I’ve got a new day job. Come over and visit.

My biweekly personal finance column at MSN Money has morphed into a daily frugality blog. Since life never happens quite as you wish, the new gig was poised to launch right when I got sick last week.

My mental picture is of the Fates passing a joint and cackling with laughter as they watched me struggle with computer connection woes six or seven hours after what was later determined to be a gall bladder attack.

Eventually everything was resolved and Tuesday was the debut for Frugal Cool. Despite the semi-preachiness of the inaugural headline (“Frugality: The right life choice”), this is not an eat-your-vegetables kind of site.



In fact, I specifically noted that you won’t be kicked out of the movement if you forget your coupons, and I encouraged readers to…

“…forget what you think you knew about the word ‘frugal,’ which has somehow come to mean ‘joyless self-denial.’ What it actually means is choosing to live a life without waste, a life in which each decision means something.

“There’s nothing cooler than self-determination — and frugality doesn’t limit your choices. It just refines them.”

Personally I think of frugality as intentional living or mindful spending. These phrases require choice, and choice means not deprivation but freedom — the freedom to live the kind of life you want by deciding where your money will go, vs. heaving greenbacks at somebody else’s idea of a good time.


The true value of things

Personal life goals will determine your approach. Maybe you’re looking at short-term sacrifice for a long-term goal such as graduating debt-free or buying a home. Perhaps you want to reduce your impact on the environment and/or to live sustainably.

Could be you’re flirting with minimalism and see no reason to buy – or to pay – more than necessary. Or maybe you’re tired of being broke and frugality is just one string in your fix-my-life fiddle.

I want to offer useful information (and frugal hacks!) to all. I also want to dispel a few stereotypes. The trouble with words like “cheap” and “frugal” is that they make the idea of intentional living seem like an unending round of deprivation and hardship.

It ain’t necessarily so. Personally, I’ve never been happier.

Oscar Wilde said that a cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I’d like to be the blogger who knows the price and also the true value of everything, i.e., what’s important in life.

Living frugally got me here. I plan to keep it up. Drop by and I’ll share what I know.

468 ad


  1. Congratulations on your new gig and all the best!

  2. ImJuniperNow

    Congrats, Donna. Just try to remember all us little people when you’re up there with the one percent!!!!

    I’ve been dying to ask you one question, and maybe you’ll use it as a topic someday – Do you ever do something spontaneously, a “what-‘the-hell” purchase without thought as to coupons or freebies, an act minus the “life in which each decision means something”?


    • Donna Freedman

      @ImJuniperNow: Oh, sure. But here’s the thing — the fact that I’m careful the rest of the time allows me to do a what-the-hell thing without major impact to budget or peace of mind.
      That’s my version of the 1 percent: 99 times out of 100 I’ll think “nah, I won’t buy/eat/whatever.” But once in a while I decide to buy/eat/whatever, and it’s really niiiice.
      Thanks for your good wishes, and thanks for commenting.

  3. Yay for new adventures in writing. Can’t wait to bookmark the site.

  4. Holly Samlan


  5. Congratulations on the new site! Hope you continue to improve, health wise.

  6. Have the new site bookmarked. More Donna daily!!!

  7. Congratulations on the new gig–I’ll add it to my blogroll. 🙂

  8. Congrats! I heard you on NPR the other day and wondered what “Frugal Cool” was all about. I look forward to a daily Donna Freedman fix!

  9. Congratulations!! I love reading your articles, wherever I find them posted, yours are my favorites! None of that “How to be frugal while still buying free trade organic chicken and chocolate” junk I’m starting to see too much of in your posts!! 😀

  10. ImJuniperNow

    I’m so glad you don’t feel bad about it, because I’ve always wondered if I should feel bad about it. But now that I know it’s okay, I may go on a tear and buy that pony!!!!!

    • Donna Freedman

      @ImJuniperNow: Buy two ponies, and three ice-cream cones — one for each of you.

  11. Congrats! I also heard you on npr 🙂 You sounded so CALM and LADY like. I couldn’t help but think the REAL Donna writes this blog and the PUBLIC Donna was on the radio – trying REAL hard to keep the REAL Donna away from the microphone 🙂

    • Donna Freedman

      @Sandra J: You have no idea….! Well, sounds as though you do. 😉 Yes, I had to behave myself. At least I was able to sneak in a reference to the “Oh Crap! Fund.”
      A producer at the Seattle NPR station asked me to come back to be on a local show. My former editor, who used to work in radio, suggested that I freak the producer out by showing up with a huge bag of corn chips. Snort.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  12. If only one of these two blogs gets to be on someone’s blogroll, which would you prefer blogrolled?

    • Donna Freedman

      @NicoleandMaggie: I’d prefer to have Surviving and Thriving blogrolled, because I have more variety in topics and more room in which to develop them. Thank you.

  13. average guy

    Hello Ms Donna,

    Congratulations on the enhanced gig. Nice to see your world expanding. I will read your msn site too.

    Some things I want to mention, you may already know anyway.
    a. nice book on frugalness:
    “America’s Cheapest Family” by Steve and Annette Economides. A couple who are like a modern day Amy Dacyczyn.

    b. nice article on gardening/farming, living off the land, and being a “not consuming” person:

    PS, if you are ever in the SF Bay Area, let me know and I’ll buy you lunch (if you like Indian food) in small place in Alameda.

  14. Congratulations! I have enjoyed your writing and perspective a few years now. This is great to see – what a wonderful next step in your life’s journey.

  15. Congrats Donna! I heard you on NPR and love that I now know what your voice sounds like so I can imagine it when I read your posts! I also thought, She is restraining herself a bit. I know how you roll.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Melinda: Thanks! And yep, I was behaving myself. I do want to be invited back, after all. 😉

  16. Very *cool* Donna! Hope you are doing okay! Gall bladder attacks can be quite painful!

  17. tony todd


    good luck with your new job!

  18. Congrats Donna! Glad to hear more will have a chance to get frequent doses of your down-to-earth wisdom!

  19. Ro in San Diego

    Hi. I’m a big fan of you and your writing. I love the idea of an “Oh Crap! Fund” by the way.

    Your quote:”The trouble with words like “cheap” and “frugal” is that they make the idea of intentional living seem like an unending round of deprivation and hardship” really hit home for me.

    A close relative will retire April 1 to take care of her dear mother. While her retirement income is liveable it’s not going to be as much as her current salary. She wanted tips on living on less.

    My suggestions were mostly met with objections regarding the amount of time required, too much trouble,etc. along with a fun accusation that I was attempting to convert her into an extreme couponer. I was very frustrated and changed the subject.

    It wasn’t until I mentioned “free after rebate” coffee on sale at Office Depot this week that she paid attention.

    I think there is a definite stigma attached to being frugal. People who are frugal are automatically considered cheap when this is not always the case.

    I am so glad your column will be called “Frugal Cool”. Because being frugal doesn’t have to be a chore!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Ro in San Diego: I agree — it doesn’t have to be a chore. It becomes automatic after a while. And the ability to be careful with funds leads to the freedom to choose other things that you really want.
      I once interviewed a CPA who said people come to her saying, “Help me with my finances!” But every suggestion she makes meets with, “Oh, no, we couldn’t do that” or “I would die without my (insert expensive habit here).” If it keeps up she tells them, “I can’t help you. Come back when you’re willing to take some responsibility for your choices.”
      Your relative sounds like one of those people. I hope she manages OK.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  20. Congratulations Donna! I am excited about Frugal Cool. … And thanks for not making me feel guilty I sometime forget my coupons. Best wishes to you!

  21. Congrats Donna! You’ve come such a long way from when I read Surviving and Thriving on 12k. Your stuff is my go to frugal reading..Good luck and keep the good stuff coming 🙂

  22. Yay! Congratulations on the new gig! And this is good for all of us, because we get to read more of your writing. This may sound cheesy, but whenever I’m feeling down about being a broke grad student or I have to eat crackers with peanut butter on them because I don’t have enough cash to buy a real meal, I read one of your articles. They always make me feel better because they make me think that following your advice about frugality can help me take control of my life and make plans.
    I just read your Frugal Cool article about gift cards, and I think that’s a great idea. I’ve been doing the “stealth stockup” that you wrote about before, because I earn less money during the summer and so I’ve been slowly building my emergency fund and saving toiletries that I buy on sale/with coupons and other stuff like that. But I was wondering how I could save food that was perishable, like fruit and vegetables; stocking up on a few gift cards will definitely help me take care of that since I can just buy those perishables with the cards.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Neurotic Workaholic: What a lovely thing to say! I don’t find it cheesy at all. Just rather humbling.
      And yes, by all means invest in stealth stock-up futures. Maybe put the cards in your cupboard, among the canned goods, so you won’t be tempted to use them now?
      I’m still working my way through dry pinto beans I bought a couple of years ago. Ten pounds to go. But I always have something I can fix.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  23. Congrats on your new column! Hope I win this book. I’m certain it’ll come in handy. As I approach 40, my relationship with money and debt are changing for the better.

  24. Congrats! I tried a visit but their pages are just so overloaded with ads and busy sidebars that it’s too annoying to try to read anything there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *