thRegular readers already know about my daughter’s blog, I Pick Up Pennies. They probably also know about her 19th year, when she nearly died from a rare neurological disease.

Since then Abby has gone through a lot of physical and psychological torment. She spent a couple of years on disability due to a lack of jobs that meshed with the residual effects of Guillain-Barre syndrome. (The fact that she found not her “dream” job but the World’s Best Boss is miraculous.) Post-traumatic stress disorder and a mental health issue that’s finally been diagnosed as Bipolar II have made it hard to get through some days.

Her husband lost his job shortly before the wedding, and his own health issues have worsened to the point where he is now on disability. The two of them bought a house before they were really ready (i.e., before they had a big enough down payment) in order to take in his bankrupt parents.

A careless driver hit them and totaled the car that was supposed to have lasted them another four or five years. Home, car and other issues have continued to pop up (almost $17,000 in 2014 alone). In the past few years she has endured five miscarriages and is considering whether or not to try again.

So how’s she handling all this? With an astonishing perspective, if her current blog post is any indication.


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thWhen it comes to paying off holiday debts, who finishes last? If you guessed “low-income shoppers,” you guessed wrong.

According to a study from the NerdWallet personal finance site, the middle class takes longer than anyone else to finish paying for its Christmas celebrations.

People who earn from $50k to $75k take an average of 2.6 months to finish paying for holiday expenses. Compare that to folks who earn $50k or less and take an average of two months.

“Those who spend more in an effort to ‘keep up’ end up paying the price later,” says Matthew Ong, senior retail analyst at NerdWallet.

“Middle-class households could end up in a risky position this holiday season if they have ample credit to make purchases but incomes too thin to comfortably pay the bills later.”


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thShocking, huh? Filthy lucre was the favorite holiday gift among those surveyed by the Ebates cash-back shopping site

At 39 percent of the vote, it blew away a few categories that surprised me: tablets (15 percent), smartphones (12 percent), tickets to an event/destination (10 percent), televisions (7 percent).

Maybe the majority of respondents don’t have relatives wealthy enough to pony up enough for a new e-gift or a weekend in the Bahamas. Still, they seemed hopeful that somebody would send a few dollars their way.

Or maybe they’re having trouble making it in the current economy (recovery? what recovery?) and even a $50 bill in a Christmas card would give them a little breathing room.


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thGot a recently graduated kid parked in his old room because jobs aren’t available? Maybe he needs to expand his horizons.

Specifically, your kid might consider living and working in North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota or Wyoming. Those are the top five of the “Best states for young people,” according to a new study from MoneyRates.com.

The Dakotas? Iowa? Maybe they’re not as sexy as New York or L.A., but they’re hiring.


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The frugal state fair.

thThe 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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