351095 Giveaway: Budget Bytes, a wonderful cookbook.I’ve often said that food is the budget category with the most wiggle room. After all, you usually can’t bargain down your car payment or your rent. Groceries, on the other hand, can be finagled.

That’s how Beth Moncel came to start a blog and later write a book. Her student loans were “eating her alive,” she said, so she had to cut spending. When a car repair knocked her budget sprawling, Moncel decided to spend no more than $6 per day for food in order to pay the freight.

Having earned a bachelor’s degree in nutritional science, she already knew how to make food healthy. Now she just had to make it affordable.

To keep herself on track she created a blog, BudgetBytes.com. Soon she developed quite the fan base, because plenty of us would love to eat well but also cheaply.

Now she’s also got a book, “Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half.” Reading it makes me hungry, filled as it is with ideas like Huevos Rancheros Bowls (served over grits instead of wrapped in corn tortillas), Spinach & Artichoke Pasta, Curried Potato & Pea Soup, Chicken Tamale Pie, Teriyaki Salmon With Sriracha Mayo, Cumin-Lime Sweet Potato Sticks, Firecracker Cauliflower, White Beans With Spinach & Bacon, Savory Coconut Rice, and Southwest Veggie & Rice Casserole.


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th6 Cant get ahead? Try a savings challenge.Years ago I moderated MSN Money’s Smart Spending message board, on which people would post frugal hacks, recipes and other tips to stretch a buck.

The boards went away some years before the Smart Spending blog did; when that happened, some of the most loyal commenters created an alternative universe.

Not MSN Money Proboards” is a place for veterans of Smart Spending and other message boards to stay in touch and keep sharing the wealth. Or, rather, the road to wealth.

One post I checked in on today, “2014 Savings Strategies,” brought up the old custom of “savings challenges.” Those were popular during the worst of the recent recession; you couldn’t swing a virtual cat in the PF blogosphere without running into someone’s post on challenges.

Stuff like:

  • Spare Change Challenge – Every night put all your coins in a jar
  • Dollar Bill Challenge – Like the above, except with paper instead of specie
  • Five-Dollar Bill Challenge – Pretty ambitious, but a little too rich for some bloods
  • Random Number Challenge – Pick a number and every night check the bills in your wallet; if one has a serial number ending in the chosen digit, into the jar it goes

But the Proboards posting also mentioned a couple of new ones.


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th8 7 more kick ass spending tips.My non-traditionally coiffed blogging buddy J. Money applauded another writer’s “Two kick-ass spending tips” – or, rather, his non-spending tips, as they’re designed to curb impulsive buying.

The Stranger Test: Imagine a stranger holding the item you want to buy in one hand and its price – in cash! – in the other hand. Which would you choose?

The Urgency Test: You’re wondering whether to buy something. Ask yourself, “Would I wear this out of the dressing room right now if I could?” If the answer is “yes” and you can afford it, go ahead.

These are the “only two saving/budgeting ideas that I actually follow these days,” the anonymous blogger, Zee, notes on his site, Work To Not Work.

Good ideas both – although I do think the Urgency Test should be tempered with a bit more questioning, e.g., “How often would I actually use this?” (especially as regards things like hand tools and kitchen gadgets) and “Will this make a big enough difference in my life to spend the money?”

Put another way: There’s a reason you see new or practically unused stuff at yard sales. That reason is often, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

I do like Zee’s viewpoint, though — and I’ll see his two basic tips and raise him seven more ways to help avoid overspending.


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How I Make Money Blogging Picture 2 Help with starting your blog. Some people write for love. Others write for money. I say it’s possible to do both, by starting a blog and monetizing it.

Although I dislike that neologism, I do embrace its underpinnings, i.e., that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

This week’s giveaway, an e-book called “How I Make Money Blogging: The Beginner’s Guide to Building a Money-Making Blog,” can kick-start your own efforts to be rewarded for your thoughts.

Some people make a little money blogging. Some make a lot. The book’s author, Crystal Stemberger, is in the latter camp. She really works it, running a handful of sites and also acting as ad-sales goddess, mentor, consultant and freelancer. Apparently she is allergic to sleep, because she recently added yet another specialty: pet-sitting.

Not everybody wants to work 24-7. But if you want to start a blog or if you’ve got a site and want it to start paying its way, this e-book can help. A lot.


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th4 150x150 When it says check engine, believe it. Want to spend a lot of money? Ignore your car’s “check engine” light and cheap out on simple maintenance.

If money is tight, some people will stretch out the times between maintenance periods. Or they’ll ignore the manufacturer’s suggested timeline with an idea they’re being frugal.

Bad idea.


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th3 Blog roundup: Sick as a dog edition.Two weekends ago I came down with what seemed like an upper-respiratory virus: congestion, low-grade fever, and general aches and pains. In addition I felt sharp pain in my face whenever I coughed (which was often).

The fever disappeared within two days but everything else hung on, and dug in. After nine days of feeling that I’d been beaten with several efficient hammers, I reluctantly made an appointment at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center.

“Reluctantly” because I figured there wasn’t much to be done about a virus and that I didn’t have a full-blown sinus infection that could be treated. But I was so tired of hearing my own breath wheezing and clotting that I figured it was time.

Besides, my Aunt Elna was known to have broken ribs while coughing, and eeeewwww.

Professional demeanor prevented the doc from saying “You sound like crap” but I think that’s what she meant. No pneumonia (“although it could turn into that”) so just as I thought: no antibiotics.


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