Spruced Up: Zero Degrees Edition

I’m sitting here writing this week’s Spruced Up post, and it is cold outside! The windchill is around 0!

Luckily, I’m warm inside, so here are some of my favorites from the week:

Lots of blogs covered the Suze Orman debit card saga this week, but Eric at Dollar Versity did a great job covering it on his Facebook page and wrote a great post on Suze and her handling of criticism.

The Happy Homeowner continued her “confessions” series with a moving story about being homeless. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more!

Jana at Daily Money Shot told us how repo men from Lizard Lick towing can teach us about finances, too.

101 Centavos featured a post about how to not invest in water. With my engineering background, water is something that I’ll always find interesting.

JT at Money Mamba made be think with his post about when assets are liabilities. Once I read it, it made much more sense to me.

Jackie at Money Crush questioned if passive income is all it’s cracked up to be. There’s a lot of buzz about it lately, and I’m not sure it’s worth all of the attention it gets.

Corey explained why people can’t get out of debt on Life and My Finances, and used some real-life examples to back up his case.

Andrea at So Over Debt started a discussion on whether altruism is a bad thing or not. I don’t see how you can make a real case that it is bad, but check out the conversation.

PK at DQYDJ asked how we define savings. Hard to believe, but there are many different definitions.

Cryal from BITFS was featured in a reader story on Get Rich Slowly. It’s been great hearing about her success, and I hope I can go on to follow in her footsteps in my own way.

Have a great week!

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Questions to Ask When Buying a House

buy-a-houseThere are many different questions to ask when you’re looking at buying . You might ask “Where will I buy?” or “How much will it cost?” or even  “How much can I borrow?” These are all great questions and factors that you sort out before you decide it’s time to buy. Let’s take a closer look at these and other questions that are related to buying a house.

1) How’s the housing market? There are lots of different trends going on with housing across the country right now. Prices continue to fall in certain areas while house values have stabilized elsewhere. If prices continue to stay low in a place that you’d like to live, consider buying soon

2) How much you can afford? Take a look at a mortgage payments calculator that will help you figure out how much the the monthly payments will be on a house that you’re interested in.

3) Will you be living there a long time? There are many different types of mortgage products out there, and some of them depend on how long you’re planning to live in the same place. If you’re not planning to stay in your house more than a few years, make sure that’s part of the financing process when you take out a mortgage. Either way, getting a home loan should consider how much you’re paying over the life of the entire loan and not just what monthly payments and interest rates you’re paying.

4) Will I need to make improvements? Many per-owned homes come with at least some problems that need attention if you decide to buy. Other times there many be certain elements that just aren’t to your liking and you’ll want to renovate things to personalize your space. Don’t forget to factor these costs into your home buying figures when you’re deciding on your offer to purchases a house. It is important to save for these type of occurrences so that you have the funds to pay a contractor like Columbus roofing.

5) Is this house a good deal? Often times prospective home buyers fall in love with a house before they even know the price they will have to pay for it. This can cause problems as they may be acting on emotion and attachment rather than getting the best financial deal they can. Make sure that the price you’re offering is reasonable and won’t leave you with regrets later. Make your offer below the asking price with this in mind. If you can’t get down to a price that you’re okay with, be prepared to walk away. Don’t forget, there are always other options out there that may be just as good.

These are still only a small amount of the questions you should be asking yourself before buying a home.

What other questions would you ask?


Spruced Up: Leftovers Edition

Hey y’all. I’m putting together this edition of Spruced Up after chowing down on some great food this week. Here are some of my favorites!


Frugal Confessions – Are We United in Buying Things, or Are We United in Thanks on Thanksgiving Day?

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff – My Diet Can Beat Up Your Diet

Enemy of Debt – The Worst Day of My Entire Life

Financially Consumed – Made in America – Shop Local

Prairie Eco-Thrifter – How to Be  a Frugal Shopper

Money Cone – A curious thing happened to my credit score when I took on some debt

Cash Flow Mantra – Warren Buffett, Intel, and Me

101 Centavos – Why the US Dollar May Rally in 2012

Retire by 40 – 3 Lessons From The Occupy Portland Camp Clearing

Check out the Yakezie Carnival at Bucksome Boomer this week, too.


Since I’m a beer snob, I’m gonna throw in a beer pick of the week, too. This week, it’s Oaked Arrgoant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing. Try it for something different than you’ve ever tasted. Goes great with Tofurky, too!

See ya next week!

I Quit – Fancy Beers When I’m Out

fancy-beersThis post is part of a series where I “quit” something as a bit of a celebration up until I leave my job. Don’t worry – I only give up things that I don’t like or think aren’t worth the money.

This week, I quit expensive drinks at bars. I’m a beer brewer and a general craft beer drinker aka beer snob. I was legit upset when I couldn’t get anything better than Miller Lite at the Financial Bloggers Conference (we need to work on this, Phil!) J Money couldn’t even get his Blue Moon on!

Luckily, New Haven has pretty decent happy hours. Recently, I was at a bar that offers pretty standard beers (like Guinness, Harp, Sam Adams, etc.) for $6 a pint! Ouch! But then I noticed I could get a Heineken for $3, and I picked that instead. Hmm. This got me thinking.

Of course, the real kicker is that buying a good beer at the liquor store costs about $1-2 a bottle (and $3 a bottle will get you something really nice).  So, I thought, “why not just drink cheap beer at bars and save the expensive stuff for at home?!” Obviously, when I’m sampling beers (like I will be in Vermont this weekend), this plan isn’t going to work. But if it’s a choice of just any old beer, I’m going to give this a shot and see how it works out, but it definitely sounds like a money saver to me. Anything thing I can do to get funds into my $10k escape fund would be amazing!

Check back next week when I quit something else (that isn’t my job – yet). Happy iPhone 4s Friday, everyone!

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photo by: uberculture

A Little Inspiration for Your Journey

Now that I’ve made the announcement of where I’m heading from here, it’s going to take some serious work to make it happen. Since it seems so far off, I’m not always the most motivated to make things happen today.

I think the best source is from others who have already done it. There are some great posts out there from others who will not only tell you how they got where they are today, but will also tell you why what they’ve done is so awesome and worthwhile.


29 life lessons learned in traveling the world for 8 years straight

The 10 Coolest “Offices” I’ve Ever Had

 Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World


MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.


How to Hit Rock Bottom and Come Back a Business Owner

Others that have quit their jobs (and gone on to tell how awesome it is):

Caleb Wojcik @ Pocket Changed – I Quit My Job

Sean Ogle @ Location 180 – My Last Day

Jenny Blake @ Life After College – I’m A Free Agent

J Money @ Budgets Are Sexy – The 6 Month Anniversary of My Awesome Termination

Tyler Tervooren @ Advanced Riskology – Take This Job and Shove It

General Motivation:

From Zen Habits – Top 20 Motivation Hacks and Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway


Just for living life (and I cry almost every time):

Not going to lie, I plan to check into this site A LOT and whenever I need it. I hope it gives you some motivation to reach your goals, too.

26 Things You Should Know About Me Before Reading Anything Else I Write

26-things-you-should-know-about-meI’ve always done my best to make this blog personal. After all, pretty much all the stories and advice on Money Spruce are from my own experiences. But I’m not sure anyone can really say they “know” me just from reading my posts. So today, I figured I’d take it to the next level. I got this idea from Corbett’s post (and enjoyed reading Sarah’s version, too) and I was inspired to share more about myself that you might not know. I’m pretty sure I haven’t mentioned most of this stuff before, so I hope this gives you a little more background on who Jeffrey Bailey Trull really is.

1. I was a child model. I have only one real claim to fame, and that’s being on the toy box for a Baby Sinclair Puppet! I usually like to surprise people with this one in person (I still have the toy box), but I guess the secret’s out now.

2. I got barred from AOL as a kid. This was a fun one. I typed a message in some wacky code, pretending it was a virus, and sent it to a friend. AOL got wind of this and shut off my account, despite my telephone explanation that what I sent was a fake. When you’re 13 and the internet is just catching on in the late 90s, this is devastation.

3. I started working when I was 14. I held a job every summer since while I was a student and worked throughout college, too.

4. But I’ve never had a job I’ve loved. Just about any job I’ve held was one that I’ve looked forward to the end. In my head, I literally still cannot understand or picture how anyone can enjoy having a job. It doesn’t compute.

5. I’m an introvert. Some people that I’ve told this to don’t believe me. But I sometimes have a hard time with big crowds at social events. I definitely prefer smaller groups.

6. But I would consider myself a decent public speaker. Maybe it’s because I’m good at it that it gives me confidence. As long as I know my material, speaking in front of crowds isn’t a problem for me.

7. I attended catholic high school. I was never very religious and going to catholic school solidified that even moreso. But I actually loved my high school apart from the religion aspect.

8. I transferred college after just one semester. I started out at Babson College in 2004, but quickly decided it wasn’t for me. By January 2005, I had transferred out and was off to a new school. I was proud of my decision to leave because I was unhappy. A lot of people were afraid to do the same.

9. I was paid to go to graduate school. Full scholarship. $22k salary plus benefits a year. It was a sweet deal.

10. Yet I’m not doing anything even remotely related to my engineering degree currently. I’m not sure that I ever will, and I’m mostly okay with that. I don’t really regret going to college for what I did, either (mostly because I have almost no debt from it).

11. I’m by no means perfect when it comes to handling my finances. I still spend on things that I shouldn’t. I definitely don’t always track my spending properly. I don’t always know what I’m doing when it comes to handling my money, but I’m committed to learning and figuring it out as I go.

12. I take financial losses hard. I haven’t encountered any major financial disasters, emergencies, or thefts yet, but I’m really scared for when it happens and how I’ll handle it. I have an emergency fund, but I still hate the unpredictability of what could (and inevitably will) happen.

13. I have a hard time breaking rules. Perhaps it’s my analytical, engineering mind, but I’m almost always following the rules and instructions. This is great for building IKEA furniture, but an awful way to live life. I’ve been inspired to change and I’m definitely working on this.

14. I’m super forgetful, especially when I’m trying hard to remember something. I feel like I walk out the door just about every day then walk back in because I’ve forgotten something.

15. I started another blog right before this one. I quit after about a month after running out of material, and I decided to pursue this genre instead.

16. I know I will succeed at making a living without a job. I haven’t figured out all the details yet, but I’m learning more and more all the time.

17. But I have no idea where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing a year from now. That’s been the story of most of my adult life so far. It’s a little scary, but it definitely keeps things interesting.

18. My family is generally very supportive of what I do. This helps a ton in terms of achieving what I really want and not letting others tear me down.

19. And I’m still prepared for those who don’t get it. I’ve heard it all before, since I was a kid, on a variety of things that I “can’t” do. But none of this can stop me anymore.

20. I’m a beer brewer. Drinking great beer is probably one of my favorite hobbies, so I decided to start brewing it, too. If you ever want people to think you’re super-cool, I recommend making your own beer, too.

21. I almost exclusively read nonfiction. I don’t know what it is, but fiction usually just doesn’t do it for me. I think it’s something to do with knowing that a story is a about real people and real things.

22. I love karaoke, even though I’m an awful singer. That’s the whole fun of it, right? I’ll sing a wide range of classic 80s rock (my favorite: “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi)

23. I’ve never balanced a checkbook. This is something that’s definitely not on my bucket list. Is it even still necessary? I’m not even sure what the purpose of doing it is. Luckily I hardly every pay by check.

24. I’ve been vegetarian/pescaterian for 7 years (and counting). I started on a whim and stuck with it because I like it. Most people are curious for my reasons, so here they are (most important first): the environment, health, and animal cruelty. I can see myself eating meat again someday but with some stipulations.

25. I’m a fan of musicals. Probably not the manliest thing, but I love Rent and Wicked, among others. My goal this year is to get into NYC and see 1-2 more shows.

26. I like to debate and often play devil’s advocate. It’s nothing personal, I just like a friendly argument.

So there it is. Surprised? Most of these things have nothing to do with personal finance or money, but I like to think that a large part of everyone’s lives don’t either. If you’d like to hear more you can subscribe, friend me on facebook, or reach out by email. This was actually a lot of fun to create, and I definitely encourage you to do the same! If you do, feel free to post your link in the comments.

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photo by: WordRidden

Seven Links and the Best of Money Spruce

I’m off on a 2 week vaca, so enjoy these classic posts while I’m off enjoying some time away from my computer 🙂

Most Beautiful Post

This was the toughest to choose, since I don’t use think of my posts as “beautiful.” I’m going to go back in the time machine and choose this post on personal investments. I really believe in the importance of taking time and spending money if it improves my life now.

Most Popular Post

My post on cutting down your iPhone bill has been the most popular, in terms of page views at least.

Most Controversial Post

I think my post on why credit cards will always cost more was the one that drew some strong disagreement. But I still stand by my opinion, and I think there are studies to back up my argument, too.

Most Helpful Post

My post on finding ways to learn money-making skills online for free has a lot of great resources for doing just that.

A Post with Surprising Success

My post about what to do if you can’t find the job you want (especially after college) got a good amount of attention.

A Post I Feel Didn’t Get the Attention it Deserved

I really liked this post I wrote about renting instead of buying. It was pretty early in the days of Money Spruce, so it wasn’t noticed by too many people.

The Post I’m Most Proud Of

I’d say one of my most recent posts about how I’m going to leave my job and do freelance work while being location independent. I’m really excited to do this, and I feel truly committed now that I’ve made up my mind and put it out there.

Starting a Meetup Group – For Productivity and Fun

internet-meetupAfter a combination of being bored in New Haven, wanting to meet new people, and a desire to learn more about online businesses, I founded my very own Meetup here in March – The New Haven Internet Entrepreneur Meetup.  New Haven is a pretty small city, and there aren’t exactly thousands of bloggers or “internet entrepreneurs” hanging around, so I figured I’d create a Meetup and see who would show up. I’m also interested in areas other than blogging, so I wanted to open the group up to a wider array of interests centered on internet business.

Just about everyone in the group has an internet business or is working towards building one. Here are a couple of the group members:

Chris has a wedding service directory for Connecticut weddings (he’s been working on expanding to Massachusetts weddings and Rhode Island weddings, too). He runs these sites full-time, and he’s able to generate a sustainable income from them (something I definitely aspire to do).

Jen writes on She’s a Fit Chick where she has about 600 subscribers and 1,700 Facebook fans. Jen also does freelance writing and has recently co-founded Fit Fluential, which is a “network of thousands of digital influencers in the fitness industry.” I’m really excited to see how Fit Fluential takes off.

Others in the group are just getting started and have a few experiments going. It’s fun to see their new ideas, and throw ideas out to them, too!

As for being the head honcho, setting up the Meetup was a lot easier than I thought. It took about 30 minutes to set up the basic information (Meetup really walks you through it). After waiting a few days and not getting any new members, Meetup told me I had to set up the first meeting before they would promote it. Once I did this, group members started rolling in. Currently, there are 38 members in the group, and we regularly have 10-12 people attend each Meetup, which is an ideal group size for discussion. We’ve been holding the meetings at Panera Bread, so there’s really no extra prep there.

I set a loose agenda with a specific topic ahead of time, but we often digress into other topics throughout the meeting. Everyone always has questions or comments, so it’s easy for the conversation just to roll along. Here’s some other things that I’ve liked most about our Meetups so far:

1) We get to meet in the real world. When you’re working online and a lot of your relationships are virtual, it’s great to actually meet others face-to-face. For me, it keeps things real and doesn’t let me forget that I’m interacting with some awesome people on the other end of the internet.

2) We have a wide array of expertise. No one in the group is an expert on everything to do with the internet. I’d be shocked if anyone in the group hasn’t learned at least a few new things at each meeting. It’s a great place to get tips about WordPress plugins, applications, web development, and other real skills and strategies that group members have had success with already.

3) I’m been motivated to achieve my goals. We only meet for 90 minutes each month, but we pack a lot of great stuff into the meeting. During that time, I get a lot of ideas of what I can work on and what I really need to do next. I get a lot of encouragement, too, and that helps keep me motivated.

My next step is to set up a Mastermind group (separate from this Meetup). This may or may not be an meet-in-person group, but it would definitely be much more goals oriented than information oriented.

Have you thought about starting a Meetup or attended a Meetup before? Do you have any groups that you meet up with?

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photo by: Bahman.

Spruced Up: Best of PF #9

Every week, I read lots of other personal finance blog posts.  Here’s a round-up of all the best posts from the week, so check them out!

Money Talks – “Saved Does Not Equal Saved”

Financially Consumed –“Plant Trees at Home and Save Green”

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff – “Net Worth – Do You Include the House?”

Budgets Are Sexy – “The Crazy Simple Bucket Budget”

Get Rich Slowly – “Biking vs. Driving Calculator”

Money Spruce Update:

I’ve been competing in the Yakezie challenge, and I’ve finally got my Alexa ranking down to 175,000!  Thanks to everyone for reading and helping me get here! It’s a small step forward, but I’m constantly growing, as I have over 1,400 unique visitors in the last month and I’m continuing to grow at 50% per month!

Thanks for coming by, and if you haven’t already: Check out Money After College!

Why I Love Airline Fees

baggage-feesEveryone loves to hate airline fees, right? Well, I don’t. In fact, I think they’re kinda great. Let me explain further.

I first realized this concept while listening to an episode of Planet Money. On the show, they announced in the “indicator” that airlines collected $3.4 billion in baggage fees last year. One of the hosts, Adam Davidson, announced that he “love(s) baggage fees and airline fees.” He goes onto to explain that in the before-fees era, we all paid for everyone’s bags, whether we checked our own bags or not, as the cost of bags was distributed evenly among passengers. Now, only those checking bags pay the fees, so, if you’re good at packing, you just don’t pay the fee. Airlines ticket prices are so competitive among airlines that the plane tickets are about as cheap as they can get. This has resulted in fees being a major source of revenue for airlines. If airline fees didn’t exist, it’s safe to assume that airline tickets would cost much more. Assuming this the case, why not start out at a low “base” price for a ticket and simply build on it with only the fees for things you need? Which brings me to my main point: I love these fees because I don’t typically pay them.

Here’s how I dodge baggage and other fees on airlines (and why they don’t bother me):

1. On domestic flights, I’m usually fine with just the carry on. I have a rolling bag that just hits the limits of the overhead bin. I usually bring a second backpack that fits under the seat to keep some of my personal belongings. I don’t travel with lots of liquids, so that makes things easy, too. I think that most people can get away with doing this for trips that aren’t too long. Plus, who wants to lug around all that stuff anyway? I really like this guide and this guide to packing. I used both on my last trip and it helped me out quite a bit (especially by convincing me to leave behind stuff I didn’t need).

2. The first checked bag on international flights is free on most airlines. I just flew Delta to Spain in March and the first checked bag was included at no cost. I still didn’t bring a ton of stuff on this 10-day trip, but it was nice not to have to cram it so tightly (I brought a camping-style backpack this time instead). Here’s Expedia’s list of baggage fees for both U.S. domestic and international flights

3. I usually don’t pay the other fees because I don’t need those extras. I never buy food on airplanes anyway. It’s awful, and I’d much rather bring my own. A lot of times I’ll have my own entertainment, so I don’t have to purchase the movies and things like that (if the airlines even charge). If all airlines start charging for printing boarding passes (like Spirit Airlines), I’ll print my boarding passes at home or at my hotel, which is typically free to do.

4. I’ll suck it up and pay the fees for things I want or need. I flew Vueling in Spain, which is a cheaper airline like Ryan Air. They also charge fees for just about everything. For example, I had to pay a fee to buy the tickets with a credit card even though there was no other option for me (the only free option is if you use their branded credit card, which I wasn’t about to apply for). I also paid a few Euro for reserved seats so that I could sit with my girlfriend. These fees were annoying and cost me a few bucks, but I still thought the ticket was cheaper than other domestic flights I’ve taken. The fees weren’t a big deal in this case.

I think this brings up a lot of good comparisons about why it’s best if we only pay the services we use. In costs that are shared among a group of users (sorry if there’s a better economic term for this), it makes so much sense to only pay for your share of the total usage than to have to split costs evenly. Many toll highways charge based on how long you’ve been driving on the road rather than a flat fee no matter where you enter or exit. Some states have floated the idea of charging vehicle use taxes based on the number of miles driven instead of charging a gas tax (although I oppose this idea if it raises taxes in general). While these examples might not be completely analogous to airline fees, I think the idea is similar: just pay for your share.

To hear this short segment on the Planet Money podcast, listen to the episode here (the baggage fees discussion starts at 1:50 in the episode)

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photo by: Michal Osmenda