One of the two couples I interviewed in my latest MSN Money column has an adjusted gross income of $30,000 — and is raising kids and paying for a home on that sum.

The other couple is doing the same thing on an AGI of $36,000.

Could you?

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Melinda is the winner of “Shooting Bears: The Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer.” And here’s a hint about this Friday’s giveaway: It’s also a book, one with a personal-finance/frugality theme — and the author is willing to personalize it.

I haven’t been posting as much as I usually do because, well, I’m bushed. It’s taking a surprising amount of time to shake off the fatigue that followed my three-week trip, during which I pushed myself pretty hard.

One more mention of the U.K. and then I’ll get back to my usual mix of PF/lifeitsownself. Here are 7 things I learned across the pond:


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I brought a cold and/or upper-respiratory bug from Cornwall to London. (Should have stuck with postcards, huh?) It worsened the next day so I decided to go to bed early rather than see “War Horse.” The virus had chewed its way into my bones.

Fortunately I’d packed some cold meds. A paranoid traveler is a prepared traveler, as well as a traveler who doesn’t have to go out in search of a pharmacy when she’s feeling like homemade shit.

As I crept along the hostel hallway I saw some young dude using a cell phone. He hung up and said, “Hallo, how are you doing?” Couldn’t place his accent or his provenance.

I replied, “I’m sick and I’m going to bed” and kept moving.

He followed me. “You are sick? What’s wrong?”

“A cold.” I coughed to punctuate/demonstrate. “Good night.”

“You should take a shower,” he said.

That sounded odd to me but I shrugged it off. “Maybe later.” As I pushed the heavy door open I saw the light I’d left on was now out. Apparently my roomies were early-to-bed types, too. So I opened the door as little as possible to keep out the hallway glare and slipped through the narrow space.

And the guy tried to follow me in.

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As I got off the Underground an elderly woman was slowly trailing behind me, pulling a suitcase. I got one of those little mental flashes that said, “Let her go. Watch her.” So I stopped and fiddled with my pack and suitcase until she was in front of me.

The woman went around a corner and I lost sight of her briefly. Then I saw this flash of movement off to my left. It was a middle-aged guy making a Superman-like leap up onto the escalator. I swear he made five steps in one bound.

It was to rescue the elderly woman, who had fallen backwards and was lying all twisted as the escalator moved her slowly, inexorably upwards. She hadn’t made a sound.

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I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for 17 years. About 15 of those years were spent in a trailer whose flat roof needed to be shoveled. My now-ex husband never acknowledged the existence of household or maintenance duties, so I was the one who clambered up.

I was then and am now afraid of heights. The second-worst part of the chore was stepping off the ladder and onto the roof.

The worst part? Getting back on, because there was nothing to hold onto save the top of the ladder, which extended a couple of feet past the roof line.

The first time I looked at the job I knew that getting back down was going to be scary. That’s why I came up with the strategy of leaving a patch of snow next to the ladder.

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