How We Enjoy the Fruits of Our Frugalness

posted by Andrea | 05/30/2017
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For my entire life (even back in middle school and high school) I have always been VERY frugal — almost to a fault.

  • I did without something I really wanted (and could easily afford) simply because I didn’t 100% need it to survive.
  • I drove out of my way to save a few cents on gas.
  • I went to multiple different stores to save a few dollars a week on groceries.
  • I refused to withdraw money out of my bank account for anything that wasn’t a basic necessity.
  • I purchased cheaply-made, low-quality products to save money up-front.
  • I questioned every purchase and played a mental tug-of-war game any time I wasn’t 100% certain about a purchase.
  • I made “finding the best deal” my main priority over almost everything else.
  • I honestly felt guilty, or like I needed to offer an explanation, if I splurged even a teeny tiny bit on something for myself.

I have always been very good at saving money, living frugally, and making the most of our MONETARY resources.

In those early years, Dave and I were padding our savings account, funding our investments, and paying off our student loans and our mortgage insanely fast — all very good things in my opinion.

However, in many ways, my quest to properly steward our monetary resources forced me to squander my resources of time and energy (sometimes my sanity too!) Plus,we weren’t really enjoying any tangible benefits from all my frugal habits.

Yes, it was fun to see our savings and investments grow while our mortgage decreased… but those were all long-term financial goals, not something we could enjoy that week or even that month.

Of course, I would rather fall more on the “too frugal” side of the money-spending spectrum than get super close to the “over spending” side; but in my opinion, there has to be more of a happy medium… and more (wait for it) MODERATION! 

In general, Dave and I are not (and never have been) big spenders in any way.

  • We don’t love traveling or doing anything “touristy”.
  • We don’t get super excited about going out to eat (especially not with kids).
  • We don’t enjoy going out with friends and would much rather host people at our house for a night in.
  • We’re DEFINITELY not “party people”.
  • We rarely have the desire to go shopping for anything unless we REALLY need it, and even then I try to find a deal online.
  • We aren’t fashionistas or foodies.
  • We don’t get excited about cars or fancy “toys”.
  • We don’t have any expensive hobbies or pass-times.
  • We aren’t big gift-givers.

Our lack of spending, combined with the fact that we are both quite frugal-minded, makes it VERY easy for us to save, save, save, save… without ever feeling deprived or wanting to splurge.

However, all of this changed about 4-5 years ago.

Maybe it was because we were more overwhelmed and sleep-deprived due to Nora’s challenging baby antics and lack of sleep. Maybe it was because we were finally living in our “dream house” and wanted to make sure we renovated it with high-quality materials that would last through the years. Or maybe it was simply because we were a few years older, a little wiser, and more confident in our own decisions.

Whatever the case, we started to enjoy little splurges on a more regular basis.  Nothing major, but it was actually a lot more fun than I realized!

Of course, I would never encourage someone to splurge outside of their means, spend unwisely, or do something just because they feel pressured into it by others. However, since I always preach “moderation”, I figured it might be interesting to know some of the ways we splurge on things we don’t really NEED, but that we definitely ENJOY!

1. Regular Haircuts for Me:

I cannot tell you how many emails I get, asking why I have short hair — considering it’s so much more expensive to pay for regular haircuts throughout the year. Some people assume Dave cuts my hair (wouldn’t that be great if he could!) and other assume I just cut it myself.

No, and no!

I definitely pay to get my hair cut every 4ish weeks — yes, that’s very frequent, but it’s 100% worth it in my opinion.

I LOOOOOOOVE having short hair. It takes me 3-4 minutes to do my hair everyday, I use almost no shampoo (hair wash) or conditioner (hair rinse), I get compliments on my haircut ALL the time, and (most importantly) I love how I look with short hair.

As an added bonus, I get my hair cut by either my cousin ($20) or my neighbor ($14) and it takes about 20 minutes because I just go home with wet hair.

I also never pay for haircuts for Dave or the kids because I do those myself, so spending $14 – $20 per month on a hairstyle I feel great about every time I look in the mirror seems like a really great use of our monetary resources.

2. Annuals in our garden:

This is another one I’m often questioned about or given the guilt trip for — especially since we live in Michigan where the annuals can only survive from mid May through late October.

I used to be super frugal with this and only buy a few annuals in mid June (once they were on the discount racks) but I never really loved how they looked because I didn’t get the types of annuals I wanted and there just weren’t enough of them to make a statement in our huge yard.

Last year was the first year I decided to really splurge on annuals for our yard — and WOW did it make a huge difference! There was color everywhere all spring, summer, and fall — even if some of the surrounding perennials weren’t in bloom at the time.

Dave and I have spent a lot of money on our landscaping (more on that below) so tacking on another $100 for annuals we enjoy every single day from May through October really seems like pennies to us.

In fact, if I do the math, it works out to roughly $0.60 per day to enjoy glorious pops of color everywhere in our yard for almost 6 months of the year.

3. Beverages for Dave:

I’ll be honest, I almost never ever ever drink any type of fancy or expensive beverage. I never drink coffee, tea, lattes, etc, I rarely ever drink anything alcoholic, and I can’t stand the taste of energy drinks, fizzy waters, or specialty juices.

I drink ice water, milk, Country Time lemonade, and Diet Dr. Pepper (in that order of preference) and I could easily live on just water for the majority of my life if I had to.

Dave, on the other hand, really enjoys occasional fancier beverages as special treats — and that’s totally fine.

We try to keep a selection of specialty beers and adult beverages in our extra fridge for him (and for guests), he occasionally stops by Biggby when he gets gift cards (and uses coupons), and he enjoys ordering a drink at restaurants — although he definitely doesn’t do it all the time.

For a few bucks every now and then, he adds a considerable amount of enjoyment to his life — the perfect little splurge if you ask me!

4. House/Yard Projects:

I still can’t believe it’s been exactly SEVEN years since I first saw our current home for sale on Craigslist. It was much more expensive than anything we wanted to buy at the time… but it was the PERFECT layout, the PERFECT location, the PERFECT setting, and it had the most beautiful front porch I’d ever seen.

It was THE house for us and I knew it. The trouble was, I was much too frugal to ever spend more than our budgeted amount for a house — especially a house that would need TONS of work.

So we waited… and (long story short) we eventually got the house PLUS an extra lot for $60,000 less than their asking price. Yay us!

Since then, we have put much more than $60,000 into the house and the yard, but we have paid cash for every single project, we have enjoyed (almost) every single project, and we now have our house set up exactly how WE want it for our lifestyles.

I’m certain we spend considerably more than most people on house and yard projects — but if we didn’t enjoy the process, we would have never purchased this house in the first place. And, as I mentioned above, we don’t have any other expensive hobbies — we just fix up our house!

We have friends who choose to live in a very small apartment because they’d rather spend their money traveling around the world and love the low-maintenance aspect of apartment living. They have experienced amazing things and have put their money to good use… but so have we — just in a different way.

5. Entertaining:

As I’ve mentioned so many times already, Dave and I would MUCH MUCH MUCH rather have people over to our house than go anywhere else — especially in the summertime when we can enjoy all our outdoor space.

I won’t say we are the best hosts in the world (although we are getting better all the time) but we do enjoy planning events and hosting parties, and we don’t mind spending extra to feed and entertain our friends and family.

During the summer months especially, I keep our extra fridge stocked with juice boxes, bottled water, several varieties of soda, and adult beverages. We keep the freezer stocked with popsicles, fudgesicles, freeze pops, ice cream sandwiches, and other frozen treats for special summer-time snacks when friends are over.

I also stock up on paper products, easy appetizer foods, and frozen burger patties so I’m almost always ready for a quick cookout with friends.

I’m often asked for tips to entertain on a budget — and while I do always try to find deals and plan frugal meals, I also don’t worry about spending quite a bit of extra money on food and beverages for various parties and events we offer to host.

That said, I almost never spend any money on party ‘decorations’ — just food and drink because I feel that’s what people enjoy more than a few cute Pinterest-y decorations 🙂

6. Special Food Treats:

One of my most favorite ways to splurge just a little is to stop and get the kids lunch at Arby’s totally out of the blue, or buy them special juice boxes at the grocery store “just because”.

Sometimes I’ll just let them pick whatever they want as a special treat — sometimes it’s raspberries and mangos, sometimes it’s a package of candy or fruit snacks. I definitely don’t do this every time we head to the store, but boy do the kids love it!

And speaking of food treats, I’m certain we go out to eat far less often than most people; however, we have actually been going “out to eat” more over the past couple of years than ever before. We get Arby’s and Culver’s once a month and often get pizza a couple times a month. We almost always eat it at home, but if we bring the kids to the restaurant, they get so excited 🙂

We still always use coupons and it’s rarely more than $15 for our entire family to enjoy a special treat (and for me to enjoy the night off of cooking) so I’d say that’s worth the splurge!

Dave and I rarely ever go out (anywhere) just the two of us… we’d much rather stay home. However, we sometimes order curbside to-go from Applebees or On The Border for a special treat, or sometimes I’ll bring home Culver’s custard when I get free text message coupons and we’ll eat it after the kids are in bed.

I realize the splurges I listed above wouldn’t be “worthwhile” splurges for some of you — but you might also choose to splurge on completely different things than we would.

The point is, we’re splurging on things that are enjoyable for US, for our family, for our current state of life, for our current preferences… and things that fit our budget.

Of course, paying down debt, building our investments, and padding our savings are all worthwhile reasons to be frugal as well… but being frugal is a lot more fun when we are able to regularly enjoy the “fruits of our frugalness”!

I have a feeling we will always live fairly frugal lives. However, I’m glad we figured out a way to do it with a little more MODERATION!

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35 comments

  1. Angela

    06/07/2017

    Love your perspective – we splurge and save in many of the same areas. The whole idea of everyone getting to choose what they want to spend their money on, based on their priorities, was a great lesson that we incorporated when we taught a Dave Ramsey class to teens at our church. We also use it as an example for our kids. All along, as we were saving money toward renovating (and later enlarging) our home, we had to say no to our kids’ requests a lot, especially when they wanted to eat out. I don’t like the term “we can’t afford it” or “we don’t have the money”, so I’d say “That’s not what we’re going to spend our money on today…we all want a bigger house more than Burger King, right?” And they would usually agree! I tell them that everyone has a certain amount of money…some more and some less…and that sometimes you can see how people like to spend it. Some moms at church have purses with the letter “C” all over them (the kids didn’t know those were expensive Coach purses) and some moms are always dressed in super cute outfits. Some families have brand new Suburbans, while ours is 12 years old. Some families go to Disney World every year. But most of those families don’t get to live in a beautiful home on a spacious acreage like we do! Great lessons for kids (and adults) on wants vs. needs, moderation, and the choices we all get to make about our priorities! I love this topic!

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  2. Mary in Maryland

    05/31/2017

    After reading this post, I went directly to the liquor store to get Margarita mix. My splurges have been a fabulous bicycle (which I rode for over 50K miles before my balance deteriorated) and a top of the line sewing machine I bought when I was starting my practice. It was hard for me to buy the machine with so little income, but I had so much time to use it. The machine is still a joy to me thirty years later. I cut my husband’s hair, but get mine done professionally.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — that’s great 🙂

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  3. Carolyn

    05/31/2017

    Yes, there needs to be a balance, we are doing alot of DIY projects in putting in our garden, plan to can and freeze for healthy year round foods.home cooked/prepared meals always taste better and are healthier as you know what is in it, rather than expensive processed, convenience foods. Look to fix rather than just replace things, do not buy new cars and hit the good will store for growing kids, as the stuff I often find there is like new for only a couple dollars. Hubby sharpens, knives, shears and other tools. He changes the oil in our vehicles, we mow our own lawn, clear our on driveway, laundry done by me and I clean the house. I don’t do the salon routine. My husband cuts my hair for me, started doing it shortly after we started dating and has never given me a bad haircut. I get my hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks to keeping my ends neat and remove damaged ends. I love my hair long as does hubby, he even braids it for me, so I have no plans to chop it off. He gives both of my boys their monthly haircuts, and now even my mom has him cut hers for her and even my best friend has had him give her a couple haircuts. So I am fortunate my hubby is good with the shears and clippers. He has the proper tools for the job, pro grade shears, a cape, hair clips and does the full sectioning, trimming each layer, and for the boys he uses the clippers with the attachments and the scissor and comb as well for their haircuts. He doesn’t just shave them bald. He wouldn’t do that to them nor would I let him do that. I see too many kids who are shaved bald and then get sunburned. He doesn’t hack with the kitchen or craft shears. He is a perfectionist in doing things, and that equates well with my requirement that my hair be done right as I want, not as someone else decided I should have it cut as the salons always did. I don’t compromise on my hair by any means by hubby being the family barber/stylist.
    Hubby had a house in an association on a lake near us that we now use as rental income, vacation rentals by the week in the summer, weekends in the fall and winter. Looking to have multiple income streams.

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  4. Heather Baker

    05/30/2017

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Andrea!

    Living the frugal life is extremely rewarding, but it can be exhausting and feel fruitless when we do not learn to enjoy life a little, too.

    I think the balance and moderation that you display is encouraging to those who are on the same path. The key, as you said, is in determining what works for us as individuals as we all have things in life that bring us not only joy but provide the determination to keep forging forward in frugality.

    Thanks again,
    Heather

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Heather! And yes, balance and moderation is always important for us!!

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  5. Debbie

    05/30/2017

    Such a great post and I’m also glad that you’re advocating to live and enjoy life “in moderation”. I’ve known that you and Dave are frugal and good at saving from reading your blogs/posts. However, this is the first time you’ve shared that you’ve loosened the belt just a little. Your hair always looks great and short hair becomes you. I wish I could get someone to cut my hair at that price and that good. We enjoy hosting parties, traveling, home projects, and saving too. It’s often hard to figure out what’s most important between all of those because like you said we want to enjoy life in the moment and not continually look towards the future. I’m just glad we are not into expensive cars, shoes, and clothes.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Debbie,
    I do think it’s important to be able to enjoy all the effort we put into living frugally — although I know there are seasons of life when it’s not possible to “loosen the belt”.

    I too am thankful we are not into expensive cars or clothing (or really expensive anything!) and I’m thankful we are at a place where we can “loosen the belt” just a bit without totally undoing our budget!

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  6. ShellyL

    05/30/2017

    Did you get a new dining table? I can’t wait to see a house update. I love all your posts but the house ones are my faves. This is a good post, too. I’m very frugal as well, except for the things I splurge on.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, this is an older picture — our current table is very similar, just bigger. Plus, we have 3 “kids chairs” around our table now 🙂

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  7. Olivia

    05/30/2017

    I love this!! A few years back, my husband & I bought a very nice house (we intended to raise our family there, but wound up moving unexpectedly) – we got heckled quite a bit, as we both drove old, relatively ugly cars. But we drove the old cars BECAUSE we wanted to spend our money on a nice house!

    The “must be nice” comments that we get these days make me crazy, but we’re still driving the same old cars (one from 1998!), and we’re very intentional about where we choose to spend our money. For example, I saw a chiropractor weekly for a couple of months while I was pregnant, but we bought the baby’s furniture on Craigslist. People forget that each individual/family has different priorities, and that’s perfectly fine!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, it’s really easy to judge people based on their houses, cars, or the vacations they take — because those are often big-ticket items. So if you have a nice house, people assume you’re wealthy or you are really far in debt 🙂

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  8. Mandy

    05/30/2017

    I’m sure your husband loves this about you! I am tempted by clothes & home decor and my very dutch husband doesn’t get it 😉

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well it took me a few years to come to approach our finances with more moderation, but yes, we are both enjoying these mini splurges every now and then.

    That said, Dave and I are both 100% Dutch — so yes, we come by our frugal ways naturally! 🙂

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  9. Chris

    05/30/2017

    Great post. And I just have to add any time I see a photo of your bedroom now, I just love the new arrangement with the bed against the wall!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks! We love the new arrangement too 🙂

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  10. Tina

    05/30/2017

    Alot of us have to live this way out of necessity( due to coming from poorer families/areas, having been bread winners for sick relatives before marriage etc). It’s hard to get ahead of the financial curve even while living like no one else.

    We have flip phones, have never had cable in my life, free haircuts, same old clothes, don’t eat out, don’t celebrate holidays, and still there is no savings or money for extras.

    Sometimes I think frugality helps get you ahead but sometimes it doesn’t. I know we would be in credit debt instead of eeking by if we weren’t frugal so that’s a major plus/fruitage. We just keep the attitude of that we have somewhere to live, something to eat and wear and that’s more than alot have so we are lucky.

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    Shan Reply:

    Tina, as immigrants my parents started life anew in America with 2 young daughters, me and my younger sister. We essentially grew up in the same kind of frugal life that you’re describing. Looking back, I have nothing but good memories of how my parents sacrificed for us, loved and served the Lord and blessed us and many others. Take courage, and keep on this path of financial responsibility. The rewards will come. (My sister and I both had college educations and worked professionally. My parents’ work ethic, frugality, as well as generosity blessed many people.)

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    Andrea Reply:

    My grandparents and Dave’s grandparents have similar stories to this — I’m sure they would be amazed (and so happy) to see how far their children, grandchildren, and great grand children have come. Most of us have college degrees, we almost all own our homes and are contributing members of society — all because of their good work ethic and examples “way back then”!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, you are VERY right — thanks so much for sharing this Tina!
    Also, I think you are doing such a great job staying out of credit card debt — that’s a HUGE accomplishment in today’s society (no matter what your income level).
    You have such a great attitude too — I know that goes a long way towards a sense of contentment even in a difficult situation.

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  11. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life

    05/30/2017

    I think one of the benefits of living extremely frugally is that you notice the special things that you mentioned above as “treats”. You know that it’s not completely necessary to get your flowers, but you enjoy them and they’re a special thing.

    We know a lot of people who live much less frugally than we do but they think all of the shopping and going out to eat is just normal life. They don’t notice it as something special.

    We’ve lived very frugally and I’m glad that I know how little we can live on. It makes all of the extras (like going to the movies or going out for coffee) much more special.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I think you are exactly right. We truly DO feel like we are really “splurging” and doing something super fun for our family when we spend $15 on Culver’s, when Dave gets a Biggby coffee, or when I buy $100 for annuals that we enjoy ALLLLLL summer/fall long.
    It’s such a special treat for us — I hope it always stays that way!

    I was actually telling Dave just a couple weeks ago, “I wondering if we could go back to living on as little as we did the first year of our marriage”. We both decided that would take A LOT of effort on my part considering we have a bigger house, more utility expenses, and 3 more (almost 4 more) people to feed, cloth, care for, etc. But it might be a fun challenge once the youngest child is out of diapers. We could try it for 6 months — see how little we can live off from again 🙂

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  12. Dee

    05/30/2017

    Hi Andrea,

    I’m just getting started on practicing frugality at the age of 37.
    One of my sons was diagnosed with Autism 3years ago and I had to cut work to part time only.
    Anyways, my question is do you have different savings accounts for every budget ex. Christmas, birthdays, savings, emergency?

    I currently have some money in my savings but i’m not to sure how to separate it. Or my not?

    Great post by the way!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Dee,
    We have never felt the need to create different savings accounts because it just seemed like more hassle for us. That said, we have ALWAYS been very good at saving our money — so even if we could see that there was quite a bit in our savings account, it wasn’t tempting for us to spend. If you feel like a high number in your savings account would tempt you to spend it, then separate accounts might be the way to go 🙂

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    Jenny Reply:

    Dee – I’ve always used multiple savings accounts. That way I can make sure that I have enough saved for emergencies vs. trips or a new kitchen. I can always move money around in the non-emergency accounts but the emergency accounts are sacred. It also makes it easier to see the I have “enough” saved for emergencies and be able to spend on a trip guilt free. All my accounts are with the same bank so when I log on I see all the accounts and the total balance.

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    Jamie Reply:

    Dee, we use only one savings account for all our separate mini accounts (like Christmas, homeschool materials, car repair, home improvement projects, etc.). I use Andrea’s budget template that I downloaded a couple years ago. I keep the amounts divided in the categories on one of the “pages”. She already put the formulas in so the totals just come up as I enter the new deposit amounts and then I just compare the total there with the total in my savings account according to my bank. It has worked very well for us…and I don’t have to pay extra fees for having extra savings acounts.

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  13. michelle

    05/30/2017

    What a joy to see that you are encouraging people to enjoy life and not always be so hard on ourselves! I am a mom with older teens but I love to read your tips. Thank you for sharing!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Michelle!

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  14. Jen

    05/30/2017

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE short hair and I love that you ROCK it!! I have ALWAYS had short hair–like yours–and if I had the option, I would have it cut every two weeks. But, time and money require four weeks–and I am totally okay with that. It is one thing I am totally willing to pay for. Sadly, as I’ve gotten older, cuts have morphed into cuts AND color but that’s okay. I have a dear friend who does both for a steal, and I am so thankful.

    As far as I’m concerned, we are ahead of the curve! In my opinion, very few “older” women look good with long, gray hair. So, since we are experienced with short hair already, we will continue to rock it as we age!

    I am also thankful that my husband has never once commented on the fact that he wishes I had long hair or that he wishes my hair style would change (it’s pretty much been the same basic style for the 30 years I’ve know him with one horrid foray into a chin-length bob when I was pregnant, which I promptly ditched once I had four little kids at home and didn’t have an hour to dry my THICK hair!). I don’t quite “get” the cultural norm that long hair is sexy/stylish/more attractive, but I’m so grateful my guy didn’t think so! 🙂

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    Jen Reply:

    And I should add that the “long hair is so much easier and quicker” argument is BOGUS! I can be showered, “lotioned”, “makeuped”, hair washed, dried and styled, and OUT the door in 20 minutes.

    I don’t have time for LONG hair! HAHA

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I always joke with Dave because I can literally get ready faster than he can 🙂
    Short hair for the win when it comes to quick morning routines. That said, I do think you have to have the “right” kind of hair to be able to quickly do short hair. Thin, wispy hair his harder to style when it’s short… so the fact that we both have thick hair probably helps us style it quickly.

    And yes, Dave couldn’t care less how short or long my hair is!

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  15. Erin

    05/30/2017

    As a Dave Ramsey groupie, this is a perfect example of Live like no one else so that later you can LIVE like no one else.

    If you ever put your house up for sale let me know. Maybe we can somehow ship it to Texas

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I doubt we’ll be selling our house any time soon! 🙂

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  16. Ann

    05/30/2017

    I noticed a lot of marigolds in your annuals splurge. When the flowers die have the kids dead head them and put them into a brown paper bag. Next year, fill a flat with dirt, let them pull each dried flower apart to get the seeds and plant them in the dirt. (Sometimes I just sprinkle them in the area I want them. I let the birds eat some and some grow.)

    They will have fun growing their own marigolds and you will get thousands of seeds from the plants you have there. (I do the same thing with zinnias and cosmos!)

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    Andrea Reply:

    The marigolds are actually from last year — I don’t have any planted this year. However, I’ll keep your idea in mind as we plan to plant Marigolds next week 🙂

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