Lessons learned from “The Frugalista Files”

Frugal is the new blackSaturday was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It was so beautiful that my 30-minute walk turned into a 3-hour-and-30-minute outdoor, love fest. The temperatures hovered around 70 and the cool breeze swept over my skin to give relief from the sunlight. I sat on a park bench finishing up “The Frugalista Files”.

I still have no idea why it took me so long to read this book. It’s like I’m sitting in Natalie’s shoes, just 5 or 6 years later. I guess things come to you when you’re open to them.

When she was writing about going to the NABJ Convention in Chicago in 2008, I recalled my time at that very same place. I was a student, working on the convention newspaper. I wish I would have met her then. She could have warned me about the dangers of debt.

Like Natalie, I knew I’d work at a newspaper for a long time and eventually win the coveted Pulitzer Prize. But I wasn’t thinking about frugality then. I was headed into my senior year of college, spending money on credit cards that I didn’t plan to pay back. I probably charged some of my convention wear to those cards. I didn’t understand credit. I just knew that I wanted what I wanted… and right then!

I love Natalie’s candor about everything. More importantly, I loved seeing her mindset completely transform. It’s the same transformation I’m undergoing – not getting my hair done every month, cooking at home more, freelancing more to increase my income, and realizing that I can’t go to every party or trip with my girlfriends. One of my good friends keeps talking about taking trips to Las Vegas or Miami. But she lives with relatives, and doesn’t have any school loans or credit balances. She might be able to do it, but not I. My one big trip is to New Orleans. Decisions, decisions. But I like where I’m going now. I must stay on the frugal track.

Within 8 months of frugal living, Natalie realized:

“I haven’t starved. I still have friends. I still have a roof over my head. Someone remind me, why was I such a spending slut?”


She realized that so many things are out of her control, but spending and using credit can be tamed. Amen, sista!

Natalie brought up Suze Orman’s advice for anyone under 35 years old: “…do whatever it takes to pursue your passion to build your career.” I was talking to my co-worker about the fact that I’m becoming obsessed with money and tracking my spending. She said maybe personal finance is the thing that wakes me up every day. It’s my morning coffee. Maybe she’s right. I hope to get out of this debt hole and be able to help other women achieve their goals.

Natalie took a buyout from the Miami Herald, continued blogging and freelancing, and never looked back. She went from a “cubicle rat to a take-charge career girl,” owning The Frugalista brand. During 2008 alone, “The Frugalista” reduced her debt from $21,021.24 to $14,876.30. That’s almost $6,150 or 30 percent! By April 2010, she was debt free. Awesome! That’s just the motivation I need. I’m so glad she shared her story.


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