Hello there! I’m so glad you stopped by. I’m Amy, and I know how possible it is to create a high-quality life on a low budget.

Spending Less, Getting More

Photo: TLC/DCI

I founded this blog because I love to write and I love to help people. Living on a tight budget has always been my M.O. — back when I was a unfocused single, then as a new mother, and now as a work-at-home mother of four.

I’ve lived on the East Coast, the West Coast, the Southwest, and the Midwest. I know what it’s like to be scraping the bottom of my barrel every month, to have to borrow money from friends so I could keep up with their lifestyle, and to work as a temp secretary — days and nights.

My husband, Enrico, and I survived over ten years of medical training on one income. We have lived all over the place from Italy (where he was born and bred) to Cincinnati, Ohio (where I’m from). I’ve figured out how to hang four people’s laundry from a tiny balcony in Milan, how to find friends in Syracuse and birth a baby within a month of moving in, and how to sell our cars and half our stuff to fit into a high-rise apartment in Manhattan.

Besides raising our careers, Enrico and I are bringing up four deliciously mischievous children and have just added a fifth: a 100-year-old farmhouse in Washington, D.C.

As you can see, not everything we love is slow, natural, and inexpensive. Children, blogging, city living, decorating like a rock star (even if it takes me 20 years): these complex loves keep life as frizzante as a good Prosecco — and they challenge me, just as much as I challenge and encourage you — to find some old-fashioned simplicity in this 21st century life.

We love restoring our 1916 farmhouse in Washington, D.C.

I Don’t Make Money from This Blog

I love living the simple life as much as I love writing about it.  That is why, in the summer of 2012, I decided to drop the business side of blogging.

After I founded my blog in 2009, I gradually earned recognition, and eventually, a little money.  For one and a half years, I was a regular contributor to Discovery’s new family and lifestyle website, Parentables, and I wrote about saving money for Babble and Buttoned Up.  I also hosted a spin-off video series for TLC.com called Frugal Mama Makeover and was featured in The Washington Post.

However, when I shared my truth about making money online, I confessed that the money was barely enough to cover my expenses, and trying to run a business made it impossible to stay true to my values of community, family, and home.

Frugal Mama is now a team blog with six contributing writers, and we subscribe to a version of “slow blogging,” where the blog is updated just once a week to allow plenty of white space for ourselves and our readers to live a rich life offline.

 

Photo: TLC/DCI

I’m a Late Bloomer

As I explained in my popular post, Don’t Read This If You Want Your Life to Stay the Same, I have not always been a successful writer. In fact, I have not always been a success at all.

Even though I graduated with honors from Brown University in Renaissance Studies, I spent my twenties searching for my calling in life, working at all kinds of jobs across the country, partying, and restlessly traveling (on a shoestring, of course). I got myself in debt, bounced many a check, and thought only of the moment.

Things began to change for the better when I got married and had children.

Photo: TLC/DCI

Not only has my family given purpose to my life, but it has pushed me beyond my singular self into networks of people who form our nation’s amazing communities. Over the years, I have started two babysitting exchanges; directed an all-volunteer preschool of 72 families; run sales of clothing and gear in New York City for a non-profit; and founded an organization to revitalize our neighborhood school (and got an award for it from the Arlington County School Board).

People are the key to my happiness and success. Where communities don’t exist, I think it’s important to create them. Whether it’s a block association or a walking club, helping one another is really one of the best ways to save money and make life better.

Sometimes groups are born out of a desire to connect, and then they end up taking on a life of their own. All the members of the writing circle I started in Milan, for example, went on to become published writers, and Central New York Blogger Mamas is thriving long after we left Syracuse.

Thank You Readers

Even though the lean, long years of medical training are over, we continue to fight the good fight.  To be able to make our house into a haven, save for retirement, send our kids to college (and pay for their braces), we still must be very careful with our money.  So even though our goals have changed from staying out of debt to saving for the future, our day-to-day life is pretty much the same as it was when I started this blog in 2009.

I pack lunches every day and cook dinner every night. I participate in childcare co-ops and and neighborhood associations. We drive used cars, wear hand-me-downs, and write down every penny we spend.  Finding the crux between spending less and living well is an ever-evolving challenge, and I’m so glad you are along for the ride.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me: please leave me a comment sometime.  And don’t forget to sign up to get our once-weekly blog post delivered to your inbox.

44 comments

  • Mark Rothschild April 17, 2013, 4:19 pm

    Hi Amy,

    One way your readers could implement frugality would be to save on their online purchases. There is a new search engine that searches entire sites instead of just pages, so consumers can find an entire shopping list at one site and thereby consolidate their online transactions.

    The advantages of consolidating online transactions are several, including lower shipping costs and possible volume discounts from online merchants.

    This new site is http://onestopshoppinglist.com/

    I am the owner/developer and I would be pleased to provide more information or an online interview about our unique shopping search engine.

    BTW, OneStopShoppingList.com is especially good at searching out personal-care/beauty products (although it is not limited to those sorts of items.)

    Thank you,
    Mark Rothschild

    Mark Rothschild | Development
    Mark@OneStopShoppingList.com

    Reply
  • Mary March 18, 2013, 3:34 pm

    Dear Amy,

    I just come across your blog and I love it. As much as I want to try to let go of my ‘extra belongings’, to have a simpler life, I am not sure how to do it. I am a bit shopaholic and I have so much stuff. My husband and I downsized from a 3 bedroom house in New Jersey, US when we moved to a small town in Ontario, Canada almost 3 years ago. When we moved, I have gotten rid of more than half of what I owned but now I feel like our townhome is filling up fast.

    I keep thinking that I will be able to get rid of the items that I have purchased and don’t want or need anymore through a garage sale to recoup some of the money rather than giving them to Goodwill (we don’t have tax receipt for donations here in Canada).

    The thing is, things don’t always happen as I planned.

    What is your advice? How do I let go? How do I start?

    Luckily, we both have a good job so we don’t have any debts except for the mortgage. We saved a lot but it would be better if I stop spending money on stuff that I don’t need.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  • Daniel Clark March 12, 2013, 12:58 am

    Hello,

    This is to remind you regarding our previous mail that we have sent you for the posting of our Guest post in your blog. We haven’t got any response from your side. Please let us know if any terms and condition are there related to submitting the guest posts.

    We are waiting for your quick reply.

    Thanking You,
    Daniel Clark

    Reply
    • Amy March 13, 2013, 1:32 pm

      Dear Daniel,

      Thank you for your interest in my site, but I am only accepting guest posts from bloggers with whom I have an established relationship.

      Wishing you the best,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Daniel Clark March 4, 2013, 8:40 am

    Dear Editor,

    I have been following your blog “http://www.frugal-mama.com” for a while. I can say without hesitation that you have done some remarkable work and put a great and informative content on it. Moreover, I have noticed that you are accepting guest posts as well, so I thought of contributing my ideas to your blog. I have done a comprehensive research on the topics that are related to your blog and can offer you a piece of them.

    It will not only attract more visitors but also help them get the informative stuff on the subject. Please let me know if you can accept my blog post.

    I ensure you that articles which I am going to provide you

    * Will be unique.
    * Will not be redistributed to others.
    * You will own the entire copyrights.

    I Hope for a positive and professional response from your side.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Daniel Clark

    Reply
  • Sarah January 24, 2013, 12:36 pm

    Hi Amy,
    I came across your blog and can’t wait to explore it. When I clicked to read about you, you looked familiar and I realized it was from the Fairlington co-op playgroup. What a beautiful family you have!
    Sarah C.

    Reply
    • Amy February 3, 2013, 3:09 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      It’s great to hear from you! The Fairlington Cooperative Playgroup was the best, wasn’t it? I hope you’ll stop by again soon.

      Take care,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Grace January 3, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Hi Amy,
    I work for a nationally syndicated daytime show in New York. I came across your blog and would love to hear a bit more about it. If you could contact me at your earliest convenience that would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks much!

    Talk soon,
    Grace

    Reply
  • Alfred Smith December 20, 2012, 7:22 am

    Hi Amy,

    I am looking for shopping related blogs to post some of my articles. I found this site: frugal-mama.com awesome. May I have the permission to submit an article. Or do you have some other sites reference where I can post my articles. Looking to get a reply soon.

    Thanks,
    Alfred

    Reply
  • Jen December 4, 2012, 3:51 pm

    Hi Amy,

    In the spirit of Frugal Mom, I would like to spread the word about accredited, affordable Daycare on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in a wonderful 65-year-old community center just down the street from Lincoln Center. I do feel like this could help some of the frugal moms out there. Please feel free to contact me for additional information. Thanks so much.

    Best,
    Jen

    Reply
  • Sam mattingly July 10, 2012, 3:08 pm

    I sent an email to Amy’s attention hoping that there might be some interest in reviewing our family musical which begin a very limited showcase as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I sent the information earlier and hope that it was received.

    ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT is he happiest pastry in the shop until he finds out why Mr. Bing has purchased him. What ensues is a funny exchange that children have come to love since the book was first published in 2003. This a fun filled family event.

    Please contact me for more information.

    Sam Mattingly
    SM Communications
    (917)331-9375

    Reply
    • Amy July 10, 2012, 8:54 pm

      Hi Sam,

      I wish I could review all the amazingly good stuff that is sent to me, but it’s just not possible. Arnie the Doughnut sounds really fun, and I appreciate your sending the information my way.

      Wishing you all the best,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Mali June 19, 2012, 3:09 pm

    Dear Amy,

    It was great to read about you in today’s Star ledger.I loved the way you handled the situation.Everyone has ups and downs in life. How we handled the situation matters eventually.

    Well,I came to this country in 2008. I had to leave my job after marriage to relocate to US. I worked all my life and was too independent. I was always a giver and never a receiver!Marriage changed everything for good or bad:).I could’nt work here for visa related issues.

    Currently I am a stay at home mom to a cute 18 month old daughter and trying to find the purpose in life. I wish I knew it by this time !

    Life in US exposed me to various situations. The cultural diversity, education system, health care issues,economy and what not.I am glad that I developed interest in Gym,hiking and home improvement( because of the poor state of our house).It was not a smooth sailing though.

    Well, I will come to the point. I live in NJ and have a 60 year old house which was bought by my husband in 2007 for a very high price. It require lot of updates and we are not in a position to hire contractors. I would like to update the house myself and would like to hire contractors where professional expertise is required.

    I am looking for someone for mutual benefit – help each other to fix the house and aquire knowledge in the process. We can save money and also improve our lives. it will be a whole new experience. Yes, it is nothing but barter! Helping ourselves! Anyone is interested? We live in Union county, NJ.

    I don’t know whether this is the right place to share my thoughts…? But what is wrong in trying?

    With love,

    Mali

    Reply
    • Amy June 19, 2012, 7:20 pm

      Dear Mali,

      I know what you mean about trying to find the purpose in life. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot, and you are still in the thick of your journey. I love your idea of bartering to get your house shaped up. Why don’t you look over some of the most popular bartering websites? I found this article at TLC: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/online-bartering-websites-tips.htm Maybe you could find someone in your area with whom you could team up with.

      I’m wishing you the best of luck!

      Amy

      Reply
      • Mali June 20, 2012, 12:38 pm

        Dear Amy,

        Thanks for the reference. I will definitely go through those sites. I also apprciate your quick response.

        I have some ideas about how to trasform our house to our “Home”. The million dollar question is how to motivate myself to do the job?I can’t expect any help from my husband. It is a kind of ” one woman army”. Sometimes I will be depressed thinking that I did’nt make the decision of buying this house. My husband had bought it even before our marriage. Why should my DD & I suffer? I know that I am not thinking on the right lines. How can I get rid of these negative thoughts?

        Mali

        Reply
        • Amy June 22, 2012, 3:09 pm

          Hi Mali,

          I highly recommend the books The Secret and The Power. It doesn’t address the house into home aspect, but it will help you with feeling positive and moving forward in your life.

          I’m wishing you happiness,
          Amy

          Reply
          • Anonymous July 23, 2012, 1:19 pm

            Thanks Amy,I will check that book.Apologise for the delayed post.

            Mali

            Reply
  • Krista Garner December 8, 2011, 11:10 am

    WOW!! Amy, this site is amazing! Thank you for sharing all your tips. I hear what you are saying, but I am still struggling! I have so many expenses that I cannot cut and I’m not sure how to do it anymore. My husband and I make fairly acceptable money, so we should be able to save and have money set aside for our children, but we have nothing! It’s so frustrating. We haven’t been on a family vacation or any small trips in over 2 years. I’m just not sure how to do it anymore. I’m going to keep reading your site and trying your tips, but I wish I had someone to help me personally.

    Please keep posting and sharing with us!

    Reply
    • Amy December 8, 2011, 9:29 pm

      Hi Krista,

      I know what you mean — it’s so much easier when someone is sitting down with us to figure it all out. Like a personal trainer.

      Do you track your spending? That’s one thing you can do right now to get a handle on your finances. You can’t change something you’re not aware of.

      It sounds like you are already doing a lot, but feel free to write back with specific questions. Check out the daily spending chart on my Printables page, and if you subscribe here, I’ll let you know when and if TLC holds another casting call, in case you want to participate.

      Thank you for writing in, Krista,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Amy December 2, 2011, 3:32 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Can you tell me a bit more about your business?

    You can write me at amy [at] frugal-mama.com.

    Thank you for your interest!

    Amy

    Reply
  • Megan Oberle November 1, 2011, 9:03 pm

    Hi Amy! What a great blog you have here – I am so impressed by all your hard work and community building. I live in Southern California with my hubby and three boys and love hearing through the grapevine what you are up to. I will have to become a regular frugal mama reader.
    Megan

    Reply
    • Amy November 1, 2011, 9:37 pm

      Hi Megan,

      Wow, thanks for stopping by and saying such sweet things! It’s so great to hear from you. I’d love to know you are out there as a reader!

      Don’t be a stranger,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Rex Ryan August 7, 2011, 9:40 pm

    This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

    Reply
  • Davide May 2, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Hello Amy,
    Safe pasta sauces for kids? Low sodium, no sugar, fresh vegetables? That would be me.
    Mr Rogers (PBS Children’s Television Show) favorite pasta sauce?
    Davide Sauce, Pittsburgh. That would be me again.
    Saw your site. Loved it, love what you are doing, and though we could partner somehow.
    Of all the stuff out there, please take a quick look. OK? Some of us do care besides God.
    Thanks
    Davide
    412 793 3527 (old fashion telephone number)
    davidesauce.com

    Reply
  • Samantha December 17, 2010, 11:02 pm

    oops, comment was a mistake. soooo sorry. love your blog!

    Reply
    • Amy December 18, 2010, 8:33 am

      I’m so happy you like it, Samantha. Thanks for saying so! Don’t be a stranger. — Amy

      Reply
  • Michele Ball December 1, 2010, 10:01 am

    Hi Amy! Thanks 4 all your $ saving tips and recipes. I’m always looking 4 ways 2 save $. =) Today I read your post about hand creams and wanted 2 let you know that AVON has a wonderful hand cream ~ Moisture Therapy. I’m an AVON rep and sell this hand cream to all ages ~ male and female. When it’s on sale, it’s $2 for a 4.2 oz tube. Anyone can order this on my website http://www.youravon.com/micheleball. AVON also has great stocking stuffers 4 everyone on your list!

    Reply
    • Amy December 1, 2010, 3:46 pm

      Michele — Thanks for the tip. The sale price sounds really economical!

      Sarah — I’m glad to hear about Dove unscented. I guess I got lucky, because I’ve been using that too. Cetaphil sounds good as well. I love Burt’s Bees for lips. Have you tried that? All natural.

      Thanks for writing in!

      Reply
  • Shannon August 5, 2010, 11:55 am

    What a fabulous and inspiring website! I know that you are taking time off to welcome your newest little one, but I do have a question that I would love for you to answer (when and if you have time!). I noticed that you had moved your family to the city and I am planning to do the same. I want my daughter to experience all that she can while we live there. Our major stumbling block to making the move from NJ to the city is schools. So, my question to you is: how did you find your place with a decent school (we are planning on moving to District 1 in the L.E.S.) and what advice do you have for making the move with a family?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Amy August 27, 2010, 11:02 am

      Hi Shannon,

      Congratulations! What an exciting adventure. It almost makes me want to do it all over again! My best tip for people looking to move to the city and find out about schools is http://www.insideschools.org. You will find everything you need to know about NY city schools — including procedures and reviews of schools. I bought some of their books to help support the organization, which is a nonprofit.

      Let me know how that goes and I’ll think about other advice about moving with a family. One thing you can start doing now is… purging! You’ll need to travel as lightly as possible!

      Good luck and let me know how it’s going.

      Amy

      Reply
  • Stefania June 24, 2010, 6:20 am

    Dear Amy,
    Astonishing work! You are able to make easy and pleasant the ordinary lifetime problems…great artist and great mama! I should have guessed your great talent when, just arrived in Italy, you were able to organize, in your place, amazing parties as well as thoughtful gifts for family anf friends, making all by your self!! We are missing you all, but your blog is keeping us closer..thank you!

    Reply
  • Tanya Jones June 23, 2010, 8:07 pm

    Amy your blog is brilliant! I am so proud of you. Less is More! Way to go, keep up the good.

    Reply
  • CC March 31, 2010, 11:40 pm

    Saw your site listed in BAM. Always loving finding frugal blogs as we live on my teacher income!! :)

    Reply
  • Antonella Lopopolo February 10, 2010, 8:17 am

    Hi AMY, I’m so impressed of the wonderful work you have done…..As a “new”mamma I really need any kind of advice!
    With love, Anto

    Reply
  • Fiona O'Dwyer-O'Brien November 15, 2009, 5:35 pm

    This is great Amy. I wish this was around before we left New York.
    Best of luck with this. I’ll keep checking in and see what other useful tips I can pick up for my new life!

    Reply
  • Lorraine Levey November 9, 2009, 1:10 pm

    Amy,
    What a fantastic job you’ve done! I’m really impressed with the articles, the layout, everything! I know it’s a lot of work, but keep it up because you’re doing great!

    Reply
  • Jeanne Stock November 5, 2009, 2:13 pm

    WOW Amy!!!!! How exciting. You know I am not the most frugal girl….bit I NEED to be!!! Especially in these economical times. Pat will love to hear that I may be becoming a Frugal Mama!!! I will pass it on!!!

    Reply
  • Pamela Tatum November 4, 2009, 2:15 pm

    AMY!!!

    So proud of you! Its just great info for mothers like me! This is great, I will be visiting your blog VERY often… send you lots of hugs and again CONGRATULATIONS!

    Reply
  • Elisa Fazio November 2, 2009, 6:34 pm

    Your blog is awesome! You are so smart to write about what you know. I have always wanted to create a blog, but I don’t know what I know yet.

    Now I have a couple of interesting tips to add to your blog: if you want to really know how to save money, spend time in the company of someone from another country; better yet, someone one generation up from us, from another country.

    I learned from my Egyptian mother-in-law how to revive old fruit, re-use a paper towel, and remove seemingly hopeless stains from items that were destined for the trash, among many other things. We are the biggest consumerist, throw-away country in the world (or were, I don’t know what’s going on in Asia right now) so we have a lot to learn.

    Another tip is to mask frugality with forward-thinking conscientiousness. Like the relative I have who didn’t want to buy wrapping paper, so she was green before green was in, and wrapped all the gifts in newspaper, and would always present it to you with a comment about saving trees.

    I don’t want to buy wrapping paper either, but I’ll be straight up with you, its because I want to save money and time shopping and wrapping. So I buy those gift bags and recycle them like crazy. My family has been receiving their gifts in the same gift bags for several years now, which is fine because they know from the picture whose bag is whose, and I don’t have to write name tags.

    I am on the verge of sending out christmas postcards with the the christmas cards that were sent to me cut in half, in this case not so much to save money (electronic greetings would be more economical), but because I am too sentimental to just throw the pretty cards away, so at least I will feel better giving them to someone I love. This is a great time to be practicing frugality without people calling you names for it! . . . .

    Anyway, congrats and happy blogging!

    Reply
  • Scott November 2, 2009, 2:47 pm

    Amy-
    Wow! Nicely done, and I’m going to try your pasta sauces soon. Looking forward to this summer at the farm with all the kiddies. Hope you and your family are doing well (looks like it).

    “cousin” scott

    Reply
  • Sarah Lloyd November 2, 2009, 10:36 am

    Hi Amy! This is amazing! Kudos to you! I need to take lessons from you not only on how to save money but also where to find time! Congratulations on this website and your blog. I can’t wait to read more. Love, Sarah

    Reply
  • Nadine Shubailat November 2, 2009, 10:07 am

    I LOVE your blog! It’s beautifully written, interesting, well laid out and the tips and photos are great :)

    Reply

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