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Still surviving and thriving

My finances improved, but I'm still frugal at heart.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 6, 2009 6:22PM

When I wrote "Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year" in January, I promised to check in at the end of 2007 to let readers know how I was doing.


I could never have imagined how that article would change my life. It led to additional assignments for MSN Money, and eventually to hosting this blog, for which I earn a part-time salary.


My life changed. My lifestyle didn't.


Frugality, finances and a little fun
I'm still living the same way: managing an apartment building to get cheaper rent, cooking most meals from scratch, riding the bus to university classes, clipping coupons, buying from yard sales and thrift shops.


However, the additional income has allowed me to clear the last of my debts, help a few relatives who are in financial straits, create an emergency fund, open an ING Direct account, start a Roth IRA and contribute to my daughter's wedding expenses. 

I wrote a few small checks to charities, increased my monthly church pledge and contributed to the food bank that helped me. And right now, I'm having lots of fun shopping for a family that my sister and I adopted for Christmas. 


The part-time salary is funding some R&R, too. I spent a week in Alaska -- fairly cheap since I stayed with a friend, and other friends kept treating me to meals. I'll be visiting my dad soon, another bargain since he's providing the spare room and use of his truck.


I've also been taking my daughter out to lunch once a week. We use two-for-one coupons when we can get them, naturally.


Living with intention
After a year, how am I doing? Better than I ever have, thanks, despite grammar nightmares caused by the Spanish subjunctive in adverbial clauses of interdependence. (¡Hola, Prof. Gonzalez!) I never knew life could be this busy, this overscheduled -- or this rewarding. 


If I ever came into some real money, I'm not sure how much I'd change. As I wrote in my second article, "Living 'poor' and loving it," I already have everything I need and some of what I want. 


Some people call that "voluntary simplicity." I think of it as living mindfully, i.e. deciding what's really important and working toward it. For me that means finishing the degree, saving for a home and helping the people I love.


Well, and possibly budgeting for a Spanish tutor to help me through the subjunctive.


Published Dec. 7, 2007

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