• Ten Simple Frugal Steps That Save Money Without Skipping a Beat

    Over the years that I’ve been doing the reader mailbag columns, I’ve received many, many emails from readers. A lot of those readers tell me that they’re in a serious financial bind and that they’re on the verge of being unable to pay their bills or debts. They claim to have stretched every penny they …

  • Frugality Doesn’t Come First

    Frugality is simply a tool to ensure that whatever does come first in your life is well protected and facing a minimal amount of stress. This is something I often have to remind myself of. I spend a fair amount of my time during the week reading personal finance blogs and other sites, looking for …

  • The Salad Dressing Principle: If You Make Your Own, It’s Often Better AND Cheaper

    This is a post about salad dressing. The idea behind this post, however, is shared by countless things that we buy at the store, from paper towels to freezer bags and pasta sauce. Whenever I happen to look at the salad dressing options at a store, I’m always taken aback by the price. A bottle …

  • The Type of Stay-At-Home Parent You Are Makes All The Difference

    A lot of families make the conscious decision to have one parent stay at home with the children while they’re young while the other one heads off to work in order to earn money for the family. This setup can work really well. Some families thrive with this setup, discovering that they have plenty of …

  • Reader Tip Tuesday #3

    There is a common misconception that being frugal means being “cheap”, but frugality isn’t just about cutting budgets. We believe that the most important part of leading a cost-effective lifestyle is recognizing the value of your money and what you’re really getting for it. When it comes to our most frequently-used items (like our cookware, …

  • Five Tactics for Handling a Clogged Pipe Without Calling the Plumber and Breaking the Bank

    I have children who get into all sorts of messy situations. They’ll get all muddy and pet the neighbor’s dog. They’ll roll around in the grass and get all sorts of dried grass on themselves. My daughter has long, thick, wavy hair, too. The end result? Our bathtub drain gets clogged on a fairly regular …

  • New to Cooking at Home? Start with a Few Basic Steps

    One of the easiest ways to trim your budget is by taking a serious look at your food spending. Let’s start with a few quick facts about how Americans eat: + At least 1 in 4 people eat some type of fast food every day. + Americans consume 31 percent more packaged food than fresh …

  • Dollars, Calories, and Nutrition

    In yesterday’s reader mailbag, a thoughtful reader asked about balancing food costs and nutrition costs. My response to him was a straightforward one: if you have dietary restrictions, then you start with those dietary restrictions as a foundation and use frugal grocery tactics within them. For example, if you wish to only eat organic produce, …

  • The Frugal Birthday List

    My immediate family has a tradition of celebrating birthdays. Everyone gives a gift to each other that involves a surprising amount of thought and planning. The person whose birthday it is might throw out some ideas along the way, but the gifts they receive on their actual birthday tend to be a surprise. As I …

  • Reader Tip Tuesday #2

    When it comes to frugal living, creativity is a virtue. That’s why we were excited (but not at all surprised) to receive such clever responses to our most recent “Reader Tip Tuesday” question: “How do you reuse things around your house?” Over the years, we’ve shared a lot of our own ideas about reusing kitchen …

  • Teaching a Seven Year Old How to Shop for Groceries Frugally

    The other day, I was at the grocery store with my seven year old son. As we walked through the entrance of the store, I looked over at him and said, “Today, we’re going to try something different.” He looked up at me. “Today,” I said, “you’re going to buy the groceries. You have $100. …

  • The $120 T-Shirt

    A reader pointed me towards this listing for a $120 t-shirt sold by Kanye West and French clothing seller A.P.C. This is just one item among several from them, including such items as a $250 hoodie. My first reaction was to laugh a bit. A $120 plain white t-shirt? Seriously? I can get a low-cost …

  • Using the Decoy Effect to Your Advantage

    First, let’s talk about what the decoy effect is: The decoy effect is the phenomenon whereby consumers will tend to have a specific change in preference between two options when also presented with a third option that is asymmetrically dominated. An option is asymmetrically dominated when it is inferior in all respects to one option; …

  • How Long Could You Go Without Spending Any Money?

    Given the resources you already have on hand, how long could you go without spending any money at all? You can assume that paying taxes and paying for basic utilities like electricity is okay, but buying anything else isn’t allowed. What would you do for transportation? Could you get to every place that you need …

  • The Traveler’s Dilemma

    Next month, I’m traveling from Des Moines to Indianapolis and making a return trip about five days later. At first glance, it makes a lot of sense to fly. It would take me from Des Moines through Chicago to Indianapolis in about four and a half hours. Alternately, I could drive this trip and it …

  • The Unused Library: Dealing with an Overspender’s Entertainment Collection

    In early 2006, I had a DVD collection that numbered well over 1,000 discs. It featured complete television series, many different film series, a large portion of the Criterion Collection, and many other items. I also had a video game collection that consisted primarily of Playstation 2 and GameCube games that numbered somewhere around 250 …

  • Starting the School Year the Frugal Way

    Now that I have two young ones in school (and one of them in preschool … one who likes to make sure to tell everyone that he is also in school), the annual cycle of buying school supplies and preparing for the upcoming year is now a part of our lives. Thankfully, the past few …

  • Frugality and Desperation

    Most of the readers of this site are in the fortunate position to be able to think of frugality as a tactic rather than a requirement. It’s a useful strategy for maximizing the difference between the money coming into your life and the money going out of your life so that you can build financial …

  • An Ode to the National Park Service

    Over the past two weeks, Sarah and I combined a tenth anniversary getaway for the two of us along with a family vacation for ourselves, our children, and Sarah’s parents and youngest sister. This meant almost two full weeks of traveling. Along the way, I kept taking notes on the inexpensive and free stuff I …