1. Tell us a little about yourself
I am married and have twin high school-aged children. We have one dog who we got from a rescue during COVID lockdown. I have been an elementary school teacher for more than 20 years.
We live in the suburbs of a major city in Texas (considering that 5 of the biggest cities in the US are in Texas, this is not a very specific answer-HA).
We’re a pretty introverted family so a lot of our time is spent just hanging out together, though high school extracurricular activities are keeping us busier than ever.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I am not certain how long I’ve been reading but I’d venture to say around 12 years. I believe I found you while searching for homemade yogurt recipes when my kids were toddlers and never left.
A funny FG memory for me was writing to ask if you bought stuffed animals at the store each week back when your kids used to put them in the WIS/WWA posts.
Note from Kristen: I used to post a photo of my groceries each week, and my kids loved adding stuffed animals to these photos, like so:
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I came from a family with significant financial struggles and I helped my dad balance the checkbook after my mom passed away so there was definitely an very early awareness of the importance of money management. When I was a senior in high school, my amazing economics teacher introduced us to compound interest and that created a fascination with financial planning.
I obviously don’t get significant raises as a teacher and my husband’s income has always been about the same as mine.
Those things together (along with probably a certain amount of in-born personality traits) made money management and frugality priorities for me.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
There are lots of reasons why I save. One is so I can give.
God has blessed me with a heart for giving; I get so much joy from donating to others. (I would like to add another lesson I learned from FG was how to wisely donate items so they don’t become a burden for charities. Facebook had specific giving groups just for causes in my area I believe in that have allowed me to find good home for so many items.)
Another “why” is that I don’t ever want my children to carry the burden I did of worrying over family finances.
I want to spend my money in ways that add value to my life rather than just stuff to my closets. Having cleared out many family members possessions after their deaths has given me real perspective on the fickle nature of possessions.
So, before I buy, I try to ask myself if I’m really going to value the item enough to keep it. I also try to evaluate when something has lived out it’s lifespan for my family and find someone who will need it more.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
My biggest win is probably having a husband who communicates easily about financial choices. We don’t agree on everything right away but we talk things out and find a happy medium.
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
I think buying the cheap version of things has really cost me more than anything else. Having to make the not-right thing work only to replace it after it breaks is really a lot more expensive than just buying quality in the first place.
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Travel. The life experiences from travel have truly enriched my life.
The photo below is an amazing free breakfast from my visit to Enchanted Rock.
The breakfast and the park were frugal options on a VERY un-frugal b&b stay. I am very fortunate to be in a financial position to afford these trips, but still look forward to affordable experiences while I’m traveling.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Handbags, jewelry, fancy restaurants, professional sports events, crafting, T-shirt’s for every holiday (which is a fun experience for many of my friends but just brings me guilt when the clothing sits unused for so much of the year.)
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
I’d probably plan some family experiences. As the kids get older, I realize our opportunities for family experiences are running out.
10. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
I think living so near a major city creates opportunities for free and low cost activities in abundance. The local zoos and museums have discount days/months at different times of the year. There are very convenient and well stocked libraries.
Our public schools and local municipalities have amenities like water parks, nature trails, dog parks, historic sites, tracks, and classes that are free or very affordable. These are all great opportunities to enjoy variety without breaking the budget.
I grew up in a more rural area so having many options nearby is a real treat for me.
11. What single action or decision has saved you the most money over your life?
I’m certain that learning to cook has saved me the most money in my life. I am not a scratch cook and when I see other people’s recipes I’m always humbled by what I call cooking. I continually remind myself that a meal on the table is better than unrealistic expectations and my family is happy with the meals we eat.
So, lower your expectations, my internet friends (insert laughing face here)
12. What is something you wish more people knew?
I have 2:
1. For those who are intimidated by the prospect or saving for retirement, financial planning doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to be rich to do it. One of my favorite financial planning books is The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach.
2. For people who struggle with money worries and particularly big expenditures, thinking about costs on the margin has been a huge eye opener for me.
For instance, braces are a major expense. For me, it would be agonizing to think, “oh no, this is going to cost $3000” or $5000 or whatever.
But, I’ve learned that these types of expenses aren’t a choice between spending $20 or $3000. There’s a baseline cost involved.
I can’t get braces for less than $3000 so really it’s a choice between the $3000 braces at the place further away or the $3200 braces at the place close by, for instance.
Thinking this way helps me give myself grace for spending necessary money.
13. Did you ever receive any financial education in school or from your parents?
I think I answered this above. Now I work hard to pass on additional lessons to my kids. We teach them about spending, saving and giving. We helped them open both savings and investment accounts with their allowance. We shop with them and discuss comparing prices at different stores. We now give them their own clothing budgets to manage so they can continue building an understanding of financial choices.
April, thank you! I have to tell you, my favorite part was when you wrote, “I continually remind myself that a meal on the table is better than unrealistic expectations and that my family is happy with the meals we eat.”
This is so wise. Someone out there on the internet is always going to be doing more amazing work in every domestic/personal/parenting arena…maybe someone else throws awesome birthday parties, or decorates their home like a designer, or puts together amazing outfits, or cooks gourmet meals.
But having a “good enough is good enough” attitude can bring so much freedom. Good for you.
(And I wanted to add, your attitude made me think of the “It doesn’t have to be perfect to bless other people” post I wrote years ago. Great minds think alike. 😉 )
Readers, the floor is yours!
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