1491708069 b 187x300 Help with living a life of passion.Having trouble getting started with your goals? Can’t seem to get it in gear to build the business, create the service, learn the skill or write the book you know will make a difference? Motivational speaker and accountant Onyx Jones can help.

She knows a little something about change and growth. Once a homeless single mother, Jones now has a master’s degree in accounting and is a motivational speaker.

She’s turned the latter into a book called “The Unofficial Guide to Achieving Your Goals,” which is this week’s giveaway.

“(After) committing to following all seven steps, you will see improvement in your quality of life in just 30 to 90 days,” says Jones.

This slim paperback (66 pages) is designed to “motivate, inspire and provide you with tools for achieving your goals and living a life of passion.” And those seven steps mentioned above? If you’re not the kind of person who likes to follow directions, maybe this book isn’t for you.


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th10 The fascination of DIY Cool Whip.Yesterday I made a bowl of raspberry Jell-O because cooking – even if it’s just boiling some water – is a great work-avoidance tool. So much easier to postone sitting down at the computer if you can tell yourself, “I’m fixing dessert.”

I ate so much Jell-O as a kid that I rarely indulge, save for turning the powder into a scary-looking (but delicious) rhubarb cake. But it’s a big treat to DF. Whenever he opens the fridge and sees a bowl of the stuff he’ll sigh happily and say, “You made Jell-O!” as though it were a tremendous culinary achievement.

We didn’t have bananas or even fruit cocktail to jazz up the gelatin, let alone Cool Whip (another of DF’s faves). That’s when I remembered Amy Dacyzcyn’s recipe for homemade whipped topping.

Oil or cream?

I’d been fascinated by the idea – DIY Cool Whip! – since I noticed it in “The Tightwad Gazette II” a couple of months ago. Nobody kicked frugal patoot like Amy Dacyczyn, so I was inclined to follow where she led.

The ingredients: powdered milk unflavored gelatin, sugar, oil and water. Lots simpler than commercial Cool Whip, whose label contains more than a dozen ingredients – including high-fructose corn syrup, skim milk, light cream, sodium caseinate, natural and artificial flavors, xanthan and guar gums, sorbitan monostearate and polysorbate 60.

Yum.


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th9 Free money for staying put.I am officially an Alaskan once more: The state has determined me eligible to receive the 2014 Permanent Fund Dividend.

During my previous residence here (1984-2001) we used to joke that the PFD checks paid for our obligatory visits to visit family back on the East Coast. Now that I’m on a tighter budget, I’m going to follow the sage advice of Liz Weston: Keep 10 percent for whatever you want, and send the rest where it can do some good.

In my case that means 90 percent will wind up in my Roth IRA. The rest? We’ll see.

How much money are we talking? The ballpark estimate for 2014 is $1,800. That’s a lot of money just for staying put.


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th8 9 smart ways to use all that extra cash.Over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, Crystal writes about a friend with a problem that plenty of people wouldn’t mind having.

“They are now earning more than they need to pay their bills, and they wanted my advice on what to tackle next.  I love those kinds of conversations!” says the blogger.

Among her suggestions: emergency fund, retirement, various types of insurance, paying down existing debt, and health savings and/or flexible spending accounts. All good choices.

What would you do with extra cash? Maybe you haven’t thought about it, being too focused on keeping the books balanced or paying down debt. But there could come a day when you either get more money (a raise, a windfall, a side gig) or need less money (debts paid off, kids leave home).

Start thinking now about what you’d do with it, for two reasons:

  • It helps keep you focused on your goals (prepaying a mortgage, helping a child through college), and
  • It will help you spend when the time is right.

You might think that second one sounds silly. “Help me spend? I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to agonize over every dime!”

Then again, you might be surprised.


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q Giveaway: The Economy of You.The personal finance publishing industry has recently seen a run on books about entrepreneurism. That’s probably because the side hustle has become a reality to so many people — up to 25 percent of U.S. residents currently freelance or work second jobs.

And those are just the ones surveyed. My guess is that the numbers are higher.

Among the best of the books I’ve seen “The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life.” The author, Kimberly Palmer, is a full-time writer and mom of two who started her own side gig, an Etsy store called Palmer’s Planners.

It wasn’t about getting rich, but rather to earn enough “to be in control of my life,” says Palmer, senior money editor for U.S. News & World Report.

Want a piece of that yourself? Enter to win the book.


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th7 How NOT to cure boredom.Today’s press release from Ebates bothered me a good deal. The cash-back shopping site recently surveyed 1,000 people and learned, among other things, that 49 percent use mobile devices to shop while waiting in line.

Apparently it “cures boredom.”

All the Internet at your fingertips – the chance to download millions of e-books for free, listen to amazing music, view more cat pictures than anyone really needs – and you decide to kill time by shopping?

Couple of things, here:

  • How long are the lines in which you’re waiting?
  • How’s your budget holding up under this anti-boredom tactic?

I understand that even five minutes in line can feel endless. It isn’t, since you do eventually get to go home. Even if it turned into half an hour of waiting, is there no other way to occupy your mind? (See “cat pictures” et al., above.)

Possibly some of these folks aren’t actually buying, just shopping – the equivalent of window-shopping in place. After all, some people can walk through a store and look at lots but leave empty-handed.

But the Internet is superb at creating need where none exists. Oh, that funny T-shirt would be perfect for your brother. A skin-care shop is having a sale on products in your favorite scent. What an interesting herbal tea sampler, and your tisane-loving BFF could use a little pick-me-up….

Throw in free shipping and you’re gone. As is a chunk of your budget.


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th6 150x150 Want a $100 Amazon card? Join this TweetchatA watched pot never boils, but an unwatched pot full of raspberries and rhubarb can make a real mess of your stovetop.

Yep, I’m back from Florida and I’m making yogurt. And messes.

I didn’t get home until 1 a.m. Tuesday and was so glad to be on the ground I didn’t care that it was covered with snow. Total time between waking up in Tarpon Springs, Florida and getting into my own bed in Anchorage: 23 hours. Alaska is really far away from a lot of places.

Since then I’ve been scrambling to play catch-up with several different projects (including multiple interviews for one of them), so I have neither time nor inclination to write something deeply meaningful. However, I wanted to do a quick roundup.


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Want to get? Try giving

th5 Want to get? Try givingA writer named Revanche, who blogs at A Gai Shan Life, recently wrote about a friend who’s “against” volunteering and giving to charity.

His rationale: “He feels that he worked really hard to get here and doesn’t feel that he got any help so he doesn’t feel he should give back to the community at large.”

He did work hard, putting himself through school and supporting family members at the same time. So did/does Revanche, who’s still supporting “two adult dependents who aren’t my children.”

What her friend doesn’t seem to get is this: He may not have asked for any help, but it would have been there had he needed it.

Suppose he’d become very ill and unable to support those family members (or himself) during that time. No one would have starved. They could have sought temporary assistance from government agencies but also from nonprofits and private charities funded in part by ordinary citizens.

You know, your neighbors. Fellow human beings. People who think that a few of their extra dollars would have more of an impact outside their bank accounts.


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51PYxmmqqGL. AA300  150x150 Pay your taxes like the rich.In a recent post called “How to be a side-gigger” I noted that the four books mentioned in the article would eventually go up as giveaways.

Here’s the first one: “Outsmarting the System: Lower Your Taxes, Control Your Future and Reach Financial Freedom.”  

Written by former IRS auditor Anthony Campidonica, the slim volume explains several ways that ordinary people can use a group of tax benefits, i.e., those for the self-employed. You could be an entrepreneur (full- or part-time), a landlord or an investor.

What if you don’t have the wherewithal to open a store, buy a rental property or invest like the pros? Start small, the author advises. Sell your expertise or a product on the side vs. quitting your day job and diving in. Or save up for that foreclosure or repo and go the renovation-and-rental route in your off hours.


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I want to vanish.

th4 150x150 I want to vanish.I sort of already have: DF dropped me at the Anchorage airport at 10 p.m. Tuesday and I hit Tarpon Springs, Fla., at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. For the next five days I’ll be visiting my dad and my sister.

Timing-wise, not great: When I made the reservation a couple of months ago I’d planned it as a barely-any-work vacation. But recently an unexpected magazine assignment came in and an established deadline got moved up a week.

So the time I thought I’d spend hanging with family, doing a bit of sightseeing, and taking long walks and longer baths has turned into a “how to balance interviews with vacation.”


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th3 150x150 How much does your suitcase weigh?I sure learned some interesting things about luggage while researching my latest piece for Retail Me Not. My favorite factoid was how light the bags are getting. Modern bags can weigh as little as 3.3 pounds – much easier on the arms, and also providing more wiggle room as regards an airline’s 50-pound luggage limit.

Randy MacKenzie of Edwards Luggage, a family-owned store since 1946, does monthly “how to pack” seminars in the family’s four San Francisco-area stores. Packed for two weeks of travel, today’s lightweight carry-ons can weigh in at 21 pounds. (Hint: That gives you room for 29 pounds’ worth of souvenirs before you start to pay extra.)

A few of her favorite manufacturers:

  • Rimowa: Lightweight and incredibly durable, this manufacturer offers colors that won’t embarrass the business traveler – “an absolutely gorgeous chocolate brown, a beautiful navy blue, a very dark purple.”
  • TUMI: Lightweight with “some really spectacular colors.”
  • IT Luggage: These semi-deconstructed, very basic bags weigh as little as 3 pounds and come “in all the colors of the rainbow.”
  • Swiss Army: These “youthful-looking” bags are less expensive but still wear well.

I love my own Delsey case, but if and when it ever gives up the ghost I’ll be looking for lighter luggage — from Delsey or someone else.

Just FYI: Large bags are still available if you’re heading for a cruise that requires formal wear or some other special garb. (Fun fact: Cruises exist for fans of nudism, Elvis, Shakespeare and “Star Trek.”) But a carefully packed medium-sized bag will generally do just as well, according to MacKenzie.


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th2 150x150 My minor celebrity moment. Whats yours?

Photo courtesy of Free Images (pachd.com)

During its musical revues the old Fly By Night Club sometimes included a “Minor Celebrities” bit, inviting audience members to write down their furthest-removed brushes with fame. During intermission the cast would pick what they thought were the best – and again, the more tenuous, the better.

Thus we’d hear things like:

“I take dance class with Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon’s wife.

“My great-uncle invented Cheez Whiz.”

“I once heard Brian Keith belch when I walked past his house in Hawaii to go surfing.”

“I used to carpool a kid whose mother’s father embalmed Babe Ruth.”

All these snippets led, naturally, to a book. The title: “Elvis Presley’s Pharmacist Was My Sunday-School Teacher.” 


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