If you have a video-game habit, a baby on the way or a house that needs painting, the free online marketplace might be for you.
Sites like Swap.com, U-Exchange, Swap Mamas and BookMooch help you exchange your goods or services for somebody else's.
A quick look around the virtual swap meet turned up everything from child care to live ammunition (but not from the same person). I saw offers for comic books, furniture, plows, Barbies, carpentry, web design, strollers, tax prep, cameras and chiropractic.
Use these tactics to save some serious money on your noon meal.
How much of an expense? Even if you could do it for $5 a pop -- unlikely these days -- that amounts to as much as $1,300 a year. What else could you do with that kind of money?
Yet I've heard the darnedest excuses for not brown-bagging, from "It takes too long to pack" (as opposed to waiting for a table at a restaurant, right?) to "Sandwiches just get too boring."
Guess what. It doesn't have to be a sandwich.
Want to win a fabulous prize? The odds are better than you think.
A few years ago, I interviewed a group of "sweepers," folks whose hobby is entering contests and sweepstakes. They routinely won things like cash (as much as $100,000 at a clip), savings bonds, jewelry, tech items, vacations, cars, furniture, toys, concert tickets and free gasoline.
My favorite was marketing consultant Noah Fleming, who for a time entered up to 30 contests a day. Here's a sampling of what he scored in just two years: a 46-inch LCD television, a home theater system, DVD box sets, a Wii, a Flip Mino HD camera, two Xbox 360s plus games, an all-expenses-paid trip to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, concert tickets, a 20-inch iMac, an autographed hockey jersey, an iPod, a Tassimo coffeemaker and two Dell laptops.
But that's not the best part.
Ads constantly promote items we can't live without. Resist!
Except that we usually can. How do you suppose people managed before greeting card companies made birthday cards "from the cat" or "from me and the dog"? Before applesauce came in tubes? Before we started thinking our blankets needed sleeves?
Unclaimed cake slicers? A minimalist approach to attendants? Think outside the box and save.
My favorite? The unclaimed cake slicer.
Consider 'manager's special' bins and these other ways to salvage your food budget.
You've heard of scratch-and-dent appliance sales? I apply the same shopping ethos to groceries, keeping my food bill down with "used meat," close-dated milk (I've paid as little as 99 cents a gallon), and slightly damaged dry and canned goods.
So do plenty of other people. In fact, some regions have entire stores devoted to "salvage" groceries. I wish.
Just how scratched and how dented are these foods?
Online booksellers are buying. Make a little cash and clear some clutter, too.
You guessed it: She hasn't touched a single one since earning her master's degree seven years ago. Andrea wondered whether Amazon would be interested in some trades.
Would it ever.
For every cooking job there is a perfect tool -- and an affordable way to obtain it.
Nor should you pay retail if you can help it.
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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, 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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