Frugal NationFrugal Nation

From classics to comic books, billions of words and images are yours for the reading.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 29, 2012 5:14PM

Image: young woman reading from Kindle (© Reggie Casagrande/Photographer)These days it doesn't matter how close you live to a library or bookstore. If you've got an e-reader, laptop, tablet or smartphone, millions of e-books are as portable as paperbacks.

The choices are no longer limited to fusty old classics you were forced to read in high school. From autobiographies to westerns, the Internet's virtual bookshelves are crammed with new and recently published reads.

Where to start?


A couple of easy, lesser-known options can provide significant savings.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 28, 2012 7:59PM
Image: African-American woman shopping online (© Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images)In "Get paid to buy stuff," I explained how cash-back shopping sites can mean cheaper purchases. Recently I learned about two related options: ship-to-store and in-store pickup.

Either tactic provides additional discounts, from the cash-back rebate and any online coupons. But are they always a good idea?  

Scratches, dents or slight irregularities can mean big discounts, and the imperfections may be too small to matter.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 27, 2012 1:13PM
Image: A woman looking at a washing machine in an electrical shop © altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
When you buy new you expect perfection, right? Maybe not, according to Ed Avis of Five Cent Nickel, a personal-finance blog.

Some people don't mind a ding, scratch or close "sell by" date "because they know they can save tons of money that way," Avis notes in an article called "Less than perfect: 5 ways to save by buying slightly damaged goods."

You may be nodding in agreement right now. And if not? Keep reading, so that Avis and I can convince you.


House-sitting, caretaking or 'workamping' can be a huge budget boost. Just think: No monthly housing costs.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 26, 2012 3:53PM

Image: House keys (© Comstock Select/Corbis)

If you had no rent or mortgage payment, what would that mean to your bottom line? Free accommodations are available if you're willing to watch someone else's property.


House-sitting tends to be a quick-hit job, but two other gigs -- caretaking and "workamping" -- can last for months or years at a time. Best-case scenario: You fall into a sweet spot such as spending 51 weeks a year at a multimillionaire's Colorado ski retreat or secluded Hawaiian getaway.


Where do you look for a job like that? (Post continues after video.)


Emergency preparedness isn't paranoid -- it's smart. Yard sales are a great place to start.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 25, 2012 5:04PM
Image: Lightning (© Warren Faidley/Corbis)

Lisa Bedford, aka "The Survival Mom," recently posted a list of 21 things to look for at yard sales and thrift shops. She wasn't talking about baby items or frugal Christmas presents, but rather about items to help survive everything from a flash flood to an attack on the United States.

That's not paranoid. It's prudent.  

It's only June, but some parents are already buying. Here's why that's smart.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 22, 2012 3:04PM

Image: Boy hiding eyes (© Ned Frisk Photography/Corbis)We'll spend more on back-to-school purchases this year, but we'll take our sweet time doing so, according to a new survey from PriceGrabber.

Of the 1,509 individuals surveyed, 46% said they planned to fork over more dollars than in 2011, and 55% said they'd buy throughout the summer. In fact, some of them are already shopping: 17% indicated they'd start looking in June.


Starting now doesn't necessarily mean buying now. It means positioning yourself for great prices.

How great?


Using them instead of cash can save you as much as 30% on gifts and everyday purchases.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 21, 2012 3:17PM

Image: Piggy bank (© Corbis)Looking for deeper price breaks on retail purchases, restaurant meals, entertainment and more? Pay with discounted gift cards.

Cards for hundreds of retailers are available on the secondary market at 3% to 30% less than face value.


Seem like everyone you know is getting hitched? Savvy survivors of multiple invites offer advice.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 20, 2012 8:44PM

Image: Newlywed couple (© Purestock/SuperStock)Stephanie S. was invited to 10 weddings this summer. She'll attend eight of them along with showers, engagement parties and bachelorette shindigs, at a cost of at least $3,000.

"It's truly important to me to be at as many of these wedding events as I can," says the 25-year-old, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

Andrea Woroch has fewer invites (six) but higher expenses, about $8,500. Yikes.



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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.