You may choose to remain anonymous

I’ve been asked to write some posts at about frugal living, and I’ve cooked up an idea that I want to run by you.  I haven’t the foggiest idea if it will interest anyone, but here goes.

In high school our economics teacher asked us to come up with a clothing budget for a school year.   My budget (in 1984) was a modest $190 for the year, and my teacher scrawled across my paper: “The man who marries you will be lucky indeed.”  I didn’t really understand his comment until I saw that many of my friends had budgeted $1000-$1500 or more.  For clothes.  For one school year.

I understand now that much of my advantage in budgeting came from being raised by a very frugal momma, who imparted a lot of her financial wisdom to me before I ever left home.  But lots of people didn’t have that head start, and these days just about everyone would like to be able to make their dollar stretch farther.

So here’s my idea: I’d like to offer one family a frugality makeover.  Think Supernanny, Budgeting Edition.  Except kinder and gentler, because (despite what my children think some days) I’m not the kind of person who likes making people miserable.

I’m looking for one family who’s willing to keep track of their spending for a month, down to the last dollar, and email me the numbers.  I’ll  ask that family to fill out a short questionnaire telling me about your lifestyle, goals, time constraints, skills and interests.   A mom who works full time is going to need a different plan than one who’s home all the time.  A family in NYC is going to have different resources than one living out in the boondocks of Oklahoma. Knowing just a bit about you will allow me to give better advice.

Once I’ve looked over your information, I’ll come up a personalized plan that includes 8-10 practical places to find some extra money in your current budget. It’s up to you what you do with my suggestions.  You can implement every suggestion and save maximal money fast.   Or you can take the moderate approach, begin with two or three suggestions that seem most likely to work for your family, and then build from there.  I’d love to hear how the plan worked if you feel like sharing, but there’s no obligation to report back unless you want to.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, I’ve got 3 questions for you:

  • Does your family budget need tweaking to better meet your goals?
  • Would you be willing to carefully keep track of your spending for a month?
  • Would you (and your spouse!) feel comfortable letting me blog about your family’s finances and the resulting frugality plan in a post at

You don’t have to give up privacy to do this.  I won’t be naming names on the blog– I’ll only share figures and general family info.  (For example: 2 working parents, 2 teens, living in a suburb of a major city.)

If  you can answer yes to all 3 of those questions and are interesting in participating, will you send me an email ( with your contact information? I will be selecting one family at this time.  There is a chance I might select another family or two in the future if this turns out to be something a lot of people are interested in.


Disclaimer: I am a smart momma with a college degree, a head for math, and 2 decades of experience stretching a buck for my mega-family.   I can offer an objective set of eyes and  some down-home advice about budgeting.  But I am not an accountant or Wall Street guru. If you are in the midst of a true financial crisis, your best course of action is a debt reduction agency or other professional counselor.  Make sense?  Good.


  1. This sounds awesome! I’d be willing to take you up on it, however you might be looking for someone who is in more obvious need of changes (not that I mean to seound arrogant, just that I’ve gotten pretty down-home basic lately – read: homemade tortillas:)

    I forwarded this on to your latest fan, Kristin (the one I got the book for).

    • Yeah, anybody making their own tortillas has a fair bit of frugal going on already! 😉 Not to mention that awesome grocery price spreadsheet of yours!


  2. We burn through money around here, but alas, it’s mostly “lack of willpower” than anything else! 🙂

    But, if you have ideas on getting a food budget for 8 down under $950, I’m all ears!

  3. Sounds interesting to me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to scale down our budget to actually fit the money we’re taking in.

  4. I would definitely be interested! We are working on Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and working on an adoption at the same time. Our finances are stretched to the max. And yes, we have done stupid with zeros! 🙁 Any help would be valued and appreciated.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I love the idea!
    I know what I need to do, but don’t really want to do it! I have a cleaner and I’m sure she’d be the first thing to go if you cast your eyes over our finances and I cannot live without her just yet- new baby is only 4 months old and the knowledge that at least once a week my house is tidy gives me such a boost.
    But I’d love to see someone else get the “Mary” treatment.

  6. What a great idea! I’d love to trim our budget, but don’t know where to start. We are a family with 2 full time work outside the home jobs, twins, pets, and have our fingers crossed for baby #3 being on the way soon. I’d really like to stay at home with our kids, but we need to get a handle on our spending first.

  7. Kimberlie says:

    After this morning, I realized exactly where our money goes – eating out. Between the bagel and diet coke I had while my kids attended a church activity, and then drive-thru lunch for them because I had a couple of errands to run and three hungry kids, $16 gone. We probably do that 4 or 5 times per week easily and it’s really all due to my lack of planning.

    Because we have been adopting 4 out of the last 5 years (we are almost dossier complete for our 4th special needs adoption – yeah!), we have trimmed all the other excess stuff like cable tv, most extra-curricular activities, some babysitting (though I still insist on having some because as an at-home mom, I need time out either by myself or with my hubby), pared down on gift budgets, movies, travel etc. We taken trips to visit family but haven’t had a real vacation since bringing child #1 home. But, we still eat out too much. I even purchased your book and the recipes we have had have been super yummy, but I don’t use the book enough.

    I can’t wait to see what ideas you come up with so I can use some of the tips myself. Really though, I could be a lot more frugal if I just cooked at home. 🙂

  8. this is SUCH a neat idea. i’d say we are in–but with just the TWO of us and a modest (read teeny tiny) budget, we’ve recently adapted & are totally on the same page (if you offer this again in 6 months, i’ll probably sign up then). in a few years with kids & careers in bloom (still in training/transition now) & more potential for “leakage”, i might be emailing you for help. for now, i’d love LOVE love to hear what you say about another family’s situation 🙂 {but if you want a recently-graduated-from-medical-school-has-mega-med-school-loan-debt-wife-getting-out-of-the-army-husband to practice on, we’re in!}

  9. Id love to have some help:) I must admit, both my Hubby and I could use some lessens in frugality:) Id be willing to do the above mentioned..I know I have lots to learn. I am a stay at home mom of 7 kids, DH works as a Registered nurse. We are expecting a baby this October and still have a significant adoption loan that we took out over two years ago to do our adoption through Ethiopia(2 older girls)..One of the Girls came with lots of ‘unexpected’medical needs(3 surgerys in 1 year) and so the money we had planned to pay off the loan went to pay for her surgeries. Its a high interest loan and it just feels like we aren’t getting anywhere with managing our debt. After we lost our home(shortsale) I knew we needed help. I try my best, we dont eat out much and we try to cut spending where we can..but I must say I didn’t learn to garden or cook or any other domestic thing as a child so I do alot of quick type meals Which I know adds up. We are a homeschooling family as of this year, so I am hoping I can pass on some frugality to my children now that we are all home learning together. We are renting in the suberbs and hoping some day to get out in the country. Right now it seems like a unreachable goal. With another baby on the way we need to get it in order as finding rentals for a family our size is hard. Anyway, Id love it if you’d consider us:) Tara

  10. Email sent! Our family would love to be considered. We are doing our best to chop away at credit card bills. It’s very rare that we go out to eat, only for inlaw’s birthdays/mother’s/father’s day. I cook everything at home except for the occasional pizza ordered out.

  11. Kristin says:

    Email sent! I’d love for our family to be considered for this.