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th-2More than nine years ago my editor gave me a black fleece jacket with the MSN Money logo. The garment has seen some seriously hard use over the years, to the point where it’s no longer midnight-black but rather more of a pre-dawn slate.

A bit worn but still warm, the jacket has reached the end of the line because its zipper is kaput. Yet I’m having a tough time throwing it away, even though it’s no longer wearable and even though I no longer need it. My black fleece Mr. Rebates pullover keeps me plenty warm, thanks; it’s softer and cozier, too.

The other day I tried to throw the MSN jacket in the trash but couldn’t unclench my fingers. Two reasons why:

 


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thThe concept of a “spending freeze” pops up every so often in the personal finance blogosphere. January is prime time for this tactic, given the joyful excesses of the holiday season.

Spending freezes have been announced at a couple of blogs I follow, Jana Says and The Frugalwoods. They’re slightly different: Mrs. Frugalwoods wants to help you “restructure your frugal mindset,” while Jana invites us to join her as she learns “to start paying attention again.”

While leaving a comment on Jana’s post I used the phrase “hypothermia of the budget.” That’s where DF and I are this January, and probably for the next six months. Or maybe longer.

 


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thAlmost seven in 10 people surveyed by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling say their biggest financial worry is credit card debt.

Of the 1,869 respondents, 69 percent cited plastic arrears as being much, much scarier than having enough for retirement and emergencies (13 percent), paying off student loans (10 percent) or finding affordable housing (7 percent).

About 19 people checked answer E: “Nothing, I have no financial worries.” Lucky them.

It’s likely that most of the people reading the nonprofit agency’s website are already having money issues. But it wouldn’t surprise me if a decent number of the general population were also worried about credit card debt. And if they aren’t, maybe they should be.

 


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thFor years I’ve been promoting the idea that personal finance tips can be found in all kinds of places:

Opera (“8 personal finance lessons from ‘Gotterdammerung’”)

Monster romps (“6 financial lessons from ‘Godzilla’”)

Westerns (“10 financial lessons from ‘True Grit’”)

Superhero flicks (“10 money lessons from ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’”)

And even sled-dog races (“10 personal finance lessons from the Iditarod”).

See? You just have to know where to look.

My latest example is the Meryl Streep/Hugh Grant film “Florence Foster Jenkins.” The chameleonic Streep is by turns jaw-droppingly self-absorbed and touchingly vulnerable, and Hugh Grant is her complex, conflicted companion.

The real-life Jenkins, a New York socialite, was a patron of the arts. Also sometimes their torturer: She had the idea that she could sing. But she couldn’t. She really, really couldn’t.

 

 

Not to give away too much of the plot, Jenkins suffered from a physical malady that may have affected her ability truly to hear her own voice. Or maybe she was just gloriously deluded. Either way, she played to sold-out houses.

 


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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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