A mess of beans.

th-1The temperature is about five below zero, which isn’t unusual for an Anchorage winter. Even though we’re hard by Cook Inlet, it still gets chilly in the winter.

This hasn’t been an ordinary winter, though. We’ve had hardly any snow and temperatures in the 30s and even the low 40s, which is just against God. When it finally started snowing the other day even non-skiers like me were greatly relieved.

But apparently my blood has thinned, because as the thermometer settled toward the zero mark I was unreasonably cold. Wool socks weren’t keeping my feet warm. A fleece layer was necessary even in the car. I considered pulling out the long johns and maybe even zipping my coat.

Clearly what was needed was a mess of beans.

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thThe last movie-based giveaway drew 135 entries. That shouldn’t have surprised me, because relatively few people would turn down a free movie ticket. I’d like to win a free movie ticket myself.

But this week it’s your turn, not mine. The giveaway prize is a $10 card to AMC Theatres.

Think of it: At least one (and maybe more than one) movie you don’t have to pay to see. Just swipe that card and enter your local palace of dreams.

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thRegular readers already know about my daughter’s blog, I Pick Up Pennies. They probably also know about her 19th year, when she nearly died from a rare neurological disease.

Since then Abby has gone through a lot of physical and psychological torment. She spent a couple of years on disability due to a lack of jobs that meshed with the residual effects of Guillain-Barre syndrome. (The fact that she found not her “dream” job but the World’s Best Boss is miraculous.) Post-traumatic stress disorder and a mental health issue that’s finally been diagnosed as Bipolar II have made it hard to get through some days.

Her husband lost his job shortly before the wedding, and his own health issues have worsened to the point where he is now on disability. The two of them bought a house before they were really ready (i.e., before they had a big enough down payment) in order to take in his bankrupt parents.

A careless driver hit them and totaled the car that was supposed to have lasted them another four or five years. Home, car and other issues have continued to pop up (almost $17,000 in 2014 alone). In the past few years she has endured five miscarriages and is considering whether or not to try again.

So how’s she handling all this? With an astonishing perspective, if her current blog post is any indication.

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thWhat were you spending on gasoline six months ago? Nationwide, the cost of gasoline dropped for more than three months in a row starting in late September 2014.

According to the American Automobile Association, we’re paying an average $1.11 per gallon less than this time last year.

A question for long-haul commuters and casual drivers alike: Where’s that money now?

How to save money from falling gas prices,” my recent post on Get Rich Slowly, suggests that you don’t let this opportunity slip away.

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th-1Recently at the recycling center I found a few Box Tops For Education coupons in the mixed-paper bin. As I walked back toward my vehicle a woman rolled down her window and said, “Why are you going through the garbage?”

I told her I was looking for Box Tops For Education for my nephews’ schools. Also that I prefer to think of it as mixed paper.

The woman frowned. “Well, I don’t like it. Some of the stuff we throw in there is kind of sensitive. Private.”

Um. What?

It took me a couple of seconds to form a coherent response. “You should be shredding that stuff! If you throw personal information away without cutting it up you could have your identity stolen.”

She sniffed audibly, then drove off.

Readers: Do you ever throw away things like bank or credit card statements or health insurance info? If so, please stop it. Right now.

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Screen_Shot_2015-01-06_at_4.54.26_PM_t670In 2002 Kelly Sangree got fired. She was eight months pregnant, her (now-ex) husband earned only a quarter of what she did – and they’d already been having trouble paying the bills.

The couple struggled financially and ultimately broke up. Due to health issues (hers and a daughter’s) Sangree moved in with her parents and scrambled to contribute to the household while paying off debt accumulated during her marriage.

Sangree wrote a book about her experiences. If you’re facing reduced income for any reason – job loss, rapid debt repayment, an entrepreneurial dream – then “Hard Core Poor: A Book On Serious Thrift” can help.

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thWant to get a glimpse of what young people are facing? “The Millennial Next Door Revealed: How to Be Financially Successful in Your 20s,” a free e-book from MoneyTips.com, is available starting today. (Click on the link to get your free copy.)

Author Katie Holmes notes that millennials (those born between 1981 and 1994) face a faltering economy and high student debt, along with a lot of withering generalizations (entitled, narcissistic, lazy). Mostly I agree with her; in fact, I believe that millennials have gotten a raw deal, economically speaking.

Although I have an issue with the ways its conclusions were drawn (more on that in a minute), I think “The Millennial Next Door” offers some valuable info on the mindsets of this cohort. And I’d say that even if I weren’t one of a couple of dozen personal finance writers contributing money tips to the work.

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thAt this time of year anger begins to build toward the Internal Revenue Service. We collect W-2s and other paperwork, we dread the tax forms and we resent the United States government.

Some consumers aren’t furious with Uncle Sam right now, but they sure are ticked off at Intuit.

The company made major changes to the Deluxe version of its popular TurboTax software, removing several forms (including rental income and capital gains) and nixing help with filling out self-employment and small business income.

Some consumers who already bought the software have found they must pay up to $40 more for an upgrade. Guess what? They’re not happy about that.

“Generally everybody directs their ire at the IRS. This year, TurboTax is catching the hate,” notes tax journalist Kay Bell.

If you were one of those early birds, don’t despair: H&R Block wants to give you a free replacement product.

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thAnother quiet and rewarding weekend here at Chez Low-Key. “Rewarding” refers not just to R&R-value* but also to our finances.

Among the highlights:

A little Dumpster wading. While dropping off recyclables I checked the mixed-paper bin, as usual. This turned up 70 points for the My Coke Rewards program and also two glitzy gift bags (one Christmas, one birthday).

Using the wood-fired dryer. DF did a load of laundry late on Saturday morning and I arranged it on our drying racks in front of the fireplace insert. Some of it was dry by evening; all of it was dry by Sunday morning.

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thAs I recently noted in “A simple way to save $159k,” people with poor or nonexistent credit will feel the sting of higher interest rates. Specifically, they’ll pay an average of $159,464 more in interest over their lifetimes, according to Credit.com’s Lifetime Cost of Debt Calculator.

The number-crunchers over at Credit.com have now revealed the states with the highest and lowest lifetime credit costs. Alaska isn’t in either the top or bottom ten. However, the state of my birth, New Jersey, is home to the fourth-highest average lifetime cost of debt. Yay.

Short form: If you want to pay less, improve your credit score and then move to Iowa.

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thA recent survey from Consumer Reports noted that 75 percent of shoppers had paid off their 2013 holiday purchases by the end of February 2014. However, some were still paying for their celebrations in late November, i.e., almost a year after the fact.

True, that was just 7 percent of respondents. Still disturbing, though. Then again, I find it unfortunate that it takes some people two full months to pay the tab in full.

Afraid to open the January credit card bills? Personal finance author Donna Skeels Cygan calls this a “holiday hangover,” i.e., the lingering pain of overindulgence.

This kind of hangover isn’t one “you can simply sleep off,” says the author of author of “The Joy of Financial Security: The Art and Science of Becoming Happier, Managing Your Money Wisely, and Creating a Secure Financial Future.”

In this case, the hair of the dog is twofold:

  • Owning any mistakes you made this year, and
  • Learning from them.

Here’s how.

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th-1The Academy Awards are approaching. How many of the likely-to-be-nominated flicks have you seen?

It’s a little scary how expensive a movie ticket has gotten, yet for some films there’s just nothing like the big screen. This week’s giveaway will give you a head start.

If you win, you’ll get your choice of either a $10 Fandango gift card or a $10 AMC Theatres gift card. That should cover (or nearly cover) the cost of a nighttime screening. Skip the popcorn and go to a matinee or a second-run house and the scrip could pay for two films.

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