My finances improved, but I'm still frugal at heart.
When I wrote "Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year" in January, I promised to check in at the end of 2007 to let readers know how I was doing.
I could never have imagined how that article would change my life. It led to additional assignments for MSN Money, and eventually to hosting this blog, for which I earn a part-time salary.
My life changed. My lifestyle didn't.
Luxury goods' prices hard to swallow.
Who's up for a $15 cup of coffee, a $35 movie ticket, an $81 burger and a $480 cocktail?
Oh, and I'm not buying.
I'd be awfully surprised if you were buying, either. Those who read this blog are not likely to want to spend $81 on a sandwich.
Not that this is just any old burger. It's a 14-ounce Japanese Kobe beef patty formed around a quarter-pound seared Kobe medallion, according to an article at wcbstv.com. No plebeian Heinz or Hunt's for this sammich; it comes with house-made sake onion catsup and a miso and ginger aioli.
And if that doesn't fill you up? It also comes with a side order of Tater Tots. Honest.
Simple things (even the free ones) can make you feel rich.
Last summer I found a cast-iron skillet in the "free" box at a yard sale. It was slightly rusty, but a little steel wool took care of that. I'd wanted an iron skillet and had been keeping my eye out for an affordable one. What's more affordable than free?
Never having cooked in cast iron before, I'm really enjoying this pan. It's as useful as I'd hoped it would be. Having a new kitchen tool makes me happy.
Betsy Teutsch, who writes the Money Changes Things blog, had the same kind of skillet epiphany, except hers was a Teflon pan from the supermarket.
You can donate, re-gift or sell them online.
Not all gift cards are welcomed by their recipients. Maybe you got a Nordstrom card although you're a thrift-store kind of gal. Maybe Uncle Fred gave you a Wal-Mart card, not knowing you're one of those folks who has problems with that merchandising giant's policies. Or maybe you, like MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston, simply don't like gift cards.
Remember that the giver meant well, and go ahead and write your thank-you note. After that, you're free to dispose of that gift card in any of the following ways.
(How to write a thank-you note for something you're planning to ditch? Try this: "Many thanks for your generous gift. It was so kind of you to think of me. The gift card will come in very handy."
And it will come in handy, though not necessarily in the way the giver might have envisioned.)
When you save money, you are earning money.
Some readers thought the headline on "Earn $50 an hour: Change your own car battery" was misleading. Their basic gripe was semantic: "You're not earning the money, you're saving it."
That's not how I see it. When you do a project, the money stays in your pocket instead of landing in someone else's. You are paying yourself. You are earning money.
But when I thought it, I realized that the headline is misleading -- just not for the reason those readers thought.
Another person's trash becomes my free treasure.
A few weeks ago I went out to gather blackberries. Something told me to leave by the back door rather than the front. I've learned to listen to these impulses, so into the alley I went.
Half a block away, I found the reason why.
Someone had put a baby carriage and a personal shopping cart next to a Dumpster. I didn't touch the baby carriage; that ship has sailed, friend. But since I recently gave away my automobile I was delighted to score a wheeled cart in which I can carry home groceries.
Adjust your spending as your preferences change.
How many fixed expenses do you have each month? We have about half a dozen -- mortgage, utilities, cable and Internet, Netflix, insurance, and the gym. Of those, three are mostly non-negotiable (mortgage, utilities, insurance). For cable and Internet, Netflix, and the gym, we’ve considered downgrading our services to reduce their expense.
Over the last few years, our preferences and our life circumstances have changed the things we enjoy in our free time. When we first moved to the area, we would enjoy going out to bars and clubs to drink and dance the night away. Nowadays, we prefer going to someone’s house or to a lounge for a more casual night out. As our preferences changed, where we chose to spend our time changed.
We didn’t, however, apply this to the things we paid for each month.
Be patient. Shots aren't widely available just yet.
Smart spenders know that one of the keys to sound personal finance is maintaining good health. With that in mind, here’s some helpful information about the H1N1 vaccine, how you can get immunized, and how much it will cost.
The first batch of vaccine -- the nasal mist type -- is being administered this week to health care workers for the most part. That makes sense because we need these folks to stay well. Also, the mist, which takes less time to make, can’t be used to immunize pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions, children under 2, and older folks.
As more vaccine -- the shot variety -- becomes available in huge batches starting in mid-October, here’s who will get it first, according to The Washington Post:
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