Sunday Conversation #7 with Frugal Dad

Welcome to Sunday Conversation #7! If you would like to participate in next week’s Sunday Conversation, simply ask your question in the comments section of today’s post and I will respond next Sunday. Remember, any subject is on the table (but keep it family-friendly).

Sherri asks a follow up question to my ideas on how to find about a community when considering relocation.  “You say WHAT to look for in a new place to live, but I think the hard part is HOW to find out about those things in a realistic way. For example, when checking out schools, the information on the web is usually insufficient or lopsided. I think talking with live people who are there – prospective bankers, realtors, etc. – is more helpful. Who would you recommend to talk to, and what other avenues of gathering information would you use?”

I think some of the most objective opinions you can get are from area small business owners, and as you suggest, realtors.  Try to think of industries related to the type of information you are seeking.  For instance, if you are interested in schools, drop by a teacher supply store, or maybe a locally-owned children’s clothing store.  Owners there should be able to shed some light on the various school zones in the area.  For general “town gossip” there is no place like a hair salon or barber shop.  Stop in for a trim and talk up the stylist or barber to find out more about the area.

An anonymous commentator asks, “Do you think that psychotherapy is a good personal and financial investment? I have a severe anxiety problem and my pastor at church thinks that I need to address it through counseling before I get married in the next six months. I have checked with several behavioral health facilities and many charge 100 dollars or more an hour. I have good health insurance but it is a shame that even some of the best insurance (like mine) barely covers any of the cost of behavioral health visits.

I have plenty of money saved up and I have a very well paying job. But I could potentially spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on these sessions and it might be a rip off and/or not even work at all!

Would I be better off getting free books at the library or trying Yoga or something and saving the money? My fiance is very supportive but I don’t want this to be an issue in our marriage. Any ideas?”

First of all, I would highly value the opinion of your pastor because he knows more about your story, and has likely counseled dozens, if not hundreds, of people in his position.  From a purely economic standpoint, I can understand your concerns over the cost of therapy sessions.  Have you checked with your human resources office at work?  Some companies offer a number of free visits per year for behavioral health issues.  Personally, I would deal with this as I would any other type of health issue.  It has the potential to damage your relationship with your fiance, and could ultimately cause problems at work–affecting your ability to earn a good wage.  For those reasons, I consider therapy an investment in yourself.

Luke asks, “How do you find the time to do web work as well as spend enough time with your family?”

It isn’t easy. In fact, these last few weeks have been more challenging than ever.  This is the busiest time of year at my full time job, my wife is in an AirCast thanks to a severely sprained ankle, and I have been covering all household duties for the last several days.  To make more time for writing, without sacrificing time with family, I have adjusted my schedule a bit.  For instance, at the time of this writing it is 11:50 on Saturday night and I am catching up on writing while others are sleeping.  During the week I will typically rise around 4:30 to get in a couple hours of writing, site work, etc. before having a quick breakfast with the kids and then heading off to my full time job.  It isn’t easy, but I enjoy writing, and if I am ever going to make something of a side career out of this I will have to do it at odd times while I “earn a living” during “normal” hours and work in some quality time with the wife and kids while they are awake.

Dawnf asks, “I was wondering where is a good place to put the 3-6 month savings cushion? My bank suggests a money market fund so it’s liquid but I worry that I could lose part of my principle by doing this. I could stagger it in Cd’s that come due in different months & just take a risk I might have to crack it earlier to get a better rate or put it in savings? Just curious how others handle this type of an issue.”

We have the first $1,000 of our emergency fund in a local bank savings account earning a ridiculously low interest rate.  I have it there for the sole purpose of having immediate access to local, liquid funds.

If you are not concerned with inflation, but more with the risk of money market accounts versus CDs, I would suggest you go with what you are comfortable with.  However, most money market accounts and money market funds rarely, if ever, lose value like stock and bond funds do.  It is possible, but the likelihood is that your capital invested in money market funds is safe.

Do you have a question you would like to see answered here next week? Simply post a comment to this article below and I’ll include your question in next week’s Sunday Conversation.


  1. I have an anxiety disorder (bad enough that I had a nervous breakdown and dropped out of college at one point.) I can’t even articulate how much therapy helped me by teaching me coping mechanisms, helping me figure out triggers, etc.

    No amount of money is worth the stress (physical and mental) that an anxiety disorder puts in your life and in your loved ones’ lives.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Frugal Urbanite. I agree with you that for situations such as this the amount of money required to treat a particular disorder or health issue is nearly irrelevant. What matters most is your health, and your ability to go through day to day activities.

  3. Yoga’s not going to help with severe anxiety, and if books were effective, wouldn’t you have gone that route by now? There’s no better investment than your health and life.

    Once you get to a therapist, if you don’t feel that you’ve “clicked,” take your money elsewhere. But DO keep knocking on doors until you find someone who can help you. It’s worth the effort.

  4. Hey Frugal Dad,

    For the reader questioning the merits of psychotherapy. I have been a therapist for the past 20 years – therapy does work, but it works best if you believe it will work. As for cost, I have always worked for a non-profit counseling agency. I recommend the reader check this out in his/her community. Usually, we have both paid staff and graduate students – if you are concerned about having a student, just ask for someone who has been with the agency for more than one year. Gone are the days when agencies were staffed with nice – but, unqualified – people just wanting to help – we are all educated and committed to helping others. In our agency, all staff have a minimum of a Master’s degree (I will be finishing my doctorate next month) and students are required to be enrolled in a Master’s program. Most of the paid staff also have private practices. Your local Crisis Clinic will have information about agencies in your community.

  5. When we moved we were looking at two school districts. I was trying to get people to offer opinions before buying a home but were not getting good definative information. We finally decided to stay within one district and told the real estate agent. I had asked her previously her opinion and she did not mention anything bad. When I told her that we had decided to stick in the one district she finally said she thought that was a good choice. I eventually got out of her that she was unable to tell me that the other district was a bad area or anything negative.

  6. On checking out an area for relocation, if it is a small town, I would suggest getting a few copies of the local newspaper – drop in to the local library – or subscribing for awhile if you can’t visit in person. Sometimes an online version can be subscribed to that will allow you to look at the archives. In our area, following the paper for awhile, and reading the letters to the editor, would give you a decent idea of whether or not you’d want to be in that school district or not. Look for things such as funding problems and squabbles in the letters to the editor. The community section would also give you an idea of activities available for kids in the area.

  7. If you are relocating because of a job, ask the people you are going to be working with. That is what my husband did. He started his job in March and went ahead of us and asked around about schools in the area. That was a big plus for us when deciding where to buy a house.
    I agree with FD and Marci, try banks, libraries, children’s stores, or even a local gymnastics/ballet business. There are always moms sitting and waiting on their kids. You could talk to them there.

  8. Frugal Dad:

    What are your thoughts on disclosing details to your children about having financial difficulties? While growing up, my parents had their own business so cashflow was always suspect. They did their best to insulate us from their money woes, but they weren’t very good at hiding the stress they were under. Despite these difficulties, they did managed to scrape together money (or debt) for school-related expenses, the occasional persuasively worded request, birthday gifts, and Christmas gifts.

    What’s your take on this?

  9. “Do you think that psychotherapy is a good personal and financial investment?”

    If someone has an issue that is impacting their work (earning potential) or family life (potential for divorce), I would say that this would be an excellent investment.

    @Marci: “I eventually got out of her [realtor] that she was unable to tell me that the other district was a bad area or anything negative.”

    In my opinion, realtors are little more than taxi drivers and MLS searchers when they are trying to help you buy a house. I have used a few and was able to extract very little useful local market information because they seem to not want to say anything negative. To me, this certainly limits their value.

  10. To the anonymous questioner: you know how you wrote in to ask this question as anon? Well, guess what, if you use your insurance to pay for your psychotherapy your employer can and oftentimes will find out – then your not anon anymore! Ask yourself if you want your employer and future employers to know about it (I would think not). The only solution is to pay out of pocket for the expense. It is well worth it though if you can afford it.