Frugal NationFrugal Nation

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.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 12, 2012 12:27PM
Image: Handshake (© Corbis)Have something you don't need, and want something you don't have? Online barter might be the answer.

Sites like, 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.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 11, 2012 12:51PM
Image: School lunch (© Stockbyte/SuperStock/SuperStock)Sometimes lunch out means networking, or wining and dining clients. For plenty of us, it translates to just an extra expense.

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.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 10, 2012 11:12AM

Image: Happy Man (© Steve McAlister/Brand X Pictures/PictureQuest)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!

By Donna_Freedman Jul 9, 2012 10:59AM
Image: Bottled water (© Grove Pashley/Corbis)Every waking hour, consumers are bombarded with deals. Online and on TV, in magazines and on the sides of buses, ads show us objects we can't possibly live without.

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.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 6, 2012 11:17AM
Image: Bride and groom (© Image Source/Getty Images/Getty Images)Since mid-March, I've written seven articles on frugal wedding tactics. During the research I heard ideas that I can describe only as thinking outside the etiquette book.

My favorite? The unclaimed cake slicer.  

Consider 'manager's special' bins and these other ways to salvage your food budget.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 5, 2012 11:43AM
Image: Close-up of a person using a calculator in a supermarket (© George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)During a recent house-sitting job in Anchorage, I bought a can of black beans for 89 cents. Given how pricey food is in Alaska, this was a welcome find. Also a slightly battered one: It came from dented-can bin.

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.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 3, 2012 11:05AM
Image: Woman reading book on sunlounger on vacation © Image Source/Image Source/Getty ImagesWhile browsing on recently, a personal finance blogger named Andrea noticed an on-screen message: "Do you own this book? Trade it in for $24!" This made her think of all those college textbooks she'd kept because she was sure she'd use them all the time.

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.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 2, 2012 3:06PM
Image: U. S. banknotes on shelf in kitchen pantry (© Supapixx /Alamy)As I noted in "A recipe for saving money," cooking at home can save you a ton of bucks. But just as you wouldn't do your own home repairs without a few basic tools, you shouldn't enter the kitchen without a few basic cooking supplies.

Nor should you pay retail if you can help it.  


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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.