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Meet a Reader | Beth from VA

Hello! Today we’re meeting a reader who’s been here since 2009 (!!) and she’s had a bunch of interesting jobs, including being a private investigator on the side. So cool!

Here’s Beth:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I live just outside of Richmond, VA with my husband, 18-year-old twin daughters, and our two dogs. I’m 52. I currently work part-time from home, mostly behind a computer.

white dog.

I never really figured out what I want to be when I grow up so I’ve done a lot of different things. Among those, I spent 14 years as a high school English teacher and the last 15 as a copy editor. I almost always have a side gig going.

dog lying on deck.

During the pandemic, I earned extra money detailing cars.

dirty car.

I’ve always loved cars and I enjoy the satisfaction of the before and after.

dirty car door.


clean car door.


Also, when I was 50, I got my private investigator’s license. I joke that it was my mid-life crisis.

I’m a huge fan of mystery novels and wondered what was involved in becoming a licensed PI in my state (a 60-hour training course and a culminating 3-hour exam). It was a fascinating process. I don’t use it much, but I have run background checks for divorced friends who are dating again through online apps. One friend stopped seeing two men based on what turned up.

I also had a blog several years ago (a little more on that below), but these days I write periodic essays at A Word on Substack as well as short, inspiring (I hope) messages most mornings at Good Notes.

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

Years — I can’t remember how I found Kristen, but ages ago I spent a lot of time reading The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly, which I loved back then before they were sold.

That’s when I was blogging at Smart Green Tips (here’s a link to a cached page with a post about my organic garden — I sold the domain years ago).

smart green tips blog.

The focus was on saving money and resources and living in an eco-conscious way.

red maple leaf.

Fun fact: J.D. let me guest post on Get Rich Slowly once. It was during that time that I came across Kristen’s blog and I loved her voice and practical tips. I’ve been reading ever since.

Note from Kristen: I found the post, and it’s from 2009!

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

Initially, by necessity, but I’ve never been as successful at day-to-day frugality as I would like.

I came into adulthood struggling to pay my way through college and then struggling to repay student loans on a small salary. I was always in debt, which has been a tremendous source of shame for me.

As I was paying my way through college. I learned how to repair my own car. I replaced the water pump and exhaust system on my little old Nissan in the parking lot of my college apartment complex. I’ve always wanted to be a good steward of my money and resources, but struggled with feeling like there was “never enough.”

deer on my street.

deer on my street

One of my daughters has significant health issues that are largely invisible (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and dysautonomia, including POTS). We’ve spent a lot of years and money attempting to diagnose and treat her illnesses.

I had to reduce, and for long stretches, stop work altogether so I could help her and be available to take her to appointments or pick her up from school when she was ill.

made by my husband

While my husband’s income has increased over the years, we’ve ended up with a lot of (mostly) medical debt that would be easier to pay off if I were/had been able to work full-time.

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

I want my daughters to have more knowledge and opportunity than we did.

I’ve learned a lot and while some things are too late for us (taking advantage of years of compounding interest, for example), it’s just the right time for them. We talk to them about money and saving and are honest about our missteps. We also encourage them to explore a lot of options.

filing cabinet.

One of my daughters is taking a somewhat atypical approach to post-high school life. We’ve found free or low-cost ways for her to try a career before investing a lot of money in education. She started working with our local volunteer rescue squad when she was 16, which she loves.

They provided a lot of training in-house and also reimbursed us for the $1700 cost of her EMT certification course. She’s worked over 600 hours at the station and riding on calls in the year and a half she’s been with them.

Now that she is 18, she’s applied for our county Fire & EMS department. She’s halfway through the lengthy and difficult application process but if she’s hired, she’ll begin a paid ($56k/yr, with full benefits) 26-week training program, at the end of which, she’ll have a very good sense of the direction she’d like to go with her career.

teacher gift made by my husband

If she chooses to stay, she will get an immediate salary bump and they will pay for her to become a paramedic if she wants. She would also have the opportunity to join any number of specialty teams they have.

If, after the training program, she decides that’s not the career for her, absolutely none of the time she has invested will have been wasted. It’s cost her nothing and she will have earned a lot of money while gaining skills that will be useful in any career she’s leaning toward (nursing or law enforcement) and will have done all of this before she’s 20.

She’s welcome to live at home for the next few years if she’d like so she can save the bulk of her salary. This way she can take advantage of compound interest and build a solid reserve, which should give her a nice boost starting out.

Our other daughter has been limited in her ability to work because of her health issues but is interested in data analytics. As she’s able, she’s working through free online courses and code academies to determine whether or not this is something she’d like to pursue before she spends money to get a degree in this field.

5. What’s one thing you splurge on?

Shoes. Not fancy shoes, but quality shoes that support my feet (like Kristen’s Altra’s). I’ve always bought good shoes for my kids, too.

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

Fancy jewelry, live concerts, sporting events.

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

Apply it toward debt.

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

Marrying my husband.

He’s incredibly handy and does woodworking as a hobby.

cabinet with shutter doors.

He’s saved us a lot of money by being able to repair so many things on his own, by building and repurposing furniture pieces, and by making gifts that we did not have to buy.

wooden table.

a table my husband made

We teach our daughters how to repair things themselves, too, and how to upcycle whenever possible.

wooden playset

upcycled washing machine door for playset

One of my daughters really enjoys projects and woodworking, too. She and my husband have replaced the roof on our shed, built our deck, and installed a fence around our yard using boards my husband milled from trees on our property.

fence with milled boards.

They made gifts for teachers when the girls were in elementary school and more recently coasters and other things for Christmas gifts.

wooden bowl.

bowl my husband made for a gift

9. What is something you wish more people knew?

That there’s always still time to become more frugal. I feel like I’ve made a bit of a mess of it over the course of my life, but there’s always something to be gained by starting or continuing to work at it now.

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

11. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you? (These two questions go together for me)

I love the furniture rehabbing posts, Thankful Thursday, and WIS-WWA .

But mostly, I like Kristen’s voice, honesty, and attitude in all of her posts. It’s a bright spot on the internet and in my day.

sunny street.

In addition to helping me find ways to save money and waste less, Kristen’s photos have inspired me to take photos of my own when I’m out and about, which helps me to stop and notice beautiful things around me.

sunny morning.

from my neighborhood walk

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

I didn’t get any financial education from my parents, just a vague but significant anxiety around money. Growing up my father constantly said, “We can’t afford that,” but my mother was suffering from untreated depression (which I know now, but didn’t as a child) and found some relief through the dopamine rush of buying things.

wooden ipad stand.

ipad stand, made by my husband

She never bought big things, because we “couldn’t afford it,” but frittered away loads of money on small, mostly inconsequential things. I have to fight the inclination to repeat this pattern.

I was especially close to my maternal grandmother, though, and any financial education I got came from her.

She was what I think of as the “real” definition of frugal, which is to say, not cheap, but saving as much as possible on things that don’t matter (whatever that means to you, individually) so that you can afford the things that do matter, while also saving for emergencies.

pantry shelves.

pantry shelves my husband made

She’d grown up very poor and she could not stand waste of any kind, especially food. She watched me peeling potatoes once — I was using a knife, not a peeler — and said, “Here, let me, you’re taking half the potato with the peel!” You’d never see a thinner potato peel than hers. 😉

checkered cutting board.

She wasn’t opposed to buying things new, but she kept everything until it wore out, cars, appliances, furniture, and she took great care of all of it.


Beth, my paternal grandmother was also very waste-averse, but she swore she wasted less potato by peeling with a knife vs. a potato peeler. Me personally, I waste WAY less potato by using a peeler. But that is probably because my knife skills aren’t quite up there with my grandmother’s!

I think The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly were some of the first blogs I ever read too, and were probably part of my inspiration for starting my own blog. 🙂

It makes me so, so happy to hear that my little scenes-from-my-walks photos have inspired you to notice the beauty around you too. Yay!!

A question from me: what do you recommend for car detailing? Any particular products that you’ve found to be the best? Your results are so impressive.

Readers, the floor is yours!

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Thursday 29th of February 2024

the tale of peeling potatoes evokes memories of a friend's mother who dared anyone to peel potatoes faster or as fast as she. My grandmother told us to look at the size of the potato when the woman finished her rapid peel. She was so correct. They looked like walnuts in the shell when she finished. Without any unkind or ugly words we got the idea. On another topic - I could not help but notice that your twin's health issues are so different. So, I am assuming they are not identical since one has genetic issues. I would think the extraordinary care you have expended could wipe out the debt a thousand times and more. You deserve great praise and absolutely no negativity for making yourself available for this. badge of LOVE......


Wednesday 28th of February 2024

Your bowl is Beautiful!!!!!

Anita Isaac

Wednesday 28th of February 2024

wow you are very impressive. the way you launch your daughter on a possible career. your pets are just a wonderful dose of cuteness. thank you so much for sharing. it was a pleasure to learn about your life. all the best to you and your family. when i was young , most of my money went into medical debt. i feel for you. it is hard. but somehow i found great doctors. and with medical improvements, my hubby's excellent health benefits and the grace of g-d i don't have any debt now.


Wednesday 28th of February 2024

I feel seen. Thank you. I am 48, have a young child and I'm still trying to right the wrongs in my life around money. I received no education about money growing up and while I'm unsure if my mom has undiagnosed depression, I know she is the same way as your mom with buying little things. The woodworking stuff is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story.


Tuesday 27th of February 2024

Hi Beth! I have a friend whose daughter is struggling with POTS, among other health issues. Can you recommend some resources for me to share with her?

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