Hello, everyone! Today we’re meeting a practicing psychologist, so that’s a first for our Meet a Reader series. I really love the variety of ages, stages, and life paths represented by the readers here…variety is the spice of life!
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a 40-year-old suburban mom. I’ve been married for almost 10 years, and we have three active boys, ages 7, 4, and 2.
I am a psychologist in private practice, and I work in the afternoons and evenings. My husband is the primary caregiver for our kids, although he has had part-time stints working as a handyman and bookkeeper.
We are striving to both work about 25-30 hours a week, so we have the most flexibility to enjoy our family and take care of a household with a bit less stress.
We also have babysitting help from nearby grandparents which helps a lot! We live in a suburb of Washington DC.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I have been reading the Frugal Girl for about 12 years?
I think I started reading after finding a no-stir granola recipe. I have really loved Kristen’s positivity and genuineness. It has been a guiding light for me as I navigate motherhood, marriage, and just being a human on this complex planet!
I do not usually comment, but sometimes read the comments. I have loved this Meet A Reader series!
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
Frugality is part of my personality, and it was modeled to me by my parents and grandparents. I have seen extended family members living in poverty and I have heard many stories of my parents and grandparents having to live with less.
I had a paper route and babysat growing up and I had a hard time spending my money! It became much easier to spend money as a teenager and young adult and I have had to reign in my spending habits at different times. I made a lot of money mistakes in my 20s.
Right now, I am not as frugal as some, but I keep working on it!
I am a DIY-er and crafter. When I see something, I often wonder “can I make that?” My mind is always working to figure out a free/low-cost solution.
I like to make decorations instead of buying them. I keep making huge 3D paper flowers that people seem to like.
One funny example of my crafting is making googley eyes from clean disposable contact lens containers. My kids were going through a lot of googly eyes (it seemed like every craft needed at least 3 eyes!) and I was thinking of a solution.
Turns out it is easy to make them, but perhaps too time-consuming for me right now. That is my biggest problem at the moment – the balance between cost vs. time. Time is very limited right now with my kids’ ages and a very busy season at work.
Often it is better for me to buy something versus spending the time and energy getting materials and making something. Googly eyes are not that expensive in the end 🤷♀️
4. What’s the “why” behind your money saving efforts?
On top of my naturally frugal personality, I am very concerned with protecting the environment. The amount of plastic we create and throw away has been weighing heavy on my heart over the years. I want to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.
This is very true with kids’ clothes and toys – many, many of our things have been used and passed on to other families. I love buy nothing groups, FB marketplace, thrift stores, and consignment sales.
My biggest barrier right now is of course – TIME! I started composting when I was pregnant with my third child out of “eco-guilt,” and putting more strain on the environment with another human being. It’s a balance, and we do our part.
I have been increasingly frustrated with big businesses not doing their part. Individuals can recycle and compost, but it does not compare to a huge corporation finding a way to use less plastic in their packaging.
5. What is your best frugal win?
I would say marrying my frugal and financially savvy husband. On top of his frugal personality and having a modest upbringing, he spent his teen and young adult years working several jobs at once and supporting himself through college. We lived on a shoestring budget at the start of our marriage. A common meal for us was rice, crushed tomatoes, and beans, not a fancy meal, but certainly frugal and filling!
My husband also convinced me to buy a dilapidated house near my parents. He is handy and fixed it up and it was a huge frugal win for us in the end.
Housing prices in our area continue to soar and we refinanced at a lower interest rate. So, we have a small, renovated 3-bedroom ranch in a coveted neighborhood with a low mortgage.
I have a love/hate relationship with our house. We took down all the walls in the main living area and it can get loud with three young, active kids. I would love a basement or even one extra room, but it just does not make sense to move and building materials are so expensive right now.
I have a daily practice of being grateful for this house and focusing on what I do love about it. I started planting bulbs to help with this!
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
Oh, so many!
The biggest is going to a private graduate school for four years to earn a doctoral degree. I thought that I would work in public service and have loan forgiveness, but I could not stay at the job that I was at and raise my family with the flexibility I wanted. So, we keep chipping away at those student loans.
I wish that I had worked harder to find and attend a public school on a scholarship. I do think that I received a fantastic education, and it was overall worth it, but oof, I am the millennial in the news with the crushing student loan debt. I took out the loans in good faith and intend to pay them off, I just wish that the interest rates were lower.
7. What is one thing you splurge on?
FOOD! All the food, all the time!
I have learned that feeding myself and my family as frequently as possible prevents a lot of tantrums, poor decisions, anxiety, and arguing. I keep snacks in every bag and constantly plan for the next meal. My children are somewhat picky, but they all love fruit, and we go through a lot of it! Along with bread, milk, and snack foods.
I try to keep frugality and health in mind here, but I admit that often we are just trying to stay ahead of the “hangries” and I find that fed is best.
When I had one child, I spent time making my own cheese crackers. It was soooo time-consuming to process the flour and cheese, roll it out and cut it out into little crackers. I just…can’t do it! So, the fish-shaped famous crackers that children love are for us.
We like to eat out, we like convenience foods, and we like to cook at home. We just eat a lot of small meals frequently. It is a constant balance between time, energy, nutrition, and cost for us.
I remind myself that it won’t always be like this, but with three growing children…it will be this way for a while! The teen years and food, oof!
8. What is the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?
The easiest part is that there are so many good reasons to be frugal. Frugality is good for the individual, one’s family and the earth.
The hardest part is not feeling deprived. That is why I love The Frugal Girl so much; it’s about being cheerful while living with less. This has been a huge shift for me.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself that we cannot afford an expensive vacation, I can turn the perspective around and focus on the local amenities we have available to us.
I can refocus on what is working well in my life. I can enjoy not having to pack and figure out how to entertain and feed my family on vacation.
9. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?
This blog has really helped hone my perspective on having a positive and thankful perspective. There is a lot of research on gratitude and emotional and physical health. I naturally tend toward the pessimistic side of things, and I have had to consciously train myself to focus on what is positive about everything around me.
I have noticed that reading this blog and others has supported this shift in thinking for me. It is like a daily dose of positivity, and I have really benefited from it.
Additionally, I love Kristen’s authenticity. She has been honest about some of her struggles, and that really helps too. It’s not just a personal character flaw on my part, we are all working on being our best selves. It certainly helps to have support.
10. Did you ever receive any financial education in school or from your parents?
I took an elective home economics class in high school. It was called “teen living” which is hilarious because we were all living at home being supported by parents! We learned about cooking and sewing. There was a unit about finding a job, and budgeting for groceries and expenses.
I think we also learned to balance a checkbook. It was a tiny portion of the class, so I didn’t learn a ton, but it was something. My parents did not explicitly teach me about finances, but we did discuss budgeting for vacations and choosing frugal options when it came to clothes and food. They were always open to answering my questions.
CeCe, thank you so much for participating! I am so very happy to hear that the atmosphere around here has helped you to get into the habit of noticing what is good in life. Yay! And since you are a trained psychologist, I am extra delighted to hear that you support this practice.
Those paper flowers that you make are so beautiful! I showed Lisey and now she is wondering how you make them.
On another note, I totally agree about making crackers. I tried it a few times and I concluded the same thing as you: it’s too time-consuming. Also, it is super easy to burn some of the crackers, unless you have rolled them out precisely the same thickness.
No-stir granola is way, way easier! 🙂
Friday 17th of June 2022
The paper flowers are gorgeous! During COVID-19 shutdowns, my public library had some projects for families to take home, and that was one of them! They gave out big envelopes with templates, pipe cleaners, and some petals already prepared, and ideas for using other kinds of paper like newspaper, scrap paper, grocery bags to make more. When the library re-opened, they were encouraged to bring some of their flowers in, and now there are hundreds all over the library, and it’s so beautiful. And, eventually, they can be easily recycled. It made me want to try it, but time hasn’t permitted so far. I’ll put in a word, actually two words- protein and fats! For kids, cheese and nuts, peanut butter are easy and portable. Hard-boiled eggs, slices or cubes of meat, jerky, etc. if they like those. Carbs alone create cycles of blood sugar ups and downs and needing to constantly eat more carbs, and that horrible feeling AKA “hangry”. I’m sure you know this, but do a scientific experiment over time, to validate- the older kids might find it interesting. When I had a toddler, she would say “strong bones and healthy body!” to praise herself for choosing healthy snacks! Thanks so much for the great interview/questionnaire!
Monday 13th of June 2022
Thank you all for your kind words, it made my day to read the comments on my post.
Regarding the paper flowers - I saw them used as decorations at a community center event in our town, I think it was a tea party. I took a closer look to see how they were made, and noticed it was regular 8.5/11 paper. Each petal is one piece of paper. I have experimented over the years to figure out the best technique. It is something like this...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2CyQYGjoIM
About the student loans and using the equity of our house - we have thought about it! It would be a wise financial move for sure.
On the psychology of frugality...I think whole doctoral dissertations could be researched and written! How we view and value money are closely tied with culture, family dynamics and one's own individual personality. There is no separation between nature and nurture, there are complex factors involved that are interwoven and one affects the other. I will say that impulse control and delayed gratification are important skills related to frugality. These skills can be taught and practiced. Some people have more natural strengths in these areas that others.
I work with children and families, so yes, I do help people practice impulse control and delayed gratification! Money troubles are not my main focus, but it does come up with regard to family stressors and balancing priorities. One of the things I have found most fascinating working with a wide variety of people is that money truly does not buy happiness.
Monday 13th of June 2022
Nice to meet you, Cece! I LOVE the little alder cones. I collect them and leave little piles around my house.:)
F from France
Monday 13th of June 2022
Hi CeCe, So lovely to meet you! I enjoyed reading your interview. I think you might have figured out how we *both* found Kristen’s blog: I definitely remember that no-stir granola recipe from 2012! This might be a clue for the great question ‘why have so many readers found Kristen’s blog so long ago?’ :D
I feel you about the amount of plastic we use. Europe is taking some measures to end single-use plastic - we can’t buy disposable plastic straws or cutlery anymore, and even the tops of Starbucks’ disposable coffee cups are paper now! - but the food industry is also trying to replace plastics while maintaining food safety. Ecology is very trendy right now, so demand is high, and I think the first company who’ll manage to find safe, compostable alternatives to plastic - especially vacuum packs for meat and ready made meals - is going to make a lot of money on patents… but we need to be patient.
The area you live in looks lovely, your whole family seems to be making great memories <3
Kuddos on your flowers - I would have never guessed these were DIY - and also your amazing balance between both your jobs and family time: it seems you are living the dream of many, many millennials! Take care and thanks for sharing!
MB in MN
Monday 13th of June 2022
CeCe, I enjoyed your post very much. And loved the new questions! So great that you and your husband are both able to work less than a 40+ hour week and have more time to raise your young family. I'm with you on holding companies accountable for the waste their products create. Thank you for sharing a peek into your life!