th-1Some money experts come across as professional scolds who harangue us about the bad things we’ve done and the good things we haven’t done.

No wonder some people prefer to unload their money woes to friends. Even if our pals gently point out our goofs, at least they’re not telling us how stupid we are.

The problem is that not all friends will hold us accountable, either because they don’t want to hurt our feelings or they don’t know much about money themselves. Thus we run the risk of getting advice that’s well-intentioned but not really in our best interests.

Ever confess to having gone a little off the rails at the mall only to have your BFF blithely chirp, “Oh, well, it happens to all of us!” Or fret about how you shouldn’t have gotten such an expensive car and have some other dude say, “Aw, come on! Live a little!”

Beverly Harzog won’t tell you anything like that. Instead, she’ll be the friend everyone should have: One who cares enough to convince you to get control of your spending and who offers to stand by you every step of the way.

Harzog recently released a new book, “The Debt Escape Plan,” and it’s up for grabs in this week’s giveaway.


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thToday I got my first paycheck since Nov. 29. At times this self-employment thing is for the birds.

My tax guy suggested I pay myself four times a year instead of monthly. It makes the paperwork easier, but part of me believes the quarterly system stinks.

That would be the part that’s been monitoring the checkbook balance – and suffering periodic panic attacks – since Thanksgiving.

Yet another part of me is glad that I’m not collecting 12 paychecks a year. The quarterly payouts help me keep my frugal edge.


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KohlsSpring Giveaway

Every so often Savings.com gives things away through its affiliates, the DealPros. I’m happy to give readers a chance at the latest promotion: a $50 Kohl’s gift card.

Twenty of these cards will be given away. Here’s how to enter to be one of the winners.


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thFrequent flier miles? Trading in hotel loyalty points? Those all work. So do the tips I offer in a guest post called “Destinations on a dime: 10 tips that will change your wandering ways,” a guest post over on The Real Deal, the house blog at Retail Me Not.

Anyone who’s read me knows that I’m more likely to go for hostels, museum reciprocity, buddy passes public transit and the Megabus.

Rewards programs, too; in fact, I recently cashed in points from a rewards credit card to get a Buffalo Wild Wings gift card for my trip to Phoenix next month (more on that in a minute), and will also cash in Swagbucks points for gift cards to Red Robin and Cracker Barrel. That way I can treat my daughter and son-in-law to a few meals out. After all, they’re getting me to and from the airport.

What else have I been writing lately? So glad you asked.


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th-1The Academy Awards have come and gone. Seen the prize-winners yet?

The summer movie season is nearly here. Got your must-see list going? (I’m looking at you, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Might even spring for a midnight screening.)

Ticket prices are a bummer, but I can help. That is, I can help if you live near an AMC theater and win this week’s giveaway. I can even offer you something to drink.


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thCohabit in haste, repent in poverty. Or at least in aggravation, according to a recent survey from Rent.com.

“How finances will be divided” is the top issue that survey participants wished they’d talked about before sharing space. What a surprise.

“He/she doesn’t pay enough of our expenses” is a recurring theme in advice columns and, I’d bet, in couples’ counseling offices. If I had one suggestion to anyone planning to move in together, it would be “talk about money – and keep talking.”


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Eaters of pie.

thToday being Pi Day I joined the who-knows-how-many folks across the country (and maybe around the world) celebrating mathematics through pastry.

I rarely jump on bandwagons, probably because so few involve pies.

What I should have done was kick back with a book, given how hard I’ve been working on my just-launched writing course. Yet every time I bake a pie I think, “Damn, this is good! Why don’t I do this more often?”

Probably because I’m busy with other things, or because desserts like rice or tapioca pudding are so much simpler. However, since our springlike weather (temps in the 30s) disappeared and we’re back to zero or thereabouts, I decided a little comfort baking was in order.


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That headline isn’t a command, but rather an announcement about the personal project I’ve hinted at lately.

Now it can be revealed. The project is an online course called Write A Blog People Will Read, and it’s available starting today because I just couldn’t resist a Friday the 13th launch date.

The above link is to the course’s website, but don’t click it just yet if you’re interested in taking the course. I’m offering a short-term deal of 20 percent off to my loyal readers. Were you to click on the link above, you’d pay retail – and you know how I feel about that sort of thing.


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thThe answer is “yes.” The cost of male-to-female or female-to-male operations may be a legitimate tax deduction.

Here’s another one for you: It’s possible to take a tax deduction when you lend money to someone who then defaults on the loan.

And did you know that if you foster an animal from a nonprofit charitable agency you can claim certain expenses on your tax return?

Me neither. But I don’t feel bad about it, because the tax code is well-nigh impenetrable. When the NerdWallet personal finance site surveyed 1,015 U.S. residents last month, the average score was 51 percent.

In other words, we flunked IRS 101.


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thLady Liberty is back. Or, rather, some dude wearing a Statue of Liberty costume is back, and standing outside a local tax-prep place. Instead of lifting a lamp beside the golden door, he’s waving a get-your-taxes-done-here sign at the passing traffic.

I’ve seen at least two dudes dressed this way lately, greenish robes bulging over winter wear and spiky crowns sitting uneasily atop messy mops. The facial hair is a bit jarring, since the real Lady Liberty is clean-shaven.

Being willing to don a silly costume and stand outdoors in the cold tells me something about these guys: They want to work.


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thOne of my most reliable frugal hacks is using discounted gift cards to pay both for everyday and special purchases. Depending on the card you can save as much as 35 percent. Only amateurs pay retail.

You can buy certain types of cards at a discount at places like Costco. My favorite way to get them is through the secondary market. One of those resellers, GiftCardRescue.com, has offered to sponsor this week’s giveaway: a $50 Target card.

GiftCardRescue.com sells cards for more than 600 merchants. Use them to save consistently on the things you buy regularly (pet food, hobby supplies, groceries, gasoline, meals out) as well as for holiday shopping or special projects. I saved more than $100 on gift cards for materials for a greenhouse DF is building. But I also keep a McDonald’s gift card on hand so that I can treat my nephews, and I never pay full price for toiletries (Walgreens), haircuts (Regis) or movies (Cinemark).

And yeah, sometimes I send away for discounted GCs for my weekly giveaways.

GiftCardRescue.com also buys unwanted cards, paying up to 92 percent of face value. So if a well-meaning relative gave vegetarian you some steakhouse scrip at Christmas, why not sell it and use the cash for something more suitable?

Easter is coming and Target is a great place to get basket makings and spring fashions for the kids (and the grownups). Even if you don’t have kids or celebrate that particular holiday you’ll likely find something you want or need at Target.

(For best-practice shopping tips, see “Target deals: How to save big at your favorite retailer,” a piece I did for Grandparents.com.)

To enter the giveaway, use your e-mail address to log in on the Rafflecopter widget below. After that, enter your e-mail address again to sign up for the  GiftCardRescue.com newsletter.

This is different from the usual giveaway procedure, so I feel the need to emphasize it. The winner’s name will be chosen by Rafflecopter. Leaving your name in the comment section won’t enter you in this giveaway.

The deadline is 12:00 a.m. PST Wednesday, March 4. GiftCardRescue.com will notify the winner, so make sure to use an e-mail you check regularly.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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thAs you may have noticed, I haven’t been doing a lot of in-depth writing lately. In part that’s because I was ill for a while and then spent eight days visiting my daughter.

The real reason, though, is that I’m doing on a personal project that’s taking most of my attention. Not quite ready to talk about what I’m working on, except to say this: It’s neither a book nor a baby.


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