The beginnings of our frugal life.

I was talking with Money Mom last night and watching some of her latest videos. She is doing a Tightwad Gazette Monday and in one video she made a crock pot meal from Dump Meals by Cathy Mitchell. And did this bring back some good memories!

In my old channel I talked about The Complete Tightwad Gazette all the time, along with my favorite cookbook, Dump Dinners. These were the two books that started off our very frugal lifestyle. I would love to go down memory lane with all of you.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette and Dump Dinners, along with advice from Miss B, was the beginning to a very frugal lifestyle that would help us live on less than $3000 monthly for the next 8 years and, not only live well, but save enough to buy two properties. We now live in one house and the other is our rental. Fortunately, we have a good tenant.

Today I read memoirs of the Depression Era from those that were raised in that time or lived through it; When The Banks Closed Our Hearts Opened, We Had Everything But Money, and Tough Times, Strong Women. These books are so inspiring. They talk about a time that was beyond what we are experiencing today. They had WW1 that was horrific and didn’t end well, then that was followed by the Spanish Flu that wiped out 100 million people when the population was only a bit over 2 billion. That was followed by the dust bowl that was a drought and wind storm that lasted 10 years and with it the Depression joined in followed by WW2 and food rations. Oh my, talk about tough times. It makes this day and age look like a stroll through the weeds.

I’m inspired by how families made it through, how hard they worked. Women washed piles of clothes by hand in all the weather, they grew huge gardens and canned all summer to make sure the family was fed through the winter, they rose with the sun and baked loaves of bread and pies. The men would plant truck gardens but the women always had a huge kitchen garden. Even the city folk had huge gardens if they had a yard at all. These stories inspire me to work harder, complain less, and work with what I have. What we have compared to what our great grandparents had is abundant, even if we are on food stamps we have more than most of them had.

These stories make me feel rich.

I remember our beginnings into the frugal life. We used to make a lot of money and then things happened; a job was lost, we moved for other work and Bali fell into a job paying only $10 an hour. I found TCTWG and began making buckets of laundry detergent, learning to make bread, reduced my grocery envelope, and enjoyed free TV with an antenna and all the library books I could read. I loved Dump Dinners because I only needed 3 to 5 ingredients and one pan. With two babies and being on my own most days, this was a dreamy way to cook and it was comfort food. I was homesick for our coastal town and reading a lot of Amish fiction, making casseroles and pies were my happy place.

Through all the years our income changed up and down. We enjoyed the more abundant years but kept our living expenses around $2500 or less. We kept honing our skills by learning to garden, canning, really baking everything, cooking a lot from scratch, stocking up on reusable items such as cloth napkins, cloth feminine products, reusable straws, Berkey filters, bagless vacuum, steam mop, old rags for cleaning, brooms, clothes line, and many things I can’t think of right now.

We even bought a super cheap house during the inflated housing market. It was ugly and in a town not many rush toward. But we made that house adorable by scrubbing, tearing out old carpet to expose old wood floors, painting everything, planting fruit trees and putting in kitchen gardens.

At one point we decided to move and needed money for a down payment. We hadn’t done that well at saving over the past two years but I was ready to move on so I set a crazy goal to save a thousand a month. We went hard core and lived off $1600 a month including mortgage. We were able to save over a thousand a month. But we had help. People sent money gifts, WinCo cards, and homemade dishcloths, books to inspire. I made every gift, card and penny count. We lived out of the garden as much as we could and as long as we could and Bali took every double shift and extra hour he could get. We saved so much that year, I can’t even remember how much but enough to put a down payment and do some work on the new house.

The key is to always live as small and light as possible. Some advice that worked miracles for us; learn to live on one paycheck and try to live on the smaller of the two paychecks (if there are two). Live below your means and when you make more, invest or save the extra. Pay yourself first (real game changer). Have a separate bank for savings.

And frugal living is not about being cheap or going without. It is about giving up a lot of extras that don’t really matter much to enjoy the real treasures of life. It means some sacrifice for a bigger goal. It turns out the sacrifices aren’t that at all, giving them up improves the quality of life.

It takes time. Today I’m much better at saving and being wise with the funds than even a couple years ago. I know the last year of living on a shoestring budget to get to the new house really helped me get over a lot of issues with spending unnecessarily and online shopping. I don’t have many wants these days.

DIY is another big money saver. After our second house and second round of awful handymen (well, the first one was great but disappeared halfway through) we now do the work ourselves. Bali always says, “It’s easy! We just do this and that…” So, he then does the floors or paint and we enjoy the work.

Today we live in a house over a hundred years old. After lots of scrubbing, painting, planting a small orchard, putting in a 1,200 sq ft garden, and new floors found on clearance (the old ones sadly were too damaged), we are settled in. I clean and write, cook and homeschool. Bali works two part time jobs. We don’t order online unless I’ve earned a gift card on Amazon with my affiliates program. I have focused on stocking the pantry, cleaning items and toiletries. I am back to reading my books and living a slow paced life.

I make my own lattes and mochas, cook all our meals, watch free movies, read free library books, and clean my own house (wouldn’t mind a cleaning lady but can’t justify it). We have come so far on a small wage and some small royalties. I’m very proud of my husband and myself for working so hard and building a dream the old fashioned way. Now we just have to put our focus on paying down the mortgages.

Life is good.


  1. Mortgage free is a worthy goal. We were mortgage free for ten years until we relocated to the country from our small city home. It was a choice we made because we owned that house outright and had a down payment of 40% of the sale price. After seven years here we’ve only paid down $50,000 principle, the majority of our payment was and is interest. You have to get to the midpoint of the loan to see the principle reduce more monthly.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Inspiring as always Kate. We’re just weeks away from selling our home in the suburbs and moving full time to our rural farm. We bought the farm with cash we saved by being very frugal and have cash flowed the renovations.
    It won’t be beautiful when we move in but we are getting there and with the funds from our house sell we should make lots of progress on the farmhouse.
    We’re looking forward to living mortgage free, saving more for retirement and living a slower paced life.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have both books you mentioned and they are very worn!!! They have served me well. Being alone now – my bills are minimal and I don’t spend any money that isn’t necessary. Amazing how little you need to spend – I have what I need here.

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  4. I’ve read and enjoyed all the books you mentioned. They are very inspiring. We are living on my Husband’s paycheck. Mine goes directly into savings. His paycheck is larger but at the moment we have some debt to pay off. When that is done we will reevaluate our finances and decide how to move forward. Only two more years to go. WOOHOO! Can’t wait to see your vlog about this topic.

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  5. My grandmother was born in 1905, and lived most of her early, and mid-life through all of the hard times you listed above. It truly changed people at their core. She did all of the things you discussed, as she lived in poverty, even though she just never quit moving – such a hard working little woman. She did not believe in God after the Spanish Flu killed half of her town, and she lost her second daughter one hour after birth. But she was one of the most spiritual, honest people you would ever meet. She did all of these things, on her own, with love, compassion, and great humility, without ever being taught them – which leads me to believe they are basic life truths, and would serve us all well. Especially now, as we have entered a time of great distress, which may last a long time, as it did 100 years ago. It is a life cycle, and it is our turn to show what we are made of.

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  6. Good advice, as always. Our big issue is credit card debt and it does not go quickly when you owe a bunch. Slowly but surely it will dwindle down to zero (hopefully in 2-1/2 years); then we can tackle the house. It just seems like forever each month when you make one more payment and then have to wait until the next month to make another. I am happy you are getting your debt out of the way before retirement. We are seniors and live on Social Security only and, believe me, it is hard! BUT… in all fairness, it would not be nearly as hard if credit card debt was not an issue.

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  7. This post is so wonderfully inspiring! I feel I can learn from your example of putting first things first and being joyfully disciplined in doing whatever it takes to step forwards towards the goal. Also, it sounds like by keeping what you wanted clearly in focus (the new house where you wanted to relocate to) you attracted the right circumstances to make it happen.

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  8. I remember you mentioning a no spend year, but I can’t recall why you stopped. Do you think you’ll try again? I’d be psyched to join you!


  9. Loved the post Kate!! I love being frugal! Finding ways to recycle and reuse everything! The older I get, becomes a fun challenge. Best part, finally able to put a nice chunk away every month. I’ve really been stricter with myself these last 2 years. Amazing cutting back on coffees, eating out, and trying to go no waste on groceries and household items can do, and I feel we eat so much better now. Have a wonder Day!!! Hope the fires are getting better up north. We live inVentura county, Ca. been fortunate not bad here. Blessings!!!


  10. Oh yes! I think I’m in one now, lol! I can’t remember…oh, we started fostering and we had to buy all these things then it slipped away but really I have been mostly doing pantry stocking and when I do shop online it’s with my gift cards on Amazon that I earn. I can do another no spend but we should do say month by month? I’ll write about it!

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  11. We had a not so bad debt with HomeDepot and I feel the same. Every month you have to pry the money from my unwilling claws. It took a month or less to run up a bill and ages to pay off. Then the house, lord. I’m trying to refinance starting this afternoon so we won’t pay until we are 80.

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  12. I have some fun videos that I’ll be posting every three days. One is serious but the rest are about frugal living and I do one where I clean and cook, lol. I’m having so much fun again.

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  13. Loved todays message. Your writing gifts are extensive and varied. I think my favorite oneof them, though, is your ability to help those of us who, when we tire of washing more dishes,pinching every penny, wiping up spilt juice on the sofa, or trying to remember the last time we went an entire day without baby spit-up on our shirt, to remember that these sometimes tedious tasks are important and honorable. Your writing changes our perspective of household cleaning, baking, and fixing [budget, homes, tending to owies on little elbows, etc.], from relentless burdens to times for reflection, challenging ourselves, and yes, sometimes making it all into a fun game.

    Ussually, after I read your message, I go from tired, drained, OLDDDD lady, to an enervated, sexy, sassy, senior citizen, one who looks at the pile of chores still needed to be completed, smiles, and gesturing, says “bring it on!”

    This is one of your gifts Kate, and I want you to know how grateful I am to be a recipient.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Oh my goodness, I really savoir these honest words of appreciation. I’m starting to get (just a little glimpse) of what it is I do to inspire others. Part of it comes from creating what I wish I could find out there! Sometimes, in little pieces, I’ll find something that inspires me or a person that makes the same old things I do daily suddenly look interesting. The more I get it, the better I’ll be able to serve.

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  15. Yes, absolutely!!
    I love how you include your boys on shopping and budgeting too. Loved the home economics lessons. I’ve been challenging my teen boys to cook once a week or so for the family. Plus they grocery shop to pick items, all on a budget of course. We’ve YouTubed some college dorm room cooking. I do require them to have something semi-healthy in the dish. Been a lot of fun.😊💐

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  16. Love this post- it reminds me that there are other people out there living their best frugal life. This lockdown has really slowed me down enough for me to realise all I need is a good book and some sun to be content.

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  17. I love coming back to read the comments here almost as much as I enjoy reading the blog. What a wonderful space for people to share.

    We are working on debt pay off too…and I took a job teaching at an online school Last week after years of not working in order to help us reach our goal. I’m not sure how I feel about having a boss again but this seemed like a time where more online teachers were needed …we’ll see how this goes. It’s a flexible position so I can still be there for my family. I’m going to give it one school year and reevaluate.

    To the woman moving to the county with no debt… how wonderful!!

    Liked by 4 people

  18. LOVE the new look of the blog , It is pretty and easier to read!!! We are currently in Ramsey’s baby set 6. Pay off house!! Feels sooo good to get here. Lots of frugal feats to get here. We may refinance what’s left to a 10 year loan then do double/extra payments to kick it out I half the time. There are some pretty good rates floating around right now. Could you do a blog post listing all the frugal books you love? It could be like a reference list you add to over time. Thanks for the considetation!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Wonderful idea. I will do that. I think I’ll do a Depression Era series…such as living like our grandmothers or great grandmothers? what do you think? Thank you so much for the input on the blog layout, just did it last night and always wonder how it’s working for others.

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  20. Living simply. Isn’t it just lovely, Kate? I have not been reading as much since the weather has permitted for lots of outside chores, but I have “My List” of books for this fall and winter when we are locked up inside from the cold. I have started planning for the Holidays and am thrilled to make dehydrated orange garland, popcorn on the tree, and other diy decorations that cost nothing. Can you smell the potpourri of cloves and orange on the stove yet? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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