One year ago today was the “soft launch” of Surviving and Thriving. I never thought I’d be the kind of person to write a personal blog.

Turns out that I can be that kind of person, when properly motivated. Specifically: I wanted a place for all the topics that aren’t a match for my day job at MSN Money. Writing about how to stretch a buck is challenging and rewarding but I have other thoughts to express, too.

I write about money a lot over here, too, but Surviving and Thriving isn’t strictly about frugality. Neither is it about navel-gazing. (My navel isn’t all that interesting. No one’s is.)

Now that I’ve gotten through one year and 317 posts, I would like to say a heartfelt “thanks” to you, the readers. Thanks for reading, for coming back week after week, for leaving comments.

To celebrate the one-year mark, the usual giveaway features 21 prizes and will last two weeks rather than one. The top prize is everybody’s favorite: an Amazon.com gift card. And it’s a big one.

read more

Your ATM card is a tool, just like a credit card — or a hammer. The powers of all three can be used for good, or they can land you (or maybe just your thumb, sometimes) in a world of hurt.

read more

Editor’s note: A version of this post (written by me) originally appeared on MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog.

When the going gets tough, it’s tempting to invoke our grandparents and their tribulations during the Great Depression.

I’m about to commit cultural heresy: A lot of their advice wouldn’t help us.

read more

I’m getting an income tax refund this year. Well, let me rephrase that. I would be getting a refund, except that I’m applying it toward the quarterly taxes I pay as a freelancer. Whee!

What are you going to do with your refund, if any? My former MSN Money colleague Liz Weston suggests spending 10% of any windfall on something non-essential. So go ahead: Treat yourself.

But don’t let the rest of the money trickle away. Invest it in something, or several somethings, that will benefit you for the rest of the year – or even for the rest of your life.


read more

If you take Real Simple’s “When-to-wash-it handbook” as gospel, then I’m a total pig. Apparently I should wash my jeans after four to five wearings, launder my PJs every three or four days, and spend $10 on four ounces of a special swimsuit shampoo.

I don’t do any of those things. Oink, I guess.

Good thing I don’t wear silk PJs – Real Simple says they’re supposed to be washed daily.

In fact, I don’t wear a nightgown at all except in the winter. Sorry if that’s TMI for you. But I have an even dirtier image to share: Sometimes I wear a shirt twice before washing it.

read more