5 Years of Frugal Mama: The Story of This Blog

5 Years of Frugal Mama: The Story of This Blog

Five years ago I started this blog.  It was October 2009, a year after the Wall Street meltdown, and we were living in Manhattan at the time.

Our youngest child, Mark, was only one, but I knew that I needed to find another way to contribute to the world besides raising children. I wanted it to be something that could take me beyond the baby years into a possible career (something I had never found in my 20s).

I decided to combine my love of writing with my experience in raising a family on a tight budget.  My friend, Jamie, helped me come up with the name, my mom designed the logo, my sister helped me get the website up, and my dad did the proofreading.

These four posts were on the site when I launched it via an email to all of my friends:

It turns out that both a blog and a baby were set in motion — our fourth child would be born nine months after I launched Frugal Mama.  While we waited for him, I had fun building the new site I had just created.  I treated the blog as a job, staying up late researching, studying books on blog marketing, and networking on Twitter.

Exciting things seemed to happen quickly.  Within one month of launching the blog, I was asked to be the savings expert for a corporate blog, and within six months I was contacted by a publishing agent. I was noticed by bigger sites which sent traffic my way. I got invited to luncheons, parties, and speaking events.

Blogger Amy Suardi with Melissa d'Arabian of the Food Network

With Melissa D’Arabian of the Food Network

But I began to see the tricky exchange that was involved in these invitations. On the one hand, it seemed smart to make connections, to get your name out, and network with other bloggers.  On the other hand, you had to write about these events and, if you weren’t careful, your entire content could be hijacked by company agendas.

Mom bloggers were a relatively new figure on the scene, situated somewhere between the media and the consumer.  And with the publishing industry crumbling, no one really knew who was leading whom and how anyone was going to make any money.

I remember going to a glitzy party for Teri Hatcher’s new site (now defunct) called GetHatched. It was a joint venture with Disney, and Hatcher was being photo-showered along with a bunch of executives and advertisers and starlets. I was wearing a plain, button-down oxford over a huge belly and feeling totally out of synch with the fast-talking, brazen slickness of the scene.

My old-fashioned version of the good life was not what was being presented by those with the power and the money, and that mismatch would reappear as a conundrum as the blog grew.

5 Years of Frugal Mama:  The Story of this Blog

Sofia, Mark, Virginia, and I in Central Park

Anyway it was time to leave New York, because the odessey for Enrico’s career, which had started in Italy and had taken us to Cincinnati, northern Virginia, and New York, was now leading us to Syracuse.

We also welcomed Luke into the world. I took a three-month baby-moon, entrusting the blog to guest writers. When I re-emerged, I was ready to take aim again at my goal of becoming a professional writer. Focus is a very powerful thing, I discovered, as the heat of that focus smoldered until it sparked a fire.

It started with a local parenting magazine that began running my articles on childcare, traveling, and birth centers, and then the area NBC news picked me to do live segments as their “money-saving mom.”  Soon after, TLC.com, a division of the Discovery Network, called to ask me to be part of their new website’s stable of writers, and then Babble wanted me to join their team of home bloggers.

Hard work really did pay off, I was excited to see, but the timing was nutty.  It was time to pick up and move again — Enrico was done with his post-grad training and we were going to settle down.  We found a fixer-upper in Washington, D.C., and thanks to a low point in the market, we were able to buy our first house.

Our 1916 farmhouse in Washington, D.C. that we are repairing and restoring

Our city farmhouse when we bought it in 2011

We had only made a few emergency repairs when TLC wanted to start filming Frugal Mama Makeovers, a video series where I was to help contestants with money-saving challenges.  I had become a working mother, but as with many small businesses, I had yet to make any profit and at times the workload was grueling.

After the video series wrapped up, we tiptoed into renovating, transforming our library into a foyer with coat closets and cubbies for backpacks, and re-landscaping to create fun stuff for the kids like a front yard vegetable garden and mini-orchard.

Then it was the ultimate compliment when The Washington Post wanted to do a feature on our simpler, slower lifestyle. Yet the irony of this climax was that the article put so much pressure on us that I wondered if being under the spotlight changes us to the point where we are no longer the very thing that is being spotlighted.


I found the answer to that question and more when I took an unplugged vacation with my family.  I realized that the things that were really important to me — my family, my writing, my home and neighborhood — were becoming smaller as the gargantuan task of becoming Someone grew bigger. As I explained in this well-known post, the success of my blog was leading me away from the very values that were at the heart of it, and me.

So in a decision that I am still deeply grateful for, I took myself out of the game and scaled the blog back to the basics. I took down my ads, quit my job at TLC, took myself off media lists, and didn’t worry about all the “opportunities” I was missing. The peace was exhilarating.

For a while I had six contributing writers helping me, but taking on an editorial role was also more than I wanted to manage. Eventually I slowed down to publishing one post per month, or what I call slow blogging, and that rhythm feels just right.

There have been plenty of times when I wanted to take a hiatus, like when I got hacked and ended up losing all of the images from my site. (I’m still putting back the pieces from that calamity, but I’m happy about the new site design that transpired from it.) Or when all four floors of our house were under construction, and I was trying to manage the crew and keep it all under budget.

And then there was the time, two years ago, when I found out we were expecting another baby.  Diana has been the best surprise of all. She has brought us all closer together, not only because she makes us laugh and fills us with love, but because she requires more of us, making every member essential to the family economy.

5 Years of Frugal Mama: The Story of This Blog

Diana at 14 months

Sofia, 12, and Virginia, 10, now take turns getting their younger brothers, Mark, 6, and Luke, 4, ready for bed and reading the story.  Everyone has a turn setting the table and sweeping the kitchen, and the boys have other jobs like unloading the groceries and entertaining Diana while I’m cooking.

They say if you want children to have their feet on the ground, then put some responsibility on their shoulders.  We learned lessons like this during the lean years, and those experiences of being resourceful and paring down have molded us and made us who we are today.

A blog is hard to keep up for long years because it is based on a person’s life.  People change.  But even though our income has grown (thank God), I’m still a big fan of living simpler and slower.  Not only does it save us money we can use for the future, but it makes me feel more connected to the people I love, the earth I live on, and the passions inside me.


I also have you to thank for helping me keep this blog alive. It’s not nuclear physics, but you have given me the sense that I am doing something worthwhile. I do love writing, but hearing from you is even better because it makes me feel useful. And that’s a great feeling.

Bless you,

Note:  Anniversary images were hand-drawn by my daughters, Sofia and Virginia, based on designs by Josh White and Natalie Burge Design, respectively

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  • Amy Windsor December 1, 2014, 11:57 pm

    Congratulations, Amy! Hard to believe it’s been five years — it feels like a lifetime ago that we started blogging. It makes me happy to see someone so grounded and happy with their decision to step away and remain satisfied while the blog world keeps on spinning. :)

    • Amy December 2, 2014, 11:31 am

      Hi Amy,

      Wow, so nice to hear from you! Thank you for your reassuring words. It’s sometimes so unexpected how we arrive at our happy place.

      Wishing you all the best,

  • Nina November 13, 2014, 10:57 am

    Many congrats, Amy! You certainly have found success, both with the limelight of being a popular blogger and finding the peace and balance with your personal life. That’s amazing though that all those opportunities came up. I’ve been blogging almost 5 years and have yet to see anything close to that! ;)

    • Amy November 15, 2014, 7:39 am

      Dear Nina,

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. The fact that all those opportunities have not come up for you yet may be a blessing in disguise. Although I know that sometimes you have to learn the hard way, like I did.

      Wishing you whatever you define as success,

  • Amanda Matheny November 7, 2014, 11:39 am

    That is great that you’ve been up for five years now, and I’m going to check out some of the posts you linked to. It does sound like things might have gotten a little overwhelming, but it is pretty cool that you got those opportunities as well. For me, blogging is something fun and interesting to do in my spare time, and certainly not a career, as my true passion is teaching, but I absolutely love when readers tell me they enjoyed my posts, learned something new, or otherwise benefited from them. I am writing for the readers, not just for myself. If I wanted to do that, I’d just keep a diary. My blog has only been up for 7 months and isn’t very big yet, but the people who have stopped by seem to love it and it is growing every day, albeit a lot slower than yours did, but it’s enough progress to keep me motivated to keep producing great content. Here’s to Frugal Mama being around another 5 years!

    • Amy November 7, 2014, 12:35 pm

      Hi Amanda,

      Great to hear from you, and congratulations on your up-and-coming blog! Slow and steady wins the race, right?


  • Samantha October 27, 2014, 7:42 pm

    I love the story of your Frugal Mama journey!

  • Sarah October 23, 2014, 9:55 pm

    Simply lovely, Amy. XO

  • Mom October 23, 2014, 7:36 pm

    It’s been a wonderful ride for us too. We are so proud of you for all the good writing and all the thoughtful ideas. And mostly, for holding your ground; not getting sucked into the whirlwind of fame and fortune and compromises.
    Best wishes for the next five years.

    • Amy October 24, 2014, 10:46 pm

      Thanks, Mom! Of course, you’ve been here since the blog was a twinkle in my eye. Thank you for all the energy and support you have given me over the years. So much of the blog is inspired by growing up with you!


  • Kara Thompson October 22, 2014, 10:53 pm

    Hi Amy,
    How wonderful to know that you are doing so well. I still credit your money saving ideas to getting our small business started on a budget back in 2011. Since then we have moved and renovated 2 additional locations and have over 250 dance students and 100 adult fitness clients attending our studio every week. Hard to believe it all started with a little dream. Thank you for all of your help in those early days of our studio and for the words of advice I still revisit today. However busy my days may be now, your article is a good reminder that I am a business owner, but most importantly a mom (of two boys 5 and 2 now), wife, and me. I need that reminder to stop and enjoy living life simply. Congrats on 5 years and best wishes for whatever the future may hold for Frugal Mama!
    All the best,
    Kara Thompson
    Fit to Dance Studio, NJ

    • Amy October 23, 2014, 2:14 pm

      Dear Kara,

      I feel the same way: it’s awesome to hear how well you are doing! How cool that you have opened more studios and that you have so many students.

      I remember your excitement to begin and the joyful energy at the Zumba class you held at a community center, and I really hoped you would succeed. It’s great to know that you have.

      We can all get busy chasing a dream, and it’s touching to hear you talk about your family. I know you’ll find the right balance.

      Thank you so much for coming back here to tell me how you are doing. It makes me happy.


  • Michele Sommerfelt October 22, 2014, 4:34 pm

    Hi Amy,
    I love your writing and ideas, of course, but mostly I love the photos!
    As I’ve entered the next phase of life upon Lori’s graduation, I must say frugal living in an empty nest has some of the same challenges and soul-searching moments that raising young children did. So your blog can go on and on and on if you want it to! ;-)
    Sending love from Cleveland!

    • Amy October 22, 2014, 9:52 pm

      Dear Michele,

      So good to hear from you as always. Interesting what you say about living frugally as children leave the nest. Life always presents new challenges, which is what makes it interesting, right?

      Take care,

  • Amy October 22, 2014, 3:03 pm

    You are an amazing writer! Congrats on 5 years.

    • Amy October 22, 2014, 9:50 pm

      Thanks, Amy! And you are an amazing entrepreneur and organizer. Are you going on 15 years? Our-Kids looks better than ever.

      All the best,

  • Melanie October 22, 2014, 1:50 pm

    Wow, 5 years!! Time flies. You’ve done so much and in so many different ways. Your energy is astounding :-) Congrats on all the hard work so beautifully presented!

    • Amy October 22, 2014, 9:48 pm

      Hi Melanie,

      Yes, it has seemed like a whirlwind at times. So glad I’ve known you all these years.


  • Nichole C-W October 22, 2014, 7:28 am

    Congratulations on 5 years! I know through my makeover you have made my life so much better! I fall down every so often but get right back up on the Amy bandwagon! I must say, we’re doing pretty good and I am proud of what we have accomplished… This year it’s a simple Christmas for us and Brian is running races in Disney just after the new year.. Goal – not putting anything on the credit cards….
    Thank you for everything you have done! You have helped so many and accomplished so much and that you should be super proud of!

    ps – completely realize I never sent a baby gift! amazing how life gets ya

    • Amy October 22, 2014, 9:24 am

      How wonderful to hear that you are doing so well, Nichole! I love your enthusiasm and your persistence — keep fighting the good fight!

      All the best,

  • Joan Derrenbacker October 22, 2014, 7:20 am

    Amy – Remember me from MOPS all those years ago in Syracuse? Well, I’ve been a faithful follower of your blog for five years now, and congratulate you on making such wise decisions for yourself and your family. The glitz, the glamor, and even the money are all fleeting enticements to draw us away from our primary assignment from God – to take care, love and nurture our families. And this you are, obviously, doing well. So I’ll keep praying for you, knowing that you’ll keep radiating the love of God to those precious children and to your husband. May you be richly blessed in the days ahead!

    • Amy October 22, 2014, 9:30 am

      Of course, I remember you, Joan! Your talks at MOPS were always reassuring and inspiring. In fact, I was just remembering how you would invite foreign exchange college students to your house for Thanksgiving dinner. You clearly have the spirit inside you, and I am grateful that you shared so much with us.

      So good to know that you’re here,

  • Kité October 22, 2014, 3:31 am

    Dear Amy,
    Congratulations on your blog’s 5th anniversary!
    You continue to be an inspiration to me & many others, I’m sure. You handle family, frugality & blogging w/ so much grace.
    It’s nice to know that even your parents, etc. got involved in the launch of this blog that I have come to look forward reading every 15th of the month. You’re blessed w/ a beautiful family.

    Tanti auguri,

    • Amy October 22, 2014, 9:35 am

      Ciao Kite’,

      Yes, the blog was (and continues to be) a family affair, and that’s why it didn’t work when it took me in the opposite direction.

      Thank you for all your kind words. p.s. I’m jealous of your Nutella gelato. :)

      Cari saluti,

  • Karen Falter October 21, 2014, 11:51 pm

    Amy, another wonderful post! Congratulations on your 5 year anniversary. I am so honored to have filled the role as one of your guest writers. It was a fabulous experience for me and fun to be part of something so great like Frugal Mama with you. I hope editing didn’t keep you up too late with my posts. :-) Keep writing and sharing with us. We would be poorer if you stopped.


    • Amy October 22, 2014, 9:58 am

      Dear Karen,

      I agree, it was really fun to get to work together. You were a natural at coming up with great topics and writing in a friend-to-friend voice. The process of getting posts and images up on the site is time-consuming, no matter who writes them, and it just happened that we began to collaborate when I was on the brink of slowing down. Still, I miss that partnership.

      Thank you for all the nice things you said.


  • Claudia October 21, 2014, 10:15 pm

    Dear Amy,
    congratulations on your 5-year anniversary!!
    I don’t know if you remember me from Ps183 – I am Amy’s
    mom with the 4 kids…;) we went birdwatching together…:)
    I always wanted to say hi again! Love your blog and I still enjoy very much reading it!
    – the blog and you really inspire me and your children are
    Warmest greetings from NY

    • Amy October 22, 2014, 10:01 am

      Dear Claudia,

      Of course, I remember you! I’m so honored that you are still reading my blog after all this time. It’s great to have history with people. Sofia just read her 2nd grade book on red-tailed hawks to her little brothers — what a great in-depth study that was. We were lucky to have gone to such a great school and met such nice people.

      Thank you for writing!

  • Eliza October 21, 2014, 9:38 pm

    What a lovely wrap-up of the last five years, Amy. I appreciate your honesty and all the work you have done to share your research findings about making life happier and more balanced. Enjoy that family, and congrats on getting the kids to help out too. Later they will realize that gift. ;)

    • Amy October 21, 2014, 9:47 pm

      Thank you, Eliza. It means a lot to me.


  • Meera October 21, 2014, 9:36 pm

    I have always loved reading your blog. Its always so honest.
    Congrats on 5 years!!

    • Amy October 21, 2014, 9:45 pm

      Thanks Meera!

      That’s a huge compliment.


  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom October 21, 2014, 12:38 pm

    I just found your blog too and I’m excited to read your next post. Next month! Congratulations on your blog’s fifth anniversary.

    • Amy October 21, 2014, 12:46 pm

      Hi Emily,

      It’s great to hear from you! Your blog’s most recent post title is very intriguing.

      You’re right — next month. There are so many things I would like to write about, but I only have enough time to delve into a few.

      See you then, and welcome!

  • Sara Tetreault October 21, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Congratulations! It’s not always easy to be frugal and fancy – especially when compared to celebrities.
    Such a great story and refreshing to see your commitment to keeping it simple – for yourself and your family.

    • Amy October 21, 2014, 12:41 pm

      Hey Sara,

      Great to hear from you! I know you know where I’m coming from and where I’ve been.

      Thanks for being there,

  • JOI October 21, 2014, 11:51 am

    HEY! I’ve recently discovered your blog & I’m hooked. You’ve already given me some helpful advice, so I nominated YOUR blog for the Lovely Blog award. If you’d like to participate, go to my post for rules . If not no worries. I still love your blog!

    • Amy October 21, 2014, 12:42 pm

      Dear Joi,

      I’m so honored that you nominated me. I will stop by your blog to find out more.


  • Gayle October 21, 2014, 11:00 am

    Congrats on 5 years. It has been a long journey, and I am thrilled that you’ve ended up somewhere you’re happy with. Beautiful post.

    • Amy October 21, 2014, 11:02 am

      Thanks, Gayle! It does feel like I’ve found the music that is in tune with my life now. Good to hear from you, as always.


  • Flo Citterbart October 21, 2014, 10:56 am

    Hi Amy, knowing you from the beginning has been great. You are an inspiration to Moms around the world and a great person. I miss you and wish you a bigger and better future with Enrico. With love, Flo and John

    • Amy October 21, 2014, 10:57 am

      Dear Flo,
      It’s great to hear from you. Enrico and I were reminiscing about my days at Sullivan & Cromwell with you. I miss you too! Best wishes to both you and John.