Saturday, January 08, 2005

Frequently Asked Questions

What does saving money have to do with merchant ships?

Proverbs 31 says that the ideal woman (among other things) should be like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

In practical terms, that means she'll go to great lengths to meet her family's needs, even if it means scouting that Asian market on the other side of town.

Do you have to be frugal to be Christian? Not at all. Grace knows no budget.

Saving money just happens to be my talent, and I work hard to make our dollars align with our values. I believe that God provides, even in the little things, especially when we honor Him with stewardship.

What religion are you? Do you homeschool your children?

We are Catholic.

I don't write about my children's schooling because of privacy concerns. However, I believe that parents are always the best teachers, no matter how you choose to school.

What kind of camera do you have? Are these your own photos?

Yes--the photos you see here are original (if amateur!)

I've always used an entry-level Kodak and Kodak's free Easyshare editing software. After the kids dropped the last camera, I switched to a Sony Cybershot (on clearance for $99).

Do I still covet the D-SLRs my blogging friends have? Of course!

However, anyone can take better pictures by learning to use what you have. To improve any camera, turn OFF THE FLASH and shoot in natural light.

One caveat: an entry-level camera has a slow shutter speed, so it's a challenge to capture children without blurring.

Where exactly do you thrift shop? I never find stuff like you do.

I can't share all my secrets here, but if you're local, feel free to email.

I've lived all over town and visited thrift shops wherever we've traveled. I rarely come away empty-handed...except when I want to.

The key is how you look, not where.

I make my best finds at the shops I visit most regularly, and those change about every year. Here are some of the hallmarks that make me take a second look.

Do you take your kids with you when you thrift shop? What is your budget?

I do. In a given week, I drag all 5 of us to the grocery, the library, and a thrift shop (or 2). We rarely shop retail anymore. Here are some of my tricks for thrift shopping with kids.

We budget month-to-month using Pear Budget software. While I don't have a set thrift store allowance, I do pull money from the appropriate categories: clothing, books/education, gifts, etc.

How much do you spend on food every month?

I set aside about $60 per week for our family of 4 (plus baby). I do this by skipping most processed foods, stocking up on items while they are on sale, and buying/freezing meat when it is reduced for quick sale. [Update: we now spend about $100 per week to take advantage of local meat when we can get it.]

This does include paper and cleaning products, of which we use very few. We have a separate category for hospitality and restaurants.

Is there anything too frugal? What is your splurge item?

There's not much in the frugal world I haven't tried; however, taste and convenience play a bigger factor than they used to.

(My husband refuses that mackerel casserole from our "early marrieds" menu, but we still cut his hair at home. I happily eat the same lunch all week, but get my hair cut with a coupon.)

Our biggest splurge is our house. It's a basic 50's ranch in the neighborhood where my husband works. We could live somewhere cheaper, but a 5-minute commute gives us priceless family time and less stress.

Wow! That food looks amazing. Can I have the recipe?

Sorry! I am not a natural cook, and it stresses me out to think of someone wasting ingredients on a recipe they might not like.

I do try to make our food pleasing to the eye with bright colors and pretty tableware (all secondhand, of course!)

When I do share a meal idea, you can usually find the recipe by clicking on the highlighted link within the text. Or check the comments.

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration? How did you learn to make all these bargains work together, whether it's a fruit basket or a living room?

In many ways, this is my mother's blog. She has a real eye for beauty, and from her I learned to polish junk store silver and pick wildflowers from the side of the road.

Here's a list of my favorite frugal books. Chief among them are books about gracious living by Alexandra Stoddard and Edith Schaeffer.

I tear inspiration pages from cast-off magazines and bookmark my favorite internet ideas at Food For Thought, my tumblr page.

How do you do all this and keep your house so clean? Do you have a routine/homekeeping notebook/maid?

No--to all of the above! I hate cleaning, but I do love creating a warm and inviting home.

My strategy for the little kid years is to do the bare minimum, as quickly as possible, and enjoy the creative mess that comes with each day.

How do you keep your frugal motivation? Were you always this cheap, or how long did it take you to learn?

I feel good when I stretch our money, and that enthusiasm keeps me on track.

It didn't happen overnight! What you see on this blog been 10 years in the making.

Growing up in a single-parent family kept me from becoming a spendthrift, yet I wasn't conscious of wasteful spending until I married. Accountability, people!

Do you plan to go back to work? Do you plan to move to another house soon?

We hope to stay in this home while my husband works in the neighborhood, and I'd like to keep raising my kids for as long as they need me.

(If you don't find the answer you need, you can contact me at Be warned: since it's hard to type with a baby on one's lap, it may take me a while to reply.)


Biteofpunkinpie said...

what does 'loss leader' mean?

Lolly said...

Loss leaders are the items on super sale, usually pictured on the front page of the grocery store circular. The store loses money on a few items to get customers in the door, with the hope of customers purchasing the rest of their items there as well.

martha said...

NICE new picture of you, Meredith!