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Donna of Smart Spending’s Living With Less Column

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Donna FreedmanI can now officially claim that someone I knew before they were famous became famous. 🙂

Donna Freedman, one of the hosts of MSN’s Smart Spending blog, now has her own column on frugality, named Living With less, on MSN Money. Her first article, Live well without going into debt, went live just today!

As you all may or may not know, selected Blueprint for Financial Prosperity articles have been appearing in the MSN Smart Spending blog for about a year now and during that time I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Donna. She is down to earth, frugal, hard-working, and someone who can relate to average Americans. She’s not some guru with a bunch of glossy hardcover books and a speaking tour, she’s someone who understands frugality and thrift because that’s a part her DNA.

I grew up this way. We planted gardens, dried laundry outdoors and saved scrap lumber for other projects. Potatoes were the underpinning of almost every meal. We mowed the doctor’s lawn to help pay our medical bills.

Firsthand knowledge of living with less came in handy when times got tough in midlife. I wrote an article about my situation, “Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year,” and the outpouring of reader reaction surprised the MSN Money editors.

I’m a little sad that we won’t be emailing on a regular basis about Smart Spending but this is a great opportunity for her. I think her column will do very well given our economic times and I invite you to check it out and to please give her your support.

{ 12 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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12 Responses to “Donna of Smart Spending’s Living With Less Column”

  1. Donna Freedman says:

    Jim: What makes you think you’ll never get an e-mail from me again? You can run but you can’t hide, buddy…. 🙂

  2. tom says:

    I personally think that living 12K a year is a great idea but why punish yourself when there is so much abundance in the world.

  3. Donna Freedman says:

    Tom: Perhaps we define “abundance” differently. As I noted in another article, I am incredibly privileged: a roof over my head, three meals a day, family, friends, a scholarship, a bus pass, a library card and a radio. I have everything I need, and some of what I want. That sounds like abundance to me.
    Additionally, I never saw living this way as a punishment. I was doing it in order to improve my life, i.e., to go to school. Now I earn a part-time salary for writing, but I haven’t changed my way of living. This allows me to put some of that “extra” money away for retirement, and also to give money away to those in need (social service agencies, charities and several relatives).
    Lack? Nah.

  4. LOVE MY PETS PAT says:

    I find it just awful that you tell people they need to get rid of their pets in bad times. Isn’t it bad enough people are worried of loosing their jobs, relocate because of jobs, have to move from their homes and have to do without and you say to get rid of their beloved pets. Some people all they have in the world are their pets. I love my family and my animals are part of my family. I’m with the guy who said he would do without before he got rid of his pets. As for you Donna I think you are a cold person, what do you care you have a job…………but for how long with your comment on pets.

  5. Pat:
    I did NOT tell people to get rid of their pets in bad times. The point I made is that people should think about what they’d do if push DID come to shove — and that people who are teetering financially should not make a commitment to a pet until times are better.
    I don’t hate animals. Or pet owners. Really.
    Some of the commenters accused me of being “cold” or “selfish.” The people who actually know me know that’s not true. Some of the other comments were much harsher, obscene and even threatening. Civil discourse seems to have flown out the window thanks to the anonymity of the Internet. I believe that we can agree to disagree without descending to personal attacks — epithets if you have no arguments, so to speak.
    Thanks for reading.
    Best regards,
    Donna Freedman

  6. Joey Ramos says:

    Hi Ms. Freedman… I was trying to find the your article that followed up on the one from 11/22/07 (which i still have printed on my desk at work) …It was the one titled “Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year”… I wanted to know how it turned out. My wife read it today for the first time. And while your article has on desk…I am barely following up on it…if u can direct me to it or send me the link that would be great…your Frugal Friend Joey

    • Dear Mr. Ramos,
      How it turned out was….amazing. Still is, actually. I got hired part-time to write the Smart Spending blog, which you can find by looking under the “Community” section of the MSN Money page. Last spring they asked me to write a new PF column called “Living With Less,” but I still contribute once a week to Smart Spending.
      I’m in my final quarter at the University of Washington; I decided to use all three years of the scholarship, instead of rushing to graduate, because the part-time job for MSN was enough to get by on.
      As I noted in a Smart Spending essay called “A year later, still surviving and thriving,” my life changed but my lifeSTYLE did not. I’m still living frugally: cooking at home, shopping at thrift stores, cashing in My Coke Rewards and MyPoints to give gifts, managing an apartment building in exchange for cheap rent.
      However, the job has allowed me to clear my divorce-related debt, help some family members and friends in need, and visit relatives and old pals in Alaska. (Usually done with frequent flier miles, of course.)
      What’s next? I have no idea. I could never have foreseen where that original article would lead. Thus I have no idea where I’ll end up after school. I’m just going to hang on for the ride.
      May I suggest that you and your wife read the second MSN article, “Living ‘poor’ and loving it?” That one goes more into how I feel about money and values.
      If you have any other questions, you can contact me at SmartSpending (at)
      Thank you for reaching out.
      Best regards,
      Donna Freedman

      • Gelsana says:

        Dear Donna Freedman,

        I think your articles are very inspiring and I totally uderstand your comments regarding pets.
        A while back (2003) my family and I purchased this house in Texas and due to illness and unemployment, we ended up losing the house and filing for bankruptcy. What’s happening to a lot of people in the USA right now happened to us 6 years ago. It was a very painful exeperience…that’s why I try to be a frugalista right now. By the way, the Goodwill store in Bellevue is something else: I’ve got this HOBO leather purse for 12.99…then I checked the website: it sells for 200 bucks…I could not believe it!

        We had two dogs that we loved: a husky named Bella and an aussie sheppard mix named Eeyore.
        While struggling to keep a roof over our heads and provide for our little son, we were lucky to be able to rent a very small apt in Round Rock, TX. I had to get rid of most of my stuff in order to move to this tiny little apt. I could not bring a 100 lb dog into that tiny apt (it was against their policies and I did not think it was in the best interest of our husky to be locked up all day in that prison cell…and living there illegally). So I’d asked this neighbor I had “sold” all my nice furniture to for almost nothing…if she knew some family that could care for our dogs. A family that could keep Bella and Eeyore together.

        It turns out that lady had a big property outside Laredo where her daughter lived. She had acres of land. She took my dogs and last time I called to check on them she’d let me know her daughter really liked Bella. So Bella and Eeyore had acred of land to roam around and a family that could provide for them; and they did not have to be separated. Those two dogs were raised together…I had to keep them together. If I had dropped themm off at Townlake Animal Shelter they might not have ended up together…I could not provide for my dogs but someone else could…and they would be alive and happy no matter what.

        It was not the best solution but I could have not dropped them off at the local shelter. I still think about Bella and I will never have another dog. It felt like giving up my child for adoption. But people should not pass judgment. Unless you’re in a desperate situation where you’re sick and broke but you still must get up in the morning and work to provide for your small child…you really should not pass judgment. My life at the time was horrific and so was my credit…I was lucky that I’d found an apt to be able to rent. I was lucky to be able to enrol my son in a decent school district.

        Thank you so much for your articles, Donna. I still have one more quarter to go at Bellevue College. I’ve got this scholarship and I’m planning to graduate next qaurter. I think your articles are great. Thansk again.



  7. Gelsana,
    I’m sorry to hear of the desperate straits your family endured. But you DID endure them, and came out the other side sadder but wiser.
    Congratulations on your imminent graduation. Me too – this is my last one!
    Feel free to contact me personally at — we’ll have a frugal meet-up.

    • Gelsana says:


      I can’t believe all the typos in my previous message…I should make a rule to proofread things I write before submitting them.

      Again, I look forward to the articles you write about. The first one on msn about living on 12k a year and loving it was simply great!
      And the video of you shopping at Value Village just priceless. I thought I was the only one that shopped at Goodwill…I could rate the quality of the articles sold at Goodwill in the following cities we’ve lived: Bakersfield -CA; St. Louis-MO; Round Rock-TX; Austin-TX; San Marcos-TX etc. The very best is the one in this expensive city we live called Bellevue-WA…I can’t wait for the rich folks that shop at “The Bravern” to unload some of their chic purchases at “Le Goodwill”…

      One day, I’d like to express myself in writing as well as you do. English is my second language. I’d like to write a book about my life in the USA…away from my brazilian family. The title of my book: “From Orlando to Bellevue.”

      Thanks again and all the success in the world to you. Your articles inspire people to live a more frugal yet happier lives!!


  8. Connie says:

    Just found this site. Congratulations! Just keep the advice and suggestions coming. Our family has changed our lifestyle and spending habits, both out of necessity and choice. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity and thinking outside of the box!

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