My favorite link to the sobering world of financial reality is Donna Freedman, a contributing columnist to MSN’s Money page. She writes the “Living with Less” blog and moderates the “Smart Spending” message board. A few years ago, Donna was married and living a pretty typical life as a wife and mother. Her life changed when her marriage ended. She had a daughter to raise, insufficient job skills and education, little money and few other resources. But she was resourceful. She made a decision to live within the means she had (about $1,000.00 a month), do the hard-work hustle for what she needed, go back to school and not just survive a tough time, but thrive. Fast forward to now: she will graduate college later this year, 30 years after leaving higher education. She has developed a range of skills as a handywoman that have allowed her to live in the apartment building she takes care of. She eats well, dresses well, (but shops for food and clothes frugally), has a car (but prefers public transportation), enjoys the cultural activities of her Washington city (with the help of student discounts), and has savings and a Roth IRA. And she won the 2008 Clarion Award for best regular column in online journalism.
I’ve been interviewed by Donna for her columns, and come to know her as one tough lady. I admire her decision to live as she does. She calls her choices “living mindfully”: deciding what’s important and working towards it. Donna has the dedication and a determined single-mindedness to see her way through a situation that would send many other single mothers to the nearest social service agency or home to mom and dad, begging for help. She is not one to look for a handout or a bailout. Her advice is ground-level and direct, because she’s been through the lean, mean times. She is a source of knowledge and inspiration when I begin to run out of ideas for how to save money for My Next Life. If I begin to feel bad about not buying stuff, I read her columns and her board, and I know how much worse it is for so many other people. Look for her; you can find her here: http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/smartspending/archive/tags/Living+with+Less/default.aspx