Do The Math Strategy

Those Predictable But Irregular Bills

Things like property tax, car registration, the half-yearly car insurance bill, holiday spending, vacations, big car repairs, replacing appliances are all things we know will happen. Because they don’t happen every month like rent/mortgage and utilities, it’s harder to plan for them.

Years ago I had a system for that. I added up all of those expenses for the year, divided by twelve, and put that much in a savings account each month. It worked very well. I never had to use credit to pay anything, and felt a certain financial serenity that was very nice.

An article in the Dollar Stretcher today informed me that that method is called a “sinking fund.” According to Dave Ramsey, this is different than an emergency fund. The items in the sinking fund aren’t unexpected emergencies, they are expected but irregular expenses.



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.


52 Weeks: Wills, etc – Life Insurance

The purpose of life insurance is to protect your financial dependents from serious financial problems in the event of your death. Sales persons try to sell whole life insurance to young people with no financial dependents. They’ll tell you the premiums are so much lower when you’re young, get it while it’s affordable. My own opinion is that unless you are absolutely sure your income will never be interrupted, so that you can’t pay the premium and lose all or most of what you’ve paid in, it’s too risky. My income has certainly been interrupted several times over the decades, by layoff, illness, overwhelming expenses.

Term insurance is far, far less expensive than whole life. It gives the most death benefit for the money. The large fees and commissions on whole life, variable life, and universal life put them completely outside my comfort zone. Universal life is sold as an investment vehicle. The thing is, if there comes a time when you can’t pay the premiums, within a few months the whole value of it is gone. That is beyond risky. Making those payments into your own 401k, mutual fund, bank account, or IRA is much, much safer. If you lose your job and stop paying into an IRA, you still get to keep all the money you put into it before.



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.

The Saffron – Turmeric Connection

Ever look at an interesting recipe and set out to try it, only to learn that one of the minor ingredients costs $5,000 a pound? Maybe not, or maybe because they sell it by the ounce, you don’t realize how expensive it is. On Amazon today, saffron for cooking costs $12 for .035 of an ounce, about one twenty-eighth of an ounce. That’s $342.86 per ounce, or $5,485 per pound. Many delicious seafood or rice dishes call for saffron.

Turmeric costs $3.50 for 2.35 ounces today on Amazon, or about $24 a pound. That still sounds terrible by the pound, but is quite manageable by the dash, sprinkle or 1/4 teaspoon. It is likely to be less expensive from the canisters at your health food store.

Turmeric is an excellent substitute for saffron. Or so I hear. I’ve never actually indulged invested in saffron, I just use turmeric, regardless. It makes yellow rice yellow. In combination with black pepper, it is reputed to help discourage cancer. I use small amounts because it does have a fairly strong taste.

So those delightful recipes are still possible for me, without spending a king’s ransom.

“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.

Communication: Cell Phone Plans

Most single people I know who have a low income have a cell phone only, no landline. For one person the right cell plan can cost no more than basic landline service. And you can take it with you! I like having it with me in case I need to call for help in the car. It’s nice for calling manufacturers right there in the grocery store to be sure whether their product contains something to which I’m allergic.

Virgin Mobile’s Pay Lo plans start as low as $20 a month. The unlimited plan is $40. I suppose a couple or a family could share this if they left the phone at home–just like you leave the landline phone at home–and only took it with them when they went somewhere together. Usually, a family plan costs less than a separate plan for each person, but not always. It can’t hurt to do the math and compare different providers.

Walmart’s Straight Talk cell phone plan gets good reviews online. They give a fifteen-day trial period that allows you to see if the service and the phone will work for you in your area. Several sources say that the unlimited data plan may have some unstated limitations in practice.

Ask your provider–and competing providers–about special discounts. There may be discounts for educators, the military, seniors, any group of which you are a member. Not all discounts are widely advertised and it can’t hurt to ask.

If your data bill is higher than you expected, consider this. If someone on your plan doesn’t log out of Facebook, data will stream any time one of their friends updates their status. So make it a habit to log out of Facebook and similar sites to keep the data bill under control.


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.

Question Everything

What I’m questioning today is the assumed value of the goods at dollar stores. Recently, a Dollar Tree opened near me. At Dollar Tree, everything really is a dollar. I went looking for witch hazel. It was a dollar, but it was six ounces. At WalMart it’s $1.44 for sixTEEN ounces, a far better per-ounce price.

I suspect that inflation has made it very hard to sell a wide selection of goods for just one dollar. Stores like Dollar General that will set a price above one dollar are more likely to have items I need that are a good value for the price.


Wonderful review

I am so moved by this review. “Tightwad Gazette of the 21st Century” is exactly what I wanted people to think about it:

“Great book!, February 18, 2014

By Lita McRiley “Sorlina”See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely (Kindle Edition)

This book is jam-packed with tips, ideas, and strategies for saving money. It’s the Tightwad Gazette of the 21st century… internet addresses for DIY help, encouragement for readers, personal anecdotes, this book has it all. To top it off, it’s delivered in a light, easy to read style that isn’t preachy or judgmental. A very helpful, and enjoyable, read!”

The Tightwad Gazette has been the “bible” of thrifty living. My hope was to make it the ‘old testament’ and mine the ‘new testament’, and it seems I have succeeded.