Hey everyone! Today we’re meeting a reader from the south and like me, she’s a Converse fan. I think she has even more pairs than I do, actually!
1. Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Lauren and I live in a small town in the North Georgia mountains.
I am in my early 40s, married, and we have 3 kids who are in elementary school. I am a speech therapist.
I have loved Converse shoes since I was in 4th grade. (I keep it frugal by purchasing on sale and wearing them till they fall apart).
I grew up moving around a lot, including overseas (I LOVE learning about other cultures and traveling!!). We’ve been living in our current house for 6 years and it’s the longest I’ve ever lived in the same house in my life.
We really like our house, which was a frugal win! Our house is older—built in 1960, but it is sturdy, has some fun features (like the pictured phone shelf and bookshelves that used be a built-in planter!), and we can repurpose a lot of the space as needed as our kids grow.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
10 or 11 years. A friend sent me a link to it and I’ve been reading ever since!
I don’t comment often at all, but I read nearly every post and usually the comments, too! I learn so much and get so much encouragement and lots of ideas.
I don’t subscribe to many blogs, but this is definitely one of my favorites. I also really love the recipes! Ramen, Aussie Chicken, and Baked Potato Soup are among our favorites!
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I am naturally a “saver.” My first consistent job was a babysitter as a young teen and I felt really satisfied with the results of saving, even in little $25 increments. I have had a job of some sort ever since then (fast food, switchboard operator, resident assistant, Christian bookstore, elementary school teacher, B&B restaurant waitress…).
My parents helped me start a savings account and a checking account, so I could have responsibility and ownership over the money I earned from an early age.
My husband and I were both in our 30s when we got married, so we already had a good bit of time on our own (and the habits that go with it). We both tend toward the frugal/saver side of things, so that was helpful as we started life together.
I also became a mother a good 10 years after many of my friends, so I’ve been the happy (and grateful!) recipient of lots and lots of hand-me-downs. And I’ve been glad to pass them along to others.
When we had our 3rd child, we started aggressively saving for a minivan. We bought a used one in cash a couple of years ago and I LOVE it.
It was so worth the extra time squeezing 3 carseats into our previous car to save all the money on interest/a car loan. We tend to drive our cars (and most everything else!) into the ground before we replace it.
I love our library and get almost all of my books there or secondhand. Georgia has a great app for searching the card catalog of all the libraries in the state and requesting interlibrary loans. This is really useful since our branch is very small! It is a small building with a big heart!!
It thrilled me when the librarians introduced me to a new employee as “one of our regulars.” In 2021, I also started a book club with 2 friends and we’ve since added 3 more members! We meet once a month and the only rule is that the book has to be available at the library!!
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
I like not having to worry about having enough money for the month.
We “pre-decide” a lot about our finances, and that helps a whole lot. All of our retirement, giving to our church, mortgage, and bills are paid at the first of the month and then we allocate other percentages to short-term and mid-term emergency funds.
That way, we can give to others as needs arise and have some discretionary spending and not be concerned about running out of money at the end of the month.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
We were approved for a much more expensive bracket, but we bought well within our means before the housing market went crazy. We have a creek and lots and lots of trees in our yard.
They are great shade in the summer and SO MANY leaves in the fall. It’s a good spot for our family to grow.
Our van is another one. It felt great to buy it outright after saving up for so long.
6. What’s a regrettable money mistake you’ve made?
I missed a credit card payment once (by accident—I thought I had scheduled the online payment and hadn’t). The interest that accrued over just one month (and I think the billed amount was less than $1000) horrified me and I’ve never missed a payment since.
And to give credit where credit’s very due (pun intended, haha), my husband is the one who now handles paying our bills each month and he’s very organized and careful about it!!
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Groceries are a major one. I wouldn’t call it a splurge, but more of an allowance. I really like to have good food. I feel better all the way around when we have good options to choose from.
Travel is another one. I really love to travel and it’s becoming more feasible now that our kids are older. It is money I consider well spent. Nine times out of ten, I would rather give and receive an experience over an object.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Concerts, getting hair and nails done, designer clothes/handbags, newest/greatest technology.
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
I would take a trip out west. So many fun places to explore.
10. What’s the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?
Easiest—compounded habits, the space and margin to be ourselves and not to worry about money. It challenges me to be creative and keep a little slower pace of life.
Hardest—FOMO, keeping my contentment in check.
Haha, I always know that I’ve been spending too much time on social media when I start feeling discontent or jealous of what other people are buying or where they’re traveling. (Cue gratitude practices!! Helps me get my perspective back.) I tell my kids *and myself* frequently that we can celebrate others without feeling bad for ourselves.
11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
Small-town living can be both cheap and expensive. Recycling is very limited. We have to drive 40 minutes + to get to most of our chosen medical providers.
On the other hand, property is relatively cheap, and all of our kids’ schools are 10 minutes or less away from our house. Not having a lot of chain stores nearby (Target and Hobby Lobby and, unfortunately, Aldi are all 45 min + away) helps me not to spend on impulse.
We enjoy all 4 seasons (I tried to send pictures of each season) and we have a lot of outdoor options to enjoy and state parks that are nearby. We all really like hiking and exploring.
My husband tells his students, “Enjoy the town for what it is, don’t hate it for what it’s not.” This is good advice that can be applied to a lot of life, haha. And there is a lot to appreciate about where I live.
12. Did you ever receive any financial education in school or from your parents?
Not in school. My economics class in high school was a disaster. My parents modeled frugal living and paying off credit card bills in full every month. They paid my tuition for my undergraduate degree, which gave me a huge step ahead financially as a young person. And I hope that we can do the same for our kids!!
And after I loaned a friend some money (I think it was $300 or so?) and didn’t get repaid, my dad told me some great advice—“Don’t give a “loan” unless you can consider it a gift. That way you’re happily surprised if they pay you back and not bitter if they don’t.”
I have used that mindset again and again. I wish that I had learned more about saving for retirement earlier on. I’m learning lots now, but I wish I had been putting money away aggressively starting in my 20s.
13. What is something you wish more people knew?
Little things can go a long way. Little habits add up to a big difference.
Frugality is accomplished one decision at a time.
Small, free things like smiling at someone or holding or a door can make all the difference for someone’s day.
14. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?
It has made me not feel so weird or alone in my frugal habits, haha. I also frequently “shop my house” for organization solutions, which is a tip I’m pretty sure I picked up from Kristen.
Lauren, thank you! I’m so happy that my blog has helped you to feel less alone.
I love your Converse collection, of course! And I understand your delight in the van; I saved up for so long to pay cash for my current van and man, it was so satisfying to finally buy it.
I love your husband’s advice about the small town, and I agree with you; I really think that philosophy could be applied to so many things in life.
Monday 22nd of May 2023
I loved reading about Lauren and her life! I have traveled around that area a bit, back-roads style, and wondered what it would be like to live somewhere like that! It’s very pretty, and I think I guessed right about the pros and cons. The house and family are beautiful and Lauren’s gratitude is very apparent. Thank you!
Wednesday 17th of May 2023
"“Enjoy the town for what it is, don’t hate it for what it’s not.”"--This is a great mantra. I am going to share on a town FB page. I too love the public library. It is a great place to continue and expand one's education. Anyone can afford to borrow a book but not all can afford to buy every book that they think they want. Not all books are worth buying. Sometimes I think I want a book for patterns or recipes, etc.; but when I review it from the library I may find only the one item I initially saw.
Jane in FL
Tuesday 16th of May 2023
Hi Lauren...loved your essay today. You have great values.
All 3 of our boys had speech therapy in school...1st and 2nd grade I think. They loved their "speech teacher"...she did a good job; all 3 are in education and all have masters and one a Ph.D. They are 49, 52, and 53 now. So, you may guess that I am in my late 70's and my hubby is 80.
No minivans when our kids were little, but we DID have a monster station wagon with 3 rows of seats (back one facing the back)... It was red with "simulated wood grain" trim. No car seats were required, and I think that we had seatbelts in that station wagon, but they weren't required. I brought all 3 babies home from the hospital in my arms in the front seat. We did have a baby carrier of sorts and the baby rode with me in the front seat facing the back, with the seat resting on the dashboard! Guess we survived all the non-safety. That's where Moms learned to fling their arm out to the side when stopping quickly. (sometimes I still do that!!!)
Anyway, sorry for the trip down memory lane...what jolted me was the phone niche...we had that in our first house and also a built-in corner cabinet in the dining room...and a mail slot at the front door where the mailman, on foot, would drop the letters in the slot. Also, my grandma had a phone room (closet) near the front door where the phone lived and there was a chair in there and a shelf where the phone sat with her address book and paper and pencil. As a child I liked to sit in there and close the door.
Thanks for a happy post today...I am smiling with many memories...
Linda in Canada
Tuesday 16th of May 2023
Hi Lauren, such a lovely interview, I love your and your husbands mindset on everything. I think my favourite quote is "Frugality is accomplished one decision at a time"; as it applies to me it rang very true. Step by step.
Tuesday 16th of May 2023
I also was a minivan mom of 3 and I loved that van. Everyone had their own seat and window, no bickering. LOL, at least not on car rides.
And my niece graduated from Toccoa Falls and I was fortunate enough to be able to travel there and stay in a wonderful B&B. I loved that area.
Saturday 20th of May 2023
Haha, yes, it cuts way down on bickering in the car. Except that w 3 kids, I have one who complains if being "lonely" when seated in the row w an empty seat, lol.