Hi there! I'm Penny, the woman behind this blog.
Come on, sit down. Why don't I tell you a little bit about myself...
How do I describe myself? That's really tough, because its hard to sum up all the different important, relevant aspects of my life in just a few paragraphs...
Well, as the name of this blog implies, I'm a parent who lives on a really strict budget, because we're "Penniless". To be honest, when I started this blog, my husband and I were closer to penniless, we were struggling to make it through the month, but in the nearly 2 years since I've had this blog, by following the extremely frugal lifestyle and tips that I share on this blog, we've been able to cut back our expenses tremendously and start building a savings account. On a minimum wage salary, living in a pretty high cost of living area.
I share money saving tips, from the basic frugal strategies (like budgeting tips) to the very extreme (like our family using reusable toilet paper- also known as family cloth).
My main focus on my blog is saving money in the kitchen because I, personally, think that that's the easiest way to make a very big dent with the least amount of effort, and because its something you can do every day. I mean, moving from a ~900 square foot apartment to a 484 square foot apartment with your family of 4 certainly saves a lot of money, but its a one time thing. We moved once and that continues to save us money every single month, but right now its more of a passive money saving endeavor; I can save more in my day to day life by cutting down on our food and cooking expenses. Another reason I focus on cutting back in the kitchen is because with many things, the best way to save money is to just not buy it, not spend money on it, and choose to do without, but, as everyone knows, we all have to eat; we can't just eliminate our grocery budget entirely. Instead, there are little things here and there that you can do to drastically lower one of the largest, recurring expenses most families have, and I share tips to help you do that.
And I guess the last reason why I focus so much on lowering expenses in the kitchen is because I love cooking, I love creating, and I love having people enjoy the yummy foods that I make. I don't mind doing things to save money in the kitchen, because it means that I have more excuses to putter away in the kitchen and make masterpieces and delicacies out of seemingly simple and cheap foods, and very often, my fancy foods end up being even cheaper than other people's run of the mill, non frugal meals, and I get a kick out of that.
One of my main mottos in my life, and I try to convey that on my blog as well, is that frugality and going without doesn't need to mean a depressing life in which you constantly feel deprived. I may have fewer expensive things, gadgets, and doodads than other people, but that's not what life is about. I am so incredibly blessed with so much goodness in my life; why would I choose to focus on the material things which matter so little in the grand scheme of things, when I have so many terrific things in my life that I can choose to be thankful for instead. I choose to look at my glass as not only being half full, but filled with the most wonderful drink in the world.
In order to enjoy my frugal life as much as possible, there are little things that I do here and there to make my life better that don't necessarily cost much money, if they even require any monetary outlay at all, because I think everyone deserves nice things in their life. I just try to remind myself, and others, that something doesn't need to be expensive to be nice. Loving time spent with people who matter to you and whom you care about doing enjoyable things can be totally frugal, costing nothing, but yielding great rewards.
In other words, my mission is to have as awesome a life as I can possibly have while still living beneath our (granted, rather limited) means, and to try to inspire others to do the same.
But what really matters to me in my life? For all that I do live an extremely frugal life, my main focus is really not money. That isn't the most important thing to me in any way. The most valuable things in my life are my husband of 5 years, Mike, and my 2 wonderful children, Lee and Ike, with a 3rd one on the way.
Because my children are very important to me, I'm willing to make some sacrifices. My children have never been to "official" daycare since they were born. For a few months, nearly a year ago, my children did go to a babysitter for a few hours a week when I was working as a cleaning lady, but that stopped at the request of my older son, and since then, I've had no regular break from my kids. Aside for playdates and the occasional times my husband stays with the kids after his long workdays so I can go out alone, I'm with my children pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Yup, I do sometimes want "me time", but my children have asked me to please not leave them with babysitters, so I don't. (For the record, I don't consider this to be letting them control my life; I call it paying attention to their emotional needs, and not forcing separation before a child is ready.)
I stay home with my children and plan to home school them long term, though I've already started working on homeschooling my older 4.5 year old son. We home school not to shelter our children from the outside world, but because we believe that we'd be able to give our children the most complete, well rounded education that way, an education that focuses on their strengths and interests, yet helps them improve in the areas in which they're weaker. Basically, I think that as a mother of my children who has known them since they were just a tiny little flutter in my belly, who understands the ins and outs of their personalities, their learning styles, and their capabilities, I'd be able to give them a better education catered to their needs than they'd be able to get in the large (30-40 children) classes in the local schools.
By staying home full time, I do have more time (and possibly energy- then again, staying home with 2 kids isn't like lying on the beach- it takes emotional and physical energy) to spend on money saving activities than would a full time working mom. I supplement our income by my part time job as a magazine columnist (on the topic of extreme frugality- what else?) for an international magazine, and via this blog, both of which I'm able to do from home with my children around.
I started off just being interested in frugality, but I've learned to appreciate the "green" aspect in many of the money saving activities as well, and bit by bit, as I've learned more and had a little more spare cash, I've been focusing on making our life as chemical free and environmentally friendly as possible, and have gradually been eating healthier and healthier foods, as our finances will allow.
Pretty much since the start of this blog, I've tried to make our food as chemical free and unprocessed as possible, and then started to include more whole grains and learned to prepare our foods in more traditional ways, the ways our grandparents and great grandparents ate, instead of the rather unhealthy "Standard American Diet" that is very popular today. This means, though, that I shun the conventional views of healthy eating, the low fat, anti cholesterol diets, in favor of the diets my ancestors would have eaten. I eat butter, organ meats, animal fats (such as rendered chicken fat-shmaltz), coconut oil, and full fat dairy, and stay far away from vegetable oils like soy oil, canola oil, and corn oil, as well as soy in general.
In the spring, I discovered that I am very sensitive to gluten, and have cut gluten completely out of my diet and saw amazing results and have felt healthier and more alive and pain free than I ever have until now (even with being pregnant!). I haven't been diagnosed as Celiac, and I probably will never be, because you have to actually be eating gluten regularly for the diagnostic test for Celiac to actually give accurate results, but I will never knowingly eat gluten again. I suspect that one, if not both of my sons also are sensitive to gluten, so I try to make gluten free for the whole family as well, but am not vigilant about it though.
More recently than that, I noticed also that I react badly to dairy (other than butter), so I've cut that out of my diet, and even more recently, we eliminated white sugar (and brown sugar) from our house as well, because of health reasons and because I think it causes my children to not act their usual selves, and have replaced it with healthier sweeteners as well as cut back on sweeteners in general.
We tend to eat lots of vegetarian and vegan meals to save money, but aren't vegan or vegetarian at all.
I'm constantly changing, and this blog reflects that. I blog about the changes I make in my life, which is why this blog is always evolving, but this blog has never lost its original aim- to teach people to have as great a life as possible while still living within their means.
One last thing- my privacy and the privacy of my family is important to me, which is why there is some information that I don't plan on ever sharing on this blog. That includes my name and the names of our family members (every name used on this blog, including Penny, is a pseudonym), frequent personal photographs, our religious beliefs, and where we live. Questions about that won't yield any results, so there's no point in asking, as I just won't answer.
I've seen first hand the negative repercussions of bloggers being too public with their family's private information and don't want to risk that happening to me. I don't keep this information a secret because I have something to hide or because I'm embarrassed of the life I lead, but rather, because there are some very unscrupulous people perusing the internet, and I care more about my family's well being than about satisfying everyone's curiosity.
The only thing I will say about our location, etc... is that I'm an American girl, born and raised in the US, who moved to my current location approximately 5 years ago to marry my husband, who grew up in this country, but also was born in another country. The country where I live is a non English speaking country, with a different mentality than my own... and there are many pluses and minuses about living here, but the biggest plus is that all my immediate family lives locally (they moved here 2 years before I did), which is really a boon.