What frugal things do you struggle with?

by Kristen on September 19, 2013 · 150 comments

in Ask The Readers


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So, a lot of the time I just blog about the frugal stuff that’s going on in my life, which works out pretty well because there’s lots of frugal material to blog about!

And hopefully that stuff is helpful to you.

But every now and then, I like to ask what you all need help with in the realm of frugality, and that’s what I’m doing today.

So, what topics would be most helpful for me to cover? Do you have a hard time cooking at home? Keeping your grocery bill down? Being content with less? Spending mindfully? Reducing utility bills? Having fun on a budget? Something else entirely?

Let me know in the comments!

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{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim W September 19, 2013 at 7:15 am

Hi Kristin
I am a long time reader and love your blog. You are a great inspiration for me! The thing I struggle with the most is by far food. Groceries are getting more expensive by the day and my family is so bored with the same old meals all the time and frankly I am sick of cooking them too. What I really used to love was the grocery post every week. I looked forward to it and was often inspired to try something new from your meal plan. I know if I could ask for anything to read about regularly from you it would be the meal plans and recipes.

Kim

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2 Amy b September 19, 2013 at 7:29 am

Agreed! We have cut expenses in the other areas of our life – no internet (we do have smart phones but that was only after we compared and found they would be about the same price as regular phones bc of the deal we got), no TV, cloth diapers, rarely eat out, strict allowance… But I refuse to compromise on healthful foods. I just don’t know how to stay on a budget and eat healthily. I could cut my bill if we ate Ramen noodles or Mac and cheese at every meal but I refuse. Help on this area would he great!!

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3 Louise September 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Yes, help in the grocery department! We just got an Aldi here and I have never been in one before but am curious to see what it’s like. I try to buy the organic produce that matters (using the Dirty Dozen and such as a guide) but it does get expensive, so I’m curious to see if this new Aldi carries the array of organic produce that has been mentioned in the Frugal Girl blog. I hear they only accept cash, so that is a start in adhering to a budget…

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4 Valarie S September 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Actually, I believe Aldi also accepts debit cards – ours does. I personally can’t say enough good things about Aldi. I have all but ditched the regular grocery store in favor of Aldi. Definitely check it out!!

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5 Jen September 19, 2013 at 9:10 am

I would also love to see the grocery posts! Knowing that it IS possible to spend less on groceries helps me say no to the splurge items at the grocery store that I don’t really need.

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6 Elaine in Ark September 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

The Nonconsumer Advocate just had a post about this. It’s almost impossible to eat cheap AND healthy, even if you make everything from scratch and grow your own veggies. People had a lot to say about that.

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7 Barrie September 19, 2013 at 10:50 am

I don’t find that to be true. I guess your definition of “cheap” would vary. I don’t grow my own vegetables, I have a black thumb, but I do shop at the farmers market and the farm down the street from my house, Aldi for staples, and then bounce from store to store for other deals to stock up. My family of 3 spends $300/month on groceries, toiletries, and paper goods. I could dwindle it down to $100 or even $75/2 weeks if necessary, but I like to have a good variety of food in our house and stock up w/ pantry items and freeze a good amount of meats and breads when they’re on a good sale. $300/4 is $75/week and that’s for breakfasts, and dinners, and a couple lunches throughout the week. $75 week/7 days/2 meals/3 people(to take into account my daughter not eating lunch at home (day care provides), my husband rarely eating lunch at home during the week, and my 2 days out/week for lunch) = $1.78/meal per person. I might have done that math wrong. But it’s not a lot of money.

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8 Tamara R September 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I agree with Barrie. I spend very little money on groceries compared to my friends – $85 a week on average for two adults. The key is to understand the need to cook from scratch rather than relying on expensive, less-than-healthy convenience foods.

Food today is actually less expensive than ever due to increasingly efficient production methods. The government maintains an online consumer pricing index where you can plug in “old” prices to see what they look like in today’s dollars. Milk is a great example – in 1980 it ran about $2.16 a gallon, should be over $6.00 in today’s price adjusted dollars, but is actually only about $2.99.

What we’re shorter of today is time, of course. When we trade time for convenience, we’re going to pay for that trade off.

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9 Brooke September 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

I agree with these others… I miss your grocery posts! Even the stuffed animals in the grocery pictures!

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10 Amanda January 8, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Agreed – I’m constantly reading/hearing about how expensive food is, but it actually is very low cost in the developed world. In the developing world, food is the largest percentage of the household budget. In the developed world, Americans spend the least on food, spending only 7% on food! compared to about 40% in other countries. Americans do spend a lot on non-essential food items – hence the obesity epidemic.

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11 Amanda January 8, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Sorry, that was a reply to Tamara R but went to the wrong place

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12 KimN September 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I agree and was just thinking about this yesterday while cooking dinner. I miss your menu plan posts. It always helps me get ideas for my menu plan and inspires me.

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13 WilliamB September 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Kim;

Have you tried a cookbook from the “365 Ways to Cook …” series? One of the two books I learned to cook from, when I was broke, is “365 Ways to Cook Chicken.” It was fantastic. The recipes focus on speed and convenience – calling for canned cream soup or frozen veggies – but are really good. It’s also easy to substitute a better grade of food in the recipes, such as homemade cream sauce or roux instead of the canned soup.

Another one I’ve had good experience with is America’s Test Kitchen’s “Quick Family Recipes.” (ATK is the parent group for Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and other stuff.) This book assumes more cooking knowledge that “365″ but still good stuff.

When you get one of these, go through it and write down the recipes you’d like to try so you don’t have to thumb through the book every time it’s time to cook.

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14 SheB September 21, 2013 at 10:27 am

Oh yes! I miss the grocery posts and menu plans! They help me sooo much while I’m planning my menu and grocery shopping

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15 ann a September 19, 2013 at 7:55 am

I don’t have a suggestion–I trust you’ll get enough feedback from others–but I wanted to say that I love that you asked. You are a jewel.

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16 SandyH September 19, 2013 at 7:59 am

Yes it’s by far grocery spending, and mindful spending goes along with that. I love cooking and baking. I can go to Aldi and do, say, a $50 shopping and feel very good about that, then a day or so later hit a regular grocery store and spend $75. I’ve then saved nothing. I do menu plan but there always seems to be another recipe I want to try, an ingredient I’m out of, etc. this puts me back at the grocery store, then it seems, all bets are off. I’m shocked at how much I can manage to spend, when I THOUGHT I had already done the bulk of my shopping for the week.

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17 Michelle Binkley September 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

Seems like food is the biggie, because that’s where I struggle too. We have 5 kids living in our home…ranging from my 19 year old nephew to our 10 year old son. (Kids ages are 19, 14, 13, 11, 10) With 3 teens and two growing boys, our food disappears almost as fast as I can buy it. We REALLY need help with finding food that is filling, healthy and doable for a busy family. I love your blog–it inspires me to want to be more frugal and less wasteful without making me feel like an over-consuming oaf. ;)

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18 WilliamB September 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Brown rice? Easy to cook for all that it takes a while. Much healthier than white rice, and inexpensive. I don’t normally recommend carbs as filler food but it sounds like your 5 growing ravenous youngers might need the extra calories.

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19 alice September 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I soak my brown rice in water overnight and then I find the cooking time is the same as white rice. I like to make enough rice for a week at a time because it keeps well in the fridge and then it’s very easy to heat up and saves a lot of time during weeknights.

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20 Linda M September 19, 2013 at 8:02 am

I would like posts on clothing that is multi-purpose, etc….clothing has always been my weakness along with pretty jewelry. I buy very, very little new as I don’t want to pay the price or and more things to our country’s over consumption. However, it seems I have several items in my closet but when it is time to go to different things….church, meetings, visit with friends, the grandchildren’s sporting events, outside events, weddings, showers….my wardrobe falls short. Ideas of what to buy and different ways to use or vary them would be appreciate. Just being honest!

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21 Elaine in Ark September 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

Do you shop thrift or consignment stores? I’ve gotten several items in the past few years from those stores, and I always see jewelry, purses, and accessories for very little money. There are also upscale stores with “designer” items that cost a little more, but much less than regular retail stores.

You don’t always find exactly what you want, but sometimes you really score!

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22 alice September 19, 2013 at 11:18 am

This might be a question better posed to a site like wardrobeoxygen or alreadypretty (they have posts where they answer reader questions, or you can look through their archives for similar topics). I like those two sites a lot because they give great advice and focus on fashion for real life and real budgets. If you have a full closet, you might need to do a closet cleanout and reorganization first before worrying about buying anything new – you probably already have what you need in your closet and you just need help putting outfits together. Just my two cents!

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23 Linda M September 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for the suggestions! I almost exclusively shop consignment and once in awhile Goodwill or yard sales. I will definitely check out the websites that Alice suggests. I do have too many things in my closet and will indeed clean it out. But my point is, as a woman, it seems you need so many different things to wear that fit so many different situations. I would like to pare it down to have fewer things but be versatile enough to cover these situations. In the area where I live it varies from extremely casual to really dressy at times….seems like just too many things to have to have unless there is an easier way. I have even done the Project 333 and did okay with it. I am just looking for suggestions….as I would like to have “enough” but not too much and still meet looking good for all occasions.

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24 Deb September 19, 2013 at 8:48 am

We are debt free except the house, but I struggle with when it is ok to buy something that we will definitely use and will make our life easier but we don’t necessarily need. For example, we have 10-20 people over on a pretty regular basis (every other Sunday) and this week, Friday and Sunday. So, after 22 years of marriage, I bought several sets of dishes, so I have 24 that match. I got clear dishes, so I can add color as needed and they were reasonably priced. They replaced the mismatched, chipped Corelle where that we inherited when my sil got divorced and we never quite had enough of. It was a splurge, but we now have enough dishes to serve everyone in matching dishes without digging in every cupboard, so my life is easier and it makes me happy, but I still struggle with, am I just being vain and thinking that hospitality depends on my dishes, really? Does that make sense?

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25 Elaine in Ark September 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

Deb, it’s OK to want to have nice things for your family and friends!

My sister always tells me that I don’t have to clean the whole house, get the yards mowed and edged, and make so much food, but it’s for my family and I WANT to have everything nice for them because I love them.

Enjoy your nice dishes. You’re not doing it to impress people, but to give them the best that you’ve got.

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26 WilliamB September 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Deb – my issue is similar. I live below my means and wonder when it’s OK to spend.

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27 Stephanie September 20, 2013 at 9:39 am

If you can afford it and it makes you happy then go for it. Enjoy your new dishes!

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28 Wendy September 19, 2013 at 8:49 am

First, I love your blog. I look forward to reading it every morning because of the wonderful tips. It inspires me to do better with my family.
Second, the area I struggle with most is grocery shopping. I have started shopping at Aldi, and love it but like the other moms have to complete my shopping at another grocery store and end up blowing the budget. I have 3 boys (14, 12, and 9) and my husband. I make all lunches and dinners everyday. I generally spend $200 a week. I plan all our meals but can’t seem to get that number down!

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29 Chrissy January 13, 2014 at 9:20 pm

I have come to the conclusion that with three sons and a husband, around $200 a week is pretty good. They just eat SO MUCH. None of my guys are overweight at all, they are just guys….end of story. They will eat 10 pounds of apples in four days. No problem. I tend to buy 90% real stuff???they don’t eat chips very and bagged/boxed food, never, so that keeps costs down. However, a pot of chili for all of us, with rice, and our unofficial lay adopted 22 year old son requires three pounds of meat and a pound of lentils. No leftovers. That is just crazy. So…Aldi is where I make room in my budget. My kids have some food allergies so my list from Aldi is short, but it is a big savings. Huge, actually. If I can get a cart of produce for $30, I have lots left for the three carts of food from Kroger, Whole Foods (stupid food allergies…grr) and Trader Joe’s (again, the food allergies). My monthly budget is $800, always cash. Some weeks I get it all done for less than $200, maybe because of a sale or something, but inevitably I then will have a week that is a bit high because of having people over or something.

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30 Roc Away Debt September 19, 2013 at 8:50 am

I struggle the most with “obligations to others” between September/October we have two baby showers, one wedding, one 60th anniversary party, two niece/nephews’ birthday parties, one pre-wedding celebration event/dinner (in lieu of a formal bridal shower)… This has been the norm lately…

I used to LOVE giving others gifts but lately it seems like “events for others” are really starting to take away from our debt pay off goals. I can say no to friends but it’s harder to tell family members no without seriously hurting someone’s feelings…

DH and I do not have own kids yet so it’s always assumed we have “enough money” and “time” to pitch in with EVERYTHING and it’s getting frustrating. And “everyone has student loan debt” so telling people we want to pay ours off early is not a popular answer.

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31 Jen September 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

PLEASE cover keeping utility bills down! We recently had our electric bill go through the roof and our electric is now costing more in our 800 sq ft apartment than it does in a friend’s 1600+ sq ft house, and there are 3 more people in her family.

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32 Jo-Ann September 19, 2013 at 10:33 am

Jen, you may want to have a electric company rep come to check out your meter. I’ve heard a few stories of meters being mislabeled. You may be paying for the wrong meter. I also had a friend who was paying for the shared washer/dryer in the basement. It’s worth checking out, you may be due a refund.

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33 Debbie Flowers September 19, 2013 at 11:48 am

Please make sure your return air vent is not covered and the filter is changed. The filter is usually in the return air vent, and air must be able to circulate or your air conditioner will run constantly without cooling. I agree something must have triggered the spike and I would have maintenance check it out.

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34 ~Simplydor September 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm

We ALSO Had a HEAT SPELL this Summer my July Bill was more than my Jan Bill last yr !
If Ur Cold Get a Blanket if Ur Hot sit closer to the Fan & Drink some Ice Water ;) we don’t Turn Our Heat up it’s stays at 68 at night & 70-72 during wake time n while we are here. AC only to 78-80 Depending on my Hot Flases ;)

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35 Carla September 20, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Another thing you may want to check is your thermostat. The first winter I lived in an apartment my electric bill was huge. It turns out that my thermostat was completely inaccurate, and the temperature was 4 degrees warmer than I intended. I am always cold, so I didn’t notice and thought I was being reasonable setting it to 72 (really 76 F). Adjusting this made a huge difference.

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36 Tammy September 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

I love the recipes and food obviously is a big expense. I hate to cut coupons! I would love to see some articles on being content and also how to save for a big expense – like a trip or new appliance or something … how would you budget for it – where would you look to cut what expense to put that money back to save – because finding the money to save is the hard part for me.

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37 Elizabeth L. September 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

Oh, I really like that idea! I’m terrible about making the decision on where to cut back, so I either end up cutting back everywhere and being miserable, or cutting nowhere and having to dig into savings for a trip or a major purchase.

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38 Laura September 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

Two things came to mind for me. First is trying to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I have recently discovered Aldi, and they do have some great deals on produce. I try to shop what’s in season/on sale, but I don’t know if you have any other tips on that topic to save money and still eat healthy. Second, do you do a cash only budget? We use credit cards but pay them off every month. We are blessed to have our mortgage as our only debt. We use the points from the credit cards for cash back or gift cards, and I keep a spreadsheet for where we are spending our money. All that said, I have wondered if we would be more careful with a cash budget. My struggle is this, though…we are big amazon buyers, so how would I work a cash budget with making online purchases?

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39 Ashli September 19, 2013 at 10:06 am

One suggestion I would have is to take the produce ads to walmart, they will match any advertised price and have a decent selection on produce. As for the credit cards and whether or not they make you spend more, we have struggled with this as well. I would suggest this: Make a monthly budget so you know down to the dollar where your money will be spent that month. Then feel free to use the credit cards, but only for the amounts you have budgeted. No more impulse buys. If you find something that you want to buy make sure it comes out of a budget somewhere. We list everything separately so we know that we have $150 a week for groceries, $200 a month for clothing, $75 a month for personal care, $30 a month for toiletries and cleaning products, $100 a month for car care, etc. That way we still get our credit card rewards and stick to a budget. Hope that helps!

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40 Bridget September 19, 2013 at 9:28 am

Time. My husband and I both work full-time outside the home. We have two small children in childcare. Because of decisions we made in our teens and early twenties, we have significant student loan debt and we both must work to meet our financial obligations.

Sometimes I’m able to run to goodwill/consignment shops during my lunch hour but I don’t have time for a lot of things. I still struggle with finding quality things like outerwear there. So I place an order at Land’s End for waterproof snowpants for the girls ($30 each on clearance). Those “little” things add up.

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41 Stephanie September 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

We are in a similar boat except with medical expenses and I no longer work or drive. I would suggest focusing on the things that will save you the most money with the least effort/time. Getting the snowpants on clearance may free up time to meal plan or coupon- that could potentially save $30 right there. We have a bread maker and a crock pot so making bread and yogurt is easy for us but I no longer make tofu or time/effort sucking foods because I get tired. I do not get to consignment/thrift stores often so ebay, paperbackswap.com and amazon are my friends. Anything I can have delivered to our house at a competitive price saves my husband gas, wear and tear on the car and time after he has worked all day. This is some of what works for us, your mileage may vary.

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42 Frugal Nurse September 19, 2013 at 9:35 am

Family health care! With health insurance plans demanding greater cost sharing (higher deductibles, copays, etc) and health care costs just simply more expensive all the time, families really need to budget their health care dollars. I appreciated your post a while back about using the Nurse Line to see if a doctor’s visit was necessary. More tips like that would be great.

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43 linda September 19, 2013 at 9:39 am

Any suggestions with starting and keeping an emergency fund?

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44 Ashli September 19, 2013 at 10:09 am

Put your emergency fund in a different account at a different bank from your primary bank to make it harder to access and do NOT set it up to be accessible online. We did that and when we REALLY need money for an emergency we can access it, but it’s enough of an inconvenience that it is a true emergency when we go through the process.

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45 Kathy Wood September 19, 2013 at 9:42 am

Hi,

I struggle with even buying three days of food, let alone a week. Also facing the necessity of cutting our food bill. Maybe I need to start with food waste control to begin the process. Small steps…. What do you think?

Kathy

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46 Casey Chute September 19, 2013 at 9:47 am

Composting! I want to start but I have a 10mo old and a 2yr old so I’m dragging my heals. I’ve never done it but am very intrigued with the electronic composters since I hear meat and dairy are easily incorporated.

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47 SusieQT September 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

You don’t need anything fancy- that’s what is probably holding you up. Just make a pile somewhere in your yard! I keep an old milk jug (with the top cut off so it’s more like a handled scoop) in my kitchen sink where I just toss all my fruit/vegetable waste. Then once a day I take it out to the pile and dump it. Mix it in with grass clippings and leaves and turn it with a rake once in a while. That’s all there is to it!

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48 WilliamB September 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I use a large rubbermaid bin with holes drilled in the sides and the bottom cut out. Then I got fancy and added a second bin, for the when the first is full but the contents need to sit a while longer.

Try mixing half food scraps/grass/other greens with half leaves/shredded paper/other browns. If that gets too stinky, use more paper/etc.

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49 Lindsey September 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I bought a $400 electric composter and it was a complete loser—-things had to be cut so tiny that it would have been easier to pre-chew them. The quality was cheap and blades broke or jammed repeatedly. And there WAS a smell. I am back to passive composting—I bought a bale of straw and I throw a bit on each time I bring out the contents of the compost can I keep on my cabinet. I don’t turn or water or fuss about percentages of green vs. brown, and a year or so later I still get great compost.

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50 H September 19, 2013 at 9:50 am

I have a lot of trouble getting my husband to be frugal. Getting take-away even if I have a prepared a fresh, home-cooked meal, giving money to his working-but-spendthrift son and his wife, and buying lottery tickets are just some examples. He wastes so much money every year. How can I get him to realise this? I have pointed out the lump sum the lottery cost *shudder*, that the ‘desperate’ son and his wife aren’t spending their money (or anyone else’s!!!) money wisely (paying bills first before extravagances would be a start), and have tried very, very hard to have food in the house that he likes. Any tips?

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51 Siebrie September 20, 2013 at 7:28 am

Have you told him how you feel when he appreciates take-away food over food that you have spent time preparing? I would be incredibly insulted!

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52 SusieQT September 20, 2013 at 8:57 am

Ugh, my husband is the same way with lottery tickets. Once in a while he leaves a handful in his pocket when I do the laundry and I can see how much he spends in a day (at least $5). If you add them all up (even at 50 cents a pop) x 365 it is outrageous. He wins a couple hundred bucks once in a while and that is his justification. But it’s like casino gambling, you end up spending more than you win.

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53 H September 20, 2013 at 9:55 am

I am terribly insulted and have told him so. His reasoning is that he ‘fancies what he fancies’ to eat, so he feels it is perfectly ok to do this. He’s done this 3 nights on the trot this week because he ‘didn’t fancy’ the meals I’ve prepared as he ‘fancied’ Indian or Chinese. Grrr! It’s not like I make meals he dislikes either. *sigh* It’s very frustrating. Especially since he demands meat with every meal. My son and I are quite happy with meatless/more economical/lighter meals, so this makes it even more exasperating. Talk about irritation and hurt when you’ve spent literally an hour, two or more making a two or (rarely) three course meal and your husband refuses to eat it, rather going to KFC! Besides it being expensive, it is unhealthy and not conducive to family life/mealtimes.

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54 Denise September 20, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Maybe this is a symptom, more than a problem? Can you work on shared financial goals and a shared budget? If you were working together for something you both wanted, some of these other things may gradually fall in line. (This budget should accommodate some amount personal money that he can spend with no comment from you; and the same for you. You should also have the freedom to buy something that brings you pleasure and makes him shake his head.)

In our household, hubby and I have two separate food budgets. It’s not perfect, but it has solved many issues. He is free to spend his money the way he wants, and I am free to spend mine. After several years of going back and forth we now have dinner together almost every night, out of what I want to prepare and am willing to spend; trying to accommodate him but not bending over backwards to do so. A couple of times a month he treats me to a meal out with “his” money.

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55 H September 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

He refuses to work to a budget or to save due to being convinced he will win a jackpot, be rich and will never have to worry about money! He won’t save towards a holiday or any thing else. We pay bills, but if I put money into any savings, he’ll refuse to work (he’s self-employed) until we are in trouble again. Believe me, I have tried everything I can think of over the past 15 years to get him to be sensible with money. He is better than he was when I married him (I didn’t know the extent of his quirks then), but he’s got a LONG way to go. I guess you could say he’s a work in progress. ;-)

56 WilliamB September 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm

H, this is not a nice thing to say but: have you considered taking steps to protect your financial situation? We’d hate to see you done down for some else’s recklessness, even if that someone else is your husband.

Good luck.

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57 Liz September 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Unfortunately, I agree with WilliamB. What I read in your frustration and the bits of information you’ve provided about the situation (your husband has a second family, or rather first family?) is that you and your spouse’s basic life goals and priorities do not match, and you cannot come to a suitable compromise. In addition to protecting your own assets, I would suggest you find a reasonable third-party mediator to help you through this challenge in your relationship (whether that’s a pastor, a therapist, or a financial planner…). Life’s too short to be this frustrated all the time.

58 Susan September 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I also agree with William B. Any way you can save money on the side to protect yourself and your children?

59 Liz September 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Another option, at least food-wise, is just to stop making him meals. If he doesn’t “fancy” them, it might not be worth the trouble. In terms of budgeting, that would let you do your thing, and him do his. He probably has a predictable if unthinkable-to-you average restaurant spending that you can budget into your financial plans. And think how liberating it would be for you: the only food you prepare would be food YOU like and “fancy.” There could always be PB&J-type staples on hand if he doesn’t “fancy” going out once in a while.

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60 Susan September 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I have a husband with erratic eating habits. It would make me crazy when I would spend my precious spare time cooking dinner just to have my husband say he wasn’t hungry (because he ate lunch at 3PM.) We solved this problem by having my husband call me if he decides he’s going to eat late and not have any dinner. It works well because I work until 5 and then go to kids sports until 7PM. That way, if I know by 5PM if my husband is not going to eat dinner, I won’t cook that night. I’ll have left overs, hot dogs, turkey sandwiches for dinner and save family cooking for another night.

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61 Elaine in Ark September 19, 2013 at 9:50 am

I just want to say that I’m glad you’re not going to have ads all over your blog. I’ve stopped following several blogs lately because of all the ads and pop ups.

My biggest expense that I can’t really do anything about is pet care. My dogs are large (45+ pounds each) and we go through 40 pounds of kibble a month. Now that they’re older, higher quality food is a must, and of course, it costs more. Vet bills are crazy expensive and pet insurance is very costly and doesn’t cover much. It’s just something I can’t do anything about since my dogs are my kids.

I get good, helpful ideas from your blog and all the commenters all the time. I know I could save more money if I cook more, but I’m not a very good cook and I don’t enjoy it. I’m willing to save money in other ways so that I don’t have to eat my own cooking all the time.

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62 EcoCatLady September 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I’m with you on the pets thing. I think my cats are my single biggest expense at this point.

Just wanted to mention that I do have pet insurance. I was very ambivalent about it for years, but now I’m in the position of having 2 out of 4 cats with very serious medical conditions and having the insurance is an absolute godsend. It’s literally saved me thousands of dollars.

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63 Cheryl September 19, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I wanted to share that I buy my dog food at Costco/Sam’s Club. I took the label off of my expensive “vet recommended” pet food, and found the one that came closest is all nutrition categories. The percentages were all within one or two points and I pay less than half the price. My vet always tells me how great my dogs look, how healthy they are. I only use dry dog food, and they have great teeth! Hope it helps! I also get rawhide bones there, so much less than the pet stores!

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64 amber September 19, 2013 at 10:01 am

I love your blog. I think I stumbled on it maybe two years ago. We are a family of four. I stay home and homeschool the kids. We rarely buy meat and I try to cook from scratch as much as possible. The only debt we have is our house. I think for me living in a big city were everyone spends like crazy on clothes, going out to eat and travel is what gets me. Although we are rich compared to many others in the world sometimes I feel compared to everyone else where I live we are dirt poor. I think what I like to see the most is thrift store finds, free/cheap family fun and enjoing life. Thanks for all you do!

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65 Rebecca September 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

Biggest problem for me is food. Cooking at home, not eating out because nothing is thawed, and sticking to a reasonable budget shopping for a family of 6 who are all big eaters.

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66 Reese September 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

A lot is going on in my life right now. I’m leaving my good-paying job to move across the country and essentially start over. Be closer to friends. Family. Think about starting a family. And temporarily separating from the husband. I’ve found that living in a big city, my efforts were concentrated on the wrong things in life…spending, material objects, eating out, etc. None of it was centered around my life, family, friends. I want to wake up and know that I’m doing what matters most to me, and that I’m, quite frankly, happy.

I want to know about your happiness. About how you take the routine, the frugal, the small things… not for granted. And how YOU are happy with it all. I worry that not spending money, and not going out to eat, will be tough at first. But frankly, after packing up my entire house, it’s easy to see I have enough STUFF.

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67 WilliamB September 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Reese – I hope things work out in ways that suit you and make you happy. And that they do so quickly.

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68 Kristen September 23, 2013 at 6:38 am

Oh, I’m sorry to hear this, Reese. I hope things start to look up for you.

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69 Yvonne September 19, 2013 at 10:08 am

How about the quality aspect of frugality. I feel that it’s much wiser to buy good quality items, even if they cost quite a bit more, rather than buying a lot of non-quality stuff though sometimes it’s really not worth spending anything extra. It would be nice to figure out for what type of things quality really matters? I think about that a lot lately.

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70 WilliamB September 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm

There are numerous ways to assess cost, of which price is only one. I also think about how long I will use an item. For example, I decided to buy a good quality fake Xmas tree because I’d use it every year (well, most years) for several decades. That made the yearly cost much less than a live tree, and tidier, and possibly less waste because don’t know if my jurisdiction shreds live trees.

Here are some things I always buy in quality:
- Clothing. I shop rarely, buy classic styles, and expect my good clothes to last a decade. Some have lasted much longer than that.

- Food, although there’s a point of diminishing marginal returns. One example: good parmesan tastes much better and I use much less of it. OTOH I haven’t found much different between brands of long-grain rice.

- Equipment I use a lot. How do I know? If it’s a new field, the first version I buy is cheap. If it bothers me frequently, I know I’m using that tool frequently and thus it’d be worth my while to buy quality. Most recent example is a smoker. I bought a $30 one and hated it, to the point of delaying the work to avoid using it. When I realized this, I researched the hell out of quality smokers and bought a good one.

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71 Lissa September 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

I am new to your blog and loving it so far. Here is my dilemma. What do you do when you come across a great deal or sale. Usually something that maybe a great Christmas present or something for the home. Maybe you don’t have exactly the money at the moment but you know if you don’t jump on the chance it may never come around again. How do you handle that? Do you put it on the credit card and pay it off as soon as you can. I really struggle when it is a time sensitive thing. You know where you won’t have 24 hours or the deal will be gone.

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72 alice September 20, 2013 at 12:50 am

I’ve noticed that sales come along so regularly that even if I miss one, another will come along soon enough. Stores want you to feel that sense of urgency because then you spend money. Putting stuff on your credit card that you can’t afford seems like a really bad idea because credit card interests are so high – anything you save through the ‘deal’ is gone in a second and just not worth it (not to mention the anxiety!). I recommend putting a set amount of money aside for presents and if you don’t have enough in the account yet, then wait.

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73 Ashli September 20, 2013 at 8:24 am

We have a ‘gift’ column in the budget and move a set amount into that account every month. That way we always have the money available for gifts. We do the same for every other category as well, so there should be something in the account when a good deal that you need pops up. If for some reason there isn’t, then it should come from somewhere else in your budget. The key is to budget every month and stick to it, it’s amazing how much better that works on the finances, just make sure everyone is on the same page!

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74 Jenn September 19, 2013 at 10:39 am

Hi Kristen! I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now. Thank you for being so faithful in sharing with all of us! You have been such a blessing to me and my family :)

I agree with some of the others here, that I would like to see the groceries/meal plans back. I loved having the examples (probably because I dread planning meals)!

Another thing that I would like to learn more about is “Fun on a Budget”. That would be terrific. We live in a suburb of a major city, but so many activities are very pricey. It takes the fun out of it when you’re all worried about dipping into your grocery budget to go have some fun.

Also, I LOVE the idea of thrift shopping for my clothing, but unfortunately, I am a plus sized lady. There’s not too much selection in the thrift stores for we who are above the average size AND want either the classic styles or something that is fashionable. Not sure if you have any ideas there….?

Thank you again for taking time out every day and sharing with us, and for asking for our input :)

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75 Liz @ Economies of Kale September 19, 2013 at 10:43 am

I’m interested in how you keep pet costs down, and also health costs (although I suspect the system is different in the US to Australia).

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76 Susanne N. September 19, 2013 at 10:47 am

Add me to the list that needs help with grocery spending. There are only 3 in our family, but the amount of money I spend on groceries is amazing! We don’t eat a lot of junk and I buy organic when I can. I usually get paper goods, etc at Walmart or target and shop for groceries at whole foods or trader joes. I Am trying to eat gluten & dairy free, but my family is not. Sometimes I go to 4/5 stores just to get our groceries for the week! I do make meal plans so I’m not just throwing random items in my cart. Sometimes I get so sick of planning, shopping & thinking about meals! Not to mention all the money we go through! Help.

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77 Barrie September 19, 2013 at 10:56 am

My struggle is throwing away food. I struggle with that, a lot. I go to Aldi once every 2 weeks and stock up on pantry items, and dairy and produce. But then life gets busy and I don’t get to use the produce and it goes to waste. I’ve been doing BETTER, but not great.

The other day I used up 3 zucchini in zucchini fritters (which were delish!) and meatloaf, but the meatloaf wasn’t great and we ended up throwing away about half of it. Then I used leftover veg in a frittata, never got around to eating half the frittata, so that was thrown away. And I threw out leftover shrimp stir fry. I did eat the shrimp stir fry THREE TIMES for leftovers,…so I feel like I gave that a good effort, it just made way more than I intended it to.

But it seems like every week I’m throwing away produce. Maybe I just need to focus more, buy less, and hit up the store once a week for produce rather than once every 2 weeks. And I also meal plan, but then again, life gets crazy and my plan goes out the window. Maybe I need to have a general idea of meals rather than an actual PLAN? I don’t know.

Either way! I love your blog. I read almost every entry if I can find the time :)

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78 alice September 19, 2013 at 11:34 am

This happens to me too so I try to buy a mix of frozen veggies (mostly frozen broccoli and spinach) and fresh veggies instead of only fresh. I also learned that storing herbs properly makes a huge difference in how long they last. For example, cilantro lasts a lot longer if you wash them when you first get them and wrap a damp paper towel around them and place the whole thing loosely in a bag. It sounds like your issues have to do with not getting around to eating leftovers – I usually deal with leftovers by packing them for lunch to take to work. Since that’s my only option when I’m at work, I will eat it because I’m starving! Obviously, if the food is truly inedible I’ll just toss it, but I try to stick to tried and true recipes, new recipes that have a lot of high reviews, and recipes from Cook’s Illustrated so it’s been a long long time since that’s happened.

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79 Barrie September 20, 2013 at 11:33 am

Yes I do have a TON of frozen produce and frozen meats, I freeze breads, etc. I should start eating out of the freezer because I organized it the other day and there was way more in there than I realized!! I think I will do that and only buy staples for the next couple of weeks!!

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80 Susan September 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Barrie, I think we live in the same household!

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81 WilliamB September 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm

“Maybe I just need to focus more, buy less, and hit up the store once a week for produce rather than once every 2 weeks.”

This is what I was thinking. Also – have you tried freezing your leftovers in single-serving size portions? I love grabbing one on my way out for lunch at work.

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82 Stephanie September 20, 2013 at 9:47 am

We have salvaged leftover meatloaf by turning it into a meaty pasta sauce. The kids were quite content and didn’t recognize it as the hated meal from a few days earlier. It wasn’t disgusting, just not the best meatloaf ever but was pretty good in lasagna.

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83 Barrie September 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

That’s a good idea!! I wish I had thought of that. Mine was the same, not the worst, but not the best. It was weird because I cook it in the crockpot, all day, and then I got home and it was still pink in the middle. So I threw it in the oven for like 30 mins, and it was STILL pink. It wasn’t raw, but it was pink. And it tasted a little weird? I don’t know.

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84 WilliamB September 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I wonder if your meat had nitrite in it? That keeps cooked meat pink – think of ham.

In general, if I made something subpar but still edible, I put it in the freezer for potential future use. That gives me time to think about how to salvage the food.

85 Jenessa September 19, 2013 at 10:56 am

I agree with many of the other comments that I enjoyed seeing your meal plans. I seem to remember that the pictures of your groceries were a lot of work for you, but I didn’t really look at them much anyway.
I would love an occasional baking post. I frequently use several of your bread and pancake recipes. The french bread recipe in particular is a favorite in my house.

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86 Gillian Hill September 19, 2013 at 11:00 am

Hi Kristin,
I have been reading your blog since the beginning of this year and I to think you are a little gem a true ray of sunshine. I live in the UK but have been able to adapt many of your recipes, sewing projects etc to store items here in the UK. If you have time I would love to see the occasional photo of your grocery shop and what you did with the items. I purchased your ebooks and was inspired by your re purposing ideas (especially dyeing faded items) so any more ideas along those lines would be a joy to me. I am also now a firm fan and shopper at Aldis because of you! Keep up your great work God must be so proud of you. God bless you and your beautiful family.

Gill X

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87 Jenny L. September 19, 2013 at 11:07 am

I would have to say grocery shopping ! Every time I go to the store, it is more expensive and I’m coming home with less and less. I didn’t spend this much when my kids were still at home and there were four of us.

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88 Monica B September 19, 2013 at 11:29 am

I struggle with having fun on a budget, especially when it comes to hanging out with our circle of friends.

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89 Carole September 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

I won’t win a popularity contest for saying this, but—if you are really struggling financially, you shouldn’t have a pet. There is so much expense associated with them. From food to vet bills to damage done to various things. They also take a lot of time that could be better spent. I’m making this comment because several people asked how to keep pet costs down.

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90 EcoCatLady September 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Your comment made me chuckle a little bit. Everything you said is, of course, completely true – but it also pretty well sums up my feelings about having children.

I guess in the end it’s all a matter of priorities. But I think it would behoove those of us who choose to take on dependents (whether they be human or animal) to carefully consider the ramifications of those decisions before we make them! :-)

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91 Barrie September 20, 2013 at 11:44 am

I agree! My husband and I weren’t trying to get pregnant, but I ended up pregnant (I mean, we weren’t NOT trying, either, if you catch my drift). I found out at about 5 weeks, so for the next 9 months, we spent paying off debt, making a plan, and getting ready for the baby. Meanwhile, I have friends/aquantances who can’t support THEMSELVES financially, nevermind a child, and a few of those people are using invitro to get pregnant. So I can see the “whoops didn’t use a condom once and now I’m pregnant!” situation, which is scary, but ACTIVELY TRYING and not being financially stable? Unacceptable.

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92 Karen B September 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

We are a family of 5 and we definitely struggle with the grocery budget. It us so challenging to eat healthy and not break the bank. We have a garden and an apple and pear orchard, but still can’t save on groceries. I do not have time to coupon/ extreme coupon.

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93 Tina Ray September 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I take about a half hour to an hour out every other week (our pay times) and make a two week menu. It seems daunting but when I make my grocery list to coincide with my menu and shop at Aldi, I find I spend very little on groceries. My cash envelope for groceries typically has a surplus in it which makes me giddy.

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94 Phyllis Smith September 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hard to find bargains in ladies size clothing. Need nice to wear to work — not fancy but sort of tailored.

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95 Lindsey September 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I am large and not able to buy a lot of clothing that is quality and work-type. I contacted the local surgeon who does bariatric surgery and his nurse gave me the name of the person who runs his support group for post-op patients. She agreed to tell the group that I would be happy to pick up professional clothing that the various women had shrunk out of; I specified how tall I was so I didn’t get stuff for short ladies. The following week I received a call that the next night the women were bringing clothing to the meeting for me to pick up. I ended up with 11 bags of clothes—and over 30 new outfits by the time I went through things (I happened on a group with 2 lawyers and a stock broker, so there were some really nice things there). I was in tears at their generosity…I have also seen free larger sized clothing ads on Craigslist. So, two options to consider.

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96 Kaitlin September 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm

First off, Love your blog! I struggle with my partner. When we first got married he had an abundant income working for the military. We didn’t have money concerns because his income was way more than we needed at the time, it just being the two of us. However, since then he has changed jobs and had several incidents with PTSD. The bills are racking up and we also have a 5 month old son to take care of. My husband has never really had to worry about money and most of his problems are PTSD-related. But I have talked to him several times about cutting back on things that we don’t need. I do them, but he won’t get on the program. Any suggestions on how to get spouses on the same page would be really helpful. Thanks!

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97 Katy Wolk-Stanley September 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I am loving today’s comments and will be stopping by throughout the day to see what’s been added. It’s all relevant to my blog as well. ;-)

Katy, the content thief

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98 cheri September 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Yes, to all of the above topics. I miss your menus and grocery shopping because I feel so uninspired sometimes. And one thing would be listed and I would have an ah ha moment. Thanks for your post!

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99 EcoCatLady September 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Well, I sorta doubt this is a topic you could cover, but I’m not at all frugal when it comes to my cats. They get the most expensive food out there because it’s the healthiest, and I’ve even sent my winter electricity bill soaring by getting them heated cat beds. I know they’re totally spoiled, but I’m all too aware that their little lives are short, and I just want to make them as happy as possible. Any other pet owners out there who struggle with this sort of thing?

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100 Zebbie September 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm

My biggest struggle is getting my husband to join me in any frugal practices. I definitely stress the non-monetary reasons when I can (great post yesterday!), but I can’t come up with a good non-frugal reason why we should adjust the thermostat. I miss the stuffed animals in the grocery pictures.

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101 Susan September 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I miss the stuffed animals in the grocery pictures too!

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102 Amanda @ The Desert Homestead September 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I would love to see more on homeschooling and curriculum planning! I’m just starting my homeschooling adventure with my oldest child, and I’m feeling lost.

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103 Susan September 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I still struggle with food and having to throw out spoiled fruit and left overs. I work full time and sometimes I just don’t want to cook. I typically don’t get home until 6:30/7PM and everyone wants to eat within the next 10 minutes. So, I have around 10 minutes to cook dinner…I think I need to buy less fruit and vegetables each week.

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104 Tina S. September 20, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Susan,
Do you have a crock pot? It takes a bit of planning/work the night before but that’s how I get dinner on the table in 10 minutes when I get home late. I also sometimes prepare batches of stuff on the weekend (meatballs, burgers, dried beans, etc.) which I then freeze and take out when I need them for a quick meal during the week. I am not always this organized, but when I do this it sure simplifies things for me. Good luck!

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105 Lindsey September 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Maybe everyone needs to help you cook or have the meals ready when you get home—it should not all be your burden.

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106 Ashley September 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I need help with reducing my grocery bill, especially for produce, and reducing my electricity bill. I like to eat a lot of veggies and not a lot of meat or pre-packaged foods, but I find that it can get expensive.

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107 Shannon September 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hi Kristen,

I’d love to get your thoughts on making time for one’s spouse given multiple youngish children without having to go out or hire babysitters, etc. Thanks!

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108 Estelle September 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Yes Please! I have 4 kids and my parents (who where the main babysitters) are both in ill health now, so we are not able to “go out” anymore. I could also use some ideas for frugal fun and travel. I have trouble not feeling like we are depriving ourselves instead of like we are living more responsibly.
I love reading your blog it really helps me feel like I’m not alone.

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109 SheB September 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

Yes, ad me to this list too! I would like some creative ways to spend time with my husband

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110 Tina Ray September 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm

My husband. He doesn’t do the finances (nor does anyone want him to) so he has no idea (even when I tell him) that we don’t have the money to spend willy nilly. Every pay period we each get a set allowance but he doesn’t seem to want to spend “his” money on things such as a radio for his barn, or a t.v. for his barn. He is finding these items on Craigslist and such but I have been trying to tell him to save his misc. money for the things he wants. It is like talking to a spoiled child!

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111 Dawn September 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I do miss the menu/grocery posts….but I know they wouldn’t be my favorite to write up if I were in your shoes. We have no Aldi’s here in rural New England, no Trader Joe’s or Sam’s clubs. Really, none of the stores that are spoken of in your articles or the comments are nearby. I’d like to check out an Aldi’s, but there isn’t even one in the state. There are other places though–smaller chains, but places where you can save some money over some of the more pricey grocery stores.

You haven’t talked about your groceries for a while…Even without the regular posts, it would be interesting to hear about how (or if) your grocery bill is changing as your kids are growing up. With four teenagers–two of them active boys who are ALWAYS hungry–and the increase in food costs in recent years, my grocery bill has crept up. Years ago a roast chicken would have gone us two meals. Now I’m lucky to have enough leftovers for a sandwich or two. I do cook and bake, which saves us a lot of money. And we have a garden and all. But still, the bill climbs a bit more each year. I wish there were some magic formula to keep it from going up. So far the only thing I can do is cut things out…but you can only go just so far with that. And it is important to buy healthy food, and sometimes that costs more.

I like the variety of articles you offer. The “how-to’s” are nice. And the attitude articles, as well. I think you do a good job mixing it up and keeping things interesting. Kudos!

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112 Tricia September 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I enjoyed your menu posts as well. I would love to know – do you plan for one serving each or more? Also, do you freeze meals ever? Entertaining on a budget would be a great topic as well.

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113 Sarah September 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Utility bills are a big expense for us and we have found them difficult to cut. We have gas central heating and this plus electricity bills is a big expense. My husband’s elderly mother lives with us so keeping the house cooler isn’t really an option although we tend to run the main house at a much lower temperature than her room where she has additional electric heaters.

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114 Roz September 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I find menu planning and the grocery shop remains a challenge. I carefully plan menus, but always seem to forget an item- then when I go to another store I then buy more than I had planned.
I also don’t like always shopping at the cheaper end of the clothes market. I know label clothes are not much better but oh my the designs often are- I still have alot of stigma in my mind about “cheap and nasty” things.

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115 Roz September 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I find menu planning and the grocery shop remains a challenge. I carefully plan menus, but always seem to forget an item- then when I go to another store I then buy more than I had planned.
I also don’t like always shopping at the cheaper end of the clothes market. I know label clothes are not much better but oh my the designs often are- I still have alot of stigma in my mind about “cheap and nasty” things.

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116 Tammy September 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I struggle with staying in a budget. It seems confining, and I haven’t figured out how to change how I view budgeting. I would love any advice!

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117 Suzanne September 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I need help with menu planning and cutting our grocery bill while eating whole foods. I would also enjoy more homeschooling tips or ideas of simple things you are doing with your kids. Enjoy your blog! You are an inspiration and always positive!

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118 Kylie September 19, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I’m on a special diet that is basically vegan paleo, so I eat mostly fruits and vegetables. I have such a hard time staying on a grocery budget. Any tips for shopping frugally with such restrictions?

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119 Susan September 19, 2013 at 11:09 pm

One of my big problems with being frugal is that I am getting really good at finding things cheap. So good, that I am bringing home too much stuff. I see a good deal on a pair of fancy snowpants, so I buy them, even though they won’t fit my son for 2-3 years. My kids’ closet is full of bins of clothes I have accumulated in future sizes (sometimes many years ahead). Yes, I have saved myself literally thousands of dollars by buying their clothes used. But its to the point where there’s no room left in there.
I have to visit thrift shops frequently to look for things on my list, because you never know when that whatzit you need will show up on the shelf. I am pretty much committed to buying most things for me and my family secondhand. But I can’t help picking up a few extras each time I go in.
I want so be more simple/minimal, but when you are living on little money, I think there’s a general tendency to stock up and/or hoard what you have. At least there is for me. I could definitely use more guidance on balance, organization, simplifying, and self-control.

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120 SusieQT September 20, 2013 at 9:14 am

I do the same thing; I even thrift for a living (I resell on Etsy). So I am there all the time, and almost never walk out empty handed. I make sure to go through my kids’ stuff frequently and if there are toys or clothes they no longer use, they get donated ASAP. I have the same problem- lots of winter coats and boots in “future” sizes that I got for pennies. I end up storing them in those vacuum-seal “space bags” or in bins in the basement. Not pretty, but they’re there when I need them. If I didn’t have that storage space though, I’m not sure how I would do that.

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121 Stephanie September 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I store the next 2-3 sizes of kids clothing. I will pick up clothes/shoes as I find them and I don’t pick up more than 1-2 future pairs of pants per size since girls styles change so quickly. I will spend more on items to be worn in the next year than future years ($10 for last years winter coat vs. $4 two sizes up) and we go for stylish but not trendy. Each girl has at least 2-3 pajamas and 3-4 full outfits waiting for them. Historically we end up with hand me downs and some clothing as gifts so they end up with a full wardrobe. They have enough clothes for variety but everything fits in their drawers and closet. The stockpile is kept in plastic tubs in their closet and if they run out of space then I am done storing. It hasn’t happened yet.

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122 Aimee September 20, 2013 at 7:53 am

I want to reward myself in a frugal way. I love spa days and those add up FAST!

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123 Alicia September 20, 2013 at 9:34 am

My biggest sticking point is where to start!

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124 Meagan @The Happiest Home September 20, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I’m not sure you can help with this :) but for me the answer is “patience.” We have tightened our belts to get out of debt faster and are doing well. The problem is, I don’t have many small debts, just a few BIG ones. So the sense of accomplishment of being able to cross one off the list is still at least a year away. Without really seeing that forward motion I can get very grumpy!

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125 Carla September 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I’d like to hear about how to choose quality products. I know that picking something that will last will be cheaper in the long run, but I’m not always sure how to tell what is quality and what isn’t. I also have a tendency to over-think and over-research purchases already, even for things that are small.

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126 Kat September 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

I have a very, very large family and Christmas times is always expensive for gifts (and I am a super frugal shopper, I can spot a good deal a mile away–my family always jokes about it!). This year we are doing a secret santa for the adult children, but it still leaves me with a lot of people to buy for. Do you have any idea for frugal gifts?

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127 ms September 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

Give gift cards that way the beneficiary can get what they like at after the holiday sales..That seems to do the trick, I never buy gifts only gift cards for weddings, birthdays & big anniversary..I am only 65 but I always hear from the recipients that they enjoyed the gift..they tell me what they got and how happy they had the gift card to be able to buy it esp. the brides I normally get gift cards for supermarkets after the wedding and honeymoon most newlyweds are dead broke for food..Plus no way can that gift be stolen and used, my hubs worked for a retail grocery store & I usually send the giftcard to the brides Mom and they keep it tucked away and safe and have it for the bride when they return from their honeymoon…Love your blog, it helps others to get their value on what they spend their hard earned money for..and in a cheerful manner to boot..have a peaceful happy week!!!!!!!!!!!

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128 Jen@Leftoversasawayoflifeblogspot September 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I have to ask, what is the photo of? It looks delicious!

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129 Kristen September 22, 2013 at 7:17 am

That’s a pfannekuchen (http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/2010/06/wednesday-baking-apple-pfannekuchen/) made without apples and with some raspberries sprinkled over top at the end of baking.

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130 ms September 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

Sounds like you did your homework..We are replacing many things in our home of 35 years, it is more expensive even with a senior discount than when they installed everything 35 years ago..We paid the house off quickly and replaced yearly many items that we wanted to..Still it is expensive but since we don’t plan to move and we don’t have the dough of all the senators and congressmen and congresswomen, we are GRATEFUL..just read in cents to save about the lady not being the beneficiary of her mother’s huge monetary estate at the credit union..I have read the whole blog, she seems so ungrateful for the fact her mother left her a bundle to pay off her mortgage and nearly enough for the second home mortgage and enabled her and her husband to live debt free, my hubs and myself lost our parents young in life, all I ever heard about in my familia was my aunt who never had kids was loaded, well I did not want her money and never bugged the hell out of her..She is nearly 100 going strong outlived many in my immediate family and I still don’t care about her dough..She earned every dadblasted dime as a woman in a man’s world and worked like the dickens she deserves to give her money she worked so hard for to whomever she pleases…I mean really, I cannot e-mail cents to save but if I could I would tell her to be GRATEFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!! just saying.luv your blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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131 shirley September 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Hi Kristin,
I would like to thank you first of all for such an inspirational blog. Reading your blog helps me keep on track with being frugal, I have actually grown to love being frugal and embracing mindful spending. I miss your posts on setting goals and then updating us on how you have faired. I would also love to see more posts on how you and your husband set joint goals and what to do if one partner is more into being frugal than the other.
Thanks x

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132 Melissa C September 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I’m struggling really hard with being content. I’m a stay at home mom with 3 teenagers. We have enough income to pay the bills with a bit of stress and juggling. For years we have been a part of the live in a smaller house, drive older paid for cars camp. Lately the green eyed jealousy monster has been rearing its ugly head. I’ve been debating with going back to work so that we can afford car payments and a bigger house….. Isn’t that CRAZY!!

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133 Melissa C September 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I read through the comments of your Non Frugal reasons to be Frugal post and feel better and am back on track!! Phew……. Thanks Everybody!!

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134 Kristen September 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Oh, I’m so glad that helped. Yay!

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135 Jen C September 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I have a struggle with food. It is getting so expensive and with a family of 5 on one income its tough! Also even creating a budget for our household and saving any is getting so hard! Any ideas would be great!

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136 Suzanne September 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm

We cannot seem to get our grocery bill down. I shop at Aldi and Walmart mostly, I make 95% all our meals and plan them out. We have a family of 4 (two boys ages 5 and 8). I can’t seem to get down to $600 a month for groceries! We usually spend around $700-800. I’d love some advice on lowering your grocery bill!

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137 Emma September 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I like seeing the DIY stuff, especially around the house. Also energy efficiency and environmental tips.

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138 Tracey September 24, 2013 at 10:23 am

Hi Kristen,
I’m starting to stress a little about Christmas. I guess I’ve not done a good job of limiting Christmas for my kids in the past (they are 8, 9, and 11 right now). I love showering them with gifts, toys, etc on Christmas morning. However, I recognize we’ve probably gone over-board at Christmas in the past plus they receive tons of gifts from 3 sets of grandparents. At this point in our lives, I have decided to be a full time homemaker. I’ve been working this new “job” for over a year now. I am very thankful to be able to do it but money IS very tight. And Christmas is coming…

We’ve been saving but don’t have enough cash to shower the kids with tons of gifts like I’d love to do. I try to think about giving them memorable/meaningful gifts instead of a large quantity but that’s tough when an 8 year old boys just wants lots of teenage mutant ninja turtle stuff. :)

So I’m emailing to ask you to post about how you handle Christmas with your kids, family etc. How do you keep Christmas frugal without feeling like you’re giving really cheap gifts. Last year I did a few homemade gifts for my step-mom, MIL, and other family and I felt really weird about it. That was they first year they received non-store-bought gifts and the first year we gave homemade gifts. Can you help? Please share how you handle/think about Christmas gift giving. How do you keep it frugal regarding your kids too?

Thanks so much! I appreciate all the great advice, insight, wisdom etc you share!! :)

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139 Susan September 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Tracey,

As a child who had a frugal Christmas every year, I am a little sad for your kids. As an adult, I would love to get a gift of chocolate chip cookie mix, hand crocheted scarf or a pan of homemade (fill in the blank here). Why don’t you make homemade gifts for the adults in your life? Perhaps, skip gift giving with your husband (mine would love to skip the gifts). Spend your hard earned money on your own kids. Split up the gift evenly so that all 3 kids have the same number of gifts. If the oldest wants an expensive gift, I would give 3 more really small gifts so the numbers even out with all the kids. I grew up in a family of 4 kids and we all noticed if one child got more presents than the others. Good luck.

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140 alice September 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

It might be an adjustment for the kids to switch from getting tons of presents to a more frugal Christmas, but I think substituting the presents for fun (and frugal) activities would be a better way of creating memories in the long run. My family was poor when I was growing up, so I never had many presents, but I still loved opening them and trying to guess what they were beforehand. They were always things I needed anyway (stuff for school, clothes, slippers, etc), but there was something special about getting them at Christmas. My parents were always very clear about not having much money so my sister and I understood – not sure if that’s a conversation you feel comfortable having with your kids, but that might also help. And lastly, maybe you could involve each child in picking out presents for the others so they are part of the process of giving and then indirectly know what the budget is? Part of the fun of Christmas is also giving…

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141 Judi October 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Alice, I agree. I think substituting presents for being together in some way if so much more memorable.

My family did this every other year and when my sister passed away at a young age we were SO grateful for those times together.

We had so many memories and typically when you travel over the x-mas holiday, things are quiet until new years. Great time for exploring places that are off-season.

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142 L Cota September 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm

So, I am 3 month pregnant right now and while I have high hopes of having a frugal pregnancy/birth and nursery, I do feel like there is not a lot of guidance for staying frugal and natural.

While it make have been a few years since your last babe, are there some things that you managed to do when they were wee ones that you are particularly proud of or you realize now ended up saving lots of money on?

My big ones are breastfeeding, cloth diapering, buying a food processor to make my own baby food and buying used nursery furniture if I can find them in good shape. Other than that, I dunno what else I can do. Your advice or opinions would be welcome.

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143 Susan September 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm

try to borrow strollers, cribs and high chairs from friends who are between pregnancies or have finished having kids (but haven’t given away their baby stuff yet.) That way you won’t have to spend any money at all on the big items.

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144 L Cota September 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I do have a SIL who is 6 months ahead of me and she is already planning to give me all her hand me down clothing. She already has a 3yo boy and is having a girl so either gender I am set that way.

Other than her, I don’t really have any other friends who have small children. Their kids are all 7 and older. Hmm. Too bad IKEA discontinued their only cute nursery line, I wanted that for a while.

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145 Lihan Tseng September 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi, I am struggling with clutter in my little 300 sq feet apartment in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I have lived with my boyfriend for 2 years. We have too much pantry items. (Indian dried seeds like cumin seeds, fennel seeds. Some bagged up in clear supermarket plastic bags. Some in a jar that is too small for the-whole-already-packaged bag) I can’t remember what I have at home. And I don’t have the appropriate size of spice jars (most of them are too small for the amount I have. So I end up with 2 things (1)Fennel seeds in the jar (2)Fennel seed in it’s original plastic packaging bag). We are very frugal and we shop at the Dollarama most of the time.

Should I go all the way out to buy 10 new Dollarama jars that are bigger.
or
Should I try to give the extra away on free-cycle.com

I don’t like having 1 spice jar and 1 plastic bag of the same thing. I have an open spice shelf (Bought from Canadian Tire, was designed to be used as a “media shelf” for CDs and DVDs). And I don’t like it visually messy!

ps: I go to the Indian grocery store for Indian spices and seeds. All because it’s generally cheaper to buy Indian spices in it’s own Ethnic (Indian) grocery store than to buy from a Canadian bulkbarn.

Thanks Kristin.
Lihan Tseng

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146 WilliamB January 13, 2014 at 10:24 am

If you were in the US, I’d suggest thrift shops, Craigslist, or Freecycle, or the local papers’ (plural) classifieds for free or cheap containers. Maybe the Canadian equivalents would work for you…

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147 Anna C November 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Kristen,
I really enjoy reading your blog. I love how you inspire others to be content to live within ones means. I am trying to follow the mentality of “make do or do without” in my day to day life.

I was hoping you could address the subject of how you personally use or do not use discount programs. How do you use coupons? All the time? Rarely? What about store loyalty programs, those little cards that every store hands out. Do you use discounts like Groupon or other online discount sites, like fatwallet.com? How about sites like swagbuck or Ibotta?
Thanks you,

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148 Jan Elizabeth December 16, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Hi Kristen,

I’m a little late joining the party, but wanted to say, first of all, how much I enjoy and appreciate your blog. Thank you for your thoughtful and considered work! It’s made a big difference to me. I wondered if you had any suggestions for debt repayment and budgeting? I’m trying to recover from a pretty scary situation, financially. Also, I love all your articles on contentment, making Christmas more frugal and meaningful, repurposing things and child rearing. I also really love your recipe posts. You are awesome!

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149 EngineerMom January 14, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Honestly, the thing I struggle with the most is feeling content living an a pretty restricted budget in the middle of a city that seems to run on Starbucks coffee and high-end grocery stores.

I’ve found ways to work around and through this (having $40/month in “fun” money has helped a lot!), and being honest and upfront with people about being unable to afford what to them is practically pocket change. But it is discouraging sometimes to have to turn down invitations from well-meaning people who don’t realize that paying $20/person for a one-time event is way outside our budget.

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150 Amanda January 15, 2014 at 4:41 am

We had this conversation as a family this evening. We are saving for a deposit for a house. We have 3/4 saved, and want to save the rest by mid-May. Our kids were invited to the pool tomorrow. With inevitable snacks etc we estimate it will cost about $50-60 for a trip to the pool for a few hours. The friends who invited us own their home outright – $60 is nothing to them. We have chosen not to go, & my husband will take them to the beach instead. But we sat down and had a frank discussion about why – it’s not that we can’t do it, it’s that we choose not to in order to achieve a difficult shared goal.

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