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Meet a Reader | AF in Virginia

Hey there! Today we are meeting a reader from my neck of the woods over here in the Mid-Atlantic. 🙂

Readers get multiple questions to choose from, and AF chose to answer the “What’s a funny frugal story?” question. I love it when participants do that!

Here she is:

1. Tell us a little about yourself

I am in my late 30s, I am a lawyer for a local government, and live outside DC with my husband and four-year-old.

mom and daughter under clear umbrella.My hobbies include hiking/walking/running outside, reading, museums, and listening to music. Most of my evenings/weekends are just hanging out (largely at home and in the yard with my family).

mushrooms in the woods.

2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?

I started reading faithfully about 2 years ago. I used to read intermittently before then but got a regular blog rotation going once I quit social media

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

Out of necessity originally.

I grew up in inner-city NYC in urban poverty. My mother was loving and worked so hard to provide for us, but it was frequently a struggle to get food, keep heat on, and other necessities.

As an adult, I can see it was likely a mixture of not enough income, high cost of living area, mismanagement of money, and kids just being expensive for single mothers particularly. I became an immediate saver and always looked for ways to make due.

4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?

There are many!

First, we have a wonderful child who was born during the beginning of the pandemic with serious complications. We don’t know what the future will be with her needs and I am so relieved to be able to afford her physical therapy and other medical expenses that have helped her so much!

little girl by field of grass.

I also do not want her to have to take out so many loans and other things that I felt like I had to do to build my life.

little girl by lake.

Second, coming from poverty, I am so grateful to be able to help my family when they need things.

Finally, I want to be a good steward of my resources and our earth’s resources. The less money spent on an item, I also have less heartburn about releasing it to its next owner when it’s no longer useful, which helps with clutter and emotional attachments to items, which are both things that I grew up experiencing.

5. What’s your best frugal win?

When the student loan interest accrual was paused due to the pandemic, we buckled down and paid them off.

It has been amazing for our finances and my mental health. The weight of debt can be so heavy mentally in addition to the direct effects of it.

6. What’s an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?

The biggest would be the student loans.

I just never comprehended what 8% interest really was and that it might be difficult to pay back. I also assumed I’d get a certain salary when graduating that I now know would have been exceptional.

You live and learn (and share the wisdom with anyone who asks me about going to law school!)

7. What’s one thing you splurge on?

Things that save time.

In this season, I’m more time poor so I do things like get things delivered, and occasionally pay for a house cleaner or lawn mower.

These are things that I never did before having our daughter, but I have so little time to rest and so in this season, if I can find things to save some time so I can get sleep, some rest, spend more time together as a family, or otherwise feel more restored, I’m doing that.

fall colors.

Luckily, my little is starting to enjoy some of these activities – like picking the peaches from our tree, grocery shopping, baking/cooking, and gardening and I love spending time with her doing these activities too!

peaches on a countertop.

8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?

Makeup, jewelry, a fancy car, the latest tech, tchotchkes

9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?

If it was truly a windfall that was not spoken for, I’d use it to visit my family several states away or pay for the to visit us

10. What’s the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?

The easiest part – it comes naturally to me at this point.

Sewing holes in clothes, using up leftovers before they go bad, finding free activities for my little on the weekends, checking buy nothing or marketplace before purchasing- I am always just looking for ways to spend money.

mom and daughter.

The hardest part – in my career and my region, there is a culture of spending. It’s been less so since I left private practice and work remotely, but things like going out to lunch every day and out to dinner several times a week, bigger houses than you need (or maybe afford?), fancy cars, etc are the norm for many.

cherry blossoms in a yard.

It takes conscious effort to remember that I am spending in aligning with my values and to try not to compare myself to others

11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?

My region is notoriously expensive, but there are a lot of free things to do.

In my area, the amount of free beautiful parks, nature centers, museums, national monuments, free concerts, kid programs at the library, things to rent at the library (books, ebooks, Kanopy, tools, toys, board games) is so wonderful!

cherry blossoms in washington DC.

I am of the “no bad weather for getting outside” (which is not THAT hard in the mid-Atlantic), so we are out enjoying the nature of this region every chance we get.

sunset over a pier.

12. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?

I really enjoy hearing different perspectives in the comments from different ages, regions, ideologies and other kinds of people that I don’t interact with in real life. It’s fun and also horizon expanding.

13. What’s your funniest frugal story?

I try to get (and give!) things on Buy Nothing first and then thrift stores or Facebook marketplace, so I found a good play kitchen on marketplace when my little wanted one.

I pulled up and backed up my SUV to load up the kitchen and the person came out with a teeny tiny kitchen for a little doll.

tiny toy kitchen.

I couldn’t tell from the pictures that it was so small but should have known something was up from the price. I was too embarrassed to back out of the deal but my little enjoys it nowadays.

14. Which is your favorite type of post at the Frugal Girl and why?

Also, the WIS/WIA has encouraged me to be more flexible about things like “what goes together” in a meal.

Growing up a meal was a starch, lots of meat, and a vegetable, and we wouldn’t do something like, have pasta with marina and Thai chicken on the side because they didn’t “go together.”

Also, social media makes it feel like everyone is eating five-star meals all the time. Dinner is dinner! It’s food that we have that I’ve cooked or otherwise acquired 😉

15. Did you ever receive any financial education in school or from your parents?

I didn’t get any financial education from my parents, but I did take an elective financial education course in college and it went in one ear an other the other, unfortunately.

Luckily, there are now so many free books, podcasts, and other resources to learn about how to handle finances

16. What single action or decision has saved you the most money over your life?

I read a book called “Ask For It: How Women Can Use Negotiation to Get What They Really Want” when I graduated law school and it changed my life.

It taught me things like how to ask for a raise, how to negotiate non-monetary things that can make your work and personal life easier, and just generally how to advocate for yourself.

It doesn’t hurt to ask for flexible hours, or ask if someone will lend you that power tool you’ll only use once so you don’t have to buy it, or ask for a discount, or ask your spouse to cover bedtime a few nights a week so you can do a hobby or whatever.


I am definitely going to put that book on hold at my library! Thank you for the recommendation.

Your toy kitchen story reminded me that once, I ordered a set of stainless steel cups on Amazon. They were a great price! But when they arrived, I realized that they were shot-glass size. Whoops.

I love the picture of you and your daughter under the umbrella; so cute!

And I love that in spite of some difficult childhood experiences, you have managed to set up a solid financial situation for yourself and your family. You should be so proud of yourself!

Readers, the floor is yours. 🙂

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Sherrie Nicholson

Wednesday 7th of February 2024

We have all been there when we order something online. Once I was going to babysit my granddogs and wanted to order their food and bowls so my son wouldn't need to bring them. I failed to look at the dimensions on the bowls. He has a big rescue and a Great Dane. I opened the bowls and they were tiny. My husband took one look and said "why did you get the dogs dipping bowls"?


Wednesday 7th of February 2024

Oh, I can so relate to what you wrote about the "spending cultur" in private companies... Sigh!

Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate

Tuesday 6th of February 2024

Thank you so much for the book recommendation, I've put it on hold at my library!


Tuesday 6th of February 2024

So wonderful when people study and work hard to break through the cycle of poverty. I had a similar experience as a child. I really never lacked basic needs but there was never money for any extras. Hoping you sweet child's medical needs are always met and thanks for sharing!


Tuesday 6th of February 2024

Hello! Thank you for sharing your story; it struck so many chords for me. As a deeply in debt veterinarian, I lived in Washington DC for a year of training. I stumbled across the Tightwad Gazette in the free pile at the local library, and it literally changed my life. I spent that year being ultra frugal and was able to pay off a private loan despite being paid peanuts in a super high cost of living area!

Fast forward 15 (!) years and I now live in a Boston suburb with my husband and 2 kids, one of whom has special needs. I am so grateful that I learned how to better manage my money, which allows me to provide my son with the therapies he needs.

From one mom to another: great job!!

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