Saving Pennies While Hemorrhaging Dollars

by Katy on November 7, 2018 · 88 comments

I’m going to describe a situation that I know is far from unique to my personal experience.

I create tasty meals based on bulk purchased dried beans, I pick up every coin, (even the grubby pennies) I source my clothing from the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet or neighborhood free piles, I dumpster dive at dorm move outs, I pack leftovers for work meals, I stalk the library for reading material, my haircuts are all freebies from the Supercuts’ training center; and I repair and mend anything that promises to last another day, month or year.

None of these things will individually ensure financial independence, but together they make a difference. An opportunity for financial breathing room.

Mind you, these are all sacrifices that I’m happy to incorporate into my life. These choices allow me to pay cash for my kids’ college educations, they make it possible to throw 16% of my income into retirement and to step away from the anxiety of a paycheck to paycheck existence. Plus, I firmly believe that over manufacture of consumer goods is an environmental nightmare as well as a toxic mindset. So choosing this lifestyle pairs well with my beliefs.

However . . . it can be exhausting. It’s satisfying when it results in financial freedom, but it’s frustrating to save 50¢ here or $2 there’s when an unexpected $538 dental bill or yet another medical bill infests my mailbox.

I feel like I’m celebrating a found nickel while simultaneously throwing hundred dollar bills into the abyss.

2018 has been a year of intense expenses with my husband having two (two!) surgeries, as well as kids in college and the general expenses related to home ownership and the audacity to stay on top of dental care.

So do I give up on my money saving efforts?

Nope. I renew my library books, grab my reusable bags (that save 6¢ apiece!) and head out to the inconvenient discount grocery store across town. I sell an item or two through Facebook Marketplace and pack up a bean based meal for tomorrow’s work lunch.

Do you feel like your scrimping and saving is hardly worth the effort when life is full of endless high cost obstacles? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy B O'Neill November 7, 2018 at 12:39 pm

I have been counting pennies for decades. Now it’s a habit I am glad to continue. It allows me to save so that I can afford to pay the needed big budget Items. I had 5 surgeries and 7 hospitalizations in 2017 but we could pay because we have saved our pennies. Also, thank heavens for medical insurance.


Jill A November 7, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Oh wow it’s amazing how much your life mirrors my own sometimes.

I am hemorrhaging money also. Two kids in college. My young husband of 53 passed away and his was our only income. Huge attorney fees to sort out the messed up estate. Everything has broken in the past nine months and I’ve had to hire everything done. I’m replacing my pool liner and my home is 20 years old and everything is breaking – water softener, pool liner, washing machine, air conditioner, leaky pipes. The plumber has been here five times. It’s overwhelming but I keep trying to save where I can. What choice do I have?


Katy November 7, 2018 at 12:48 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. My deepest condolences.


Shevaun November 7, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Jill A, I’m so sorry about your husband. You are carrying an enormous weight of grief in addition to practical matters of holding your family together financially, logistically, and emotionally.
You ask “What choice do I have?” … and you know what? You have EVERY choice. You could give up–but you aren’t! You are doing what needs to be done. You could be crushed by despair–but you aren’t! You are marshalling the resources around you to do the best you can. You could just stop caring–but you aren’t! You are plugging away, day by day, making choices about your children, your plumbing, your legal situation, your home.
May God bless and keep you, and may you be brave in every choice you make.


Patricia Koernig November 7, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Sending you my love through the distance. I am in a similar situation. Lost my husband 2 years ago. Also, the main source of income. I went on leave upon his cancer diagnosis, and did not go back. Finding my new normal. Baby steps.
Sometimes something breaks down, and I tear up. Sometimes, I say: I GOT THIS. The missing is hard, isn’t? I am always amazed by the support I feel from my blog “friends.”
Grace to you and yours.
Patricia FL/USA


WilliamB November 8, 2018 at 2:32 pm

Shevaun said it much better than I could. You’re keeping your head above water in a very tough situation. Best to you and yours, and may your husband’s memory be a blessing.


Kristen | The Frugal Girl November 7, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Oh my goodness, Jill. I am so, so sorry about your husband.


Linda November 7, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Jill, I’m so sorry about your husband.


Dana Wood November 7, 2018 at 4:58 pm

You have a lot on your plate!
Sending you lots of positive energy for NY ❤


Christine November 7, 2018 at 5:10 pm

I’m sorry this is happening to you Jill. Sending my sincere condolences on the loss of your husband. Keep reading this blog and plugging away. This is a truly caring community of like-minded people. You take good care.


Nancy from mass November 7, 2018 at 5:38 pm

Jill A, I am so sorry about the loss of your husband. There are days when you’re overwhelmed and there were days where you feel somewhat normal. When those days happen, sometimes you feel a little guilty, but don’t. It will all get better and someday you may look back and think “wow that was really tough, look how far we’ve come. “ my DH was 51. They passed too young.


Lindsey November 7, 2018 at 6:37 pm

I join the others in saying I’m sorry to hear of the death of your husband and then the problems that have followed.


Deborah J Kresse November 7, 2018 at 9:11 pm

My sympathy to you on the loss of your husband.
If you have not already done so, you should make contact with the financial aid offices at the colleges your kids attend to request an update to FAFSA due to change (decrease) in income. May help to lessen the financial burden. Best wishes to you.


susanna d November 8, 2018 at 6:38 am

Jill A, I am so sorry!


Tracy November 8, 2018 at 8:44 am


My heart goes out to you. May you find some support and even grace during this dark time.



Bethany November 8, 2018 at 1:48 pm

So sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. Prayers!


Marybeth November 8, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Your kids are so lucky to have you. God bless you.


Cindy in the South November 9, 2018 at 4:59 am

I am so sorry about your husband….hugs


Jill A November 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and support.


Ann November 17, 2018 at 2:21 am

Sending you sympathy – and keeping you in my prayers. Hope better days on are on the way for you and your family and that your memories of your husband give you comfort. Wishing you peace – God bless!


Ramona @ Personal Finance Today November 16, 2018 at 7:45 am

You are doing wonderfully well, you are keeping your head level and solve all these big problems. You are a true inspiration and you’ll soon get back on track with everything. Keeping fingers crossed and admiring you for the determination and hard work.


Stephanie November 7, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Ugh, so timely. I scrimp and save, I cook beans and bread from scratch, I can and freeze, I knit and sew, I make my own cleaners, I don’t let a single thing go to waste…and then I get stuck with a $571 medical bill this week. Talk about a punch in the gut. All I can do is keep trying harder, keep finding more ways to save.


A. Marie November 7, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Yep, Katy (and Sandy B, Jill A, Stephanie, and everyone else), I hear you. (And, Jill, I’m so sorry about your husband’s death and all the related difficulties.)

We too have run into several unexpected expenses this year. Several of them were related to my own medical and dental mishaps (Lyme disease, a broken tooth, and a root canal on another tooth). Others were directly or directly connected to DH’s dementia. (For example, after he fried our old combination toaster/microwave by trying to use the toaster controls to run the microwave part, I had to run out and replace it with a single-function microwave. For toast, I’ve been brushing up my skills at making toast under the broiler in the oven. No room on the counter for another appliance.)

But I keep sane and relatively cheerful by (1) reminding myself that these are First World problems, and that things could be a lot worse generally; and (2) that 40 years of black-belt frugality have made it possible to head into our uncertain future with fewer worries about money than we might have had otherwise. I can’t tell you what a boost it gave me to be able to inform our financial advisor and our lawyer in our recent meetings with both that we have no debt. Both of them seemed flabbergasted.


Tammy November 8, 2018 at 7:09 pm

My sincerest condolences to my blog friends loosing spouses and going through difficult times. Congratulations on holding your head up and making it through another difficult day.

I wanted to mention that I love pan fried toast. Just butter one side of a slice of bread, put it in a hot skillet and let it toast. I love the texture of it. Crispy on one side and soft on the other. No need for another appliance on the counter, just use your stovetop.


Nancy from mass November 9, 2018 at 10:04 am

I only make English muffins on the stove in a griddle or cast-iron pan. That’s the way we did it at home. Butter just oozes into the muffin and The flavor is amazing. I never tried it with bread. I just may have to do that


Christine November 10, 2018 at 11:33 am

My mother always cooked English muffins under the oven broiler, never in the toaster, after cutting them in half and slathering the insides with butter. The butter would ooze into the nooks and crannies(!) and the edges would be nicely crispy. What a breakfast.


Teri November 11, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Could you please share what you are doing re: Lyme Disease. My dil was just diagnosed and while experiencing so many different symptoms has been unable to find a clear path to wellness. Any advice/suggestions would be welcomed! TIA


A. Marie November 12, 2018 at 11:16 am

Hi, Teri. I got really, really lucky with my Lyme, in that I developed an unmistakable bull’s-eye rash before I developed ANY other symptoms. The urgent care doc wrote me an Rx for three weeks of strong antibiotics, and I’ve had no symptoms since then (knock wood).

But I know that not everyone gets the bull’s-eye, and that some folks have to do guesswork with their symptoms (sometimes for years) and get little sympathy from the medical establishment. Best wishes for effective help to your DIL and you, and if anyone else out there can offer better suggestions than I can, please do.


Cristie Glasheen November 21, 2018 at 8:05 am


I have several good friends who have been K.O.d by Lyme Disease that was very late to be diagnosed and they are still having symptoms LONG after they were “treated”. Your DIL is lucky to have someone willing to look out for her like you are.

If there is any chance in finding a doctor who specializes in Lyme disease in her area, that’s her best route. Be very cautious about the advice you find – even from well meaning people – about what helped them. While it always pays to listen, it can often build false hope. I have ME/chronic fatigue and cannot tell you the number of people who have told me how to “cure” myself with this simple -diet change/supplement/alternative treatment. While I know they mean well, if I did every simple fix they offered – I’d be broke. Plus, some of their recommendations were actually harmful (or would have been had I not researched them myself and learned that some supplements will react badly with medications that are actually helping).

Best of luck to your DIL. I know how frustrating having a diagnosis and no clear path forward can be.


Jessica M November 7, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Here’s something to make you feel better about the $600 dental bill…
That number is a funny coincidence. During a very busy, very bad month at work, we both worked nights and weekends. Since we weren’t at home to do things like cook and carpool, we spent $600 on convenience-luxuries like overnight parking, taxis, getting takeout delivered to the office (with a good tip), sending mail overnight express because I didn’t mail it earlier, sending a fruit bouquet to someone we didn’t have time to visit in person…. it was a $$ disaster.
Everything that you do on a daily basis prevents you from being ME that month. You didn’t just save the $2 on Corn Flakes. You saved $600.
So don’t feel discouraged!
Don’t compare yourself to $0!
Compare yourself to me, and pay that $600 dental bill for ‘free.’


Kristen | The Frugal Girl November 7, 2018 at 2:12 pm

I understand this feeling! It’s tempting to feel like, “Oh, what was the point of saving $2 when I now have to spend $400.”

But it helps me sometimes if I remind myself that the $400 bill would have shown up anyway, and at least I have an extra $2 to throw at it!


Sarah S November 7, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Katy, great post. It’s good to remind ourselves why we save. That 5 cents here, a dollar there have allowed me to stay at home with kids when they were younger, pay cash for two college degrees for daughter and husband, then a master’s, along with the 2000.00 I racked up with hand surgery less than a week ago.

Can it be frustrating, tempting to throw in the towel, of course. Then I stop and remind myself that is why we put money in the bank, so all the expected and unexpected events and situations don’t derail us. My mantra will always be, ” Debt Free is worth every penny!”


Tammy November 8, 2018 at 7:11 pm

My mantra is “I save where I can so I can spend where I want!”


Ann November 17, 2018 at 2:26 am

What a great post – we have always been savers. I love the thought of saving what you can so you can spend what you want. Recently retired and that is thanks to our life of living frugally. All the things mentioned here ( using the library, mending clothes and other items, shopping sales, using coupons, eating leftovers, etc.) has made this wonderful retirement time possible. And gives us peace of mind. Funny – we now live in a retirement community where coffee and tea are offered each morning and we STILL use the tea bags twice even though we did not pay for them!


Vickey November 27, 2018 at 7:36 am

Thank you for continuing to use our planet’s shared resources wisely, when you re-use that tea bag. 😀


Megyn November 7, 2018 at 2:20 pm

This idea is basically why I don’t really work (other than odd jobs). It’s hard to work a full-time $10-12/hour job when my husband can just pick up two overtime shifts per month which would bring home more money than my full time hourly gig. I’m trying to decide at what point I take the crappy paying job just to add nickels to the bucket because it’s better than no nickels at all. Hopefully as our kids get older, I’ll be able to find something worth the time away that feels like dimes instead of nickels.


Cindy November 7, 2018 at 3:19 pm

It does seem that almost everything you need done costs well over $100, if not much, much more. If I really want to depress myself, I figure out what percentage of my income the latest large bill is. And yet, somehow we manage to stay on top of it all (knock on repurposed wood).


Teresa November 7, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Right-o! Thank you for reminding me that it’s not all for naught. Sometimes it’s fun to be frugal, other times I wish I didn’t have to be. You reminded me that even if things were easier, I’d probably still live the same way. It feels good to have bills paid up, a bit to spare and a something stashed away for the future.


Mand01 November 7, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Sometimes it does feel like that.
But I’ve been really broke- lying awake at night panicking broke, and I never want to feel that way again.
Although I now have a good income, I know that can change due to a sudden life change. If you don’t take care of the small things then how do you manage the big things when they come along?
I can cashflow almost anything in my life now because I try my very best to watch the little things. Recently I started wasting money on coffee again. I’ve slapped my own hand and gone back to making my own. Don’t waste it on crap and I’ll have it for the things I really need and value- including the fun things.


Sandra November 7, 2018 at 3:55 pm

I relate to all of your comments today, even recent widowhood. We have always been conservative, frugal people. Early on it was necessary, later it was a life choice. It has meant comfort and security in the long run, even now. I can afford to stay in my home and I will do the things I can and I will hire others to help me with the rest.


Karyn November 7, 2018 at 4:01 pm

I love your blog. So inspiring….question for your smart group. How do you guys save money on internet? We bundled with xfinity to get a better deal but its still $88 per month for basic cable and wifi. If I just had the wifi it would be $75 per month which is still outrageous. Looking for tips.


Shevaun November 7, 2018 at 4:25 pm

We don’t have cable tv, though our internet is through the cable provider. We have always gotten the cheapest speed internet available (sometimes we’ve had to call because the cheapest speed is not advertised. but it’s a required basic service plan that comes as part of federal and state legislation for the ISPs using public infrastructure etc.). Our plan was always that if the slowest speed was intolerable after 60 days, we would bump up to the next level. But we’ve never had a problem with the speed. (We don’t do video games, but we do Netflix, eBay, email, etc.). Our bill is about $39/month. Then we have the streaming-only Netflix, and Amazon Prime with only one add-on channel. So our total AV for the month is about $60.
I should add that we don’t rent our modem or wifi router from the cable company, which is a huge expense. We bought them ourselves and installed them ourselves (it’s super easy). So that right there saves about 12/month. Yes there was the upfront cost of purchase ($50ish), but they’ve lasted 8 years so far, no problems.


Karyn November 8, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Where do you live and what is your cable provider?? I haven’t seen prices like that here at all.


One of God's November 8, 2018 at 6:23 am

I just have a phone plan with unlimited data. I turn on the WiFi Hotspot for Internet or tv.


Janie November 7, 2018 at 4:37 pm

It’s consistency over the long haul that matters. It’s too easy to throw in the towel and say “What’s the point?” But your thrifty habits will pay off over the long haul. We all have bad stuff happen. Health problems, setbacks, a freaking tornado, the car dies. But you have the arsenal of weapons to deal with adversity! Keep on keeping on! You’re the best, and you inspire all of us. Take care and hang in there.


Crunchycon November 7, 2018 at 4:42 pm

What helps me stay focused (and sometimes I backslide) is to come here and have a visit with Katy and this group. I emerge from reading your contributions revved up and ready to continue saving.


Mary in VA November 8, 2018 at 9:22 am

Yes, same here! Both blogs give me lots to think about, and I come away energized.


Christine November 7, 2018 at 5:22 pm

When my kids were young we had to be frugal. Once they grew up, DH and I both had good incomes and benefits and we tended to spend on things I NEVER would have dreamed of spending on in my younger years. Restaurant meals, ballets, off Broadway shows, clothing, massages…you name it. Had I been wiser I would have been paying down my mortgage more than I doing at the time although I did do some of that too. Now we are both retired and back to frugal ways. One thing I have noticed is the happiness quotient. I feel happier being frugal, spending time in my home, walking for exercise, having friends over for meals here at home, coffee or tea together as a couple on the deck, etc….you get the picture.


Denise November 7, 2018 at 6:01 pm

Thank you for keeping it real! I know exactly what you are talking about.


Katy November 7, 2018 at 6:13 pm

I was totally feeling like this today!!! Spending so much time to save a few bucks, while seeing so much money being spent!


Lindsey November 7, 2018 at 7:02 pm

I think this is an especially hard time of year to be frugal, when there are all sorts of tempting things about. Not a lot of things tug at me, but things like luxury towels and thick flannel shirts and good chocolates do. When I tire of being thrifty, I remind myself of when I had the shame of having to borrow $100 from an acquaintance who took the opportunity to point out all my financial and personality flaws; I had to take it because I was 24 and desperate. I vowed never to be in that spot again and luckily eventually married a guy who is on the same track (and super handy), so we have turned those saved pennies into paying off our mortgage by 37 and covering the tremendous medical bills our insurance didn’t cover when I got so ill a decade later. My idea of feeling financially secure is that we could afford to pay cash for a heart transplant for each of us if for some freak reason we both needed it. I was born with a heart defect so have had open heart surgery once already at 30. (It was the only time in my life that my wealthy father paid for anything beyond high school for me; he resisted until my doctor pointed out to him that it was caused by a recessive gene so both he and my mother were responsible for my problem. Until then my father always said he did his job by fathering us and getting us through high school. Thank God for scholarships.) When I got catastrophically ill 15 years later, my father said he had done his duty when I was sick the first time. But this time we had the money to take care of me. It was tough, since my husband had to stop working to care for me around the clock for some time, but those pennies we had saved meant we didn’t have money troubles on top of everything else. Now we are slowing building back our reserves, waiting for the next illness to befall one of us! (My husband had cancer at 28…)


Patricia Koernig November 8, 2018 at 2:34 am

Lindsey, May your spirit and heart remain strong. Glad you are doing better.
Patricia Fl


Lulutoo November 9, 2018 at 8:40 am

Lindsay, oh, boy (about your dad). I had open heart surgery at age 17 and so I know from personal experience that the family issues can make the whole thing much more difficult. Heart-felt hugs to you.


A. Marie November 10, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Lindsey, I’m always educated and enlightened by your posts. Thanks for sharing so much of your often painful past with us. Personally, I don’t think I would have dealt with either your father or the nitpicking friend as well as you did. Cheers to you and your DH, from me and mine.


Sandy ONeill November 10, 2018 at 3:29 pm

You are an amazing woman and incredibly strong. May the future be good to you and yours.


Marilyn November 7, 2018 at 8:23 pm

It just seems so wrong to have to face big dental bills. First, there is the misery of the dental procedure and then, they make you pay for it! But it surely would be worse to have to borrow and pay interest in order to cover it.


Jo November 7, 2018 at 9:17 pm

At the moment we’re renovating a property which is just a shell…an old weaving factory in France. Needing to buy absolutely everything to make it a home…toilets , insulation etc… Has jolted my frugalness awake and I relate to this post! My goal is to reduce spending to only renovations, food, home payments. I want to be more careful with little expenses as well as gas use to do my part to ease the hemmoraging. I had planned to go to a consignment sale this weekend but am opting out as I don’t need to spend more!


naiveorbrave November 8, 2018 at 3:40 am

Oh my gosh! This sounds SOOOO lovely! I remember a holiday with my parents when I was a kid. I saw all these beautiful tiny old houses along the Loire and dreamed about one day buying and renovating one of them! I would LOVE to see pictures of your project!

(sorry for the double post. it was supposed to show up here the first time and not just randomly…)


Bethany November 7, 2018 at 9:58 pm

I started a little note on my phone lately as a kind of reward each time I save something or forgo an expense I write it all down. Things have gotten tight for us. Not so much things out of our control, but poor decisions we have made. Onward and upward, and thankfully we’re in the black. I really wouldn’t mind moving on to a lower cost of living area when the market comes back up.


naiveorbrave November 8, 2018 at 3:39 am

Oh my gosh! This sounds SOOOO lovely! I remember a holiday with my parents when I was a kid. I saw all these beautiful tiny old houses along the Loire and dreamed about one day buying and renovating one of them! I would LOVE to see pictures of your project!


Jennifer November 8, 2018 at 4:30 am

Yes I do feel like that sometimes. It is hard to keep plugging away when you are hit left and right with large bills. I hope the bills ease up some. We blew through our flex plan a couple of months ago and the bills keep rolling in.


Diane November 8, 2018 at 5:21 am

A big Yes!

I am 74 and living on a wing and a prayer with huge debt due to life circumstances beyond my control. My ancient car just died and my rent is increasing. Facing dental procedures too.

Very thankful for good public transportation, a roof over my head right now and the ability to make minimum payments on debt.

Life is never what we expect and we just carry on the best we can.


Bee November 8, 2018 at 5:45 am

My heart goes out to all of you who are facing the heart-breaking challenges of life. It is not easy to face illness, death of a loved one, or job loss. I send my wishes for love, peace and strength over the distance.
And yes, I hate to hemorrhage dollars when they are so difficult to save. However, I remind myself that saving pennies make those dollars available. Sometimes it’s hard to see that impact of the little things, when I feel frustrated I just do the math.
For example, like Katy I buy my bananas at Trader Joe’s where they are $0.19 a piece which is equivalent to approximately $0.59 a pound. The grocery store closest to my house sells them for $0.89 a pound. Therefore, I stop when I am in that area of town which is weekly. Many may think it’s only $0.30 a pound. Why bother? However, my family eats approximately 5 pounds of bananas a week so buying them at TJs saves $1.50; 52 weeks a year saves $78; over 10 years that’s $780. I can do something with $780!


Shevaun November 8, 2018 at 10:10 am

Holy schamoley!
$0.89 a pound?!?!
Even .59/pound?!
Our bananas are .49/lb at the expensive grocery store (“expensive” in my cheap mind) and .29/lb where we usually shop.
Even that I play mindgames with: we compost, so I convince myself that the cost of the weight of the peel is offsetting the cost of fertilizer for our garden, thus making our homegrown produce even cheaper.
*sigh* Maybe I have too much frugal time on my hands.


Bee November 8, 2018 at 11:34 am

I am in Florida and the cost of groceries is quite high here. I am not sure why. I look at the prices that others pay and I am always surprised. I do what I can to save –buy in bulk when appropriate, cook from scratch, keep a price book, shop the weekly specials and so forth. I just do my best and count my blessings.


Patricia Koernig November 8, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Bee, I am in Florida too. I am glad you said that, I do all of the frugal things you describe, and yet my grocery dollars do not stretch like they used too!I am on a retiree income and despite how wonderful I hear the economy is.. . I am not feeling it. Is it me?


Mand01 November 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm

In Australia right now bananas are $4.99 a kilogram, which is about $2.50 a pound.
I will buy when they are $2.99 a kilogram ($1.50 a pound) or lower.


Christine November 8, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Great way to view savings Bee! Makes it seem more worthwhile to look at it over 10 years.


Dixie Koch November 8, 2018 at 1:51 pm

I’m excited for the loss leaders on chicken stock and soup so I can stock up for the year. We don’t eat enough meat to make our own broth. Thank goodness for small pleasures.


Jennifer November 8, 2018 at 6:22 am

It’s still worth it to me. For instance, while visiting Vegas we went to the Hoover dam. After standing in the line for over 40 minutes we realized that I had 2drinks and a bag of chips in my back pack that were not allowed in. The old me would have thrown them in the garbage can near the security scanner, the new me walked them…all….the…way…back to the car. It seemed like a hassle at the time but later on we were super hot and hungry so we enjoyed an impromptu low-cost picnic of hotdogs paired with those same drinks and chips. If I hadn’t saved those drinks/chips, I would have had to buy them somewhere. The little bit of effort it takes to think more frugally always pay off later, IMO.


Jennifer November 8, 2018 at 10:01 am

I didn’t have time to read all the posts before I posted. When I did, I realized some of you are struggling. I have been through low points and though things seem pretty good for me now, a valley could be around the next corner. Those here that are struggling seem like old friends so I hate to hear it. You are in my thoughts.


Denise Pulli November 8, 2018 at 6:39 am

Reading all of your comments, I am feeling so thankful. Both my husband and I hit low points in our late 30s/early 40s with the breakups of our first marriages. We met 20 years ago and have made a life together. All of the kids are through college and on their own; married, employed, and two with children. Our frugal ways have finally enabled us to have our heads above water for the first time in either of our lives – house paid off, both retired at 59 and 63 years of age, enough in the bank to pay our bills. We are still frugal, but not so much out of necessity as habit and beliefs. I am sorry that some of you are having such a rough time. I have been there and realize how very fortunate I am. God bless.


tracy November 8, 2018 at 6:45 am

I often feel like a frugal failure when I read all of your posts because I am not as frugal as many of you (although I aspire to be). I am not naturally thrifty, for me it is a learned skill (and that is an ongoing process). I am a reformed spender and only got (more) responsible with money in my 40s. On the other hand, I am decidedly MORE frugal than almost all of my friends so it is all relative I suppose. And I was always drawn to the ideals being frugality, having read everything Amy Dacyzn wrote and books like Your Money or Your Life Early on. I get frustrated with myself because I will be very frugal and then blow money on non-necessities, and I “should” have more savings than I do. On the other hand, I do have six months of emergency savings and a growing retirement fund. (Yes this ridiculous back and forth is in fact what it sounds like inside my head!)

I guess for me the upshot is: I believe in not wasting resources. I believe that money and things should be tools and not ends unto themselves. I believe that less is more and money doesn’t buy happiness. I believe in making conscious decisions. I believe in Katy’s mantra of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” I try to reduce, reuse, recycle. I believe I am incredibly fortunate and should live by these beliefs even when I don’t “have” to. And I know still have a long ways to go in conforming my conduct to my ideals. On a practical note, I do have bills coming up for a surgery and a dental crown, and if I am frugal in other areas, I will be able to pay these bills without accruing debt.


Tonya November 8, 2018 at 7:42 am

Yes, this is relatable. 2018 has brought ACL surgery for our son, followed by 9 months of intensive rehab; first semester of college for our daughter; and a huge house flood that wasn’t covered by home owners. But I am even more committed to frugality than ever.


Jessica November 8, 2018 at 8:08 am

This is exactly where I am right now. This is the prefect post for me. I did just realize that I can set up a separate account, and use it to put any non-job income in (e.g. facebook market place payments, etc.) and that may help me feel like there is something real there.


Carolyn S November 8, 2018 at 8:21 am

Sounds like this is a well timed post for lots of people. For me, I find that in times of financial stress I’m even more inclined to buckle down and keep doing all the little things that add up, because it often feels like those are the only things I can control. There’s not much I can do about the thousand plus dollar doctor bills, but I can sell some of my clutter to raise a little money. There’s nothing I can do about the accident that just totaled my car, but I can graciously accept rides and borrowed cars from other while I try to replace mine.
Knowing that I can still do all the little things to save money gives me at least a little bit of control back when everything else goes sideways.


Cindy in the South November 8, 2018 at 10:15 am

Thanks for this post Katy! I am drowing in medical bills for my two very sick youngest children, despite practicing fairly extreme frugality. I just keep on, keeping on……


Ruby November 8, 2018 at 11:30 am

There is so much to be said for sticking with the process of frugality, especially when you do those little money-saving things until they become second nature. I realized the other day that we waited almost a year to replace our unreliable microwave, and by doing so hit the sweet spot of having the money and finding a tremendous sale that made it half what it would have cost had we replaced it at Thanksgiving last year.


ouvickie November 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Yes. Like you, I don’t give up my frugal practices, but it’s tiring to be hit with medical bills, car repairs, home repairs, etc. and then feel like I’m right back to square one.
Our medical insurance went up again this year. My Campus parking pass went up, but my income – nope.
I fell In late April and had to have reconstructive shoulder surgery – which caused the medical bills. When you drive used cars and have a 23 year old house that’s needing repairs/upkeep – sometimes it just feels like you’re never going to catch-up again.
There are times I really DON’T want to cook, or eat leftovers, or a frozen entree. I just want to go out for lunch. Instead, I’ve allowed myself a few lunches out each month. One is a monthly lunch date with a good friend. She’s in the same boat as me. We both know we have to be frugal, but never allowing for lunch with a friend or a date night splurge causes frustration and depression.
I know there are many more things I can do to alleviate bills. I just need to gear -up and do them.
Thanks for the inspiration, Katy!


rebecca November 8, 2018 at 4:13 pm

This reminds me of weight loss. The belief little things add up has made a profound difference in my life! The key to success is ” step by step” and “the little things add up!” So many of us say “what difference does it make?” and do the excessive thing we want to do. (eat, spend, drink , etc.). One small step at a time.


Marybeth November 8, 2018 at 6:05 pm

We had to get a new to us car for my youngest to drive. It was a pain in the butt looking at lots of low priced cars and making sure they were safe. It was not an emergency because I do all of the things you mentioned so we paid cash for the car. Could we have bought a better car? Yes but she starts college next year so she is happy to drive a 2007 Elantra and go to school for free.


Lauren November 8, 2018 at 9:19 pm

I personally find it fun to try and save/ increase income. I turn it into a game to try and beat each weeks income. Yes it is out of necessity, however that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun whilst doing it. I’m a huge fan of pre loved clothes; I don’t get caught wearing the same store bought dress or shirt as someone else at functions. I enjoy using up leftovers because each week we end up with a leftovers smorgasbord dinner which we all love. I hope to own my own house again one day (it was sold in my divorce) so that’s my end goal. (But let’s face it- even when that is accomplished I’ll still do the little things that save money because it’s MY hard earned money and I don’t want to waste what I have worked so hard for.

Reply November 9, 2018 at 5:54 am

This post has been so moving.
First, the support for each other is one of the reasons I love this blog. I am so sorry for so many with loses and heartache.
Second, I too find the inspiration here really strong. I come back time and again for reminders of why we live frugally.

I was so proud we put on a lovely wedding for my step daughter at our house and did everything for $2,600. We had 65 guests and dinner, a big tent, chairs, flowers, a beautiful dress….but it took time, work, effort, ingenuity, thinking outside the box. All skills that have been honed over the years of living frugally. Guests were amazed at what we did. It was amazing! But it did not happen over night.
I am reminded of all the comments on saving money so you can spend money the way you want to. That was this wedding in a nutshell. We wanted a lovely memorable day but not with credit card bills or silly sentiments that weren’t the bride, groom or family. The things we didn’t do was far longer than what we did do! That part reminds me of Amy Dacyczyn’s writings about all the things they “didn’t do” like take their grocery buggy down the chip aisle!
Because of what we don’t do, we are able to do a lot!

DH and I have discussed more than once, that we forget to pat ourselves on the back for all the things we do (or don’t do) in the name of frugality because they are such second nature now. When we are hard on ourselves for a bad financial choice, we beat ourselves up. But what about the hundred tiny things we do regularly without thinking? We are deeply frugal but like everyone, sometimes the effort is exhausting. We want to splurge.
Budgeting for me allows me this. We have a Christmas budget. More of that goes to my joy of decorating than to gifts. Most of our family has all they need so the gift giving is fairly easy. But the joy I get out of buying a gorgeous ornament is priceless.
Keep keeping on friends.
Thank you for all your insights and inspiration.


Ava November 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm

I pondered over this post for a while, so I am at the end of the line. I believe that having a frugal mind set and saving pennies counts for a lot. The small savings are available much more frequently than the big ones. You don’t get a chance to refinance a house or find a great deal on a used car every day, but you can usually make the decision to forgo an impulse purchase or a meal out.
You can’t control the medical and dental expenses unless you put off fixing things that need to be addressed and that can lead to much worse problems.
I think spending awareness is so important . I used to work in an office with two ladies who were divorced, single parents of two kids each. They always complained of having no money yet they went out to lunch every day. EVERY day. Then when I became a divorced mother of two, I watched the pennies very carefully. It wasn’t fun, but I got by and was never penniless.


Ruby November 11, 2018 at 9:07 am

I used to work with a divorced mother of two who complained bitterly about never having any money, but she ate lunch out every day, got fast food tea on the way to work, smoked, and had department store charge cards to pay on every month. She would sometimes brown bag her lunch, but then complain about doing it and quit that.

I estimated that she spent at least $125 a week unnecessarily. It was pretty easy to see where her money went,


Sharon Rowe November 9, 2018 at 9:33 pm

We have to be frugal in the rest of our lives because both of us have chronic diseases. I have had mine for 37 years. We have good insurance yet for us a great night out consists of fast food (with a coupon) and a trip to the dollar store. Now that we are both borderline senior citizens (meaning discounts at a lot of places), we can enjoy more cheap leisure activities. We are fortunate to live near a national monument that we can visit for free with my husband’s lifetime senior pass. I, too was a young widow, and was lucky that my late husband’s illness was completely paid for with his VA benefits. My current husband and I are both Greens, and would still live this lifestyle regardless, but it would be nice if it was a choice, rather than a necessity.


janine November 10, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Excellent Post and a wake up call judging from all the posts. So many of us are going through difficult times – some more so than others. Yet we all know that possibly the only way out is a combination of frugality, good friends and family, inventiveness and – dare I say it – luck. After reading “Nomadland,:” I thank my lucky stars that I am in the place I am today. I wish I had been more frugal in my youth, but thankfully I was able to save and invest enough to get by so far, barring an unforeseen catastrophe.


Elizabeth November 20, 2018 at 2:48 pm

I’m several days late on this post, but it was so spot-on for our current situation. We’re attempting to finally finish paying off my husband’s student loans and things just.keep.happening. From finding out my husband’s work won’t pay for my health insurance (I’m self-employed, so my only choice is to pay on my own), to them not giving him an expected raise, to last week one of our cats getting attacked by coyotes and needing emergency jaw surgery. (We live in suburban Los Angeles… coyote attacks are becoming more common apparently.) On top of that, we had to deworm another cat and found out my husband’s insurance won’t pay for his (expensive) new c-pap machine. That was just this weekend. Yikes. But, it’s not quite as scary because by pinching pennies, we have a bit more wiggle room in our budget for stuff like this.


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