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09/06/16 Personal Finance , Retirement , Saving , Work #

I’m a Financial Blogger Who Isn’t Sinking in Debt. Is That Bad?

I’m a Financial Blogger Who Isn’t Sinking in Debt. Is That Bad?


I’m going to a conference in a few weeks for financial bloggers. Many of the attendees have been in some major debt at some point in their lives, and write about it often and how they’ve overcome it.

Not me. I have three finance blogs — one focuses on personal finance, another on investing, and this one, CashSmarter, is where I share my life lessons on personal finance. Other than a mortgage, I don’t have any major debts and I’ve never been so far in debt to a credit card that I’ve had to pay off thousands and thousands of it down to get my financial life in order.

All of this makes me wonder if I’m meeting my goal of telling a compelling financial story that people want to read about. If I haven’t been $147,000 in debt, or haven’t paid off $26,000 in debt in 18 months — real stories by real bloggers I respect and enjoy reading — how is my story worth reading?

Reading how someone extricated themselves from six figures of debt can be fascinating — even if you’ve never been in that much debt. Anyone with a credit card knows how easy it can be to add more charges to a card, so going into a huge amount of debt isn’t too far-fetched for many of us.

And getting out of it is the typical American tale of overcoming large obstacles to become a success. It’s a life lesson worth reading about for lots of people. Continue reading

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04/14/16 Personal Finance # , ,

Financial Lessons I Learned From My Contractor

Financial Lessons I Learned From My Contractor

We’re at the tail end of a bathroom remodel in our home, and like anyone who has had a contractor take over an important part of their home for a few weeks, I’ve learned it’s not something I want to do often.

If you’ve dealt with a contractor or construction crew in your home, then you probably have a horror story to tell. I’m not here to tell you our horror story. Delays and mistakes are common in dealing with anything as big and complex as a house.

As a personal finance freelance writer who almost always considers things from a personal finance perspective, there were some financial lessons that our contractor inadvertently taught us. Among them:

Low prices are low for a reason

I used an app called Thumbtack to find professionals to come to our house and give us a price quote after reviewing the job and our needs. Of four contractors who responded to my request through the app, one didn’t get back to me, one offered an exceeding high price for the size of our small bathroom, one offered a fair price, and one didn’t meet our deadline for submitting a bid.

Which contractor did we pick? The one with the lowest price, though with only one other contractor providing a price, the competition wasn’t fierce. But after contacting references, I was confident he was a good choice.

But then his low price, which didn’t seem alarmingly low and was a fair, started to make some sense. He wasn’t as organized as I expected someone to be who was in charge of multiple things being replaced in a bathroom. A few things weren’t measured correctly. Continue reading

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04/12/16 Personal Finance

How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Making your home more energy efficient is not only good for the environment but it can also save you money over the long-term too.

But just what does an energy efficient home look like?

Below you’ll find an interesting infographic about the anatomy of an energy efficient home that will help you make the best decisions about which energy-saving methods to implement in your own home to save the most money.

Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Home
Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Home created by

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02/22/16 Personal Finance # , ,

Starbucks Makes it Harder to Get Free Coffee

Starbucks Makes it Harder to Get Free Coffee

Starbucks rewards members will have to do a little math to figure out if they get a free cup of coffee at the chain, which is a difficult thing to ask anyone before they’ve had their morning cup of coffee.

The new rewards program will be based on dollars spent instead of the number of visits.

Your morning math problem at the coffee counter just got more complicated, and will probably cost you more money to earn a free cup of joe.

Starting in April, customers will earn two reward points toward a free drink for every dollar spent and requiring 125 stars for a freebie, replacing the current method of earning points for every purchase and requiring 12 stars for a free drink.

Instead of the simple math of: 12 store visits = free coffee, the new equation is:

When 2 Stars X $1 = 125 Stars, then = free coffee

Or to put it into English, since our math skills aren’t too keen in the morning: You earn two stars for every $1 spent, and when you collect 125 stars, you get a free treat. That free drink will cost $62.50 in spending.

This overhaul of the “Starbucks Rewards” program — which the company says one customer in six is a member of — is meant to award stars, or points, “based on what you buy, no matter how often you visit,” according to an email I received as a rewards member.

$14.50 more for a free Starbucks drink

Starbucks says the new program will still reward people for about the same amount of money spent as the old program.

Do some simple math and you’ll find they’re wrong. The new Starbucks program reminds us of the old rewards program at Southwest Airlines, which used to give a free flight after buying 12 flights, no matter how far or how much the trip cost. The goal, Southwest said, was to reward people who spent more money. We just found it to be confusing and a lot more difficult to rack up a free flight.

But back to the Starbucks math. Under the existing program, if the average purchase is $5, as Starbucks says it is, then 12 transactions equals $60 for a free drink. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.