My Frugal Life - A Frugal Challenge - Up From Homelessness

In August of 1998, I decided to find an apartment after living in a long term homeless shelter for over 2 years. I was frugal because it was necessary before this and I found how to get a lot of things for free. While in the shelter, I attended school to upgrade and improve my job skills. I took loans and worked in a language lab for expenses. I only had to pay about $75 a month for rent and pay for my food and transportation expenses.

During those 2+ years, I found and bought a lot of household and personal things that I needed. I walked out with only 1 suitcase of personal things from the past. I was 58 years old and starting over in obtaining things I needed for independent living. I found clothing from donations from the shelter, went to thrift stores, yard sales, church rummage sales (my favorite), and checking out and taking discarded items on junk day. I acquired clothing and some small household items but I had no furniture.


In October 1998, I moved into a low income senior housing apartment. I slept on the floor for 2 weeks until I got a sleeper sofa. Very slowly, I've acquired a kitchen set, a full size bed (a donation) dressers, shelf units, trunks, my first Christmas tree with lights, shelves, bedding, clothing, food (unwanted commodities), waste baskets, decorative items, glassware, plants, potting soil, shopping carts, baskets, stools, office chair, my latest free item, an office desk and other items too numerous to mention.

In 1999, I found a job with the City of Milwaukee as a clerk in the police department. I just retired about 2 weeks ago and now have to take my frugality skills to a higher level. My skills at finding things free have enabled me to live comfortably. At this time, I don't look at the junk anymore because I have too much as it is. If I had to, I would get involved in Freecycle which they didn't have 8 years ago.


I've learned over the past 8 years that if you willing to look at possibilities without preconceived ideas you can have a comfortable life without spending a lot of cash. I am still a student of frugality because it is a challenge for me. In the past 8 years, I've lived frugally but not all the time. It is a lot easier now and there seems to a clarification in my mentality about what is important and what is not.

There is almost always a cheaper alternative to what you are doing and creativity is important in solving financial problems whether they are large or small.

mmgarren from Milwaukee, WI

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May 17, 20080 found this helpful
Top Comment

You are an inspiration to others!! Congratulations for coming so far and trying to reach out to others. You know what just irks me to no end? These younger ones that think just because things are used, it's below them to even consider using these things for themselves. When I was a younger woman, as soon as Mom would find out I was expecting,it was like another great treasure hunt for her! She would start looking for baby clothes and stuff the next day and all the way thru my pregnancy. She had a blast!And I've become like her in the challenge of such things and run into these younger girls that are just downright rude about me trying to help out with "used stuff" for their babies.


It's not good enough and only new stuff for their babies will do!! WHAT??? Well, if I'd have had an attitude like that, me and my children would've been naked as the day we were born!! Thank God I had a mama that taught me how to live life in this manner. I'm glad my kids appreciate and took after us. They know how to be happy and proud of stuff no matter where it came from. It's like I say, we are almost like a cemetary, we'll take anything!!

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August 1, 20060 found this helpful

Thanks for sharing your story. I live in Australia and did not know that Free Cycle existed. I have now joined my local branch. We only have one council collection for large items once a year, so I hope someone can use some of our cast-offs.

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August 2, 20060 found this helpful

Wow... you have much to be proud of.


Many people in your situtation would have given up long ago. You are to be congratulated!

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August 6, 20060 found this helpful

I admire your spirit. The way you took control and learned and kept applying your learning.
I want you to know I admire you and that you should be very proud of yourself.
God Bless.

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By mmicke (Guest Post)
August 8, 20060 found this helpful

I am her only daughter. We have both come along way. She has taught me a lot on doing things the inexpensive way. Raising 4 kids on just my husband's income while I go to school, I've learned a lot from her. (Even though she doesn't think I listen.) I've very proud of her!!

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By Willem (Guest Post)
August 9, 20060 found this helpful

You really are an example to all of us!

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August 18, 20060 found this helpful

What a wonderful story.
You have done great.
You are a example for others.
This shows if they are a will they are a way.


~~~Hugs Autumn~~~

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August 21, 20060 found this helpful

Your story is such an inspirational and touching one. Iwanted to say how very much I admire your spirit, determination and the view you have about life. Thank you so much. acadia

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By tpot (Guest Post)
November 14, 20080 found this helpful

How brave and start over and make it happen. Good for you!

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