Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Don't throw out that dab of mashed potatoes or quarter-cup of corn. Repurpose even tiny amounts of leftovers into future meals.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 19, 2012 11:56AM
Logo: Woman cooking (Ableimages, Lifesize, Getty Images)Big holiday meals mean lingering holiday leftovers, some of which never seem to get finished up. Raise your hand if you had containers of unidentified foodlike objects in your fridge for a week or more past Thanksgiving.

(And if you still have them? Eeewww. Go clean them out right now.)

There's a better way to deal with dabs of mashed potatoes or a few spoonfuls of green beans. When life hands you leftovers, make "garbage soup." 

Want to spend $820 less on gas in a year? Use this trio of tactics.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 18, 2012 12:07PM

Logo: Gas station (Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)The average national price of gasoline has dropped to just under $3.25 a gallon, according to this report


Citing stats from the American Automobile Association, CNN reports this is the lowest price in nearly two years: "Welcome news for the estimated 84.4 million Americans planning to hit the roads when the holiday period officially gets underway this Saturday."

The cost of gas is expected to drop throughout December. While this makes holiday travel a little cheaper for drivers, you know the price will head back up eventually.

That's why it's important to get the most out of every fuel dollar. A new article on The Family Handyman website offers eight gas-saving tips. Along with the old reliable suggestions (slow down, keep tires properly inflated, et al.), there are three I'd never heard before.

On their own, these tips can save you at least $820 in a year. The article also puts an actual dollar amount on an old reliable piece of advice.


Do the elders in your life a big favor: Skip the dust-catchers in favor of holiday gifts that make a difference.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 17, 2012 12:22PM
Logo: Gifts (Image Source Black/Jupiterimages)A friend's elderly mother has an ironclad rule: Any time she brings home a new item, she gets rid of two previous possessions. The result is a comfortable living space decorated with a few choice items that she treasures.

This makes her tough to buy for: What to give the person who already has everything she wants?

Buying for seniors can be a real challenge. If you're lucky, the elders in your life have have well-defined habits that make them easy to please: good wine, books, collectibles, gourmet foods, hobby supplies.

But some have health issues that rule out gifts of food. Others, like my friend's mom, don't have an answer when you ask, "What do you want for Christmas?" Or maybe they're too shy (or too proud) to say what they could really use, especially if they're on fixed incomes that aren't stretching far enough.

Rather than buy on autopilot (picture frame, candle, "No. 1 Grandpa" coffee mug), put a little thought into your gift.  

Thefts of cellphones and other e-devices are soaring. Use these tips to protect your property and maybe save your life.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 14, 2012 12:33PM

Logo: Businessman using smartphone (Image Source, Image Source, Getty Images)Ever see someone texting while walking, oblivious to oncoming traffic or a shopping mall fountain? That's the kind of person beloved by an "Apple picker," a thief specializing in stealing Apple products.

This ABC News report cites a startling statistic from the Federal Communications Commission: 30% to 40% of robberies in several major U.S. cities involve cellphones.


In early September, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department uncovered two cellphone theft rings. All the robberies targeted similar victims. You guessed it: People who were so focused on their cellphones that they weren't paying attention to the world around them.

It's even worse in San Francisco, where nearly half of all robberies involve cellphones. In a recent USA Today article, a police captain called the crime "your modern-day purse snatching" and pointed out that these phones tend to contain the victims' "entire lives" -- bank account information, private emails and more.

What's a tech-head to do? For starters, hang up and walk.


Tired of spending a bundle on your lustrous locks? These tips can help.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 13, 2012 3:16PM
Logo: Man shopping (Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images/Getty Images)Ever wish you could have hair like Barbie's boyfriend? Ken's coiffure is painted on and trouble-free.

We should all be so lucky. How much do you spend each year on shampoo, conditioner, styling products and haircuts?

The following 19 tips are dedicated to a cheaper 'do. You don't have to use all of them, obviously. Just pick the ones that meet your needs.

Personally, I pay more than I ever thought I would for haircuts. That's because my hair has become more of a problem as I get older. When I find a stylist who understands my particular issues -- especially when it comes to coloring -- I stick with her even though I could find a cheaper deal elsewhere. 

Skip the deli counter. Forget those prefab packs of turkey or ham. There's a better way.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 12, 2012 12:41PM

Logo: School lunch (Stockbyte/SuperStock/SuperStock)Is the cost of your brown-bag lunch getting you down? Here's a way to make those sandwich meats both cheaper and tastier: Roast your own.

"Don't waste your precious grocery money on lunch meat," says Amy Allen Clark in her new book, "The Good Life for Less" (Perigee, $15).

Allen roasts a whole gobbler every two weeks to provide sandwich fillings for her family. "Once you have a turkey sandwich like this, all of that processed lunch meat won't taste as good and you will never go back," says Allen, who blogs at

Equally important: "You'll save between three and seven dollars a pound, depending on your turkey and deli prices."

Not that you have to limit yourself to turkey.


Want a burrito, a coffee or some pretty underwear? You can get these (and other) things just for being born.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 11, 2012 1:52PM

Logo: Birthday (Simon Jarratt/Corbis/Corbis)I just had a free lunch at Red Robin. Waiting in the wings are a free breakfast at IHOP, buy-one-get-one coupons from Dairy Queen and Qdoba, a bag of Cinemark Theatres popcorn, a coupon for 25% off at, a coupon for 30% off at the domain company and 50 free points from the Swagbucks reward site.

Happy birthday to me, indeed.

If I'd put my mind to it I could have gotten a whole lot of other free stuff: ice cream, burritos, shampoo, coffee, sandwiches, e-book credits, even lingerie.

So can you. Getting birthday freebies is as simple as signing up -- and the treats can stretch beyond your natal day.


Are some frugal tactics just too embarrassing? And at what point are they no longer worth your time?

By Donna_Freedman Dec 10, 2012 3:25PM
Woman with jar of cash (SelectStock, the Agency Collection, Getty Images)Recently blogger Yazmin Cruz revealed "12 crazy things I do to save money" on the Bargain Babe website. Some of them sounded sensible.

However, one tip (reusing stamps) is illegal and another (flashing a student ID a year after graduating to get discounts) is ethically questionable.

Cruz later amended the post to explain that:
  • A postal worker told her it was OK to reuse noncanceled stamps, and that she's lately seen "many" people do this.
  • She's taking an online class so doesn't that mean she's technically still a student?
Just because you can get away with things like these doesn't mean you should do them. At what point does frugality become theft?

On the other hand, the blogger's suggestions to save butter wrappers for greasing baking dishes, harvest garden seeds from year to year and use teabags more than once make sense. That is, if you don't mind being what Wise Bread staffer Kentin Waits calls "quirky."  


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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.