Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Four Millionaires Share Their Get-Rich Secrets: Kiplinger

A nonstop commitment to personal goals is one of the key elements to success, according to a quartet of millionaires profiled in an article at and featured at MSN. The four how-we-did-it success stories include a feature about an award-winning songwriter and a self-made business person.

Other secrets include a frugal lifestyle, re-investing capital into a business, and passive income. The songwriter, for example, collects millions a year in song royalties. (That's very passive income.)

Here's the link to the full story, which includes helpful links about starting a business and owning real estate.


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Sienna Miller: The Star Power of Borrowed & Vintage Fashion

Why pay for the dress if you can borrow it? Why buy new, if a vintage (translation: "used") outfit looks great? That's the wisdom that I picked up from this recent red carpet photo of Sienna Miller in People magazine.

Miller is snapped in a vintage dress and she also loves borrowing the clothes from the wardrobe department of her latest movie.

Sienna Miller does the shimmy shake in a vintage dress at the New York premiere of her film Factory Girl on Monday. "I love the clothes!" the actress told PEOPLE about the movie's '60s-inspired wardrobe. "I haven't actually gotten to keep any yet, but I'm working on it. --Sienna Miller in People

But it's not just stars that have the luxury of stepping out in frugal, but fashionable clothes. The other day, one of my neighbors appeared in a super outfit.
She told me that it was from the HMD (Handy Me Down) Boutique, in other words, a gift from a friend.

Likewise, for a relative's wedding, I wore a borrowed gown. After the night was over, I dry cleaned the dress and returned it. The benefit: limited cost on my part and I don't have to wear the same gown again.


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10 Tips for Hiring A Tax Expert

I'm waving the yellow flag. Other people may be good at DIY tax preparation, but that's not my area of strength. I'm going to "outsource" that job. Flexo at wrote a great piece about 10
Examples of How You can be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
and in that piece, he mentioned the value of a hiring a CPA or tax specialist. And I'm moving in that direction.

Therefore, the following 10 Tips for Selecting a Tax Specialist (from a member of an an accounting industry trade group) caught my attention:

"Step 1: Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. Then interview one or two candidates; look for someone who's been preparing returns long enough to anticipate problems or IRS challenges.

Step 2: Be sure to mention any special circumstances, such as a recent divorce or a large lump-sum payment from a retirement plan.

Step 3: If you think your return will be audited, ask if the preparer will represent you before the IRS.

Step 4: Find out whether the preparer will handle your return personally or delegate it to a less-experienced associate.

Step 5: Ask for an estimate of the fee before the return is prepared.

Step 6: Select an individual who will be available if you have questions months, or even years, after your tax return has been filed.

Step 7: Avoid any tax practitioner who claims that he or she can get you a larger tax refund than other practitioners, or whose fees are based on a percentage of your refund.

Step 8: If your tax situation is complex, consider hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) who concentrates on tax work to prepare your return. Take the tax package you receive in the mail to the practitioner so he or she can use your forms and peel-off identity label.

Step 9: Be sure that your preparer signs your return. You should receive a copy of the completed return. Never sign a blank tax return. Be sure you are satisfied with the prepared return. It is still your tax return and you are responsible for its contents.

Step 10: Do additional research: Check out the free AICPA Web site: for additional information on this topic as well as other articles, calculators and tools you can use on this topic or other personal finance issues."

Michael Eisenberg, CPA/Personal Financial Specialist and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants ( Financial Literacy Commission member.



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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Festival of Frugality Rocks!

From squeezing out the last drop of toothpaste from the tube to frugal travel tips, the 59th Installment of the Festival of Frugality offers a lot of really good info! Host Golbguru of Money, Matter and More Musings has done a wonderful job of providing graphics and helpful descriptions of each post. The submissions are also neatly divided into helpful categories.

Here are a few posts that caught my attention:

Great Family Gadgets has a cute piece about squeezing every drop out of tubes.

Frugal Upstate wrote an insightful post about why aprons are frugal.

Stingy Students wrote a great piece about eating your way to free air travel.

and Eating Well on a Budget posted an article about a zero-based food budget.

This is just a short sample of the great posts in the carnival. I'm happy to be included in the group. Thanks to the host for investing the time, space and energy. Excellent job!



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What Teaching Taught Me about Money: A Financial Lesson Plan

I teach Journalism to high school students and my classroom experiences have taught me "mucho" about money. It's been a valuable experience and teaching has changed my life.

Here's a short overview about the financial lessons I've acquired in the classroom:

1) Have a Plan: Kids have a sixth sense for an unprepared teacher. Chaos results from a lackluster or missing lesson plan. The failure to plan creates a plan for failure (to borrow an old saying).

The same goes for my money. I need written goals and strategies as much as I need a lesson plan in the classroom. With a concrete plan, I have an outline for success.

2. Be Disciplined. Students and teachers thrive on discipline. Even a free-form writing workshop needs structure and a format.

My financial performance also needs formulas and patterns. Discipline means checking the bank account (online) every night or paying the utility bill on the same day of each month.

One organizational guru recommends setting up a workstation for each of the routine chores: A bill-paying station, a home-banking desk, a tax corner.

3. Prepare for the Unexpected: As a journalism teacher, I rely on newspapers and magazines to teach my course. But what if the publications don't arrive or if the Internet connection is down? By trial and error, I've learned the importance of having a backup plan in the classroom. I now show up with extra lessons, worksheets and ideas as just-in-case options.

4. Tap into Extra Income: Most teachers don't make six-figure incomes, so it's important to have a diversified stream of income. I've met teachers at different schools in our region, who wear a variety of extra-curricular hats from real estate sales to coaching.

Likewise, I've made a big financial push to diversify my income. The old cliche is true: There's safety in numbers.



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Bloggers Speed Call on Kids & Cell Phones

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the new demand from my younger kids (the 'tweens). They want cell phones and have given me arguments that seem reasonable. Or not.

So I delegated my parenting chores to fellow personal finance bloggers, including the crew at
This advice came from a Single Ma via email.

1) When do you think kids should have their own cell phone?

I would say at whatever age you allow the child to go places without you. Most kids, around age 13, begin to go places with their friends ( i.e. movies, skating, bowling, the mall, etc.) and have very little adult supervision. Because of this, I gave my daughter a cell phone at 13 so I could be in contact with her at ALL times. Plus, being a single mom and living in an area with no immediate family, this was important to me.

2) Do you make them pay for it? How do you work the finances?

Adding a 2nd line cost me an extra $9.99/month. I pay for the basic service but she pays for extra things (i.e. text msg, ring tones, wall paper, new face plate, belt clip) that I don't consider a necessity.

3) What are your ground rules about usage and responsibility?

As long as she doesn't exceed the shared minutes I've alloted to her, I'm ok. Whenever she does, it's taken away for leisurely purposes and used for emergencies only. She's overstepped her boundaries twice in the past six months, so we're on an indefinite "emergency only" basis.

Overall, I like the freedom it allows. I can call my child from anywhere, at anytime, any day. I can't be with her every minute, but I can call her whenever I need to. She's all I got so the cell phone relaxes my overprotective mommy fears. :-)

Here's the link to the other comments.

Here's a snippet from Michelle of Diary of a Mad Asian Woman:

"I think it's smart for kids to get a pay as you go phone. Then they can realize how much they are really using the phone and how costly it can be. When they pay for it themselves, they know not to blow all their minutes and to only use it when it is important or an emergency"....Michelle

Dawn of Frugal for Life

"1- Age depends, some 18 year olds are less responsible than 13 yr olds

2- Make them pay for it or at least half if they don't have a job

3- Pay as you go is the best deal, that way they keep track of the time they have left- budgeting." --Dawn at Frugal for Life

Lazy Man and Money
"I believe in starting them out early with a cell phone as long as it has GPS tracking for safety reasons.

That far outweighs a lot of the other considerations in my opinion.--Lazy Man and Money "

Blunt Money:
3) What are your ground rules about usage and responsibility?

"You lose it, you buy another one. Don't go over your minutes or text messages. Turn it off while in class. Keep the charger away from the pets, and unplug it when not in use." --Blunt Money

Hey guys, Thanks for answering my call!


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Monday, January 29, 2007

Woman Fights Hospital over Missing Foot: Medical Identity Theft Strikes Again!

Medical identity theft is one of the latest scams in the ID crime theft business. BusinessWeek reports that criminals are stealing IDs in order to get expensive medical care. The scenario forces innocent consumers to fight unreal hospital bills.

One woman, for example, had to argue about a missing foot. She flashed her own feet (still attached) to prove that she was not the amputee, who had undergone expensive surgery.

Here's the snippet:

When Lind Weaver opened her mailbox one day in early 2004, she was surprised to find a bill from a local hospital for the amputation of her right foot. Surprised because the 57-year-old owner of a horse farm in Palm Coast, Fla., had never had worse than an ingrown toenail.

After weeks of wrangling with the hospital's billing representatives, Weaver stormed into the medical center and kicked her heels up on the desk of the chief administrator. "Obviously, I have both of my feet," she told him. source: BusinesWeek

Earlier, I wrote this piece about medical fraud.


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"But Mom...Half the Kids in My Class Have Cell Phones!"

There's a new school bell ringing in my house. Two of my children ('tweens) have started to lobby for cell phones. Here's a rundown of their arguments:

The Whine:
"Almost all my friends have cell phones...."

The It's-for-You-Pitch:
"You can reach me at any time...."

The Safety/Go-for-Mom's-Heart-Pitch:
"I need a cell phone just in case of an emergency...."

My older son received his cell phone as a coming-of-age agreement. About six months after his Bar Mitzvah (age 13), he received a cell phone. He's been very responsible with it and has even used the date book feature to track school assignments.

But I still think 13 is young for a cell phone. But maybe I'm just too old-school. There are even kids in first, second and third grades with their own phones. I'm curious about what other parents do about cell phones and kids.

1) When do you think kids should have their own cell phone?
2) Do you make them pay for it? How do you work the finances?
3) What are your ground rules about usage and responsibility?

Please send an email: or leave a comment.



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Five Cent Nickel Hosts Carnival of Personal Finance

The 85th edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance is up and running at Five Cent Nickel, one of my favorite blogs. (Browse through his archives, while you're there and check out his post on low-cost checks.)

Nickel has done an excellent job of sorting through a large field of submissions.

Here are a few carnival items that caught my eye: I love the post from My Financial Awareness about money and self-acceptance. That's a keeper.

Money for the Rest of Us posted a very thoughtful piece about spending and values: cast iron pans vs designer clothes. Excellent piece!

I also really enjoyed ProBargain Hunter's helpful piece on potential savings from Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) I'm bookmarking that one, which comes with a lot of helpful links.

I'm honored to be included in that group and I'm grateful to the host for providing carnival space. Thanks Nickel!


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Post-its: Links I Liked from the Past Week

From student travel to rowdy home-value wrecking neighbors, I had lots of fun reading this week. is a great place to go for catching up on personal finance bloggers and news items.

Here's my weekly roundup of some of my favorite posts.

Greece is an important symbol for Mapgirl. While in high school, she had a great opportunity to go to Greece.
The trip was going to cost approximately $2200.00. There was no way my parents could have foot the bill for that much money on top of my private school tuition and college tuition for my sibling --Mapgirl

Lesson: She found a frugal way to finance the trip through hard work, creativity and dedicated adults (parents/teacher).

Money and Investing offered a thoughtful piece about pennies. Is it worth it to pick up a cent? What's the value of small actions?

I understand the value of jumping at the opportunities life throws at us.I am of the philosophy that everywhere you are there is an opportunity to improve yourself and most probably to make money.--Money and Investing

Binary Dollar has a helpful piece about inexpensive and homemade household cleaning solutions.

Stop buying expensive household cleaners. All you really need is some baking soda and some vinegar. --Binary Dollar

All Financial Matters featured a funny piece about his new neighbors. Will this man ever be able to re-sell his home?

I was SLIGHTLY TICKED! IDIOTS! I realize some people are going to argue. But, when you start driving across MY yard, that’s where it stops! If they want to act like hillbillies, they should buy a place out in the country.-- All Financial Matters

And at Frugal for Life, Dawn offers her "very very best frugal tip:" Dumpster Diving.

keep your eyes peeled when driving by apartment complexes or dorm area or trash day in the suburbs. -- Frugal For Life



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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bush Health Plan: Rich vs Poor? Washington Post Debates

Clearly, something needs to be done about the availability of health care in America. I know of a waitress (born in Germany, works in Miami), who flies home to Europe to get health care because she can't afford the cost of dental and medical care in the U.S.

It's cheaper for her to buy a plane ticket and fly home than to get treatment in the USA. Some doctors in this country won't even give her a visit because she's a cash-only (no insurance) patient.

But does the new health care plan from President Bush level the playing field between rich and poor? Or will the proposed plan lock more people out of the heath care system?

Those questions are debated today in an excellent article in the Washington Post by reporter Christopher Lee. Here is the link to the article.

Here's a snippet from the article:

' President Bush likes to say that his health-care proposal would "level the playing field" between people who get health coverage through their job and those who buy it on their own.

But experts said yesterday that it would tilt that field toward a kind of health insurance that Bush has long favored -- a high-deductible plan paired with a special tax-exempt health savings account, or HSA.

"I think it would be a big push for HSAs," said Mark B. McClellan, a health economist and former top health-policy adviser to Bush.

While McClellan thinks that would be a good thing, other experts said it would benefit the wealthy and undercut Bush's goal of bringing fairness to the private health insurance system.

In contrast with traditional health plans that typically charge $20 co-payments for visits to the doctor, high-deductible plans require consumers to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket for medications, physicians' services and hospital care before most insurance coverage kicks in. The deductibles are steep, at least $2,200 for family coverage, compared with about $220 in a traditional plan. But the special savings accounts enable people to accumulate a tax-free pool of their own money to pay the deductibles and other uncovered health bills, rolling over any unused funds to the following year. And premiums for high-deductible plans tend to be lower.' --Washington Post



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Flipping Toys: Kids Make Money By Shopping & Selling

A little while ago, No Limits Ladies featured a piece about flipping cars. Other people have flipped houses. I've been thinking about flipping clothes. Here's my plan: Shop in the clearance racks of high-end clothes stores, buy up items for pennies on the dollar; sell clothes on eBay or in consignment stores.

Teens and Tweens are taking the same approach to toys & video games. The New York Times has written this piece about "Barons Before Bedtime," which features how kids are making money in the New Economy. It's a simple strategy: Buy up new stuff in budget bins and resell the items online. Makes more than cents to me!

Here's a snippet from the article:
"ONE of Bradley Ziegler’s favorite days is the day after Christmas, when the bargain bins at Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart are filled with marked-down DVDs and GameCube games. As he has done for the past two years, Bradley will pick up an armful of $3.99 games and movies and then auction them for up to 10 times that on eBay to regular customers from Kentucky to Cyprus." --source: New York Times



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Let Them Eat Cake: Tea Parties, Dessert Buffets & Other Frugal Event Planning Ideas

Food is the largest expense for most parties. But you can cut the food budget by selecting party hours that don't require full-course meals. I call it the art gallery approach to home entertaining. Many galleries hold elegant parties in the late-afternoon or after dinner.

The bottom line: Skip the main course and spend more on desserts and beverages.

That's how my latest column in the Miami Herald begins. Here's a link to the full column.


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Saturday, January 27, 2007

66 Ways to Save Money: A Free Publication

From groceries to cars, 66 Ways to Save -- a free online publication -- offers a lot of useful information. Published by the Consumer Literacy Consortium, the online publication has sections on food, housing, cars, banking, medicine and other topics.

Here's a snippet of advice from the new car section:

"You can save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a car by selecting a model that combines a low purchase price with low depreciation, financing, insurance, gasoline, maintenance, and repair costs."

The used car section features this tip:

Consider purchasing a used car from an individual you know and trust. They are more likely than other sellers to charge a lower price and point out any problems with the car.



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Friday, January 26, 2007

Getting Fiscal on a First Date: Sweet Talking Money

How fiscal can you get on a first date? Apparently, there's a lot of bases to cover when it comes to money and hearts. That's the word from Bambi Holzer, author of the new book: "FINANCIAL BLISS: A Couple's Guide to Merging Money Styles and Building a Rich Life Together" (AMACOM, January '07).

Bambi argues that every couple needs to set up a "Financial First Date."

Here are some of her ground rules, with my own comments tossed in:

-- 1. Respect differences: Look for common ground while appreciating each other's differences.

Frugal Duchess comment: But watch out for major Grand Canyon-style differences. In college, I once dated someone with views about money, gender roles, finance & household chores that were miles apart from my views. Differences that were charming at first, became really annoying.

-- 2. Speak naturally: Like any first date, you want the conversation to flow naturally and spring from issues and ideas that matter strongly to you. Don't try to trump your partner by talking like Alan Greenspan.

- 3. Don't fall into the common-interest trap: Avoid the joyful "You like tomatoes? I like tomatoes, too!" response to superficial points of common interest that first daters fall into. A false sense of commonality can poison a relationship.

Frugal Duchess: That's a good point. I've been a girl parrot and that's not smart.

-- 4. Compromise, compromise, compromise: Just because one of you voiced an opinion or has strong feelings about something doesn't mean that the other must or will give in or tiptoe around an issue. Workable compromises are still necessary in order to make your partnership more solid and your financial life more effective.

Frugal Duchess: Compromise, but don't sell out your soul.

-- 5. There are no winners and losers: Winning an argument is not the objective here, there are no right answers, just workable compromises.

-- 6. Listen up: Show that you're listening and that what your partner is saying is important to you.

Frugal Duchess: From interviews to dates, I wish that I had listened more and talked less. And I've learned to listen to silence also.

I recommend studying these clues/issues:

1. How does your date tip?
2. When was the last time your date went shopping?
3. How do they feel about thrift stores?
4. How often does your date eat out?
5. Would they buy jewelry at Costco or a pawn shop?
6. Where do they buy books?
7. How much do they spend on holidays?
8. Do they like garage sales?
9. How much money do they donate to charity?
10. What's their favorite vacation spot?

Earlier I also featured a post about questions to ask before getting married.


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How to Score Free Drinks at Epcot: A Frugal Plan for Disney

Earlier today, I featured a piece about free soda at stadiums, courtesy of Tom Lamont, a frugal maven and financial editor from the NY/NJ area.

Inspired by his tightwad example, here's a budget tip for getting free sodas at Epcot, the international and futuristic park at Disney World in Orlando.

We were there this week for a little R&R and we had all the free soda we wanted to drink at Epcot. (Water is our beverage of choice. But soda is a nice treat.)

Follow these steps to save a bundle:

1) Go to the Cool Club exhibit in the Future World section of Epcot. It's a small display/showroom run by Coca-Cola. (Ask a park employee for directions.)

2) Go to the soda fountain exhibit.

3) Get a paper cup (free) and taste the free bottomless samples of Coca-Cola sodas from all over the world. Our favorites were China (a watermelon taste), Israel(a lemony-sprite flavor) and Germany (tasted like spicy ginger ale).

4) Skip the Italian soda button if you don't like bitter-tasting tonic. This was our prank flavor that we offered to unsuspecting members of our group.

5) Go back often during the course of your visit to Epcot.

6) Also drink the free water from the (very clean) Disney fountains.



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NY Editor Saves over $1,400: My Old Boss Shares Secrets: Designated Stadium Driver

Give Ugly Betty a rest, says my old boss. Write about a strategy to save nearly $1,500 in one year by becoming a stadium designated driver and clipping coupons. That's the verdict from my old boss Tom Lamont, editor at Institutional Investor News in Manhattan, where I used to work.

Here's what Lamont -- my Friday Guest Editor/Columnist and frugal maven -- wrote last night:

"Last year I saved $1453 from clipping coupons and signing up at designated driver booths at Giants Stadium, Continental Arena and Shea Stadium.

Why pay $4 for a coke when they’ll give you one free if you just show a driver’s license and promise not to booze it up (which I wouldn’t do anyway? For Kathy [Tom's Wife] and me, do the math. 50 games per year times $8 per game = $400. That pays for several playoff tickets!

And most stadiums have such booths. They don’t advertise them but if you ask an usher or at an information booth they’ll direct you to them.

Feel free to use this if Ugly Betty was a rerun tonight." --Tom Lamont, Institutional Investor News editor

It's frugal advice with a great price tag. He didn't charge me for his remote editing and writing services.

Thanks Lamont. Happy Belated 60th Birthday!!! Hey Kathy!!!



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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Singing for Supper: A Frugal Meal Tip From Ugly Betty & Cheap Eating Ideas

Singing for a 50 percent discount on a restaurant meal was yet another frugal moment from Ugly Betty, a hit television show. Betty pushes her trust-fund-baby-boss Daniel to the stage of an Italian restaurant.

The Scenario: The fashion magazine duo (Daniel & Betty) act like Sonny & Cher and sing I Got You Babe karaoke-style at an Italian eatery in Brooklyn.

The Goal: A 50-percent-off discount from their meal.

The Tip: Even after Daniel complains: But I'm rich, Betty pursues the sing-for-your-supper discount.

The Lesson: Even if you have a well-fed bank account, a 50 percent discount is very well-done.

That Ugly Betty episode (from Jan 18) is posted online at There are many programs (cable and standard tv) that are available free online. I watch basketball highlights at

Ugly Betty whet my appetite for other ways to eat out for less. Here's my short list:

1. sells discounts to many restaurants. I've tried it and liked it. But caution: it's a good deal, but don't over order. The extra food will eat up your savings.

2. Early bird-specials. Many places charge less if you have dinner before six.

3. Have a late lunch. Lunch menus tend to be much cheaper than the dinner selection.

4. Go to gallery openings. Many galleries have a wonderful selection of free food and goodies on opening night. Think of it this way: It's a [light] dinner and a floor show!

5. Volunteer: Many charities provide huge deli platters, pizza and other treats for volunteers who help out at events, charitable dinners and phone-a-thons. At one pledge-a-thon, a larger kosher restaurant donated a wide selection of tasty food for helpers. My boys volunteered. They enjoyed helping out and they enjoyed the food. Plus, they received community service hours for school.

6. Always Tip Well!!!! Don't stiff the servers. I used to be a waitress and I know how hard servers work for the money.

Money Smart Life provides super tips for eating out without spending a fortune.

By the way, we don't have cable and we watch a limited amount of television programming via the Internet, a subject I addressed last year in this post and more recently, in this story about Ugly Betty.



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Dropping the Cell Phone & Saving a Bundle!

A family friend from upstate New York (real country living) has recently ditched his cell phone. Why? The reception is poor in his region and he doesn't feel like paying for unreliable service. He's sticking with the land line at home and using pay phones on the go. Big savings.

I can relate. Two years, I attended a writing conference on Long Island. We were very far out and the reception was really spotty & annoying. I had to use the pay phone to complete a few calls.

The old school pay phone-on-the-go route, is also featured in the book Treasure Hunt by Michael J. Silverstein. He writes about a 20-something banker, (Arnold Piso), with a six-figure investment portfolio. Ditching the cell phone is one of Piso's money-saving strategies:

"He is a self-professed skinflint. Arnold says he does not need a cell phone because he doesn't make that many calls and anyway, 'it's cheaper to use a pay phone.' He doesn't drink soda...[waste of money.]"

On the other end of the scale, a former neighbor of mine -- a 20-something Realtor -- totally unplugged her land line and relies completely on her cell. Another friend (a 58-year-old grandmother) uses her computer -- voice over Internet phone (VoIP technology) to make long distance and international calls. She saves a bundle.

In my home, we use cell phones, land lines and computer lines. But we've cut our bills, by bundling our Internet and land line service. We studied the costs and bundling helped us to cut back. We don't have cable and watch a limited amount of television programming via the Internet, a subject I addressed last year in this post and more recently, in this story about Ugly Betty.

Getting Green offers an excellent rundown on reducing the costs of technology in your home, including cell phones and other gadgets.

Getting Rich Together also has a strong how-to post about shopping around for the best cell phone deal.

And my First Million at 33 posted an great piece about his pre-paid phone deal.


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Simple Dollar!!! Hosts the Festival of Frugality: Thanks for the Excellent Hosting!

Simple Dollar is the host of the latest Festival of Frugality. He went through all of the posts and provided links to the individual blogs and to the festival submissions as well. That's a lot of work.

Thanks Simple Dollar. Sorry about the mix-up on my previous post, which featured a summary of the festival.

I really appreciate the time Simple Dollar devoted to reading every submission and providing a short summary with a quote from each post. Hey Simple Dollar, thanks for including my post in your roundup. Excellent Job!!!



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The Festival of Frugality is Running

The Festival of Frugality is up at The Weight of Money. Congrats to the host for managing and sorting the field of submissions. (Our host sorted a large field down to about 12 posts.)

It's a rich range of posts. I especially enjoyed Mapgirl's piece about her liberation from a car note and her fantasy about a Mini Cooper S Convertible. Cute Car; great post!

A Girl Worth Saving has a fun post about the tightfisted tips she picked up in college. I enjoyed Kelly's comments about not shopping retail and tapping into ethnic grocery stores for supplies.

My Two Dollars
has an insightful post about halting the bottled water craze. Excellent info with well-made points.

Actually, I enjoyed all of the posts. Really good stuff and I'm honored to be included in that lineup.

Congrats and Thanks to The Weight of Money for providing the space, time and energy!


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Ugly Betty Co-Star Gets Frugal Exercise

Rebecca Romijn -- the newly unveiled & post-op beauty -- (the surgery was only onscreen) -- from Ugly Betty -- believes in frugal exercise. In this photo from People online, Romijn is snapped while cycling with her partner Jerry O'Connell.

Jerry O'Connell and fiancée (and newly minted Ugly Betty star) Rebecca Romijn keep their fitness regimen in sync while pedaling the mean streets of Calabasas, Calif., recently.-- source: People

What a smart pair! Biking is a cheap way to get around town and to get exercise. What's more, O'Connell and Romijn are wearing matching Wheaties shirts. Coincidence? Or is the duo getting paid for their exercise routine? Or are they just fans of the cereal, which is a frugal breakfast option?

The advertising-while-biking angle fascinates me. I wrote about turning your car into a driving billboard. (Driving for dollars; making up to $400 a month with ads on your car.] I guess the same idea could apply to biking.


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Monday, January 22, 2007

Ballet Booty Yoga & My Cheap Discount on Yoga Blocks: $2.50 vs $10.99

While visiting the folks, I skipped into a Super Target and found a good deal on the yoga blocks that I've needed for months. We skipped over the As-Seen-on-TV Ballet Booty Yoga workout, program (about $40 for the DVDs and bonus), but we found a good deal on what we really needed.

Yoga blocks are those soft bricks that enable beginners & intermediate yoga wannabes to complete difficult poses & stretches. I've been waiting for a good price and we found yoga blocks for $2.50 each in the Dollar Store-esqe bins in the front of Target.

As a bit of comparison shopping, I walked to the back of the store and found yoga bricks in the sporting goods sections for $10.99 each. What a price difference.

Yoga is great for stress, conditioning and great for relieving pressure and strain in my wrists & hands. My yoga classes represent one of my best investments in my future.


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Carnival of Personal Finance Juggles Lots of Posts

The latest installment of the Carnival of Personal Finance is up and running at A Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. Congrats to the host for a great job. (There's a huge field of submissions.) Check out his top picks. His favorites include a post from Tag about Noah, rain and emergency funds, (my pet topic last week.)

I also enjoyed Penny Nickel's salute to Martin Luther King's financial values and 100 by 30's overview of Wedding Planning mistakes. A must-read for DIY wedding planners.

I'm honored to have my a post in that mix. Thanks to the host: A Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. I'm a fan of his!



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'Stomp the Yard Movie' Features Work-Study College Student

Yes, it's possible to afford college while "stepping," studying and attracting the sweetheart of your dreams. That's the frugal message from Stomp the Yard, a hit movie now playing in theaters across the country.

The storyline travels to "Truth University," a fictional Historically Black University and College, (HBUC) where the lead character, DJ, enrolls on a scholarship. As part of his scholarship, he works on the grounds maintenance crew run by his uncle on campus.

While planting flowers, hauling clippings and cutting grass, DJ learns a lot about life. He takes pride in his work and many scenes in the movie feature DJ hard at work. In fact, although the movie features the stepping, stomping, hip-hop dance moves of the lead character, many scenes showcase DJ as a work-study student. He works just as hard as he steps.

DJ has an incredible work ethic. And that was a message, I was so happy to share with my boys. (We watched the movie at a super-cheap matinee near my parents' home.) The dance, stepping and stomping scenes are electric.

Work-study programs are a valuable way to finance college. My parents attended Cheney State College, another HBUC in Pennsylvania. As college students in the 50s and early 60s, they worked hard while attending classes.

Fastfoward to Georgetown University in the fall of 1976, and you'll find me in the school cafeteria dishing out hash brown and quiche. That was the first job I ever had in my entire life, excluding babysitting. (I was a pampered suburban girl.) The tuition at Georgetown was expensive, and my parents paid for most of it. But I helped out a bit with summer jobs and work-study jobs on campus.

Here's a list of my positions on campus:

*food server in the cafeteria
*peer counseler for the Minority Student Affairs program
*summer housekeeping staff (cleaned dorm rooms for salary and free room during the summer months)
*writing tutor at the Writing Center run by the Prof. James Slevin.
*resident assistant (dorm floor leader)

I loved my years at Georgetown and every form of employment added a lot to my sense of self, responsibility and character. The work-study program was an important part of my education.

Here's a link to an earlier post about college costs, denial and families.
Free money Finance also offers this excellent piece on college costs.


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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lessons from the NFL: What I learned from the Colts' Victory over New England

The Colts' recent NFL Playoff victory over the New England Patriots is overrun with lessons from the playing field. I watched the game tonight with my parents and this is what I picked up from the NFL competition.

1. Small Gains Count: After a less than promising start in the first half of the game, the Colts were able to climb back onto the playing field with a series of field goals during the second half.

Three-point scores are not as pretty or as lucrative as touchdowns, but small gains add up.

My financial lesson: Small change adds up. Sometimes I'll be able to save several hundred dollars or more in one month. Those are my touchdown months. Other months, I'll be lucky to stash just $25 into my emergency funds. Those are my field goals. But even small gains represent progress.

2. Rally from deficits. By half-time the Colts were down by a score of 21 to 3. But the Colts continued to rally from that deficit.

My financial lesson: Even in middle-age, I can recover from deficits in different areas of my life. I can rally.

3. Keep playing as long as the clock is ticking: The game was a nail-biter until the last 16 seconds. Anything could have happened. Both teams stayed fiercely competitive.

My financial lesson: Time is more valuable than money. Keep going. Keep playing. Make every possession of time count.


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Post-its: Links I Liked

Tips for buying a car, different signs of a thrifty lifestyle, an expensive international wedding are a few of the fun posts I read this week. Here's a roundup of some of my favorite personal finance posts from this week.

Your Money to Keep offers an update on America's Cheapest Family: The Economides.

I also liked this post from No Limits Ladies about a wedding, a $3,000 plane fare to Australia for the nuptials and the importance of emergency funds, my pet topic last week.

The Digerati Life ran a super series featuring different ways to be thrifty.

The Pro Bargain Hunter posted an insightful piece about getting a good deal when buying a car.



The Frugal Duchess Boutique

My Son's $10 Suede Sneakers from Target: Flexing Frugal Muscles.

As a parent, sometimes I wonder if my kids really hear me, especially when I preach the values of frugal deals and comparision shopping.

Well today, my 14-year-old gave us lots of reasons to smile. He went to Target, hit the clearance sneaker aisle and purchased a pair of $10 clearance sneakers. What's more, he used his own money, earned from babysitting. The sneakers --black suede with white laces-- are sharp and look just like the triple-digit price-tag shoes he has considered at high-end athletic shoe stores.

But beyond the great deal, I was impressed with his obvious pride at finding a good bargain. He proudly modeled his find for his grandparents and recommended that we all check out the sale.

Of course, like most teens, he still loves expensive basketball shoes that are pitched by big-name NBA stars. But it was refreshing to see my son flex his frugal muscles. It's good for kids to learn to play outside the court of big-ticket marketing campaigns.



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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tapped the Emergency Fund: Major Car Repair

I think a major car repair qualifies as an appropriate use for an emergency fund. On the eve of a short trip to visit my folks, we took our car in for an oil change and check up at a fairly trustworthy auto repair shop. We left the auto shop with a bill of about $800 for assorted repairs, including a gas leak over the engine. Not good, especially before a modest vacation.

But we didn't have to borrow money from friends, family or a credit card. We tapped into the emergency fund and the repair bill did not feel like such a big burden. We'll work extra hard to replace the depleted funds.

My new goal is continue saving and to replace the auto-repair funds by February 20. Deadlines and concrete goals provide real-time, real-money targets for achievement. Deadlines motivate me. If I work on an extra article or two, over the next 15 to 30 days, I should be able to repair the emergency fund. That's at top priority.



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Friday, January 19, 2007

Insider Tips for Getting on Deal or No Deal; Writing Tips I've Learned

A casting insider for the hit show Deal or No Deal offered some really good tips today on a local Miami station. (102.7 Majic)* Casting for the show is tomorrow (Saturday) in Miami and by early Friday afternoon, the crowds had already started to line up.

Luke, the show's insider, spoke to deejay Mindy Lang and here are his tips:

1) Put something "neat" on your application for the show. Be original. Be Real.

2) Prepare for a 30-second interview. Be personable. Have a story to tell. "Stories are nice. Tell me something original," Luke said.

3) Be special. "I'm looking for that it factor, that personality, that glow," he added.

4) Don't be a copycat. Too often while people are standing in the audition line, they compare notes and exchange stories. The result: copycats and bland Wannabes

Final quote: "Come up with something original...that's true about yourself," Luke said during the radio interview.

What I learned from Luke:

1) Always keep a pen handy.
2) Keep an open mind. Good advice comes from strange sources.
3) Pay attention.
4) Be real. His comments reminded me of the recent excellent post from The Weight of Money about the importance of real stories and content that connects. I enjoyed that post so much.

*Note: 102.7 (Majic in Miami) is an oldies station. Tag line: Your favorite hits from the 60s, 70s & 80s. My fondness for that station is the only telltale sign of my status as a member of the Aging Baby Boomer Demographic Group. I usually "pass" through the age borders as if I were a younger Gen X or Gen Y mom. Clearly, I must have issues about aging.


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$10K Challenge: Joining Free Money Finance's Hunt for Side Income

I thought about writing about how the world of child stars (modeling & dancing) has knocked at my door with promises of large contracts for my children's childhood. (No deal! Child stars like Britney Spears and others scare me.) It would have been an entertaining post, but totally TMI (too much info).

Instead, I read Free Money Finance's post about hunting for an additional $10,000 in side income and I found my topic. His post is excellent, with a fixed number and a concrete plan.

Building a larger emergency fund has been on my mind this week and I've written a few posts on the subject. But my plans have lacked two things: 1) a specific number and 2) a definitive strategy.

Free Money Finance, on the other hand, crunches the numbers and calculates how many articles @ $400 each he has to write to hit his target. His post also includes links to other helpful and insight articles.

I think a goal becomes more real if you name the target. To say I want to enhance my three to six-month emergency fund lacks the emotional authority of this statement:

I want to add $10,000 to my emergency fund over the next 12 months.

In Winning by Jack Welch (with Suzy Welch), the Former CEO of GE, makes that same point about goal-setting. Spend time, Welch says, setting real-time, real-money goals.

Therefore, I will join Free Money Finance's $10K challenge with the following plan:

1) I will learn how to drive and turn my efforts into a story that I will sell to a national women's magazine. (One has already approached me. The catch: I have to drive first.) My sale Target: $500 to $2,000. I will also try to work on more magazine assignments.

2. I will broker my content through a national chain of family-friendly print magazines. They pay --I recall--less than $40 per story, but the chain accepts recycled material. It's a self-syndication plan. If only 10 magazines from that large chain pick up one of my stories, that's a few hundred dollars with minimal effort on my part.

I will find the link to that site and post it within a week. I'm annoyed with myself for losing the info.

3. Package myself as a speaker? I could register at one of the national speaking bureaus. Featured speakers at conventions and other corporate gatherings make a few grand per appearance. Maybe I can earn a few hundred by talking to smaller groups.

So that's my list. Thanks to Free Money Finance for creating the challenge.


The Frugal Duchess Boutique

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beat February Financial Funk: A Money Map

Stall purchases, huddle with the hubby and launch a "crisis cash" fund, those are a few possible cures for beating the annual “February Financial Funk,”
according to Howard Dayton, author of Your Money Map: A Proven 7-Step Guide to True Financial Freedom (Moody Publishers 2006). He offers these tips for better finances in 2007:

1. Crisis Cash: Set aside regular amounts in an emergency fund. Start by saving $1,000. Then, increase that amount. Eventually, you should have enough to cover three months of living expenses. --Dayton

My comment: I'm working on a three to six-month fund, financed primarily with income from extra projects and surprise money. In an earlier post, I provided other suggestions for bankrolling an emergency fund.

2. Automate: Don’t rely on good luck to pad your finances. Set up an automatic withdrawal of 10% of your paycheck that will go directly into your savings. --Dayton

3. Family Huddle: Agree with your spouse on a regular, weekly time to assess and maintain your family spending plan.

Comment: We don't have a set schedule for chatting about money. Maybe I'll try this tip.
4. Stall to Save: Require yourself to wait two full days before buying something you’ve seen in a catalog, on the Internet, or in a store. --Dayton

Comment: I call it the permanent lay-away plan. When I shop, I put things on hold for a day or so. If I still want the item, I come back within the set period. If not, I call back and ask the clerk to put the merchandise back into circulation: Hence, a permanent lay-away plan.

Actually, I've restricted my shopping to August end-of-summer sales. (Summer clothes are perfect year-round in Miami).

5. Debt Repayment: Cut small expenses like cable, a morning cup of coffee or video rentals and put that money directly into paying off your debts, starting with the smallest and working your way up. You’ll be amazed at the results as you gain momentum. --Dayton

“One successful, practical change,” says Dayton, “does more good for your finances than hundreds of unrealistic promises. Focus on small adjustments in the way you manage your money, and you will find that they make a huge difference.”



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Splitting the Penny: Many Savings Targets; Too Few Arrows

I recently spoke to a teacher and he used the term "Splitting the Penny," to describe his strategy for taking care of day-to-day family expenses, while trying to save for long-term goals. (He manages to tuck a way a bit each month for retirement and other long-range goals.)

Here are the targets & there aren't enough arrows to hit some of these goals.
*emergency funds
*retirement accounts
*college funds
*short-term funds for vacations, gifts, holidays, etc

Spitting the Penny is a difficult dance for many families, especially those earning low salaries or living paycheck to paycheck, (P2P), a status that surprisingly includes some families with six-figure incomes. Getting out of the P2P circuit is tricky.

My goal is to aggressively increase the size of my Emergency Fund. Most experts recommend a target of three to six months of your salary/or expenses. I've been brainstorming for painless and/or practical methods to beef up my emergency fund. My ideas are below and please send an email: or leave a comment with your ideas.

Emergency Funds Sources:
(some apply to myself and others like #7 are just random ideas I'm tossing out.)

1. extra income or second job
2. birthday and holiday checks
3. tax returns
4. sell unused portions of gift cards
5. sell excellent, but unwanted clothing items in consignment stores.
6. hold garage sales.
7. cut cable bills (skip tv or watch shows on the Internet for free).
8. Sell your extra car like Sally from Georgia. Redirect car payments into savings.

Similar tips are available in The new book: Help! I Can't Pay My Bills by Sally Herigstad, a contributing writer on MSN Money.
I also like these money saving ideas from the Stubborn Capitalist.
Binary Dollar also has a helpful list of 5 Random Money Saving Ideas.



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Attn Shoppers: Credit Card Security Breach at T.J. Maxx & Marshalls

If you have shopped at Marshalls or T.J. Maxx since 2003, check your credit card and bank statements. The Wall Street Journal reports that credit-card information was stolen from the parent company of those two stores and the theft could hit the security of 40 million credit cards.

You should be concerned about this info theft if --since May of 2003-- you have:

1. Shopped with a credit card at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and their affiliated stores.

2. Ditto for debit cards

3. Provided those stores with your license number (for a check)

4. Returned merchandise to those stores over that time period.

Here's a link to a preview of the story.

TJX said customer information was stolen from a computer network that handles a wide range of financial information, including credit cards, debit cards linked to checking accounts and transactions for returned merchandise. It didn't provide details of the breach, saying only that it discovered in December that an "unauthorized intruder" accessed its computer systems. Some drivers' license numbers also were stolen. --WSJ

I have shopped at Marshalls during that period. Therefore, I am going to take the steps recommended by the company:

The company urged customers to review their account statements for potential fraud and set up a toll-free number (866-484-6978) for those with questions about the situation. TJX also said it would provide tips on preventing credit- and debit-card fraud and steps customers can take to protect their personal information at --WSJ



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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Health Carnival & Organize Your Life Carnival

Two excellent carnivals are also on the circuit. The fourth edition of the "Health Carnival" is published, with Healthorama as the host.
Check out the entries.

Likewise, for those of us who really need to get our homes and offices in order, there is the Organize Your Life Carnival, hosted by

Thanks to the hosts for doing such a good job and providing the space.


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Frugal Couple Selling Car to Cut Debt

Today I received this note from Sally of Through a Glass Darkly. She's selling her car. Here's her story:

In our march onward out of debt, Dan and I are selling my 2003 Saturn Ion 3. We never drive more than one car at a time now that we live in Midtown Atlanta, so it doesn't make sense to keep both of our cars. My car works and looks great, so I would never consider selling it if we weren't serious about dumping our debt. (I'm so sad, but it is for the best.)

If you know people in the greater Georgia area who might be in the market for a perfectly functioning, attractive used car at a great price, please forward this email or send them to my page about my car. It has all the specs and photos.

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about ditching the car. Here's the link to that post.

A close friend of mine has survived for years with just one family car in a very busy household. The family has saved a fortune and used the savings to live well in other areas and to increase their net worth.

I don't drive, but I save lots by using public transportation and my feet. (I also carpool and rely on cabs). Those are cheap forms of transportation and I get lots of exercise.



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Advice for Britney Spears: Go Frugal; Cover Your Assets & Learn from JLo

I'm not a Britney Spears fan but I actually feel sorry for the Pop Star Diva. Pundits use the word "train wreck," when they write about Spears. And her party-girl rep has become a bottom-line liability. She was "punted" from an opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl, according to this report.

Currently the lucrative celebrity deals are being ironed out in the casting for an all-star NFL Network promo to air during the Feb. 4th football finale.

"She's too much of a train wreck," says the unnamed Daily News source said to be an "insider." "Besides, we already have Paris Hilton." One trainwreck of a blonde is enough for the NFL. Source: Stone Martindale Jan 16, 2007 --

A lifestyle makeover would help Spears repair her career and her earning power. I recommend a downsized life and a frugal makeover.

1. Ask Jennifer Lopez for tips. For a while, I was a professional JLo watcher. For a contract, I hung out in Miami where JLo lived, shopped, and even got her hair done. I even went to a movie theater hours after she arrived to get info. This was in the height of the JLo and Ben Affleck uproar & and tips about JLo were worth a lot of money to me.

JLo was hiding. But it was always easy to find her. Just look for the bright lights, the long line of black SUVs with tinted windows. Look for the large posse of people and the catering trucks, the florist, etc.

But then she got smart and my job became harder. By downsizing and cutting down on the perks and privileges of her big-ticket life, JLo saved money and acquired more privacy & sanity. So Britney: Lose the party posse & the nightlife.

And if you come to Florida to watch the super bowl; skip the clubs and go out to eat alone at an early-bird special.

2. Crunch your own numbers: Hey Girl: No matter how many financial gurus watch over your accounts, at the end of the day it's your money and it's your life. You have to brush your own teeth and watch your own money.

3. Check out the Festival of Under 30 Finances, which features financial advice from bloggers that are in your age group. They're pretty savvy with attitude.

4. Take care of the kids. Fine tune the college savings plans and trust fund accounts for your babies: I assume you have those investments in place. But consider saving more. Believe me, time flies and money evaporates. Lock it all up now.

5. Don't worry you'll be 30 soon. My 20-something years don't compare to yours, but I had some stupid days also. Keep the faith: You'll get older and smarter.

6. Find you mouse ears: My 20s were tough, but I really liked the little girl I was. Go back to Disney and have some fun!

7. Go to Victoria's Secret's January Sale: Undergarments (winking) are super cheap. Almost pennies on the dollar. So cover your Assets. Enough said.


The Frugal Duchess Boutique

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Frugal Character Wins Hollywood Awards: Golden Globes for Ugly Betty!

Ugly Betty, my favorite fictional frugalite--played by America Ferrera--has won a Golden Globe her performance on the hit ABC show. The show also won a Globe. Without cable or TV service, I watch the episodes for free on my computer. Go to

Ugly Betty -- a very frugal, down-to-earth young woman -- is a role model for many:

Ferrera said she hears every day from girls inspired by her character, Betty Suarez, saying it "truly brings a new face to television." --source: Associated Press

Here are my favorite Frugal Moments on Ugly Betty.

1) Frugal Fun In New York Betty gives trust fund baby Daniel M. (editor-in-chief) of Mode a list of about 30 frugal things to do in New York. When I lived in Manhattan, I loved taking a ride on the Staten Island ferry for 25 cents a ride (in the 80s). I loved going to free concerts in Central Park. I loved just walking through the streets of New York.

2) Gucci bag of health care: I love the episode in which Betty trades her $4,500 Gucci bag for a 15-month supply of expensive heart medicine for her dad.

3) Cheap Eats: My all-time favorite episode takes place when the wealthy-born Daniel M. has only a limited budget to entertain a major Japanese designer. Betty's Frugal option: Take them to White Tassle (a White Castle-style cheap-food-joint) in Jersey. I wrote about that episode in an earlier post. Click on the Ugly Betty tab at the bottom of this post for my other Ugly Betty stories.

And the real-life girl has a heart. Here's a snippet from the New York Times report:

When America Ferrera won for best actress in a television comedy, she was more animated, tearfully saying that the ABC series “Ugly Betty” was “truly bringing a new face to television.” And that brought tears to the eyes of even some of the oldest, best-preserved faces in the business. --New York Times

Here's an AP report about the Golden Globes. Check out the cute, cute picture of the Ugly Betty star.

Big-ticket flicks Dream Girls and Babel (a Brad Pitt special) also won honors.


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Fire Finance Hosts Festival of Frugality: Visual & Entertaining!

The latest edition of the Festival of Frugality is up at Fire Finance. The host has done an excellent job of using graphics and a fictional character to weave together the posts.

I am honored to be included in the festival, which offers an excellent lineup of stories. Here are a few of my favorites:

Check out ProBargain Hunter's: How to buy cheap airline tickets.

Mr. Cheap Stuff has a cute piece on Top Sites for Printing Out Photos.

The Stubborn Capitalist offers 106 Ways to Save Money

Kudos to all. Thanks for the links and Thanks for the space!


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Monday, January 15, 2007

Single Ma's Great Tribute to MLK & My Other Favorite Post-its

Single Mom has a great tribute to Martin Luther King. I didn't see her version until after I posted mine. Kudos to Single Ma...Right on time, with a great post!

Binary Dollar has some solid tips for cutting energy costs. I like the binge ironing tip and the computer shutdown reminder.

Money Smart Life provides super tips for eating out without spending a fortune.

I like the tip about splitting large portions. I've been taking my kids out for one-on-one dates with Mom. The portions have been huge and we've been saving a lot by sharing servings: soup, salad, main course, dessert and smoothies. Lots of food 4 less.

Young and Broke offers the latest Carnival of Personal Finance. Lots of good reading.

Flexo at Consumerism Commentary posted some thoughtful comments on re-thinking the Latte Factor. His argument: Sweat less over the small things; target the big-ticket items. Great piece. I'm a small-change woman, but Flexo makes valid points.

My Open Wallet has a cute post about the itch to spend and her recent I-want-this list.

Wise Bread provided this insightful piece about the Shrinking Stigma on store brands.



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In Honor of MLK Day: Moving Beyond Fame & Fortune.

Today would have been the 78th birthday of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's what his daughter has to say about the community service contributions of her parents, who worked for World Peace and better lives for African-Americans and all American in the U.S.:

"When you see the commitment my parents exhibited ... it was not for fame or fortune," Yolanda King said. "The best sermons are those that are lived.-- source: Associated Press

Here's a link to the full story.

The eldest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King evoked the civil rights movement while reminding those remembering her parents that America has not yet reached the promised land of peace and racial equality.

"We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other," Yolanda King said Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church during a presentation that was part motivational speech, part drama.
--AP report

Here's a link to a video about MLK. ( a short commercial goes on first).

And finally, here's a link to the

Shalom (Peace)



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Mental Toughness & Other Credit Scoring Lessons: NFL's New England Patriots

It's possible to recover from a series of mistakes and financial fumbles if we go back to the sidelines and constantly review our charts and errors. That's the wisdom I picked up from Sunday's NFL playoff game between the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. Here's a link to the Washington Post story about the game.

Like many of us--the quarterback, Tom Brady, struggled with his game. He was hit with a long list of problems during the game. I've had some everything-seems-wrong moments in my life. Therefore, I admire Brady's focus:

All game long he had struggled. His range was off, he underthrew and overthrew, he was hurried and sacked. But after each failed drive or turnover, he would return to his sideline and study his charts, imperturbable.

"You know it's just not letting anything get to you," Brady said. "It's staying focused no matter what's swirling around you. Just continuing to mentally fight through whatever obstacles there might be." --Washington Post

New England won the game in the final minutes, defeating the San Diego Chargers by a score of 24 to 21.

They call it mental toughness and it pays dividends.
I think the most important thing is, we have a bunch of mentally tough guys in here who don't give up, regardless of the situation," New England defensive back Ray Mickens said. "I think that shows today, that we didn't get down on ourselves just because we were down by 11 points, but just kept hammering away and being mentally tough." Source: Washington Post

Financial Lessons I picked up from the sidelines:

1. Constantly study your charts, balance sheets and strategy.
2. Don't give up.
3. Stay focused.
4. Chip away at deficits
5. Constantly look for opportunities to score points.



The Frugal Duchess Boutique

Sunday, January 14, 2007

January: Great Time to Pick up Thrift Store deals

Forget the January sales in department stores and discount chains. January is a great time for picking up great deals and new merchandise at thrift stores. That's the word from my friend Fey. I wrote about her this week in my column in the Miami Herald.

For less than $5, she has found ceramic dishes, vases, paintings and other household items. Fey enjoys the sport of shopping at many area thrift stores.

Here's the link.



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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Money Amnesty Day & 9 Tips for Dealing with a Big Spender

What do you do if your spouse is the money leak in your house? MSN's Liz Pulliam Weston deals with that topic in this article.

Here's a quick summary of her tips with a few of my own comments.:
1) Don't be negative
2) Fix your attitude
3) Guard your tongue: Carefully use hot button terms like budget, overspending and out-of-control.
4) Set goals together
5) Get a joint financial education: Get on the same page
6) Crunch numbers together
7) Have fun accounts
8. Create a magic number
9) Don't give up and get help if needed.

My own comments:

Numbers #5, #7 and #8 work best in my home.

# 7 Separate-but-Equal Account I think everyone should have their own allowance or pocket change for personal expenses. Fun accounts for an extra coffee, magazine or even to buy a present for the other spouse.

#8 Big-ticket-Ask First Number: Everyone has a different threshold for joint approvals of major purchases. Some couples require two agreements for any purchase over $50 or $100. We don't have a fixed number, but any major purchase usually involves consultation. Almost always.

#5 Share books and articles on finance.
We both read the Tightwad Gazette (newsletter and books) together. It was a great bonding exercise and provided a low-pressure way to chat about finance.

Meanwhile, in the book The Financially Intelligent Parent by Eileen and Jon Gallo, the authors recommended a "Money Amnesty Day," in which a husband and wife, mutually confess their financial errors, overspending or whatever.

The goal: to avoid secret and unspoken battles over money.

"Set aside time for you and your spouse to sit down and reveal any money secrets that you may have been keeping from each other. Agree in advance that you will forgive whatever is revealed so long as the behavior stops." --The Financially Intelligent Parent



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Friday, January 12, 2007

I Just Wasted $1.99 on Cancer-Linked Cosmetic: Not a Bargain!

It pays to read the labels. And when it comes to makeup products, I've become very vigilant about reading labels and boycotting personal care products that include methylparaben, a chemical linked to breast cancer. Here is a link on the topic. This preservative is found in many makeup products, shampoos, conditioners and other personal care items.

Over the last few months, I've purged my cabinet and makeup bags of products with shaky ingredients. But yesterday, I scooped up a mascara tube for only $1.99. It was a new brand for me and what could be wrong with a little mascara? And the price was so cheap!

Big mistake: The product contained a horrible list of chemicals, including several I've been warned about. I didn't realize my mistake until I had already opened the package and then read the label.

My lesson:

1. A bargain is not a bargain if it could threaten your health in the near-term or short-term.

2. Don't rush while shopping. I was sprinting through the store in order to catch a ride. I did not make smart choices because I was in a hurry.

Next time, I'll just use a dab of vaseline (super cheap) on my brows and lashes. Vaseline is frugal, with fewer chemicals and it's good for the skin.


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CNBC: How We Spend Our Time OnLine: The Most Popular Destinations

My favorite place online is, which provides a quick snapshot of interesting trends, news and insights in the world of frugal and financial bloggers. This news aggregate service offers access to a wide range of voices, links, Fiscal/Frugal Carnivals and data.

My son loves,which is the top-ranking destination according to, which provided a rundown of popular online destinations. Traffic on is still strong (about 25 percent of traffic), but that figure represents a slight drop over the last quarter. Meanwhile, has seen a spike in traffic, according to Julia Boorstin's Media Money blog at
Tied neck and neck with is
another 24.5% of all web page views going to Microsoft's portal -- and that's up 4% from five months ago.--

By the way, has redesigned its site, according to this report from, an excellent source of news about online journalism.


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