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Monday, June 13, 2016

The Evolution of Our Family's Finances and Daring to Dream Big and Make Plans

Photo credit- Kenneth Cratty
This blog has evolved a lot over time, as it has been a reflection of our finances that, too, have evolved a lot over time. When I first started out we literally were penniless, not making it through the month, insanely frugal by necessity, and basically pinching pennies so hard they screamed, and even with that, having a hard time managing financially. There were so many frugal things that I knew would help us out but couldn't afford the initial outlay (such as bulk buying, for example). I was in a bad place financially and while my hopes were to get out of that bad financial place we were in, I didn't really know how to do it.

A friend told me that there's only so far we can pinch our pennies; at some point we'd need to earn more, as you can't save money that you didn't bring in already. But I didn't know how to raise our income. Once I calculated how much money I'd be able to bring in each month by working full time at a minimum wage job (the only type of job I was qualified for) and then subtracted work related expenses such as childcare and saw that I'd bring in so little that it would be offset by the amount I could do to save money if I were home so I wrote off going to work as pointless.


I did manage to find some part time jobs, some working from home (started off with childcare, but then switched to writing jobs, primarily), and some part time jobs out of the home -- cleaning jobs, predominantly, and did some occasional gigs here and there to bring in some money, such as teaching foraging classes, and selling homemade food products.

In addition to that, gradually my penny pinching ways gained popularity and I started to be able to earn a little bit of money from this blog, in addition to some other frugality themed writing jobs. Slowly but surely we were inching our way forward and I started to be able to do the things I wanted to do to save money, and we got out of that rut of being insanely frugal and still spending more than we were bringing in, and instead we were just very frugal and generally not spending more than we were bringing in...


When I first started this blog, I'll admit that it was in the hopes of bringing in an income from it, and joked that hopefully one day I'll be able to rename it Penniless to Millionaire. While that is no where near the truth for us, I can say that our financial situation at the moment is worlds apart from how it was 6 years ago. We have up months and down months, but we've had more ups than downs lately, especially since I kicked my butt into gear and started teaching more classes, selling more homemade soaps, writing some books, etc...



For the past many years, any money I brought in, I considered a nice extra. It helped, but it wasn't anything that I could rely on. My husband's salary was what we had to live on, and hopefully I'd make some money to increase available money. But since I've taken an active role in bringing in a larger income, and increasing my business, in the past few months I have turned what I make from a nice extra to almost a full (albeit low) salary that we can depend on. In previous times I'd spend what I earned on all the expenses that I spend (groceries, transportation, clothes, household expenses etc....) and when that got used up, used the money my husband made to pay the rest of my expenses in addition to our regular bills.
The past month or two I realized though that something different happened. I was using only the cash I earned (classes, soap making- yes on the books...) for my expenditures, and had left over from that; my supply wasn't running out. And that was without even using the money that was digitally transferred to me regularly (blog income, as well as some soap sales and people prepaying for my classes).

For the first time in forever I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere instead of stuck in a financial hamster wheel.

A big part of my life has been playing catch up and trying to survive so I wouldn't let myself even think about spending on any extras, just the bare minimum. (Ok, I did spend on two home births but that was the only thing and even that was hard for me to be able to justify to myself even though it was important to me.) We cut in every way we could think of, did unfathomable things, just spending on needed physical expenses and nothing else. And over the years as we were able to catch our breath from time to time financially, we splurged on little things here and there. Twice a year hubby and I go on a frugal date. Occasionally I spend a little extra on groceries to get some nicer small things. Allowing ourselves a little luxury here and there made our very frugal lifestyle more manageable, made us content with our life...

I had a hard time writing that last sentence for a multitude of reasons, among which being that I didn't know the best way to describe our feelings. I truly believe that the way to be happy with life is to focus on all the blessings you have in life instead of focusing on the negative. And throughout it all I cannot discount how lucky I am to have a loving, helpful, and supportive husband, four terrific kids, health, never going hungry, and my husband always bringing in a regular paycheck (even if small) over the last 10 years. These are no small things and cannot be taken for granted. On top of that, I also feel that in order to be happy with your life you need to not constantly be comparing your life to others' as there will always be people who have more than you and you'll never manage to keep up with them.
Fortunately I live in a wonderful community of people who live relatively simple lives, and who don't tend to flaunt the luxuries they do have, so we are content with our lot and happy.
But again, back to the difficulty with writing this. Last week a long time blog reader who hates me and what I stand for confronted me, accusing me that I can't possibly be happy with my life and I shouldn't put on a show that I'm proud of what I do when I should be embarrassed of my lifestyle. I hesitate writing this post because I know she and other haters who read this blog will use it as fodder and proof that they were right about me and my lifestyle all along. That I'm just deluding myself by saying we're happy and content when that isn't true. But here's the thing. We are happy with our lot and content with our life but life is complicated.

There's no contradiction between being happy and content and having dreams and maybe hopes even. Maybe there isn't a difference linguistically so much between dreaming and hoping, but in my mind the difference is that dreaming is considering about a possible future that would be nice, but being realistic and not expecting it to happen, being totally fine with it never happening but if it did that would be great. Hoping in my opinion goes beyond that, knowing that something isn't a guaranteed but still expecting it to happen, but at the same time being OK if it never comes to fruition. Pining for something, on the other hand, is wanting something you don't have and feeling down about not having it until you do. Pining, in my opinion, would be mutually exclusive with being happy and content with life. But my family being happy and content with our extremely frugal life doesn't mean that we never dream of other things. And dream we have. (As I said above, I did dream of getting wealthy from this blog.) Some dreams materialized even. (Buying a house.) But we never expected them and made the best of the life we do have, and not saying 'our life would be so much better if...'

One of the things I've dreamed about for years is scuba diving. I've been a swimmer nearly my whole life, am a lifeguard, and my personal heaven involves lots and lots of swimming. Scuba diving seems to just take that to the next level and I've wanted to do it for years but could never, for multiple reasons, among which were the fact that I was either nursing a small child or pregnant. And then there was the money issue. There is scuba diving in my country but not anywhere nearby, so any scuba diving would have to involve a long trip that is overnight for a few days in a very expensive resort town....
But as I mentioned, it was just a dream and something I didn't expect to happen in the foreseeable future, so that was that.

However in the past while as our finances took a turn for the better, and especially in the past few months I realized that this dream of mine certainly does have the possibility of becoming a reality. That maybe for the first time in our married lives we could spending on something like this that was totally not a physical need, is more than just the bare bones basics in life, but is for fun, for the purpose of fulfilling a dream.
I hesitate to use the word want here vs needs because, quite frankly, can something be a need if we've managed 10 years without it? But using the word want instead is complex as well because there are 'want's that can go very far in filling emotional needs, which aren't any less important than physical needs.
However emotional needs ebb and flow and when possibilities arise and dreams become potential realities, what was once a dream that you could do without ends up feeling like an emotional need for your sanity. And that, therein, is a problem. Because so many things can be justified as emotional needs, once you've opened your mind to the option; where do you draw the line? If you give in to one or two emotional needs, does a deluge of 'needs' start, until you're unhappy with your life that previously left you content, because it doesn't fill these newly discovered emotional needs?

I'm not just philosophizing theoretically here though. I decided that for our tenth anniversary this coming September, Mike and I will be going away for a few days, alone, to celebrate, bond, have fun, and fulfill this dream of mine. But since deciding that, it's like I've had a shift in my mind, and what was just a dream now is feeling like a need.
I need a break from the kids who I am with 24/7. I need to go away with my husband on a getaway for our anniversary as we never once went away together alone (not even for one night) without any kids since our oldest, Lee, was born nearly 9 years ago. (I went away for work, alone, 8 months pregnant 2.5 years ago, and Mike and I went away with Rose 1.5 years ago. But never together with no kids.) I need to have some fun and reward myself for all my hard work so I can have the energy to keep it up and not burn out. And when Mike, who is such a homebody, tries suggesting that we not, I find myself telling him that I need it for my mental health. And I don't think I'm lying or even exaggerating. And that scares me. Because even if we can afford this now, we can't afford it to become a regular thing. But if I feel it is a need now, and I fill it, how long will it keep me fulfilled and how long will it be till that niggling voice in my head tries to tell me not to be content with my life until we go on an expensive vacation again?

At the same time, for years I've thought about the definition of frugality and how it differs from stingyness, and I don't want to be one of those people afraid to spend money on things, even when it's available to spend, out of this misguided idea that it's a sin to enjoy life and have nice things. I am afraid that if I want something this bad and I deny it to myself for no reason other than 'its a want, not a need', I'd have crossed the unhealthy line into miserliness and money hoarding.

So we're going to do it.

But in a way that suits my money conscious side. That I don't feel like I'm irresponsibly throwing out money on a want.

I've priced my potential trip and looked into various options. In the resort town in my country we could take the bus there or the plane. We could stay at a nice hotel, a hostel, an airbnb, or camp on the beach. But I've been told that that resort town is so expensive and there are other options, that I can go abroad to another resort town and stay at a decent hotel and have it come out to be cheaper than it would be at the resort town in my country.

Essentially, my options for such a vacation are:
Go to the resort town in my country:
Take a bus there and back. 63 dollars round trip for us both, and 10 hours+ travel time altogether (on a bus, so not so pleasant) altogether. OR fly there, 300 dollars round trip, 5 hours travel time altogether (not counting check in at the airport, etc...)
Camp on the beach there. ~$50 altogether for 4 nights. Lots of people, not private, not so physically comfortable- no AC. No place to keep stuff during the day so we'd have to lug everything with us everywhere we go. OR stay in a simple AirBnB for $160 for for nights OR Stay at a hostel for 232 dollars for 4 nights. OR spend more money on a nicer hotel, price can vary tremendously...
Scuba diving would be $75 each so $150 for both of us.
Then food expenses, which could vary tremendously based on what we eat and where, but I heard that in general that city is insanely overpriced.

Total options for pricing, not counting food or any of the other expensive stuff to do there; ~$263 plus food for the bare bones trip there with camping and taking the bus there.~$375 plus food for bus/airbnb/scuba combo, ~$450 plus food for bus/hostel/scuba combination. ~$690 plus food for flight/hostel/scuba.

Then there was the alternative of going to the resort city abroad, and there are bundle deals there through Expedia, so it works out cheapest to fly there and stay at a hotel (even cheaper than flying and camping, or flying and staying at an airbnb)- a total of $340 plus scuba for $150 so $490 plus food for the trip there!

With pricing and options like that, I'm sure you could see why I would prefer to go abroad...

So I set myself a goal.

I know, on average, each month's grocery bill is $520 dollars, when I'm just doing my regular, mostly frugal shopping with a decent amount of short cuts and splurges too. I have gotten it to $390 to $440 per month without trying too hard, just by cutting out extraneous splurges. I am sure I can get it even lower, possibly as low as $300 dollars if I work hard and do without extras for myself and make everything from scratch.
I decided that whatever money I generally spend on groceries, but don't, that money will go towards the trip. If one month I spend $390 instead of $520, then the $130 will go into the trip fund that month. If I manage to spend $300 instead of $520, then $220 will go into the trip fund that month.
And of course, if I only spend $25 less than my usual, then only $25 into the trip fund.

This way, I don't have to feel guilty that I'm spending money that I should be saving, on luxuries, because this is money that I anyhow spend, and if I work harder, I have more to spend on the trip.
I started this in May, already, and set aside $130 for the trip. Our anniversary is in September and I'd like to go in the end of September, so that gives me four more months in which I can set aside money that I'd otherwise be spending on convenience items for groceries, on such a trip, and I will do that!

I know critics reading this will be all uppity and be thinking "how can you make your kids suffer so that you and your husband can have a good time?!?!" Nothing like that, let me assure you. The ways in which I am cutting back on groceries is not in any way that hurts the kids- I'm still making foods they love and are excited about. The only one "suffering" is me- I'm the one who now is spending more time in the kitchen and is eating less luxuriously, but that's ok with me. Whenever I start saying "Maybe I'll just get this treat for myself" I say "Then those $4 is money you aren't spending on your trip. What would you rather now- this treat, or the trip for your anniversary?" And doing that, I am able to put back and work on delayed gratification, because I really would rather go on the trip than have that treat now.
Same for making things from scratch. When I'm feeling lazy and less in the mood to spend more time in the kitchen to make something from scratch instead of buying it ready made at a higher price, I just remind myself that my laziness is going to cost me. That I really would rather spend more time now to be able to enjoy myself more later.

When it comes down to it, whatever I save will determine how our trip will be. If I only save $263 dollars, then a bare bones trip with bussing and camping it will be. But if I work hard and save up $600+ dollars (that is including extra for food, etc...) then I'll be able to have the vacation of my dreams, abroad, in a hotel, scuba diving, etc... So I have good motivation!

And what will the kids be doing during that time? Vacationing at relatives they love! So no suffering for them there, either, and a win win situation for all.

Since this vacation budget isn't any extra money, I do plan on saving for the future simultaneously, with the money I've been earning from working, thereby not being irresponsible by spending on this trip without also having a savings...

So, now that I told you about how I have to work hard to save up money on groceries, I'm going to end this post now so I can go grind flour for homemade baked goods instead of buying more expensive flours to make them. And I'm off!

Have any of you ever improved your finances from a situation that seemed pretty hopeless to one where you have money for extras? How did you manage to do that?
Once you started spending money on extras, how did you manage to stay frugal, and not feel the need for extras all the time, having these extras becoming "needs" thereby drastically increasing your cost of living?
Anyone else have torn feelings about spending money on nice things, even if you have the money for them? How do you justify it and feel comfortable with spending, and not feel irresponsible for spending money on unnecessary "wants"?
Do you think you can be content with your lot in life and still have dreams?

44 comments:

  1. Lovely post! Have a fabulous trip in September.

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  2. Never feel guilty for being financially responsible and cutting where you can in order to have joy and create wonderful experiences and memories! These are things that help us enjoy life and strengthen our marriage! VERY Important! Have a wonderful time!

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  3. So sorry to hear about your haters, Penny. While I don't agree with everything you do, I admire you for your perseverance, ingenuity, and hard work. I honestly can't believe there are people out there who have enough time on their hands to obsessively follow a blog out of pure hatred! Sounds pretty pathetic to me. Maybe they should do something productive like work at a soup kitchen.

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    1. Genius response! Pathetic folks, no doubt!

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    2. yep, pure genius...love it

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  4. This is a great post! First, I'm stuck on the fact that you have someone who dislikes you and STILL reads your blog - just so they can comment in a negative fashion. I'm astounded by that - it sure takes a lot of energy! When I stopped working 20 years ago to stay home with our children, we also had MANY very lean years - months where I wasn't sure where money for basics like groceries would come from. Slowly, we moved out of that, with living on a budget, saving, camping for vacations, etc. We're now in a place where we are comfortable and happy. Nothing extravagant, but content. We were able to take our oldest son on a special trip when he graduated from high school, because my husband started a separate account for us several years prior. We made a goal of putting $25 per month in there the whole time he was in high school and by the time he graduated, we had enough to take a nice trio and not worry about being too frugal. We have now been saving the same for our next son and will have enough to do something nice with him next year when he graduates. We put the money in automatically, so it comes out of our main account right away. It seemed like it would be hard, but ended up being easy and now it's just something that happens automatically. I like the idea of countering the desire to be "lazy" with the desire to work towards a goal - I'm going to start telling myself that!

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  5. I love this post. I have followed this blog for years and know that you have worked extremely hard to be in a position to take a breath. Don't let the haters spoil that breath for you. I have found that being able to periodically do something nice makes everything else seem easier. No one else walks in your shoes 24/7 so live for the things that are important to you and waste no time on the negativity.

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  6. Great post Penny! We used to somewhat struggle financially and I can say that we were happier or just as happy as we are now. It is nice not to have to worry about spending too much but I'd say in general we enjoyed the challenge and journey to getting where we are today. Enjoy your vacation!

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  7. Dear Penny,
    I think you have a fabulously interesting life, full of amazing new daily discoveries. Honestly, if you had heaps of money you would not be going on your fascinating life journey with such enthusiasm and ingenuity. You do not need lots of money to have a happy, fruitful and interesting life. Well Done, Penny, I cannot wait for your next adventure.

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  8. You dear lady have earned a vacation! I hope you have a blast.

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  9. Love this. Have fun on your trip.

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  10. You say you and your husband can't get more than low-paying jobs. Looking back, don't you think it would have been a good idea to get at least a college degree? Wouldn't a higher-paying job be nicer than all this never-ending effort and stress to save a dollar here or there? Im not a hater, but your lifestyle is absolutely abhorrent to me. So hard, so much scrimping and scrounging, so much WORK. I have a job I love. It's full time, but your days sound 100x harder than mine.

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    1. Looking back doesnt help anything, does it? Since you cant change the past, so it really does no good to dwell on would have/should haves...
      That said, we do plan on encouraging our children to get college degrees/learn for a profession already by a young age, so should they meet the right person, they dont have to make a choice if they should get married or go to school, or wait to have kids when married, etc...

      All that aside, my husband and I both love our jobs.

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    2. Having a college degree in no way guarantees a paying job, more happiness, or more money. Especially in today's evolving economy. There's so many factors to getting those things out of a job, and given the surplus of degree'd students with nowhere to go - it's a real problem.

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    3. That's a dumb comment. Of course it's no guarantee, who said anything about guarantees? But if you can't admit that a degree positions you better in the job market, you're very naive.

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    4. I'll say this right now: a bachelor's degree is no longer enough to be competitive. You need to go to grad school. I know many people who work barely above minimum wage jobs who also have to pay off their undergrad debt. Not saying education isn't important, it REALLY is, but a college degree doesn't go very far these days.

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    5. I have a college degree and make as much as my husband who as a bachelor's degree, so quit this "college degree doesn't go far these days", it's bull. (we are both paid really well BTW, not low wage. Not to brag, just a fact)

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    6. @Isa obviously you two are very blessed but it depends on your major and location. I have friends who have engineering degrees who are doing very well but for every one of them, I know an econ major that is struggling to find a job or a marketing major working for a tutoring company that lives in a small apt because the cost of living is so high where I live. I have friends who work for Google who are paid tons but spend half their paycheck on a tiny apt they share with a roommate. So yes, college degree does help but it still does not go as far as it used to.

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    7. I have a college degree, actually 2 bachelor's, a Master's, and numerous certifications in my field. I chose after working for 20 years in my field to become a stay at home single parent. So I clean offices at night so I can be at home and homes school during the day. Having college degrees does not translate into higher paid work as my hours are limited by my choice to homeschool.

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  11. With your propensity for hard work and creativity, I look for you and your family to become very prosperous. A lot of people start out poor and work their way out of it, which you are doing. In the book "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas Stanley , he said many rich people don't have college degrees. The book is a good read if haven't already read it.

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  12. Dear Penny, I have just recently discovered your blog and I love it. I am so glad that you aren't ashamed to tell the world about your struggles as a mother and homesteader. Our society today is so materialistic and tells women that they can't possibly be happy unless they have a high-power, high-paying career and no kids. I currently work in an office and I hate it. I can't wait for next summer when my boyfriend and I will marry and I can hopefully start having kids and being a mother, a career I've always dreamed of.

    Women today are told that they should be ashamed of wanting to be a mother. I think that is so sad, very un-feminist, and un-empowering. Being a mother is, in many ways, much harder than being an office guru. It is a career choice that deserves just as much respect as a corporate career. Thank you for showing women today that you don't need a lot of money to be happy. Yes, your life is hard, but so are all our lives when you think about it. It's all about trade-offs and sacrifices. Thank you for your blog--it is a breath of fresh air.

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  13. The bus versus flight is one thing I would consider. If you have to check in at the airport very early it can add hours to your trip as can waiting for your luggage. And of course I don't know how far the bus versus airport is from your house. I personally hate all the long lines at my airport. But I fly out of NYC.The bus can be easier to just pop on with a good book.

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  14. surprised that some people hate you but follow your blog to make hateful comments I admire you a lot specially the way you have managed to make a happy home for you & your family I enjoy following your ideas though I do not need to financially but you make it healthy all he best enjoy the vacation

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  15. penny, I look forward to always reading your blog, and new ideas, things that I can incorporate into my own home. I do wish I had your level of energy, but I am older so thats what it is. good for you, that you are going away with your husband. have a great summer.

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  16. Haters hate themselves mostly. Don't let it get to you. You are an amazingly strong woman, and I have enjoyed your blog and learned a lot from you. Hats off, and I hope your trip is amazing. :-)

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  17. Hello Penny, I'm a long time lurker of your blog. And I am finally moved to write in response to this post.....
    I'm struck by the feeling of guilt that you seem to have about spending money on a trip for you and your husband to enjoy some time alone. I can understand that feeling as a mother myself.
    BUT. You should NOT feel guilty, and sometimes, going away and refreshing your relationship with your husband IS a need, not just a "want". Without the two of you nurturing your bond together, your relationship suffers. Without a strong, loving relationship between the mother and father, the children suffer. I say, don't feel any guilt about this trip. Spend what you need to actually have the time to rest, have your privacy as a couple and enjoy one another. Have a good time! Your instincts are good. Follow your gut.

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  18. Every single thing is SO difficult. That is what I don't get. You cannot just go on a vacation - sure you can do it in a frugal manner, but oh my, this is insane. You spend more time thinking about how to save 3 dollars on a vacation than you do doing anything productive. I really don't mean to be mean but seriously, you are wasting your life on so many trivial things. When you die, no one is going to look back and be impressed that you got an avocado for 12 cents. Every single second of your life is spent worried about how to save a penny. I don't know how you do it. And when you aren't doing that, you are coming up with another diagnosis for you or your kids to make more excuses as to why they have to eat food that is even nastier. Gluten free, sugar free, grain free, paleo, and the list goes on. and on. and on... I cannot even keep track of how many silly restrictions you have put on yourself and those poor kids. There is no way those kids like eating that crap, no matter what you claim. Your family is suffering for your hypochondria and that isn't fair. It just makes me so sad watching how those kids live. You cannot even just take those poor kids out for an ice cream come because it might cost you 79 cents. So you make them some "ice cream" that costs you 3 cents and looks like a pile of vomit. Then you lament how you spent 3 cents to give them a luxury. It seems like life is passing you by while you literally OBSESS about every. single. penny. There is being frugal then there is mental illness. You really need to think about it.

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    1. Just a hit- if you have to preface something with "I don't mean to be mean" then you probably are and maybe shouldn't say it.
      When I die, my kids will appreciate that I'm not leaving them with a mountain of my debt to pay off, and they will appreciate that I taught them that good times dont have to cost a lot of money.
      Interesting that you are able to look from the outside with just the few things I share and assume that every minute of my life is spent worrying about how to save a penny. I spend very minimal amounts of time thinking about how to save a penny, I just do it. My kids I dont diagnose with anything other than gluten sensitivity, and that is only 3 out of the 4, and perhaps one might be dairy sensitive but I give him dairy some of the time anyhow. Its only myself that I have figured out what foods bother my very sensitive stomach because the doctors couldnt and they just told me to suffer. You are looking at their life and assuming things about them and myself that you have no idea about. For the record, just 2 weeks ago I took them out for ice cream at $3 a kid, and bought ice cream from the supermarket on thursday. So great you make assumptions.

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    2. I really don't mean to be mean, Kendra, but it seems like you are OBSESSING over SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE. You should be enjoying your own life, but instead you're wasting your time reading a blog you don't like. If you don't like Penny's blog, then STOP READING IT! Seriously, maybe YOU are the one with a mental illness. You really need to think about it.

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    3. Penny, when you die I will still be impressed that you got an avacado for 12 cents. Just sayin' lol

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    4. I think what you do, Penny, is inspiring and it helps me not feel so alone. I think that is what they will say at your funeral-

      "mother, wife, friend, teacher, author, inspiration to many, a woman of many talents who loved her family and friends and devoted her life to bringing joy to others by teaching them that life is about more than getting ahead by the world's standards, that passion can be found with an open heart and life can be beautiful no matter where you live or how much you have.

      And also she got an avocado for 12 cents. An impressive woman, indeed. "

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    5. I don't know, I often find my kids eating the cat's kibble, stuff they've found under the furniture, it's not like kids have the most refined pallets to reject food because it doesn't look like it's from the cover of Sauver magazine. I once made crepes with Gruyere and truffles, my kids wouldn't eat them, but they will eat their own boogers. I don't know, I often find my kids eating the cat's kibble, stuff they've found under the furniture, or even their boogers, it's not like kids have the most refined pallets to reject food because it doesn't look like it's from the cover of Sauver magazine. I once made crepes with Gruyere cheese and truffles, my kids wouldn't eat them, but they try to eat their own boogers.

      The real question is, why are you reading and commenting on this blog if you don't agree with its premise? Isn't that a bigger waste of time than Penny working hard to save money?

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    6. Lol!!! I wasn't planning on commenting...I agree with most commenters saying you are doing a fantastic job!!! But...this one takes the cake! I understand your reluctance to spend any amount of money on food that will make your family sick. Just last night we ate out on someone else's budget and I was grateful but felt..."what a waste of money for food that isn't even good (cheap thai...full of sugary sauces).

      Good for you frugal mama. I applaud you.

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  19. I think you have a great idea to save the money you need for the trip! I have been thinking about goals lately and your post is a perfect example of what we can do when we set a goal and determine to meet it. Great post. :)

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  20. Penny, I too love your blog and eagerly look forward to each new entry. I find your posts fascinating, informative, and inspiring! I also greatly admire you and your cleverness at maximizing your money and making do with what you
    have (or what can be acquired frugally). I especially love your posts on foraging and herbs (a great interest of mine). Keep up the great work and I wish you a wonderful and relaxing holiday when the time comes!

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  21. Hang in there, and don't let the haters get to you!!

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  22. My husband and I were in similar financial straits to yours the first couple years of our marriage, so i really related to your posts then. We have since moved overseas for our jobs and now i love your blog because it is so versatile. Your recipes are extremely adaptable and i can make them work with what is locally available, plus they're gluten free for my daughter who has celiac! I have yet to forage but am intrigued by the concept. Not everyone has the same likes, needs, energy or comfort levels, but for goodness's sake people, take what works for you and MOVE ON!

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  23. Oh gosh, so many haters! I am sorry that you have to deal with such obnoxious and rude comments Penny. Please keep in mind that most of us who read your blog (such as myself) enjoy reading your thoughts and ideas and admire many things about you! I am not a super frugal lady but I have learned many tips from you, and even those that are not applicable to me personally, I still find interesting or admirable.
    For ex, I am one of the least crunchy mamas out there, but I find it so I think you are a very wise woman to keep your family out of debt and live a simple, nonmaterialistic obsessed lifestyle.
    Enjoy your vacation!! Hope everything goes well :)

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  24. Everyday is a choice..to be happy or be a ungrateful bumblebee to the world.

    I'm very proud that you've decided to indulge in some quality time for yourself and hubby. I hope you two have a great time. You guys have earned it.

    Also, I think the haters are jerks because they don't have the gumption to do what you do. So, you go girl! -MH

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  25. Bah, haters are going to hate! Nothing more interesting to do I guess!
    Anyhow, enjoy this vacation of yours and don't feel guilty one bit. It's (in my eyes) still cheap for a vacation for 2.
    And, honestly, I don't know how you don't go crazy being with the kids 24/7 and no time alone (outside of home) with hubby. I need time one on one at least once a month (dates). I am in a different state financially, so this changes things of course (no judgement). I think you are doing an amazing job managing the money you guys get and make it stretch. Keep up the good work!

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  26. Can't say anything above what has already been said by your faithful blog followers except: I love your blog, too! And I am determined to forage some pine nuts next time they are in season. :)

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  27. Good luck with your goals! And keep us updated. I have done similar things carving away at groceries to save for extra's. Everyone actually ends up eating better (more homemade baking, and healthy vegan meals) the only thing that suffers is my "do nothing time". I am rooting for you.

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  28. I actually like the detail you add to articles and that they are lengthy vs a couple sentences. It helps me to see your reasoning which often makes sense and is applicable to my situation. Haters need to join a blog that echoes their feelings/thoughts.

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  29. Penny, I first found your blog back in the desperate days of 2009, and we actually talked back then a few times. You were scratching and contriving solar ovens and someone stole your cooking pot, if I recall. I was scratching and contriving to cut every penny I could off everywhere I could as my husband and I tried to keep from drowning in the crushing tide of the recession.

    At one point someone gave you grief for something specific, and I told you there's no shame in making a better life for your family if you can do it in an honest way, which you were, even if it's not to the world or the internet or America's standards of middle-class living. We've both dug in and shaved bills and dealt with problems as the years rolled on and now we're both in better places, each having our own moment of good fortune arrive suddenly, and I for one am glad to see how you and your family's hard work has paid dividends. I have kept many of my frugal ways too, because it allows us to free up money we wouldn't otherwise have for things we previously couldn't afford, like better quality food and access to doctors.

    It's common sense to save up for a trip of any kind, if you're not of the ilk to whip out a credit card or take out a loan. Whether you take it out of your "treat" budget or the whole family pitches in to raise the funds is really your business. That's how sensible, non-moneyed folk get out of debt, pay off loans, make big purchases, and so forth - by asking themselves "do I want X or do I want to pay off Y? more" and setting the little bits aside until the big amount is reached.

    You do seem to be overthinking this and feeling guilty about being able to finally afford some wants. Just recognize that they ARE wants - maybe even extremely important wants - but wants - and that it can't always be about wants - and then enjoy them when you've earned them. And then maybe pick another big want to start saving up for.

    Dreams and hopes are good when you can put concrete action towards them. Without the power to make effort towards them, dreams are depressing reminders of what we can't have and lead to discontent and powerlessness. So yes, in those positions, maybe it is better to give them up. But if you've still got the means to try - and you personally still do - then I say pick one dream and start plotting. If you have setbacks, you pick up and keep trying. This is what you've done, and we've done. Maybe it's a big dream, like a trip or a house. Maybe it's a small dream, like new books or a special toy. Just put it on the list and start budgeting for it, like you do everything else.

    Ignore the haters. You've got more important things to do with your time than feed the trolls.

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