It’s Time to Talk About Money

by Katy on October 12, 2014 · 50 comments

I think about non-consumerism all the time. I think about keeping my family’s finances under control and sourcing free and almost free necessities and keeping my house decluttered and creating a lovely home without budgeting any money for the cause and how to scrounge extra money and frugal yet tasty meal planning and how little laundry detergent I can use before the clothes start to smell and finding great library materials and batching my errands to save gas and finding great free entertainment  . . . and . . . and . . . and . . .

And then I talk about non-consmerism. Even though it’s taboo and considered tacky to talk about money in this country, I say it needs to happen. Because others always think they’re the only ones worrying about money, and how to pull everything together with limited resources. (I know there are some who have limitless resources, but there are few and far between in my social circle.)

When we don’t talk about money, people think that having limited financial resources is shameful and to be kept a secret.

I was once talking about frugality with a patient at work and she was shocked. She’d come to America from a lower income nation and thought that American born people had no financial worries whatsoever. I explained that very few Americans aren’t working to figure out how to make their money stretch. It was an eye opener for her.

Just yesterday I picked my son up from a sleepover at a friend’s home. I’d never been to this friend’s house before and I was impressed with their affluent neighborhood and gorgeous historic home. I then talked to my son about it as we drove home to get ready for soccer. We talked about how their house might seem fancy to us, but that others have that same reaction to our house. We may know that we bought a revolting fixer-upper and that all our all our stuff is either free or from thrift shops, but others don’t. But when my son’s lower income friends come over, they see us as having a fancy house. But that kid whose family owns a house in a lower income area? He’s impressive to someone who doesn’t own their home! And that friend who lives in an historic home in an affluent area? They likely have friends who live in an even better houses.

It never ends. (Unless you’re Bill Gates, in which case it does end.)

I then sat on the sidelines of my son’s soccer game and had this same conversation with a fellow soccer mom. I know that she sees our home as fancy, but I want there to be transparency about how much work it took to create our nice home. I want there to be an openness when it comes to talking about money.

My husband and I do not have the money to spend out without consequence. It would be a great story if I could say that because of the buy-nothing-new Compact and associated frugality we now have fully funded college funds and hugely plush savings accounts, but that would be a lie. Neither my husband nor I have high paying jobs, and our fixer-upper house sucked us dry in the early days.

I could keep my family’s money matters a secret, and then you could enjoy the false impression that you’re the only family that scrimps and saves. But that does you a disservice.

Having conversations about money has been greatly beneficial to me. Both because I’ve been able to share ideas and inspiration, but also because I then get a chance to learn new tricks and sources.

None of us live in our own hermetically sealed bubble. We live within communities and we are not alone. But when we abstain from talking about taboo subjects, we keep ourselves isolated from others.

Honesty in communication is not to be feared, and deepens relationships.

So let’s talk about money, let’s banish the shame of not being wealthy.

Let’s banish the money taboo.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynette October 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I wish more people were less ashamed of their finances. Instead of keeping up with Jones’ I have what I have it isn’t much. But I buy used wait for good deals. Don’t eat fancy meats. Don’t go out. But I constantly work towards better and making sure we have what need. I think if more people talked about money we could share and trade the things we have and don’t need for stuff we do we need visa versa


Katy October 12, 2014 at 12:48 pm

And if you and I hadn’t talked about money in D.C., we never would have bonded!


lynette October 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Very true Katy!! See money makes friends :-).


Thevail October 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I agree about the isolation in hiding your finances. I also think it’s easy to talk about money, even our own, without divulging all of our personal info. Being willing to talk about how much it costs to fix-up an older house doesn’t mean I have to tell you how much I have in savings. Maybe someone else could save $1,000 by NOT repeating the plumbing mistake you made! But also, I learned about all the BEST resources for cheap and free stuff in my area from others. I’d never have known about the only Tuesday morning if you’re wearing blue you get 10% off. It’s not intuitive. And the sheer shame that everyone feels having to admit they aren’t great at handling their money is almost too much of a barrier. It’s more socially acceptable to have your finances a mess forever than adfmit you don’t know what you’re doing. Open conversations could help end that for good.


Katy October 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm

So true, thank you for sharing.


Linda M October 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I very much agree! But also so the young….teens and below can see that working for things before buying is the way to go. So much family strife exists with the Jones. The young see their classmates having all new clothes, gadgets, etc and assume it is because these classmates’ parents can afford it. Often, it is that the parents credit cards are maxed out and just living from paycheck to paycheck or on the brink of financial ruin. If they are made aware of it…..they will think that is the way to go.
Katy, your family understands that there are other ways to do things….reusing, repurposing, waiting until you can afford things. You involve your sons in the concept and they are learning excellent things to use later in life as well as now.
I am retired but still want to make sure I get all the bang for my buck that I can. I have learned that if you stretch that dollar it will go a lot farther….and I don’t mind telling people that most of my clothes and my husband’s come from the thrift store…in fact, I am proud of it. By economizing we sometimes don’t “fit in”…..but that is okay….then when we do make friends it is not so we can run out and buy the newest widget to stay up with them.
I really enjoyed this post and agree we need to share our ideas about finance openly….and it doesn’t have to involve figures. That way we can learn from one another. And it helps us appreciate what we have and it sure doesn’t hurt to be reminded how far we have came by being frugal.


samijo October 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Money. We never make enough to qualify for a convehtional mortgage. Heartbreak when financers show your assets or lack of. What gripes me is the system we fight in this realm. Where is the statement od what loving, caring, kind, hard working spouses and parents we are. The whole American economy and class distinctions frustrates me as so much of it is b baased on home ownership, home improvement and home decor. Hooey! I dont care any longer if I ever own a house again. Either the bank or a greedy land owner keeps your hard earned cash.


Lilypad October 12, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I hear you. We “owned” (well, “rented from the bank”, since we never paid them off) 4 houses from 1994-2010. I really never stopped to think how lucky we were, it just seemed like the normal American thing to do. The last one we had to let go as a short sale, since we simply could not afford to keep it and yet could not sell it regularly either. Some relatives tried to make us feel shame about that but it was the best thing to do for our family, our credit got trashed but we moved on. We waited three years and then tried to buy again last year but we don’t have 20% to put down anymore (every dime including over $76,000 down payment that we spent on our last house was gone, of course) so we tried to do an FHA loan (3.5% down). But now with FHA loans, there is about $200 – $250 PER MONTH private mortgage insurance on top of the mortgage which stays on FOR THE LIFE OF THE LOAN. You can’t ever get it taken off, even when you have enough equity. That made it too expensive to buy so we rented again. Yes, we’re still renting, yet don’t owe a dime to anyone, no loans, no credit card balances . And some of my friends who “own” their houses think they are better off than we are because we’re just renters, or they “own” their fancy SUV and look down on our older, paid-off cars. They can’t see our nice big emergency fund and of course we don’t talk about it either. Yet if we had been financially irresponsible again (I totally take the blame for spending too much on the last house we bought and would never do that again) last year and bought even when we couldn’t afford it, everyone would have been so excited about our new place. Then you’re a member of the club, I guess.

Thought-provoking post, Katy.


Katy October 12, 2014 at 4:05 pm

And I sit here in my house that I own and I envy your “nice big emergency fund.” 😉


Anne October 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

And part of this being open about finances is being able to respond in kind to irritating acquaintances/relatives who love to make remarks that somehow always make themselves look successful and you look like a bum.

The older I get, the less likely I am to keep quiet around those kind of remarks.


K D October 13, 2014 at 8:24 am

Have you investigated Habitat for Humanity or similar organizations? It sounds like you might qualify for one of their interest free loans. It is an organization worth supporting, they help individuals for the long run.


Jazzy Red October 13, 2014 at 1:13 pm

The only reason I bought my house is because the mortgage payment is $200 a month LESS than rent would be for this same house. I don’t plan to stay here forever, or pay off the mortgage, either. I’m retired now, and eventually will be renting a smaller place for myself, and won’t have the burden of upkeep and maintenance.


Trish October 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm

This is a very interesting discussion topic. I can talk about money in a very general sense. I became a disciple of Amy Dacyczyn in 1991 after stumbling onto her newsletter. Not a hard core frugalista, but enough so that I could quit my hated corporate job, and do something more meaningful. And spend my money in ways that meant something to me, rather than on things like nails and hair, which don’t. I stick to my frugal guns, and really don’t discuss things much, but it does fascinate me to observe how people spend their money. Being frugal is important to me, but I don’t discuss it with anyone but you lovely people! My older sister knows I am a tightwad, and really sneers at me for it. She and her husband have plenty of money, which is great, and while we are comfortably off, it is mostly down to frugality, and I could ‘loosen up a bit’ at this point, but I don’t really want to! If I save money, I have that much to do something good with, like support the local wildlife rescue! and I have two secret wishes: one is that I would like to go back to college and study just for the fun of it (if it turns into a career that is great!) and two that my husband could retire early from his high stress career and do something less stressful.


Connie October 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm

“My husband and I do not have the money to spend out without consequence”.
Exactly, for me it’s about choices. Separating needs from wants, and if we really want it, what are we willing to do without?
I also have a hard time asking for help, however in life there is a time to help and a time to be helped!
Today was a $500 trip to emergency vet, our piece of mind was worth the debt. The vet said she could spend the night, or she could give a shot, some meds, special food and see if it resolves that way. I had no problem saying we are using Care Credit and don’t have many options when that is gone. She understood, we just have to be honest to give others an opportunity to look outside the norm.
And our adorable Daisy does not have more tumors, or a twisted stomach!
On the way we marveled at how cheap gas was. After the relief of more days with Daisy we decided on the way home best “gas” bill we ever paid!


Karen October 12, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I so wish my parents had talked to us about money, about money and how we were supposed to go out in the world and earn it, and how only considering the price of things new might leave us so uneducated. My parents were well off and I never gave money much thought, and we simply never discussed it in my family.

The hardest thing for me about becoming an adult was figuring out the money thing. I am now headed toward retirement age and at last have made peace with the fact that I like living frugally for many reasons, but mostly because it is creative and satisfying. But that doesn’t negate the harm of having to live in a culture in which money is equated with human value, and battling feelings that I couldn’t help my kids very much financially, with college, weddings etc because I don’t make a lot. I also feel the emotional distance between me and my sibs and friends who are much better off financially. Money is not something one brings up, it seems, except with the few friends who are in my same income bracket.

On good days, I feel content because I managed to stay home with my kids until they were in high school, and both kids got themselves thru college pretty much on their own (I did the same). I feel good that at least I can talk on the level with those few dear friends who know what it’s like not to be able to afford vacations or to help the kids. But yes, Katy, how much better off we’d be if money were not a taboo topic!


T.L. Bodine October 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm

The thing I love most about this blog is how incredibly, awesomely honest you are, Katy. Like, seriously. Other bloggers might think they have to put on a show, talk about how they’re always successful, everything they do is great now. That you’re not afraid to be totally upfront about your successes *and* failures is what keeps me coming back.

For myself, I really have a hard time with the “don’t talk about money!” stigma. It just makes no sense to me.


Katy October 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Thank you. My favorite writers are those who are brutally honest about themselves. Anne Lamott, Ruth Reichl, Cheryl Strayed. They reach people because they are honest in their writing. In my opinion, that’s the best compliment you can pay.

Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom has also been putting an effort into that kind of transparent writing lately, and it’s been amazing to read:


Tonya October 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Yes! Appreciate the authenticity from you both. When she did that post last week about how she doubled her family’s grocery budget it was so liberating for so many people who had followed her for years and felt shame that they couldn’t match her (unrealistic) grocery budget. It was great! Thanks for bringing this up, katy. It is time to have healthy and honest conversations about money.

Have you thought about writing a book for parents? I think it would be awesome. It would be a cool project to get your kids involved in too. Could help a lot of young parents who are just starting out and wondering how they’ll be able to keep up with all the excessive expenses of modern parenting. I’d buy your book….Compact exception!


Lacy Cooper October 12, 2014 at 3:10 pm

I am a couple’s therapist and this is the NUMBER ONE reason people come into therapy (tied with another “taboo” subject…sex!) and honestly when I start to explore how people learned to talk about money and/or spending NONE of them really ever learned how from their parents. So they start the relationship and well never talk about it until it is a HUGE problem. So while I applaud this convo starter I also think your kids are going to learn a lot and it hopefully will help them too avoid a lot of distress. Good reminder to be transparent and have our own standard instead of living by a societal one.


Tammy Brackett October 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Katy this is really a fine fine post. I have a difficult time opening up to anyone about my finances. BF and I are both freelancers. It’s always feast or famine. Well, not really feast….
That’s why I enjoy this community so much. Great ideas. Non judgmental ways to stretch a buck. Recipes. Frugality. I met you through my Frugal Musicians blog….way back when!
Way to go Katy. Love your work, your community and you!


Krystal October 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Amen. I need to find a way to be honest and discuss money in a way that doesn’t make others feel bad, for make others feel bad for us. I truly believe if our society discussed it more, out children were educated in personal finance, and we were honest with ourselves about our own situation, there would be far less debt, secrecy and consumerism than there is today.


Heather October 12, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Great post, Katy. I think we all struggle with how much to divulge to strangers, neighbors, and even family. My dh and I married in college and our first years combined income was in the teens. Now we are in a position that I don’t have to think about money so much. But I don’t just want to spend indiscriminately and stay on the consumer treadmill. I want to give my kids both a sense of how blessed we are and the skills that they will need when they are out on their own. When you want to raise self-sufficent kids, there is shame for being wealthy also. I’ve been thinking about becoming more transparent with the family, but also talking more about goals, choices, and money matters; so my kids will have more of an idea what it takes to run the whole household and what we are saving for.


Katy October 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Thank you for bringing this up. Just as there is no shame in being broke, there’s conversely no shame in being wealthy. But having those conversations about what led your family to this point in time is valuable.


Heather October 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I am a mental health therapist for high school students. One of the things that comes up often is that kids don’t know how much their parents make, how much they pay out in bills or if they are “rich” or “poor”. It surprises me that high school seniors, about to be out on their own, have no idea how to budget or really any concept of how much things cost. I think it’s critical that we talk to our kids about money because if they don’t have a good source of information (us), they learn about it through the media, The Joneses, and the innumerable credit offers that start coming when they hit 18.


Katy October 12, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I remember thinking that there were no poor kids are my high school because no one dressed in dirty ragged clothing. And I went to the poorest high school in town. I was oblivious.


Kristin October 12, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I appreciate your honesty. It is refreshing. My husband and I discuss our financial story often. When I started my blog, I asked my husband if I could be honest about our financial situation and he said yes. Sharing our story of getting into debt and struggling to get back out has inspired others, including some of my college students, to think about their financial situations. If our story can inspire others, I am willing to put it out there.


Dar @ anexactinglife October 12, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Great post! I also find that people judge each other financially based on how much time they have: “Oh, they can fix up their house/repair things/make their property look good/shop around for bargains because they are retired/working part time/have no kids” etc. There doesn’t seem to be much recognition that you have to make time for these things, no matter how busy you are. And if you do have fewer commitments on your time, that is not something to be ashamed of!


TJ October 12, 2014 at 5:31 pm


Two years ago my 14 year relationship with the man I thought was my soul mate ended when he said he didn’t love me anymore. We were renting, and he was paying the rent, so I was asked to leave. I moved into the 1BR apt my daughter was in for college, and slept on her couch. Then she quit school, and moved in with a friend, and I had to move out again. I was jobless, homeless, with a $400 car payment. I had $800 saved, so I moved nearer to my parents, and am renting a 700Sq’ duplex for $475/mo. I had to leave almost everything I owned behind, except of course the 4 credit cards in my name that he and I had shared to the tune of $8K. I am slowly paying them off. In 6 months the car is mine. I worked part time for 1.5 years, and recently interviewed and got a full time position. My daughter moved back in with me and is trying to go back to school. We live paycheck to paycheck and don’t go out. She is content with the internet and Netflix, and I work, and read, and sew. I lost 35 pounds and had to buy a new set of clothes, but was able to do so at local thrift shops, (not Goodwill, none here in my little town) run by local churches. I am managing, but still run scared, as I am 57 and have too much debt and not enough saved. What does the future hold when I cannot work? is a question that keeps me afraid. I try to keep faith, and just take things one day at a time.


Staci October 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

The main thing I’ve been interested in reading about for the past year and a half is frugality and I love talking about it! Makes me think about my grandparents and I so enjoy that connection. So whenever someone asks what I’ve been up to lately I try to respond positively with something like, “Still reading on frugality! So interesting!” because I really think it is and I think we should try to spread the word. It’s a satisfying way to live–this living within your means, trying not to waste, and being more self-reliant. Beats mindless spending anyday in my opinion! Within the past year, we’ve downsized to a home half the size of our old one (and half the expense), I cook almost every meal at home now, and we are being very intentional about where we are putting our pennies (looking forward to traveling a bit with our kids). It’s been great for our boys–we talk a lot about evaluating our spending and making choices. “You can’t do everything!” At least we can’t and you know what? That’s a good thing! We’ve grown a lot this past year. Thankful for your blog. So nice to “hear” from like-minded people.


Ali October 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Fortunately I found Amy D. when I had my first child. My parents were frugal and taught me about paying bills on time. I paid board and every Friday night my Dad would have his hand out for it.

Amy D taught me that I could be a sahm in the era where everyone said it was impossible. I discovered garage sales and .25 pieces of clothing for my kids. Both my kids are/were hearing impaired and we spent tens of thousands of dollars on hearing aids. Hubs and I were fortunate to have family that gave help via money. I never got a check and said “whoo hoo let’s go piss it away!” That money always had a place to go…like paying for the hot water heater we just replaced. Or a new set of hearing aids.

Anyway, there I was preaching (probably that was my problem) of the positive powers of frugality and people my own age just ran away from me. Or if they didn’t know about my frugality they would sniff and say “must be nice to stay home”. The only people who “got” me where the elderly ladies at church who had lived through the depression and started off their married lives with little money. Thank goodness I had them cause they kept me going.

My son was hearing impaired but after five surgeries got his prostetic stapes bones and was able to give up his hearing aids. Again, we spent thousands in paying for those surgeries. Obviously we had an incompetent surgeon.


Anne October 13, 2014 at 9:04 am

Yes, older women are really great role models in this area. There is a HUGE change in values somewhere around the middle of the 20th century. What they absolutely took for granted as necessary life skills got pooh poohed by the next generation. There was so much money in post war America that things like ‘mending’ just went away.


Bellen October 13, 2014 at 1:37 am

Being open and honest about money. A concept that should not be kept in the shadows but out in the open. My parents drilled it into me that we NEVER EVER were to talk about money After the housing bubble broke and so many lost homes in our area we still found people unable or unwilling to talk about their finances , how to fix their problem or even to try to fix it because they didn’t know and wouldn’t talk about it or ask about it.
In April my husband, at age 69, was hired to drive a school bus so we could make some home improvements to make our home more ‘age in place’ ready. His income would pay off that bill in one year. In late June I was diagnosed with an 80-90% blocked carotid which resulted in a $2000 bill after Medicare. During tests for that it was discovered I had a gallstone the size of a golf ball!! Had that surgery in Sept. and that resulted in a $2000 bill after Medicare. There are other medical follow-up issues that have arisen that will result in about another $2000 bill over the next year. So, hubby’s income will pay for medical and we’ll have the home improvement bill to pay off somehow.
What to do? Read all the frugal posts I can and implement anything I haven’t done yet. Tighten our belt once more eliminating all extras – Huluplus (don’t have cable), eating out (now about once a month), reducing electric & water which is increasing each year for the next 3 years and trimming the food bill. And, we’re sending our 2 married sons a letter telling them flat out that we’re eliminating all gifts and cards to them and the 3 grandkids for the next 2 years and the reason why. They both make at least 4 times what our income is and frankly don’t seem to understand our financial situation even tho they were raised in a very frugal household.
So, transparency in financial matters is very important to us & we try to keep our kids informed in general or when necessary detailed manner. I think it needs to work in reverse also – kids telling parents and maybe getting some advice or at least a dialogue going both ways.
I’m not complaining to them about our situation as I know we’ll get thru it but I feel they must know, if only to help them get a better understanding of finances in general and how a frugal outlook will help them weather the vagaries of financial life.


Katy October 13, 2014 at 7:17 am


I would suggest that you find someone to give you their Netflix login so that you can share an account. (Totally legit, not breaking any rules.) Maybe one of your kids. And for gift giving, perhaps gift meaningful family possessions to your grandkids, and include a note about why this particular item has importance.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, I really appreciate it!


Bellen October 13, 2014 at 8:18 am

We truly don’t miss TV that much. We do have an antenna to get local network news and shows. It’s plenty for now. As far as gifts – the grandkids are 5,7 & 12 and live 1200 miles away. They are not interested in anything, I’ve tried, that does not come from a store and is not in the current must have category. Even my sons are not interested in anything we have including handmade baskets from Sicily that we purchased from the maker 35 years ago, LLadro figurines again 35 years ago nor do they want several items my father made. Their loss as far as I’m concerned.
By the way, we have a budget for medical expenses that usually comes very close to covering everything & actually with Medicare it’s better coverage than insurance I had. This year’s expenses just blew it away.


Jo@simplybeingmum October 13, 2014 at 4:17 am

This post was very interesting on many levels and I hope I do not go off on a tangent in my reply.
Culturally (and a complete blanket statement – whether accurate?) Brits are even more reserved when talking about money? Maybe – other Brits may disagree? But we do talk about ‘being careful’ with money – that doesn’t seem to be taboo – it seems prudent. If anything maybe we talk more about that than ‘having’ money?

Last week I attempted a post at ‘changing perceptions of poverty’ although it wasn’t called this, and I’m not sure I pulled it off. But I was trying to explain how it’s all relative (as you point out above). What some of us class as ‘poor’ is ‘rich’ to others. It’s important to be ‘who we are’, because we aren’t ‘what we have’.


Kristin October 13, 2014 at 4:58 am

This is totally true; we rarely speak about money in actual terms such as telling each other how much our mortgages are, etc. Recently, I have found that when someone does confide something about his/her financial situation, they are not nearly as financially stable as I had assumed based on outward appearances. Along the same vein, my father seems to have made some negative assumptions about our financial situation, which I need to sit him down and disabuse him of. He should know he raised me better than that!


Kristin October 13, 2014 at 5:02 am

Also Donna Freedman recently wrote a piece for GRS, in which she revealed her income (to use her words):


Diane October 13, 2014 at 5:49 am

Here’s a quote I just saw that might sum it all up.

“The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” ~ Louis C.K., to his daughter, in Louie.


kim printz October 13, 2014 at 8:42 am

The reason I love your blog is not the financial tips you share, or the reminders that I need to keep on being frugal…it’s because you are willing to share yourself and your family and bring up the hard topics. Thank you:)


K D October 13, 2014 at 8:48 am

If people were more transparent with their finances I think others would be shocked at how broke so many upper-middle class people are. They may have a good income but very little in the way of true wealth (assets). One book that was useful to me (besides The Tightwad Gazette and Your Money or Your Life) was The Millionaire Next Door. It turned out that the millionaires were frugal while many high-income people spent at least as fast as they earned. I have been drilling that concept into my eighteen year old for many years and may have made some headway, but know there is a ways to go.

Our income has increased over the past few years but the only thing we are spending more on is donations and savings. We were happy before and continue to be happy living beneath our means. The income increase is due to promotions we did not expect, but were warranted.

This is a great post and I love your blog.


Vickie October 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm

We’ve been talking about this subject a lot in the past few weeks. We are better off than we were 5 years ago. Credit cards and a signature loan got out of hand, when the economy tanked around 2008 and we were trying to keep our heads above water. We decided to follow the Dave Ramsey plan and worked the snowball method on our bills. We dug ourselves out of a hole and hubby has created a good savings buffer. We still have a few things to pay off, but we have a 5 year plan, including having the mortgage paid off.

I rarely shop retail for clothes, except for underwear, I buy clothes at Thrift stores. We don’t owe on our cars, so our monthly income is spent on utilities, food and gas. I repurpose things quite often and now that I have a smaller core wardrobe, I can easily keep up with mending and laundry.

We lived paycheck to paycheck for many years and it’s very stressful. I don’t want to go back to that way of life. I think that’s what keeps me motivated to watch my spending. I’m an impulse buyer, so making lists, staying out of the stores and insulating myself from advertising is a must in my world. Some people can window shop – I’m not one of them – no point in setting myself up for temptation.

Our home is very eclectic. Almost all of our furniture is used – antiques, living and dining room furniture my in-laws gave us when they sold their house. I don’t follow trends. I like what feels comfortable and functional. We value vacations and experiences over stuff, so we plan for those expenditures way ahead of time.

I feel very content and part of that may come with being middle-aged. We talk about money here at work and I encourage all of my young co-workers to save and pay off their mortgages as early as they can. I’m open to sharing my mistakes and experiences with them and they do listen. One of the young men (29) that works on my Team has accepted a better paying position in the corporate world. I was thrilled the other day when he told me he and his wife plan to take the extra income he’ll be making to pay off their mortgage and their student loans, so they will be free of both by the time they’re 35.
That made my day!!


Ali October 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm

My sibs, who are all older than me by a few years, have semi-shared their money woes. That is one of the reasons why I was determined to not accumulate debt. Apparently these sibs of mine were good at calling Dad and asking for loans. Dh and I never asked him for a loan and if I did when I was younger I always paid it off. Anyway, one day Dad stops by to see dh and myself. He talks of needing a new car. At that point he had sold his house and put half the money into CDs for each of his 5 kids. It was $10K each. I told him to cash in my cd and buy himself a car. He was shocked. I explained that dh made a decent salary, we were putting money away in a 401K and dh would get a pension and we had an emergency account. While getting the money when he passed would be nice there was no telling if he would get sick and need that money for his own care. I never saw it as “my” money. Dad left my house and went and traded in his Honda Civic for a new one. He got an inheritance from my aunt and he started a new cd for me. He passed away a few years after that and I got the 10K and it was used to buy hearing aids for one of my kids. I like to think that he felt good that dh and I were ok financially. I think at least one of my sibs owed him money at the time that he died.


Yin October 14, 2014 at 2:48 am

Great post! Appreciate your message, so true and so freeing.
Thank you
Yin from Singapore


Leslie K. October 15, 2014 at 11:50 am

So glad you reminded me to read this post the other day! Yes! Money and mental illness and all the things we’re not “supposed” to talk about. Arriving in my 40’s has certainly made it easier to care less about the things I’m supposed to do or not do.


Sadye October 15, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I forget where/when, but something I read straight-up said it’s shameful to use a coupon on a first date with someone. ???? If the date lied (about age/military service/etc.) to get a discount, that’s a different story, but coupons are just smart. Keep leading the fight against this attitude.


Ellen October 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I wish we were still a culture that celebrates paid off homes with mortgage burning house parties. It was somewhat sad to us to pay off our mortgage and not talk about it like the past generation could/did. It wasn’t easy and the peace of mind made the tough days of “no” so very worth it. No upgrades for us! We’ll stay put in our paid off and lovin’ it home of 23y already.


JEG March 6, 2024 at 5:22 pm

We sold our house to my younger daughter and her husband. We added on an in-law (a tiny home). We have been able to help them with private school, which was a need on returning to school after Covid. This will be ending soon. There will be other places where we can help.
In respect this situation has helped us out. My husband has COPD and has become limited in his activity, so he could not manage the home and yard. I don’t mind living small.
When we did own homes, only 2 over our years, we bought on one salary. Reading all of the foreclosures of the 70s and 90s, I always had a fear of loss of an income. So we never bought more than we could afford or needed.

High schools should be providing students with the necessary equipment to survive and get on in society. Homemaking, budgeting, banking, health, how to handle expenses, maintenance of possessions–home, auto. Not all high school graduates will be going onto college, at least immediately.


Katy March 7, 2024 at 6:36 pm

I took the required “personal finance” class in high school and it was hugely useful! Taught me how to do my taxes, put together a budget, understand the stock market and so much more. I also remember the rather aged teacher saying that if a boy is asking you out in college, make sure it includes dinner!


Coral Clarke March 6, 2024 at 6:08 pm

I live in sub tropical, inner city, Brisbane , Australia, in a little one bedroom apartment in a vertical retirement village. I’m 76, and if I go to heaven when I die, this is going to be a hard act to follow! My pension( our Social Security) is a hair under $AUD 30, 000, after tax. Per year. ( Close to $US 20,000)My unit is currently valued close to $AUD300,000( US , about $200,000.)This is, basically, a lifetime lease, rather than ownership, which means my family will get about 2/3 of what I paid, when I die, so I have foregone the probability of increased value. To offset that, NO building repairs are billed to me, air con, water heater, lifts, gardening, whatever! My total out goings are the equivalent of about $US90 per week., my own phone and internet bills(under $US 40 per month , and my electricity , which is seperately metered, but on a building supply, so very cheap, approx $US 60 a quarter. As a pensioner (SSI) My GP, hospital, dentist are free, my assorted prescriptions( high blood pressure, thyroid, osteoporosis, highish cholesterol are approx $US 20 per month in total.i have a bus stop across the street which takes me to shops, art galleries, museums, 2 large hospitals, my library and locally shopping centre are 3 minutes walk away. The large supermarket is a bus ride away, My bus transport is free off peak, half price the rest of the time, trains half price on and off peak. If you google SouthBank Parklands, Brisbane, you will see the ten minutes away from me. If I haven’t covered anything you would like to know, ask, and I will try to answer !


Katy March 7, 2024 at 6:33 pm

This is so interesting, thank you so much for sharing! So different than in the United States. I have to say that I love your life!


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