Frugal NationFrugal Nation

A second job may not be possible or even desired. Instead, get paid for something you're already doing.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 11, 2012 4:53PM
Image: Money (© Corbis)Advice for improving the bottom line usually takes two forms: Earn more or spend less. I'm all for careful spending -- I believe frugality is the right life choice, remember? -- but earning even a little extra can speed you toward financial goals.

Getting a second job isn't always possible or practical. But with a little creativity you might get paid for something you're already doing.  

Here's how to supersize your groceries without joining a club.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 10, 2012 12:06PM
Image: Groceries (© Tetra Images/Corbis)I'm not likely to want a No. 10 can of chili. It holds almost 7 pounds of the spicy stew -- way too much for single me.

But if I change my mind, I can get the chili for $5.58 -- and without paying a single warehouse-club fee.

Where can you get that kind of deal?  

A national survey says catering costs $61 per person. But there are ways to feed your guests for less.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 9, 2012 3:35PM
Image: Wedding ring (© Jamie Grill/Photolibrary/Photolibrary)The average wedding cake costs $540, according to  Apparently a lot of couples haven't heard of fake cake -- layers of decorated foam set atop a single layer of real cake.

Bride and groom cut into the bottom layer, smile for the photos and share a bite. Then the impostor pastry gets wheeled into the kitchen, where sheet cakes are waiting to be sliced and sent back out.

"No one will ever know or care, as long as it's good," says event planner Jan McBee of La Fete in Atlanta. 

I traveled from Philadelphia to New York City for a buck via If you find a cheaper fare, let me know.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 6, 2012 11:49AM
Image: People waiting for bus (© Image Source/Getty Images)While visiting family last summer, I bought several tickets for travel on Philadelphia-New York City, New York-Washington, D.C., and D.C.-Philly. I paid $3.50 total -- $1 per ticket with a 50-cent booking fee.

Yes, $3.50 for three tickets.

How could it be that cheap?  

A quart of popcorn costs less than a dime. But don't limit yourself to butter and salt. Chipotle-lime corn, anyone?

By Donna_Freedman Apr 5, 2012 12:16PM

Image: Man reacting to a film at the cinema, popcorn flying (© i love images/Cultura RF/Getty Images)Last week at an ethnic market I found a 4-pound bag of popcorn on sale for $3.69 (normally it's $3.99). That's less than 8 cents per ounce, and an ounce of kernels pops up into a quart of corn.

By itself, popcorn is low in calories: 31 per cup for air-popped and up to 55 calories if oil-popped (more on that in a minute). You can keep it low-cal by going easy on the butter and flavoring it instead with items like garam masala, dill, Italian herbs or onion powder.

Let's see: cheap, reasonably healthy and easy to make. Why do so many people buy popcorn only at the movies, where it costs a lot more?


High hotel costs can shorten your stay. Alternative accommodations stretch your travel budget and can enrich your trip.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 4, 2012 2:24PM

Image: Couple Taking Self Portrait in City, New York City, New York, USA (© Radius Images/Getty Images)Last spring I found a fairly inexpensive ticket to London. Why fly all that way and stay for only four or five days?

Last summer I attended a conference in New York City. Why not explore the most exciting city in the U.S.?

Hotel costs, that's why. But I found an alternative that let me stay for a week in New York and almost three weeks in the United Kingdom.


Basic sewing can save you a bundle. Why pay $5 to have a button replaced?

By Donna_Freedman Apr 3, 2012 4:11PM
Image: Tailoring a dress (© Vico Collective/Alin Dragulin/Getty Images)Have you stopped wearing a favorite shirt or pair of pants because a seam opened up or a button popped off? I see two other options: 
  • Take it to a dry cleaner. Many offer repair services.
  • Learn to sew, and fix it yourself.
I'm not suggesting you become the oldest member of a 4-H club. You can easily teach yourself the basics with how-to videos online. Being able to fix a ripped seam or hem up those 50-cent yard-sale khakis is a reliable way to save money.  

Not an adventurous cook? You'll probably find deals on the things you use every day.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 2, 2012 12:45PM

Image: Groceries (© Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images/Getty Images)Live near an ethnic market but never think of going in? Think again, even if you're a meat-and-potatoes type -- because the meat and potatoes might both be cheaper there.

While visiting my daughter in Phoenix we shopped in a Hispanic market that had astounding prices on fruits and vegetables. Its meat department was enormous, with choices I had never seen in a typical U.S. supermarket -- and I'm talking specialty cuts of beef and pork as well as goat.



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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.