Frugal NationFrugal Nation

The holiday won't arrive for 6 months, but that gives you time to strategize and shop.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 7, 2012 2:04PM
Image: Santa Claus (© Tetra Images/Jupiterimages)Only 201 days until Christmas. That may seem like an odd topic, given that we haven't even celebrated the summer solstice yet. But now, not Black Friday, is the time to start thinking about gifts.

Or whether you'll give presents at all.  

Setting up your own apartment? Here's how to do it without a big hit to your bank account.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 6, 2012 7:51PM

Image: Moving boxes (© Michael Hitoshi/Getty Images/Getty Images)Sonya Ann, who blogs at A Mom, Money and More, is helping her college-age daughter collect items for her first apartment. Thus far they've gotten cookware, dishes, loads of cleaning supplies, flatware, a couple of lamps, a comfortable chair and a garbage can.

Total expenditure: less than $165.

How'd they get all that so cheaply?


Planning a long drive? Keep this kit in your car.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 5, 2012 2:30PM
Image: Man checking car tire pressure © Tetra Images/Tetra images/Getty ImagesHitting the road this summer? Put together a roadside emergency kit before you leave.

That's not paranoid, it's prudent -- even if you already belong to an auto club or your car insurance includes roadside emergency service.  

It hasn't hurt my electric bill. But it's had an impact elsewhere.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 4, 2012 7:23PM

Image: Groceries (© Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images/Getty Images)Almost four years ago I bought a 5.5-cubic-foot chest freezer. I live in a small apartment with just a sliver of kitchen, so I had to put the freezer in the bedroom. It makes a great valet.

The freezer hasn't noticeably affected my electric bills. But it sure has had an impact on my grocery budget.


From Acadia to Zion, June 9 will be a no-fee day at all National Park Service sites. And starting this year, active military personnel can get free annual passes.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 1, 2012 3:09PM

Image: Kayak (© Stewart Cohen/Blend Images/Corbis)Looking for cheap recreation? Of the National Park Service's 397 sites and parks, 264 are always free.

The other 133 will be free Saturday, June 9. These no-fee walks in the parks aren't limited to rocks, trees and game animals. They include lighthouses, wild horses, canyons, trout fishing, presidential papers, sled dog puppies, cave tours, whales and, of course, history. Lots of history.


Have stuff you don't use? Here's a fun way not just to declutter but also to get something you WILL use.

By Donna_Freedman May 31, 2012 7:36PM
Image: Friends (© Rubber Ball/Getty Images)Do you have clothing you never wear, books you've already read or gift items that were never a good fit? Join the club. All but the minimalists among us could probably name plenty of possessions that rarely get used.

If you don't want to have a yard sale, try creating your own private Freecycle Network -- but just for an evening.  

You can find great deals on things you might've never considered buying out of somebody's driveway.

By Donna_Freedman May 30, 2012 2:13PM

Image: Home garage sale (© UpperCut Images/SuperStock)Personal-finance blogger "J. Money" recently wrote about how to optimize your trips to garage sales.


I've got a few suggestions of my own. A couple of quibbles, too. 


The average ceremony costs $26,984 -- and that's not counting the honeymoon. Check out creative tips from couples who wed for much less.

By Donna_Freedman May 29, 2012 2:28PM

Image: Bride and bridesmaid (©Stockbyte/Photolibrary)Kendal Perez, who got married six years ago, would like to point out that some wedding "traditions" are negotiable. She nixed a bridal shower, let her attendants choose their own dresses, decided against wedding favors, did her own makeup and drove to and from the ceremony in her own car rather than hire a limo.

The shopping-deal expert, who blogs at Hassle-Free Savings, is just as married as the folks who pay the $26,984 that the average wedding now costs (according to The Knot, which runs two wedding websites).


"No guest approached me with complaints about missing out on monogrammed matchbooks or pouches of customized M&Ms," she says. "No complaints from guests hoping to shell out even more cash (on shower gifts) to attend my big day."



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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.