Do it yourself

Plenty of Fish



No algorithm in its right mind would have matched my late husband and I. On the metrics they use, we were irrelevant to each other. On the metrics that can’t be measured in a questionnaire, we were a perfect match. We met pre-internet, back in the olden days.

Internet dating is becoming the norm. You can pay a monthly fee for the big sites that use computer constructs to find people who will be well suited to you. And maybe they will. On the other hand, for frugal dating, there’s a good, free, site called POF tied for second place in Consumer Reports’ survey.

As with any site, you have to use discernment. Meet at a neutral location such as a coffee shop for the first date. Maybe the second, too, if you feel uncertain. Don’t hesitate to decline a date if you’re uneasy about the person.

You have to use caution on any site, and the frugal path is the free sites.


A Two-Pronged Approach to Spending Less

One way to think about cutting costs is to come at it from both ends. What do I feel I absolutely must spend money on? And on the other hand, what are the obvious extravagances I have no difficulty in identifying and letting go of?

Perhaps one insists on having a home, not living on the street. That’s a good baseline for the housing part of the budget. On the other hand, perhaps one could cross expensive artwork for decorating that home off the list of future expenditures. That’s fairly obvious too.

Maybe have to have a vehicle to get around in a normal fashion, so I spend on that.  On the other end of the spectrum, maybe I don’t need to spend money having an optional moonroof installed on my vehicle.

These are wide extremes. As I’ve worked through the process of cutting expenses, I’ve gradually come closer and closer to the middle balance in all budget categories.


Writers: Seeking Certainty


Seeking Certainty

Fiction writing is an awkward compendium of art and craft, and one with very few absolutes. A physicist can drop something off a roof and know with certainty what gravity will cause it to do under all conditions. A writer has dozens of rules, conventions, alternatives, options, and style choices.

Having written, we then hear from critiquers, readers, editors, and publishers that the work is, or isn’t, cohesive, engaging, properly punctuated, correctly formatted, in the currently preferred style and point of view . . . on and on.

We don’t have one Delphic Oracle to pronounce definitively that this way of phrasing the sentence or describing the scene is absolutely correct and that way is definitely incorrect. We lack certainty.

Humans tend to prefer certainty. Consequently, when a respected person says something, we are likely to clutch it like a shipwreck survivor grabbing a passing flotation device. Someone says not to use adverbs as a substitute for strong verbs. Lacking certainty as to what exactly “strong verbs” would be in any specific situation, we remember and repeat, “Don’t use adverbs.”

Someone says never to repeat words within a few lines of each other. So we make pretzels of ourselves trying to find another word for something that doesn’t really have on-point synonyms. If a kitchen sink is key to a scene, once we’ve called it the sink, and perhaps the basin, do we then reach for awkward alternatives like tub, leaving the reader wondering how we suddenly moved from the kitchen to the bathroom? Or, do we use common sense and just call it a sink again.

As a reader, I never noticed repeated words until writers groups made an issue of them. I’m not saying to ignore repeated words. I’m saying let’s not go nuts about it. What matters is conveying the meaning and telling the story.

Someone says semi-colons are pretentious in fiction and suddenly we’re writing comma splices or cutting apart clauses that make more sense together. The purpose of a semi-colon is to join two clauses that could be separate sentences, but are so closely related they work better in the same sentence together. There’s nothing wrong with using punctuation marks in the manner they are intended.

Some publishers don’t accept manuscripts written in the omniscient point of view. That’s useful information for a writer who hopes to submit to those publishers. It’s not a reason to tell all writers that their omniscient writing is wrong. Sure, let them know it’s out of fashion, but if they are self-published or submitting to a more open-minded publisher, and want to take a chance, that’s their choice.

Many current, traditionally published, widely read novels are written in the omniscient point of view. Some of the works of Alexander McCall Smith, Nevada Barr, Phillip Pullman, and Terry Pratchett are examples.

Any certainty we may achieve is tenuous at best, full of exceptions, loaded with nuance, and constantly changing. The challenge is to avoid locking our writing into artificially produced straight jackets in the struggle to cope with a chronic lack of certainty.




Originally published in the blog of the Florida Writers Association


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.