When Kaitlin sent in her responses and I saw that she included pictures of herself, I was all, “Woohoo!” It’s so much fun when you guys include pics of yourselves; putting a face with a name (especially a name I frequently see in the comments) is super fun for me.
Now whenever I see Kaitlin’s comments, my brain will pop up with a little picture of her face. 🙂
1. Tell us a little about yourself
Hi! I’m Kaitlin, a Child Wrangler, Soother of (most) Ailments and Honorary Generalized Medical Provider and Advocate to 3 kids that are virtual triplets (all born in under 22 months).
One child is disabled and one is hearing impaired, so while I jest about my medical prowess, I can also hold my own in a room of doctors. I’m sure all of the caregivers reading this understand. 😊
My husband’s employer moves us a lot, sometimes on a whim, so I’ve lived in 5 states and 8 homes in the last 13 years.
Currently, we are in Minnesota (moved Labor Day weekend!) where we bought a house without stepping into it first. It’s an 1893 Victorian home that was a rental to some pretty rough tenants at some point and requires a lot of expected TLC.
My life right now consists of boxes and home improvement projects. In my free time, I like to bake bread (thanks to you Kristen!) sew and enjoy the outdoors.
I also have 2 dogs: 10-year-old husky/shepherd mix Tōk and 6-month-old cattle dog mix Birch. Life is busy in our house.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I think almost 12 years.
I started right after I married and we were living on a middle-class income (a huge pay jump from my teaching days) and had just paid off my husband’s school loans, leaving us with no savings. I wanted some ideas on how to be frugal that did not involve couponing.
It’s the only blog I read, and I continue to stick around because of the encouraging community.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I grew up in a frugal home (6 kids, only one parent worked, in an expensive county outside Philly). My mom is really good at shopping deals and waiting until she can double up offers at stores to get the most for her money.
Christmas gifts always had the price tag visible so we could play “How much do you think I paid for that?” Her deal-hunting success is almost as thrilling to her as people receiving their gifts.
I wanted to be like her but none of her deal-hunting skills made it to me so I had to figure out how to carve out my own path. It turns out my path isn’t nearly as frugal as most people on this blog, but I try to use my money intentionally at least.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
I believe that money is a resource God has given me to use wisely. I want to be responsible with it so I have plenty to give away to people who need it.
Also, I want my disabled son to be set up for life.
His needs are great enough that he will either have to make an upper middle-class salary with fantastic benefits to pay for his medical needs or have less than $2000 to his name to receive government healthcare.
If we plan well we can use some provisions in the tax laws to provide a way for him to have access to money to live on and still receive medical benefits.
I also want my kids to understand stuff doesn’t bring joy.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
Housing. We bought a modest home in 2015, planning to be there for 3 years (expected a work move at that point), ended up being there for six years, making some improvements, and selling at the peak of the housing boom in 2021.
We made a significant amount of money on that house—enough to say that our housing for six years was more than free. It was the luck of the draw though—not something we planned.
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
10ish years ago my husband and I bought some nice leather couches that allowed us to sit next to each other without my dipping towards him. They are great couches but I wish I had picked another color.
Since they’re great couches, we will probably have them for another 10-20 years. I should have waited until I had a better sense of self and style.
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Fair-trade clothing (or as close to it as I can get). I was a teenager when a clothing factory in Bangladesh burned killing over 100 people, mostly women, because there weren’t proper safety protocols in place. It still horrifies me that they couldn’t get out, and that factory was making clothes for American stores.
How horrifying to think that the clothes I was wearing could be made in conditions like that?
So I buy more expensive clothes but have fewer of them. This summer I had 2 pairs of linen pants and 7 neutral shirts that I could pair with the pants. It made getting dressed easy and it feels better on my conscience.
Also: good shoes. I have almost flat feet despite all the exercises I do to strengthen my feet, so I get higher-quality shoes that fit my foot and provide good support for activities like running and hiking. Again, more expensive but I have fewer of them.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Handbags, purses, wallets, pedicures, super trendy clothing, most seasonal decor, and anything I’d rarely use and have to keep moving.
If I don’t use it all the time. I don’t want it lying around or taking up storage space.
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
Put it towards housing projects.
As I type, the house is getting new plumbing, and we want to restore some original elements (8 ft. doors with ornate doorknobs, a fireplace with what we believe is original tiling on the hearth) of the house as we renovate.
10. What’s the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?
Easiest part: I don’t have as much stuff to unpack or figure out how to store in our frequently changing houses. Everyone who has helped us move has commented that we don’t have that much (by American standards) for a family of five, and that includes all of the extra medical equipment we have.
I can’t imagine what unpacking would be like if we had more. I’m going crazy with the chaos as it is.
Hardest part: consumerism is all around us and I feel like I have to say no to my kids a lot.
11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
We contract our own trash pick up and pay by the size of the trash can, so if we make less trash (buy fewer things, recycle, compost) we save money and help the environment.
12. What single action or decision has saved you the most money over your life?
“Only buy something if you love it.”
If I’m on the fence about purchasing something I err on not getting it. Most things I don’t need. Owning more stuff clutters my physical and mental space so I try not own more than what I need for my family and to be generous to people around me.
13. What is something you wish more people knew?
Not frugality related but I think this community cares about people enough it’s pertinent: Caregivers and families with medically complex members (or families in crisis or who have experienced trauma) have so many needs they often can’t articulate a request for help because their brains are so full of other things.
Jump in and offer what you’re available to give, whether it’s a meal on Wednesday night or child care on Tuesday morning from 10-12, or mowing the yard twice a month.
It’s much easier to say yes or no to an offer than guess what a person is willing to do to help and then suggest something to them that they might be interested in.
14. Did you ever receive any financial education in school or from your parents?
My parents recorded in ledgers every penny they spent for the first 25 years of their marriage. I grew up thinking you earned money, tithed 10%, spent the bare minimum and saved the rest, hopefully close to 90%.
Now that I’m an adult, I see that they were spending almost everything my dad made because they put all six of us through private school K-undergrad. Apparently, some years were really tight financially, but I never knew it as a kid. That may be the best education I could have received: know where your money is going.
Use it according to your priorities. But at the end of the day, it does not dictate joy or peace because it’s just money.
15. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?
Kristen has preached contentment and choosing joy often enough that it’s starting to permeate my thinking. The past few years have been so hard (sometimes beautiful hard, sometimes downright ugly), and I’ve begun asking myself in the morning how I can choose joy and be content with what’s going on.
Kaitlin, thank you so much! I am so happy to have gotten to know you and your family a bit better.
And your answer to the last question made my heart so happy. Yay! I am so delighted that you are hunting for the joy that’s mixed in with the hard stuff.