We have been living the “Economiser Lifestyle” since 1982. During that time we’ve found thousands of ways to save money on everything from food to fun and cars to castles (well, really more like houses). Many friends have encouraged us to put in writing the strategies and systems we’ve used to raise a family of five kids and still manage to save enough money to pay cash for cars and pay off our house. This website is a window into the life of our family and those we have helped to get out of debt.
How We Write The Articles on This Site
Each article we write shares some of our brilliant successes and unfortunately, some of the miserable failures we have experienced in our attempt to live a simple and frugal lifestyle. Our hope is that we will provide encouragement to maximize your time and money so that you can reach the goals that really matter.
If you want to know a little more about our family and our frugal background keep reading.
How We Got Started Living Frugal
You’ve probably heard the saying “Less is more.” Most people would agree with this concept except when it comes to money. Over the years we’ve learned to make less seem like more, and in the process, we’ve been called “America’s Cheapest Family, “The First Family of Frugal,” “The Frugals,” “cheapskates,” “thrift-a-holics,” “tightwads,” or one of many other less flattering terms. We are living proof that even in tough economic times, kids can be raised, vacations enjoyed, a home purchased, cars paid for with cash and money put in the bank. All on a smaller than average income.
Is Economides Really Your Last Name?
We are Annette and Steve Economides (pronounced econo mee dis) and YES, this is really our last name. In 1982, when we were newly married, we had no idea of the fantastic journey that lay before us. By our first wedding anniversary, our family had grown to three. Steve earned a whopping $7 an hour as a graphic designer. Annette stayed home to take care of the baby and stretch our money until it begged for mercy. In three years’ time, with baby number two on the way, we purchased our first home (a repo-fixer-upper). We put 15 percent down, and nine years later made the last payment on that house. Our average annual income at that time was less than $35,000.
Our Family Kept Growing
We’d been married 12 years in 1995, and were experiencing the tangible effects of spending less and accomplishing more. Our family had now grown to include five children, and our wonderful 1450-square-foot home seemed to have shrunk. We were literally “tripping over each other.” After months of searching, we bought and moved into a much larger house, our “dream home.” It was huge, comparatively, set on three-quarters of an acre with a citrus orchard, five bedrooms—one became an office/library—and lots of room for the kids to learn, grow and do chores. Whew! Lots of yard work! Applying the same principles we used in our first home, we’ve continued to pay down our mortgage, built an emergency fund and bought a couple of new (used) cars.
We Hate Debt! No Credit!
We’ve been told, “You’ll always have a house payment and a car payment.” Early on we made a commitment to live on what we earned and not on credit. This necessitated developing many money-saving strategies and economizing in ways that amazed even our thrifty parents. We focused on saving pennies and discovered that saving pennies eventually translated into saving dollars. Paying attention to the little things really added up. But even better, the more we paid attention to conserving our expenses, the more ways we discovered to save. It was a snowball effect. Of course, 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. More significantly, we employed a very detailed spending plan (budget) that kept us from spending more than we earned and actually helped us save in advance for major purchases—furniture, car repairs, car purchases and kitchen remodels.
Where We Learned About Money Management
Neither of us has a financial or accounting background. Neither of our parents taught us to manage money—they were frugal, but by no means “financial wizards.” Before we married we read a book, Your Finances in Changing Times, by Larry Burkett, which taught us the basics of setting up a household budget. It also revealed the pitfalls of credit and the dangers of its overuse. Our spending plan was in force from Day One of our marriage. We don’t regret the “restrictions” it placed on us because, after a time, it actually allowed us more freedom, knowing that all our expenses were accounted for. Because we worked together on this budget system, we were able to keep our overhead from ballooning whenever our income increased.
We Had Some Tough Times Financially But Went From Tears to Resolve.
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.
How Did We Feed A Family of Seven
Feeding a family of seven doesn’t require a second mortgage. Allocating just $350 per month for food and disposable items—including paper goods, cleaning supplies and personal care items—our family eats very well. The menu isn’t boring either, regularly including steak, leg of lamb, turkey and some great Italian and Greek dishes—family recipes handed down for generations. Our kids eat better, healthier meals than most of their peers – and most of their friends agree.
Helping Others with Their Finances
Over the years we have helped scores of individuals and families straighten out some pretty sticky financial situations. Dealing with creditors, past-due bills and bloated budgets, we’ve helped these families cut a path through the money jungle to the pastures of financial stability. Writing this newsletter is a result of years of “Economiser” living and helping others achieve financial freedom.
Following In Amy Dacyczyn’s Frugal Footsteps
Previously, The Tightwad Gazette, published by Amy Dacyczyn, provided a wonderful avenue for this type of idea exchange. Unfortunately, for those of us who loved her publication, Amy ceased publishing in 1996. Several friends asked if we were going to take up the torch. The time wasn’t right for us then. But in 2003 our kids were a little older and after Steve had three jobs evaporate in a two-year period, we knew it was time. When we started writing The HomeEconomiser Newsletter, we didn’t realize that so many doors would open for our message. From interviews by
Our First Newsletter and Media Success
When we started writing The HomeEconomiser Newsletter, we didn’t realize that so many doors would open for our message. From interviews by local newspaper and TV reporters to appearances on Good Morning America and international TV and radio. The message of living within your means is resonating worldwide.
How We Became Known as America’s Cheapest Family
We were first called “America’s Cheapest Family” when we appeared on Good Morning America in 2004. Initially, we flinched at the word cheap. Ugh! We thought of ourselves as deal-makers and bargain hunters not “cheapskates.” But, in a language that has no positive adjectives to describe someone who lives within their means, and always has money in the bank, we can understand the dilemma. After a long evaluation and numerous discussions, we decided that if being America’s Cheapest Family provided us with a platform to help many thousands of families break away from financial enslavement, then we would be willing to accept it as a mantle of honor. Besides, it’s much easier for most people to pronounce than Economides.
How About You – Are You Ready to Make Frugal Fun?
No matter where you are on your frugal journey, there are always new ways to save money and to make frugal living fun! So please join us as we sound the trumpet to call all true and faithful Economisers—and those who want to learn— to prove to the world that there are honor and wonderful joy in living better while spending less—Let’s Make Frugal Fun!
Annette and Steve Economides