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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thThat’s not right now, thank goodness. Current temps are in the mid-70s and the sun is benevolent rather than punishing. Flowers are blooming and the sky is blue and generally cloudless.

The grass is actually alive, vs. brown and spotted with swatches of gray snow mold (which is what we’ll see in Anchorage once our disappointing snowfall melts away).

Come March or April the Phoenix metro area will turn into Satan’s Fry Daddy and continue to sizzle until autumn. I expect those nice green lawns will sunburn themselves into dormancy pretty quickly. For the moment, however, I understand why so many people want to visit the place in the winter.

Walking around in shirtsleeves, not worrying about slipping on ice, feeling a breeze that doesn’t have teeth in it – I so wish that DF were here to enjoy it with me. Maybe when we retire we’ll become like so many other Alaska snowbirds and escape the Last Frontier for a month or so each winter. (No longer than that, probably, since he likes to ski.)


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thLast year a line leapt out at me from, I believe, an MSN Money article: “Saving is the new sexy.”

I read it out loud to DF. His response: “It’s the old sexy as far as I’m concerned.”

That tickled me so much that I wrote both statements on a piece of scrap paper and taped it to my work station. Sooner or later, I knew, I’d be writing about this.

Finally I am, thanks to a survey from Ally Bank. It found that three out of four people believe it’s important for mates to share a similar financial philosophy. And the most appealing financial habit?


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imagesI put a card on DF’s coffee cup this morning, even though we’d agreed to opt out of the Valentine’s Day hoopla.

“It’s a frugal card,” I assured him. “Hallmark sent it to me.”

Seriously: I’m a member of the company’s Gold Crown loyalty programs, and Hallmark recently mailed both a love-you card and a birthday card. I was supposed to have had them scanned at the store to earn extra points, but I keep forgetting to do that.

After two years of living together, DF and I still “delight in each other’s company,” as he puts it.

Do we ever. Whenever he walks into the room my heart still does a funny little dance, not unlike the kind you see in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”


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thThe folks at H&R Block recently mailed out a couple of logo items for the 2014 tax season. Naturally I just had to turn mine into a giveaway – adding, of course, a few artistic touches of my own.

There’s a particularly high snafu potential this year due to the Affordable Care Act. Too, there was the customer service misstep by Intuit, which made major changes to the Deluxe version of its popular TurboTax software in a way some customers didn’t like. (H&R Block responded with an offer of a free replacement product; follow the link for details.)

So in advance of any issues you may or may not have, you should enter to win the 2014 Tax Season Survival Kit. It includes:


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thIn honor of Valentine’s Day, a shout-out to all engaged couples: You don’t have to spend the alleged “average” of $30,000 on your nuptials.

In fact, I think it’s smart to consider what you can afford – on your own or with help from family – vs. what wedding planners are so eager to sell to you.

Holly Johnson of Get Rich Slowly agrees with me. “Thirty Gs is a lot of money to everyone I know, and the last thing most of us want is to start a new marriage off with tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt,” she said in an article called “Wedding savings accounts: How I saved for my wedding.”

Johnson’s wedding was low-key, with a total outlay of about $3,000. And guess what? They’re just as married as folks who plan to spend 10 times that amount.


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i-heart-macys

I figured that would get your attention. The crew at Savings.com, which recently offered a chance at a Sony portable sound system, is at it once more: This time, they’re handing out 20 of those gift cards.

I’d love it if one (or more!) of my readers could win. You can try once a day from now through 11:59 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 15.


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thSince last Thursday I’ve eaten very little: toast, dabs of oatmeal, a cup of tomato soup, hard-boiled eggs, a bit of yogurt. In part that’s because nothing tastes good when you’re sick. But it’s also because prolonged coughing spells left my abdominal muscles so strained I frequently felt queasy.

All I could manage this morning was some cocoa, and nothing after that until almost 2 p.m. At that time I knew I should eat something, but what? More oatmeal? Yum.

That’s when I saw the German Butterball spuds DF had brought up from the basement storage. My mind went instantly to mashed potatoes with plenty of butter and salt and pepper.


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