Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cheap Shot?

By now, we have all heard of the Economides. They are "America's Cheapest Family", dubbed so by ABC. They are widely known for living debt-free on about $35,000 a year, with a family of seven. Now, do I seriously believe that they are America's Cheapest Family? Uhhh, NO.
They spend $350 a month on groceries. Ok, I have one less person in my family, and I spend $400. However, with that $400, I buy everything we need for eating, paper products and health and beauty aids, PLUS I buy enough to resell at yardsales and make nearly $1000 a month. If I pulled out what I resell, I spend about half of what they do (or less).
My family lives on well less than what they do. Which garners some interesting responses from friends, family and people in general, that I quit a "good job" so that we could live on less money. I quit that job to spend more time with my family, since I have learned that having more does not make you happier.
I do get a little irritated when I am out shopping, use a coupon, and someone almost always brings up this family -- "Do you know about them?" "Have you seen how they do things?" "Do you think they really do that good?" Yes, I have read about them. Yes, I am well versed in how they do things. Yeah, they might do okay, but I feel like I do a better job of shopping.
I don't agree with ABC. Do I think we are America's Cheapest Family? Ummm, NO. I know women who spend half of what I do with twice as many kids. I know there are people out there who do more with less. I know that this family is just in the spotlight due to good marketing of their book. I also know that not everyone can shop like I do. I know that not everyone can do things the way I do them, which is why I do not tout myself as an example.
I know our flaws. We eat out too much. We sometimes waste things. We are not perfect. No one is. No matter how frugal you intend to be, there is always room for improvement. I don't know if I could teach this family anything, however I know there are families out there who could.
There are frugal arguments for almost every aspect of a budget. Newer, priceier car, versus older, cheaper car. Better, longer lasting furniture, versus hand me down or cheaper furniture. No one answer is right for every family. Doing what is best for you and yours is the best choice in the end.
Yes, I can tell you we scout out cheap, cheap cars, which cost very little to repair (my DH is an auto tech), and pay cash for them. However, your family may not have a cheap mechanic, so a better car may be better for you in the long run.
I can say, with great certainty, that learning new skills helps us to be more frugal. If we want to do something, we learn how to do all the labor that we can, so that the end result is cheaper. We do 99% of all our home improvements with only the cost of materials. Your family might not be so handy. However, my husband is not a doctor, so we have to go to the professionals for things like that. You just have to figure out where you can cut back.
The Economides seem to dish out tons of common sense advice. People all over the country pay for common sense, though. Just like a previous blog on Martha, Dave and the Fly Lady, the Economides just fall into this category. I think what bugs me the most about them is that they soak up the moniker that ABC has bestowed upon them. They have to know there are people all over the country living just as well on much less. If they don't, then they seriously need to make friends with grandparents all over this country who survived the depression. An income of $35,000 is average in this country, but many families live on much less. No matter whether or not they truly believe it for themselves is beyond me.
I know that we are cheaper, but we are still not the cheapest. I would love to meet the family that actually is "America's Cheapest Family". I might learn a thing or two myself.


Mel said...

Bravo! And as you know I have issues with ABC myself!

media said...

We agree — don't believe everything you hear on TV. You'll never get the whole story. Every interview is highly edited and skewed toward what the producers want to say.

But if you read the book "America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money," you will get the whole story about the name and the struggle we had accepting the way ABC used it.

Our goal is to help those dear families who have bought the world's lie about needing to have all the stuff that is advertised even though they can't afford it. Families like yours are smart and probably won't learn much from our frugal primer. But let's have a little charity and kindness — The greatest of these is love — we frugal types need to join together, not cut each other down.

Blessings on your family from our family,

Steve and Annette Economides

Meredith said...

Wow, a comment from the authors!

I enjoyed your analysis, Gina. I always find it helpful to read about other frugal families and see how they divvy up their budget.

Sometimes I do better, sometimes they do...but as long as we're making conscious choices about our money, that's all that counts!

Kris said...

Hi ... found your blog mentioned on another blog and am wondering how you spend so little on groceries. Can you blog a post giving exact details soon? Your pantry is just packed! I cook mostly from scratch and do not buy many items in cans or boxes due to some dietary issues in our home. What kind of meals do you cook? Maybe you can post a sampling of a week's worth of daily menus? I love learning from other frugal families! Congrats on the decision to come back home to your family - I can tell you won't regret it!

Anonymous said...

I think you were a litle hard on the Economides family. If ABC news were at your door, you would let them in also. You sound a little anrgy because maybe YOU weren't the one the notices. CHILL a bit.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I have to admit, I bought the book a few months ago.

I found it to be a great story of how their family "survived" on less than $35,000, but I also found that almost all of the tips and tricks can be found right online for free without spending the $12.95 for the book :)

Homemaker of the 21st Century

Anonymous said...

Who are you mad at That family or ABC, good LORD WOMEN RELAX.

Veggiemomof2 said...

I just linked here from your Frugal Hacks Spotlight & I wanted to say, don't sweat the negative commenters who hide under the "anonymous" title. What show is it that ends "It's only my opinion."

Anonymous said...

I am writing an article for a national magazine and looking for a family (must have at least four children or more) who are living frugally to feature in the story. Must have good stories and tips to share. Please email me at with a few deatils. THANKS! Lookign forward to hearing from you.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

Thumbs up, and keep it going!