th6 Cant get ahead? Try a savings challenge.Years ago I moderated MSN Money’s Smart Spending message board, on which people would post frugal hacks, recipes and other tips to stretch a buck.

The boards went away some years before the Smart Spending blog did; when that happened, some of the most loyal commenters created an alternative universe.

Not MSN Money Proboards” is a place for veterans of Smart Spending and other message boards to stay in touch and keep sharing the wealth. Or, rather, the road to wealth.

One post I checked in on today, “2014 Savings Strategies,” brought up the old custom of “savings challenges.” Those were popular during the worst of the recent recession; you couldn’t swing a virtual cat in the PF blogosphere without running into someone’s post on challenges.

Stuff like:

  • Spare Change Challenge – Every night put all your coins in a jar
  • Dollar Bill Challenge – Like the above, except with paper instead of specie
  • Five-Dollar Bill Challenge – Pretty ambitious, but a little too rich for some bloods
  • Random Number Challenge – Pick a number and every night check the bills in your wallet; if one has a serial number ending in the chosen digit, into the jar it goes

But the Proboards posting also mentioned a couple of new ones.


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th2 150x150 Between the (budget) sheets.Recently Wells Fargo sent a study about how financial worries influence sex habits. An astonishing (to me) 48% of U.S. students over age 18 find that concerns about cash affect their intimacy with romantic partners.

In fact, more than one-third (36%) of people aged 18 to 34 said that money woes affect their sex drives.

And here I thought that sex was one of those inexpensive things that could help take your mind off your bank balance.


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th1 Two ways to get free credit monitoring.Target is offering a great big mea culpa as a result of its recent data breach: a year’s worth of free credit monitoring through Experian. This is for anyone who shopped at Target stores in the United States between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

Personal finance expert Liz Weston offers some best-practices tips plus a legitimate URL where you can sign up for the service. According to the Target website, consumers need to be wary of e-mails and phone calls by scammers pretending to represent the company but who “are really trying to get personal information from you.”

Experian may try to get something from you, too, according to Weston: “It will try to sell you upgrades, such as a peek at ‘your credit score’ – actually a PLUS score that isn’t used by lenders.” But you don’t have to give a credit card number or pay for anything, because Target is picking up the tab.

You do, however, have to provide your Social Security number and some other info, so that Experian can make sure it’s protecting the right person.


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th4 Time is something we can’t do over.The 2013 Financial Blogger Conference was the best yet, and also the most exhausting. We got up at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15 to fly to St. Louis and, coincidentally, walked back through our front door at about 2 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24.

In between: a long plane trip, most of a day spent “frugalizing” a family with MP Dunleavey (for her Woman’s Day column), the conference itself and then a few days hanging out with my daughter, who also attended.

The conference days were a blur of activity, four days of leaving the room at 7:30 or 8 a.m. and falling back into bed at 1:30 or 2 a.m. Yet it was delightful to attend sessions, reconnect with others who’ve attended for three years running, to win prizes, and to discuss some very interesting work-related propositions (nothing I can noise around just yet, though).

Right now DF is on furlough (grrr), so we had Thursday and today to recover from the trip. It’s been tough for me to get my head back into the game; instead, I want to spend my days talking about writing and having other people cook for me.

Scratch that: I want to spend my days working only when I feel like it. I expect I’m not alone.

As I noted in “Termination dust,” being kicked to the virtual curb by MSN Money has caused me to reconsider the kind of life I want to lead. That’s why an e-mail I received today really resonated.


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th1 Sweating the cost of summer fun.Late last week I suggested we drive to the Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ for supper. It wasn’t that there wasn’t anything to eat at home. It’s that the weather was too nice to stay inside.

Sure, we could have had leftovers at a table in the back yard. In fact, DF suggested we do that rather than spending $30 or more on ribs. But I wanted to take advantage of the splendid drive along Turnagain Arm, and then sit on the patio eating fried pickles and basking in the nonstop Alaska sun.

Summer can do a number on a frugalist’s finances – especially if your friends don’t play fair. Whether it’s beer and chicken wings after a pickup softball game or al fresco lunches with pals on a sunny Saturday, the next few months could lead to all sorts of uncomfortable money situations.


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