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Meet a Reader | Shelagh

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Last week, I put out a call asking for some reader volunteers from outside the U.S. because I thought it would be fun to get a peek into the frugal life in other countries.

Shelagh was one of the first ones to send the set of questions back, and I’m delighted we get to meet her today!

1. Tell us a little about yourself

I’m Canadian.

I grew up in a Toronto suburb but since 1999, I’ve lived with my husband in Cobourg; if you jumped into a boat in Rochester and headed north and slightly west across Lake Ontario, you’d land on our beautiful town beach.

Shelagh in a flower garden.

Me in our lovely garden for which I can take no credit; my husband has the green thumb in this family, and creates predominantly with plants gifted or dug up beside a country road.

Our 20-year-old son has been home with us since his university shifted online in spring 2020 but he is happily anticipating returning to UBC for September.

I have the best job – I am a high school librarian.

My school year is filled with research, readers’ advisory, and teenagers: while the pandemic made this past year particularly challenging, I find my work very meaningful and can’t wait to be back in person with kids this fall.

An outdoor dinner table set for entertaining.

I love to cook for friends; we’ve only just been able to get our second vaccinations in Ontario, so last weekend was our first social luncheon in well over a year.

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

I’ve lost track of time but it’s been well over a decade. My son is around the same age as Lisey and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow up ‘together’.

I’ve followed a number of blogs related to personal finance for years now and find Kristen’s approach to be remarkably authentic, kind and inclusive.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

I didn’t learn much about personal finance while I was growing up. After running up some credit card debt and some student loans during university, I needed a new approach and started reading finance magazines and blogs.

I am inspired by Kristen’s journey along with that of Katy (The NonConsumer Advocate), Sarah (Budget Girl), and Nicole (FrugalChicLife), and the more I learn, the more excited I am about saving money.

I’m definitely not the most frugal person, but I try.

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Note from Kristen: I realized as I was putting this post together that I have met all three of the bloggers Shelagh mentioned above.

Budget Girl and me in 2019:

The Budget Girl and The Frugal Girl

Nicole is in this group shot, second from the left, next to me, also 2019:

Kristen's mastermind group

And here’s Katy and me, back in 2014.

Kristen and Katy, the NonConsumer Advocate.

Back to Shelagh:

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

Two key things drive me.

One is best summed up by “saving money where I can so I have money for what I want”, so I’m frugal in some areas to accommodate other financial goals (see Disney below).

The other is related to environment & ethics; I am very concerned about what’s going into landfills, so I try to thrift for most clothes and many household items and buy high quality otherwise (eg. my Land’s End swimsuit isn’t inexpensive but will last for years).

5. What’s your best frugal win?

I’m pretty good at avoiding food waste.

A pork chop can become a sandwich for lunch, stir-fried rice for dinner, and an omelette for breakfast.

I love roasting a chicken not only because it’s delicious, but for the carcass (making stock is the best way to clean out the veggie crisper).

Like Kristen, I define breakfast very loosely, so I’m happy to eat cold curry or tuna salad to get it used up.

6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?

Not the worst, but I wish we’d made more lump-sum payments on our mortgage. We paid it off last fall and it feels so good, I wish we’d made it happen earlier.

I also spent a ridiculous amount of money on shoes in my 20s & 30s.

7. What’s one thing you splurge on?

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.

Experiences.

I saved for 3 years for 1 week at Disney World when our son was 9 years old.

Some may argue that staying onsite was a frugal fail but it made the dream of his wonderful godmother come true and remains a treasured memory now that she has passed.

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

Replacing appliances before they’re beyond fixing.

Besides the waste of money, I cannot stomach them going to the dump (although slightly offset by scrap metal recycling).

My longtime goal of renovating our 1953 kitchen is finally in sight, and while shiny new matching appliances would be lovely, I’m very happy to keep using what we have until they’re beyond repair. And I won’t be replacing them with the top of the line.

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

Put it in the appliance-replacement fund for a new fridge or stove, whichever goes first.

empty fridge drawers

Or the car replacement fund (we take good care of our 2007 & 2008 vehicles but know we’ll need to replace at least one in the near future).

10. Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but use your public library!

People find it funny that while I’m an avid reader, I don’t own many books beyond my Lucy Maud Montgomeries, Louisa May Alcotts, and my beloved vintage cookbooks.

This doesn’t seem odd to me because I’m a librarian – I use the library!

Public libraries are a treasure trove of books, DVDs, magazines. thoughtful programming and more (on top of the fact that they are pillars of equitable access to information!)

A view from a hammock with a book in a person's lap.

Where you can find me in the summer (if you’re interested, see @bookremarks on IG for what I think about what I read)

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Shelagh, thanks so much for answering my questions.

I have another one for you; I notice that the frugal bloggers you follow all hail from America. Does the advice on American blogs ever feel irrelevant to Canadian life?

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Readers, the floor is yours if you have questions and comments for Shelagh!

WIS, WWA | 4th of July week
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