Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Maybe you're broke. Maybe you're just frugal. Either way, there's no need to overpay for your specs -- or, maybe, to pay at all.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 8, 2012 11:29AM
Over at Generation X Finance, a blogger named Charissa recently revealed "Five places to find discount prescription eyeglasses." Those five online retailers sell frames and lenses for as little as $6.95, sometimes with free shipping and little extras like free eyeglass cases.

"It's also helpful if you like their Facebook pages because that's where you'll find coupon codes, free shipping offers and other opportunities for savings," noted Charissa, who also linked to an organization that offers free vision screenings for uninsured, lower-income U.S. residents.

Nice work, Charissa. But allow me to add that there are several other options for free eye exams -- and that there's a way to get additional discounts on those already übercheap specs.


Even if your 'back 40' is actually a balcony 40, try veggies or herbs in containers.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 6, 2012 11:31PM
It's time to plan this year's garden, even if you're a Manhattan condo dweller. With a little work and a little love, you can harvest miniaturized lettuces, tomatoes, cukes, herbs and other crops from a deck, a balcony or even just a sunny windowsill.

The Renee's Garden seed company even offers container zucchini, which means that now city dwellers can have squash surpluses, too.  

'Pay what you can' means frugal entertainment. A dollar (or even less) can get you through the door at a theater, comedy improv show or museum.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 6, 2012 12:21PM
Hungry for a little diversion despite your skinny wallet? Four words can help: "pay what you can."

Admission by donation at a museum or live theater is like happy hour for the lively arts. It's a chance to get out of the house without going over your budget.

A few years back, while still a broke midlife college student, I paid $3 on pay-what-you-can, or PWYC, night at Seattle's Intiman Theatre. As I apologized, the ticket agent told me not to sweat it -- some people had paid as little as a quarter.  

At-home meals will save you a bundle. No more excuses: If you can read, you can cook.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 5, 2012 1:32PM
Last fall the Bosch appliances company surveyed nearly 1,100 men and women aged 25 and older. About 28% said they don't cook because they don't know how.

Anyone else but me wonder how these folks made it to adulthood?

Seriously. At some point they didn't know how to walk, read or tie their shoes. They weren't born knowing Facebook either. But they learned. 

The popular online program lets you earn Amazon cards, PayPal cash and other rewards.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 2, 2012 3:02PM
Image: Gift card © Thinkstock Images/JupiterimagesSwagbucks bought my underwear. Not from me -- for me. I earned Amazon gift cards from the rewards site and used them to buy long johns for a two-month trip to Alaska late last year.  (Now that I live here full-time, I'm finding those snuggies quite useful.) Wool socks, too, and some Horlicks malt beverage for my hostess up north.

The cards also helped me pay for Christmas presents (read "Christmas for less than $100") and for things like flax seed, quinoa and vitamins. It's great when your get-healthy New Year's resolution costs nothing out of pocket.  

I sold a little plastic baseball guy for a startling sum. Are you sitting on a gold mine?

By Donna_Freedman Mar 1, 2012 3:01PM

Bob Feller funded my Roth IRA. Part of it, anyway. One of the items I got from my divorce's community-property split in 2006 was a Hartland Figurine of the Cleveland Indians legend.

I always meant to put it on eBay. The closest I got was taking the box out of a closet and setting it on the couch to remind myself to sell it. That was probably two years ago.

Last month, I finally put the statuette up for online auction -- and it sold for an amount that frankly startled me.


The right coupons can mean great deals. Just make sure they're not creating a 'need' where none exists.

By Donna_Freedman Feb 29, 2012 1:44PM
Last month Seattle had its biennial winter storm, which stretched over several days. A nearby Qdoba restaurant sent me a "snow day" coupon: an entrée and drink for $5.

And I fell for it.  

Stray nails, bolts and other odds and ends not only save you money, but also can spare you aggravation.

By Donna_Freedman Feb 28, 2012 11:18AM
Recently I needed to repair a slipper. Although I'm not much of a seamstress, I refuse to toss a moccasin just because the felt sole was separating from the upper. But pushing the needle through the thick material was impossible without a thimble.

Since I don't own a thimble, I did what any frugalist would do: I headed to the junk drawer. There I found a tiny plastic container that once held a gumball-machine prize. Fitted on my thumb, it made needle-pushing possible.

Yes, I once picked up a gumball container off the supermarket floor. Like all the other things I pick up, I figured it would come in handy sometime -- and it did.  


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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.