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Meet a Reader | Megan from California

Megan emailed me a little nervously because she and her husband are not super-duper frugal. But this is “Meet A Reader” not, “Meet Only Super Frugal Readers”. There are all sorts of reasons people hang out here, and some of those reasons have nothing to do with frugality. 🙂

So, here’s Megan!

1. Tell us a little about yourself

I’m 40 years old, married with two sons who are 11 and 7 years old. I live in the desert in Southern California, and my husband and I are both engineers.

Megan in black car.

Me in one of my money mistakes!

We are privileged in that we both have good-paying jobs and have more than enough money to cover the bills. We don’t live super frugally, but we do live well within our means and try not to be wasteful with our resources.

desert flowers.

The desert sure is pretty after it rains

2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?

I started following Kristen on Instagram after she was on a podcast I listened to (Best of Both Worlds, probably?).

I only started reading the blog when I saw Kristen’s post about her separation and was curious what had happened. I really wish I’d started reading the blog when I started following her on Instagram because it’s a lovely place to hang out.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

When I got my first job in high school, my parents said I had to save a percentage of every paycheck.

As a foolish young high school kid, that rule annoyed me because I wanted to spend ALL of my paycheck, but I still saved a chunk of it because I had no choice.

I actually became personally interested in saving money after the embarrassing money mistake(s) I’ll tell you about in a couple of questions. 😀

4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?

I like to have money saved because of the sense of security that we could cover most emergency expenses that arise. I made some foolish choices shortly after graduating college, burning through my savings and running up credit card bills.

I still remember how long it took to pay that off and never want to be there again.

5. What’s your best frugal win?

This is largely a case of being in the right place at the right time, but my husband and I really lucked out when we were ready to buy a house. We bought our house in March 2009, during some of the worst of the recession and the housing bubble bursting.

brown house.

The house!

We bought one of many foreclosed houses on the market for much less than the original buyer had paid, and now our house is worth much more than what we paid for it. We’re not looking to sell any time soon, but it is very nice to enjoy a smaller mortgage payment every month.

6. What’s an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?

I think of the period of my life right after college my “quarter life crisis,” which included a series of money mistakes.

After I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get an engineering job, so I just continued in my college job of restaurant manager. That would have been just fine, except I also decided I wanted to buy a fancy car and go out to nice meals a bunch with my boyfriend at the time.

Needless to say, my restaurant manager salary didn’t support the life I was trying to live.

gray car.

the Very Fun, Very Fancy lemon

After about a year as a restaurant manager after college, I decided to give an engineering job a try, knowing that I could always quit if I didn’t like it. You’d think this would be the end of the mistakes, but no, I still had some learning to do.

I racked up more debt to move to California, then the fancy car turned out to be a lemon, requiring a bunch of expensive repairs.

I decided I was better off trading in the fancy car, but doubled down on poor car choices by getting a brand-new, completely unpractical sports car.

Megan in black car.

The Completely Unpractical Sports Car

After two years trying to live with a car that I couldn’t really even fit groceries in, I finally made a good choice and traded in the sports car for a car that was both fun and practical. I had that car for 10 years, long after I was done with car payments.

car on dry desert ground.

Goldilocks, Fun and Practical. Also, when you live in a desert, sometimes you drive on dry lakebeds for fun. 😀

7. What’s one thing you splurge on?

I still splurge on cars, but now I’m smart about it. I still want to drive a fun car, but I also make sure the car I choose is practical enough to cover my needs.

Like I said, I drove my last car for 10 years, and I hope to do the same with my current car.

blue car

Electric Goldilocks, more fun, more practical

8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?

Travel. This might change as my kids get older, but the thought of traveling just sounds like a bunch of logistical headaches and poor sleep in hotel rooms.

We make regular trips to visit family, but don’t really do any other traveling.

9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?

Put it in our index fund investment account.

10. What’s the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?

I think I have a fairly natural inclination to being frugal, so it’s easy for me to forgo buying things.

The hardest is passing that frugal inclination on to my kids. They want me to buy all the things.

I’m not going to buy them all the things, but I have no idea how to stop them from wanting them (or if that’s even my job as their mom). I try to set a good example, so hopefully that’s a good start.

11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?

Not really.

orange desert flowers.

12. Did you ever receive any financial education in school or from your parents?

My parents did a really good job of providing me financial education. I still remember that they bought a kit for me with fake checks and a fake checkbook to balance, using money in the Bank of the Parents.

I remember my mom showing me how she balanced the checkbook every month and paid bills. They taught me the importance of saving some of every paycheck and paying off credit cards every month even though I didn’t want to hear that back then.

I went off the rails during my “quarter-life crisis,” but they gave me the tools I needed to come back from that. I hope I can teach my kids as well as my parents taught me.

13. How has reading The Frugal Girl changed you?

I really appreciate Kristen’s approach to frugality, where it’s important to balance penny-pinching with quality of life. She gives words to the way I try to live, and it’s really validating to see someone else doing it so well.

Also, I now eat the end pieces of loaves of bread, and I’ve learned that you can revitalize wilted veggies with a simple soak in some water. 😀


Megan, it’s funny that you found me through Best of Both Worlds. When I did that podcast interview, I was separated and living with my parents, but I hadn’t announced it on my blog yet. I did let Sarah and Laura know, though, so that they wouldn’t ask me any questions that would have awkward answers.

I like your Very Impractical Sports Car; it is beautiful! I’m not much of a car girl, but if I did not need to think about being practical, I would 100% buy myself a Subaru BRZ down the road.

I like your answer to the not-splurging question; sometimes the internet can almost make you feel like it’s wrong to enjoy being a bit of a homebody. I personally have never been a big traveler, but I think that’s something I still might need to figure out about myself. Is that because of certain circumstances? Might I enjoy travel more under different circumstances? I don’t know yet!

plane wing.

I know that southern California is a pretty expensive place to live and I wonder, how does that affect frugal living? Are you surrounded by affluence, and does that make it feel weird to try to save money?

Or are you surrounded by people in over the heads financially?

Readers, the floor is yours!

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Wendy G

Saturday 2nd of December 2023

Hi Megan-I love your post. Thank you for sharing. I want to respond to your comment that you and your husband are 'privileged in that we both have good-paying jobs and have more than enough money to cover the bills' - girl, this is not a privilege! you both worked hard to go to college and get an engineering degree - you made the hard decision to move from your home to California to better yourself - you work hard for your engineering pay! I applaud you for this. IT IS NOT EASY TO BE A FEMALE IN THAT WORLD! (I know because I am a female in that world.)

I love the Tesla. (I think that is a model 3.) I make parts for Tesla S, X, and Cybertruck and am very proud to be associated with that. I do not own one because the miles on the battery does not make sense for me because I drive more than 130 miles per day to the plant and there are NO charging stations locally. If one ever becomes available - I'm in!


Thursday 30th of November 2023

Thank you for sharing. It’s good to read the story of someone who’s made a few money mistakes, considering that I’ve made what feels like a lot! I aim for frugality but don’t always succeed. I do keep trying though.

Anita Isaac

Wednesday 29th of November 2023

thanks for posting. love the photos of your cars. a really interesting read. you are lucky to have parents who taught you about money. my parents just argued about my mom spending too much. i don't own a car but i love to travel.

L Ruth

Tuesday 28th of November 2023

I also found Kristen after her Best of Both Worlds interview and am not super frugal. Thanks for sharing your story!

Kim from Philadelphia

Tuesday 28th of November 2023

My 17 year old son just loves to buy “stuff” He uses his money from his isrtvtine job, but it still makes me cringe! I’m finding the best way to have him “learn” how to manage his money and be responsible is to allow him to make money mistakes. Has $5.36 in his account after buying a new PlayStation? Looks like you will not be spending any money until your next paycheck. We have him pay for his car insurance and his gas as well. Hoping some good habits are learned during this tedious process, as he is not frugal like his parents right now

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