I am not one to spend coins. I prefer to save my pocket change. In fact, I go out of my way to make sure I get plenty of change so I have more to save! But I hate to carry loose change, and so does my husband.

A Jar of Coins Full and Running Over

We routinely dump the day’s accumulation into a container to save for a trip or to buy something special. One year we saved $1,100 in coins, but I have to admit the logistics can be a royal pain.

Banks and credit unions have strict rules about loose coins. Some require it to be rolled, wrapped and labeled before deposited. Others won’t accept wrapped coins. Either way, most these days charge a fee.

I don’t know what happened to me last weekend. I guess I was suffering from a severe case of TMC (too many coins). In a fit of frustration, I dumped the jars into a big bag and drove to the supermarket. I knew it would cost me 11.9% but at the time, it seemed reasonable. 

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Our kids are fortunate to be growing up in the most progressive and exciting time in history. Sadly, the very culture that offers them the world is also perpetrating this lie:

You are entitled to have everything you want even if you don’t have the money to pay for it. It’s not a problem. You deserve it. Get it now and you can pay for it later!

 

There’s a huge consumer-credit industry out there planning to give your kids their very own credit cards—personal passports into the abyss of consumer debt. This will not require your permission or approval, something that one reader is experiencing first hand.

Dear Mary: My daughter who is in college got a credit card and now she is in over her head, unable to pay what she owes.

She works part-time and makes a very small salary. With the high interest and late fees, the balance is now over $2,500. I will have to step in and handle the account.

How can I negotiate with the credit-card company to settle for less? I don’t know how she got this card on her salary but she kept quiet about not being able to make the payments until we started getting collection calls for her. I appreciate your thoughts and expertise. Millie

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In the wake of America’s big economic wake-up call back in 2008, dollar stores and thrift stores saw, and continue to see, a big resurgence. And now another kind of retail quasi-lender is commanding all kinds of attention from sellers and buyers, too—pawn shops.

I admit to having grown up with a weird bias against pawn shops. To me, pawn shops were just one level above Vinny the Loan Shark operating illegally in some dark alley in the bad part of town just waiting to break some knees.

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Where did that come from? I have no idea really, but let me quickly follow by saying it is a most faulty stereotype.

Pawn shops are respectable businesses that offer a viable service in many communities. And these days, thanks in part to Rick Harrison, whose family owns the Gold and Silver Pawnshop in Las Vegas and stars in the History Channel’s Pawn Stars—one of my personal favorites— business is booming.

What it is?

A pawn shop, owned and operated by a licensed pawnbroker, makes secured loans on personal property left in the broker’s possession to be held as collateral. The property can be redeemed by the customer when the loan plus a finance charge (think: interest plus per-month service charge) is repaid.

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I wish I had a dollar for every stupid purchase I’ve made in my life. I’d have quite a stash. Regrettably, my financial faux pas have been remarkable in both quantity and quality. I’ve made some real doozies.

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Here’s one: Purchasing on credit an above-ground, 7,000-gallon inflatable swimming pool. On a whim. At a Home and Garden Show. For the kids, of course.

Its à la carte price was bad enough. Adding everything required but not included took it from barely reasonable to absolutely ridiculous.

First, there was a heater and filter. Then, a cover, chemicals, and test kit. We needed search and rescue equipment (this was one monstrosity of a pool) and a few necessary pool toys. Oh, and let’s not forget the cost of eventually getting rid of the albatross.

Let me put it this way: There is not a lively secondary market for this kind of thing. If I’d had the courage to consider the consequences of such a major purchase before making the decision to buy, we could have avoided a five-year industrial-strength headache and saved one huge pile of dough.

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Even the mention of words like frugality and thrift send some people over the edge because, for them, those words conjure up thoughts of poverty and deprivation. They assume that cutting costs is tantamount to diving into dumpsters to find one’s next meal. No wonder so many people prefer a life of debilitating debt to one of frugality.

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Let me set the record straight. Please.

There is nothing undignified about spending less than you earn. That’s called living below your means, and it’s a fabulous way to live!

When you spend less than you earn, you have money to save—imagine that! And to give some away, too.

When you spend less than you earn, you are not dependent on credit to get by. It is a very good thing.

So, you may be wondering, how can you move from overspending to spending less, without giving up your quality of life? It starts with prioritizing everything according to how important it is to your life. Then only spend on things at the top of the list, ruthlessly cutting your spending on the things that don’t matter.

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What I love more than great tips and brilliant ideas from my readers are the lovely words of love and thanks. Yeah, I’m a sucker for friendship and I value each and every one of you more than you will ever know.

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Just knowing that so many friends are reading these columns every day makes me excited and energized to keep going!

So whatever you do, keep those tips, great ideas, questions, and the love coming.

Freeze milk for later

I use whole milk, but only occasionally in some of my special recipes. Instead of purchasing the smaller size milk container for that one recipe, I purchase the gallon-size whole milk which is much cheaper per ounce.

I freeze what I don’t need in 1-cup measurements in freezer bags. I am surprised how many times during the year this saved me from purchasing yet again a smaller size milk container for just one recipe.

I am so grateful for your daily emails—they have helped keep me on the right track. Thank you. Linda

 

Safe take-apart

I am a retired soldier. During my active career, we moved often. That meant my inner DIY needed to come out often. We disassembled many things over the years and I would like to add to your tips on taking things apart. Once the item is disassembled, always reposition the fasteners, screws or bolts and nuts back into the holes, exactly where they were. You are not putting the item back together, simply inserting the hardware into the specific slots and holes.

Packing all of these items into a zip-type plastic bag sounds like a good idea, but unless you very securely tape the little bag to the back of the item you took apart, the bag always seems to get lost some way or another.

Putting the fasteners back where they were means they will always be in the right place when and where you need them!

Now that we have retired, we still have some things disassembled in our shed for storage, and the fasteners are back in their spots waiting to be used in the reassembly, without hunting for them. Colonel T.W. Read more

It was a weird request. My friend Mary Ann asked if she could borrow some pickle juice. Huh? Who keeps pickle juice?

The purpose of pickle juice is to keep the pickles fresh and flavorful, so when the pickles are gone, out goes the juice, right? That’s a practice that makes Mary Ann go ballistic.

two-jars-of-pickle-juice-one-is-sweet-the-other-dill-and-please-dont-throw-them-out-because-pickle-juice-has-so-many-awesome-uses!

 

Here’s the deal: Mary Ann is famous for her potato salad. She makes ten pounds at a time and it disappears faster than homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. Her secret (which she confides to only a chosen few*) is sweet pickle juice. Not pickles, not relish—only the juice. And lots of it.

So, I wondered if there might be other uses for the briny stuff? A quick search of the multiple thousands of tips readers have sent to me over the years plus research online came up amazingly positive!

Really, I had no idea that pickle juice had so many health benefits or could be used in so many ways in the kitchen.

In the Kitchen

Meat tenderizer

Most marinades to tenderize meat contain the key ingredients of vinegar and salt. Adding things like garlic, salt, pepper, even a bit of sugar improve the flavor and end result. Bingo! Those are common ingredients in pickle juice—either sweet or dill. Use the pickle juice to tenderize and flavor pork or beef—especially if you’re dealing with a particularly tough cut

Sweet pickled chops

Arrange four pork chops in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt. Place a slice of onion and a tablespoon of catsup on the top of each. Pour 1/2 cup of sweet pickle juice around chops. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Yum! Read more

Cream. It’s coffee’s perfect mate. And when that creamer comes flavored in a handy bottle from the dairy case, even more perfect, right? Oh, but so pricey!

Hot new cup of coffee with creamer

Generally, popular brands like Coffeemate, International Delight, Dunkin Donuts Extra Extra and Natural Bliss retail for $.10 to $.30 per ounce. Ouch! But you can make it yourself for a fraction of the price—and it is so easy. The hard part will be not using it all at once. Bonus: You’ll know exactly what’s in it and you can control sweetness and the flavors, too.

Stored in the refrigerator in a glass bottle or similar container with the tight-fitting in the refrigerator, homemade coffee creamer is good for at least 10 to 14 days.

Generally, homemade coffee creamers start with a base to which you add sweetener and flavor. There are two ways to make coffee creamer base—one that starts out sweet (Base Recipe #1)  and one that is not sweet to start (Base Recipe #2).

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