thNot that this Lower 48 journey has been much of a vacation. It started out as a business trip and morphed into a medical emergency.

I was supposed to have gone home on Sept. 29 but we didn’t get back to Phoenix until Sept. 28. Our original itinerary had included a short post-FinCon visit, and by gum we wanted to make it happen.

Figured I’d go home on Monday but something told me not to make a reservation. Given that lower-back spasms woke me early Sunday morning, I’m glad I listened.

Ice, ibuprofen and stretching have eased the initial holycowthathurtstooscaredtomove, but I’ll likely give it another day or two before I think about a long plane ride.

Here are some things I’ve learned and some random realizations that popped up since I got here.

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thMore than 1,500 museums in all 50 states will be open free of charge on Saturday, Sept. 24 during the annual event known as “Museum Day Live!”

Or, rather, they’ll be open to those who take advantage of a Smithsonian magazine offer: a ticket good for two people to any participating museum.

What are you waiting for?


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thIt’s the 150th anniversary of the first U.S. nickel, and Mary Hunt is weighing in. The queen of frugality has teamed up with Sunoco to celebrate the birthday of the humble half-dime, which not so coincidentally is the per-gallon amount saved  by Sunoco credit card users.

Given the reaction to a giveaway of Hunt’s “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement” – or, heck, to anything she has written – I know that plenty of my readers are her fans as well. That’s why I jumped at the chance to chat with Hunt.

She’d given some tips to the Sunoco campaign, such as planning meals around each week’s grocery specials and making your own laundry soap for a cost of – you guessed it! – five cents per load.

That’s frugality, though: Little tweaks that add up to big results. And since like me she is a fan of small change, we chatted about the special power of specie. 


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thI’ve written before about why online surveys can be worth the time. Making money by sharing your opinion sounds pretty good – especially compared to the times you shared your opinion and then had friends stop inviting you to parties.

In my upcoming book I note that while you won’t earn a full-time wage doing this, you’ll at least bring in some extra money and/or gift cards, and maybe even get some new products to test.

For example, I was paid to cook a taco dinner, try a new shampoo, use a new kind of mop, eat a new variety of chocolate chip cookie and join a focus group about doughnuts that earned me $60 for less than three hours’ worth of work (but which, unfortunately, left me obsessing about crullers).


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thI just got back from voting in the primary election, a civic duty made pleasant by the beauty of the weather: blue skies after many days of rain, big puffy clouds and a slight breeze that stirred the faint but unmistakable fragrance of decaying vegetation.

Yes, summer is on the wane. Wildflowers and gardens alike are dying back – hence the smell of plant life sinking gradually to earth. Birch leaves are falling like golden rain in my BFF’s back yard. Most of the fireweed has spawned out, although a few defiant pinky-lavender blossoms still show up here and there.

The sun’s angle and intensity have both changed noticeably. As I noted in the linked article, “August sun compared to June sun is like a social kiss: close enough to get its point across but far enough away to feel like display rather than true affection.”


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