th 1 Giveaway: $10 in Starbucks scrip.As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I’m always bemused by the reaction when I offer Starbucks gift cards as a giveaway. The last time I did this I got 226 entries. For a $10 card!

Then again, it’s summer and even though I don’t care for the bean I do have to admit that the cold drinks at Starbucks are pretty refreshing and tasty.

That is, unless they trash them up with coffee.

Win this week’s $10 giveaway, though, and you can order whatever you like.


read more

th9 The call of the Koolickle.Recently DF came into possession of a special report from the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “Land of plenty: Will food save the Delta or be its death?” is beautifully photographed and contains fascinating articles about the foods commonly consumed in the Mississippi Delta.

These range from the expected (barbecue, greens, fried chicken) to the surprising (tamales, kibbeh, Italian, Asian, haute cuisine). A supermarket is the only one in the Kroger chain that grinds its own meat, because the kibbeh consumers demand fresh grind of a specific quality.

This isn’t just a travelogue, mind you. The writers focused on nutrition issues, food deserts and health problems. We also learn about prawn farming, soul food, family-run eateries, blues music, restaurants that turned dying cities into Saturday-night destinations.

And we learn about Koolickles, a Delta delicacy also known as Pickoolas: dill pickles marinated in brine, sugar and double-strength Kool-Aid.

This is the home of the fried pickle, so it’s no surprise that gherkins might receive unusual treatment. But Kool-Aid pickles struck me as both horrifying and fascinating. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

Reader, I made some.


read more

th8 The marvel of an Alaska summer.I am growing popcorn. Really. Last spring a company called Boom Chicka Pop offered free popcorn seeds. Knowing full well that you need either a greenhouse or floating row cover to grow corn successfully in Anchorage, I nevertheless requested seeds because hope springs eternal in the spring.

Ten corn plants are now flourishing in the heat sink that is the south side of our cream-colored home. In about a month’s time they’ve gone from sere seeds to six-inch green stems with multiple leaves, even though that month was marked by near-record amounts of rain and some very cool overnight temperatures.

Will they have sufficient heat and time even to set ears, let alone ripen them? Probably not. But I’m getting such a kick out of watching them grow that I don’t much care.


read more

th7 Want a chance at a decent old age? Have a daughter.When middle-aged sons live with their parents, it’s probably because they’re underemployed or unemployed. But middle-aged daughters are more likely to bunk with their parents in order to take care of them, according to a new survey from Yodlee Interactive.

Men ages 35 to 44 are more than twice as likely as women to receive economic support from their parents, and more than three times as likely than women to live at home.

Oh, and daughters are more likely to provide “emotional” support as their parents age, regardless of living arrangements. In fact, 20 percent of the men surveyed say they do not plan to call or visit Mom and Dad as they grow old. Nice.

Maybe it’s because women are socialized to be caregivers. Maybe it’s because they’re guilted into it. My best friend from childhood cared for her father during a long battle with dementia, and also dealt with her mother’s congestive heart failure, despite working and having two kids.

When she asked her older brother for help he told her that because she was the daughter it was her “duty” to take care of their parents.

I am not making that up. And yes, it happened fairly recently, vs. back in the 1800s.


read more

th4 Ally Bank might give you $100.I figured that would get your attention. The $100 in question comes in the form of Amazon scrip, and two such gift cards will be given away during Ally’s monthly TweetChat on June 24.

That’s tomorrow, in case you aren’t keeping track. The topic is one with which all of us could use some schoolin’.

“Protecting Yourself Online” is just what it sounds like: the latest on security and how to protect your identity and your digital assets. As the Ally wonks note, you wouldn’t give your car keys to a stranger or leave your home’s windows and doors open – yet plenty of us are fairly unguarded online.

According to Consumer Reports, 62 percent of U.S. citizens have done nothing to protect themselves when using the Internet. That’s understandable, since digital security can be a very confusing topic – and since well-publicized data breaches make it look as though no one can really guard against determined hackers.


read more

new book Giveaway: The Cheap Chicas Guide to Style.I like Liliana Vasquez’ style. Not just her sartorial sense, but her common sense. Here are a couple of examples of the blogger and author’s advice:

“Labels don’t define us – they’re just little pieces of cloth that tell you how to take care of your garment.”

“Remember: Style can’t be bought. It comes from confidence and creativity.”

“Age is nothing but a number, but our style has to evolve as we get older whether we like it or not.”

“You don’t have to adhere completely to the fashion world’s rules to curate your own style.”

Vazquez, who blogs at The Cheap Chica’s Guide to Style, from her smart, practical and, yes, thrifty advice. “The Cheap Chica’s Guide to Style: Secrets to Shopping Cheap and Looking Chic” is this week’s giveaway.


read more

th 1 One way to celebrate National Splurge Day.Yet another holiday invented to make you spend money! Just what we need, right? But I’m sorta-kinda okay with National Splurge Day, as long as the splurges are done frugally.

In fact, I think you should splurge on something today – but that you should do so in as cost-effective a way as possible, and with an eye toward postponing future splurges.

Does that mean you can never have nice things? Not at all. In fact, what it means is that you can likely get those nice things faster – but only if you’re willing to grow up, wise up and stop ignoring future goals in favor of fun-right-now stuff.


read more

th6 Information wants to be free. Writers want to be paid.A post on my daughter’s website might get under some writers’ skins. Not mine – and not just because she’s my daughter.

Why I refuse to have a donate button” helped me clarify something that’s been twigging me lately: the proliferation of “please pay me” buttons on personal websites.

Newspapers and other sites are experimenting with paywalls to recoup at least some of the costs associated with professional writing (and, presumably, professional standards). So why not bloggers?

To my daughter, at least, the pay-to-read mentality comes across “as either grandiose (let’s face it, none of us is the NYT) or greedy.”

“Asking readers for money just seems crass,” Abby writes. In part that’s because she associates pay-me buttons with paid content, aka “sponsored posts,” aka “stuff some company pays you to run.” While she acknowledges that not everyone would feel this way, Abby says she’s less likely to return to a blog with a donate button unless “there is a good reason why the person actually needs help.”

To some extent I can see the purpose of a button: It’s like paying for a magazine subscription. Sites that put out great stuff have writers who put great effort into the posts.

Lots of sites don’t.


read more

th5 Should you subscribe to a toilet paper service?Is arranging for regular delivery of items you use often – pet supplies, diapers, medical supplies and, yes, TP – a frugal hack?

Usually. Merchants like Amazon, Wag.com, Target and Drugstore.com will cut you a break on the prices and let you set the terms/quantities.

Although a super-couponer can often beat the subscription prices, not everyone’s willing to do that consistently (even with help from a site like CouponMom.com or a grocery app like Favado).

So it’s better to get a pretty good price all the time then a swell deal every so often.

For more on this, see my latest post on Money Talks News. “Does it pay to have diapers, toilet paper, dog food delivered to the door?” explains the ins and outs (and a few other advantages) of subscription services.

Although I’d taken a bit of a break from Money Talks News recently to work on a personal project, I’m now back in the saddle. Here’s what else has run lately:


read more

th 1 Prayers that sound like accusations.A couple of weeks ago I found a vintage copy of Elisabeth Bing’s “Six Practical Lessons for an Easier Childbirth” in the mixed-paper bin at the recycling center. It made me smile, and not just because of the awful 1970s hairstyles and maternity clothes. After four pregnancies in a row had stopped developing, my daughter was expecting again and this time a heartbeat was detected.

An omen, I thought.

Except that it wasn’t. At a second appointment on June 5, no heartbeat could be found. This embryo, too, had stopped developing, probably the previous week. Except for a very brief spell of crying as she got dressed, Abby described her reaction as “numb, with a slight underlying sadness.”  

After all, she’d been through this four times already. Who wouldn’t want to numb herself?


read more

thumb Prepping: It’s not just for grownups anymore.Dallas resident Bernie Carr sees no reason that city dwellers can’t be ready for trying times. Having written The Apartment Prepper blog for several years and having written “The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster,” Carr has made preparedness more accessible to a lot of folks who don’t own bunkers.*

Now she’s taking on a new audience: kids.

Not to scare them into stockpiling skateboard wheels and Fruit Roll-Ups, but rather to make the idea of getting ready for any challenge – be it power failure or hurricane, earthquake or zombie apocalypse – less frightening.

Her new picture book, “Jake & Miller’s Big Adventure: A Prepper’s Book for Kids” (Ulysses Press) is designed to show young readers that it’s smarter to be prepared than scared. While imagining an amazing trip (deserts, mountains, jungle, a cave) they pack the supplies they need to stay warm, fed and safe.

Carr has donated a copy of the book for this week’s giveaway. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, whether you live in Tornado Alley or on the Ring of Fire, Jake and Miller’s story can show kids that getting ready isn’t scary – it’s smart.


read more

th2 You know whats hot? A money date.Hey, all you single men and women: Want to attract a mate? Work on your credit scores as much as your abs.

Of the 1,010 married adults surveyed by Experian, 95 percent rated “financial responsibility” as more important than “physical attractiveness” (86 percent) and “career ambition” (77 percent).

Not that romance is dead: “Personal compatibility” was the most important attribute in a potential partner, ranking at 98 percent.  

Financial compatibility is important, too; in fact, at 96 percent it edged out “sex and intimacy” (95 percent) and trounced “religion and spirituality” (69 percent). The thing is, plenty of people don’t talk about finances before they marry – and that’s a huge mistake.


read more