Frugal NationFrugal Nation

People shown computer-aged versions of themselves said they'd save more for retirement. By all means, try this at home.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 20, 2012 12:44PM

Image: Adult with elderly parent (© Digital Vision/SuperStock)A study at New York University has put a new face on retirement. Or, rather, an old face. Participants in four money exercises were shown elderly visages, both their own (thanks to age-progression software) and other people's.

Those who saw older faces were willing to put twice as much into long-term savings than participants who saw only younger mugs, according to study co-author Hal Hershfield.

He hopes the study will encourage people to think about who they'll be 40 years down the road. Specifically, he hopes people will "do things now to put that future self in a good position" -- that is, plan for retirement.

So try this little exercise:


Glamorous or low-key, the ceremony can be what you want. I'll show you how to get married without breaking the bank.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 19, 2012 12:58PM

Image: Newlywed couple (© Purestock/SuperStock)"You're getting married? Congratulations!"

That sure sounds better than, "You're getting married? Have fun spending almost 27 grand for a half-day party!"

Yep, I said 27 grand -- and that's without the honeymoon.

According to a study from, the average U.S. couple spent $26,984 getting hitched. But maybe you can't afford that much. Or maybe you'd rather put some of that cash toward a different goal: student loans, a down payment on a house, a retirement account.


For that matter, does he need the iPad he already has? It isn't just the cost but the habits you're instilling.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 16, 2012 3:11PM
Image: Driver on cell phone (© BananaStock/Jupiterimages)Yesterday a reader named Darlene wrote to me about the subject of "not keeping up with the Joneses." The girls in her 14-year-old daughter's peer group all have smartphones and "the latest version of the iPad."

Her daughter doesn't. Maybe that's why some of those friends have called her "poor."

The iPad's third version was released today. While frugality and technology aren't mutually exclusive, I'd question whether any kid needs an iPad.  

Use 'stealth stock up' tactics to build a stash of food, cleaning supplies and toiletries. A few dollars here and there is all it takes.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 15, 2012 12:41PM
Image: Full Shopping Cart in Grocery Store© Fuse/Getty ImagesI've long been a practitioner of what I call "stealth stock up": When things I use often go on sale, I buy more than I need.

This can be a huge money saver, given the rising prices of both groceries and the gasoline it takes to go and get them. Investing in loss-leader futures now will pay off in the near future.

Maybe you're thinking: "Buy extra? It's hard enough to keep up with the weekly grocery bill!" But there's a simple trick to making stealth stock up work for you:  

Not all savings tips are created equal. Some aren't worth your time. Some might decrease your quality of life in exchange for pennies in savings.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 14, 2012 4:32PM
Image: Woman counting money (© Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images)Two enduring icons of the frugality movement are Ziploc bags and dual-ply toilet paper. Apparently any frugalist worth his salt washes and reuses the former, and separates and re-rolls the latter.

Full disclosure: Some of my quart-size freezer bags are on their fourth tour of duty preserving wild (and free) blackberries. Why throw the bags out if they still work?

But turning a dual-ply TP roll into two single-ply rolls seems counterintuitive: Wouldn't you need to use more of the single-ply tissue, thus negating any savings? (And why not just buy cheaper single-ply to begin with?) 

Working-poor parents and guardians may be eligible for $50,000 policies to pay for their kids' educations. And yes, it really is free.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 13, 2012 4:47PM

Image: College graduate (© Corbis)This is not a scam. I promise. The MassMutual insurance company really has committed to writing $1 billion worth of free term life insurance policies for the working poor.

The drawback: Since it's a term life policy, you have to die for your kids to collect.

But you know what? Life is uncertain. If you got hit by a bus on the way to your part-time job, could your spouse or partner manage to get the kids through college or trade school?

If your response is "Where do I sign up?," read on.


From paper coupons to high-tech frugal hacks, these tips mean life beyond leftovers.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 12, 2012 3:26PM
Image: Couple ordering meal in restaurant © NULL/CorbisLast week I teed off on folks who don't cook because they don't know how. Today I'm offering a different take: Why you should factor an occasional meal out into your budget.


Make it once a week, once a month or once a quarter -- and make an end run around the expense. If times are tight, you don't need to pay the sticker price for steak and chardonnay.


'Manager's special' hamburger or chicken means big savings for you. And yes, 'old' meat still tastes good. Ask me how I know.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 9, 2012 5:14AM
Image: Packaged ground beef (© Frank Bean/Uppercut RF/Getty Images)Startled by the price of meat? You're not imagining things: It has gotten more expensive lately. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meat and poultry prices rose between 3.4% and 12.1% in January.

I see two options for shoring up your grocery budget. One is vegetarianism, a perfectly viable lifestyle choice. The other option is to change the way you buy meat: Choose only the cuts that are on sale, and begin all your shopping at the "manager's special" section of the meat department.

A friend of mine calls it "used meat." I think that's funny. I also think it's smart.  


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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.