In this economic downturn, more and more people are looking for ways to be "frugal" and save money in unique ways.
Dozens of money saving Web sites and blogs have popped up recently -- including the site of 31-year-old Kristen.
She calls herself "The Frugal Girl" and shares various practical tips for living a frugal life through her blog.
Kristen is a stay-at-home mother of four, an avid baker, a talented photographer, piano teacher -- and the brains and charm behind her blog.
"People always say 'you should write a book about saving money,'" she said. "But, I don't have time to write a book!"
The Frugal Girl blog is chock-full of her money-saving ways. Some of the most popular posts have to do with baking at home, shopping at Goodwill, painting wooden furniture and air-drying laundry.
Kristen also shared a tip on using rags made from old t-shirts instead of paper towels. And she creates her own gifts, like beautiful, yet easy-to-make scrapbooks and framed pictures.
From Shame-Filled to Sensation
The blog is not even two years old, yet the number of visitors has steadily multiplied.
"I'm constantly amazed at how many people come to see what I have to say," Kristen said.
She revealed to CBN News that the site averages more than 2,300 page views a day and sometimes gets more than 70,000 page views a month. It all started with a goal to better herself.
"Back in March of 2008, I started getting frustrated with the amount of food I wasted," she recalled. "I cleaned out my fridge and I looked at this pile of food on my kitchen floor, and I thought how embarrassed I would be if anybody else took a look at that, and then I was like, 'Hey! I could have everybody else look at my food waste and then maybe I would be a little more motivated.'"
So Kristen started taking photos of the food she had to throw out. Each week, she posted the pictures online and it soon became a hit.
The experiment eventually evolved into what is now known as "The Frugal Girl" blog.
"Now I have other people shaming themselves along with me," she explained. "Other bloggers post about their food waste. They can go to my blog on Fridays, so we can all look at their food waste, too. Public embarrassment is very motivating."
She calls it "Food Waste Friday" and it's very popular.
$100 a Week for Groceries
Another weekly feature is "Wednesday Baking." Kristen is a baking whiz and writes detailed, photo-filled posts on making homemade breads, coffee cake, glazed rolls - you name it.
And while baking is big around the Frugal House, here's her number one tip: "If you try nothing else, try planning your menu."
She aims to spend no more than $100 a week on groceries. That's to feed her family of six. One trick: "I make my shopping list when I plan my menu," Kristen said.
She also pays cash and shops only once a week.
Kristen's top money-saving tips for grocery shopping:
- Stick to the list.
- Cut back on the amount of meat you eat.
- Stock up on items when they're on sale.
- Don't buy single-serving items.
- Learn to cook from scratch, because prepackaged prepared meals cost more.
And how's this for transparency? She posts exactly how much she spends and photos of her groceries online. The week CBN News tagged along, her total was $99.93.
Little Cold, Little Hot = Big Saving
Her frugal ways don't stop at the grocery store. She racks up savings when it comes to her household, too. Kristen's family keeps the thermostat between 63 and 66 degrees in the winter and at 80 degrees in the summer. She estimates that saves about 30 percent in energy costs.
They don't have cable, but they watch little television anyway. She and her husband do have cell phones, but they only buy prepaid minutes and don't use their phones to go on the Internet or send texts.
In many ways, Kristen- who is shy by nature - has found a ministry in writing online. She's able to reach out to people all over the world.
"Many, many days I get emails from readers who say they've saved so much on their grocery bill because of reading my blog, or they're not wasting food,' she explained. "Or they've started baking or they're thinking of going back to church because of the things that I've said on my blog."
"So there are just piles and piles of emails," she continued. "It's amazing to see the way God has used me."
Kristen laughs that He chose her, because she thinks she has an "un-riveting story."
"A lot of personal finance bloggers and frugal bloggers have these amazing stories, like 'I was in credit card debt up to my eyeballs and then in a year, I paid it all off!'" she said. "And so sometimes, I feel a little bad that I don't have more of an exciting story."
No Debt but the Mortgage
She and her husband are debt-free except for their mortgage. They pay cash for their vehicles and save for vacations and Christmas. And whenever possible they buy used items, either online or during their weekly trips to the thrift store.
Kristen has even been featured on other blogs for the cute clothes she's found at Goodwill. And her kids wear a lot of hand-me-downs or clothes bought at second-hand stores or coming from Freecycle, an online community where one person's trash is often another's treasure.
As for the future of the Frugal Girl? Kristen has been asked to do some public speaking, which she's afraid to do. She's been approached to do reality television, but she has no interest in that either.
*Originally broadcast on February 22, 2010.