ec Giveaway: The Practical Negotiator.A time-honored frugal hack is to negotiate — salary, real estate, holiday arrangements (your parents’ house? his parents’ house?), the price of that beater you want to buy from Craigslist.

Trouble is, many people don’t really know how to negotiate — they’ve never seen it done, they lack self-confidence or face a cultural barrier with regard to haggling.

This week’s giveaway can help.

The Practical Negotiator: How to Argue Your Point, Plead Your Case and Prevail in Any Situation” was written by Steven P. Cohen, president of The Negotiation Skills Company Inc.

Although some people associate the word with backroom politics or high-stakes business, the author says that negotiation “takes place in the daily life of regular people who are trying to reach collaborative agreement in the family unit, on the job or as a consumer.”


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th6 150x150 A frugal (and cultured!) date night.Earlier this month DF and I had an evening out. It was a classy affair, with wine, freshly grilled meats, beautiful things to see, and interesting conversations with friends and total strangers.

It was completely free, and we can do it every month if we like. Specifically, on the first Friday of every month. That’s when a handful of artsy places in Anchorage (including two universities) have public receptions for new exhibits.

This is an increasingly common practice in U.S. towns and cities. Whether it’s called “First Friday” or “Artwalk” or whatever, it’s a chance to enjoy works new and old – and, often, to get free food.

This has long been a frugal hack for starving students and also for those dating on a budget: something to eat plus a chance to look all cultured-like. But it works just as well when you’re out of school, and also when you’re happily partnered or just want an outing with friends. Who doesn’t want free food and wine?


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th5 The first class stinkeye.I never expected to eat a delicious meal on an airplane. Frankly, I never expect to have a reasonably edible meal on a plane – that’s why I bring my own food.

But flying back from the Financial Blogger Conference I was given a chance to eat celeriac puree for the first time, along with beef short rib bordelaise and green beans.

These things were prefaced by an appetizer salad: a few strips of hot-smoked salmon, a small pile of chopped cucumber and tomato, a few fancy salad greens and a dab of dill crème frache. Oh, and a pecan tart for dessert.

Celeriac puree is pretty tasty, and the appetizer salad was so good that I wanted it to be the entrée. In fact, the foods almost made up for getting the first-class stinkeye. Almost.


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th4 150x150 How to look like a grownup.I’ve discovered the secret to maturity, or at least to the appearance of maturity. This wasn’t what I expected to learn at the Financial Blogger Conference.

Yesterday I had breakfast with the other FinCon14 volunteers. (Fun fact: We’re called “Finions.”) We ate at a place called Café Beignet, because while in New Orleans it’s not just a good idea to eat beignets – it’s the law.

Incidentally, let’s take a moment to call the beignet what it really is: a square funnel cake. Really delicious, but not the doughnut-y sort of pastry I’d expected. Besides, “funnel cake” is easier to say. Whenever I try to pronounce any French word I sound like an idiot.


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20140909 MoneyTips Fincon The retiree screen Res FINAL 207x300 Toward a care free retirement. (This post is part of the “Retiree Next Door Movement,” created by MoneyTips.com. More than 70 personal finance bloggers committed to write about a single issue on the same day to raise awareness.)

When MoneyTips.com surveyed 510 retired and semi-retired persons about their financial habits, I was surprised that just 30 percent considered themselves “frugal” before retiring, whereas 67 percent said they spent “enough to live comfortably.”

Now that they’re not working or working a lot less, the numbers haven’t changed much: 65 percent live comfortably and 35 percent live frugally.

Those numbers should give hope to people who might fear they won’t have the resources to retire. That’s because terms like “comfortably” and “frugally” can mean just about anything you want them to mean.


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th3 Should you drop collision coverage?If you’re thinking about ditching collision, don’t do it based on some imagined formula. Although most people drop it by the eighth year of ownership, there’s no hard-and-fast (fast and furious?) rule.

Or so I found out while researching “When to drop collision coverage – and risk it all” for Insurance.com.

You’re required to have collision until your auto loan is paid in full. It repairs or replaces your wheels when you’re hit by an uninsured driver or when you have an at-fault accident. (Damn you, black ice!)

Insurance.com analyzed data from half a million car insurance quotes and found that year eight is when the biggest number of owners bid adieu to collision. Some swear by “the 10 percent rule”: If the annual premium is 10 percent or more of the car’s value, better to bank those bucks against a replacement vehicle.

But it’s not always that simple. Collision coverage is another example of how those living on the margins pay more.


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th2 300x300 On the road to nowhere in particular. Last week DF and I took a four-day driving trip around rural Alaska, aka “1,200 miles’ worth of postcard views.”

Now that summer is pretty much gone, we decided to treat ourselves to the sights of our too-brief autumn. While we don’t have the scarlets and oranges of New England, the changing colors were still pretty heart-stopping.

Brilliant yellow birch and rich gold willows glimpsed against backdrops of spruce so dark they looked black. Here and there some in-between leaves that gleamed chartreuse in the nearly nonstop sun.

Splashes of red fireweed and redder berry bushes alongside the highway and also carpeting the hillsides. Mountains festooned with blindingly white new snow as well as the more somber ivory of alpine glaciers.

September is a well-kept secret in southcentral Alaska. Most of the tourists have gone home, although we did see some at Denali National Park. Buttoned up to their necks, they were, and seeming disappointed that they didn’t get to see all of Mt. McKinley (which we call “Denali” or just “The Mountain”) due to partly cloudy skies.

At least they got to see the first 10,000 feet of it. Denali is like a stripper who generally doesn’t show you all the good stuff at the same time.


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th 1 150x147 Let me buy you a coffee.It’s that odd time of the year: Sometimes chilly and sometimes balmy. Even here in Anchorage we’re feeling mood-swingy with regard to the weather: in the 40s and raining sideways one day, sunny and in the low 60s another day.

So what do we want: hot chocolate or fancy iced tea?

Whatever it is, I’m buying the next round. This week’s giveaway is $10 worth of Starbucks gift cards.


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th1 150x150 In which I reveal my paycheck.Almost four years ago I wrote a post called “I’ll show you my salary if you’ll show me yours.” In it I explained why I declined to reveal how much money I earned:

“Is there no such thing as privacy any longer? Are we required to tell everything? Myself, I’d sooner talk about my sex life than my salary – and I believe that either one would be an overshare.

“Maybe it’s because I’m in my 50s and am thus a couple of generations removed from the new tell-all culture.  I was raised not to talk about money and certainly never to brag about what you have.

“… Personal finance is exactly that: personal. No one needs to know what I earn or how much my 401(k) lost in the crash. It’s bad enough that people can Google my home address. I don’t want to give away any additional details of my private life.

Well, last week I had a piece up at Get Rich Slowly that revealed all. “Why I voluntarily slashed my salary” talked about my decision to downsize my worklife after Microsoft fired all its writers on the same day.

That decision represented a salary cut of almost 58 percent, possibly more. Would that be worth maybe eating cat food and saying “Welcome to Wal-Mart” when I’m 80? That’s all I could think of at first, but then I did the math and it’s not as scary as I’d feared.


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How spam is made.

th How spam is made. Apparently there’s a spam template floating around the Internetz. Anyone who blogs has likely seen its spawn, i.e., would-be “comments” that sound a lot like other “comments” you received that day. Or the previous week, or year.

That’s because they’re not comments at all. They’re camel noses.

Folks promoting their websites or who are being paid to promote other people’s websites cut and paste chunks of these templates and mass-mail them to every blog extant. Approve them once and they can get into your tent any time they want in the future.

Or, rather, their spam-mails can. If you’re new to blogging, be really wary about which comments you approve. Should the English seem very clunky or the comment off-topic (or a blatant non sequitur), check the return e-mail address/web page attached to the e-mail. You’ll almost certainly see something like “cheap retro Jordan size 8” or “teeth whitening” or “cheap FIF coins.”

Today I got an e-mail from a really clueless spammer who cut-and-pasted the entire freaking template: 2,828 words. Taken together they look like an English-as-a-second-language version of Mad Libs.


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guardians of the galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy and other PF topics.I had a blast watching “Guardians of the Galaxy,” so much so that I later took my great-nephews to see it – a second viewing for all of us. That time, though, I went with an eye toward superheroic money lessons.

Hey, if I can do it for “Parsifal,” “Godzilla” and “Gotterdammerung,” surely I can do it for comic-book heroes.

8 personal finance tips from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’” ran recently over at my day job, Money Talks News. Among them: “Classics endure,” “Good sense trumps sentiment (or should)” and “Judge performance, not appearance.”

Show me another job that lets you charge your movie ticket as a business expense. Other than movie reviewer, that is.


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Wth10 Giveaway: Business in Blue Jeans.ant to start a business? Already own one, but want to take it further? Susan Baroncini-Moe has written a book designed to help you achieve your goals without having to become someone you’re not.

The title says it all: “Business in Blue Jeans: How to Have A Successful Business on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style.“After all, not everybody wants to wear a power suit.

Although the author acknowledges that “circumstance, life path or lack of skill” can make entrepreneurship harder for some than for others, she’s put together as many resources as possible to help just about anybody achieve just about anything.

“Small business is, to me, the essence of the American Dream. Entrepreneurship is the backbone of our economy, and it offers virtually anyone unlimited opportunity, income and freedom. But like anything worth pursuing, it requires effort,” she writes.


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