th How to spend less on Christmas 2014.Planning to do any Amazon shopping this holiday season? Have I got tips for you.

10 Amazon Shopping Tricks to Save You Tons of Money,” over on the page, actually features 10 categories, some of which have more than one tip involved. For example, did you know that Prime members get a half-hour head start on Lightning Deals?

That a tool called PriceJump will compare Amazon tags to those of 5,000 other online merchants? That Amazon-specific sites will do the best-price legwork for you? Or that if you haven’t spent quite enough to get free shipping a site like will find the 39-cent bolt or 79-cent cup hook that will push you over the $35 threshold?

read more

Want to get? Try giving

th5 Want to get? Try givingA writer named Revanche, who blogs at A Gai Shan Life, recently wrote about a friend who’s “against” volunteering and giving to charity.

His rationale: “He feels that he worked really hard to get here and doesn’t feel that he got any help so he doesn’t feel he should give back to the community at large.”

He did work hard, putting himself through school and supporting family members at the same time. So did/does Revanche, who’s still supporting “two adult dependents who aren’t my children.”

What her friend doesn’t seem to get is this: He may not have asked for any help, but it would have been there had he needed it.

Suppose he’d become very ill and unable to support those family members (or himself) during that time. No one would have starved. They could have sought temporary assistance from government agencies but also from nonprofits and private charities funded in part by ordinary citizens.

You know, your neighbors. Fellow human beings. People who think that a few of their extra dollars would have more of an impact outside their bank accounts.

read more

th3 This just in: Men prefer sex to a Valentine gift.Stop the presses, right? It certainly doesn’t surprise me that 66% of the men polled by Retail Me Not would choose the pleasures of the flesh over, say, a teddy bear holding a red sateen heart embossed with “I Wuv You.”

They’re likely to be disappointed. In the same survey, 70% of the women said they’d much rather have a present than an extremely personal moment.

Selfish? Maybe. But let’s face it: Most women in relationships can get all the sex they want. Gifts, on the other hand, are a surprise.

Well, sort of: Apparently it’s expected that we’ll be getting gifts on Valentine’s Day. Just flip through any store circular, turn on the TV or surf the Internet to be bombarded by ads that shriek some version of, “Feb. 14 is at hand! Buy the right gift or you won’t get laid for the rest of the year!

read more

th1 The (sorta) poor relation. Several times during this visit I’ve tried to pay for things but my daughter wouldn’t hear of it. At one point she noted that she now makes considerably more than I do, thanks to my recent economic downturn

She wasn’t snide or condescending, but rather expressing a “so glad I can help you for a change” vibe. When I thanked them today for buying me lunch out Abby’s response was, “Thank you for cooking and cleaning.”

Having my daughter pay for groceries or meals out while I’ve been here feels weird. Sure, it’s a cheap price for a maid and cook, and I know she really can afford it due to her own awesome budgeting and frugal-hacking skills.

Oh, and her salary, which is now larger than mine.

For years I’ve been the one who helped, even when I could barely afford to do so. Now I’m the one who gets helped.

Then again, that was my choice.

read more

th4 Money that would otherwise have been lost.After our Thanksgiving dinner one of my great-nephews counted up my found money. In the past year I found $13.81, considerably less than in 2012.

That doesn’t surprise me, since I spent a fair amount of 2012 traveling and moved to Alaska for the last three months of the year. I walk a lot less up here than I did in Seattle. That’s due in part to scary-icy conditions and also to the fact that I no longer live within strolling distance of shopping, banking and the like. While living down south I took a long walk most days, for health reasons but also to buy a bunch of bananas or take advantage of great deals on toiletries.

These days if I need to hit the library, the post office, the drugstore or the supermarket I either go with DF, borrow his car or take the bus. That means considerably fewer chances to find coins on sidewalks and in shopping centers.

Even so, I wound up with:

  • Four $1 bills
  • 16 quarters
  • 38 dimes
  • Seven nickels
  • 166 pennies

In 2012 I found $21.31, which I rounded up to $50 as a donation for a local food bank. Due to the late unpleasantness at Microsoft I can’t afford to be quite that generous in my math this year. Thus the $13.81 will become a $20 donation. But since I have an automatic monthly donation to the food bank I don’t feel too bad about the pinch.

read more