flip side.    .    .


lake george


How do you define wealth?

true wealth


Interestingly, most Americans cite a stress-free life and having “peace of mind” as their personal definition of wealth (Bloomberg article May 2018, I’ll put a link at the bottom of this post).  On the surface this appears to indicate that many have a healthy view of life and don’t believe acquiring vast amounts of money is the key to happiness.  But I’m not so sure that’s what these results really mean.  I believe many would readily admit that money, or rather the lack of money, can be the cause of a great deal of stress.  Your personal definition of “peace of mind” might also include financial freedom.  Is your personal attainment of contentment contingent on acquiring vast amounts of money?  According to a Schwab survey (annual modern wealth index), Americans believe you need $1.4 million to be “financially comfortable” and $2.4 million to be “wealthy”.  I believe you should set financial goals and have the self-control necessary to delay gratification in order to achieve your goals; however, I don’t think your contentment should be contingent on having amassed such and such in your bank account.  I want you to be content now! Life is a journey, not a destination.  See my previous post on being content.



Clearly many Americans believe you can buy happiness.  I will readily admit that a significant lack of money can be a stress inducing situation and I won’t try to convince you otherwise.  However, each person’s definition of “wealthy” appears to vary considerably with 18% defining it as being able to afford anything they desired while 17% said it is having “loving relationships with family and friends”.  I would argue that the pursuit of money is not a meaningful pursuit in and of its self.  Many rich people commit suicide.  Mo’ money mo’ problems (renowned American philosopher “the notorious B.I.G.”).  They didn’t have a purpose.  They were just chasing the glittery things of this world.  Read my previous post about having purpose in your life.


What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Matthew 16:26

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2




Americans long for lives that don’t revolve around money – which makes sense, 60% of those surveyed say they live paycheck to paycheck .    .    .


What is wealth to You? (survey results below)


Living stress-free/peace of mind                    28%


Being able to afford anything I want              18%


Loving relationships with family, friends       17%


Enjoying life’s experiences                             14%


Having lots of money                                      11%


Having good health                                         7%


Being charitable                                              2%


Other                                                                   3%



What makes for a rich daily life? (survey results below)


Spending time with family                             62%


Taking time for myself                                    55%


Owning a home                                              49%


Meals out/meals delivered                             41%


Subscription services like Netflix, Spotify       33%


Grooming/pampering                                    29%


Having the latest tech products                      27%


Shopping at specialty grocery stores             22%


Having a busy social life                                 21%


Driving a luxury car                                         21%


Gym membership/personal trainer               17%


Using a home cleaning service                       12%


Using a car service, not public transport        10%


Other                                                               4%


None of the above                                          6%


49% of respondents said that saving and investing is “the key to wealth” with another 40% citing “hard work”, and 11% citing “luck“.   .    .

Think about it.   .    .

This was a shorter than normal post but I thought these survey results were absolutely revealing about how the average American thinks about wealth and their everyday decisions; how they affect our happiness/contentment.

wealth quote




Do you ever get tired?

tired dog


I know I do.  How do you recharge your batteries?  I like to say that I suffer from frugality fatigue (you shouldn’t feel sorry for me, seriously.   .    . no one else does.   .    .).  When you’re tired, you’re tempted to make bad decisions.


I think the key to turning your financial life around is to be content with what you have.  Don’t focus on what you see from others on Instagram and Facebook – focus on your life – be content and don’t try to live someone else’s life.  I looked up the definition of content:

In a state of peaceful happiness.   Willing to accept something; satisfied.

I don’t want your financial journey to make you bitter because of unreasonable sacrifices, rather I want your financial journey to be part of your path to satisfaction.  I want your financial decisions to become part of your habits, part of your lifestyle.  Life is an adventure – live with passion, live with a vision of what your financial independence will look like one day.  Live with a dream – live with a purpose!

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13


I want to revisit one of my previous posts to help recharge your batteries, because sometimes we get tired and lose sight of our purpose, lose sight of where we’re trying to go.  I strongly suggest you read “the purpose driven life” by Rick Warren – it will change your perspective because “it’s not about you“.  It’s about the quest for personal fulfillment, satisfaction, and meaning in life.


Happiness, for some it’s an elusive pursuit of a mirage in the desert – always within sight but just out-of-reach.  For others, it seems to come naturally.  What makes them different?  I came across an article in Forbes that started with people who were already happy and ranked the top 10 things they had in common.  Let’s dive right in.


1)  They slow down to appreciate life’s little pleasures (the mountains are calling and I must go .   .    .)

blue ridge

2)  They exercise (you already knew this one, they regularly schedule it and follow through)


3)  They spend money on other people (giving will change your perspective on life)


4)  They surround themselves with the right people (avoid negative influences)


5)  They stay positive (stop complaining so much)


6)  They get enough sleep (really helps with mood, focus, energy and self-control, also reduces stress)


7)  They have deep conversations (avoid gossip and judging others; instead, build a connection with someone)

Jack Handey

8)  They help others (it’s a positive influence on your mood, but don’t over-commit)

helping others

9)  They make an effort to be happy (attitude is a choice – work at it)

be happy

10)  They have a growth mindset (you can improve with effort, challenges are really opportunities to learn something new)


There’s no energy in just existing – Dave Ramsey


Start each day with prayer and a Bible verse (the Holy Bible app will send it right to your smartphone (i.e., a push notification).  Be thankful for all the blessings you have and the opportunity to live another day.  Also start your day with a list of priorities.  What are the most important things you need to accomplish today? – write them down and cross them off as you accomplish them.  Say no to distractions (Facebook anyone?)


You are only given so many days – make each one count!  Be faithful each day, show up and play hard!  Practice excellence.  Never lose sight of your purpose – evaluate your daily habits.  There is more than mediocrity – watch some dave ramsey videos (on the app) as people share their success of overcoming debt and how they did it.  If they can do it, so can you!

Today’s post too short? – click the link below and read my previous post on lifestyle creep.

Drop me a comment below and let me know how you deal with those times when you’re tired of being frugal.   .      .