Money Management

Practice at Making Decisions

As adults, we constantly make small and large decisions that affect our financial lives. How did we learn that skill? Or did we? Making sound skillful decisions doesn’t necessarily come naturally. In addition to good advice and good examples, we need practice.

Find situations where your kids can make decisions. My mother bought the groceries and then each evening it was my role to decide what vegetable we’d have with dinner. Having chosen the vegetable, I could hardly complain about eating it. At back to school time, she’d gather a group of outfits and let me chose which five to buy. Notice that these early lessons had a failsafe built in since she chose the group from which I then chose. I had daily and yearly experiences of making successful decisions with good results.

I received a small allowance and could do as I pleased with it. I bought dumb stuff and wasted a lot of money, and that was a GOOD thing. I got all those impulse buys and scam situations out of the way before I was old enough for it to matter. NOTE: The reason I learned from this is that once I wasted my money, no one gave me more. I experienced the results over and over until I learned.

Help your kids and grandkids by making room for them to learn.



Sunk Costs

Sunk costs is an accounting term, but it has applications in everyday life. The old saying “throwing good money after bad” expresses it well. It means money that’s gone and you can’t recover it, and spending more money on it won’t be smart.

Just because the dead car decaying in your driveway was your first car (read: first love) doesn’t mean it’s financially sensible to repair it. Nor socially sensible to annoy your neighbors by having it in your driveway. This illustrates “the sunk cost fallacy.” This is the concept that says we think we’re being all sensible, but emotional content creeps in and undermines our financial smarts.

There are times when feelings matter more than money, but most times they can be expressed and experienced without necessarily making foolish money choices at the same time.

When you’re keeping something, like that car, for emotional reasons instead of practical ones, deal with the emotions first. Take photos. Write down the special moments the object makes you think of. Ask yourself how you can make similar memories with something else you have that is fully functional. Don’t throw good money after bad.

Those Predictable But Irregular Bills

Things like property tax, car registration, the half-yearly car insurance bill, holiday spending, vacations, big car repairs, replacing appliances are all things we know will happen. Because they don’t happen every month like rent/mortgage and utilities, it’s harder to plan for them.

Years ago I had a system for that. I added up all of those expenses for the year, divided by twelve, and put that much in a savings account each month. It worked very well. I never had to use credit to pay anything, and felt a certain financial serenity that was very nice.

An article in the Dollar Stretcher today informed me that that method is called a “sinking fund.” According to Dave Ramsey, this is different than an emergency fund. The items in the sinking fund aren’t unexpected emergencies, they are expected but irregular expenses.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Uh-Oh, Check Your Credit Report Real Soon

You may have heard the latest Big Bank scandal. Under pressure to get customers to open all kinds of accounts, Wells-Fargo employees have been opening accounts that people don’t know about. Some of the victims had only the briefest interaction with the bank, and ended up with credit cards and other accounts they didn’t know about. Some of those accounts incurred fees, and others will have damaged a person’s credit score.

It might be a good idea to go down to your nearest branch and ask one of the desk people to search their records for any accounts in your name.

If you haven’t done it lately, a free check on your credit report could show you any nefarious activity:

Another free source is

Don’t fall for the name in, it’s only free with a paid membership.


One in, One Out

If you have enough stuff already and want a way to spend less money, here’s a thought. Say you’re looking at a shirt, a movie, or a video game that you want to buy, but you had decided to spend less, so you shouldn’t buy it.

If you apply the one in, one out concept, you have to decide which of the items you already have at home to donate to allow you to buy this new one. Sometimes you’ll decide not to buy the new one because you like and value the ones you’ve already got. Just thinking about ‘one out’ may remind you how great the stuff you already have is.

On the other hand, if you do buy one and donate one, you gain by minimizing clutter in your home, and whoever you donated it to gains as well.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Overwhelmed with Student Loans?

Lucky for me I’m so old my entire four year college education cost $6,000. On the other hand, at that time my loan payments were my second largest expense after rent.

Now, the cost of education is so high I have trouble comprehending it. If your student loans are killing you, here’s something that might help:

Common Bond seems like a sensible way to get loans under control.

Here’s a review:

As with anything, compare costs and consider all the possibilities.

Challenge Me!

My book is all about finding useful, affordable alternatives to the things modern life has conditioned us to believe we “have to” buy.

Think of something that costs money that you don’t know of an alternative for. Challenge me to offer an alternative by leaving a comment on this or any other post. Please include the word “challenge” in your response.