A Bunch of Q&A’s on 529s, Cell Phones, Money Coaching, Minimalism, Blogging, Life, and Business

by J. Money -

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Hey hey!

Got a batch of new questions passed my way over the months, and thought I’d share some of them here in case anyone else is wondering the same things…

If there’s something you’ve always wondered about, check out our past Q&As to see if we’ve already answered it, or pass me a note here and I’ll hit you back as soon as I’m able!

Keep grinding! 💪

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I am unable to find information on the baby accounts you set up. What do you do with the savings and 529 accounts? How do they get funded? Can you direct me to the posts regarding these accounts if any?

Hmm… I don’t think I have any in-depth posts around it, I just basically funded each of the 529s with a few thousand dollars when each kid was born, and then I set up automatic $50/mo investments into each one going forward after that. As well as dumping any extra bday or xmas gift $$$ they get into it as well over the years.

Each one is invested into index funds that I just set up once, and then promptly forgot about and now just keep adding to :) I haven’t calculated how much each account will probably amass over the next 12-18 years, but I’m assuming that some of the kids will get scholarships of some nature, and by then my own $$$ will be larger too so it should be a-okay come college-time. But I should probably be better about checking things as the years go by, haha…

How (?!!) is your cell phone only $30.70? You may have addressed this before, but I would love to know! ALSO, I’m with Verizon. I really like Verizon because they trouble shoot, and help all the time. Very helpful and great reception. 

I rock Republic Wireless :) Here’s a super old review/post I did on it which goes into it a bit, though the plans have since changed (but still very reasonable!): Republic Wireless Review: How I’m Saving $100/mo on Our Cell Bill!

Been using them for 4 years now and love ’em! Every now and then it gets wonky and has issues, but not much different than other carriers I’ve used in the past. You DO have to make sure that where you’re located though gets good reception as RW uses wifi mainly and connection is super important.

Haven’t used their customer service at all, but I hear mixed things as they have a community portal that helps answer questions easily, however they don’t have a 1-800 number or any other way to reach a live person directly. So if that’s important to you I’d stick with Verizon :)

zack morris cell phone gif

Hey J! Wonderful things are happening this year – I just got an awesome new job with a wicked salary increase and my partner and I are talking marriage/kids! The only downside is – now that I finally have it in my budget to start contributing to a Roth, that will be off the table once marriage happens. Why, God, what’s your plan?? 😩 So what’s the deal with these “backdoor” Roth’s? Is it even worth it or should I just keep throwing money in the ol’ Traditional IRA?

Haha, well that’s all good for the most part! :)

I’m not an expert in backdoor roths, but check out this post here by Mad Fientist who is KILLER when it comes to this stuff:

And then here’s another post from the FIRE community:

Those should help point you in the right direction :)

Your blog post about “Spavings” intrigued me. It’s true, I do “feel” like I’m saving when I get a deal on something – for instance I didn’t have to pay for parking last night (somehow it was free! Yay! Small wins) but I had nowhere to put, nor did I think about putting for that matter, the allotted parking money away.  The question that I would like to pose is – where did you decide to put these “spavings”? My husband & I have a three tier joint account but I don’t want the money to be that easily accessible.  I once had an off side savings account that took three business days to transfer money anywhere.  I liked this option because it caused us to really think about why, when, where, and how often we transferred money from that account. Any suggestions or feedback that you provide would be much appreciated.

Haha yeah – I’m a big fan of tricks that keep your hands off your money too :) What about instead of putting it into actual savings, you throw it into *investments*? Or paying off debt?

With the latter you can’t take it back even if you wanted to since it’s already “spent”, and with the former it’s more annoying to pull it back due to taxes and/or other penalties so you should be fine there too. Plus, your brain usually stops you from pulling out investments vs cash anyways.

That’s what I decided to do with our $4,040.50 of spavings – throw it all into a Roth IRA! (I can’t do it until the end of the year in case we make too much for it, but it’s just stashed away for now in our savings until then. But in a perfect world I’d have been dropping it in there every month to start working for me already!)

However route you go though, it’s just a fun experiment to try so I hope you do go for it :) It really opens your eyes to your habits and how much “free” money comes your way that you didn’t even realize! And as long as that money is going towards increasing some part of your net worth, you know you’re doing just fine.

Hey J$ – I’m fairly new to the minimalist lifestyle trend and have only done some light reading in the area. We’re a family of 3, living in a 3,100 sq/ft home and most closets/drawers are full of stuff. The more I think about all the “stuff” we have that we don’t use, the more it makes me think “why the hell do we still have that?” I’m on board with de-cluttering, but my wife is hesitant. I think she’s willing to de-clutter and move towards a minimalist lifestyle, but I need to share more information with her. So, where do you recommend I go (books, blogs, etc.) to gather more information about becoming a minimalist. Not looking to become extreme minimalists, just want to feel empowered to de-clutter and live with less stuff. THANKS!

Love it! I’m sure once she sees you doing it and how awesome you’re feeling, she’ll want to jump right in along with you :) Here are my favorite blogs on minimalism:


And then here are some books I really like, although the above two bloggers also now have their own books as well you might want to check out if you like their style:

  • “” by Leo Babauta (the first book that really opened my eyes!)
  • “” by Cait Flanders ()
  • “” by Greg McKeown (not so much geared towards “stuff”, but more so on minimizing all your daily routines and focusing on what TRULY matters to you and your lifestyle/career/etc)

Good luck!

clutter gif

How do you feel about your Lexus a year later? Right now I’m planning to buy a car within the next week. The Lexus RX has piqued my interest. Specifically, a 2016 model straight of the lease with 25,600 miles on it… I expect out of a car to get 200k without it turning into a money pit before hand. Otherwise, I feel I made a poor purchase regarding quality… The Lexus piques my interest based off of previously owned Honda’s and Toyota’s…. I’m hoping you can share the mileage you’ve placed on your Lexus and the cost of ownership during that time.

Still enjoying it! I miss my old Caddy at times, but the Lexus definitely helps take out the sting more :) Here’s an article I wrote after the first handful of months: Thoughts on Owning a Lexus After 9 Months

To answer your questions more specifically though, I put about 25,000 miles on it since owning it and outside of a flat tire and regular maintenance (oil/etc), haven’t had to drop anything else into it so far (knock on wood). Surprisingly fits THREE car seats in the back too – or else we would have been in trouble when we found out we were expecting a third kid!

I’ve owned Hondas and Toyotas most of my life too, and this Lexus def feels as robust – just more luxurious inside. My mechanic says he loves them too and shouldn’t have any problems riding it out for years to come – so hopefully that’s true!

I am trying to become a Money Coach. I love helping people and to know what I’m talking about… I have worked with a a couple of friends already with their finances and just not sure where to go from there. I had a plan laid out but I have veered away from it and going with the flow. This has gotten me NO WHERE. Any advice?

Yes – MAKE IT HAPPEN!! :)

There’s a serious need for money coaches, and not many people like jumping into it because it doesn’t pay as much as *financial advising* and other services that involve making bank off hawking funds/etc.

It does seem like “a lot” at first, but it really is pretty straightforward once you get going… And there are no real rules for money coaching unlike other financial services, so anyone can literally just start helping others anytime they want – for the better or the worse. The only *main* (and important) rule is that you can’t give any direct *investing advice* if you’re getting paid for it, because then you need a bunch of certifications. But you can tell people that they need to invest in general for sure.

What I’d do is ask your friends/family who you’ve helped already to give you a testimonial, and then just build a one-pager online that features them, along with your services and how you can help people/etc, and then from there it’s really just marketing the crap out of it :)

You can also connect up with any financial planners you know and see if they’d be willing to send you over people who they can’t/not willing to help too! I used to get a handful of them from people who gladly passed them over since it wasn’t worth their time… As sad as that is.

So lots of different ways to get started, but it’s definitely a hustle at first. Good luck!

I have considered starting my own personal finance blog because I enjoy the topic so much. However, I feel like personal finance blogs are a dime a dozen and I would be wasting my time. Thoughts?

YES!! DO IT!! The world needs as much help as it can get, and we all have our own “voices” which will resonate with others more than other bloggers. There’s never too many blogs out there, especially if you’re willing to be raw and share all the ups and downs and in betweens of your own money, as well as tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way. This world is so big, and blogs die out every year anyways making plenty of more room for others to come in… SO YES – try it!! Never know how it’ll affect your life/money/others!

so going on my blog gif

I’m launching my writing career and finance has always been interesting to me. I want to find a niche but after reading your posts and those on other blogs I don’t feel I am that knowledgeable so what to do? Thanks.

I think you just need to write and write and write and see how it goes :)

I wasn’t (and still not) an “expert” in finance or writing for that matter, but just found my particular style and niche by just taking it day by day and seeing how it goes. And with blogging these days it’s SUPER easy (and cheap) to get started, so I’d just write about whatever interests you as chances are it’ll interest others too!

And we all have our unique stories whether we know it or not. Make a bullet point list of all the juicy parts of your life (both financial, and otherwise) and see what type of story you can build around that.

We’ve all lived different lives with different experiences, the trick is just infusing that down in our writing which will help it stand out more.

But make not mistake about it – the world needs more help with this finance stuff, and the more people out there sharing their opinions with others the better! There will never be “too many” finance blogs – we all relate to this stuff differently and there are people waiting to find their community with YOU.

What was the biggest challenge starting your own business?

Hard to answer that one as I stumbled across all this stuff accidentally (didn’t mean to make a career out of it all – i was just having fun!), but I’d probably say *finding the time* to get it all done. The coaching/blogging itself is one thing, but then it’s all the marketing and accounting and correspondence/etc/etc that goes along from being a solopreneur. It’s all do-able stuff, but you REALLY have to be passionate or else you’ll burn out quick.

What is the single best piece of advice you could give based off your experiences?

To make sure you’re having fun :) A) because of everything I just mentioned above (it’s a lot of work, so you better enjoy it!), but also b) it’s really hard to be successful just chasing the *money*. There’s gotta be more reasons behind it to keep you going, and that usually comes from having fun and purpose. There are no real “rules” with running your own business, so make sure to set it up in a way that excites you and helps you look forward to it every day!

My Dad has been collecting coins over the years, and wants to know a good site to go to, to see how much money coins are worth? He tried some sites I found online, but most of them can’t identify the coins.

Tell him to pick up a copy of the “Red Book” which lists all US coins along with their rarity and values :) You can find it on Amazon for around $10:

He’ll have to do his best to assess their grades, but there’s even a book that helps with that too if he’s feeling adventurous:

Lastly, if he needs to look up *foreign* coins, point him to which is great for quick referencing (the foreign books are much more expensive and weigh as much as phone books!)

super mario coins

*** And then here are a BUNCH of excellent questions I was asked in a recent interview over at MethodToYourMoney.com. You can check out the full post and all my answers to them here: ***

  • Tim Ferris says that “Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.” What is one vague wish you were punished by or one specific ask you were rewarded for?
  • What are one to three books that have greatly impacted your life (money related or not)?
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last year?
  • In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
  • What advice would you give to a smart, industrious, newbie blogger as they start out?
  • What common advice should they ignore?
  • What one thing has been most effective for increasing traffic on your blog?
  • Which is better? A goal that is smaller and you achieve it, or one that is too big and you don’t?

Here’s a at a few of my answers ;)

What is a quote that you live your life by or that you find yourself repeating to yourself?

“It’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than halfway up one you don’t.” I’m not sure who said it, but it’s probably the one line that’s impacted me the most over the years. Especially when you work online and there are ENDLESS ways to make money and grow your business, both things I’ve come to realize don’t motivate me as much as having freedom and *purpose*. I’ve probably turned down over a dozen amazing opportunities in my digital career so far (despite the advice of friends and family!), just because they would have led me away from peace and happiness in the end. And only WE know what’s best for us, so it’s important to pay attention to that gut of yours!

What are the top 3 most common money problems you’ve seen people consistently fighting to overcome?

People would probably say “budgeting”, “credit card debt”, or “not making enough” here, but the biggest thing in my eyes is just CARING ENOUGH to prioritize this stuff and actually make it happen. Everyone knows how to save more or pay off debt, blah blah blah – it’s not that hard of a concept! – but getting someone to *take action* is a whole other ball game. And until you care enough to finally make it a priority, you’ll just continue along the same path wondering why you can never get ahead :(

How has a failure or apparent failure, set you up for success later? Do you have a favorite success?

I don’t have a favorite success, but I do have a handful of failures :) Here’s my “resume” of them if you really wanna feel better about yourself, haha  –> (inspired by Johannes Haushofer’s “CV of Failures” that went viral a few years ago)

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Hope this helps!

See past two Q&As for more:

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jody December 5, 2018 at 7:01 am

As for super cheap cell phone bills, I’ve been using Consumer Cellular and love it. $25-$35/month for me, depending on how much I talk on the actual phone, which usually isn’t much. I chose it over Republic Wireless because I have an iPhone.

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2 J. Money December 5, 2018 at 7:31 am

Yeah, that’s the major downside to Republic.. I hear inklings every now and then that they’ll be bringing on the iPhone, but still no luck :(

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3 Mr. r2e December 5, 2018 at 8:09 am

A great resource for 529 plans is

A couple suggestions on funding 529’s –

1) Start early. That way you can start with small amounts and it will build up over 18 years.
2) Set up automatic transfers/deposits. That way you don’t forget to fund it.
3) Encourage family to deposit money into the account. Or, they can gift the cash and then you
can deposit it in the account.
4) If you live in a state that has an income tax, find a 529 plan that works best. We live in a state
that has no income tax so that was not an issue for us.

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4 Brian December 5, 2018 at 9:04 am

Be careful on point 3. My dad was putting money into the 529 plans I had set up for my kids. He was taking the tax credit for the state (which he is entitled too) and the state screwed up and sent me a refund and him a bill. After talking to a CPA friend (who had seen this happen several times) she suggested he just open one for himself and designate my kids as the beneficiary. They will still have access to the money for college and this way the state can’t do something stupid when it comes to tax time.

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5 J. Money December 5, 2018 at 10:33 am

Yup, excellent tips indeed!

We have SUCH a hard time convincing friends/family to give 529 gifts over more toys (ughhh), but every now and then it works. So keep up the good fight! ;)

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6 Adam December 5, 2018 at 8:15 am

Just got on the Google Fi bandwagon on Monday and so far it’s doing well, albeit in the super-well-served DC metro area. Bonus points that they now support iPhones (in beta, at least)! Still figuring out the Pixel 3 compared to my old Droid Turbo; the latter had a lot of convenient interface quirks that I’d love to duplicate on this fancy new thing.

My only concern about the budget MVNOs vs the expensive Verizons of the world: “I really like Verizon because they trouble shoot, and help all the time.” Precisely: that’s why the bill is twice as high. Such service tends not to be quite so widely available on the smaller piggyback/prepaid carriers.

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7 Paul December 5, 2018 at 8:37 am

I got a Pixel 3 on Black Friday for $200 off and got a $200 dollar service credit for Google Fi. Just switched from Sprint to Google Fi. I like the idea of being able to run on 3 carriers at the same time. Interestingly enough my phone is almost always picking up t mobile’s signal, I thought sprint was better in this area… seems like tmo has come along way since I had them last. Many years ago, I tried Tmobile for like 3 months, I could not even go into a building without t mobile going to SOS. Today I am in a rural area and getting LTE. Speed test is like 20Mbps down and 12 up. still good for most everything. Best part is my bill as a person who barely uses data will likely be less than $30 a month every month. Also they now allow iphones, once they are out of beta testing on iphones my wife will switch too. Right now the compatibility is great if you look online. At that point our combined cell bill will be less than 55-65 a month in my estimation.

Also, I used to have republic back in the 1st gen moto X days. it actually served me well. $10 month wifi only was good. I just didn’t want to be on Tmobile only once they switched from Sprint. Guess I now know that isn’t as bad as I made it out to be.

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8 J. Money December 5, 2018 at 10:38 am

Oh yeah, RW works great in the DC area… last time I checked Fi wasn’t out here but I guess it is now! And big ups to them for making it happen with iPhones… It’ll be interesting to see where the market is in another 5-10 years from now and if they will dominate there like they do everywhere else :) (And will soon know more about us than anyone else too!!! If they don’t already!)

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9 Paul December 5, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Yeah, I needed a new phone and pixel 3 is supposed to have some crazy software attached to its camera. Basically takes a decent camera photo and makes it look like you are a professional or at least know somewhat how best to take pictures. Crazy what they can do with software. I also like the screening service for telemarketers. Having a robot ask them to state their business is pretty cool too. I keep my phones for 3 years so I usually buy a decent one at purchase time and $600 for a flagship phone and $200 service credit isn’t bad at all. Its like paying $400 for the phone.

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10 Jenny December 5, 2018 at 10:14 am

I have Verizon prepaid mobile – I buy my phones at Target (usually around $100 bucks, right now I have a samsung galaxy j3 – neither the best nor worst android on the market) and then my plan is $40 a month. If I max out data bc I’m off wifi for a big chunk of the month, my data speed slows down, but it is totally livable and is saving me easily $80 bucks a month compared to my old Verizon traditional plan. I prefer to have an established network bc I don’t have any coverage issues when traveling/in the mountains/etc (we live in Colorado). Definitely worth looking into! My sister has regular Verizon and is paying $120 a month for essentially the same plan I have, but her price includes the “rent” on her iPhone 10 which will end up costing $1,000 by the time the monthly payments are over. I can’t even fathom that.

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11 J. Money December 5, 2018 at 10:49 am

Ouch!!!

Good call on your route for sure.

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12 Physician on FIRE December 5, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Thank you for all the good info — I’m sometimes tempted to answer simple questions with a LMGTFY link, but your approach is much kinder. Pretty much any financial question can be answered with a solid blog post from this awesome community.

Cheers!
-PoF

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13 J. Money December 6, 2018 at 6:28 am

Haha, yup! And if you’re already taking the time to email people back, might as well amplify the productivity and share it around with others who might be wondering about the same things too. Win-win! :)

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14 Rain December 6, 2018 at 9:23 am

I use Tello.com for cheap cell service. I have unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 1 GB data for 14/month. It is easy to stay under 1 GB by utilizing wifi at any opportunity. It seems like Republic Wireless uses this same technique. I was even able to use my current iPhone with their service! Their customer service is great– super responsive and helpful. I highly recommend them!

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15 J. Money December 6, 2018 at 9:58 am

oh wow – that’s pretty damn good!

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16 Bryan December 6, 2018 at 9:47 am

To the person asking about starting a blog, I agree do it! Since finding J, MMM, and ERE I went from an in debt consumer sucka to a 6 figure student loan paid off, a 5 figure car loan paid off, and 10 more payments left on mortgage (a 30 year mortgage that will be paid off in 6 years.) The value of finding average people willing to share their raw data with the world is tremendous. It takes the fear out of investing. Finance is a topic no one will talk about or your friends will lie about, but here you can see the truth. I was down X% or I was up X%, let me check on J. Oh, he was too so we’re all doing pretty well riding the Index wave and picking up savings tips as we go. These three guys have exponentialy changed my life. We could always use more!

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17 J. Money December 6, 2018 at 10:07 am

Helluva testimonial for our community – thanks man! And remember that it TAKES ACTION to actually make it happen, so make sure to pat yourself on the back too as that’s the hardest part of the game ;) No action = no point to any of this stuff!

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