My Frugal Life: Stop Looking At The Jones

Everyone starts their frugal journey for their own personal reasons. Either it is to simplify or their hand is forced. I for one, fell into the latter group.


After my now ex-husband walked out never to be seen again, leaving me with two children, I realized that I had to figure out how to make life work. My one child has a severe disability and the other was a toddler at the time.

I went from making a very good wage to making it work on less than a $1000 a month in 24 hours. A bit of a shock to say the least!

I sat down and started by separating everything in my life into two groups. First, was the need group. Hydro, telephone, heating and food. Those are really all anybody needs.

Next was the want list. To my surprise about 80% fell under the want list. I then broke it down into three groups. Really want, nice to have and can survive without. Again I was very surprised to find how much is just nice to have. Everyone's list will be different.


To me cable is a big want to the point of almost a need. I have a child that is confined to bed, he does NEED television. I like having TV because I don't go out much, never to movies, never eat out. I could justify the expense because that is basically all that is spent on entertainment.

I decided to forgo a car because to me it is a waste of money. I instead moved to a place that is on 9 bus routes, I can walk to 75% of the places I want to go and if need be I can take a cab back with groceries. Making the switch has a lot of personal reflection involved. It took me several years but I managed to stay at home with my children full time and provide them with an excellent lifestyle. I will share with you the things that worked best with me.

  • If something is on sale and it is an item that you use a lot of or regularly, BUY CASES. School is about to start and apple juice was on for 50% off. I bought three cases to fill their juice boxes.

    NOTE: Always check the expiry date, always rotate stock and make sure you don't over buy.

  • Buy second hand clothes for the majority of clothing. I get name brand, price tags still on for $2 a piece. I also buy two to three sizes ahead in basics like long sleeved t-shirts, jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts etc. I also buy neutral colors like gray, black and navy so that both the kids can wear it.
  • Freebie sites are great. I get samples, free full sized products and all sorts of other goodies. It is a treat opening up the mail box and finding a little something in there every day. There are many great sites out there that allow you to collect points for your opinions or trying a product and giving feed back. This year I have received over $2000 in free items. Starbucks gift cards, a $25 value each will become teacher presents. All the soap and shampoo samples are for the gym. I make really nice gift baskets for free!
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  • When grocery shopping always try and leave the kids at home and shop late in the day, before close if you can. This is when all the mark downs happen. Meat 50% off, same with produce. I have taken this to the level where other shoppers come up and ask me how I do it. I leave a high end grocery store with so many bags they don't all fit in the cart and I have to carry some by hand as well. Most I have spent was $98.
  • Make using coupons an art form. Always try and use the coupon on the item when it is on sale and then on the smallest side. Some places allow you to stack coupons or will offer double coupon days. Collect coupons from news papers, ask friends or call the company directly. Find a good coupon in a flyer or newspaper? Go out and look in the recycling on garbage night. I know that nobody used them. Have too many or ones you don't use? Many online communities have coupon swapping clubs.
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  • Many museums and art galleries offer free evenings. Libraries always have things on for the kids, especially during the holidays. There are toy lending libraries where I live. Moms get together and clothing swap. Need a tool? Ask a friend to borrow or rent one. Look on your city's web site. Free fairs, events and did you know that many Parks classes, like swim lessons, are free if you are below a certain income level.
  • Adopt a greener lifestyle. Think about how much money you spend on cleaning supplies. Add it up and I promise you that you will be shocked. All you ever really need is hot water and soap, maybe some bleach (being careful to NEVER mix bleach with anything else) and baking soda. All very cheap items. Composting not only is better for the planet but saves money. Less garbage bags, less time cleaning out the bins and you will get amazing results in your garden. We have a bumper crop of pepper squash this year, didn't even plant it. A seed sprouted in the compost bin and found its way out. Talk about frugal! I have neglected it and so far we have 50 pepper squash. I will be selling them at the farmer's market come fall.
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  • The biggest money saving tip I can give you all, one that will save you money and make you happier as well is: STOP LOOKING AT THE JONES. They are in debt anyway, don't spend time with their families, are overworked and for the most part miserable. My true friends don't even notice what brand of jeans I wear!

Meg from London, ON

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By guest (Guest Post)
September 9, 20080 found this helpful

Excellent article Meg from London, On!

Thanks for the great ideas! Older single mother of one living on $750, lol.

The best to you Meg,

M in Fort Erie, ON :)

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
September 9, 20080 found this helpful

I love reading these stories. No whining, just picking yourself up and using your intelligence and creativity to LIVE, not just survive. Mahalo for sharing.

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September 9, 20080 found this helpful

All great advice but I especially adored your final advice !!! Kudos !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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By Leah from Australia. (Guest Post)
September 9, 20080 found this helpful

I'm an aged pensioner, and my name is Jones. I live in country Qld, have no extra money, but enough to live in the sunshine, shop fortnightly or so, and am very, very happy.
My son, a Jones too lives in the most expensive area of Sydney, in a mansion, with obligatory pool, is a big time lawyer, has a wife and 3 daughters, cars and a huge boat, and whenever I go there he always borrows money from me, because none of them carries cash - it's all Credit Cards. He spends the time when I'm visiting them telling me how poor he is. I reckon he's "life" poor, he's always working, they do nothing that doesn't involve new clothes, good wine, and more "things, things, things". You are quite right about the "miserable" bit - it makes me so sad. He can't believe the amount I have to live on - I don't think he believes anyone could have so little and stay alive. But I have all the things I need, and with judicial saving and pruning here and there, most of the things I want.
So . . . . . no, don't try and keep up with the Jones', love what you have.
Your post was fantastic, many congratulations to you, and more happy living for you and your children.
Regards, Leah from Down Under

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September 9, 20080 found this helpful

Hi!! Enjoyed reading your story! Where do you find the free "full size" samples? Thanks :0)

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By Mary (Guest Post)
September 9, 20080 found this helpful

Your life parallels mine. My husband left in 1964 and never supported our 3 kids. Working 3 jobs at one time, washing and hanging out clothes every night and ironing every night got us through this.

Working at the bank 5 days a week, at department store office on saturday and keeping set of books at night..

Lord, I never though I could get through this but my children are grown, belong to the mensa society, got scholorships to college, and now leading very successful business lives and they are the most wonderful parents in the world. I think my sons are so great because they did not have a role model but I think they are doing what they wished their Dad had done for them. My daughter is a wonderful mother.

Sorry to ramble on but I know you will come out stronger by this hard time in your life.

May you be blessed with peace and abundance.

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By Carole (Guest Post)
September 10, 20080 found this helpful

Love the last tip! How true! I think you should be really proud of the way you have given your kids so much love and attention, while living on so little money. You deserve so much respect. Your children should be proud of their mother and I'm sure they are!

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By Jean (Guest Post)
September 10, 20080 found this helpful

These stories honestly made me cry. I have recently racked up $20,000 in credit card bills. I'm sure most of those items I really didn't need. I'm going to make my need, really want, nice to have and survive without lists tonight. Now is time for my life and me to change.

P.S. Here's one "mistake" I see others making -- buying an item *just because* you have a coupon. Spending money on something you don't need just because it is a "good deal" isn't a good deal at all!

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By couch potao (Guest Post)
September 10, 20080 found this helpful

I was widowed with 3 children at 32, went to uni and made a good income. Then at 49 was forced to go on welfare because of Rheumatoid Arthritis. All my family are healthy, happily married and on good incomes, including my aging parents. That makes it very hard - gifts, clothes, conversations about travel, restaurants and anniversaries leave me feeling very isolated.

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September 10, 20080 found this helpful

Thanks, we all need to prepare to be frugal, no one can forsee what life will bring.

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By Lesley (Guest Post)
September 19, 20080 found this helpful

What a great story and fantastic tips. Thanks for sharing.

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September 20, 20080 found this helpful

This was a great post.

I have two special needs kids and that is why I stay at home. I too have done everything to give them a good life, but for less. It can be done. I am blessed to still have my husband. However, most things fall to my side of the TO-DO-CHART.

Like the kids say: You Go Girl!

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