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How to avoid takeout.

thYesterday I woke up with this phrase in my head: “Something about the bridge.” Not the conveyance type of bridge, but the kind in my mouth.

Unfortunately, my dentist appointment proved that my precognitive flash was correct. The X-rays showed decay in a place that can’t be fixed unless the dentist removes the cantilevered bridge (aka a “Maryland bridge”) to do it.

That bridge was on borrowed time anyway. It was installed 31 years ago. When I said as much, the dentist’s eyes widened. It’s had an impressive run, but time for it to go. And for a crown to be placed on that tooth.

My self-funded dental insurance covers only preventive work like X-rays and cleaning. The work needed will run a little over $1,200 if I pay by check. Which I will, of course.

My decidedly non-frugal reaction was to say, “Let’s go out to eat.” You can see that I wasn’t thinking clearly.


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th-1The typical U.S. resident will pony up big-time on or around May 10. According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, we’re planning to spend an average of $172.63 on things like brunch, jewelry, gift cards and, of course, flowers.

That’s about $10 more than we spent last year. It isn’t clear whether that’s due to an improvement in the economy of just plain old guilt.

Or maybe the things we want to give (more on that below) are pricier this year?

My mother died in 2003. I never came anywhere close to spending an adjusted-for-inflation $172.63 for a Mother’s Day gift. If I had, she would have raised the roof.

On the other hand, I did visit her whenever I could – and since I was coming from Alaska those were some pretty pricey tickets. Travel definitely averaged out to more than $172.63 per year, especially when I brought my daughter and/or then-husband along for the ride.


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thYesterday I used every clothespin we own to fill the line-on-a-pulley that DF put up last fall. The sun was out, the temperature was in the mild mid-40s and our laundry was going outside.

The comforter, blanket and pillows went outdoors, too. That’s something we do year-round because fresh air = wonderful sleeping. But right now we don’t hang things out until after 10 a.m., when cottonwood, aspen and willow pollen levels drop.

Although I developed seasonal allergies in my late 40s, I’m not complaining: Pollen in the air means spring is finally here. Real spring, not calendar spring.


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th-1Today I wrapped and deposited $16.50 worth of quarters, dimes and pennies from my piggy bank. Dropping all my change in there is just one of my savings challenges, i.e., a way to set a few dollars aside without too much pain.

Lately I’ve been enjoying another form of stealth savings: Digit, a personal finance app that automates withdrawals.

You link your account — some 2,500 banks and credit unions are currently set up for this — and the software figures out how your money comes in and goes out. It also figures out how much you can afford to spare, and every few days it sends money to an online bank account (Digit’s partners are Wells Fargo and BofI Federal Bank).

What interests me is the amount Digit has decided I can afford. Whereas my blogging colleague J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy reported total withdrawals of just under $200 the first month, my dealings with Digit started started small.

Very small. That first week Digit siphoned off just $7.46 – for a good reason.


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A coupon miracle.

Want to save 50% at the supermarket? Here's help.The last time I visited my daughter I lost my coupon holder, a black nylon wallet with pasteboard dividers. FLOUR/SUGAR. CRACKERS/SNAX/DESSERTS. DAIRY PRODUCTS. TOILETRIES. FROZEN FOODS.

I emptied my backpack and suitcase. Nothing. We took the place apart but couldn’t find it. Abby called the stores we’d visited. No luck.

This truly bummed me out, and not just because of the coupons it held. I’d had the holder for at least 25 years after ordering it from a Parade magazine ad, and it had seen a lot of hard use.


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