Do it yourself


NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every year in November thousands of aspiring writers start writing a novel with the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month. A small portion finish a first draft, but they all start and they all learn something.

There’s no fee and no prize, just a chance to be part of a group and get your novel started. Books that started out as NaNoWriMo books include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus, and many others.

Won’t you join me?


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Hurricane Irma damaged my windows. Want to help me get new ones? /Widgetflex.swf



Adapted Neck Brace

The bones in my neck are pressing on nerves and sending electrical zings into my head. The chiropractor recommended a neck brace. I ordered one on Amazon, but it was too short for my neck. Rather than buy another, I spent $3+ at Walmart on rectangular pieces of Velcro and made an extension.

The brace makes me hold my neck in correct alignment, and provides some support for my big ol’ (brain-filled) head, so my neck isn’t under as much pressure.




Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Kindle preview:


52 Weeks: Wills, etc. – Wills

As a former estates paralegal, I really, really hesitate to even mention drafting your own Will. So much can go wrong when you don’t know all the possibilities. Some things only an attorney is likely to know. On the other hand, if you have no kids under eighteen and very few assets, then you might do all right with a site like or with a Will form from a stationery store. “Wills and Trust Kit for Dummies” might also be helpful.

I am not an attorney and nothing I say here should be taken as legal advice. It’s always wise to consult an attorney about important legal matters. If you have minor children, significant assets, or greedy relatives, an attorney needs to draft your Will.

Take notice of what is required for the process of signing a Will. Different states require different things. You have to do it the way your state requires for it to be legal. Some states require notarization while other states don’t allow it. Different states require a different number of witnesses. In most states, you can sign your Will anywhere that you can assemble the required witnesses/notary; it doesn’t have to be done in a lawyer’s office.

There are several things you want to express in a Will:

  • What kind of funeral or cremation do you want? Also, put this in an easily found letter or tell your family what you want. People don’t always get around to looking at the Will until after the arrangements have been set in motion.
  • If you have minor children, who do you want to raise them? What if you and their other parent are both gone? If you don’t name a guardianfor your children, the judge will have to guess what you might have wanted, based only on what other people tell him.
  • It would be wise to name back-up guardians, in case the people who are your first choice can’t or won’t act. Raising children is a big responsibility. You should probably ask the people you want to be guardians before putting them in your Will. When I was young, my mother spent money she couldn’t easily afford to have a Will made. She wanted to be sure I wouldn’t fall into the hands of the foster care system. People often also state in a Will what they want to happen to any pets they may have.
  • Who do you want to have your car and personal property? List physical things like cars, furniture, and personal items in a separate attachment to the Will. You can easily change it without having to have the Will itself changed. I’ve changed my attachment a dozen times when I got rid of things or got new things. Because of the attachment, I didn’t have to change the Will itself. Make sure your state allows attachments to a Will.
  • Bank accountsand real estate can have a joint owner or beneficiary on them. That property will go directly to that joint owner or beneficiary. They are not affected at all by the Will. What if your savings account has someone on it as beneficiary, and in your Will you direct that it should go to someone else? In fact, it will go to the first person, the one named on the account as the beneficiary.
  • If you make someone a joint owner, they have immediate shared control over the property. A joint tenant on a bank account can make a withdrawal without your signature. They don’t have to wait for your death as a beneficiary would.
  • If you put a joint owner on your house, they can’t sell it without your signature. By the same token, you can’t sell it without their signature. This gives them the power to stop you from selling, if they choose to do so. Even kind, usually trustworthy people might put their own interests first in this kind of situation. So consider carefully before adding a joint owner.
  • Who should take charge? Name an executor, also called a personal representative, to carry out what you’ve put in your Will. Because things change, it’s wise to name at least one alternative executor in case the first one can’t or won’t take the job. Ask your potential executor(s) if they are willing to serve. You can save some costly attorney time by going to your appointment with all of these things thought out. Have all of your beneficiaries’ and executors’ names and addresses already written down to give to the lawyer.

Staging A Home To Sell

I’ve just been reading an article on staging a home to get the best price when selling. In addition to the usual advice to remove clutter and personal items like photos and all that stuff on the fridge, they mentioned having a friend or relative look at the place with a fresh eye. We see our own homes all day every day, it’s easy to see only what we want to.

Something similar that helped me when I last staged a house was to take pictures, just for myself, to see what they showed. Oh my! I didn’t notice that stack of papers until I saw it in the picture. Too many decorative items – it looked fine to my eye, but the camera is merciless. It doesn’t just add ten pounds to a person, it adds ten pounds of clutter to a room!

My home wasn’t ready to show until my pictures looked like magazine pictures.

Fix It Up: Vertical Blinds

My condo came with vertical blinds throughout. Decades of heat, sun, and use have made some of the vanes brittle. The small piece above the hole that the clip goes in to hold it broke off on some of them.

I was going to Lowe’s to buy vanes. I Googled a bit to get an idea what they cost. Some of the results were for little tabs to repair broken vanes, so I looked into it. They cost a fraction of what a new vane does and are far less bulky to bring home.

Clean the top of the vane. Pop out the holes in the repair tab. Remove the paper backing from the self-adhesive side. Bend in half and stick on the vane where the hole is. Easy. Once they are back in place you can’t tell they’ve been repaired.

(The pic shows an unbroken one because I didn’t think to take it before repairing them.)

“What I Don’t Have to Spend, I Don’t Have to Earn”

About half the time when I say that to people, they stare as if what they heard me say was, “Erndampt, ag rojabrane.” I’ve tried saying it in different words, but sometimes it just doesn’t fit a person’s mindset.

If I arrange my life so that I don’t have to spend $60 a month on dry cleaning, then at least theoretically, that’s $60 I don’t have to earn that week. Of course when you have a steady and sufficient salary, you’re going to earn anyway. In that case, what you don’t have to spend, you can save up for something bigger that you want, like a vacation or early retirement.

When you’re relying on intermittent and unpredictable self-employment income, and your health isn’t reliable either, not-spending is a wonderful way to handle gaps in income. This is great for people who are retired, disabled, temporarily out of the work force for personal or family reasons, etc…..

If working overtime hours is putting pressure on your health or your family life, perhaps you could not-spend instead of working yourself into the ground.

For hundreds of examples of ways to not-spend (and still live a normal life), see my book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely.

Grooming – Waxing

Who knew? Homemade wax for hair removal isn’t wax. It’s made of sugar, lemon juice, and water cooked together. To view live demonstrations, search on YouTube for “sugar wax.” One of the demos I watched didn’t use cloth strips. They spread the wax out on their skin and then pulled it off abruptly. One said to apply the wax against the grain and remove with the grain, with the direction of the hair growth.

I cooked two cups granulated white sugar with ¼ cup water and ¼ cup lemon juice on the stove. I brought it to a boil and then simmered it for nearly fifteen minutes before it began to turn golden brown and thicken a bit. Next time I will cook it less, the thinness was deceptive. Once it cooled, it was very thick. It took almost an hour at room temperature to cool enough to use. It looked, smelled and tasted like very thick honey. It needs to be still a little warm when you use it, so it will be pliable enough to spread thinly on your skin.

I put it on and found that it didn’t just pull off like the video I saw, so I pressed a scrap of T-shirt material into the wax. I let it sit a few seconds. Then while holding the skin taut, I yanked it off. It worked! Any leftover wax can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Warm it in the microwave to use it again.

So, no more paying money at the drugstore or beauty supply store for readymade wax strips.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.