garden produce
DIY

DIY: Gardening your way to frugality

One of the benefits to living in a temperate climate is the ability to garden. While many people grown the odd tomato or basil plant around here, I think gardening can be a fantastic way to thin the family grocery bill. As I have mentioned before, if you don’t track it, you don’t know what its worth/costing you. Over the last two years I have meticulously tracked the expenses and income derived from my garden. Of note, I have not tracked the hours I spent gardening. I have decided my home garden is not work. To me its meditation, outdoor

Read more
Investing TSP

Utilize the TSP’s low fee to supercharge your retirement

What if I said YOU could make 1% more in your retirement account, every year, for life? As far as things go, a 1% advantage is pretty good these days. The market isn’t returning twenty-odd percent like it did in the lead up to the ’08 crash. I’m talking about the fee’s you pay to invest. Vanguard, which has some of the lowest fees around, has a handy calculator.  According to Vanguard, the industry average fee is 1.01%. Vanguard pegs their average fee at 0.18%. Their calculator does a fantastic job showing the cost of high fees over time.  Fees

Read more
Fire anemone
FIRE Investing

Why FIRE?

Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) As part of our pre-marriage financial summit, my wife and I took a long look at our retirement goals. At the time I hadn’t discovered Mr. Money Mustache or any of the FIRE crowd. What we found was pretty dismal. I had graduated from a top university with no debt, had worked with a generous salary for 6 straight years, and had managed to accumulate a personal net worth of about $70,000.  Of that, my TSP held only slightly more than half, even after six years of investing. Somehow I had managed to spend nearly my entire

Read more
Maxing the TSP should guide you like a Lighthouse
FIRE Tax TSP

Financial Independence with the TSP and IRAs

In a previous post we discussed how the actual annual TSP (Military 401K) contribution limit is $18,000. Most military folks, and indeed the general public, don’t know you can max out your contributions at work and continue to save for retirement by using IRA’s, with all the tax benefits that come with these methods. This got even more confusing when the TSP instituted the “Roth Option.” For years I have seen the “Roth” part of the TSP and conflated it with the Roth IRA. The TSP’s website and the IRS are not very clear as to whether you can contribute

Read more
Thrift Saving Plan logo
TSP

What’s my Maximum Retirement Contribution, anyway?

The TSP is the military’s 401k. The below may apply to your retirement account too. Just about every current military member has sat in a training where someone has demonstrated the power of compounding interest. “Look”, they say, “if you start when you’re 18, by the time you retire you have $1 million. Wait till you are 25, only $600,000. Start saving money!” Never is maximizing the TSP discussed. Dutifully, those young military members go off and save a small portion per paycheck. Maybe the trainer even printed out the Thrift Savings Plan election form. Maybe they explained the difference

Read more
Budgeting this tree helped the beaver.
Debt Investing

Budgeting is an Excuse to Spend

I am a budgeting failure. Once, in a calorie counting phase, I found my self viewing the calorie budget as a challenge. If I had 100 calories left over at the end of the day, I would allow myself a desert, or a beer, up to my maximum, rather than banking my lower count for the win. This is exactly what happened when I started a traditional budget. Each month I spent exactly what was in my little envelope, with nothing left over. Budgeting was giving me permission to spend. Being in debt, especially six figures of debt, mean no

Read more
BTC
Debt Refinance Student Loans

Risks and Rewards of Balance Transfer Credit Cards

After I resolved the Loan Group fiasco, I undertook our most risky strategy yet. We used a Zero-percent balance transfer credit card. What is a 0% BTC? Many credit card companies issue promotional offers to entice customers to switch their business. Zero Percent Balance Transfers are a common enticement. By applying for the card and indicating what current credit card you have a balance, the new card issuer will pay off the old card, and issue you a new card with an equal balance. This balance will then have a 0% APR for a term, usually 6, 12, or 18

Read more
student loan refinance - nope, Eagle.
Debt Refinance Student Loans

Student Loan Refinance – FIRE Edition

Our next foray into repaying our $107,000 of student loans was learning about student loan refinance and consolidation. I researched several options, including SoFi and Citizen’s Bank, where Mrs MF held a checking account. I submitted our request to refinance to both companies. WE included myself as a co-borrower because I had better credit due to the age of credit history. At the time, interest rates were at historic lows, but the US Federal reserve was rumbling about, and eventually did, raise its benchmark interest rate while we made this decision. Student Loan interest rates are tied to the LIBOR benchmark,

Read more
Swim away from the Debt Snowball
Debt Student Loans

Debt Snowball: Not a Chance in Hell

Have you considered the Debt Snowball for your debt? Learn from my story and save yourself the trouble. As I noted in the introductory post, before we got married, my wife and I sat down and seriously discussed our finances. I knew she had student loan debt. When she said she had a lot of debt, I assumed the worst would be twice the average borrower, for a total of around $60,000, on account of her Master’s Degree tuition. So we sat down, pulled together the statements from her various loan servicers, and started adding them up to get the latest figure. The

Read more
the long road to repaying student loan debt
107K Debt Student Loans

Our experience paying off $107,000 of Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is an evil drain on our national economy and a hair on fire emergency for our wallets. When I married my wife, we sat down and discussed our finances. We agreed that we would combine our finances, the good and the bad. While she brought great credit to our union, I also married her undergrad and graduate student loans, all six figures of them. I knew the stats; many millennials stay in their parents’ basement, unwilling and unable to pay off their loans, loans which prevent them from saving for a home or early retirement, loans which are so

Read more