How Wizards Do Money: Neville Longbottom

If Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott were Muggles, they would be considered DINKs.

However, the wizarding world doesn’t quite have a word for a dual-career couple who have chosen to remain childfree, and so Neville and Hannah are anomalies, spending their days managing Herbology classrooms and Leaky Cauldrons, respectively, and ignoring the continuous hints that it might be time for the two of them to think about settling down and procreating.

The Year We Saved $10K: Homes and Weddings

I’ve gotten a lot of your “the year I saved $10K” stories—we are quite a financially savvy community, as it turns out.

Here are two stories to start off. They share the theme of, as Sara notes below, “building savings that are actually spendings.” Lauren and her husband saved up for a down payment on a house, and Sara and her fiancé are saving up for a wedding.

Lauren: My husband and I spent the last year putting away $2,000/month in order to save up for a down payment on a house. We were able to do this mostly by having awesome jobs—our combined take-home pay is ~75k, plus my husband gets some stock grants. We also wouldn’t have been able to do this without living together and combining finances. It took a little while to adjust to the saving schedule, but I think it helped that we started right after we got married so there wasn’t much time to lifestyle inflate and adjust to having two salaries and only one apartment.

Amazon Isn’t Spending Less Than It Earns, Either

If corporations are people—and, as we all know, they legally are—then Amazon is a person just like you and me.

That is to say: Amazon is spending more than it earns.

And, just like you and me, Amazon has plenty of reasons why it’s overspending. To quote Mashable: “Amazon is spending an incredible amount of money on a variety of investments that are not turning a profit. Well, not yet.”

Yes, the Amazon quarterly numbers are out, and although—as Geekwire notes—its net sales increased 23% to $19.34 billion for Q2 2014, the company also reported a quarterly loss of $126 million dollars.

I am having flashbacks to my own failed business and the cycle of thought in which I convinced myself first that I was “spending money to make money!” and second that as soon as I had one good month, I could start to pay back what I’d lost.

It’s amusing to learn that Amazon, just like you and me, is spending money to make money. (As a corporation wearing a people suit, it truly has picked up the local mannerisms and cognitive dissonances.)

Also, I suspect that despite this quarterly loss, Amazon is going to do just fine.


Photo: Stephen Woods

Kima Jones on ‘The Wrath of The Math’

The newest quarterly edition of Scratch Magazine just released, and this quarter’s Scratch is on the theme of “security,” both financially and in other ways. The entire issue is fantastic, but one of the pieces that stuck out was Kima Jones’ five-part “Baby Gotta Eat” piece. (Although Scratch is subscription-based, you can read all of “Baby Gotta Eat” for free.)

Kima Jones is a poet and a writer, but that is only one of her many jobs—she also has a full-time job and a part-time weekend job. As she writes in “Part I: For Further Consideration:”

I have always worked two jobs, my whole life. Two jobs and school. Two jobs and relationships. Two jobs and family. At the end of the summer I am leaving my second job so that I can write more and read more and sleep. I will make less money, but I will have more time for me. I think, Am I worth it? Am I worth it? Is my work worth my own time?

She also writes about the financial mathematics that dominate adult lives:

Mostly my lists look like this: a list of my dream items, a list of my outstanding debts, a list of my recurring bills, a list of household items to buy, a list of groceries. I feel like an adult and responsible and on top of things when I cross items off of my list, but the crossing is slow. There are things I won’t spend money on anymore—namely, manicures, pedicures, or the salon. Luxuries have long gone out of the window. Instead, I remember having health insurance is a luxury, being employed is a luxury, having an apartment that is mine all mine and being able to keep the rest of the world out is a luxury. There are days when I come in this house and take a nap because I don’t have the answers or the funds or the energy to think about it anymore.

And then, in Part V, she gives us a chart of her writing income and expenses. I love charts. I was so glad to see this chart. It puts her perspective literally into perspective.

So read Kima Jones’ story and then, if you want, we could start a comment discussion about our own “wrath of the math.” Or, we could take our lead from Kima Jones’ “Part III: The Real Question” and talk about how we manage money and food, and whether we have a bag of rice hiding in our cupboards waiting for the truly lean days.


Photo: Mario

The Year I Saved $10,000

I want to share stories from people who saved $10K in a year. Whether you do it every year or did it just once, it’s time to talk about serious saving. If you have a story to share, email me at

The Billfold Book Club Discusses Helaine Olen’s ‘Pound Foolish’

I want to start the discussion of Helaine Olen’s Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry with a true story.

Ask A Human Who Actually Practices GTD (‘Getting Things Done’)

Here is an real tweet that I really tweeted yesterday:

My inbox may be zero, but my GTD list is spiraling out of control. Time to reconfigure my Horizons of Responsibility or something. #GTD

— Nicole (@HelloTheFuture) July 21, 2014

I meant every word of it.

I’ve been practicing GTD, or David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, since 2008. That’s well over 300 Weekly Reviews. An uncountable number of Ubiquitous Capture Devices. The regular, systemic processing of my Inboxes to Zero.

What does this have to do with personal finance, you might ask? When I was working as an executive assistant, practicing GTD didn’t have all that much to do with finance except for the part where it helped me pay my bills on time. It was only when I switched to the freelance world that GTD became an essential part of my money management.

It’s probably time for a quick update of what “GTD” is. At its core, “practicing GTD” means sorting through all of the various inputs that come at you every day — email inboxes, Twitter feeds, online chats with editors, personal conversations — and isolating every task that you have agreed to complete onto a single list. Then, you organize the list into completable chunks of action items, and you get things done.

Blame the Patriarchy For Your Lack of Social Mobility

You’d be forgiven if you saw today’s The Atlantic article “What’s In a Name? Everything.” and thought it was another Freakonomics-style piece about how passing along certain surnames to your children can inhibit their social mobility because we as Americans are presumptive and racist jerks.

Well, passing along certain surnames can inhibit social mobility, and we as Americans are often presumptive and racist jerks, but that’s not why these two items are necessarily connected—not according to UC-Davis economic historian Gregory Clark’s new research, anyway.

Gregory Clark’s new book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility examines how wealth, status, and opportunity are passed down from parents to children, and how likely it is that a family—not an individual, but an entire family—is able to rise socially and economically over time.

Reminder: The Billfold Book Club Will Discuss Helaine Olen’s ‘Pound Foolish’ on Wednesday, July 23

I am literally drinking a Starbucks Tall Java Chip Frappuccino as I write this.

Thank goodness Helaine Olen and I both know that this single indulgence won’t ruin my capacity to save for tomorrow or save for retirement. My “capacity to save” has much more to do with large-scale economic forces than with my individual financial choices. Hooray!

Are you ready to discuss Pound Foolish next Wednesday? I have no idea what I’m going to write about this book yet. I might just post a picture of me looking terrified. I might type “I knew it!” in 100-pt font. Or maybe I’ll write a song titled “Benjamin Franklin Does Not Think 1.5% Compound Interest Is All That Magical.”

We’ll talk soon. If you haven’t read Pound Foolish yet, you still have time before Wednesday.

You should also read Mike Dang’s interview with Helaine Olen, “A Conversation with Helaine Olen About the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industrial Complex,” because it is both an excellent companion to the book and an excellent interview.

(In fact, you could probably participate fully in the book club discussion by reading the interview in lieu of the book. Not that I’m suggesting you do that. But it is an option.)

The “I Got a CPA” Update

A little over a month ago, I wrote about how I finally went out and got a CPA after a CSR working for an automated tax software program told me “you really need a professional to do your taxes.”

Here is how my CPA experience went! I am curious if it was anything like other people’s experiences with CPAs and financial advisers.

1. I had no idea how much it was going to cost. 

My CPA’s website didn’t have any rates listed, which is fine, but it took me to the end of our first in-person meeting (after a few phone conversations) to finally say “um… what do you charge, and is it by hour or by project?”

It was per hour, and since some of those hours happened without me in the room I really didn’t have any idea what my bill would be until I received it. That, of course, made me nervous because I like to plan things in advance, but it turned out fine.

How the Baby-Sitters Club Does Money: Karen

Karen is 35 this year, six years younger than her step-sister Kristy and the other members of the BSC. Karen realizes just how lucky being 35 makes her.

Got an Extra $500? Buy Jibo, the Family Robot

Jibo just launched. This robot is essentially a smartphone on a stick, but with the addition of an Uncanny Valley voice and a few “facial features,” Jibo becomes a fully-fledged, fully-creepy member of your family. (Watch the YouTube video above to see exactly what Jibo can do.)

The strangest and most interesting part about Jibo is that Jibo only costs $500. It’s a price point that makes Jibo feel extremely accessible — something that’s probably less money than a lot of other family or personal expenses. Some people might save up for a Jibo, but for a lot of families (as well as, say, people living in studio apartments who have dreamed about the robot future for years), Jibo can be an impulse buy.

And that “impulse buy” feeling was exactly what I had after watching to the end of the commercial. Jibo is hilariously unnerving, but I have an extra $500 and I really want to blow it on a Jibo.

The first thing I would do would be to tell it to answer to “Pintsize.”