Hello, readers! Today we are meeting a midwest American reader, and I think you are going to love all the photos she sent in.
(The photos are always my favorite part of reader interviews!)
I am seriously impressed by the baked goods, the knitting, the quilting….I felt very domestically inspired after putting this interview together.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
Hi everyone! I’d like to stay anonymous, but for the sake of answering these questions and subsequent ones in the comments, I’m going to go by “Florence”.
I’m 32, I live in the midwest with my husband and our dog. We’ve been married for 9 years. We made the decision early in our marriage not to have children, so it’s just us and the dog :). I work a corporate job and am the primary earner for our family. My husband keeps our household running.
We both have many hobbies. I love to sew, quilt, knit, cook, and bake. I make bread, preserve jam, tomatoes, and pickles, and cook all our meals.
Over time I’ve gotten good at, and get a thrill from, minimizing our food waste. Our garbage day is on Fridays, and we usually grocery shop on the weekends, so Thursday night is clean-the-fridge night. I throw out anything past saving and take stock of what needs to be used up soon.
I plan on using up those items on the weekend when I have more time to cook, and if I’m missing anything to create a meal it goes on the grocery list.
One recent example is we had some blueberries that were pretty sour and neither of us was enjoying as-is. If I chuck them in the freezer for smoothies or baked goods they tend to be forgotten. So instead, I made a (very) small batch of jam and stuck it in the fridge. With all the sugar in the jam, the sour berries were transformed!
This also gave me more time to use them up, as jam will last in your fridge for a good deal longer than fresh berries. I ended up swirling the blueberry jam into a coffee cake we both greatly enjoyed.
Part of my food-waste minimizing is the frugality, but the other part is trying to be a good steward of our resources. I think about how even though I got these blueberries from the grocery store, someone, somewhere, tended to the bushes and picked the berries for me.
A lot of time goes into growing the food that we eat and what I can do is honor the supply chain by using what I have to the best of my abilities. Of course, things sometimes get forgotten and wasted, but we do our best and I get better and better at this as time goes on.
This sort of thinking also flows into mending our clothes. I’m an avid quilter and I see a lot of other sewists and quilters say things like “yes I sew, but no I won’t hem your pants”. Well, yes I sew, and YES I will hem your pants. Even better – I’ll teach you how to hem your own pants!
I’m so thrilled that Visible Mending has taken off and become fashionable. If my clothes are still wearable, but perhaps have sprung a hole or two, I mend them and keep wearing them happily.
My favorite thing to mend are hand-knitted socks… perhaps because they take so long to knit in the first place! If I can prolong the life of a pair of socks, I’m going to do it. I love to teach people the skills I have so that we can all benefit.
When I reflect about our life, I think it is a happy one. We live simply and save so we can make purchases without too much stress. It took us years to get our finances in order and to get on the same page about money.
So if you’re reading this and you’re in a different stage than we are, or you’re frustrated with your spouse because you guys aren’t communicating about money the way you’d like to be, I get it. I definitely was the driving factor behind our shift and it took us a while to figure out how to work together as a couple. Small changes, over time, will lead to large rewards in the end.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I’ve been coming here faithfully since 2013. That’s the year we bought our house, and we did it all wrong. We didn’t discuss finances or grow up in families that did, we both came into the marriage with lots of personal debts, bought a house that was at the very tippy-top of our budget, and found ourselves very very stressed out.
I remember looking around our living room a couple of months after moving in and thinking “What have we done??”. So, I decided to take the matter in hand and get us on a better path. Part of that was looking for any and all resources to help us.
That’s how I found The Frugal Girl.
I grabbed wildflowers near our home and turned them into a bouquet to brighten up our table
Through a lot of sacrifice, and luckily increasing incomes, we slowly paid off all our debts and became debt-free (except for our mortgage).
We’ve retained a lot of our frugal ways from those early marriage years, and honestly, that is really what has allowed us to be in the position we are in today.
The Frugal Girl is the only blog I still read from the ones I found back then since Kristen’s writing and wisdom are just fantastic.
Although I wouldn’t go back to those early, stressful years, I’ve reflected that if we hadn’t gone through them, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today. My parents aren’t frugal and neither is my sister.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
As I mentioned above, it really started when we bought our house and found ourselves under a bigger financial mess than we thought we could manage.
But my interest in saving money has continued since I grew up without anyone ever teaching me about money or what to do with it. I grew up middle class and we always had enough, but my parents never explained investing or saving or anything. So in my twenties I took it upon myself to figure out our path ahead.
I started learning about 401ks and ROTH IRAs and just having savings in general. We made the decision to never get a loan again, so anything we save for; from a new phone to a new car, is paid in cash. It is definitely a slower path, and we get weird looks when we say “no, we want to pay in full today” (our cell phone purchasing story is one for the books).
We find ourselves content with what we have because we’ve got bigger goals in mind and any money diverted will keep us from our big dreams. As a teenager I strove to “fit in” by buying all the name-brand clothing and latest fads, but now, in my thirties, I really find I don’t need any of that stuff.
If I find myself wishing I had a nicer phone with a better camera on it, I remind myself of all the things I DO have that get the job done anyway. And then I remind myself how much more time I’d probably spend on the phone if I had a nicer one, and eventually, I talk myself out of it.
purchased sweaters I’ve since ripped apart and plan to reuse the yarn to knit something new
We have found, happily, that the less stuff we buy, the less stuff we seem to want. I’m not sure if that’s true for everyone but we definitely purchase less now than we did even 5 years ago.
In the end, the ‘stuff’ just doesn’t bring me the type of happiness a great conversation, an experience, or a hot cup of fresh coffee does. In fact, it adds to my stress levels because I need to store the stuff, clean the stuff, and eventually, if we move house, move the stuff.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
Initially, it was to get out of debt. Then, it was to have a rainy day fund. With these two accomplished, we’ve been saving towards buying land.
Our main goals are to have enough in investments for a comfortable retirement (but keeping in mind we don’t have kids so we’re not worried about leaving any sort of inheritance – any assets we have after we pass will go to charity), have a fully paid-off home, and continue to live debt-free.
Our longer-term goal is to own a small homestead on 5-ish acres. We’re saving up cash to buy the land, but if the plans change for any reason, we’ll use it to pay off our current house. We’ve chosen not to put the money towards our current house now because if we do buy land, it will most likely be before we sell our home and we want to have the cash on hand to make the purchase.
As building a house, especially on undeveloped land, can be extremely expensive, we’re saving aggressively. The plan is to buy the land and build as our savings allow, doing as much of the work ourselves as possible.
We’re kind of an anomaly in our suburban neighborhood. We went down to one car in March 2020, and honestly haven’t looked back. Our tv is over 10 years old, our car is 9 years old, a lot of our furniture is second hand, but hey – it still works and we’re fine with it so we don’t see the point of spending to keep up with the Jones.
I’ve joked to my husband that our neighbors must think we’re struggling, with our one car, but in reality we’re doing just fine. We just don’t see the point of shiny new stuff. I love going to thrift stores and our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore and finding things on Facebook Marketplace.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
Our dog! Although that’s a bit of a joke. We rescued a 1-year-old purebred Miniature Poodle. He’s amazing and fantastic and was $100. That was literally the best bargain of my life. The joke is, he had some serious emotional issues when we rescued him and we’ve spent over a thousand dollars (not an exaggeration) on training.
So, not really the best win in terms of money, but after 6 years with us, he is quite literally the best dog. He makes us laugh, he comforts us when we’re sad or sick, and he forces us to slow down and enjoy life. Take walks, play fetch, and spend some time giving him the love he deserves.
Our frugal lifestyle allowed us to have the money to give him the care and training he needed to live his best life and keep him from being passed through home after home.
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
Our house! I think it turned out okay in the end, our house has gone up a lot in value, is in great shape, and has served us well.
But we would have been much better off buying something smaller and less expensive and saving the extra money into our investments. We would have gotten out of debt sooner, have saved more money, and probably be further along than we are now.
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Good cookware. Since I love to cook and bake, having proper cookware makes a big difference.
I’m a huge fan of Le Creuset dutch ovens and use them for cooking everything from stews, bread, and jam! Luckily, if you take care of them, they last!
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Technology. HA! Kinda funny coming from a millennial, no?
I have an iPhone 6 and will keep it until it no longer turns on. 😉 The biggest thing neither of us is interested in spending on is TV and subscription services. I mentioned our 10-year-old tv, and we don’t have cable, Disney +, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music, Apple TV, etc. (I’m probably forgetting the dozen or more that seemed to have come on the scene) and honestly we don’t miss it.
My sister shares with us her Netflix subscription (which we’ve tried to pay her for and she refuses) but we honestly only use it about once a week. If she was to cancel, we wouldn’t get our own.
Neither of us are into watching sports, which I know is the reason a lot of people still pay for cable. We really just don’t watch a lot of tv. We’ll pop in a movie from our DVD collection on the weekends, but that’s about it. I’m the last person to ask about show recommendations!
I took a cookie-decorating class!
Instead, we listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks borrowed from the library via the app on our phones. We’ll also read physical books (again, thank you local libraries!), blogs, and spend our free time working on projects.
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
I really hate to say “put it in savings!” because gosh if that isn’t what everyone before me has said. We really are a frugal bunch, aren’t we? It would go in our “buy land” fund though because we are really focused on that.
10. Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers
Find the frugal that works for you. I don’t make my own yogurt, even though I know how and it would save money. But I just don’t love yogurt very much and only buy it to put into smoothies, so if I made a batch I’d end up wasting a ton of it.
Instead, I’m much better served by paying a bit more money for a yogurt brand that I enjoy and doesn’t leave me with more than I can eat.
If these reader stories have taught me anything, it is that we all prioritize different things and are at different stages in our lives. Learn, keep what works for you, and be okay with forging your own path.
If you were looking for something less philosophical, a frugal tip I have is that there’s always a way.
I used fabric scraps, an old 100% wool coat, and scrap batting to create oven pads & mitts
When I was looking for a bit more wiggle room in the budget and not finding it, I decided to use my creative talents and open an Etsy shop. It has turned into a thriving side business that contributes to our income in a real and substantial way (something I honestly didn’t expect) and has allowed us to achieve our goals even sooner.
When you’re in the middle of debt and overwhelmed it can feel like a huge uphill climb, but by doing something everyday towards your goals, even something small, you’ll achieve them sooner than you know.
Ok, Florence. I have to ask about that leopard-looking bread; how did you do that??
Also, I am so super impressed with your cookie decorating. Did yours look that good after just one class?
And lastly, I would totally read a blog or follow an Instagram account to see all the creative things you do.