Alas, it’s not another $100 Amazon gift card. I wish I could give away one of those every week (and keep a few for myself).

However, it is a $10 head start on something you want — and it comes with chocolate!

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My Ani DiFranco T-shirts are fraying. Not before time, you understand: They’re from a 1997 concert in Anchorage, Alaska, which I reviewed. Originally they belonged to my daughter, who went to the concert with me.

The gray tee features a DiFranco verse:

“So I’ll walk the plank and I’ll jump with a smile/If I’m gonna go down I’m gonna do it with style/And you won’t see me surrender, you won’t hear me confess/’Cuz you’ve left me with nothing – but I’ve worked with less.”

The other shirt, a kind of an old rose/mauve color, bears a single lyric:

“Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”

Neither of us could have known that would be the last summer of Abby’s first life. Seven months after that concert she was on life support in the UW Medical Center’s intensive care unit. Guillain-Barre syndrome paralyzed her right up to her eyeballs and nearly killed her. She’d recover function but would never be the same.

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Not a counselor — a coach. That’s the subject of my latest “Living With Less” personal finance column, now up over at MSN Money.

Find a personal money coach, free” explains how you can work to make your finances match your dreams. Generally speaking, counseling is about an issue and coaching is about an individual.

While some programs are set up for low-income workers, others are for whoever needs help. One of the people I interviewed said she and her husband made $95,000 a year but one month they couldn’t pay a utility bill. Their coach helped them clean up their act and now, less than a year later, they’re about to close on a house — with a mortgage that’s $450 less than the rent they were paying.

I’d be interested in hearing any feedback on the column. You can leave a comment there, or here, or in both places.

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Turf wars.

Here’s the only thing I learned this week that’s worth remembering: If the sun is out, mow the damn lawn. I was so embroiled in deadline that I somehow felt I couldn’t take 45 minutes off to cut the grass at my house-sitting job.

“Later,” I kept saying, until “later” turned into “tomorrow.” Except that it rained that day.

And just about every other day, until the house was the only one on the block with a prairie view. At which point it rained again.


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Automatic frugality.

The other day I stopped writing and left the room to go to the euphemism. (We didn’t say “potty” in our house.) As I walked out I turned off the office light even though I’d be gone only about a minute.

At lunchtime I rummaged in the fridge for some cheese, the sausage I brought with me to Alaska and the mustard. The nearly empty bottle was upside down, so the last few drops would be attainable – just enough left for my lunch.

It’s 50 degrees, breezy and raining but I didn’t turn up the heat. I just put on another layer, my fleece Mr. Rebates pullover. (Only recently did I figure out that the logo is a little bag of money wearing glasses. Or maybe it just has googly eyes.)

Welcome to automatic frugality – stuff that’s so ingrained you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Only when someone reacts do you learn that the whole world doesn’t write grocery lists on junk-mail envelopes or pick up pennies from sidewalks.

If you’re lucky, that person doesn’t think you’re a kook. If not, then the wedding is off or you don’t get that promotion after all.


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