Frugal NationFrugal Nation

A dozen theater chains offer family summer movie programs. Half are free, and the rest cost as little as 50 cents.

By Donna_Freedman May 25, 2012 6:02PM

Image: Hollywood (© Comstock/SuperStock)My niece will take her two boys to the movies at least 10 times this summer. That sounds expensive, but it won't be: The tickets are only 50 cents apiece thanks to Cinemark's Summer Movie Clubhouse series.

In some areas, parents don't even have to pay the four bits: At least six theater chains are offering movies once or twice a week for free.


A number of websites offer links to one-time or short-term employment. Some of the work pays surprisingly well.

By Donna_Freedman May 24, 2012 2:23PM
Image: Laundry (© Somos Images/Corbis/Corbis)According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 25% of the 16- to 19-year-old population is employed. In some places even the part-time fast-food jobs are snared by adults who are anxious to find work of any kind.

If Junior can't find a job, maybe he should look for a so-called microjob.  

Bowling, book clubs, filmmaking and computer workshops -- all that and more, and all for free.

By Donna_Freedman May 23, 2012 4:15PM

Image: Girl Drinking from a Hose © Vicky Kasala/Photodisc/Getty ImagesSchool's out! Or about to be. If your kids will be at home with a parent or babysitter, you might be wondering how to fill those long, lazy summer days.

I'm all for a certain amount of unstructured play time and pickup ballgames along with soccer leagues, sleepaway camp and other organized fun. But two and a half months contains a lot of hours.

A number of national companies offer free activities to keep children challenged. I've found 10 examples to get you started.


Putting off diagnostic dental care can cost you big time. No insurance? There may be a way around that.

By Donna_Freedman May 22, 2012 6:19PM

Image: Dental insurance (© Creatas/SuperStock)Here's a cautionary tale from my sister the dental hygienist. A patient who didn't have dental insurance decided to skip the bitewing X-ray.


The woman's reasoning was threefold: No decay was visible, her mouth felt fine, and she didn't want to pay the $55 fee.

A little over a year went by and a tooth started to hurt. Uh-oh.


A lost or stolen phone can trigger a major data breach. Prevention is simple, though. It's probably even free.

By Donna_Freedman May 21, 2012 1:21PM
Image: Damaged cell phone (© Nick Koudis/Getty Images)Lost your phone lately? You're not alone. In 2011 a phone-finder app company called Lookout located 9 million misplaced smartphones worldwide. That's about one device every 3.5 seconds -- and that's just one company.

A lost or stolen phone could cost you more than a replacement fee, however. If you bank online or shop with your smartphone, or use it for business, then a misplaced mobile becomes a potential data breach.

Recently, technology security company Symantec did a study wherein 50 smartphones were intentionally "lost" in five major cities in the U.S. and Canada. Almost everyone (96%) who found a phone accessed that phone, and 43% tried to access the (phony) online banking, too.

It's essential that you protect your information and make a missing phone findable. Fortunately, these are simple fixes. They're probably even free.


Nearly $4,500 gets spent on music at the average wedding and reception. Have you considered a virtual DJ?

By Donna_Freedman May 18, 2012 3:36PM

Image: Wedding ring (© Jamie Grill/Photolibrary/Photolibrary)According to the Real Weddings survey by, music for the average wedding costs $4,484. That's $503 for the ceremony and $3,981 for the reception ($3,081 for the band and $900 for the DJ).

A band and a DJ? That's one nonstop reception.

But there are alternatives for those whose budgets don't stretch that far or who would rather spend that kind of money somewhere else.


Want beauty treatments and relaxation? Get them on a budget with these tips for frugal pampering.

By Donna_Freedman May 17, 2012 6:09PM

Image: Yoga (© DEX IMAGE/Getty Images/Getty Images)Discounted salon and spa treatments are common at social-buying and daily deal sites such as Groupon and Eversave. That's a frugal way to get haircuts, facials, therapeutic massages and the like.

Want to save even more? "Head to your kitchen," advises a blogger named Eva at the website $30 Thursdays.

Eva and other bloggers suggest that the way to relax is through items like olive oil, yogurt, honey, oatmeal and brown sugar. You don't eat them, though.


Does '10 for $10' mean you have to buy 10? Will a $5-off coupon pull you into a store you usually don't bother with?

By Donna_Freedman May 16, 2012 5:48PM

Image: Woman looking at mannequins in boutique, smiling © Michael Hitoshi/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesWhen faced with a "10 for $10" sale, do you automatically buy 10? Or do you skip the deal because you don't need 10?

Check the fine print, suggests the author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing." Rachel Singer Gordon notes that unless the ad specifies "when you buy 10" or "must buy 10," you can walk out with one, or 11, at the sale price.

Or how about supermarket specials like "six for $10": Do some people think not just that they have to buy six but also that the final cost is 60 cents apiece?



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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.