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New American Funding Mortgage Review



New American Funding was founded in 2003 by a married couple as a small-scale call center that grew into a leading nationwide mortgage lender. It was the 15th-largest lender by volume in 2017, according to the Scotsman Guide, and has since outgrown its Orange County base to reach borrowers across nearly all states in the country (except in Hawaii and New York).

It’s still family-owned after all its growth. New American Funding has extensive mortgage offerings to match the needs of different borrowers, whether regarding qualification standards, down payment requirement or loan value. New American Funding also invests in corporate responsibility, starting a focus committee for Hispanic needs in 2013.

The headquarters is in Tustin, California, holding an A+ rating from the organization.

Background of New American Funding

Rick and Patty Arvielo started New American Funding as a small company near the beginning of the 2000s, and as of early 2019, it has a portfolio of more than $28 billion and a workforce of over 3,000.

By offering diverse mortgage options, the company aims to help first-time homebuyers and other borrowers improve their quality of living; for instance, it offers non-qualifying loans that use alternative means of income verification.

Broadly, New American Funding provides mortgages intended for purchase loans, refinances, and investment properties. Within those categories, its products carry diverse terms, conditions, benefits, and uses — across its conventional, conforming, jumbo, and government-backed home loan offerings.

Technology is a core part of New American Funding’s corporate culture and value proposition. Despite having 193 branches spread across the country, it makes a lot of resources available online.

Borrowers can research each loan type and prevailing mortgage rates for basic options, as well as access helpful materials like worksheets, videos, and checklists. Online visitors can apply for a mortgage or request a quote.

Current New American Funding Mortgage Rates

Today’s Best Home Mortgage Rates
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New American Funding Loan Specifics

Borrowers considering New American Funding can choose from a menu of mortgages to find the one that best meets their needs, which includes:

Fixed-rate mortgages

homeowners looking to settle down often turn to a fixed-rate mortgage because of the long-term stability it can provide. The same goes for borrowers who desire a flat monthly payment. With a fixed-rate mortgage, consumers have a single interest rate over the life of the loan, which often carries a 30- or 15-year term, the same terms offered by New American Funding.

While the interest rate may be higher than variable-rate loans, the structure mitigates inflation risk and ensures a consistent payment that borrowers can plan for.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM)

the opposite of a fixed-rate loan is an ARM, which features an interest rate that moves over time. Such mortgages come with an introductory fixed rate. After that period, the rate goes up or down with the prevailing market.

This allows borrowers to take advantage of lower rates when conditions are right but could also open them up to higher-than-usual payments if overall rates trend upwards. Each ARM may have different terms and rebalancing requirements.

For example, a 5/1 ARM has an introductory rate for five years, then rebalances each year after that for the life of the loan. Typically, ARMs are suited best for borrowers who want to pay off a loan quickly, and homeowners who move often or those with growing their family in the near future and may need a bigger home.

Jumbo mortgages

dream homes can be expensive and not all traditional mortgages are designed to finance such purchases. Loans above the conforming limit set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) are called jumbo loans with values above $484,350, and $726,525 located in high-cost areas defined by the FHFA.

Jumbo mortgages can be structured as fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loans. New American Funding offers flexible qualifying standards, including higher debt-to-income ratios, and co-signing of a family member who doesn’t occupy the residence.

FHA mortgages

these loans are insured by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), which makes homeownership more affordable for consumers or who have more modest financial means. In general, FHA loans are considered by many types of borrowers. FHA loans come with as little as 3.5 percent down payment and carry lower rates (both fixed and adjustable) than conventional loans.

VA mortgages

active and retired members of the U.S. armed forces can get loans backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and are also available to certain qualifying widowed spouses. VA loans come with attractive terms, such as no down payments, low-interest rates, no private mortgage insurance premiums, no-prepayment penalties, and reduced fees.

While a bit of paperwork is involved, qualified borrowers should definitely research their options.

USDA mortgages

Originally purposed to promote rural homeownership, mortgages supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture do so by requiring no down payment and offering less-strict qualifying standards. Many suburbs are covered under this type of loan as well as more rural areas. 

Cash-out refinances

New American Funding allows cast-out refinancing for all of its loan types — except for USDA mortgages. Owners who’ve built up equity in their homes can take out a second mortgage at a lower rate that takes the place of the original loan.

The difference in values is paid out to borrowers, which can help them meet financial goals like paying down debt or pursuing home renovations.

Specialized mortgage products: there are a number of specialized mortgages the lender makes available to borrowers. Nonqualified mortgages, for instance, have alternative means of income verification, which is useful for borrowers who are self-employed or have unique financial circumstances.

A Home Improvement FHA 203K loan can be used to finance home upgrades, while a reverse mortgage can allow seniors to access their home equity to meet lifestyle and care needs. New American Funding also offers interest-only mortgages and loans with customizable terms.

New American Funding Mortgage Customer Experience

Online customers can take advantage of several resources from New American Funding. Borrowers can start their loan process online by requesting a quote, completing a mortgage application, and/or getting preapproved. Customers can manage their mortgages through a web portal and contact customer service or mortgage professionals as well. 

The company’s website has a number of materials that borrowers can take advantage of when shopping for a mortgage. Customers can use borrower assistance forms and homeowners’ checklists to navigate the lending process. 

Guides on property taxes, mortgage insurance, and escrow accounts, plus a mortgage glossary and affordability calculators, round out the lender’s library of resources. Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) complaint database doesn’t show any recorded cases with New American Funding.

New American Funding Lender Reputation

An Equal Opportunity Lender, New American Funding began in 2003 in Orange County, California, where it still has its headquarters. Its NMLS identification number is #6606. As of early 2019, the company has been subject to one NMLS regulatory action, which occurred in 2009.

Its Tustin headquarters has an A+ rating from the BBB and has been accredited the bureau since 2004.

New American Funding

Customers can research New American Funding mortgage rates online for basic fixed- and adjustable-rate options; however, the lender does not publish its qualifying standards. It does, however, list the general factors that influence its lending decision, including credit score, loan-to-value ratio, down payment amount, home location, loan term, and loan type.

Credit score can play a deciding role, so consult the table below on how a credit score can impact how likely a lender is to make the loan.

Credit Score   Category Likelihood of Approval
760 or higher  Excellent  Very likely
700-759   Good Likely
621-699   Fair Somewhat likely
0-620   Poor Somewhat unlikely
None N/A Unlikely

New American Funding Phone Number and Additional Details

  • Homepage URL:
  • Company phone: 800-450-2010
  • Headquarters: 14511 Myford Road, Suite 100 Tustin, CA 92780


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The 60 Best Sci-Fi Books all Science Fiction Fans Must Read



Are you looking for a new science fiction book to read?

Great news we have compiled the best sci-fi books that all fans should read, everything from sci-fi classics to up and coming indie authors.

Science fiction and fantasy novels provide us with allegory, cautionary tales, and the human condition told through the lens of the fantastical and the cutting-edge. Find your favorite genres and the classics within!

The 60 Best Sci-Fi Books  Fans Must Read

Sci-Fi Origins (Best Sci-Fi Books of all Time)

Where did it all begin? Read these early tales with impossible futures, fascinating creatures, time travel, and alien invasion!

  1. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein brought us the iconic monster made by Victor Frankenstein. Considered the first true science fiction novel of the modern era, it would foreshadow genetic tinkering stories of the future.

  1. The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish (also called The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World)

Considered to be the first science fiction work, in the 17th century, Duchess of Newcastle Margaret Cavendish wrote of a utopian world.

  1. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The third Oz book by L. Frank Baum features Tik-Tok, the wind-up clockwork man Dorothy Gale encounters in the Land of Ev. Tik-Tok is basically one of the first robots in literature. Other wacky features in Ozma of Oz include a sand-sailing boat and lunch pail tree.

  1. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

A 19th century classic by Wells, depicting time travel and inspiring science fiction tales for over a century.

  1. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The book that would inspire a radio program that terrified people into thinking Martians were invading Earth. Wells would kickstart first contact stories and alien invasion at the same time, offering up a cautionary tale that touches sci-fi to this day.

Space Epics

Transport yourself across the universe with these pillars of world-building in science fiction.

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert’s Dune is considered a masterwork of world-building and family intrigue, inspiring other famous series and their respective houses. In the first book, Paul Atreides encounters the resident free people of the planet Arrakis (Dune), the Fremen, and achieves a destiny of messianic proportions.

  1. The Lensman Series by E.E. Smith

Starting with Triplanetary, the Lensman Series would influence writers for decades and receive nods in shows such as Babylon 5.

  1. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A Hugo and Nebula award-winner, novella Binti and its sequels launched a new era of 21st Century science fiction in general and Afro-futurism in particular. Intergalactic world-building and cultural heritage blend in this unique series, led by the title character.

  1. Foundation by Isaac Asimov

The beginning of the Foundation series reveals the “psychohistory” developed by mathematician Harry Seldon. Seldon would establish a new empire called Foundation to preserve the culture from societal collapse.

  1. Rendezvous with Rama by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

A strange spacecraft enters the solar system, and humanity investigates. The secrets within the enormous craft, called Rama, reveal the heritage of an advanced alien civilization.

Hard Sci-Fi

If you like your science fiction taut with the edginess of battle and the implication of future wars, you must add these books to your collection!

  1. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

This classic military sci-fi epic details the tragic effects of time dilation on a group of soldiers fighting a seemingly endless war.

  1. Ringworld by Larry Niven

Set in the 29th century, Louis Wu and his companions explore a vast, Earth-orbit-sized, constructed world. Their adventures uncover the alien civilization that built it.

  1. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

First set with the backdrop of China’s cultural revolution, this new epic involves secret scientific experiments, alien invasion, challenging moral dilemmas, and impressive world-building.

  1. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

A man in his 70s is recruited as a soldier in the Colonial Defense Force, and altered physically in unexpected ways. Strong on character development, this kickstarts the Old Man’s War Series.

  1. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

This classic military sci-fi tale follows Johnny Rico and military recruits who become involved in a battle between humans and aliens nicknamed Arachnids or “Bugs.”

If you love Starship Troopers, check out our review of the wisdom of Grand Admiral Thrawn – Michael


The future of robots is here and is complex and necessary reading in these sci-fi tales.

  1. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov’s intriguing work introduced the laws of robotics that all robots must adhere to work alongside humans.

  1. All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The first novel in the Murderbot Diaries, All Systems Red, follows a cyborg that goes by the name Murderbot contends with self-awareness in the corporate-dominated future.

  1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The beginning of the Lunar Chronicles series is a retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of a cyborg.

  1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Famed for its eventual big-screen adaptation, Blade Runner, this novel recounts a future in which highly realistic artificial fugitives are on the run from bounty hunter Rick Deckard.

  1. The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Mattie is an automaton in this steampunk and urban fantasy novel involving gargoyles, Mechanics, and Alchemists.


Our neighbor, the red planet Mars, beckons to us. What would it be like to walk on the shifting red sands of Mars? Find out in these Martian classics.

  1. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s mesmerizing prose introduces us to a Mars full of exotic possibility, soon plundered by humanity’s arrival.

  1. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

The first in the Mars Trilogy, Red Mars, involves the colonization and terraforming of Mars and the conflicting moral questions that result.

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind on a Mars mission and must draw upon his skills and ingenuity in order to survive.

  1. Mars by Ben Bova

Navajo geologist Jamie Waterman joins the first expedition of scientists exploring Mars. The grounded approach Bova takes to all the interaction, politics, and bureaucracy help achieve a plausible future story.

  1. Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The first book in the Red Rising Trilogy envisions a future of planetary colonization in which caste systems abound. Darrow must fight against this system of overlords.

Best Sci-Fi Fantasy Books

Fly high with dragons, roam lands on epic quests, and learn the hearts of true heroes in the fantasy masterpieces.

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus spans three books, opening up a fantastically detailed and wholly invented universe in Middle Earth that was hinted at in The Hobbit. Considered the ultimate work of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings brings myth, allegory, poetry, song, war, and melancholy to heights of realism and wonder.

  1. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

The first novel in The Earthsea Cycle tells the tale of the wizard Ged, and his journey to redeem his reckless past.

  1. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

Beginning with A Game of Thrones, Martin’s elaborate, dark fantasy series covers land in which seasons last decades, and a terrible force from the north threatens to bring an icy apocalypse to an area filled with rulers jockeying to take the Iron Throne.

  1. The Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey

This remarkable series takes place on the world Pern, where people telepathically bond with dragons. Dragonflight is the first in the series.

  1. The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 by N.K Jemisin

The Fifth Season marks the first book of award-winning The Broken Earth trilogy. Set against civilization’s collapse and natural disaster, Essun endures great personal tragedy in her quest to rescue her daughter.

Dystopian & Apocalyptic

Set in a nightmare future, these dystopian and apocalyptic legends will keep you up at night.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

In a totalitarian future America, handmade Offred is forced to bear children to men of a ruling class. The tale follows her harrowing life in a bleak future, and the attempt to escape and bring down the subjugating class to restore rights.

  1. The Stand by Stephen King

A deadly pathogen escapes a military installation, rapidly spreading and bringing civilization essentially to an end. A group of survivors makes its way to a form of a promised land while battling a malevolent group seeking domination.

  1. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

In the near future breakdown of the society of Los Angeles, empathic teenager Lauren believes in a better future entailing traveling to other planets. Lauren gathers followers to her belief as she makes her way north.

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Set in the Great Lakes region of America, a group of nomadic creatives picks up the pieces after the fall of civilization due to pandemic flu.

  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy follows the immense challenges that Katniss Everdeen faces in the post-apocalyptic version of America called Panem. She takes her sister’s place in the government-sponsored Hunger Games to compete for survival in a no-holds-barred and deadly competition.

Near Futures

The future is here, or nearly so, in these ground-breaking novels set close to our present day.

  1. Contact by Carl Sagan

Scientist Ellie Arroway detects a potential extraterrestrial signal from space, which appears to instruct humanity in how to build a machine. She faces self-doubt amid scrutiny to uncover the mysteries of the discovery.

  1. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

This cautionary tale about genetic engineering in which scientists make living, cloned dinosaurs for an amusement park. Mayhem ensues.

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Mysterious monoliths appear across many worlds, seeding life with intelligence. Following the discovery of one such monolith on the moon, Dr. Bowman and a team of scientists investigate the signal it sends to Saturn’s moon Iapetus. The onboard AI begins exhibiting dangerous behavior during the journey.

  1. Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

A physics experiment creates an unintended consequence of everyone on earth losing consciousness for two minutes. Each person sees a “flash forward” decades in the future while they are unconscious. The resulting accidents and visions challenge everyone’s ideas of free will.

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In dystopian 2044, impoverished Wade Watts navigates through the virtual reality world of the OASIS, seeking to reverse his fortune.

Younger Readers

Take adventures through time and space, no matter your age!

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The Murry children and Calvin O’Keefe crosses universes and space-time to try to find their missing father. Their tale is a mind-bending adventure of good vs. evil.

  1. His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass/Northern Lights begins this sweeping saga of two children, one born in a parallel universe, one born in our own. In Lyra’s world, people’s souls exist in animal form, called daemons. Her father and mother represent warring factions determined to control all universes. Filled with talking animals, witches, airships, and strange creatures, His Dark Materials packs an emotional punch.

  1. The Apothecary Series by Maile Meloy

Set in the 1950s, The Apothecary starts this highly entertaining, thrilling adventure series in which American Janie Scott meets Benjamin Burrows, the son of an apothecary. After Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, the teenagers uncover a terrifying plot that could result in humanity’s end. They use potions with magical effects to try and stop the impending doom.

  1. The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta

The first of the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series, book one begins with Kiranmala discovering her parents are missing, and there is a demon in her kitchen! Two princes recruited her and sent to another dimension, where she must battle the Serpent King and the Rakkhoshi Queen to rescue her parents and save the Earth.

  1. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

This delightful middle-grade novel recounts a discarded robot named Roz and her search for love and acceptance.


These mind-bending sci-fi novels will have you thinking for a long time afterward.

  1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Raised on Mars, Valentine Michael Smith returns to Earth and tries to fit in. His unusual upbringing makes him seem superhuman, but he attempts to help his Earth kin understand things from a different perspective.

  1. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

Set in the 24th century when telepaths (“Espers”) are common, and police are telepathic as well. Ben Reich tries to evade the telepathic police for a murder he wants to commit. The story opens up the moral issues of using telepathy, regulated mostly by a guild, but raises concerns about the exclusion of telepaths who run astray as well as psychological intrigue.

  1. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Solaris follows humans’ failed attempts to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence. The sentient planet tests the researchers with their memories and emotions.

  1. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

A story spanning time and space and connections between various characters, Cloud Atlas explores the theme of fate with a mind-bending narrative.

  1. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This classic tale follows the journey of Genly Ai on his mission to the planet Gethen. The ambisexual Gethenians present challenges and growth for Ai.


If you dream of the future lit by neon, shadowed by noir and fueled with intrigue, these seminal cyberpunk novels are for you!

  1. Neuromancer by William Gibson

In the first novel of the Sprawl Trilogy, hacker Henry Case is hired to help an AI take over the global network called The Matrix.

  1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

A modern cyberpunk tale is weaving together magic and science, with wit and feeling.

  1. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Set in the 25th century, humans have spread through the galaxy and can be preserved after death via cortical stacks, then essentially regenerated or “re-sleeved” into another body. Takeshi Kovacs stumbles upon a vast conspiracy after his latest “sleeve.”

  1. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

This early entry into cyberpunk sci-fi follows teleporter Gully Foyle, an outcast considered dangerous.

  1. Synners by Pat Cadigan

The synthesizers, or Synners, are people who can turn mental images into products for consumption. The story is told via various characters’ viewpoints.

Indie Authors

Discover the latest sci-fi and fantasy stories, while supporting independent authors!

  1. Mindful Things by Mya Duong

Nineteen-year-old Lauren begins to experience visions and uncovers the fact her deceased parents were witches. A madman hungry for power pursues her, and she must embrace her magical heritage to try to stop him.

  1. The Infinite by John W. Akers

The inventor Pax works on a secret project that can revolutionize human cognition. His plans are derailed by a computer virus that could end civilization, so Pax is forced to choose how he can help humanity survive.

  1. Threadwalkers by Joanna Volavka

Miranda Woodward undergoes a discordant series of events following her father’s death. This is a young adult time travel tale.

  1. Beasts (Beginning Vol. 1)  by Mary Catherine Gebhard

Set 1000 years in the future, the World Collective seems utopian. Atlia, a member of the World Collective, soon uncovers a horrifying truth about her society.

  1. Resonance by Jennifer Greenhall

In Book One of the Resonance Series, Sophia Walsh uses her psionic abilities for good but finds herself the next target of a killer.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

At Your Money Geek, we are huge fans of the science fiction genre, everything from military science fiction to novels about space travel, parallel worlds, and fantasy novels. We are always looking for new books to read and exciting sci-fi writers to profile, let us know in the comments what authors you are currently enjoying. – Michael


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What I Gave Up And What I Gained



There’s a strong perception out there that living on less than you earn translates into some kind of miserable existence where you don’t have any of the things you enjoy and you sit Scrooge-like in the corner of some decrepit room counting your coins. It’s not hard to see some variation of this in popular culture, which constantly portrays spending above and beyond your means as “cool” and being thrifty as either outright weird or only something that a few specific subgroups care much about.

I believed that for years. I believed that if I tried to commit to a life of spending less, it would be a miserable existence. I believed that if I tried to change financial direction, I would just be a Scrooge-like miser. I believed that anyone cool couldn’t possibly save money. I believed that I had to spend every dime I had to keep up appearances and to keep myself entertained. I believed that, sure, being financially responsible might gain me something in the long term, but in the short term, life would be pretty un-fun.

It turns out that none of those things were true. I gave up far less than I thought, and I gained far more than I thought, both in the short term and in the long term.

Let’s take a look.

I gave up one hobby — among quite a few — that I cared about, and had to change a couple of others.

The one hobby I gave up was golfing. I used to go golfing with a small group about once every other week for years. We’d get a golf cart, cruise around, hit some balls badly, talk some trash and go back to the clubhouse. It was fun, I’ll admit, but it was honestly just one hobby of mine, something I did about once every other week.

I had to somewhat change two other hobbies. I’ve always been a big reader, but I bought a lot of books, enough that they were overflowing our shelves. I simply scaled back my book purchasing and started focusing more on “collecting” a list of books I’ve read (I’ll get back to this in a bit). I was also an avid player and collector of Magic: The Gathering, a hobby I really got into in college and one that expanded in expense after graduating. Rather than just buying and buying more cards, I transformed this hobby into one that was focused on trading for value. Those things both remained a part of my life, just with some tweaks.

Those three changes — giving up golfing and tweaking two other hobbies — cut my hobby spending by something around 90% by my best estimates at the time.

I basically didn’t touch any of my other hobbies. I loved going on hikes, reading books, taking long walks, and I love them now, too. I still enjoy playing computer games and video games, though my tastes and style of play has changed due to my own changing interests — I’m now much more of a completionist and a deep-diver into specific games rather than getting games and playing them for a short while before moving on, and I don’t really enjoy playing games that rely on fast reflexes at all anymore.

I gained a few other hobbies.

In the process of learning how to be more frugal, as well as simply having children and exploring new things because of them, I picked up a few new hobbies along the way. My life didn’t become some kind of empty shell.

I became much more interested in board games and other tabletop games, kind of as an outgrowth of my Magic: The Gathering hobby. I started building a collection of these games and playing them with family and friends, mostly funded by trading Magic cards for them and trading games that didn’t click with me for other games. Trading games to acquire other ones so that I eventually have a shelf full of games that I deeply love is a big part of this hobby for me, though it’s secondary to actually playing the games. This also helps keep the cost low.

I’ve become very passionate about cooking and making food items. I love preparing dinner for my family and trying new things while balancing tastiness and healthiness. I love making food items like fermented pickles, sauerkraut, homemade bread and tortillas. I love the process, and the end result is usually something delicious for my family to eat that’s often less expensive than buying the equivalent at the store.

My entire family practices taekwondo together as a family activity. A local school tries to get whole families involved and offers a really nice family group rate, so we go to lots of classes and work on techniques at home together as we all progress toward improving our belt rank.

In the end, I actually have more active hobbies now than I ever have. Some of my other hobbies have actually declined in the amount of time I spend on them simply because I have so many things to choose from, and the time I used to spend on golf has been more than eaten up by other hobbies.

I learned that I don’t have to throw money at a hobby to deeply and passionately enjoy it.

I gave up a lot of forgettable incidental spending.

One big misconception about cutting back on your spending that people have is that you’re going to cut back on things you really care about. People always envision “cutting back” by thinking about things they love and about how “cutting back” on that thing will be miserable and un-fun.

Guess what? It is miserable and un-fun to cut back on things you care about.

The real trick is to figure out where you’re spending money on things you don’t care about or that you care little about in the big scheme of things and cut back hard on those things.

I cut back on trips to the convenience store near our apartment — in fact, I basically deleted those.

I cut back on stops at the coffee shop and gradually migrated to making cold brew coffee at home because I realized that I really liked a cup of good coffee in the morning but it didn’t have to be made by a barista and cost $7.

I switched to buying store brand versions of a lot of things at the grocery store rather than name brand versions.

I took on a lot of little projects around the apartment (and, later, the house) to make everything more energy efficient with little or no further effort.

I looked at how I did a lot of common tasks (like doing the laundry) and worked to make them as time and money efficient as possible.

None of these changes altered anything I really cared about. When I thought about spending that mattered to me then, or spending that matters to me now, none of these things are touched upon.

Perhaps some of these things — like the coffee shop visits — really matter a lot to you. Great. Don’t cut them. Look for the stuff that doesn’t matter much and cut that instead. Does buying name brand dishwashing detergent versus store brand really matter much to you?

I gained a more low-stress life.

When I first started changing my finances around, I didn’t really appreciate how much low-level stress our financial difficulty was adding to my life.

I felt additional professional stress because I knew that a job loss, even for a little while, would be apocalyptic. Even a late paycheck could be a problem.

I felt stress about my own future because I knew I was getting older but I wasn’t really preparing for my old age. This was small and subtle, but real.

I felt stress about my child’s future and my wife’s future, too. I knew, on some level, that I wasn’t taking care of my family.

I felt stress about checking the mail because I knew there were often bills in there that I didn’t want to face.

I felt stress about a lot of spending situations because I was always worried about a declined credit card or an overdraft.

I felt an enormous flood of stress every time something went even a little wrong because I was unsure how to pay for it.

I felt these stresses, but I didn’t really understand how much they added up or how many of them were directly tied to my finances.

As I began to get a better grip on my finances, every single one of those stresses began to melt and fade into the background. They gradually became less and less prevalent.

I gave up a lot of stuff I didn’t use.

One big step I took initially was to go through my closets and collections and do something of a Marie Kondo strategy in terms of processing all that stuff. I simply went through each thing and decided if I really loved that thing a lot or whether I didn’t, and if I didn’t, I sold it off.

I was under the impression that this would be a very painful thing to do. It really wasn’t. It mostly just required some honesty about my possessions. I just kept the stuff that was really meaningful to me, and that meant honestly thinking about what stuff mattered and what stuff didn’t. When I started realizing which things mattered and which things didn’t, this actually became really easy and not painful at all.

For me, the breakthrough came when I considered whether I had used each item in any significant way in the last year or so. If it had just sat on a shelf or in a closet for a year untouched, my actions were showing me that it really wasn’t very important to me. I might want to think it was important, but if I hadn’t touched it in a year, was it really that important?

For stuff that I was in doubt about, I put it in a box and wrote a date on top, a date several months in the future. Anything still in that box after that date could be sold off, no questions asked.

This served a few purposes.

First of all, it generated some quick cash to tackle my debts immediately. I took a lot of those items straight to Craigslist and eBay and converted them straight into cash, which I immediately used to pay off my highest interest debts.

Second, it showed me that I was in the habit of buying a lot of things that I didn’t really care about a month or two later. Those kinds of expenses are really, really wasteful. They don’t make your life any better in the long run, but spending that money so foolishly certainly does make your life worse. This was actually pretty useful in terms of positively affecting my spending habits going forward.

Third and finally, it freed up a lot of space in our apartment. It was getting pretty cramped with stuff and clearing out a lot of items made it feel a lot more livable. I didn’t realize how cramped things had become and how much time and energy I was spending moving stuff around and looking for items.

This “item purge” was a huge net positive when I initially expected it to be somewhat negative.

I gained a ton of professional freedom.

At the time of our financial turnaround, I had a job in a very different career path. I wrote software in a research environment that was intended to help researchers make sense of large quantities of data. This meant that I was doing some data mining myself as well as writing tools to help scientists that weren’t programmers perform specific data mining tasks on very large data sets.

I enjoyed the intellectual challenges of the job a lot, and I enjoyed the people I worked with, especially the small team I worked most closely with. Unfortunately, that was balanced with a lot of things I didn’t like. I spent a lot of time on paperwork and bureaucratic tasks. I was traveling a lot and I felt like I was missing my child grow up. I was also charged with a lot of work tasks that were way outside of my field of expertise and held responsible for things that I didn’t really understand and didn’t have time to learn about, but my neck was on the line if anything went wrong with those things.

As time went on, the interesting and joyful parts of my job became smaller and smaller and the parts that made me unhappy became larger and larger.

What made this worse is that I was financially handcuffed to this job. Our financial instability made it such that I couldn’t risk rocking the boat at work, or at least I felt like I couldn’t. Looking for a different job in the same field felt pretty risky, too.

All of this meant that I was very prone to unreasonable demands at work. I was thrown all kinds of responsibilities way outside of any sort of reasonable expectations of my expertise. I was asked to work unbilled hours on weekends. I traveled far more than I wanted to. If tools weren’t working, even if I had nothing to do with the reason, intense pressure was put on me to get them working immediately. The team size was downgraded at the same time that our production schedule was accelerated. I was actually asked to do work tasks while my wife was in labor with our first child.

This was not the life I wanted.

What I learned was that it was my own overspending habits that kept me handcuffed to that job. As I began to improve our financial state, build an emergency fund, get rid of debts, and stabilize, I felt a lot less handcuffed to that job. The sense of threat and foreboding that I had about almost everything I was doing there began to ebb away. I started refusing unreasonable things that I would have meekly accepted earlier.

Eventually, as I started writing about my experiences on The Simple Dollar, I began to realize that writing was a career option for me. It meant a pay cut, but it had a lot of other benefits. It was an option that was on the table for me.

At the same time, I also looked at a lot of other options within my data mining career path. I even started considering going back to school and studying a completely different field.

Those options weren’t really there before our financial turnaround. Because our financial state had improved so much, I felt free to walk away from that job and try something new, and I eventually decided that writing full time was the best path for me for a number of reasons (the schedule flexibility was a big part of it). That would never have been an option without a vast improvement in our financial flexibility.

I lost a few friends.

During the process of making these changes, I lost a few friends. It wasn’t due to some kind of blowup or disagreement. Rather, in each case, I found that the friendship was actually more about the shared activity than actual friendship.

The other people that I went golfing with disappeared out of my life in short order. I didn’t play golf anymore, so we didn’t have that common activity to share, so we just had much less in common. What little we did still have in common was replaceable. They found someone else to golf with. I bump into one of them occasionally and we get along fine. We catch each other up on our lives, then go on our merry way until we happen to bump into each other again. I haven’t seen the others in a decade.

I used to go out for drinks with a group after work and thought of several of them as friends, but when I started spending less time with that group, I was no longer involved in the group texts or anything else. It was a group of people to drink with, not friendships.

This might seem like the end of my social life, but it wasn’t. I actually retained a lot of friends and I ended up gaining quite a few more very strong friendships, but I’ll get back to that in a minute.

What I really learned is this: there are some people in your life that will hang out with you because you enjoy a shared activity of some kind, but if you don’t engage in that activity, they won’t engage with you. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can feel like a lost friendship if you place too value on that connection.

If you change your social activities, you’re going to lose some people that you might think of as friends. That’s okay. Deeper friendships will last, and you’ll find new casual friends with whatever you switch to.

I gained more friendships than I’ve ever had in my life.

As I dropped out of those other social activities, I started filling my evenings with different ones. I consciously decided to explore what was going on in my community, so I started looking at things like Meetup, the community calendar, the local library’s calendar, the local news, and so on. I was simply looking for new things to try and events and groups going on in my community.

I tried out tons of things. Many didn’t click with me. Several did.

Through those activities, I have a more robust social life than I’ve probably ever had in my entire life. I know far more people in my local community than I’ve ever known before. I’ve also built a handful of really strong lasting friendships, the kind where we talk about things far beyond the group, do things together outside of the group that have nothing to do with the activity, and generally keep in touch with each other. Several friendships have lasted far past both of us ending our participation in the activities in question.

Making financial changes to my life forced me outside of my comfort zone a little. I had to try some new things, and my life was richly rewarded for doing so.

Simply spending less than I earned, week in and week out, month in and month out, was the key to all of this.

Literally every area of my life benefitted in the long run, and most benefitted in the short run, from turning my financial life around.

My physical and mental life benefitted from the pure reduction in stress. My hobbies and my social life benefitted from trying new things. My marriage improved because we basically eliminated money arguments. My parental life improved due to a reduction in stress and more time at home. My professional life improved due to the increased amount of professional freedom and the vast increase in professional options.

What did I really give up for that? I stopped spending money on things I didn’t really value very much. I lost a few people that weren’t central to my social life. I sold off some stuff I didn’t use. I dropped a couple of hobbies that were quickly replaced by other things.

To me, that’s a no brainer trade, even from a short term perspective. It didn’t take long for most of those benefits to start appearing, and they grew rapidly.

It’s time to turn things around. Make some changes, look for new things to do instead of lamenting what’s lost, and go with it.

You’ll never look back.

The post What I Gave Up And What I Gained appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Brigette’s $89 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6



My older sister, Brigette, shares her shopping trips and menu plans every week! You can go HERE to see all of her weekly menu plans and you can go HERE to read all about her family!


3 bags Frozen Broccoli Florets – $2.85

2 cans Green Beans – $0.76

1 8-oz tub Baby Bella Mushrooms – $1.19

1 bunch Bananas – $0.66

1 pkg Cherub Tomatoes – $1.79

2 Avocados – $0.78

1 3-lb bag Pink Lady Apples – $3.89

1 plg Fresh Zucchini – $1.68

1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.89

1 bag Mini Cucumbers – $2.09

1 pkg Broccoli Crowns – $1.59

1 10-lb bag Russet Potatoes – $3.49

1 large tub Organic Spring Mix – $3.69

1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.79

1 bag Romaine Hearts – $2.39

1 head Cauliflower – $1.79

2 dozen Eggs – $1.96

1 pkg Cheese Sticks – $1.99

1 8-oz pkg Sliced Deli Cheese – $1.79

1 pkg Goat Cheese Crumbles – $2.39

4 Single-Serving Greek Yogurts – $2.36

1 2-lb bag Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $5.19

1 2-lb bag Shredded Mozzarella Cheese – $5.19

1 jar Organic Ketchup – $1.65

1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.85

1 pkg Fresh Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs ($1.69/lb)– $6.30

1 3-lb bag Frozen Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – $5.89

1 pkg Turkey Bacon – $1.89

1 64-oz carton Orange Juice – $1.64

1 32-oz carton Half and Half – $1.55

1 gallon Skim Milk – $0.97

1 64-oz carton Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.65

1 gallon Whole Milk – $0.97

1 jar Spaghetti Sauce – $0.85

1 carton Table Salt – $0.35

1 large can Black Olives – $1.05

1 Family-Size Box Honey Nut Crisp Oats – $2.45

1 box Raisin Bran – $1.59

1 32-oz box Spaghetti Noodles – $1.12

1 bag Pretzels – $0.82

1 bag Gluten-Free Pretzels – $1.85

2 loaves Sandwich Bread – $1.34

Grocery Total for the Week: $89.97

Weekly Menu Plan


Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include:

Cereal, Oatmeal, Toast, Fruit, Yogurt, Smoothies, Scrambled/Hard Boiled/Fried Eggs, Veggie Omelets


Pretzels and Peanut Butter, Cheese Sticks, Apples, Cucumbers x 2

Deli Meat and Cheese Sandwiches, Bananas, Mini Sweet Peppers x 2

Leftovers x 3


White Chicken Chili, World’s Best Honey Cornbread (I bought the ingredients to make this last week, but then our stove wasn’t working all week, so we ended up doing grilled chicken instead! Since our stove is fixed now, this Chili is back on the menu this week – all I needed to buy to make it was chicken.)

Barbecued Meatballs (I make these using a mixture of ground venison and ground beef), Twice-Baked Potatoes, Broccoli, Tossed Salad

Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs, Roasted Cauliflower, Tossed Salad, Biscuits

Dinners at a Friend’s House

Venison Roast in the Crockpot, Baked Potatoes, Green Beans, Tossed Salad

Spaghetti Carbonara, Easy Italian Breadsticks, Broccoli

Date Night Out (kids eat Grilled Cheese at home)

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