Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Anyone can host an evening of televised sports or video games. Why not try a different kind of fun?

By Donna_Freedman Sep 7, 2012 12:15PM
Image: Halloween (© Digital Vision Ltd/SuperStock)Summer is all but over, and in some parts of the country people have already started focusing on indoor entertainment.

Rather than plan the same old Pictionary tournaments or college football potlucks, why not surprise your friends with a rousing game of "Alien, Tiger, Cow"?  

Sometimes -- but many other times, 'You've got to spend money to make money' is merely a justification.

By Donna_Freedman Sep 6, 2012 12:36PM
Image: Paper airplane made of money (© Tetra Images/Corbis)In "10 ways to save money by spending more," writer Katie Little writes that certain purchases -- things like nice clothes, household help, vacations and power tools -- not only improve quality of life but could "even save you some cash."

Sometimes that makes sense. For example, in "Save by spending $5 more per week" I suggested using sales and coupons to build a stockpile of foods, toiletries and household items. That costs a little bit upfront but later on you'll save: fewer trips to the store, less temptation to eat out, no late-night runs to the mini-mart because you ran out of toilet paper.

As a rule, though? Telling someone to spend to save is like turning a middle-schooler loose at Best Buy with a credit card and a "Buy only what you need, OK?" When you see something you want, it can quickly morph into a need.  

Price comparison websites find the best deals, get you extra discounts and may even show you how to get a refund if the price changes.

By Donna_Freedman Sep 5, 2012 6:23PM

Image: Shopping online (© Creatas/SuperStock)Want the best price? You need a personal shopper -- and the Internet is full of them.

Price comparison websites like FatWallet.comFindersCheapers and exist to serve deal-seeking consumers. Tell them what you want and they'll tell you how to get it for the least amount of dough.

Please note: These sites are not a license to overspend. If you really can't afford to shop, don't do it. But price aggregators may actually help some people avoid impulse buys.



Not worth your time? Just for junk food? Coupon bloggers rebut these and other commonly held beliefs.

By Donna_Freedman Sep 4, 2012 12:52PM

Image: Coupon (© Photodisc Green/Getty Images)September is National Coupon Month, which means that coupon bloggers are preaching the mantra of money-saving. Their experiences (and mine) are quite different from the ones cited by Kentin Waits in "5 reasons I don't clip coupons," over on MSN Money's Smart Spending blog.

Some coupon bloggers and I are giving five rebuttals, plus another myth-and-debunking thrown in for good measure.


A new study rates the 10 best states for the 20-to-24 demographic. The lineup may surprise you.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 31, 2012 12:45PM

Image: Construction workers (© image100/Corbis)Hey, all you newly minted college grads: Any luck with the job search? If not, maybe you're looking in the wrong places.

Top opps can be found in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and other states that might not be everyone's first choice. Or so says "10 States Where Youth Rules," a new study from

The Dakotas? Really?


Your college-aged kid can stay on your plan -- but it may not provide the right coverage. Now's the time to check.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 30, 2012 1:35PM
If your son or daughter starts college locally this fall, you don't need to worry about health insurance. Federal law permits your kid to be on the family's plan until age 26.

But if your student is leaving home for school, now's the time to ask about what your insurance company provides. Ask how much you'd be responsible for if your son or daughter were hospitalized while at school.

"That's your biggest vulnerability," says Amy Danise of

Ordinary illnesses, such as the viruses that thrive in college dorms, can wind up costing a bundle as well. A student health plan might be the answer -- but not necessarily.


It's the last official week of summer. Here are a dozen no-cost ways to enjoy it.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 29, 2012 3:21PM

Image: Beach (© Purestock/SuperStock)You have permission to slack off over the holiday weekend -- or, as the Daily Worth website puts it, to "respect the recharge."

"Taking the time to relax brings renewed energy. Bonus: That mental distance from problems brings perspective. And if that's not a productive use of your time, what is?" says the DW team in a post called "In defense of total relaxation."


It's fairly telling that our modern idea of R&R is to relax so that we can become more productive.


Free shipping, free products, discounts on your order or your next shopping trip -- the savings can be considerable.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 28, 2012 1:21PM
Image: Shopping online (© Comstock/SuperStock/SuperStock)Shopping online? Don't forget your coupons.

Online shopping codes are virtual coupons, providing discounts, free or discounted shipping and maybe a free gift besides.

Are they worth your time? You bet. Why would you pay for shipping if you could get something  delivered for free? (Not that all shopping codes are for free shipping. More on that in a minute.)

Often you can use more than one kind per order. A woman I interviewed "stacked" a couple of types of codes with a coupon code from an apparel company's paper catalog, then shopped the online clearance section. Want to know how much she paid for 15 items?  


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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.