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thEver wonder why some frugality tips get recommended over and over? Here’s why: Because they work.

A handful of hacks helped DF and me save four hundred simoleons in just three days.

The biggest-ticket item was our stove, which has been faltering. Since the appliance is at least 30 years old, DF was disinclined to call a technician. Since both of us are disinclined to pay retail, I sent away for $550 in discounted gift cards to a certain home improvement center (which I bought through a cash-back shopping site) and we started watching for sales.

He’d figured that $550 would be enough for the stove he wanted. But then we got lucky.



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thThe sore throat started developing late Friday afternoon, but I ignored it: We had hot dates both at my friend Linda B’s show* and a concert by the Cypress Quartet** and I refused to miss either one.

By the time we got home I felt pretty lousy. The sore throat was worse, I ached all over and I had that burning-eyes-and-nose sensation that suggests sinus involvement. No fever, though, so I’m inclined to think “virus.”

However, I’m reminded of the one good thing about being sick: Reading.

 


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IMG_20160204_140957 copyBack in December I gave away some of my friend Linda B’s handcrafted jewelry. The response was so enthusiastic I’ve decided to do it again, in time for Valentine’s Day. Also in time for her “First Friday” event tomorrow evening at the 2 Friends Gallery here in Anchorage. (If you’re in the area, you should go.)

Once again I wish I were a better photographer. But I’m not, so you’re just going to have to trust me with the details about these pendants.

This time around Linda started with a copper disk and a copper rectangle, knocking both of them silly with a texturing hammer. You can catch a glimpse of this detail despite my sub-par photography.

Next she added colorful metal accents and some copper ones, attaching them with rivets she makes out of heavy-gauge copper wire. Each of these comes with an 18-inch cord.

These would be fine Valentine’s Day gifts if that’s the sort of thing you do. They’d also do well as birthday or Christmas presents — or maybe for a little self-gifting. As one of the characters in “Steel Magnolias” put it, what separates us from the lower animals is our ability to accessorize.

 


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thWe played a lot of Monopoly and other board games when I was a kid. Cable television hadn’t been invented and there were no movie theaters, arcades, skating rinks, bowling alleys or shopping centers in our little township.

Some of these things existed nearby, but they might as well have been on the moon: Not only was there no public transit in our region, there was not much disposable income in our lives.

Hence, hours and hours of board games. I don’t think that we understood Monopoly’s underpinnings: Get rich by ruining everyone else! One thing I’m sure we didn’t get was the square that read “luxury tax.” We groaned when we landed on it because it cost us money, but the word “luxury” was not in our vocabulary.

We had everything we needed, mind you, but much of it was homegrown, homemade or handed down. Luxury was something we saw on TV, maybe, but I never figured it could apply to people like us.

As adults, we can choose luxury if we’re willing to pay for it. Which brings me to the idea suggested by a Get Rich Slowly reader: a DIY luxury tax.

 


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thRecently the two bottles of Method foaming hand soap in our bathroom were on their last few squirts. They’d been there since I moved in almost three years ago. (Tempus fugit!)

We also keep bar soap by the bathroom sinks, which is probably why the bottles lasted for three years’ worth of handwashing. The foamy stuff is undeniably easier to use than the bars, though.

It’s also easier to use than regular liquid soap. You get exactly what you need, vs. squirting out a surplus that either slides off and down the drain or that takes too long for an impatient child to wash off all the way.

Neither DF nor I are exactly children. (Chronologically, anyway.) But we’ve been watching his granddaughter about once a week and my two great-nephews also visit. Given that children are two-legged petri dishes when it comes to the latest viruses, I’d like to make it as easy as possible for them to wash their hands.

Since I’d remembered reading a recipe for foam-refill soap, I went prospecting online rather than pay full price. Even if it were a relatively small saving I thought I’d give it a try.

Good news: It was an easy frugal hack.

Better news: We already had what we needed on hand.

Best news: The saving was actually pretty decent.

 


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thWhat a weird non-vacation it’s been so far. After arriving midday Monday I was pretty hazy. Far too much of Tuesday and Wednesday were spent doing interviews and writing up a last-minute freelance job that I couldn’t turn down. (Hint: It’s not only quite lucrative, it’s also leading to more paying gigs.)

Edits were waiting when I got up this morning, but the S.O.B. is finally done! At least until the copy desk comes a-knockin’. And we’re on our way to eat ribs at Bobby Q’s, so life is looking better all the time.

But that’s not what I came here to talk about.

 


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th-1El Niño is messing with us. Whether your weather is running weirdly hot or punishingly cold, chances are you can use a little treat. That’s why I’m giving away $10 worth of Starbucks gift cards.

If the winner lives in subzero territory it’s time for a steaming coffee, chai or hot chocolate. Maybe a second one, too, to pour over his or her frozen toes.

And if you’re walking around in shorts and a T-shirt in Philly or New York? Further the “hey, it’s spring already!” illusion with a fancy iced drink. (Or hang on to it for the inevitable return of cold-and-damp days, when you’ll really need a little consolation.)

 


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Yesterday I saw a funny letter reproduced online, purportedly written by a St. Louis guy who decided not to lend his 6-year-old son $20 to buy something.

He created a logo – Dad Savings and Loan: Because Apparently I Look Like I’m Made of Money – and explained why the loan had been declined. Among other things, the child had “insufficient funds and a history of not doing (his) chores.”

In addition, “over $80 has been spent on discretionary entertainment expenses since Christmas…an unsustainable amount of expenditure, and we cannot further compound the problem by financially assisting with (further) debt at this point.”

Dad-poses-as-bank-to-reject-loan-for-20

Classic! And it touched a particular nerve with me. Here’s why.

 


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th-1Readers and writers: Want to talk about personal finance, blogging techniques or life itsownself?

I’m heading to Phoenix on Monday and hope you’ll join my daughter and me — and possibly some bloggers to be named later — at a casual meet-up on Saturday, Jan. 23.

I’ll be in town to visit my daughter, who blogs at I Pick Up Pennies. Abby and I will hold forth from approximately 1 to 4 p.m. at the Wendy’s restaurant (see “casual,” above) near her home. We’ve staged meet-ups there in the past and it’s been quite pleasant. Management doesn’t seem to mind if we loiter and talk.

And talk. And talk.


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thChandler Bolt’s “Self-Publishing School” will soon be in session once more. In the meantime Bolt is offering a free mini-course on dreaming up, writing, publishing and promoting your fiction or nonfiction book(s).

You can register for the first video, “How To Become A Bestselling Author in 2016,” starting today.

Bolt describes it as “the exact blueprint to go from blank page to bestselling author in just 90 days — even if you’re busy, bad at writing, or don’t know where to start.” Registration also gets you a free e-book, “Book Launch Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Launching A Bestseller,” by Tim Grahl.

 


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thRecently we had DF’s granddaughter over for about six hours. Midway through the visit I heard this conversation coming from the living room:

“You don’t have a TV.”

“That’s right,” DF replied.

“I want you to have a TV,” said Rose, who recently turned three.

“I don’t want a TV.”

“I want to watch TV,” she clarified.

“If you want a TV, you buy it,” DF replied.

Rose laughed merrily. “Noooo, Opa, you buy it.”

“We don’t need a TV here,” DF said.

A few seconds later Rose had forgotten about our household’s screenless state, being more interested in playing with a few ornaments from my tabletop Christmas tree.

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics re-drew its recommendations on very young children and screen time. Back in 2011 the AAP had suggested no screen time at all before age two, and no more than two hours per day for kids older than that. Right around that time the first iPad appeared.

 


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thA little news you can use before the weekend, beginning with free health screenings at Sam’s Club on Saturday, Jan. 9.

All the Sam’s Club stores with pharmacies will offer the following tests to anyone who walks in (i.e., you don’t need to be a club member):

  • Blood pressure
  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
  • Glucose
  • Body mass index
  • Vision and hearing (at some locations)

The estimated value is $150. If you’ve been wondering about glucose or cholesterol, get yourself in there and find out where you stand.

 


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