8 Lessons I Learned From The Cheapest Family In The Nation

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-10-0193

How a family of seven is able to live on $35,000 a year after taxes.

I’ve read about America’s Cheapest Family in various articles and posts but haven’t really seen them in action till I caught a repackaged episode of 20/20 where they were once more featured. I cannot believe how a family of seven with children ages 10 through 21 are able to pull off living on an annual budget of $35,000. They are the aptly named Economides family from Arizona, and they are super-savers.

After watching their segment my main impression was that living that frugally indeed takes a lot of work, organization and effort, which would appear especially more challenging to the uninitiated. Some impressive facts:

  • The family paid off their house in 9 years even as their income averaged $33,000 a year. Of course, the ease of pulling this off would depend on the original cost of their home.
  • Steve Economides refers to himself as his family’s CEO or “Cheap Economizing Officer” and is a freelance graphic artist. Both he and his wife Annette operate the family business called “HomeEconomiser” which offers a Web site and newsletter for frugal living.
  • They spend $350 per month for food and disposable items covering paper goods, cleaning supplies and personal care items.
  • A freezer is a necessity to them. They devote a few days a month to cooking all their family meals then store 13 to 17 meals in the freezer each time.

Now you can see why they’re all smiling here!

America's Cheapest Family

The Economides say that “it takes a little bit of time to sit down and plan a menu. But you eat better, you save more money, and it creates less stress in your life.”


From their experiences, I picked up these lessons based just on what they’ve shared in their interviews and stories. To be able to stretch those dollars hard, here’s what they did:

What America’s Cheapest Family Has Taught Me

#1 Plan. Saving a lot of money begins with serious and meticulous planning.
To save some serious money, you’ll have to start with a plan and a system that will involve developing a budget, applying a lot of resourcefulness, collecting coupons, creating a grocery list, checking and re-checking the list before going out to buy anything. You will also need to plan your menus in advance, take careful inventory of what you have in your home, and do some product and pricing research to see which items are priced best.

The Economides family promotes once a month cooking; here’s a description of how it is done.

#2 Organize. Good organizational habits help you achieve successful money management.
By being more organized, you’re bound to save good money. While the cheapest family has gone on to work things out like clockwork, I’ve unfortunately lost money to being disorganized. Disorganization can cause you to end up with late payments, lost coupons, late fees, forgotten checks, and so forth. Here are some tips for becoming more organized: here’s how to organize your coupons, and how to simplify your finances.

#3 Shop wisely. A super-saver is an intelligent and determined shopper.
Committed savers are those not afraid to go for the best deal. How seriously do you take your shopping? Well, getting the best prices can be a real sport. For instance, waiting for sales, negotiating for a better price, hunting for the best bargains and asking questions in pursuit of the best prices can take a level of commitment and assertiveness. Do we have it in us to save those bucks? In the midst of such a sport, I’ve seen even some tough customers fold. Yes, including myself.

#4 Communicate effectively. It’s a family project.
I was impressed at how well the Economides communicate as a couple. It is evident how both Steve and Annette complement each other well as partners in their goal to live frugally. Their ability to communicate well goes beyond the use of walkie-talkies while shopping to find the best deals in a store.

#6 Embrace teamwork. Two frugalists are better than one.
When both committed partners support each other towards a common goal, it is more likely for that goal to be achieved and success to be reached.

#5 Make sacrifices. The fruits of sacrifice do add up.
Though I’ve advocated focusing primarily on saving on the big things where the impact is greatest, the examples given by the Economides family demonstrate that small savings do add up. The actual habit of saving on smaller items became instrumental in providing the basis for their lifelong strong frugal habits. The more they saved on everything, particularly the small things, the more disciplined they became, causing a snowball effect.

Some of the tips they’ve employed: “We shopped for clothes at thrift stores and consignment shops instead of ‘the mall,’ bought used furniture, used coupons for groceries, did our own haircuts (except for Annette’s hair) and borrowed free movies from the local library.”

#7 Prioritize frugality. Simplicity and frugality are lifestyle choices.
Mastering frugality in the way the cheapest family has done so, looks like it will take time and dedication to develop. Since time is also money, and planning and being proactive about living thriftily may take some amount of time, it is up to each individual to determine how much saving money is a priority for them. How much time are you willing to spend to work on living frugally?

#8 Stay determined. Saving money takes commitment, discipline and dedication.
The cheapest family swore to never accrue any debt. They’ve decided that even the convenience of using credit cards isn’t worth it to them. They simply don’t use credit cards. Temptations abound everywhere and even as they witnessed their neighbors bring in new furniture, they didn’t give in to “keeping up with the Joneses” by going out and buying something similar:

“Choosing to avoid credit had repercussions. For instance, in the early days of our marriage, we felt discouraged when the Danish furniture truck pulled up to our apartment complex, and our next-door neighbors had beautiful new furniture delivered. Annette just sat on our $25-orange-and-brown-plaid-missionary-purchased couches and cried. Or, after six years, when we were cramped in our smaller-almost-paid-off house, while many of our friends were buying their second or third much larger houses, we sat and wondered if there was something wrong with our plan. In both situations, after a time of soul-searching, we found solace and motivation in our decision to live within our means without the use of credit.”

They are a true inspiration to all of us who want to live within or below our means. To read more about them, you can fetch their book: America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money.

Other Excellent Resources On Frugality and Saving:
Tightwad Central
YNAB, You Need A Budget! Personal Budget Software
Best High Interest Savings Accounts In Online Banking

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

America'sCheapestFamily October 1, 2007 at 9:36 am

SVB,
It’s obvious you are a real thinker and planner. Many people are overwhelmed after reading about some of the things we do to save money. We always remind readers that we’ve been doing this frugality thing for years and years. Start where you are, focus on one area — like reducing trips to the grocery store. After a little while, the planning involved will become second nature. Then move on to another area of savings. Little by little you’ll transform your life and your bank account.

Remember that saving money isn’t the most important thing – it’s freeing up time and money to allow us to invest in the relationships that really matter — our family and friends.

The other thing you said that is crucial is working together as a team. Spouses and kids on the same page are an unstoppable force.

Keep leading the way!

Steve and Annette Economides
http://www.AmericasCheapestFamily.com

kitty October 1, 2007 at 10:12 am

I saw the program. While I do admire the ability of a family of 8 to live on 35K, I was wondering about the huge freezer: The electric bills on this huge thing must be pretty big. Are the savings they achieve on food really higher than higher electric bill? Also in some areas around here power failures are pretty common, so here goes your food.

“How much time are you willing to spend to work on living frugally? ”
Time is money. So it depends how much an hour of your time is worth in terms of income vs how much you save. My time is expensive, but I am a bad example given my 6-digit salary and low expenses (no debt, paid mortgage).

Also, it is a matter of priorities. There is not much information in the article about the work they do and if both of them work, if children have extra jobs, etc. Can the time spent planning next trip to the grocery store be spent earning money (e.g. house cleaning) or learning skills that would bring more income? Would additional work done in the same amount of time bring more money than you can save? What would you prefer to do? It is the matter of individual preferences, what makes you happy.

david October 1, 2007 at 1:44 pm

All those are great tips. I usually reserve my credit card for only a specific thing!

Fundu Trader From Investing Lessons Blog October 1, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Great advice and article. This is proof of the mantra – “What matters is not how much you earn but how much you save”.

My 2 cents – saving wisely should be a life style and needs to be applied to all purchases big and small. Diligently cutting grocery coupons and not shopping for a mortgage or refinancing does not make sense either. So many times you get a price break because you asked – a discount, a reduction in rate, a coupon for the next visit. Remember if you don’t ask – you don’t get.

Brip Blap October 1, 2007 at 7:09 pm

That’s both impressive and intimidating. I think the biggest roadblock I run up against in shopping is health vs. frugality. The unnervingly pink/grey chicken meat in the supermarket is of course much cheaper than vegetarian farm-raised chicken. I could save a lot of money by switching to the non-natural version of most of the foods I eat. However, there are a few foods I won’t buy based on price alone: beef or poultry, dairy, and eggs. The lax controls over antibiotics in animals in the US make me too skittish to eat “bargain” meats. I prefer locally grown and organic within limits (I don’t buy organic bread, for example, but I also won’t get bread with high fructose corn syrup in it). All of these choices cost money – I would be interested to know if the Economides eat primarily natural/organic or if frugality makes that tough.

Other than that, though, great list of tips. I really need to try harder…

Erin October 2, 2007 at 7:07 am

Kitty,
I used to wonder about the cost of having a freezer too. I went to Lowes and compared the yellow Energy Guide tags on all the freezers. Most of the freezers were estimated to only use about $50 a year for electricity. That’s not bad at all! I know I would be able to save MUCH more than that if I had a freezer and could stockpile more when our favorite things were on sale.

Brip Blap,
I try not to buy things with HFCS either. We buy a lot of organic items also. It raises the grocery bill, but I’m still able to spend $450 a month for our family of 5. That includes diapers, paper products, cleaning supplies, food, toothpaste etc…

Leah Ingram October 2, 2007 at 10:09 am

The only issue I take with the tip “Shop Wisely” is how much driving around this family does to get the best bargain. With the price of gas these days, one has to wonder how much these super shoppers are spending on transportation and if they are really saving in the end.

Leah Ingram

Bill October 3, 2007 at 11:18 am

A large (15 cubic feet) chest freezer uses only about 1 kWh/day

That’s about $30/year at my utility’s rate (upright freezers use about 50% more power than chest)

We get enough free food (not counting bulk buying discounts) to cover the annual power bill.

And our freezer only cost $25 (helps to buy appliances from somone moving across the country)

>I was wondering about the huge freezer

Karen October 14, 2007 at 10:12 am

Visiting from the Festival of Frugality–great article!
Personally, I think being on the same page is the single most important aspect of a family’s living within their means.

Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife November 5, 2007 at 6:19 am

I read this book too…it boils down to time vs. money. I think we all can economize in all aspects of our lives but are we willing to give up the time to do that (and to learn how to do that)? I am…but only to a certain extent…you can spend hours and hours of your day at this “economizing” thing but when are you going to spend time with your family? Or doing something you love?

I say, pick a few areas of your life you can improve on or prioritize…mine are grocery bills, paying bills on time, saving energy/time and saving gas…and eventually, you are going to ace those areas…then it’s time to move on and pick some other areas to improve.

As always, I recommend learning from the mistakes of others to lighten your own load…which is so much easier these days with all these wonderful blogs:-)) Keep up the great posts and be sure to stop by for a visit!

JHS November 10, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Intriguing, but I don’t believe it. There is no way that many people can live by only spending that sum of money on food and household items per month. Not in California, anyway. It is literally impossible. I spend nearly that much every week — I have 2 boys ages 20 and 16.

Nor would I want to eat reheated food that many times per month. Yuck.

But . . . it made for an interesting read! I’m late getting around to visit all of the Carnival participants. (Crazy week . . . only excuse!)

THANK YOU for being part of Colloquium’s inaugural edition. I appreciate your support.

Don’t forget that this week’s Carnival will be hosted at All Rileyed Up. If you haven’t submitted a post yet, you can do so until midnight (Pacific Time) tonight!

Obbop November 27, 2007 at 9:54 am

Whatever……

All it takes is one accident or health issue and all those plans fall to the wayside as the medical bills pile up, leaving a life-long debt that can never be repaid and prohibits saving for old age.

Thank you Congress for appeasing the ultra-rich with your re-creating bankruptcy law.

Wear your economic chains proudly you lowly commoners.

Wyatt November 27, 2007 at 11:48 am

This is being frugal on the edge of insanity. Maybe they should of spent more of their time trying to earn more money so life would be more enjoyable.

Wyatt

Doug November 27, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Not doable unless your wife is on board. My wife was “on board” while we dated, but much to my dismay now shops daily.

Rick December 2, 2007 at 12:47 am

This seems all well and good, until God forbid you are struck by a wonderful disease process such as Celiac Sprue or Lactose Intolerance or worse even Autism. Take a stroll through a natural food store and check out the prices on this food. So much for your 35k a year, and I haven’t even threw in the cost of meds yet. God Bless your healthy family, because when I walk into a normal super-
market and cannot eat 90+% of what is in that store, it sort of puts a crimp in your lifestyle, you know what I mean?

Seth Gitter December 2, 2007 at 12:18 pm

It is worth noting the federal poverty line
for a family of 8 is $34,000. They spend 35,000 About 14% of people in Arizona live below the poverty line, so while they are not average they are not alone

dingmoEd December 2, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Wow this is impressive. I consider myself frugal but this is insane. I guess I’ll consider myself lucky that I wont have to go to the extremes they do but still like to save money where I can.

critic December 2, 2007 at 4:40 pm

While we all can learn a little something from this family/article, we should also look at some other valid points. For instance, I would probably concentrate more on earning/making money than saving it. I personally would be miserable if I had to be frugal most of the time. I believe in balance — this family took it to the extreme and I don’t think it would all be roses and smiling faces. A little vacation and indulgences in the golf course and dining out would have been just as important in life.

paul December 2, 2007 at 4:47 pm

@ kitty & “It is the matter of individual preferences, what makes you happy”, no, there’s more to it than that. This family’s use of resources is likely much lower than that of a similarly-sized family that has prioritized for more income to pay for more a more resource-intensive lifestyle. Just because you can put your hands on enough money to live according to your “individual preferences” doesn’t mean you should. This may may not play into this particular family’s way of life, but it is a factor that should be considered by everyone.

Stutz December 2, 2007 at 5:07 pm

My fiancee and I live pretty cheaply and we have decent jobs. We save quite a lot of money for our age, and take frugality seriously.

However, I have to wonder if this family is completely missing the point by so strictly “living within their means.” The point is not to save money for its own sake, but to save money with certain life goals in mind: to become financially independent, to contribute to your kids’ college expenses, to have a comfortable retirement, etc. But you should not have to deprive yourself of happiness in the meantime. It is sad that “Annette just sat on our $25-orange-and-brown-plaid-missionary-purchased couches and cried” when she saw the neighbor’s new furniture. If you get in the habit of sacrificing every little indulgence for the sake of the future, will you look back on your life with satisfaction, or with disappointment? Will you remember how much money you saved back in November ’07, or will you wish you had taken that vacation after all and created some great memories?

And when these people do retire, do you think they’ll suddenly allow themselves to buy what they want, or will frugality be so deeply ingrained in them that their retirement will be as deprived as their working years?

Stutz December 2, 2007 at 5:14 pm

To clarify-

The point of life ought to be to maintain a level of happiness and satisfaction. As the saying goes, He who dies with the most toys still dies. Well, I think that He who dies with the least debt still dies, too.

Mike December 2, 2007 at 5:31 pm

So, if we all buy their book, and they make lots of money, they’ll be ruined!

Brian December 2, 2007 at 8:18 pm

Although they sound like they have worked many things out, I disagree with totally cutting out the credit cards. They are missing a VALUABLE coupon. For example, my wife and I have Amex cards. We pay them off at the end of every month and track how we use them. We treat them as cash. In the end, we get Membership Rewards Points…A LOT OF THEM. We have amassed so many points that we can basically fly anywhere first class. Granted, that goes against their style of living…however, the premise is still sound. They could use a credit card with no annual fee (Amex charges an annual fee) and still “make their money work for them.”

Plus, what is their credit like in this lifestyle (I’m actually really curious about that)? If this lifestyle has caused them to not have good credit, what happens when a life altering situation occurs – such as a medical condition – causes them to have to borrow money (at least temporarily)? I’m very curious to see how the big three credit companies would view them. Anyone know?

Sangesh December 2, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Thumbs up for this family. Certainly, saving is a very hard thing to do. But they proved that it can be done and did it.

Cheers.

Sweet Violet December 2, 2007 at 11:38 pm

All well and good…but I seriously doubt that a family of 7 could live on $35K/yr in Silicon Valley. I had a family of TWO that couldn’t survive on $55K a year there and eventually moved away. I now live a luxurious lifestyle, complete with maid and Mercedes ML, on about $55K…but I had to move to South Africa to do it.

Silicon Valley Blogger December 2, 2007 at 11:57 pm

Sweet Violet,

I wrote exactly about the predicament of families in Silicon Valley in this post:

The Minimum Budget: The Cost Of Living For A Family of Four

Some basic budget numbers from the SF Bay Area (Silicon Valley): one adult needs at least $29,633, while a family with 4 members with one working parent needs at least $53,075. A single parent household with 4 members requires $65,864.

Clearly, things are insane here. I agree that you’d have to go elsewhere for a luxurious lifestyle!

Personal Finance Management Guide December 3, 2007 at 4:30 am

One way to reduce expenditures is to break the habit of compulsive spending and shopping addiction. Read the 10 Easy Steps to STOP Shopping Addiction and Compulsive Spending (Shopaholism).

enare December 3, 2007 at 7:18 am

Erm, 35 thousand here refers to 35 thousand us dollars right? not meaning to be negative or anything, but how can that be cheapest family in nation? in my country 8 or 9 would live ok on that. 35 thousand is more than enough i think… and im from a developed country

Brad December 3, 2007 at 8:54 am

The one thing I want to know is how much they make, as opposed to how much they spend. Also, are the children going to college, and if so how are they paying for it. I guess its good that they can live off of that much, but I’m a little unimpressed as my mother supports my sister, grandmother and me (I’m 19 and go to college locally) on around 22,000 a year, and 35,000 sounds like a lot of money.

VeRTiTO December 3, 2007 at 11:42 am

On the contrary, whatever figures you save, you still go deep down the earth and did not enjoy tasting those classic sweet food you wish to have eaten during your cheap time periods, those movies, those travels, those people and accompany you have met.

pity, that family had chosen to save money than to enjoy those privileges around this planet.

better to die smiling having tasted a wonderful pizza and stuff than to die saving bucks out of not eating them. ;)

VN December 3, 2007 at 11:54 am

Hi,

Interesting article. I’m an American living in India doing economics research and living with a software team developing code for my startup/web app. While the Economides certainly live frugally as per living well in a well country, people here have been creating ingenious methods for “living frugally” simply by requirement for hundreds of years (unsubstantiated). One thing that is very important here is the economy of space. Houses are optimized to their full space value. There are no cultural issues with mother and son and daughter and husband sleeping in the same room. You will see 6 people squeezing into bicycle rickshaws and 20 in autos to lower the costs for everyone. Trash is burned. Toilets (holes in the floor) are “flushed,” via small cups of water from the same tap to wash hands…sometimes. Rear end is made sanitary via more water as opposed to toilet paper (water is better than toilet paper anyway). People set up systems of “hang up” calling, where they let a person’s cell phone or home phone ring once or a few times to signal different meeting points so that there is no phone bill. We use rechargeable lamps to optimize electricity uses. Charge the lamp during the day, and use that for light at night when you need it instead of costly electricity. There are no electricity leaks anywhere. Every plug here has switches to cut them off, default. Forget freezers – buy cheap veggies from the street and flip some bread on a small flame that burns from cheap renewable energy sources, like cow-dung. Eat one or two meals a day. Many people in this town live on less than 20 rupees a day – approx. 50 cents (less with the falling dollar).

You can certainly call this the Indian version of frugality…or poverty. Where is the line drawn?

BuildAndSucceed December 3, 2007 at 12:14 pm

$35,000 to support a family of 7 is pretty crazy.

It looks like marketing to me… They wrote a book, made a website… Cool though.

sfsd December 3, 2007 at 12:16 pm

How about less baby popping?

Ahilosu December 3, 2007 at 12:26 pm

you ignorant people, the average monthly earning of a single person in Romania is of about 250$ ->2persons*250 a month*12 months = 6000 $. oh, so I won’t forget, food and maintenance is a lot more expensive than in US

Marc December 3, 2007 at 12:49 pm

First of all, to each his own, and if this family is happy living this way, then great. But this article fails to mention any opportunity costs of living such a frugal life, particularly those that may potentially be borne by the kids. Are the kids getting exposure to the arts (maybe music lessons), do they get to experience different cultures on family vacations, are their interests and hobbies being supported and furthered by the parents (which may or may not involve money). These are all things that have intrinsic value, and while they may involve a monetary price, it may certainly be a price worth paying. It’s one thing if this was a disadvantaged family, but it’s another if the parents have the means but choose to ignore worthwhile but costly things for the sake of being frugal. It sounds like the family generally espouses financial discipline, which is great, but some things are worth paying for…their lifestyle is such a low-beta way of living that they may be foresaking some great things, particularly for the kids.

Metrix December 3, 2007 at 1:08 pm

So nothing about investing money?

Instead of penny-pinching and cutting drastically, why not invest your money and have it work for you?

US soldier December 3, 2007 at 1:26 pm

This is stupid. I’ve been living off of less than $3000 a year my entire life… I’m sure people on the street get by with even less. You eliminate rent, you eliminate burning dollars like no tomarrow. Or course I don’t even actually make $3000 a year… more like near zero. I’ve been living off credit cards for the last 20 years… and I’m not joking.

What else are you going to do? Can’t get a job without a Master’s degree these days, and war made me sick and barely able to take care of myself. If I had a $35,000 a year job, I could pay off my debt from living for the last 20 years in 3 years. Most of it was legal bills in big huge chunks… the rest, gas, food, and interest on debt.

I wonder how many thousands and thousands of other Americans live quiet lives of desperation like me, having slipped through the cracks long ago.

none December 3, 2007 at 1:30 pm

I bet the type of food they eat isn’t very good quality. Loaded with MSG, preservatives as cheep food usually is. There is more to this in my opinion and I wonder what their health will be like in 20 years.

George December 3, 2007 at 2:26 pm

I really find it interesting that many commenters have equated frugality with being “deprived”. Happiness comes from spending time with family and friends, not from buying stuff. The best things in life truly are free.

When I have a very memorable meal, it’s typically the company that creates the memory, not the quality of the pizza (or whatever) that we ate.

Hanging out on a couch and watching a movie borrowed from the library is just as fun as going out to a theatre and dropping $50 on the experience. My couch is more comfy than any theatre seat I’ve ever sat in.

Sure, spending money on golfing, travel, and whatnot can create good memories and happiness, but the same goals can be accomplished without spending nearly as much money.

Birthday Gifts For Men December 3, 2007 at 4:34 pm

Great point George! Don’t lose sight of the lesson from this article and from the Economides family.

You don’t have to live the same lifestyle as them, but there are things you can do to improve your financial situation. Most of the ways involve strategic thinking and planning.

no December 3, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Frankly, I’m 30 years old and I doubt I’m going to make it past 40 (or 50 if I’m extremely lucky), so no point in sacrificing now for a future that won’t be there.

j December 3, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Living in Arizona I assume their heating costs are nowhere near what someone pays in the more northern parts of the U.S.

c December 4, 2007 at 7:22 am

Heating isn’t an issue in Arizona, but air conditioning definitely is, depending on what part of AZ they live in. The mountains are definitely cooler than places like Phoenix (110F easy) and Tucson (I have family here, and yes it can still snow on very rare occasions). Water may be more expensive, too (think there’s much water in the desert? Las Vegas, a state away, is experiencing a shortage and pays residents to replace thirsty grass with desert vegetation).

Matt Ellsworth December 4, 2007 at 7:53 am

George – you bring up a great point.

Having grown up in a small town – a movie on the couch was often the evening of choice – as there wasn’t much else to do.

Anne December 4, 2007 at 7:07 pm

I think some commentators are missing this, so it’s worth reemphasizing: they are living on $35,000 net; in other words, after taxes. They have $3,000 every month to spend and no debt, not even a mortgage.

Frankly, I fail to see why this is so amazing. That is a lot of money to work with when you have no debt and no child care to pay. Grocery bills can and should be low when you’re cooking all your food from scratch. The one thing I wonder about is how much they’re paying for health insurance, since both parents are self-employed.

Tyler December 5, 2007 at 8:39 am

I’m astonished how people fail to see how amazing this is. It’s not easy to support two or three people comfortably in that type of situation.

Personally I am trying to do the same and I have taken out a pay day cash advance loan twice this month just to make things work.

The other article you have mentioned at The Budget Family of Four is also amazing to me.

Keep up the great articles.

-Tyler

Shauna December 13, 2007 at 8:34 am

I’m really impressed by that family. My parents have a similar situation and I don’t understand just how they do it!

I’m trying to learn. I’m post-grad, making 33k, and trying to eliminate my debt for good. I’m blogging about my adventures and tidbits along the way: http://shauna26.wordpress.com! Check it out. We all could use advice!

Meredith from Merchant Ships January 10, 2008 at 7:07 am

I’m amazed at the two extremes of commenters here:

1. The people who consider 35,000 a year to be living in deprivation.

2. And the people for whom 35,000 a year would be a bump UP in lifestyle.

Either way, the Economides family is making the most of their numbers.

What I’d really love to see? An update on the even-more-frugal Tightwad Gazette family. How did their “extreme” penny pinching affect the family in the long run?

David Kjos January 10, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Count me among the unimpressed. We have eight children. I have never grossed 35k. We live quite comfortably. I wouldn’t even say we are exceptionally frugal.

Barbara Saunders January 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Living frugally has its limits. I live in San Francisco. If you pay $2,000 in rent, then it is not possible to live on $35,000 per year. Period.

Silicon Valley Blogger January 10, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Barbara,
I’d agree that it would be impossible to live on $35,000 with a family of 7 in San Francisco, but by adjusting for cost of living differences, maybe a very thrifty 7 member household may make it on $75,000? Would you agree?

By doing such adjustments for more expensive parts of the nation, we can see things in a more comparable scale. $75,000 after tax isn’t so bad is it?

Maggie January 18, 2008 at 11:04 pm

As a kid I was raised to have a job since I was 16, and always saved my own money for clothes, a used car, gas, etc. Maybe their kids are helping out.

vicki March 19, 2008 at 8:56 pm

I’ve lived and raised kids in this same way. I was forced to due to having a husband who was disabled and has not been able to work. It’s getting harder to try and economize now that I’m having health problems, my smaller home is now in a cruddy neighborhood, don’t always physically feel up to cooking from scratch, and have very few sales or grocery store options in my town.

Kay April 10, 2008 at 11:16 am

If you have a bad attitude about it everything would be impossible. If you go to their site or read their book, they have objectives, goals, and reasons for living this way! Besides the fact that I am sure yes they are putting money away for God forbid the unthinkable. What if they absolutely had to live this way with no other options? Noone would be telling them to try to earn more money. To be happier!? I believe if it makes you unhappy you shouldn’t do it. But I think in the end they are happy they are living this way. Sure they hit hurdles just like we all do but they are staying the course which is a lesson we could all learn! Great Article!

Teamwork July 30, 2008 at 9:23 am

Wow that is a frugal lifestyle. There are some things that I admire but there are some things I just don’t want. I want to be able to think about other things then how much money I am spending or not spending. I guess yeah it will cost me more money but with that money I am buying a less stressful feeling when I shop.

Utah Personal Injury Lawyer July 30, 2008 at 9:25 am

Are they so frugal because they enjoy the challenge? Or because they really need to be? And what are they planning on doing with all the money they are saving?

Teamwork July 30, 2008 at 9:27 am

Wanted to add: that is some real dedication. I thought some of the things they do are really helpful tips but I don’t think I would love life like I do if I had to be so strict about everything. I guess yeah I do lose money but that money is buying me a less stressful outlook on life.

The Almost Millionaire August 18, 2008 at 5:22 pm

This is an extremely cool story. Glad I found it and this site! My family could take some lessons for our own journey.

The Coupon Cupboad August 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm

One of the best ways to stay current with the sales and coupons is to join a free coupon forum. There you can discuss with others what items are free and cheap for the week at each store. This helps you to build a stockpile and save money on your weekly grocery bills

Stacy September 6, 2008 at 11:48 pm

In todays economy tips like these are golden. Us parents across the country are looking for any ways to cut costs, so thanks for sharing.

I hear dollar stores have seen a surge in sales during this rough time, while sales for more expensive organic produce have fell

daniel September 8, 2008 at 5:44 am

im allergic to milk and i only spend 100 dollars a month on food and things i need, toilet paper and everything i need. So that one comment about being allergic to milk will drain u financially, is bs. You just need to know how to deal with life and shop in a responsible manner. If you want to save more you have to spend less, easy as that, just like a company downsizes in essence its spending less to save more, for other uses of the company. Same with a family, if you want to save more spend less and spend on what you need, once a month rather than every week, to save on gas and time and money.

DES October 17, 2008 at 4:44 am

Wow – they put me to shame. I find it hard to devote the time to a lot of money saving things like coupon clipping. I guess you could think of it as a job that pays. The questions is, does it pay as much as your regular job?

Ollie Harris January 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm

I can learn a thing or two from this family. It’s easy to complain you don’t have enough money for the things you want or need. But do you save money for these thing you want or need? Spending is the surest way to empty your pockets. If we all took a moment to recalculate our priorities we would more than likely discover we can have just about anything we want. If we just save for it.

Maria May 19, 2009 at 4:11 pm

One thing isn’t mentioned: where they live. This is a huge factor. My family of three has the same income, and live in a one bedroom apartment. We are pretty frugal (I read their book, along with the Complete Tightwad Gazette, and pretty much every other money-saving book I could find). We live in the Portland metro area of Oregon, and are looking at the possibility of buying a house. We don’t even know if this will be possible for us. Maybe we ought to move to Arizona?

HW April 27, 2010 at 7:23 am

Wow, what an incredible story… I sometimes believe many people don’t make much of an effort to save but something of this extent, as you rightly say, would take years of meticulous planning.

Jessica July 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm

You can’t do anything but learn how to save money in these times we’re having right now. I come with a new plan everyday to save money, such as a lot of cut backs that we need to do to survive now. No more living beyond our means!

My Family Tree August 30, 2010 at 10:43 am

Well can you imagine how it was back in the old days as my granny always said. They had to live off the land and trade items with each other just to survive.

WP Bonds October 6, 2010 at 9:01 pm

That is an amazing story. I can’t believe they can do that. I’m not nearly organized enough for that and I don’t plan anything.

wendy November 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I think we should all learn to live off the land, and depend on each other and not on a credit card.

habib January 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm

I wonder if they have any savings, and if they are putting some money away on the top of that, they are amazing.

Carrie August 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I wonder if their daughters and sons have jobs to help out?

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