Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Reduce, reuse, recycle -- and reap rewards. Really.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 15, 2012 12:02PM
Image: Garbage men operating garbage truck (© Don Mason/Blend Images/Corbis)Hoarding gets a bad rap, according to the eponymous blogger at Dogs or Dollars.  She's joking, but some of her behaviors could raise eyebrows among the non-frugal.

DorD saves or scavenges things like egg cartons, coffee cans, plastic containers, cardboard boxes and large envelopes. The difference between her and a true hoarder is that she uses them instead of letting them pile up -- and they save her "a significant amount of money."

In fact, such tactics save money in several different, interrelated ways.  

What would you do with an extra $50 or $100? Here are some savvy ways to stretch 'surprise' money.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 14, 2012 12:20PM
Image: Woman counting money (© Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images)A recent post at Get Rich Slowly, "I asked for a raise and got it," concerned a reader who was offered a new job at the old pay rate. After some research, she made a counter-offer and was shocked by the result.

The article concluded with a happy dilemma: "Now I need a plan for the new $1,650 increase in monthly pay. There are worse problems to have."

Suppose you suddenly came into extra money, small or large. What would your reaction be?

I know what I'd do first.  

Avoiding hurt feelings while staying on budget is tricky. These experts can help.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 13, 2012 1:47PM
Image: Wedding ring (© Jamie Grill/Photolibrary/Photolibrary)Trying to keep your wedding-guest list short? Good luck with that. Deciding whom to invite (and whom to leave out) can be an unwelcome challenge.

Apparently, anything under 50 guests is now considered a "small" wedding. In fact, the Our Wedding Day notes that "many consider anything below 100 to be a small wedding."

Wow. Maybe that's why the "average" wedding allegedly costs $27,000.

When you consider that both sides of the family are angling for as few as 50 seats, the place could be packed before you even start thinking about your friends. It's a tough call, since it involves two potentially explosive topics: money and other people's feelings.

However, be sure to remember the feelings of two very important people: you and your intended.  

Free books, magazines, DVDs and Internet access already give you good reasons to hit the library. Here's one more.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 9, 2012 7:32PM

Image: People looking at pictures in art gallery © Tetra Images/Getty ImagesSo far this year I've written about two different ways to visit museums and other attractions for free (see the links at the bottom of this post).

Here's another one: Check your local library.


Whether you call it gleaning or foraging, it boosts your budget -- and keeps good food from going to waste.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 9, 2012 11:40AM
Image: Pears with linen napkin (© Michael Grimm/Digital Vision/Getty Images)Every summer in Seattle I load up on the blackberries that flourish anywhere a seed happens to land. I freeze quarts of the fruit, make homemade jam and eat them just about every day until the vines stop producing.

These tasty treats are not only nutritious, they're free. In the past I've obtained several other varieties of fruit without having to grow them, by finding them and/or asking for them.

I'm not the only one who forages for food:  

We want what's best for our children. But we often set them up to fail.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 8, 2012 11:55AM
Image: Boy holding allowance money (© Bryan Mullennix/Photodisc/Getty Images)Jenny Feldon had to face an unpleasant truth recently. In the post "I've been lying to myself: My child is spoiled" on BlogHer, she admitted how she has trouble saying "no" to her daughter.

All that stuff in her child's room never seemed excessive because it's "what every kid we knew had." Yet an incident in a store made her realize that the values she tries to model -- hard work, charity, compassion -- aren't enough.

"She needs to know what it feels like to want something," Feldon writes, "to work for it, to feel the uncertainty of maybe not getting it."

I congratulate the writer on this moment of clarity, and I hope it inspires other parents to look at their own kids' rooms.  

Use this simple tactic to conquer those 'special occasion or 'just this once, pleeease?' costs.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 7, 2012 11:11AM
Image: Home Budget (© Christine Balderas/Photodisc/Getty Images)A new study from New York University's Stern School of Business indicates that consumers routinely underestimate how they'll need for "exceptional" expenses -- even though some, like anniversaries or replacement vehicles, could be anticipated.

What's interesting is that consumers were willing to pay more for an exceptional expense all by itself. But they'd shell out considerably less if faced with, say, an anniversary celebration around the same time as several other exceptional expenses.


Why can't we be this sensible all the time?


Not every money-saving attempt is a good one. But we learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 6, 2012 11:14AM
Image: Angry businessman (© Imagesource/Corbis)Not every money-saving effort pans out. Just ask Mandy, who wrote about a "Frugal Furniture Fail" in her blog, Pennies and Blessings. When a friend jettisoned a dining set, Mandy decided to paint the free furniture with the same shade she'd used on a wicker patio set.

After about $50, four trips to the store and many hours of sanding, she invited visiting relatives to sit down at a great-looking table. Trouble is, they got back up with paint-daubed backsides -- the chairs looked great but apparently were still damp.  


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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.