Three Thrifty Guys Personal finance blog helping folks keep a few more bucks in their pocket Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:29:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Don’t Beat Yourself Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:11:45 +0000 If you’re a golf fan like me, you may have watched 21-year old Jordan Spieth win the prestigious Masters Golf Tournament last weekend. He became the second youngest winner of the event (behind Tiger Woods) and set many records in the process. His win was a testament to what drive and passion can do to propel oneself to achieve a goal.

In golf, you don’t necessarily need the best swing, longest drive or (even) the most expensive golf clubs to play the best. Often what goes on inside the golfer’s head is the difference between excellent golf or “icky” golf.

I’ve read articles and watched videos about some of the best golfers – and one truth seems to sum up their success, time and time again: they rarely beat themselves.

don't beat yourself

We are often our own worst enemy

I often equate a game of golf to life. In golf, we play the ball where it lies, whereas in life – we play the “cards” God has dealt us. In golf, we need to a short-term memory to forgot that last bad shot so it doesn’t affect the next one. In life, we need to continually forgive ourselves and others so we can move on so that bitterness and regret don’t ruin what is before us.

I could go on and on. (And, I’ve even written about how personal finance is a lot like golf too).

Some of the most common sayings in golf revolve around the mental state of golfers. “Get out of your own way”, “Trust your swing” and the often quoted, “Be the ball” from the movie Caddyshack.

Early in my adulthood, I often beat myself (on and off the course). When I played competitively, I would do some pretty dumb stuff. One time during the state high school championship, I was too far away from a rake – so I raked my path back to my ball before taking a stroke. Little did I know – it was a 2-stroke penalty!

All of this got me to thinking about all the things we sometimes do in our financial lives. Here’s a few that come to mind:

  1. Not saving. This took a long time for me to learn this – but having money in the bank is really important. You just never know when “life happens” and you need a little extra.
  2. Not taking advantage of free money. A no-brainer here which I’m sure many of you already do – but, by not taking advantage of the free money offered – be it coupons, 401k matching, etc – we are ultimately cheating our future selves.
  3. Not doing due diligence. Another area where I’ve beat myself in finances is by not checking the fine print or researching things. I’m kind of a outline guy – just give me what I need to know – I don’t want all the details! But again – this can cost dearly (I wish I knew then what I know now about homebuying)
  4. Avoid advice. Pride is a real issue in us men. We don’t particularly like to ask for directions or get help. Just give us the parts and we’ll assemble the dang thing! But as I’ve gotten older, my parents and those older than me seem to get wiser and wiser. I wish I heeded their advice sooner. I always hope to weigh the counsel of those who are older than me or who’ve wiser and have “been through it”.

Can you think of other ways we beat ourselves?

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The Bank Can’t Foreclose On You If You Don’t Have Debt Wed, 15 Apr 2015 09:00:15 +0000 charlie_imageThis article became a real life realization to me in 2008 when my Dad announced to our family that the bank was foreclosing on his 10,000 head pig operation and 500 acre farming operation. Like I’ve blogged before, this event had rippling affects on our family. In March, of that year, we all thought it would pass and Dad & Mom would emerge out the other side. However, the Lord wouldn’t have it that way.

Nope…not that simple.


Initially, as he went through this, I had a lot of anger feelings towards the bank and landlords. The feeling of how my dad had worked so hard – for 34 years – with dirt in his finger nails and a sore farmers back. How could this happen? It wasn’t fair. Those feelings quickly moved from anger to questioning: “what could have been different?”

That is when the Lord said to me, “The bank can’t foreclose on you if you don’t owe them any money.” It was that “ah-ha” moment that hit me like Captain Obvious flew in!

Leaving a legacy

scan0029 (2)I’ve learned a lot from people who have lived a life of debt and who were also good financial stewards. In looking at both scenarios, I see a big differentiation in how debt is used. For the debt-free man, his attitude of debt is one that will go into debt at last resort, but wants to pay it off super quick. My grandpa described it as having a sickness. A disease that he wanted to get rid of his body. (Watch my grandpa and grandma talk about financial matters and living through the Great Depression in my one on one videos)

My Grandpa was one person I would describe as a good financial steward of his money and walked lightly around debt. People in my life that have gotten into debt seemed to easily fall for it. Like it wasn’t a second thought. Kind of like signing up for a credit card at the Target checkout. Often times no second thought is given to it, and the year upon year commitment they are signing up for. For example, taking on a $400,000 mortgage for a lot of people doesn’t take much thought. People are more so dazed and confused by how nice the house, yard, and appliances look, than how the debt is really just an ends to a means. They “want it”, so therefore debt is required.

As I think about each scenario, I think about the statement, “what type of legacy do I want to leave to my wife and kids“? What matters to me? What will people say about me at the end of my life?

Below is a good verse that I really put value in, and try and lead my life by:

“A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22

The choice of debt

Most often we don’t understand how we got to the point of foreclosure. It shouldn’t come as any shock that foreclosure is the result of a series of 1) going into debt, 2) expenses outweighing income, and 3) not being able to keep up with the interest as a result of #2. In looking at this series, the first step is going into debt. That is why going into debt shouldn’t be such a flippant choice.

The point here is to REALLY consider things before going into debt. If you don’t participate in step #1, then the bank can’t ever foreclose on you! Really think about this for a moment. Seems so obvious, but easily forgotten when we sign up for a jumbo mortgage, buy a new car, or sign up for that credit card at the Target checkout lane.

I would like to hear from some of our readers on people that were an example of good stewards and bad stewards of managing their money. How did they treat debt? What was the differences in their attitude? What drove them?

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The Power of Home Equity Mon, 13 Apr 2015 12:27:32 +0000 This post is written and sponsored by U.S. Bank 


Seems you’ve got a bit of a dilemma on your hands. That big project you’ve had in your head for what feels like forever is now actually coming together on paper and just waiting to be started. You have the time to do it and – best of all? – you want to do it. There’s just one problem. You need funds, because without them, your dream project stays on hold.

But fear not! If you’re a homeowner, and have equity in your home, you may have some options. One possible funding opportunity could be a second mortgage through access to your home equity. You may be able to take out what’s called a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or a home equity installment loan.

Unfamiliar with the idea of using your home‘s equity as collateral on a loan? No problem. Before you go any further with your plans, check out the Achieve Your Goals site. It’s a new financial resource from U.S. Bank. It’s a great resource with a variety of articles on financial topics such as home equity.

While the end result – access to funds – is essentially the same through both a home equity credit line and installment loan, and they both use your home as collateral, they are structured differently. So you’ll want to see which of these makes the most sense for your unique circumstances.


On the other hand, a HELOC or Home Equity Loan may not be the right move for you if:

  • You plan on moving soon. You’ll need to pay back the line or loan when you sell your home.
  • You might not be able to afford monthly payments. Remember your home is used as collateral.


With a U.S. Bank home equity line of credit, you may be able to borrow funds (up to the limit on your line of credit) on an as-needed basis to finance what you want, when you want, without having to reapply. For example: buying a new vehicle, consolidating debt or a starting a home remodeling project. There’s no need to reapply as the need for funds arises (as long as you don’t exceed your amount of credit). Also, HELOC interest rates tend to be lower than credit cards or unsecured loans.


Home equity loans

A home equity loan is essentially an installment loan. You apply for a specific loan amount and make monthly payments to pay it off. A home equity loan can be a great way to consolidate debt or pay for a one-time expense like that big project that’s begging to be finished. A U.S. Bank home equity loan can be a great way to go: competitive rates, low monthly payments and the bonus of potential.

With U.S. Bank you have home equity options. This makes getting a loan or line an even better choice!

Visit Sponsors Site

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Where to Get Free Conference Calling Wed, 08 Apr 2015 12:12:38 +0000 A few weeks ago, I needed to set up a conference call with a couple other folks. I was aware of GoToMeeting and other conference calling services – but wanted something that was free and easy to use. Also, since people would be calling in via their telephones (and not through video / or their computers), I just needed a centralized number / code we all could enter to connect.

I did an initial search online and came across a website called Now, I am generally pretty skeptical about services that have “free” in their title – but I asked around a little bit and heard that a few others were using it as well, with good success.

I checked into the site further – and was able to easily create an account and set up a “dial-in number” and a “meeting ID” without any problem (the dial-in number and meeting ID are what you hand out to your attendees). The site also provided me with a “host PIN” that I would enter as a facilitator.

free conference callsThe beauty of is that you can also host online meetings as well as send folks to a “personalized conference wall” that can hold meeting resources (documents, etc).

How the meeting went

Since I hadn’t done a dry run with the service yet – I was getting a little nervous about how the conference call would go down. I usually like to really prepare before doing something like this – as it could reflect rather poorly on me if there are a lot of technical glitches.

I had provided the attendees with the dial-in number and meeting ID – as well as a link to the “conference wall”. So when the first attendee called in with success – and then the second a few minutes later – I was greatly relieved.

There were no static issues or problems with the connection. Everything ran flawless AND I was able to direct the attendees to the meeting resources that I had uploaded to the wall, which helped make the meeting run even more efficiently.

Other features of

You may be wondering, “Is Aaron getting paid for this testimonial?” And, the answer is, no. This is just something that has helped save me money and allowed me to run a successful conference call. I’m sure there are others out there who may be small business owners OR  you work for a company and run a lot of meetings (and your company doesn’t have a good conference calling solution). So, here’s just another that you can throw in the mix.

I know there are other ways to do a free “conference call”. You can do a Google Hangout, Skype and even our friends at Ooma have a three-way calling option with the Telo device. So, there are definitely other ways to go about this.

The other great options that provide are:

  • Record your call
  • Playback number
  • As mentioned, online meetings
  • Ability to give others the control of the meeting / etc
  • Conference wall web page (with ability to host meeting resources)
  • Up to 1,000 attendees with the audio conferencing (25 for online meetings)
  • 6 hours per conference call

These are just some of the features of the service. There are others – some of which does charge for (custom waiting music, custom greeting, etc).

Since they offer such a great service for free, I asked a customer service rep, how are you making your money? They replied:

We make most of our money from our paid services, but we also have partnerships with local exchange carriers based on the minutes we generate from our services.

So there you have it!

Let me know if you’ve used this service and your success (or trouble) with it OR if you have another solution you’ve used to host free conference calls.


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How We Spent 25% Less Through Group Buying Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:08:34 +0000 power of collective purchasing power

There are several benefits of being a part of a homeowner association. Some include: getting to meet a lot of different people, being a part of the governing board to determine the direction of the community and the ability to exercise collective buying power to save more money.

Charlie has written about how “loving your neighbor” can help lower expenses by providing and sharing for one another in time of need. Even in a community where we are “in it together” as part of an association, I often forget about this great resource we have as a group.

Springtime brings spring cleaning

Here in Minnesota, dirt and debris is getting uncovered as the snow thaws. It’s time to start cleaning things up.

Part of my spring ritual involves washing windows and screens. It’s a necessary evil that takes up a half a Saturday – but gets me outside to soak in the warmer temps.

Except this year, I decided to share the “fun” ritual with others. Since several of our outside windows require a very tall ladder (which we don’t have) – we figured we would outsource the window cleaning duties to the professionals.

Thinking of the power of collective buying power – I emailed several of our neighbors in the association and got 5 others who also wanted their windows cleaned. I contacted a window washing company we are familiar with and they offered to give us a discount for all of us together.

In total, the discount ended up being 25% less than if we were going to them as a single buyer. It’s true what they say – there is power in numbers.

Other ways to save on services with group buying

All this has got me to thinking about other ways that we can save more by employing the power of group purchasing. We’ve seen the success of collective buying sites like Groupon (which we featured last month) and others.

I think the hindrance to our utilizing collective buying is that not everyone is in the same boat. It makes me think about times that we are in the same boat – such as the spring – when others are also looking to do cleaning. OR, perhaps the fall – right before winter sets in – when many of us in the Midwest hunker down and prepare for winter by switching out our regular tires for snow tires.

And, I’m sure there are other ways to use the purchasing power of the group to save more on services (and on other things) too.

Have you ever employed this strategy with your neighbors, coworkers OR family? 

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How the Road to Debt Freedom is Filled With Boring Decisions Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:00:31 +0000 charlie_imageIn 2007, after reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, my wife and I decided to start putting our family on the road to freedom from debt. We want to live an extra-ordinary life. We wanted to live like no one else, so we could later live like no one else. Que the radio show intro!

With motivation in hand, we had about $25,000 in student loan debt and about $145,000 in mortgage debt. Not a lot by most peoples’ standards, but it was all future commitments that our family was obligated to pay. $170,000 in future commitments to be exact.

Fast forward eight years, with only $75,000 left to payoff, and we are on the home stretch of road to debt freedom! It feels like we are coming to the end of a marathon. At this point we are at about miles 20 of 26.2 miles. This is where our body has been depleted of all glycogen stores, and you are operating solely on endorphins! Each mile feels harder and harder from this point on. With that said, here are a few of my feelings on how paying off debt isn’t for those who are faint at heart.

Paying off debt isn’t like day trading stocks

When we started paying extra on our student loans and mortgage, I thought it would feel like I was day trading. Something like I was playing a casino slot machine and when I clicked submit, then my computer would start dinging and flashing. Instead clicking submit feels very sterile and uneventful. It just says, “Payment Confirmed”. So if you are looking for a lot of excitement, then paying off debt isn’t for you.

Paying off debt can be boring at times

Like I mentioned above, debt payoff can be boring at times and monotonous. Often times it feels like it is more about perseverance than it is about finances.  Ultimately, if you can outlast the monotony of paying extra on all your credit every month, then you can win. It definitely isn’t like playing the slots at your local casino. The whole phrase of, “Payment Confirmed”, should come with bells and whistles that get set off from your computer when you hit submit. I think this would make it a lot more exciting! :) Would you agree?

Paying off debt isn’t always socially accepted

In a marketing driven culture of so many wants being projected on us, it has many people in the financial rat race. Since most Americans are in debt up to their eye balls, then people who are pursuing financial freedom aren’t always accepted. They think, “well my neighbor should have $10,000 in credit card debt, a $300,000 mortgage, and two car payments just like me.” (just like Stanley Johnson)

If you live like or tell people your intention is to pay off all your debt quickly, then they look at you like you just land in Nebraska from a space ship that flew in from Pluto!

Paying off debt is more about psychology than numbers

“If all finances were was about math, then why don’t you see more mathematicians as millionaires?” Interesting question isn’t it? I remember hearing this quote on Dave’s show one day, and thought, “You know what? He’s got a point. If becoming a millionaire was all about numbers, then why aren’t more mathematicians millionaires?” After thinking about it a while and through our own debt payoff experience, I’ve quickly realized the debt freedom is more about small individual choices you make from day to day. Those small decisions are all driven by our wants/needs/desires, which drives numbers. A lot of the psychology behind debt freedom is constantly evaluating and modifying behavior to suppress wants and desires to modify long term financial behavior.

So as our family tries to finish up this hard journey, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts. I would like to hear other people’s thoughts on their road to debt freedom. Do you agree or disagree? What is hard and what is easy for you?

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Integrity in Finances Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:21:55 +0000 Writing this post is going to cost me. I did the calculation today, actually. It’s going to cost me $7. It’s not for an internet fee (TTG pays that). It’s not for the Dr. Pepper I had to drink to stay up late to write it (that was $1.27 at QuickTrip). It’s what I owe the United States government after the dust settles and I add this “Other Income” to the amount of money I make for the year. Now, hopefully I will make more than $8 for writing this post (this is not a subliminally shady indirect ask for a raise…or is it???) so there will be a net income for me. However, I was challenged to think about “Other Income” that I receive in a different way after filing my taxes this year.

I’m one of the few…um… “unique” people that look forward to completing my taxes each year. I enjoy the task of compiling a bunch of paperwork, punching away at my TI-84 calculator, hunting down answers in the literary piece of art known as the tax codes, and drinking can after can of Dr. Pepper until the job is done!

The hardest part of this process for me is the character check that comes along with it. The integrity it takes to honestly represent my financial dealings is at times extremely difficult to muster up. I’m talking about the $380 dollars I made from selling textbooks online in 2014. I’m talking about the $50 my wife made babysitting that one time back in August. I’m talking about the small but helpful income from writing blog posts like this (again, not a hint…). I tried to identify the hurdles to having 100% integrity in my finances, especially my tax returns. Here are a few I came up with…

  1. The “Too Small to Count” Factor… I mean Uncle Sam is dealing with millions and millions of dollars…a few dollars I keep won’t hurt him.
  2. Making the Government the Bad Guy… thoughts creep in like “they waste my money anyways” and “they already took enough for goodness sakes!”
  3. The Comparison Game… A minor “whoops I forgot to mention that” is nothing compared to other people who are the tax evaders. THEY are the bad guys!
  4. The Ignorance Card… Well if I don’t look up if it’s taxable income then I’ll always have that excuse!
  5. Playing the Numbers… and coming to the conclusion that more than likely I won’t be audited…so therefore nobody will know or check on it.

The hurdles I came up with are real and may even have some validity to an extent. However, I’m trying to  commit myself to not letting these justifications stop me from being 100% honest on my return. One thing I do to help me is to prepare my taxes with a like-minded person who agrees that honesty is the top priority, with financial gain as a priority underneath it. Most importantly, I’ve made the connection that ultimately somebody is watching the decisions I make and does know the exact level of my integrity in every decision. This year and going forward I’m striving to be 100% honest with my taxes not because the government deserves it, but because I think God desires it, expects it, and rewards it.

What about you? What are hurdles you face in  keeping integrity in finances? What do you do to overcome them?

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