blogIntro.html Money: A User Guide
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Last Updated Oct 30, 2023  -  4:03 pm EDT


Hello, and welcome to MONEY: A User Guide, a blog devoted to household budgeting. Methods described here have been refined and improved through continuous use over more than thirty years, resulting in a reliable, effective, and efficient means of getting the most out of the money you have to spend.

The Guide is composed of two parts. Part One: How To Make Ends Meet, explains how to meet your needs without exceeding your income. Part Two: Spend Your Way to A Better Life, explains how to improve your standard of living.


Public education does not teach students how to handle money responsibly. Consequently, most people learn the hard way, by trial and error, which takes tiime. If parents don't have it all figured it out before their kids are grown and gone, the inability to handle money responsibly is passed down from generation to generation.

The methods outlined in this blog will enable you and your family to improve your standard of living - on your current income. You may even find yourself better able to help other family members in need. Whether you are just starting out, or half way to retirement, prosperity follows when you target your highest priority need with each expenditure.


It will be necessary to avoid debt, and to retire any existing debt. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it seems, is reserved for the financially independent. Easy credit enables consumers to buy things they cannot afford. In other words, to spend money they don't have, and in many cases are unlikely to get. The consequences can be devastating, ranging from anxiety, helplessness, and low self-esteem - to chronic health problems, depression, and substance abuse. People don't intentionally seek debt. They get caught up in the illusion of wealth created by easy access to credit.


It has been reported that some executives earn 350 times as much money as the hourly-wage earners they employ. Because the benefits of Capitalism accrue to Capitalists, the U.S. has gradually shifted from government by the people for the people, to government by the wealthy for the wealthy. There are now but two classes in America: the rich, and economically disadvantaged, the difference being, rich people don't pay taxes. Unprecedented income disparity, coupled with concentration of wealth among fewer and fewer individuals at the top, means less opportunity for everyone else; a middle-class pushed toward poverty; a poverty-class toward homelessness. Rarely are members of those two classes able to acquire wealth. For salaried employees and hourly-wage earners, it's as if the only way to win is not to play.


It didn't happen overnight but rather, is the result of decades of minute legal maneuvers designed to accrue to the benefit of Capitalists, to wit:

  1. Industry lobbyists flooding our nation's Capitol with money
    • Corporate lobbies have had such a corrupting influence on our legislature, that there is no chance of reversing it
  2. Corporations writing legislation for Congress to pass
    • These proposals are so voluminous, complex, and nuanced, that no elected representative can possibly read and evaluate them in their entirety before they come up for a vote. How could this not favor corporations over citizens?
  3. Citizens United
    • Corporations struck the motherlode with this one, green-lighting "anonymous" (corporation-funded PACs) unlimited campaign contributions. Like the so-called "Patriot Act", which gives businesses the right to exchange their customers private information for business purposes, had "Citizens United" been named for what it does - Citizens Excluded, Corporations United, or simply Democracy Denied - it would never have passed.

As a result, one voice, one vote has become one share, one vote. Those who don't own stock have no voice, no representation in Congress - yet are expected to foot the bill, take the bottom-feeder jobs, and not make waves. Income disparity keeps the great unwashed barefoot and pregnant.


You don't have to play. Success at life is measured not by the scope of our posessions but rather, by the extent to which we are able to live life on our own terms. Financial independence is possible, regarless of income level, for anyone who has taken time to develop a sound financial plan. The techniques put forth in this blog have evolved over more than thirty years' continuous use into a reliable, efficient method of getting the most out the money you have to work with; the biggest bang for the buck; the greatest amount of satisfaction possible, per dollar spent.

Those who stand to benefit most are young adults who have begun working and earning their own money but are still living with their parents. With few financial obligations (if any), no debt to speak of, and no imprudent spending habits to unlearn, they are in the truly enviable position - a once-in-a-lifetime position, actually - of being able to adopt these methods from day one. Ironically, and precisely because they've never had to struggle financially, that they are also least likely to appreciate the information contained in this blog.

So, parents. If you would like to see your children get started off on the right foot when they leave home, take a moment to check out the blog. Or at least, the Outline. If you think it's a good thing, try to explain why to your kids. Work the exercises with them. If you sometimes find it difficult to ends meet, you may want to adopt these methods yourself. The laws of economics apply equally to everyone; what has worked for others will work for you.


The heart of the process is a set of tables; spreadsheets contained in a Workbook. A SUMMARY Table shows whether you are living within your means. INCOME and EXPENSES tables - essentailly, data-entry forms - show how much money you have to work with, and where it goes. Excalindur, a mashup between a calendar and a ledger, provides all you need to make informed spending decisions. With it you can 1) see whether you'll have enough money to last until payday, 2) tell whether to make that purchase now, or wait, 3) compare various "what-if" scenarios, should something come up, and 4) review your spending history. Being able to weigh a variety of options is handy when you need to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Seeing the consequences, good or bad, of decisions made and/or actions taken in the past, helps you make better choices in the future.

The text covers the underlying principles - the madness behind the method. If the text is too wordy, skip it; you can always come back to it later, once your financial recovery is under way. Though it's good to know how and why the process works, that's not as important as completing the exercises. Doing the exercises is what brings about financial recovery.

Hoving completed the 1000 piece puzzle that is Part One, and able to see both coasts, you will have become so familiar with the inner workings, that you won't need to see the results of every step. At that point, you can "graduate" from Excalindur (the calendar-ledger table) to the Comptroller interface, and administer the process with minimum effort - by which I mean no more than two to five minutes every morning, and five to ten minutes whenever a statement or notification arrives. Where How To Make Ends Meet, shows how to live within your means and still meet all your needs, Navigating Via Autopilot, gives you your evenings and weekends back.


The advantage this method has over others is two-fold:

  1. It provides an objective means of prioritizing expenses
  2. It's efficient

Regarding point one: Other "experts" urge you to distinguish between Needs and Wants. I find consulting Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to be the superior approach.

Regarding point two: These methods don't waste time with moth-worn, archaic, time-consuming tasks that drive people to distraction - itemizing receipts, recording transactions, storage and retrieval of documents. There is simply no need to do any of that any more, because common online banking and credit card company features, properly exploited, simulate those tasks. In 30+ years of making ends meet, I have read my fair share of information on the subject. The only reason I can think of why everybody isn't already doing it this way, is because it's so obvious no one can see it.


The Tables shown in this Guide are for illustrative purposes only, and are non-interactive. Internal functions will still operate, but you won't be able to enter data. When the blog goes live, you'll be able to download a copy of the interactive Workbook here. In the interest of full disclosure, I have no formal background in banking or management. The sum total of my experience amounts to more than three decades of doing what anybody else with a semester of Algebra and an affinity for spreadsheets could do - if forced to make ends meet on a meager income. The only reason you might want to hear me out is because it could save you thirty years. If you're wondering, "Do I really need another Guide on how to manage my money?", all I can say is, if the answer is already out there somewhere, why are so many people struggling to get by?


Handling money irresponsibly creates problems all but impossible to overcome. The more ingrained the habit, the harder it is - and the longer it takes - to turn things around. But no matter how deep a hole you've dug, the sooner you begin to climb out, the faster you'll recover.

Every aspect of handling money responsibly is covered here, from spending less than you earn and saving in advance, to outsourcing the grunt work, so you can focus on spending your way to a better life.

Knowing how to handle money responsibly is key to financial security. For those who feel they need to get a handle on their finances, this blog is a lifeline. No prior experience required. It isn't difficult. We're not trying to put a man on the moon, here. It's not rocket surgery. All you need is a source of income and the tables found in this Guide.

The knowledge I've gleaned over thirty-plus years of making ends meet is presented here, free, for anyone who needs it. I will not take money from people who don't have enough. To those who want to come along for the ride, welcome aboard. I very much look forward to offering my stewardship.

Richard Stringfellow

"The only way to win is not to play"
"In a culture that rewards those who claw their way to the top, everyone at the top has claws"

Nashville, IN USA



© 2023 Richard Stringfellow

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