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(I’m taking part in the “Tell Your Swagbucks Story” promotion at the Swagbucks rewards program site.)

When my daughter first told me about Swagbucks, I figured it was just another frugal hack, i.e., a way to earn a few rewards cards and boost my budget.

It was. But it’s become so much more.

Over the years, the Swagbucks rewards program has become a way for me to eat better, slash my gift-giving costs, travel more affordably, send items to people in need and enjoy fresh tomatoes in Alaska – frugally.

Here’s how.


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This video clip was shot the other night, at nearly 10 p.m. Ignore the still-brown grass and look up instead.

 

 

And that, friends, is why Alaskans are a little bit tetched in the summertime.

 


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My friend Linda B. and I went to see “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” on its opening day, and we were not disappointed.

A trash-talking and genetically modified raccoon, a musclebound alien with no social filters, a female assassin with green skin, the assassin’s mostly robotic sister, a (sorta) reformed space pirate and a super-adorable sapling version of the treelike giant alien Groot – what’s not to like?

Given my propensity for finding personal finance lessons everywhere, I went in with pen and paper. Although it was a pretty dark movie (outer space!) I could mostly read what I’d scribbled, and I skipped lunch with Linda in order to go home and write.

 


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Vanilla finances.

Many LOLs were LOLed once I discovered a post called “Vanilla sex: Here, have another helping” on the How To Write Better website.

Writer, coach and humorist Suzan St Maur posted the piece as a way of poking fun at the idea of “vanilla sex,” i.e., conventional, ordinary (subtext: boring) physical love.

St Maur (not a typo – she doesn’t use the period after “St”) wondered if the adjective could be used for other things.

Apparently it can. A few of her examples:

 


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(Happy Throwback Thursday, everyone! This article originally ran on July 3, 2015. Its sentiments are as valid to me today as they were back then.)

Here’s today’s neologism, and it’s a great one: “pre-solvent.” It comes from a comment on one a Money Talks News article called “The real reason Americans struggle to save.”

The article cited a couple of surveys that put the fault not in our stars, but in our cards: “Lifestyle spending” and “lack of financial discipline” kept anywhere from 44 to 71 percent of respondents living paycheck to paycheck and/or prevented them from achieving financial goals.

I’d like to point out that underemployment, lack of education and impossible-to-pay medical bills can also hinder the ability to save. But I agree that the “buy now, figure out how to pay for it later” attitude is definitely nudging some folks toward insolvency.

Which brings us to pre-solvency. A commenter named “Y2K Jillian” writes that she and her husband lived paycheck to paycheck for years and loathed the lifestyle. But change happened.

How? “Gradually, gradually.” Which is how I’d bet it happens for a lot of people.

 


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Over the weekend I went to Fairbanks with my friend Linda B., who had a play in the annual 8 x 10 Festival. It’s a very cool concept: The Fairbanks Drama Association puts out a call for 10-minute plays and, after blind judging, selects the best eight to be performed as an evening of staged readings.

As usual, it was a great evening. Linda’s play, “Here There Be Dragons,” was a delightful mashup of satire, swords ’n’ sorcery, and Pokemon Go. The other seven shorts were pretty entertaining as well, especially one called “Smartphone” – imagine asking the GPS on your phone for directions to a date, only to have the device direct you somewhere else instead and try to get you back together with your former partner. (Not to give too much away, but the phone had a personal reason to rebel.)

We saw swans and moose on the way up and back, had pie at Rose’s Café (although, alas, the sauerkraut pie is no more), bumped into a former co-worker who’s now teaching school in Fairbanks, and ate the sourest sourdough pancakes I’d ever tasted. It all would have been a lovely weekend had that stupid virus not still been kicking my keister.

But that’s not what this story is about.

 


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If you’ve been on the fence about Hulu, this might be the time to do it: This weekend, Swagbucks is offering a $28 incentive to try the $7.99-per-month television service.

Specifically: When you sign up for Hulu you’ll get 2,800 SB points, which translates to $28 worth of gift cards (or PayPal, if you prefer the cash). You could think of this as making $20, or that Swagbucks is paying for your first three-plus months of the cable TV alternative.

But wait, there’s more: If you sign up this weekend you’ll get another 300 SB in your account in May. The total, then, is $31 worth of gift card (or PayPal) power.

So how do you get a piece of the action? Two easy steps (with occasional gusts to three):

 


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As noted previously, I’m close to finishing the sequel to Your Playbook For Tough Times. The working title is Your Playbook For Tough Times, Vol. 2: Needs AND Wants Edition. But the title may be augmented slightly, since long subtitles are a thing among personal finance publishers.

Last night I finished proofing a printout of the manuscript, finding more than a few issues throughout. As I noted in “Try editing on paper,” the mistakes just seem more obvious on flattened wood pulp than they do on a shiny screen.

Very glad I read it this way. Now DF has agreed to do a read-through; here’s hoping he doesn’t find many more gaffes, lest I start doubting my ability to write a useful sentence. After that, I can send it to the formatter and then on to the cover-design guy.

One of the (many) things still to do is continue building a mailing list for the book’s launch. Since my blog readers have been supportive the first time around, I’d like to invite anyone who’s interested to join the list.

What’s in it for you? A discount, and a promise.

 


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A sick-day roundup.

Some people who visit Florida bring back postcards, or ashtrays made out of seashells. I brought a virus: sore throat, chest-tightening cough and general malaise. I’m achy and wheezy (two dwarfs whom Snow White never mentioned) and the switch in time zones messed with my sleep both there and back at home.

Worth it, though, because I got to see my father and stepmom plus my sister, brother great-nephew. I even met a reader named Cheryl, who lives in the area and met me and Dad at Dunkin Donuts for a stimulating discussion about money and life.

Finished the rough draft of the new Playbook For Tough Times while I was there, too. Now all I have to do is edit it, work with the formatter and the cover-design guy, write a press release and start in on promotion.

At that point my inability to take a deep breath will, with luck, be figurative rather than literal. However, if this crud is the same one everyone else has been talking about I could be stuck with it for weeks.

 


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As we neared my dad’s place yesterday I noticed a Dunkin Donuts. It’s been ages since I had a sugar-raised sinker from DD, which operated in Anchorage when I arrived back in 1984 but has long since decamped.

Then Cheryl, a reader from Tarpon Springs, left a comment suggesting a meet-up at a local Wendy’s. She didn’t just pull that locale out of thin air; when I visit my daughter* in Phoenix I always have reader events at Wendy’s.

But…doughnuts. And it’s within walking distance of where I’m staying.

Anyone else interested in coffee and crullers? Cheryl and I will make room for you at the table.


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On Saturday I hung out the first laundry of the year. We’ve been putting the bedclothes out  air all winter long in order to sleep in fresh air, but this was the first time in months that it’s been possible to dry stuff on the line. (It helped that I’d first tumbled those clothes in the dryer for a few minutes.)

Not that it was super-balmy, mind you. This was mid-30s weather, but a nice breeze blew and the sun was strong and constant. By midday the temperature in the greenhouse was in the 70s. Maybe I should have dried the clothes in there.

The next day DF put the comforter, blanket and top sheet out to gain the benefit of the sun and wind. He had to hang the linens lengthwise to keep them from dragging in the snow. Despite steady daytime melt, the drifts are still high near the clothesline because of DF’s use of the snowblower.

Two days after my second cataract surgery we got another dumping of snow, the first in several weeks. About nine inches fell at our place, plumping up what already lay on the ground. I don’t know how much has fallen this year and I don’t know how much of it was still there after sublimation and melt. But the back yard still looks fairly snowbound.

 


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Last September, the Dollar Dig cash-back site sponsored a giveaway of $150 worth of Amazon gift cards. This was a real win-win, since I like giving things away and you guys like the chance to get them. (The giveaway garnered more than 140 responses.)

Now site owner Rich Chrobak has asked my daughter and me to do posts to call attention to Autism Awareness Month. Since a giveaway does tend to get more eyeballs on a site, Chrobak is sponsoring giveaways in both places.

Here you have a shot at winning an Amazon Echo Dot. On Abby’s site, you’ll be in the running for a SamsungVR headset.

But that’s not the only way Dollar Dig is involved with Autism Awareness Month. Chrobak is putting his money where his heart is: All net profits for the month of April will go to POAC Autism Services, a New Jersey nonprofit that offers support, education, training and activities for families experiencing autism.

And if you like, you can be part of this effort.

 


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