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Use surplus sweets in frugal, educational or even charitable ways.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 22, 2012 12:23PM
Logo: Chocolate (image100/Corbis)The most frugal way to deal with leftover Halloween candy? Avoid having it in the first place.

Base your purchase on how much you gave away last year, plus one extra bag just in case. Then observe these steps:
  • Save all receipts.
  • Open one bag at a time.
  • Hand the candy out yourself, one or two pieces per child.
  • Return all unopened bags the next day.
But suppose your well-meaning spouse opens all the bags into a giant bowl, the better to let your little neighborhood goblins help themselves? Or suppose you open a bag but only two more kids show up?  

Protect Your Identity Week offers free workshops, shredding, cellphone recycling and tips on keeping private info secure.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 19, 2012 12:29PM

Logo: Shredder (Kelly Redinger/age fotostock/age fotostock)A recent survey shows that 64% of Americans fear the possibility of identity theft. There's a reason for that, especially if you use a smartphone.

"People often become complacent, particularly with their mobile devices," says Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.


Critical financial information is stored on many smartphones. Yet a startling 62% of Americans don't use password protection, according to the same survey, conducted for Protect Your Identity Week.


Fast-rising use of mobile devices -- smartphones outsold computers last year -- is the reason that "ID theft protection on the go" is the theme of this year's event, which takes place Oct. 20 to 27.


Parents are looking for deals long before Thanksgiving -- and worrying about their ability to pay. Use these tips to take charge of the holiday.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 18, 2012 11:28AM

Logo: Gift (Brian Hagiwara, Brand X, Corbis)Holiday shopping behaviors are changing. A new survey from the RetailMeNot coupon website indicates that 39% of parents start their shopping before November.

Why so early? Because "deal-seeking behaviors have become more of the norm within the consumer purchase cycle," note the authors of a a white paper recently released by RMN.


In other words: Only amateurs pay retail.

According to "OctoNovemCember: Why an unsteady economy is causing consumers to search for deals long before Black Friday," merchants are responding to those deal-seeking behaviors. They're floating hot deals long before Thanksgiving, a practice the authors call "Christmas creep."


Do these über-early-bird sales allow shoppers to feel confident about their holiday spending?


Carving a pumpkin for the holiday? Salvage the seeds for a savory, frugal treat.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 17, 2012 2:13PM

A couple of days ago, I visited a friend who'd bought a giant squash at the farmers' market. We wondered if its seeds could be roasted like pumpkin seeds.

A little olive oil, some Johnny's Seasoning Salt and about 15 minutes in the oven and we had our answer.

The seeds were crisp and airy and savory, completely addictive and completely frugal: The salvaged snack was made from something that would otherwise have been thrown away.


Extra income isn't always possible. Controlling your spending usually is. And why not try for both?

By Donna_Freedman Oct 16, 2012 2:49PM

Logo: Pay check stub showing taxes withheld (Comstock, Comstock, Getty Images)A blogger named Edward Antrobus recently took out after a popular PF belief: that it's always better to earn more than to spend less.

Maybe so. But is it always possible? And are the two mutually exclusive?

"Why not try to earn more and spend less? . . . Besides, if you don't take action to control your spending, then lifestyle inflation can easily eat up all your income gains, if not outpace them," Antrobus wrote in a post on his eponymous blog.

But that's not the only reason the self-described "personal finance contrarian" was feeling so cranky. 


Costumes, décor and party snacks can be cheap-y as well as creepy.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 15, 2012 11:26AM

Logo: Zombies (Renee Keith/Vetta/Getty Images).Halloween isn't just for kids. Almost one-third of adults dress in costume each Oct. 31, according to a survey from Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods. Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed believed that you're never too old for trick-or-treating.

Even when kids are involved, it's probably adults doing the spending. Here are 13 tips to make sure your budget stretches for all ages on All Hallows Eve.


A Kansas couple, ages 57 and 68, had $120k worth of credit-card bills. Despite his illness, they did the honorable thing.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 12, 2012 11:24AM
Logo: Close up of stack of credit cards (Adam Gault, OJO Images, Getty Images)Franny and Jim Bostick got into debt the way a lot of people do: by wanting more than they could afford. Appliances, vacations, dinners out, helping their daughter through college -- all of it went on the plastic. At one point Franny bought a used car with a convenience check.

"We were just living above our means," she says now. "All of a sudden I realized that we had more going out than we had coming in."

By the time she was 57 and her husband was 68 they were using credit cards to pay for everyday expenses like groceries and utilities. They had to: There was nothing left in checking after minimum payments were made on their credit cards.

Franny, a custodial services manager at Kansas State University, knew that they couldn't go on much longer. Declaring bankruptcy was not her first choice, though.   

Builders say homes are likely to shrink. It's about time.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 11, 2012 11:53AM
Logo: Home under construction (Corbis)The average U.S. home is 2,438 square feet. But contractors surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders say that homeowners are increasingly interested in affordable mortgages and greener homes that are cheaper to heat and cool.

Kind of rules out a 4,000-square-foot, cathedral-ceilinged, giant-windowed McMansion, doesn't it? That's why nearly 75% of the builders predict that the average home will be 2,152 square feet by 2015.

That's not much smaller. But it's a start -- and it's about time.  


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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.