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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th9 How I saved more than $100 last night.We’re in the middle of a project to turn a giant three-sided building into a smaller shed, a greenhouse and a deck. When I say “we,” it’s the royal we. DF and one of his sons are doing most of the work.

He’s reusing wood from the original structure plus some boards another DIYer had given him. DF also found a great deal on paint at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and an even better deal at the “free” section of the city landfill.

Yet certain purchases — cedar boards for the deck and something called Suntuf clear PC roof panels for the greenhouse — can’t be scrounged. The roof panels are on sale at Home Depot but even so cost almost $25 a pop.

The final tally will be about $750, a figure that made us both gasp – and sent me straight to GiftCardGranny.com, an aggregator site for discounted gift cards.

Within three minutes I’d determined the best deal and ordered it. Total savings: $107.30. Wish I could earn at that rate every day.


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th8 Should you boycott restaurants?Over at Midlife Mom Musings, a blogger named Sharon wrote about an unpleasant surprise. The July food budget for her family of four was supposed to have been $700. Instead, they spent nearly $1,700 on groceries and meals away from home.

“I just don’t remember spending that much,” Sharon said.

(Few of us do.)

More than $400 of that was spent at places like Manhattan Bagel, McDonald’s, Tropical Smoothie, Chipotle, Texas Roadhouse and Ciros.

“Not even nice restaurants,” she lamented.

They ended the month with a $1,000 negative cash flow, which she freely admits could have been avoided if they’d just stayed within their food budget. To help make up for that loss, Sharon is boycotting all eateries in August.

A no-restaurants month is a common meme in the personal finance blogosphere. Just like “no-spend week” and “cash-only quarter,” it works if you work it – and if you do, you can learn a lot.

Like, say, how to cook with what’s on hand. How to pack a lunch. How to say “no,” whether that’s to kids who want to stop for a smoothie or to yourself when you really, really want a blueberry bagel.

Hey, I love a serving of McDonald’s fries as often as I can get away with it. But eating them every day would torpedo my budget and, maybe, my arteries.


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The frugal state fair.

th7 The frugal state fair.The county or state fair is one of the biggest money pits in the world. These places exist to part you from your cash, whether it’s for food or rides (or both).

A partial solution: Be a judge at the chili cook-off. I promise you won’t want to eat another bite for the rest of the day, or possibly until the next afternoon.

It’s not that the chili and salsas were bad. Quite the opposite: All were good and most were excellent. But after you’ve had 70 or 80 spoons’ worth, with bites of tortillas and sips of water in between, you simply can’t face any other comestibles.

You might also be averse to any carnival rides that move faster than the average baby can crawl. At the end of the day I did manage one ride, the “1,000 Nights” – a large platform that rotates clockwise, very high and very fast. By the time the first full rotation had ended, I was second-guessing that decision out loud.


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s0660153 sc7 300x300 Want a $50 Staples card?I must have been one of the nerdiest kids in Cumberland County, NJ, because I looked forward to the first day of school.

The first hint was the mid-August appearance of school supplies at Woolworth’s, Mr. Big, Diskay and other stores in the small city closest to our rural township. While the other kids shrieked and grabbed their throats in despair, I secretly  loved the sight of all that notebook paper waiting to be filled with words.

Back when the Earth was still cooling, “school supplies” mostly meant a blue three-ring binder (but only if last year’s was completely kaput), yellow No. 2 pencils (no pens until at least fifth grade), wide-ruled paper and maybe, if you were lucky, a big pink eraser. We made bookcovers out of brown grocery bags. Only the teacher had crayons and Magic Markers.

If eight-year-old me had seen the box of school supplies Staples shipped last week, the sensory overload might have put me in the emergency room.

A composition book with a leaf-and-ladybug design in pale pink and orange. Refillable mechanical pencils made just for small children, i.e., with “break-resistant” lead. Two-pocket folders with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle motifs. A clipboard with an oh-so-cuuute of a beagle puppy. th5 150x150 Want a $50 Staples card?

Three-by-five-inch lined journals in bright florals and random, boldly colored patterns. Erasers that look like lipsticks, complete to the plastic top — and in patterns that match the journals. Pencils in patterns that match both the erasers and the journals, and a Spongebob Squarepants pencil sharpener to ready them for writing.

Want some of this for yourself? Or anything else Staples sells? Enter this week’s giveaway.


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Summer on the wane.

th6 150x150 Summer on the wane.The raspberries are winding down. I was picking from a pint to almost a quart every day for a while. Lately they’re ripening much more slowly and the ones that do ripen seem a bit collapsed and/or partly eaten.

Birds, I figured – until the day I saw wasps and honeybees landing on berries before I could get to them. They’d grab hold, lock on, and start sucking/chewing away.

This was so entertaining to watch that I had a hard time blaming them for bogarting the berries I really, really wanted for the freezer.

Can’t really blame them: I, too, want to extract every last bit of sweetness before the season ends.


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th 1 150x150 Thrift shops, free museums and a $100 Tweetchat. Today is Thrift Shop Day, and the Savers/Value Village folks say we’re all about saving the Benjamins. The company’s new survey revealed that 47 percent of U.S. residents shop at la segunda, and more than one-third of us say they shop secondhand more often now than they did three years ago.

Is it the economy? Or is it that more and more people are realizing how much fun it can be to prospect for marked-down items, some of which you won’t find anywhere else?

Well, 52 percent of those surveyed say “it feels like a treasure hunt” and 35 percent love finding “truly unique” items. If you’re a retro-fashionista, secondhand stores are the place to find vintage shoulder-pad suits, cargo pants or the perfect bridesmaid’s dress to wear to the prom or (with appropriate attitude) to a wedding.


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Things I no longer buy.

th4 150x150 Things I no longer buy.Last year I voluntarily downsized my salary, i.e., I decided not to rush to replace all the income lost when MSN Money kicked all its writers to the virtual curb.

Since then I’ve had to make some very conscious choices about what – and whether – to buy. Less money = fewer expenditures.

News flash, right? But what surprises me isn’t that I’m spending less. It’s that I don’t miss any of those things very much.


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card225 300x150 Giveaway: Two $25 gift cards, via Swagbucks.Any time I give away a gift card the response is tremendous. And why not? Although some people think that GCs make awful presents, the chance to get a head start on a want or a need is fine by me. (And, apparently, by you.)

This week’s giveaway, sponsored by the Swagbucks rewards program, gives two lucky readers $25 in scrip – or, maybe in cash.

That’s because the winners get to choose any $25 e-gift card that Swagbucks offers, and among those offers is a $25 PayPal card. Thus you could choose to cash in for greenbacks or stick with shopping, at sites like Amazon, Target, Starbucks, Lowe’s, Home Depot, CVS, iTunes, GameStop and many others.


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th3 Smartphones: As important as deodorant?Some people are a bit too e-connected: carrying their smartphones around like fifth limbs, endlessly checking their screens, ignoring their children in favor of cat photos or an updated Facebook status.

The recent Bank of America “Trends in Consumer Mobility Report” indicates just how wired some of us have become. Nine out of 10 respondents said their smartphones are just as important to their daily lives as deodorant and toothbrushes.

I see a distinct difference: If you forget to use the phone your coworkers won’t look trapped when you enter their cubicles.

Just 7 percent of respondents find it annoying when someone checks a phone during mealtime. Personally, I think that unless you’re waiting for the transplant center to call about that kidney, you should back away from the phone now and then. Meals eaten with other people are an excellent place to start.

If they had to give something up to be able to get access to a cellphone, the majority of respondents (45 percent) said “alcohol.” Which, of course, would solve the problem of drunk-dialing.


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th2 Guest posts, gift cards and loups garou.I did my first-ever guest post on my daughter’s site, I Pick Up Pennies. Always meant to, just never got around to it until this weekend.

“Want to save money? ‘Chop’ your kitchen” was generated by my fondness for a  Food Network program called “Chopped,” which requires chefs to create meals from mystery ingredients. Some of them are delicious and traditional (steak, poultry, seafood) and some are just cruel (durian, goat brains, duck testicles).

Not that I think you should save money by eating fowl balls, mind you. Instead the post suggests that you “chop” your pantry, fridge and freezer, i.e., find ways to use what’s on hand instead of calling out for pizza. The food waste in our country is astonishing. What could eating in more often do for your budgetary bottom line?

Think those leftovers look forlorn? Get creative!


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