th7 Heading to Austin, Texas. Got any insider tips?I’ll be in the Lone Star State’s capital city for a few days in early August. Anyone who lives there/near there or has visited a lot have any insider tips to share?

DF has suggested the Harry Ransom Center, at the University of Texas. I’m also interested in the Texas State History Museum. And, of course, in good barbecue.


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th6 Junk food: Sometimes it just tastes good.It’s National Junk Food Day, apparently. And me without a single Moon Pie in the house.

In fact, I’ve eaten quite well today. Breakfast was oatmeal made with half yogurt whey and half water and flaxseed, plus half of the last banana in the bunch (shared with DF, because I’m kind like that).

For lunch I had rice topped with roasted vegetables – carrots, broccoli, Walla Walla onions and home-grown turnip, plus a dish of homemade yogurt mixed with a spoon of homemade orange marmalade and more of that flaxseed.

If only I’d known about the holiday. I might have gone to McDonald’s for breakfast and Burger King for lunch. Nothing says “bad for you” like a single meal that holds all calories needed for the entire day (with way too many in the form of grease).

On the other hand, I did eat white rice instead of brown. So am I junking out sufficient to the day?


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th5 Go to the movies on me.Summer blockbusters mean lots of things: excitement, drama, peril, animation, pratfalls, talking animals, jokes about body parts.

They also mean a nice break from reality in a dark and air-conditioned room. In some areas of the country that’s a really welcome respite.

But given that the average cost of a movie ticket is more than $8, movies can put a hurt on the budget.

That’s why this week’s giveaway is a $10 Fandango gift card.


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th 1 How much underwear do you have?While chatting with a relative recently about small vs. large savings, I mentioned that I wasn’t interested in making my own laundry soap. The money saved would amount to about 8 cents per load, and DF and I generally do no more than six loads of laundry per month (and usually fewer).

The relative was shocked: “We do two or three loads a week for just the three of us.”

Then again, one of those three is a very active 8-year-old – in other words, lots of dirty clothes. That also means an extra set of sheets each week. And for all I know, that family uses a bath towel only once.

That’s how I grew up; my mom didn’t think it was sanitary to reuse a towel. Boy, did I get over that idea when I moved out on my own.

But that got me to thinking: Are we really grimy people for not caring whether the towel gets used, reused and re-reused?


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th 1 150x150 Go win a $1,000 Visa gift card (before 9 p.m. July 17).I thought that might get your attention. Expedia and Savings.com are giving away three $1,000 Visa gift cards on Thursday, July 18.

I see no reason why all three shouldn’t be won by S&T readers. Here’s how to enter:


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th4 150x150 Swimsuits, gleaning and Christmas in July.For women, there are two kinds of bathing suits: the kind you promenade in and the kind won’t fall off when you dive into a pool/get hit by a wave.

The latter actually happened to me when I was a young teen, down at the Jersey Shore. Luckily my feet were planted in the sand so the suit bottom didn’t have a chance to float off, but for a few very anxious seconds I felt like the little girl at the end of this old Coppertone ad:

July is the best time for discounts on both bathing suits and summer clothing, according to a merchandising specialist at Retail Me Not. Tips for finding good deals on such can be found in my current post at RMN’s The Real Deal, “What to buy in July: Celebrate the best of summer, right in your own backyard.”


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th3 Vortex, shmortex: Just stay cool.The other day I wished I could send some of our weather (52 degrees and raining) to the parched areas of the country, especially to farming regions. Turns out that the Gulf of Alaska was thinking along the same lines.

The Midwest and, eventually, the East Coast will be feeling the effects of “a poor man’s polar vortex” in the week to come. That’s what Washington Post weather editor Jason Samenow calls the “deep pool of cool air” that will dip down into the Great Lakes region in a day or so.

You’re welcome.

Before and after, though, U.S. residents worry about the cost of keeping cool. Nearly two-thirds of the 2,035 people surveyed by HomeServe USA are concerned about the hit that air conditioning will have on their budgets. Yet 55 percent will suck it up and pay whatever it takes to chill out.


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GetAttachment 2 e1405054770498 Win the medium flat rate box of Alaska.

Cheap-ass burn phone not included.

The tourists are back, pouring out of great big ships and tour buses and wandering the streets in their matching windbreakers. Although some people grumble, I say “bring it.”

As in, “bring your money and spend it here.” Tourism has added more jobs than any other basic industry since 1990, according to the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

Besides, the annual visitors remind me what a fascinating (albeit cussed) place Alaska really is. They remind me to stop and take a closer look at the things I see every day but that other people save for decades to be able to afford to glimpse for a week or so.

And if you can’t afford your own Alaska visit just yet? Enter to win the medium flat-rate box of Alaska.


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th1 A simple price comparison can save you thousands.When it comes to saving money, pick the lowest-hanging fruit first. A new survey from Insurance.com compared the per-minute value of tactics such as changing cellphone carriers, carefully pricing new vehicles and seeking a better car insurance rate.

Shopping for insurance won quite handily, with a value of $54 per minute.

A cynic would call that pretty convenient, since Insurance.com has an auto-insurance rate comparison tool. But the fact is that consumers often benefit by using a tool like this.

In part that’s because a change in circumstances – reaching the age of 25, getting married, moving, taking a job with a shorter commute, even improving your credit score – can mean better rates. But it’s also because even reasonably intelligent people wind up overpaying from the get-go and fail to do anything about it.

I know this because I overpaid for car insurance myself. Way overpaid. For way too long.


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th 8 pointed questions to ask before you buy.A comment on a Get Rich Slowly article got my attention today. In “Four ways to make money with your old junk,” a woman posting as Winterlady noted one of the tactics she uses to prevent overbuying:

“I hold the item and think ‘How quickly will I want to garage-sale this?’”

Having seen more than a few like-new or still-in-the-shrink-wrap items at yard sales, I expect her comment is not particularly flippant.

I also liked another thing she said: “It is easier to control the purchases than figure out how to dispose of them.”

This.

I’m a big fan of informed consumerism, i.e., of asking the right questions before you decide to buy something. In a post on Wise Bread, I described the queries along the lines of, “Do I really need it? Do I already have something like it? Is there a way to get it for free? If not, what’s the most affordable way to get it?”

Yet even after applying this frugal filter, you sometimes just waaaaant something – right now. That’s when you ask yourself a question like the one cited by Winterlady.

I’ve got a few more to add. They’re not all questions as such, but they should encourage a little self-interrogation.


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DONNA F For the best FinCon14 price, book by Monday night.Once again I’ve been chosen to present a program at the Financial Blogger Conference, which takes place Sept. 18-20 in New Orleans.

According to the organizer, Phil Taylor, I’m apparently the only person who’s been involved all four years. So I guess it’s really not just me who likes to hear myself  talk.

The “early bird” pricing ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday, June 30. So if you’re a blogger or want to be one, sign up now for the best deal (more on that in a minute).

Or just attend because you’re intrigued by personal finance and/or would like to hear writers talk about what they do.


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th 1 Giveaway: $10 in Starbucks scrip.As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I’m always bemused by the reaction when I offer Starbucks gift cards as a giveaway. The last time I did this I got 226 entries. For a $10 card!

Then again, it’s summer and even though I don’t care for the bean I do have to admit that the cold drinks at Starbucks are pretty refreshing and tasty.

That is, unless they trash them up with coffee.

Win this week’s $10 giveaway, though, and you can order whatever you like.


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