Know what’s funny? In a previous Meet a Reader post, we met MB in MN. Which is pretty similar to MB in the Midwest!
This midwestern reader has 11 children, though, which is why she comments under Mbmom11. 🙂
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in the Midwest with my family. I have 11 kids, ages 9-29, and two cats.
I’ve been teaching part time for over 25 years. I teach because I love my subject and it gets me out of the house.
I like to bake and read, and I spend time chauffeuring kids to activities and games. I volunteer at my kids’ school at lunch time and other events.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I loved the article, so I started hitting up your archives. This was a time I had been thinking about not teaching anymore and staying home, so I was looking for new ideas to be thrifty.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I think I’ve always liked to save money.
Growing up in a large family, we had enough, but with the specter of inflation and bad job market (gotta love the 70’s and 80’s) , there was definitely a feeling of needing to make sure you had a cushion. My parents were good at guiding careful spending habits without it being a burden.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
Why do I want to save money?
I want my family to have what they need and be comfortable. I would like to retire and not have to worry about every last penny, and to be able to travel a little and treat my kids.
One of my children has special needs, and we need to look to their future and make sure the kiddo has resources to draw on to be comfortable.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
My best frugal win is marrying my husband. He is so talented at DIY. Home repairs, construction, electrical, auto repair, technology – he’ll try anything after suitable research of YouTube and other resources.
I should have known he was special as he asked for a set of “Time-Life” home repair books when he was in college. He is also thrifty and is much better at budgeting than I.
A more typical thing we did was to get a mortgage with a low interest rate, refinance when it made sense, and pay extra on the principle from the start. It has cut many years off our mortgage.
6. What’s an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?
I have made many money mistakes over the years – when I was single, I bought so many clothes and books!
However, recently, I bought a specific headset for my special needs kid – it was to help with speech therapy. Highly rated, easy to use, and it sits gathering dust.
Child did not like it, so we don’t use it.
I also spend too much money on clothes for this kid (not like designer, just Old Navy type!) because I want my kid to look nice and getting clothes that fit can be hard. But then I look in the drawers and realize I just bought 12 pairs of pants when only 5 would do.
I also hate mending – which is not frugal at all.
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
It’s not a big splurge, but I take my kids at home out to McDonald’s for lunch once a week. (I’ve been doing it for 28 years now?) we started doing it after a family activity on my days off, and I’ve kept to it even when times were very tight.
We rarely go out to eat or do anything, so it’s a nice treat, a special time together, and a way to socialize them about eating at restaurants. I do blow money on other things, but nothing consistently.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
I am not tempted to splurge on jewelry, make-up, or manicures. Teenager me would be very disappointed about the lack of glitz and glamor in my life!
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
If I had $1000 dropped in my lap, my first question would it count as income? I have to be careful not to earn to much as we need to maintain certain limits to qualify for college grants and funding. So if it’s income, I would turn it down.
If I could spend it without strings, I might just donate it to a food pantry. I have what I need right now.
I think for my flight of fancy, I would need a lot more than $1000. 😉
10. What’s the hardest/easiest part of being frugal?
The hard part of being frugal is waiting – when you’re trying to do things yourself, you need time, energy, and money to align.
Also, trying to decide if this is something would be better to hire out? Special tools and equipment can be expensive.
(I did convince my husband he didn’t need to redo the roof – hiring someone who had the manpower, equipment, and experience made more sense. He got his roofing urges out when he build our garage last year though!)
I’m not sure if being frugal is easy for me, just habit.
11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
In my area, housing is cheap. My home would easily be 5-6 times more expensive on the East Coast.
12. What’s a frugal tip you’ve tried and abandoned?
I have tried homemade laundry detergent and abandoned it – time consuming and it didn’t work well in my machine. We have very hard water here.
No more coupons either – I used them a lot when my older kids were young, but they certainly aren’t as prevalent.
I don’t make homemade hummus anymore either – we don’t have enough people eating it now, so it just goes to waste.
13. What single thing has saved you the most money over time?
The single thing that saved me a lot of money over time was not having any student loans for college. I earned a variety of scholarships, and I joke that I made a profit in going to school – the extra scholarship money paid for books, a printer, and other expenses so I didn’t have to spend my own money.
Once I was out of college, without debt, I had the freedom to make choices about what I would do and where I would work. That is priceless.
14. Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers.
A frugal tip is to think small. We have a big family, but we live in a small house – we use bunk beds and make do.
It’s much cheaper to stay in place than to move to a bigger home with more expenses, higher taxes, etc.
Offer smaller servings – people can always come back for more, but then there is less waste. Even something as cutting up stew meat into smaller chunks can make a meal go farther – the flavor the same, but it can be divided up more easily.
My kids would also rather have 3 small cookies over a single big cookie (worth 4-6 cookies) – it feels like more!
MB, I love your cats! They are both so cute; I wanted to reach through the screen and pet them.
You said you’d need more than $1000 for your flight of fancy, so now I wanna hear more about your dream. Do tell.
Two of your answers echo other FG readers; lots of frugal readers here aren’t tempted by glitz and glamour, AND quite a few readers said their best frugal win was marrying their husbands (that always makes me smile.)
You’ve fed a LOT of mouths for a lot of years; in addition to your “think small” advice, do you have any other tips to share with us? I imagine you’ve learned a lot from feeding a small army!