The More I Purge The Less I Buy

Old Car

If you’re a regular reader of One Frugal Girl you know that I detest clutter. Every few months I clean out my drawers, reorganize my closet and search through unused items in my home. I take books to the library, clothes to the local donation center and list higher priced items on eBay.

The change of season is a perfect time to clean out the house. I get to pack up all of the winter coats and sweaters and box up all of the boots and snow pants. I pull all of the shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits out of storage and move them into the front of my closet. Ahhh, springtime and spring cleaning, what could be better?

So when I saw an article on Washington Post recommending throwing out 50 things I knew I had to read it. I’m not a big fan of the title, because I don’t throw anything other than true trash away, but nonetheless I loved the idea of finding 50 things to donate and give away.

The article is based on a book called Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. According to the author you should follow these four rules when clearing out the clutter:

  1. Rule No. 1: If the item, memory, job or even person is weighing you down, get rid of it.
  2. Rule No. 2: If the thing is not contributing something positive, let it go.
  3. Rule No. 3: If it takes you a long time to decide whether something needs to be tossed, throw it out.
  4. Rule No. 4: If you’re afraid to throw out something, get rid of the fear.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I’d really love to get my hands on a copy of it. Apparently the book is divided into four parts. It starts by recommending getting rid of unused stuff, by cleaning out your junk drawers. By part three you’re moving on to getting rid of the mental mess, including all of the emotional junk you’ve collected.

Michelle Singletary, the author of the Washington Post article, hits the nail on the head, when she writes,

“People want higher incomes so they can live a better life, and this often just means having more stuff and the debt that goes with the accumulation of it. But what if you started throwing out things? What if the purging process makes you more appreciative of what you have? This has the possibility of making you realize you can can make do with the money you have.”

This has definitely been the case for me. The more I clear the house of unwanted items the more I learn to appreciate just how little I need in life. Since I started the purging process I find myself making fewer and fewer unnecessary purchases.

The first time I riffled through a box of barely worn clothes I felt sick to my stomach. Boxing up all of that wasted money made me vow not to make that mistake again. Now I try my best to only buy what we need when we need it. I’m not perfect, but I’m definitely trying to buy less.

August 3, 2016 at 4:57 PM Leave a comment

What is Your First Money Memory?


One of my most vivid memories of money came at the age of 11. I became friends with the new girl at school. The new girl and her family moved into a brand new neighborhood that had popped up about a mile from my home. I visited her one Saturday afternoon and was amazed at the size of the home she lived in. It was easily two to three sizes larger than the tiny rancher my family and I lived in. It was also the first home I had ever been in with a ‘guest’ room. It boggled my mind to think that a home could be large enough to have a bedroom that was unoccupied 99% of the time. But at the time I honestly don’t remember thinking “this girl’s family has more money than mine”. I don’t think I equated the size of her home with money.

A few months later though I learned the clear difference between her family’s spending habits and my own. My mother and I were invited on a shopping trip with my friend and her mother. In middle school I desperately wanted to fit in, as all children do, and like any other girl I thought brand name clothes were my ticket to the top of the popularity pyramid. When we arrived at the mall we first went to the Limited. My friend and I tried on clothes while the two moms chatted. Shortly after we emerged from the dressing room with the clothes we wanted. I remember my mom looking at the items I selected. She picked up each item and glanced at the price tags. The other mom didn’t even look at the pile of clothes on my friend’s arm, she simply grabbed them and walked over to the register. While in that store, my mom asked “are you sure these are the clothes you want?” I remember, because she asked me that question at least two or three times. I answered “yes” and she paid for them.

As we continued to shop my friend purchased new clothes from every single store we went in. As my friend’s mom walked up to the register in the second store, my mom turned to me, and said “we just can’t keep buying clothes.” There was something in my mother’s eyes that day. She seemed disappointed that she couldn’t buy more for me. She seemed saddened watching my friend’s mother buy outfit after outfit. My mom didn’t make another purchase that day. It is one of the first true memories I have of the significance of money. Interestingly, my mom remembers that day too. I had a falling out a few years later with that friend. Now 18 years after that incident, my mom said, “I can’t believe how many outfits that woman bought for her daughter.” Obviously, that was a significant day for both of us. It was my first glimpse into the feelings of inadequacy that can be brought on by the lack of money.

August 1, 2016 at 10:00 AM Leave a comment

Become a Millionaire: The Value of Investing


I’m sure you can follow many different paths to become a millionaire, but if you don’t win the lottery or inherit a sizeable trust fund then you’ll probably need to earn money and learn how to invest it.

That’s how I plan to reach millionaire status. I applied for my first job before I was old enough to drive a car or even attain a learner’s permit. Luckily there were a few local businesses within walking distance of my parent’s house. I put on the nicest interview clothes I could find, (a peasant skirt and lace blouse), and knocked on the door of the first business I reached. I was hired on the spot.

I earned minimum wage, which I think was just over $4.00 at the time, and worked eight hours during the summer and three hours every day after school. My parents stressed the importance of good grades, but I also enjoyed the job and loved receiving a paycheck every two weeks.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in counting and saving my money. My brother bought something new every time he cashed his paycheck, but I did just the opposite. I deposited every check and carefully watched the numbers grow in my bank book.

I am a born saver with the innate ability to defer gratification for incredibly long periods of time. Want to fix up the bathroom? No, I’ll wait twelve years. The kitchen? Let’s make it fifteen. The bigger the expense the longer I seem to defer it.

In retrospect this isn’t always the best decision, but for most of my life it is the decision I have made. Rather than spending my money I set it aside and around the age of nineteen I began investing it in a random assortment of individual stocks.

After graduation I continued investing heavily, this time in my 401(k). For twelve years I diligently contributed as much as I could to that account and eventually reached the point where I could set aside the yearly maximum amount. Over that span of time I saved $155,000.

I think this is one of the reasons automatic savings is so valuable. You start out small and increase the percentage ever so slightly with every raise and wham twelve years later you wind up with a large chunk of change!

Thanks to favorable markets and an aggressive investment portfolio that account is currently worth $500,000, so I’m half way to millionaire status!

How do you save and invest? How close are you to reaching one million?

July 24, 2016 at 10:18 PM Leave a comment

How to Save Money on Food and Supplies on Vacation


In a few days we’ll pack up the car and head out on a week long trip to the beach. We visit North Carolina fairly frequently, but with my husband acting as the sole provider for our family our last two trips were only two days long. We left late on a Friday night and returned by Sunday afternoon. This will be our first week long vacation since we idiotically waited out Irene last fall.

We’ve owned our beach home for nearly eight years now and over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about saving money when staying in a beach house. If you know the house you’re staying in will have a kitchen, grill, dishwasher and/or washing machine you might find these tips helpful.

The best money saving tip: Bring as much as you can from home. Stock up when things are on sale before you ever leave for vacation.

First, bring rolls of toilet paper and paper towels from home. I ALWAYS buy paper products when I can combine a coupon with a store sale and usually have a stash of them in the house. If you wait until you arrive at your destination you will inevitably pay full price for them at the grocery store. If you buy paper products on sale you can save quite a bit of money by bringing along your stash from home.

I do the same for any household supplies I know we’ll need.  I make certain to bring trash bags, dish soap, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent. I like to bring along items that can be packaged in smaller units. For example, I like to use Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets, which act as both the detergent and the dryer sheet. I can just grab a few and don’t have to worry about lugging a heavy bottle around with me. Those little ultrapacks for the dishwasher are similar. You can put a couple in a plastic container or sandwich bag and bring them along. They don’t take up much space in the car and they aren’t heavy.

On most days we eat in while we’re on vacation, so I also bring a bunch of recipes and spices along for the ride. If you know you just need a bit you can measure the ingredients in advance. You can place them in baggies or take the more environmentally friendly solution by placing them into tiny glass containers or clean baby food jars. Everyone knows spices are extremely expensive, so it helps to menu plan a bit in advance. You’ll save a bunch of money on ingredients this way.

I also pack a stack of those marinade mixes that you can purchase by the packet. Again they are easy to transport and typically require nothing more than oil and water. You can find these on sale throughout the year and they last for a very long time. If you have a grill where you’re staying, (most places do these days), you can marinate chicken or meat and make a quick and easy supper.

If you have room to carry a cooler in your car, (we no longer have room in our Camry for one), you can also buy some dry ice or cooling bags and pack meats like ground beef or chicken. I must admit that I do this much more often for one or two day trips to the beach. If I’m going for a whole week I just purchase it at the grocery store and typically know that I’ll pay full price for it. Even at full price it’s still a whole lot cheaper to buy meat and poultry than paying for meals at restaurants.

If you are going to a beach town leave a little room in your cooler and search for fruit and veggie stands along the way. The produce is typically in better condition than you’ll find in grocery stores and the price is usually better too. It’s best to look for stands that are slightly off the beaten path. You’ll pay more for ones with prime locations right along the main roads. We almost always pick up ingredients for pool side smoothies this way.

If you are a coupon clipper bring along coupons for any items you’ll need to buy to complete your recipes. You may find better deals with sales at the store, but it never hurts to be prepared for those every day items like bread, butter, cooking oil and cheese. If you have room to transport these along in your car go for it, but I find it’s easier to just make a trip to the grocery store once I get there.

If you have time clip coupons for chain restaurants between your home and your final destination. My husband and I often stop for sandwiches at places like Subway and Quiznos and Quiznos often has printable coupons available on their website. If you want to save even more money pack sandwiches yourself and snack on them in the car. As an added bonus you may be able to drive for a longer stretch without stopping.

Once you arrive at your destination look around for coupon booklets outside of gas stations and shopping areas. You’ll often find discounts for free appetizers, buy-one-get-one free meals and/or a percentage off your breakfast, lunch or dinner. These booklets also have coupons for local stores, so if you plan to buy clothes, trinkets or souvenirs definitely pick one up before you go.

Despite the best intentions you may still blow your budget on food and supplies while on vacation. You may pass a tasty restaurant and decide to stop in for dinner, you may find a local seafood market and spend large sums of money on steamed shrimp, mussels and crabs. Remember that it’s okay to splurge every once in awhile and if you’ve budgeted for it by all means splurge on vacation! If you want to eat out every night, not pack a single thing and buy everything once you get there it’s entirely up to you. My tips are not meant to keep you confined and repressed during your vacation, they are simply meant to save you a couple of bucks if you choose to use them.

*This post was republished.

July 22, 2016 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Forming a Relationship with Money


There is no better way to tell a tale than to start at the beginning, and so to comprehend my current finances you must first understand my relationship with money. When I think back on my life, even back to the earliest years of childhood, I have very specific memories of money. Despite the fact that I lived in a middle-class, one-income, family I rarely remember going without as a child. So given that fact, it seems particularly odd that I would remember those rare occasions so vividly.

Take for example, my 9-year-old desire to play the piano. While all the other girls I knew wanted to join the band and play the flute or violin I desperately wanted to play the piano. Honestly, I can’t even remember where I got the inspiration, I don’t remember any of my friends or neighbors playing as a child. For months I begged my parents to buy me a piano and finally one Saturday afternoon we arrived at Stu’s music shop. I remember the way the store was laid out, how the pianos took precedence in the middle of the floor, while guitars and trumpets hung on the walls behind them. The keys looked so black and shiny that I couldn’t resist sitting before them and tapping. I’m sure, my parent’s wanted to fulfill my 9-year-old dream more than anything else in the world, but within moments of our arrival it was all to apparent that they could not afford a piano. I remember the expression on my parent’s faces as we walked out of the music store, minutes later, empty handed.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, in that moment I formed a distinct association between pain and money. In this case, the pain my parent’s felt in disappointing me. There are other moments in my childhood, like this, that I remember. I’m sure if you think back to your childhood you too can recall incidents with money, whether positive, like the time my dad found money at the ocean, or negative, like the time I lost a roll full of quarters at the carnival.

Although my parent’s didn’t set out to teach me about money that Saturday afternoon, lessons were learned, and ideas unknowingly formed in my 9-year-old mind. I cannot say for certain how that moment affected my relationship with money, but I can say that as an adult I have always been particularly cognizant of the correlation between money and goals. Obviously, not all dreams require money, but many of them do, and so I make a conscious decision with every purchase, to spend today or save for the goals of tomorrow.

If you are reading this, I encourage you to think about your relationship with money and the memories and experiences that have formed those correlations. If the relationship is negative, now is your chance to reflect on it and change it. Looking back on that moment in the music store I could have formed a million different thoughts and feelings about money. Of all the lessons I could have learned, I chose to recognize that saving money can help me reach future goals, while spending will decrease my chance of reaching them.

July 20, 2016 at 12:00 PM Leave a comment

Before Hitting the Road

Before Hitting the Road

There is nothing like a road trip. It doesn’t matter if it is just you, just you and the girls, just you, the girls, and the dog… You get the idea. There is something about the open road that makes a person feel free.

It’s not just freedom. There is also the spirit of adventure. A road trip is the easiest way to inject a little adventure into an unadventurous person. The possibilities are invigorating. You can go straight ahead until you arrive at your predetermined destination. Or you can veer off onto an interesting looking side street and find the best greasy-spoon patty melt the world has never heard of.

But as great as road trips are, they can also go south really fast. (Why do we associate bad things with the South?) Anyway… Regardless of what direction you are traveling in, you are on a highway to hell if you do not make certain preparations before backing out of the driveway. Here are a few of the things you need to do before putting your Chevy into gear:

Update Your Insurance

Is this one of those trips where you are doing all the driving? Or will fellow travelers be sharing the load? Even if you are not slated to do any of the driving, you should update your insurance and make sure it is okay for you to drive if you are needed to take a shift.

If you have been in an accident that was your fault without insurance, you are going to need SR22 insurance before you hit the road. There are a handful of other situations where it might be required.

Cheap SR22 insurance is easy to find if you know where to look. This type of insurance is less a punishment, and more a guarantee of responsibility. On a road trip, the primary driver may have some type of emergency that requires you to take over driving duties. If there is even a chance you might be called upon to take the big chair, update your insurance before hitting the road.

Get a Tuneup

No one needs to get a tuneup every time they go to the grocery store, unless, that is, their grocery store is 500 miles away. The whole idea of a road trip is that you will be doing a lot of sustained driving in your vehicle. All those miles can be hard on the engine. Even if you don’t need a tuneup, it is less about the tuneup, and more about getting your vehicle checked before putting it through the wear and tear of a long road trip.

Before taking off:

  • Check your oil
  • Check your lights and signals
  • Check your windshield wipers

You are obviously going to take care of the big things. But it is often the little things that can leave you stranded, or earn you a ticket. A busted turn signal can cause an accident. So can ineffective windshield wipers. Fail to change your oil in just the wrong circumstances, and you will be spending the better part of your road trip waiting on a tow truck.

Map It Out

The GPS built into your smartphone is pretty good, regardless of what company made it. But technology can let you down if you forget its limitations.

That magical GPS still needs a signal. Lose that signal, and you are lost in the middle of nowhere. That GPS is also associated with a device with a battery that has no qualms about dying on you in the middle of the day. Don’t forget the car charger.

Even then, the safe thing is to always keep a Thomas guide in the trunk, just in case. If you have a printer, print out your route before leaving. And put the printout in the glove box: (a compartment that almost never contains gloves).

Don’t count on road signs to show you all the interesting places along the way. When mapping out your trip, be sure to highlight a few points of interest. With your eyes on the road, you can’t afford to be fiddling with the software on your phone.

Insure it. Tune it. And map it. Do this before you leave and you will find that the journey is the destination.


July 14, 2016 at 11:07 PM Leave a comment

When an emergency occurs where will you turn for money?

  • All views are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Discover Products Inc. and its affiliates

Spilled Medicine

A wave of anxiety washed over me as I walked into the examination room. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I knew something just didn’t feel right. For days I had an overwhelming desire to just stay in bed. I lost the energy to leave the house or even move around inside of it. I felt the utter lethargy of the flu without any other flu-like symptoms. I wasn’t feverish. I had no cough and my nose wasn’t runny.

I sat in front of the doctor and calmly listed out my symptoms. I told her my back, arm and shoulder were aching and most importantly that I was physically worn out. I was exhausted by a simple day of work, which involved little to no activity. I was unable to draw in a deep breath and it felt like a heavy weight was pressed against my chest. The doctor sent me for a chest x-ray, but the tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary. I was told a clear x-ray meant I had “absolutely nothing to worry about.”

No further tests were ordered. No follow-up appointments were scheduled. Despite the doctor’s reassurance my health quickly took a turn for the worse. I returned to that same office two days later and begged that same doctor to help me. As she began to dismiss my symptoms I pulled off my shirt and revealed the bright blue veins that traversed my chest. “This is not normal,” I said in a shaky voice. She looked me in the eye and said, “You are only twenty-seven, I’m sure this is nothing.” Again she sent me off with a wave of her hand and a referral to see a specialist. The specialist didn’t have an appointment available for over three weeks, but it turns out I couldn’t wait that long for an answer.

Early the next morning I walked to the basement to wash clothes and found myself unable to climb back upstairs. I sat down unable to catch my breath and sobbed. Something was most definitely wrong. My husband drove me to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with a life threatening condition that required immediate medical attention. I learned three lessons from that experience:

  1. Always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
  2. Illness and medical conditions can strike anyone at any time. Unfortunately age will not make you immune to them.
  3. If a doctor dismisses the urgency of your symptoms find another doctor or go to the emergency room (that trip to the ER saved my life!).

Within a week of my ER visit the first medical bill arrived in the mail. Luckily I had amazing health insurance, but even with insurance I owed over $8,000 for doctors visits and medical treatment that spanned a six-month period.


It’s easy to see how one unexpected injury or illness can wipe out your savings and land you in a sea of unpaid medical bills. You’ll spend whatever it takes to get better, but without solid financial planning debts can easily mount around you.

What if you fall unexpectedly ill? Do you have an emergency fund large enough to cover a medical crisis? If not, where would you turn for money if an emergency occurs?

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So what do you think? Are you financially prepared for an unexpected medical crisis or other emergency?

Be sure to visit the Discover brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

July 11, 2016 at 10:45 AM Leave a comment

Feeling Sentimental About Toys: It’s Hard to Let Go

rocking horse

This weekend I removed a large, wooden rocking horse from our house and then I cried. My oldest didn’t play on that horse very often, but I still felt very sentimental about it. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t figure out why, but as I sat in the space where it used to reside a sadness washed over me.

The horse was quite large and when my son was small it sat in between the dormers of my bedroom. From the time my son was an infant we read books, (without fail), every morning. I kept two boxes of books on a dresser in my bedroom and when he got old enough he would go to the boxes, pick out three books (always three), and then crawl into bed with me. Sometimes he would climb down and request three more and other times he would head off to rock on that horse, but every morning as I waited for him to choose books I would watch him and see that horse out of the corner of my eye.

At some point my son’s pattern changed, as all children’s patterns do. One morning he didn’t request three books or climb into bed, but the rocking horse remained in my room.

That rocking horse marked my son’s growth in a strange way. In the beginning my son could barely reach the top of the horse’s head. Then he could reach the head but barely reach his leg up over the seat. Then he could get his leg over the seat, but barely touch the base of the horse with his feet. Then he could touch the base and just like that he could easily climb aboard and rock back and forth as quickly as he wanted to.

After my second child was born the horse moved into a different part of the house and has moved around a few times since then. My youngest will sometimes reach up and touch the horse’s mane or tail, but otherwise doesn’t show much interest in him. A few days ago he looked as if he wanted to ride, so I picked him up and placed him on the seat, but as soon as he was up he wanted to go back down.

The horse took up a lot of space in our house. When we sat on the floor to play with cars or trains or board games it always seemed slightly in the way. I moved it to the corners of the room or next to the wall but it was so big it always seemed to find its way back into our play spaces.

A few weeks ago my husband, (who believes we should get rid of 90% of the toys in our home), said it was time for that horse to go. He hauled it out of the basement and up the steps and I cried as he did so.

I cried with the realization that children grow quickly. I cried because that horse was strangely tied to a happy time of cuddling and reading books with my oldest. I cried because I felt I was denying my youngest the privilege of owning and using that toy.

And yet, in my heart, I knew that the toy was taking up space and that it simply wasn’t being used often enough to warrant its stay. So with that realization we took it out of the house and I said goodbye.

My oldest still loves to read books. If I take him to the library he’ll ask me to read the same books we brought home fifty times in a row. He asks me to read during breakfast and lunch and often sits on the couch with me to snuggle and read, but none of those occasions feels quite the same as the memory of that little boy, dressed in a sleeper, crawling into bed to read with me.

The horse had absolutely nothing to do with those books or that time in our lives, other than the fact that it sat in between the dormers of my bedroom. Yet, somehow my brain connected the two.

My youngest, who just turned sixteen months, didn’t start out a reader, but he is suddenly climbing into my lap and handing books to me. There is no place I’d rather be than resting my cheek against my son’s soft hair as I feel the weight of his tiny body against my legs and chest.

It is a reminder that this phase of plopping in my lap will also come to an end one day. A reminder that my children grow and become better, more competent humans every day, but a piece of me still yearns for those snuggling babies.

July 10, 2016 at 11:21 PM 2 comments

Travel Channel Opportunity


A producer from the Travel Channel reached out to me with an interesting opportunity:

Hello! My name is Jennifer Wolfe and I am a producer on a popular hotel makeover show on the Travel Channel. I am looking to speak with possible investors interested in purchasing a property in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This would be a real-life investment opportunity filmed on camera. If interested please contact me for more information at Thank you!

July 10, 2016 at 6:01 PM Leave a comment

The Daily Cycle of Stuff: Lessons for My 4 Year Old


I spend a lot of my day moving things from Point A to Point B. I move the dishes from the cabinet, to the table, to the dishwasher and back to the cabinet every evening, only to start all over again tomorrow. I move the clothes from the drawers, to the kitchen table, to my children’s bodies, to the washing machine, to hangers in the basement and back to their drawers within a day or so.

This is life; perpetually moving things from one place to another. The same can be said of so many things. The towels that we use to dry our bodies, the books we read, the toys my children play with.

We take them out, do something with them, move them, move them again and finally start back wherever it was we began.

As a stay-at-home parent I spend a good portion of my day putting things back where they belong. Much of this is to blame on my fifteen month old who likes to dump the contents of each and every toy box onto the floor, spend two seconds looking at the items on the floor and then moving on to the next unsuspecting box.

After spending a few hours alone with our kids my husband asked me to downsize their toy collection. With the little guy dumping everything onto the floor my husband could barely see the carpet below his feet.

This time I recruited the help of my four year old and it went surprisingly well! I explained that his dad and I wanted him to look carefully through his belongings. I said, “some toys you play with a lot, some a little and some you almost never touch. Our goal is to figure out which toys you really love.”

I also told him that he often receives toys from friends and family. I explained that people think long and hard about what to buy him, but sometimes he doesn’t find the toy very fun to play with and when that happens its okay to pass it on to another child who might enjoy it more than he does.

We also talked about how its important to get rid of toys we don’t play with so we have plenty of room to enjoy the toys we love. After all we can’t build a Lego city if we don’t have room on the floor. We need to get rid of unwanted toys to make space for fun.

Then I explained the process we would follow. I would pull each toy off of the shelf and he would analyze just how much he loved, liked or honestly didn’t care much for it.

I thought he might say he loved everything, but he contemplated each item for just a second or two and then placed it in the appropriate pile.

He genuinely wanted to pass his toys on to someone else who might like them more. He also realized that it was more important to pick through the toys himself. This made sure Mommy and Daddy didn’t accidentally donate a favorite item.

Sometimes he got distracted by a newfound toy. He’d take it to the floor and start to play, but I was adamant that we finish our analysis before any playing could begin. Once he realized I was serious he moved more quickly through the toys so he could get back to playing. An hour later we had a box and a half of unwanted toys ready to leave the house.

Best of all he was proud that he helped weed out the toys. When my parents arrived a few days later he proudly told them “We got rid of a bunch of toys. From now on we’re only keeping the ones I really love to play with!”

June 17, 2016 at 11:33 PM Leave a comment

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