Comments From The Secretly Frugal

by Katy on October 25, 2009 · 10 comments


The recent column titled, “Shh . . . it’s the Secretly Frugal” garnered the most amazing and inspiring comments.

Here are just a few, although I would highly recommend reading the entirety. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to share your thoughts and stories in the comments section.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


We are somewhat in the opposite situation. We are frugal to the core and have always been. (With the exception of a brief–educational– stint into too much credit card use in our 20s)

That frugalocity allowed us to buy a small house in a very nice neighborhood where the public schools are awesome and also allowed us to build a large nest egg. We would look to be an average American family to most of the country, but this is a much more expensive area. So here we appear to be relatively poor.

Since our house is smaller and older than many of those in town and the fact that we don’t even try to keep up with the Jones, we are sometimes looked down upon. Usually the rude behavior is by adults who are younger than us and don’t see us as being someone they can use to further themselves. I figure anyone who is rude to us because of how we dress etc. really isn’t very happy with their own lives.

We, however, are very blessed, but just don’t advertise it to the neighbors. What people don’t realize is that my husband retired from his 9 to 5 job 9 years ago at the age of 41 and has only held short-term, part-time jobs since. I work part time at a job I love so much I forget that I get paid to do it. ( I recently turned down a promotion that would have doubled my salary, because I didn’t want the stress. It would have increased my standard of living and lowered my quality of life.)

We are financially independent with enough in savings to live frugally for the rest of our lives. We have time to be with our kids and each other, we often go to concerts and plays, we go on a big trip every couple of years, and participate in rewarding volunteer work in the community.

While we may be poor in merchandise, we are rich in time and that is something you just can’t buy.


My husband and I are 42 and live in metro Detroit. Our cars are paid off, and we buy almost everything at resale and garage sales. (The house will be paid off in 13 years.) Except for building materials, which he buys at Home Depot; Chris does all the home improvements himself, which has saved us tens of thousands in the three years since we bought our 1941 fixer-upper home. He built the kitchen addition and the garage, sided the house, and is about to gut and re-do the bathroom (including using a light fixture I bought for $10 new at a garage sale).

Other people frequently sneer and act creeped out when I talk about buying clothing at resale, and then I gently remind them, “You eat off silverware at restaurants, no? Do you wash it yourself beforehand?”

As I’ve said here before, some of my co-workers have expressed astonishment and disbelief that I drive a 9-YEAR-OLD CAR. They act as if I’m Amish. I’ll be retiring early; they’ll be working for their new stuff!


I’ve been speaking to my friends and family about the fact that we started to cut down, buy food on sale only, shop at second hand stores and I was surprised to see how many are doing the same thing. I was amazed. This is happening here in Montreal, Canada too. We were a lot affected by the American crisis unfortunately but we’re in a better position here than you guys as our laws for mortgages and loans are more restrictives. We can’t borrow for a mortgage we can’t afford and the free healthcare and medication law helps a lot too. Take care!


This all brings to mind one of my favorite books, The Millionaire Next Door. We too live in a pretty nice neighborhood, nice house, we take care of our things. We shop a lot from thrifts and yard sales, do our own landscaping, and save cash to do updates on our home. What’s funny to me is how people always comment about how lucky we are (like previous poster said) to be able to do improvements on our home—comments are made by friends who run out every week to buy dvd’s, music, go out to dinner, etc. What they don’t get is that we’re making lots of things for ourselves, doing a lot of vegetable gardening, that sort of thing, plus what we are NOT doing: eating out a lot, eating convenience foods, buying consumable things like movies, music and books, shopping for fun. So yeah, at the end of the year when the IRA’s and 529’s are fully funded, if we have something leftover, we make an improvement to the house or take a nice vacation. But again, our friends only see the nice new countertops or the fun vacation.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura October 25, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I love the silverware analogy. My friends and relatives think I am crazy for shopping at second hand stores. I am totally going to borrow this to explain it to them in the future! Great stories.


charlie aka oldboyscout2 October 25, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Gentle Hearts,
All great ideas above. To nit-pic, instead of “up-dates” , do improvements to home. Have read $1,000,000 next door. Everyone should.


Tracy Balazy October 26, 2009 at 8:38 am

Thanks for including my comment in the roundup, Katy!!


thenonconsumeradvocate October 26, 2009 at 9:23 am

No – -thank you for your great, well written comment!

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Angela October 26, 2009 at 10:08 am

My favorite is if you drive a 9-year-old car, you must be Amish. That’s funny! What does that make my friend who drives a 70s car (not fixed up or anything, just old?)


Rona October 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm

My husband loves the clothes I got at the clothing swap!
Two months ago I would had never thought to swap my clothes but we’re both unemployed and there was no extra money for a winter wardrobe.
There are people that don’t talk to us but that’s okay. We’re actually having more fun these days not having much!


Carla October 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm

My husband and I have our extravagances — we like to eat out and do it often (but frequently sharing a meal even then). We are quite frugal in other areas. Our house we paid off about 3 years early and both cars were paid in cash. Several years back we bought a little used Corolla, needing something small and economical to buzz around in. A year after we bought it the salesman called me at home and asked if we were ready to trade up? My response to him: “We just got rid of a 20+ year old car with over 300,000 miles on it and the ONLY reason we did was because my husband no longer has the time to work on it. Does that tell you anything?” He laughed, thanked me and hung up.

We have a lovely, comfortable house, two perfectly driveable cars, clothes to keep us warm and enough food to get a little fat on. We’re hugely blessed. Why should we try to keep up with the Joneses?


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