thMore than 1,500 museums in all 50 states will be open free of charge on Saturday, Sept. 24 during the annual event known as “Museum Day Live!”

Or, rather, they’ll be open to those who take advantage of a Smithsonian magazine offer: a ticket good for two people to any participating museum.

What are you waiting for?


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thIt’s the 150th anniversary of the first U.S. nickel, and Mary Hunt is weighing in. The queen of frugality has teamed up with Sunoco to celebrate the birthday of the humble half-dime, which not so coincidentally is the per-gallon amount saved  by Sunoco credit card users.

Given the reaction to a giveaway of Hunt’s “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement” – or, heck, to anything she has written – I know that plenty of my readers are her fans as well. That’s why I jumped at the chance to chat with Hunt.

She’d given some tips to the Sunoco campaign, such as planning meals around each week’s grocery specials and making your own laundry soap for a cost of – you guessed it! – five cents per load.

That’s frugality, though: Little tweaks that add up to big results. And since like me she is a fan of small change, we chatted about the special power of specie. 


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thToday is Sept. 1. Thought about your holiday shopping yet?

Yes, it’s early – we’ve still got about 16 weeks to buy and wrap – but the smart money is on early planning.

A cash-back shopping site called Dollar Dig stands ready to help you out – both by saving you money on purchases and by sponsoring a giveaway of Amazon gift cards. Five winners will be chosen, for one $50 and four $25 cards.

Regular readers of my site know that I’m a diehard cash-back user. Not ordering through one of these sites is like begging to pay more than you must.

You’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up at Dollar Dig. Once you’ve earned an additional $20 in rebates you can request a withdrawal.

How do you get those rebates? By buying stuff you were going to buy anyway – and by starting your shopping tour at DollarDig.com. Here’s why.


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th-1Hey, San Diego-area readers: You’re invited to the Money Meetup on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The free FinCon16 event is sponsored by USAA and organized by Jason Vitug, founder of the Phroogal blog and author of “You Only Live Once: The Roadmap To Financial Wellness And A Purposeful Life.”

Here’s the beauty part: You don’t have to attend the Financial Blogger Conference to enjoy the meetup. It’s open to the public.


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YourPlaybookForToughTimes3DAfter several weeks of waiting for review blurbs and dealing with daily tech glitches, “Your Playbook For Tough Times” is finally here.

See? I really wasn’t pretending to write a book.

You can buy it as a PDF*, to be read on laptop or tablet, for $1 less than the Kindle version. Another discount is available if you purchase both a paperback and a Kindle product.

A frugal hack of a frugality book, you might say.


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Cards and consequences.

th-1(I’ve decided to re-publish articles now and again in honor of what the kids call Throwback Thursday. Enjoy.)

On Tuesday I participated in a TweetChat sponsored by Ally Bank, on the topic of “teaching kids the value of money.” One of the responses from another participant frankly startled me.

The question: “When is the right time to talk to your children about credit card debt?”

The answer: “I’d say when they have their own card (and a real sense of consequences), most likely as a freshman in college.”

After picking my jaw up off the kitchen table, I sent out this response: “Waiting till they have their own card is like waiting til daughter gets pregnant to say, “Don’t misuse that thing, y’hear?”


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thI’ve written before about why online surveys can be worth the time. Making money by sharing your opinion sounds pretty good – especially compared to the times you shared your opinion and then had friends stop inviting you to parties.

In my upcoming book I note that while you won’t earn a full-time wage doing this, you’ll at least bring in some extra money and/or gift cards, and maybe even get some new products to test.

For example, I was paid to cook a taco dinner, try a new shampoo, use a new kind of mop, eat a new variety of chocolate chip cookie and join a focus group about doughnuts that earned me $60 for less than three hours’ worth of work (but which, unfortunately, left me obsessing about crullers).


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Physics and frugality.

thRecently I had fun trying to recognize the desiccated ingredients of the boiling bag I was emptying into the slow cooker. After a few minutes of frugality CSI (cooking scene investigation), I identified the following:

Onion skins, Asian greens (they’ve gone to seed so I’m removing the last small leaves), teeny-tiny green apples (to avoid stressing our newly planted trees, DF took off most of the fruits), carrot tops and greens, potato peels, and small green tomatoes (jumpers from our greenhouse plants).

Also cucumber peels (from fruits too high in cucurbitacin to eat as-is), red romaine leaves (too bitter after bolting for salads, but fine for broth), green-bean ends, squash blossoms (from our blue Hubbard plant), dandelion greens and a little chickweed (because revenge).

After adding a freezer container of vegetable cooking water – from corn, peas, lentils, potatoes and green beans – I had quite the potage de garbage going. Cooked and drained, it smelled a lot like Campbell’s vegetable soup and tasted even better.

All this recycling reminded me of the notion that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but rather transformed from one form to another. In our home, food gets created – we grow the stuff as well as cook it from supermarket ingredients – but it never really goes away.


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thI just got back from voting in the primary election, a civic duty made pleasant by the beauty of the weather: blue skies after many days of rain, big puffy clouds and a slight breeze that stirred the faint but unmistakable fragrance of decaying vegetation.

Yes, summer is on the wane. Wildflowers and gardens alike are dying back – hence the smell of plant life sinking gradually to earth. Birch leaves are falling like golden rain in my BFF’s back yard. Most of the fireweed has spawned out, although a few defiant pinky-lavender blossoms still show up here and there.

The sun’s angle and intensity have both changed noticeably. As I noted in the linked article, “August sun compared to June sun is like a social kiss: close enough to get its point across but far enough away to feel like display rather than true affection.”


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thThe time to prepare for disasters – or even moderate inconveniences – is before they happen. This week’s giveaway can help.

The Penny-Pinching Prepper: Save More, Spend Less and Get Prepared for Any Disaster” is the latest book from Bernie Carr, she of the Apartment Prepper blog.

Ignore the stereotypes about wild-eyed prepper nutcases stockpiling bullets and Spam. Preparing for power outages, extreme weather and the like just makes sense. In fact, the government urges us all to have at least several days’ worth of supplies on hand. Just ask anyone who’s ever lived through an ice storm whether it’s a bad idea to be a prepper.


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GetAttachmentThumbnailThis vegetable plate represents summer in our yard and greenhouse. The red tomato slices are Czech’s Bush, the oddly colored ones are a Siberian variety called Black Prince, the cucumber is called Space Saver and the garish beets are Detroit Dark Red, pickled in a bonehead-simple recipe of vinegar, sugar, water, cinnamon and cloves.

In making that plate I flashed back to the covered-dish suppers of my youth. Each table in the church basement had a cut-glass dish of pickles, olives and pickled beets (or something quite like it). The suppers tended to happen in fall and winter, so freshly sliced tomatoes and cukes weren’t on the menu.

After an unusually sunny June and July, we’ve been treated to near-constant clouds and rain. “State fair weather,” we call it. Great for the rhubarb and raspberries and other outdoor crops. Not so much for the greenhouse tomatoes, which are bursting with fruit but ripening more slowly than we’d like.


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thWhen was the last time you had your cholesterol checked? How about your hearing or vision? Sam’s Club can help.

More than 600 of the warehouse stores will provide a handful of free health tests this Saturday (Aug. 13) – and you don’t have to be a member to take advantage.


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