DEAR HELOISE: My career paid me handsomely for many years. With my acquired wealth, I decided to give to charities but also to strangers who might need a little extra money or just a nice surprise to brighten their day.
I would leave five dollars in a library book, or maybe a five dollar bill in the middle of a stack of books at a charity shop. I might place a 10 dollar bill in the dresser drawer of an antique in a shop and occasionally scatter coins on a sidewalk for kids to find. A few times I tipped a waitress a 20 dollar bill for a cup of coffee.
These are not huge amounts, but for most people it's a small thrill to find hidden money or something they didn't expect. And you never know ... it might be money someone needs to buy a meal. If anyone who can afford it would just leave a little cash where another person could stumble onto it, they might make that stranger's day.
-- C.J., Ann Arbor, Mich.
DEAR READER: That is a lovely gesture and no doubt has made a number of people very happy. I think I'll give it a try with the hope it makes someone smile and improves their day.
DEAR READERS: Quick gift ideas:
• A coffee mug with a gift card to a local coffee shop inside the mug.
• A bottle of wine with a bottle opener tied to the neck of the bottle.
• Coaster with four glasses (water glasses, wine glasses, etc.).
• Stationary/thank-you notes with stamps.
• Homemade cake on a cake stand.
DEAR HELOISE: With tax season each year comes scammers. You might get a call from someone telling you that your tax return is being withheld because they need your Social Security number, which was left off your IRS income tax papers, or because someone has tried to access your account. Then they'll ask you to give them your Social Security number to verify it's really you. Someone will call with just about any excuse to get personal and financial information from you. Do NOT give out any personal or financial information over the phone.
Every year people lose thousands of dollars because they gave a scammer too much information, thinking they were talking to an IRS agent. As an added layer of protection, you can get a PIN for your IRS account. Just go to IRS.gov/getanippin to set up a PIN.
-- Jacob T., Bangor, Maine
Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email