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Whether you're out for the day or gone for a week, these 10 easy-to-get items can save you aggravation -- and money.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 19, 2012 4:50PM

Image: Los Angeles, Calif., traffic on Interstate 405 © VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesI'm one of those people you can always ask for ibuprofen, safety pins, a tissue or sunscreen. While riding the bus I've handed adhesive bandages to the moms of hysterical children with minor injuries. My day pack routinely contains an elastic bandage -- honest.

That's why I clicked immediately with Trae Bodge's idea for the "anywhere bag." Originally she called it the "parent survival kit," but soon realized the concept works both for parents and the child-free: Anywhere you are, certain things come in handy.

"It's smart to be prepared for just about anything," says Bodge, a senior writer at RetailMeNot's blog, The Insider.

 

Today is National Splurge Day. Use these tips to celebrate without breaking the budget.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 18, 2012 2:03PM
Image: Man feeding woman © Jack Hollingsworth/Brand X/Getty Images

In 1994 a public-relations agent named Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith invented National Splurge Day. In a recent post on her blog, Koopersmith suggested that people not only treat themselves but also "splurge (unto) others as (you'd) want others to splurge unto you."

Although I'm a frugalist, I completely agree.

 

Can't afford a major redo? Designers offer 9 tips for giving a fresh look to old décor.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 15, 2012 3:45PM

Image: Couple carrying a rug (© Image Source/Getty Images)My daughter recently "remodeled" her living room for free. All she did was rearrange the furniture and bring in a lamp from elsewhere in the house.

The new furniture grouping creates a direct (and thus more welcoming) entry point for the room. It also makes conversation easier. The lamp adds brightness and allows for nighttime reading.

"It looks like a completely different room," she wrote in a blog post called "The $0 makeover." "Big changes -- without spending a penny."

Tired of your own interiors but can't afford a major do-over? Frugal Cool can help.

 

Want to visit museums, zoos, aquariums or science centers? You may have already paid your admission.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 14, 2012 7:48PM
Image: Zebras (© Theo Allofs/Corbis)Traveling this summer? Take your museum membership card with you.

If you buy an annual pass to an institution affiliated with the North American Reciprocal Museums program, you'll eligible for free admission to more than 600 others in the United States and Canada.

So if you're a member of, say, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts you can get in free at a huge variety of other institutions, from The Frick Collection in New York City to the Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente, Calif.

Pay once, make multiple visits -- that's quite a deal. And museums are just the beginning.  

Braces make a world of difference -- and not just for cosmetic reasons. Here are some ways to bring down the costs.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 13, 2012 8:17PM

Image: Dental insurance (Creatas/SuperStock)Like any dental care, orthodontic treatment is costly. But there are a few ways around the high cost of a healthy smile.

These days the emphasis is on health as much as appearance. Properly aligned teeth and jaws improve the way a person bites, chews and speaks.

Flashing the tin grin now will affect dental exams in the future, too.

 

Make yours a gift that makes a difference, in the short term or the long run.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 12, 2012 11:51AM
Image: College graduates (© Ariel Skelley / Blend Images/Getty Images)A childhood friend's kid just graduated from high school. I don't know him very well but I do wish him luck and thus decided to send a small check.

Then I realized that the amount I could afford to give would pay for maybe half a tank of gas for the family van. What good would it do him?

I changed my mind about the check.  

A few strategic clicks and you can eat, drink and be merry without paying. You might even score a computer or an airline ticket.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 11, 2012 1:29PM

Image: African-American woman shopping online (© Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images)If you like free stuff, look for it on Facebook and Twitter. Gift cards, jewelry, purses, sample- or full-size beauty products, computers, baby items, music downloads, cameras, airline tickets, food items, electronics and other gratis goodies are handed out every day.

Why social media? Because that's where the consumers are. And since the Internet is jammed with companies trying to get your money, the best way for a company to stand out is to give things away.

Are these "freebies" really free, though? What's the catch?

 

Bakery outlet stores sell breads, rolls, bagels and more at prices well below typical retail. Hint: 'Outlet' doesn't mean 'stale.'

By Donna_Freedman Jun 8, 2012 12:25PM

Image: Close up of fresh sliced loaf of bread (© Adam Gault/OJO Images/Getty Images)Why pay $4 for a loaf of bread when you can pay $1.29? Short answer: You shouldn't, and you don't have to if there's a bakery outlet in your area.

My siblings and I ate a lot of PB&Js on outlet-store bread, which my mother bought a dozen loaves at a time. As an adult, I consider bakery outlets just one more way to keep down grocery costs.

 

I promise: There's no difference between five-days-before-sell-by-date bread from the outlet store and a similarly dated supermarket loaf.

Oh, wait, there is a difference: It's 50% to 75% cheaper.

 

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WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?

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.

ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN

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.

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