Frugal NationFrugal Nation

There's no such thing as a 'free' puppy or kitten. Here's what you need to know before taking on the responsibility of a pet.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 10, 2012 11:17AM
Logo: Man with dog VStock LLC, Tanya Constantine, Tetra images, Getty ImagesHow much is that doggie in the window? More than you think. Before you even consider getting a pet, you should have a cash reserve separate from your own emergency fund.

What could that cute little puppy or kitty cost you? Anywhere from $640 to $1,500 for the first year and $400 to $700 per year after that, according to one expert source.  

Expensive photos, a $379 class ring, a $600 senior trip -- does 12th grade really have to cost so much?

By Donna_Freedman Oct 9, 2012 11:42AM

Logo: Teens in limousine (IT Stock Free/PictureQuest)Over on BlogHer, a woman who writes under the pseudonym "Free Penny Press" took on after the tradition of senior photos. Her son's sitting and prints cost $400. And don't get her started on the $90 yearbook.

"That's as much as a Steinbeck limited-edition book. So I skip my electric bill this month so he can buy a book full of faces," she "wrote in the post "Senior year hollers: Avoiding bankruptcy and using common sense."


Lucky she doesn't live near Baltimore, or she'd feel pressured to shell out for a banner with her son's name, a sign for her yard and a bow to stick on the mailbox around graduation time. Jeannette Dennis paid $75 for those items when her son graduated six years ago.

"In our area it's almost as if you're not normal if you don't do this. I kind of caved in to the feeling that it was expected," Dennis says.


Donna Freedman and readers shared tips and advice during a live Facebook chat.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 8, 2012 1:34PM

Image: Halloween (© Digital Vision Ltd/SuperStock)Spending for Halloween can be downright ghoulish. Costumes, treats, decorations, party favors -- it can all add up quickly. Frugal Nation's Donna Freedman joined MSN Money's Facebook fans for a live chat last Thursday about ways to save and avoid being tricked on Halloween. Below is an edited transcript of the conversation.


Child, adult and even pet attire can be traded at 'eek-o-friendly' events in 38 states and two Canadian provinces.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 8, 2012 12:15PM

Logo: Zombies (Renee Keith/Vetta/Getty Images)The right attire can make or break Halloween for your small fry. Technically, last year's clown costume still fits. At age 4, though, your kid would really rather be Spider-Man.

But suppose there's no room in your budget for new holiday attire? Or suppose you object in principle to buying and discarding new duds every year?

Check out an "eek-o-friendly" alternative: National Costume Swap Day.


Stretch your travel dollars with these frugal tactics.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 5, 2012 12:13PM
Logo: Noodles (Comstock/SuperStock)My recent move to Anchorage meant driving for three and a half days. I stopped at restaurants only twice: a McDonald's somewhere in Canada and Fast Eddy's in Tok, Alaska.

My goal was to keep moving -- I had more than 2,500 miles to cover and winter was peeking over my shoulder. A cooler ($7.99, Goodwill) full of perishables and a bag of more durable grub (good bread, apples, nuts, chocolate) meant quick hotel-room breakfasts and meal stops that lasted 10 or 15 minutes.

Not everyone wants to do meal prep while traveling. But there's more than one way to keep down the cost of road food. 

The rice sock, aka the 'frugal heating pad,' costs pennies and works wonders. It makes a good ice pack, too.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 4, 2012 10:11AM

Logo: Worried woman momentimages/Tetra images RF/Getty Images

Editor's note: Join Donna Freedman today at 7 p.m. ET on MSN Money's Facebook page for a chat on all the ways you can save on Halloween. Be sure to bring your own tips to share!  


Loading and unloading a U-Haul truck did a number on my left shoulder. Driving more than 2,500 miles in three and a half days wasn't exactly healthful, either.

Fortunately, I have a clever and cost-conscious daughter who reminded me of the "frugal heating pad." That's why I'm writing with a sock full of hot rice on my shoulder.

That's uncooked rice, by the way.


Join our Facebook chat for tips on costumes, decor and food that's frightfully frugal.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 3, 2012 6:51PM
Logo: Halloween (Digital Vision Ltd/SuperStock)You know what's really scary about Halloween? The amount of money some people spend on it. Keeping the holiday both fun and affordable is the topic of a Facebook chat this Thursday, Oct. 4.

Drop by the MSN Money Facebook page at 7 p.m. ET to hear topics such as:
  • How to save 50% or more on costumes.
  • How to get free shipping and cash-back rebates of up to 13%.
  • Where to find costume swaps in your region, and how to stage your own.
  • Other sources for costumes and decorations that are cheap or even free.
  • Suggestions for great Halloween parties.
Bring your questions and some of your own tips to share. Remember, this is one day in the year when you can dress up and act out without fear of public censure. According to a recent survey, nearly one-third of U.S. adults dress in costume each Oct. 31. Trick or treat! 

Your furry friends can cost big bucks. Here's how to save on the basics.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 3, 2012 11:08AM

It's impossible to put a price on a pet's love and companionship. The price of that pet's kibble, litter and squeaky toys can be surprisingly steep, however.

You should never skimp on a furry friend's care, but that doesn't mean you should pay retail, either.

What's a companion human to do?



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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.