Reinstall the Drivers

For a panicked moment I thought I would have to buy a new laptop. There was no audio, not on any page. I plugged in the headphones; still no audio.

I Googled “no audio on HP laptop.” Several sites told me to reinstall the audio drivers. One of them was detailed enough that I could easily do it. Voila! audio.

Something similar happened when the printer wouldn’t print. After quite a bit of research I read about reinstalling the printer drivers, and sure enough, it worked.



Credit Score: It’s Not What You Make, It’s What You Do With It

Think about it–no matter how much you earn, it won’t make your credit score go up. No matter how little you earn, your score won’t go down (unless you fail to pay your bills).

A credit score reflects only how skillfully you manage debt. It doesn’t care if you’re The World’s Best Dad, have the strongest marriage, the most prestigious job, live in a lovely neighborhood, or are 20 years old or 120. It only cares how you manage debt.

The more available credit you have compared to how much you’ve used, the better. A credit limit of $3,000 with a balance owing of $25 is great. A limit of $3,000 with a balance owing of $2,900 lowers your score.

The more you don’t use what you have, the better your credit score. That may feel a bit contrary, like life is saying, “Here’s a bag of marshmallows, but if you don’t eat them you win!” Available credit isn’t like money, standing by for you to spend it. It’s more like those well-trained dogs that will sit with a treat on their nose and not eat it until allowed.

When to Tell Them What You Can Spend

A year or more ago I called the cable company’s retention department and told them I could only spend $60 a month for cable and internet. They made it happen. This worked because I spoke with the retention department, not sales. Their job is to keep customers.

That was a time to tell them what I could spend.

That company has since been bought out, and my bill gradually inched up. So, I called a rival company. They spent twenty minutes trying to get me to tell them all about what shows I like and what channels I prefer. I kept telling them I just want the cheapest plan. They kept enticing me with HGTV and ESPN. If I had let them suck me in, I could have ended up with an expensive package of shows I LIKE, not the low-cost service I NEED.


There are times to keep your spending ability a secret:

Never tell a car dealer how much you can afford. Do the research and negotiate the lowest price. If you tell them what you can afford, they’ll be sure to charge you at least that much. Same with repairs. First, find out what’s wrong with it and what they estimate it will cost. Then you can discuss less expensive alternatives. Tell any salesperson or service provider you can spend X amount, and you are leading them into the temptation of selling you something that costs that much.


Easy Net Worth Calculation

The idea of computing your net worth can seem intimidating. It sounds awfully accounting-ish and formal. When it’s just for your own information, it’s easy.

Take a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. Write down the value of your big stuff:

Home if you own it (,

Other real estate,

Bank account balances,

Brokerage account, IRA, 401k, (just use the most recent statement. Doesn’t need to be exact to the penny.)

The amount you could get for your car, jewelry, and collectibles if you sold them, (If you guess, guess low.)

Anything else I haven’t thought of.

Add it up.

Write down everything you owe:


Credit cards, personal loans, car loans, medical and dental bills, (this does not include current utility bills, only debts)

Anything else I haven’t thought of.

Add it up.

Subtract the amount owed from the total of assets.

If the amount is negative, it’s probably a good idea to work on reducing the amount of debt you have.

If it’s positive, you’re way ahead of many people, so keep on!

Those Occasional Expenses

Bills that come in every month are predictable and easy to cope with. The ones that can throw us off are those that come in less often.

Insurance premiums, property tax, back-to-school, Christmas, and heating oil are predictable. But they fall outside the normal pattern of monthly payments. There are several ways to build up the money for these bills. You can use a Christmas club account for Christmas. You can also use it for anything due near the end of the year, such as property tax.

Another way is to divide the amount of the bill by the number of months between payments, such as six for a twice a year insurance bill. Subtract that amount from the check register each month. Then add it back when the bill comes, and write the check to pay it. If you have a separate savings account, you can actually move the money instead of just subtracting it in the check register.

For a while, I added up ALL of the irregular bills. I added an amount to save for a possible condo repair or car repair. I divided the total by twelve, and put that amount aside every month. With rare and minor exception, this method let me always have the money to pay each irregular bill as it came along. That year I bought a refrigerator, a wall air conditioner, and a (very cheap) used car, all for cash.

Some banks offer a program where each time you use your debit card, they transfer a dollar to your savings account. This can be an easy way to build up some savings. You do have to remember to subtract that extra dollar from the check register.

Staying ahead of this type of expense lets you avoid getting behind.

Practice at Making Decisions

As adults, we constantly make small and large decisions that affect our financial lives. How did we learn that skill? Or did we? Making sound skillful decisions doesn’t necessarily come naturally. In addition to good advice and good examples, we need practice.

Find situations where your kids can make decisions. My mother bought the groceries and then each evening it was my role to decide what vegetable we’d have with dinner. Having chosen the vegetable, I could hardly complain about eating it. At back to school time, she’d gather a group of outfits and let me chose which five to buy. Notice that these early lessons had a failsafe built in since she chose the group from which I then chose. I had daily and yearly experiences of making successful decisions with good results.

I received a small allowance and could do as I pleased with it. I bought dumb stuff and wasted a lot of money, and that was a GOOD thing. I got all those impulse buys and scam situations out of the way before I was old enough for it to matter. NOTE: The reason I learned from this is that once I wasted my money, no one gave me more. I experienced the results over and over until I learned.

Help your kids and grandkids by making room for them to learn.


Time to Trade and Test Seeds

You don’t have to have a big yard to grow some of your food and herbs. Pots on the porch or balcony will do fine for parsley, oregano, onions, all those relatively small plants.

If you do have room for a full garden, there are ways to do it less expensively. Maybe there’s a gardeners’ group in your area where people trade their extra seeds, and you won’t have to buy so many.

The frugal gardener knows that last year’s seeds are still good this year if they have been stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Indeed, mine were just in the cupboard, and they stayed good until the next year.

To test them just before planting time, lay ten seeds in between two paper towels and keep them moist. If at least seven of the ten sprout, the seeds are good. In 2013, I planted 2012’s onion seeds and they grew nicely.

You can make compost in a covered five gallon bucket. I’ve done it. Start with a layer of dirt, such as topsoil or garden dirt. Add a layer of kitchen scraps, stir it into the dirt and get the whole thing wet. Stir it every day and keep it damp but not soggy. Add more scraps and more dirt as the scraps become available. Stop adding scraps while there’s still room to stir the compost. You do have to keep stirring it daily even once it’s full. Over time, the scraps will break down into nutritious compost. You can use raw vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, crushed and crumbled eggshells, and dried grass clippings and leaves. Don’t use bones, meat, grease, or cooked foods.