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thWhat’s the weirdest thing you ever did to save money? That’s a question that the GO Banking Rates blogger Christine Lavignia asked of me and 29 other personal finance writers. Here’s my answer:

“As a 21-year-old single mom, I was a clerk at a big-city newspaper, where an editor would ask me to run to the cafeteria for coffee for reporters, ‘and get something for myself, too.’

I would pocket the 35 cents it cost to buy an orange drink and purposely get more sugar packets than necessary; that way, I’d get an extra buck or so a week (these were 1979 dollars) plus sugar to take home for my oatmeal.

“I don’t know about ‘weird,’ but it’s certainly sad. … Just one more reminder that since I had very few resources, I’d better be creative about meeting needs for myself and my baby. My various hand-to-mouth coping strategies were pretty useful much later, when I was a mid-life college student and broke divorcee.”

Edited for clarity: I would get two or three sugars per cup of coffee. Some reporters used that much, others didn’t. At times certain writers would cut back to zero sugars for a while (maybe because they wanted to lose weight). No matter what, most weeks I brought at least a few sugar packets home.

The other answers can be seen at “The weirdest thing I did to save money.” In my opinion only a few of them are truly weird.

My favorite? “I scrounged in the Lost and Found for a free swimsuit.”


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th-1Because it was torn. Duh.

But seriously, folks: I had four pairs* of underpants with tears along seams. Side seams are especially susceptible. As the holes got bigger I’d stop using the garments.

But since I have enough for only about nine days, it bugged me that nearly half of my unmentionables were out of service. Naturally I kept vowing, “I’m going to fix those,” and just as naturally I kept putting it off.

Sometimes I’d wind up wearing the decommissioned drawers anyway due to laundry-day timing, and the stressed seams didn’t always appreciate it.

That bugged me even more. But as my friend SonyaAnn would say, it clearly it didn’t bother me enough. When it did, I’d do something about it.

Saturday was that day. I got out my sewing basket and spent just under half an hour repairing those seams. That included time to rethread the needle once.

Was it worth my time?


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IMG_20150503_130130A couple of weeks back I gave away a 2016 calendar created by “Tundra” artist Chad Carpenter. Or would have, if the winner hadn’t been from Canada.

Not that I have anything against our brethren to the north (or, in my case, to the east). It’s just that mailing the calendar would have been ridiculously expensive.

That’s why I note that winners from outside the United States will receive a gift card instead of mailable items. In this case, I sent the reader a $15 Amazon.ca card.

Which means, of course, that the calendar is still up for grabs. So is a $50 gift card of your choice from the Swagbucks shop. But first things first.


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thAt the end of April I got some unpleasant news concerning my teeth, news so unpleasant that it made me want to go out and waste money. Regular readers know that would indicate some serious upset.

As I explained in “How to avoid takeout,” the Maryland dental bridge I’ve had for 31 years needs replacing due to a cavity underneath it. The first stage — cutting apart the bridge, fixing the cavity and crowning the tooth — would cost approximately $1,222.

Today I had the first part done and the appointment revealed both very good and very bad news. Typical.


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The 876 scam is back.

thWhen the phone rang yesterday and caller ID noted an “876” area code, a warning bell dimly clanged in my head. Some kind of scam, I think. As I started to say so, DF answered the phone.

“Hello…Pretty busy, actually, what’s up? Oh, really? Well, send it to me.” He ended the call – and along with it, our chance to win $8.1 million dollars in a foreign lottery.

Yep, the 876 scam is back. Previous scammers have claimed to be associated with Publishers Clearinghouse, UPS, loan originators or credit repair agencies.

The crooks explain that once they’ve received a wire transfer or prepaid card to cover “taxes and fees,” their prizes will be sent along.

Of course that sounds ludicrous. But people fall for it all the time – especially the elderly.


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