Hello! We’re meeting an Arkansas reader today and initially, I thought she was the first one! But then I realized that we’d met Jane before, and she hails from the Hot Springs area of Arkansas.
Anyway! Here’s Jennifer. 🙂
1. Tell us a little about yourself
Greetings from the NW corner of Arkansas, where I was born (around 40+ years ago) and raised. My time in Arkansas has only been interrupted by 15 years in SW MO on a remote farm in the holler, where I commuted from & was a caregiver for the spouse.
I’ve been an RN for 22 years at the same hospital, primarily ER/TC. Now I’m living on the small acreage that I was raised on (which is now smack dab in the middle of town & 2 miles from work) with my mom & my two kids, 15 & 8.
We teamwork together to homeschool-I was homeschooled until nursing school, and I am privileged to be teaching my kids & have my mom assist on the days I work.
We all went through a messy complicated divorce-I’m grateful to say my kids & I are finally safe, but still recovering/healing.
When my daddy passed last January, I inherited all the heavy farm labor responsibilities- I never knew I could have impressive muscles😊.
It feels like I’ve been going to a homesteading college this year, it’s a love/hate relationship. Especially right now in negative temps-breaking ice, hauling water & firewood, and defending the birds from a marauding fox.
We have sheep, an old goat, chickens, guineas, dogs & cats. We use the eggs, harvest meat & if I can’t get out to hunt venison we’ve had friends give us meat.
We also grow a large garden & lots of flowers, fruit trees & a 100-year-old grapevine.
This year I was so pleased to have frozen tons of veg/fruit & made jam/juice from the grapes.
We have significant food restrictions so sourcing our own is helpful health-wise & cost-effective too. We cut our own firewood from trees on our land that were blown down 5 years ago in a tornado.
I seriously overextended on planting and underestimated how much work my dad used to do so hopefully I’ve learned from my mistakes & will not kill myself in the garden this year!
Besides farming, I love reading, enjoy baking & am always looking for new affordable adventures for my kids & I (new trails, a movie, water park, climbing, bookstores off the beaten track, escape rooms)
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
Since summer ’09, right after I had my first kid. I had huge medical bills for the spouse, was only working PRN, and needed new ideas on cutting corners.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I was born frugal, into a super frugal family.
My Dad was a blue-collar factory worker with an incredible work ethic (3 jobs at a time to pay bills if needed), Mom (& her higher degree) quit teaching & chose to stay home to educate me & eventually my brother; they started a ministry when I was a year old-we all helped with the maintenance & function of said ministry.
Sports/extracurriculars were funded by Mom cleaning houses/church. My first memory of helping was around 2 years old; I kept a ledger of expenses at 8 years old, which reflected priorities early (books & leather boots) & so it goes.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
Multi-pronged answer here: historically it was hard-wired in my DNA as a necessity but also being a good steward of what we’re blessed with & being able to give/help others; having enough for emergency funds was always a high priority as well.
Those skills/needs became vital in my marriage as the spouse was chronically ill with astronomical medical bills & expensive tastes. Staying out of debt was/is very important to me & miraculously I have succeeded this far, praise God.
Now-I’m a single parent who works part-time, cares for my elder mother, homeschools & runs a farm. This means funds are tight.
My kids both have chronic medical issues that are costly & require much budgeting. Don’t even talk to me about retirement! I’ll be working until I die in the harness😊
5. What’s your best frugal win?
Two “small” ones come to mind- my first car & first motorcycle-owned for a while, did a few small repairs & sold for what I paid. As a young 20 something, that felt big!
When college was looming, my parents offered to let me live at home cost-free while I was in college, as their contribution to my higher education. I also hunted & scrounged for scholarships like a bloodhound.
By the time I got my degree, I came out being paid vs paying for school!
6. What’s an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?
In my first year of marriage, I listened to unwise counsel & spent money willy-nilly, the stuff just disappeared like water. Do I know where it went? Heavens, no.
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Used bookstores, fair trade products, and locally sourced food/baskets/pottery are favorites, in addition to monthly outings with my kids.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Electronics/beauty products/new furniture or household items (I’m using things left by my grandparents & living in their house, have done some changes & repairs but free/thrift is excellent).
Basically, I’m not tempted by anything over $50 that’s not a necessity😊
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
Ironically, this happened at Christmas-totally out of the blue.
I cut it in half & split that half between my kids’ college fund, spent $100 on myself as a Christmas gift, and I’m saving the rest for new tires within the next few months
10. What’s the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?
Easiest is so many parts of living frugal are just natural, like it didn’t occur to me that packing my lunch/making my own coffee/repairing ripped things is abnormal or cost effective-I just did it, then reading Kristen opened my eyes to a lot of neat saves, things I do that I didn’t even consider frugal!
The hardest-it gets really old being on a tight budget sometimes, even looking at the end game or the why.
I do try to do special things for myself & kids as possible (new to us book, sweet treat, adventures on the cheap, etc) in addition to choosing gratitude (Thankful Thursday anyone? Plus the Examen habit-I write down gifts daily, I must for my heart)
11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
Living in NW Arkansas is Walmart headquarters land.
So I have watched the cost of living skyrocket in the last 20 years but wages haven’t caught up yet. And the community resources & infrastructure are still trying to catch up-namely trails/CSA or food salvage/affordable theater/art/farmers markets-things that used to be affordable but have shot up with everything else.
There’s always been garage sales/flea markets, library, state parks, fishing. But generally, most things have gone up in cost.
This is a challenge that is usually a game for my mom & me, how to beat the system, how to score needs/wants (carhart coveralls for a $1 or a free day pass to a climbing gym most recently) for practically nothing.
12. What frugal tips have you tried and abandoned?
Cost comparison or coupons-my time is limited. Basically, Aldi’s/Sam’s are the most affordable & that’s the best I can manage right now!
13. What single action or decision has saved you the most money over your life?
Except for that one-off year of stupidity, the deliberate intentional mindset of “Do I need it/can I afford it/do I have something else to sub for this/can I fix it??” It’s reminiscent of the WWII mantra, in fact!
14. How has reading The Frugal Girl changed you?
As mentioned, this blog has changed my POV on what’s “actually” frugal, so that makes me feel more successful & victorious!
15. Which is your favorite type of post at the Frugal Girl and why?
Thankful Thursday, 5 Frugal Things, and her way of graciously sharing her faith but loving everyone here
16. Did you ever receive any financial education in school or from your parents?
From my mother: she taught me mostly everything including checkbook balancing, saving, investing, economics, etc. It clicked with me early (as we saw above) so anything that smacks of poor management gives me hives.
17. Do you have any tips for frugal travel or vacations?
Similar to many others, we pack snacks & cook on trips. We have several food intolerances/needs so cooking is just mostly easier/cheaper. I usually take laundry pods & wash clothes wherever for less luggage/cost.
We don’t travel much anymore, so I enjoy reading everyone else’s tricks.
Jennifer, it was fun to read about your life! We have a lot in common…our age, a divorce, a nursing career (though mine has not even started!), and I smiled when I saw you’d spent time applying for scholarships. Me too!
As a seasoned nurse, do you have any tidbits of advice for me?
Your grapevine is beautiful! I’m assuming it produces seeded grapes, so I’m wondering…how do you remove the seeds for jam/juice?