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Spitzer Is at It Again, Thankfully

Thursday, October 21, 2004;

I'm a big fan of New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer.

His critics say he's just trying to grab headlines and possibly a higher office by going after Wall Street and the big mutual-fund companies. But as an investor, I don't care what his personal motivations are. The fact is, the man has exposed some shady dealings in the investment world and I'm grateful for that.

And now he's targeting the insurance industry. Spitzer is investigating whether brokers illegally steer businesses to those insurance companies that pay them the highest fees rather than firms with the best prices, which in the end can affect the pocketbooks of consumers.

Spitzer's allegations that brokers and corporate insurance carriers were engaged in bid-rigging and secret payoffs are already causing changes in the industry.

All I have to say is keep the pressure on, Spitzer.

Book Fair

I'm so excited to be participating in the National Press Club's 27th Annual Book Fair and Author's Night in Washington, D.C.

The event is being held Nov. 17 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Club ballroom at 14th and F streets NW on the 13th floor. Admission is free for members of the National Press Club and $5 for non-members. Tickets are available for purchase at the National Press Club or Olsson's Books & Records 202-347-3686. For more information call 202-662-7564 or 202-662-7564, or e-mail jyost@press.org.

The event features about 70 authors who will be signing their most recent books.

I'll be at the event signing copies of my book "7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life: How to Live Well With the Money You Have" (Random House). Here's an excerpt.

My Post colleague Joel Achenbach will be there signing his book "The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West" (Simon & Schuster). Here's an excerpt from his book.

Eugene Robinson, an assistant managing editor for the Style section, will sign copies of his book "Last Dance in Havana" (Free Press), which was also excerpted and reviewed in the Post.

Funds raised by the Book Fair benefit the Press Club's Eric Friedheim Library & News Information Center, a reference center for members of both print and broadcast media.

Penny Pinchers

I asked for outrageous penny-pinching stories and you delivered.

I can't vouch for the veracity of some of the tales, but with frugality, I've come to realize anything is possible.

Fredric A. Rhoads of Piscataway, N.J., wrote: "The year was 1985. I was working for a Swedish firm and we were holding a management retreat in the Dalacarlia area of Sweden. The first meal was quite good. When we were finished several of the waiters walked among the tables passing out envelopes asking us ... to write our names on the front of the envelopes. In the morning at breakfast there on the tables were our envelopes. Each envelope contained our soiled napkin from the night before. It seems that they only did laundry once a week as a cost and environmental measure. If I had known I would not have been so messy!"

If you have kids in school, you know school supplies can get costly. Here's the story of one parent who found a way to cut costs.

"One of my first-grade students brought me her homework along with a note from her mother," one reader e-mailed me. "The assigned page required gluing, but they were out of glue. Mom went to the store but was shocked at the grocery store price and did not buy it. Instead they used a dab of toothpaste. It worked!"

Jim from Mississippi wrote: "When I was just out of high school and living in Wyoming, there was a McDonald's franchisee who would go around the parking lot (pre-drive up days, just hamburgers & cheeseburgers) and pick up cups that could be recycled. He would take them inside and have one of his family members wash the cups and then use them again. When threatened with exposure by the employees, he stopped -- reluctantly."

One reader was surprised at the time we penny pinchers take to save a buck. For example, George M. Gonzalez of Miami -- a faithful reader of my newsletter, I might add -- wrote: "The single most outlandish thing I've heard people do to save money is reuse aluminum foil. I've heard people say they straighten out and wash the foil to use it to wrap up a sandwich a second or third time, even more. I can't believe it. I couldn't open a foil-wrapped item and not tear the foil. When I think of all the extra time they must take to open a wrapped item so carefully, straighten out the wrinkles and wash the foil, I think they are being foolish and their frugality is costing them more in time than the money they might save. Time is money too, right?"

Well, my dear George, I'm a frequent foil reuser. It doesn't take as much time as you may think.

Now, unwrapping gift paper is another matter. That does take a bit of time and skill. Whenever any friend or family member gives me a gift wrapped in nice paper, they bring a book to pass the time while I try to meticulously open my present.

OK, I'm kidding. But I just have to save the paper.

* Read Past Penny Pinching Tips

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. They may be used in a future column or newsletter with the writer's name unless otherwise requested.

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