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Meet a Reader | Emily from North Carolina

Hello everyone! Today we’re meeting a reader who was hesitant to participate in this series since frugality doesn’t come naturally to her.

But I love that she decided to participate; I know our community here runs the gamut from people who were born frugal to people who have to work really hard to save.

And I love to have our Meet a Reader interviews reflect that. 🙂

1. Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a professor, wife, and mom of three kids– two elementary schoolers and a middle schooler.

picnic at the lake

The five of us live in North Carolina in a wonderful older neighborhood with our little beagle and three fish.

beagle in the snow

I work a lot and love my job, but I’m always trying to balance my career and my family. I think I do a better job some days than others.

Mother's day card

A portion of a Mother’s Day card. 😉

 I love our kids and our life, and never want to forget what a blessing it is to be able to enjoy watching our kids grow up and become such interesting people.

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

I’ve been reading The Frugal Girl since my oldest was a baby, so almost 13 years now! I found it while looking for ways to save money, and love how kind and warm you are, Kristen.

The community in the comments is also really great– full of wisdom, advice, and kindness.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

It’s been a winding road.

sunset over mountains.

I was hesitant to submit a “meet a reader” because I was definitely not born with a frugal gene. My parents are careful with money and my brother is a big saver, but I have always been a spender.

I like to treat other people (and myself) to nice things. My husband is the same way and comes from a similar family of savers.

Money was tight when we were first married and I was still in school, but when I finally got a full-time job making a good income we were horrified to find that we were still spending up to our income without being able to save anything.

That was an eye-opening experience that led to some tough conversations and a lot of change. I’m glad, though, because since then we’ve done a lot better managing our priorities and savings.

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

This is a really tough question– I hate worrying about money, and I am really good at worrying.

If we are able to set and follow a budget and we have money in savings, then I know that we’ll be ok when I get a haircut or buy new shoes for the kids or if a tree falls on our house (a constant fear!). That peace of mind is important to me.

a homemade robot craft.

a worried robot made by one of my kids

Another big part of my “why” is the environment. My faith is an important part of my life, and I believe that we are called to be good stewards of the earth.

Among other things, I think that it is important to consume less. I want to be responsible with the things that I have been given and I see frugality as being a broader concept rather than focusing solely on saving money.

a homemade cheese pizza.

homemade pizza

Going to the library, cooking at home (and trying to avoid food waste), walking instead of driving, and buying less are all ways to save money but are also better choices for the health of our planet.

5. What’s one thing you splurge on?

Groceries! We like food and I love to cook.

homemade chocolate cake.

Groceries are a big part of our monthly budget, but cooking is a creative endeavor for me and brings us all a lot of satisfaction.

lemon chicken in a pan.

Lemon chicken

It’s fun to try new foods and learn about different ways of cooking, and I am really happy that we get to do that.

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

New technology– we treat our possessions well, use our things for a long time, and are still really happy with our first-generation iPad and older cell phones.

Our home computer is pretty old, too, and was an open-box deal and it’s perfectly fine. We’re starting to have a little tension there with a middle schooler in the house now, which is leading to interesting conversations about priorities and spending decisions.

7. What frugal tips have you tried and abandoned?

I tried making a lot of things from scratch– bread, cookies, clothing, yogurt– but at this point in my career my time is worth too much to spend so much of it working on things like that unless it’s for fun.

pancakes and fruit on a plate.

That’s been an interesting adjustment to make and I still feel weird thinking that way, much less saying it out loud.

I do like baking at home with the kids, but we definitely don’t have homemade cookies in our school lunchboxes every week.

cookies on baking sheets.

cookie-baking with my kids

Your post about not needing to make yogurt is one that I reread on occasion. 🙂

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

I (miraculously) listened to the college advisor from my hometown state school and attended it instead of an out-of-state school. I received a full scholarship for my undergraduate degree and then was funded for my graduate degrees.

Because of that, I was able to earn my master’s and Ph.D. without ever paying a penny in tuition or borrowing any money for living expenses.

That was, hands down, the best financial decision I’ve ever made and I hope that similar opportunities are available for our children so that they can also start their lives without debt.

9. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?

Reading your site has really helped me develop a mindset of gratitude.

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to have nice and new things or keeping an eye on what other people are doing, and Kristen’s blog is a great place for me to remind myself to be grateful no matter the circumstances.

backyard fire pit

hotdogs in our backyard

My hope is that I can pass that attitude along to my children so that they can focus on finding joy in their own lives instead of comparing themselves to others.

One way I try to do this is by sharing the joy in the little things. It snows here maybe once a year, and when it does, we always make snow cream (Here’s the recipe we use.)

metal bowl sitting outside by a pine tree.

Setting out the mixing bowl when there’s snow in the forecast is a fun and relatively frugal way to anticipate snow, and it helps us enjoy the cold weather even when we’re finished playing outside.

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

I love the food posts– both the old food waste Fridays and the grocery/meal planning posts.

It’s been really interesting and informative to watch those posts change as your children grew up, Kristen, and I try to keep that in mind as we’re starting to send the kids off for different things and need to build more flexibility into our meal plans.

I’ve worked really hard to stop wasting food, and I think we do a pretty ok job!

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

Our particular neighborhood is very walkable, with public transportation options and a lot of parks.

a neighborhood street in summer.

Our neighborhood

This has helped us over the years as we never were tempted to buy a playset for our yard, we don’t drive a lot, and we can have pretty inexpensive birthday parties and playdates for our kids at neighborhood parks.

There are a lot of free museums and different festivals to attend, as well, and we’re reasonably close to some nice lakes, the mountains, and the beach.

A beach at sunset.

Since the weather is so nice here we can do free and/or inexpensive outside things almost all year. That’s not necessarily unique to our area, but we really do love it here.


Emily, I’m so glad you felt brave enough to send in a submission! Yay!

I’m so honored that you have been reading here for so long, and I am very happy that as you read my blog, you’ve been able to take what works for you (food waste fighting, for example) and leave what doesn’t (homemade yogurt).

And lastly, I wanted to say that the browning on your lemon chicken looks SO perfect. I’m hungry right now, and I want to eat all the cake, cookies, and chicken you included in your photos. 😉

Readers, the floor is yours!

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Mia B.

Tuesday 20th of September 2022

Emily, I feel like we are kindred spirits! I also am the spender from a family of frugal people, can worry a whole lot about anything, and prioritize food budget because I love cooking! It's such a pleasure to meet people from around the world that I can identify so much with through Kristen's 'Meet a Reader' posts.

Ruth T

Tuesday 20th of September 2022

Thanks for sharing, Emily! I also try to help my kids find joy in the little things. Our life is not as glamorous or flashy as some of their friends, but there are so many gifts to enjoy everyday and I want them to see those instead of just what we lack.

Consuming less is something I'm working on. Sometimes I feel like I'm not sure where to start. We already eat at home and wear a lot of secondhand things. But perhaps little changes will come to mind as the weeks go on. Thanks for giving me more to think about!

Julie from GJ

Monday 19th of September 2022

This was such a great post! I agree with and love Emily's comment about frugality being a bigger concept than just saving money and about being responsible with the things we have. That's something I've been focusing on lately too. Thanks Emily!

Nici Ink

Monday 19th of September 2022

I love that your geography includes closeness to a beach and snow only once a year! We are wanting to move but not sure where to just yet lol Is it cold there in the winter, besides the one day it snows?


Monday 19th of September 2022

What a great post! I love hearing this reader's perspective precisely because she wasn't born with a frugal gene. It is interesting to read about her journey. Thank you, Emily, for sharing!

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