An announcement that may alarm you.

I have to get something off my chest that I’ve been feeling guilty about for a long time.

I know you read this blog.  I know you think you know me.  But you don’t.  You know a part of me, you know some of me but you don’t know the real me.

You don’t know my secret.

You don’t know that ….  I’m not cheap.


I’m not cheap!  I spend money with wild abandon sometimes.

It’s true.  I hope I haven’t shocked you. If you feel a bit woozy just drink some vodka.

Now, I can see why you’d think I was cheap.  Even I thought I was cheap for a long time.  Everything I do would lead one to believe I’m miserly.

I mean, I rebuilt my entire backyard, fix my own major appliances, use coupons and perform my own oral surgery.  Sorry,  I meant floral surgery.  Rose bush is making a great comeback!

As it turns out … I’m just good with money.

Cheap people don’t buy great Christmas presents.  Cheap people don’t donate to charities.  Cheap people don’t buy $800 coffee makers.

Yes.  My name is Karen and I own a Jura Ena.  A very, very expensive coffee maker.  I really like coffee.

I own other high end things too.  Pricey things.  Things you’d assume only wealthy people could buy.  And they can.  They just don’t have to refinish their own floors in order to do it.

People don’t think much about picking up a couple of magazines or a $10 throw pillow, but I do.  I WRESTLE with buying those sorts of things and most of the time don’t.

Because I do everything I can to save money when possible, when it comes time to spend it, it really isn’t a worry.  I have the money in the bank and absolutely no guilt.  Why would I feel guilty about spending $800 on a coffee maker when I know I ripped out 3 rooms of ceramic tile, concrete and wire mesh by myself in order to be able to do it?

Every dollar I save by doing something myself is money I can put towards something I can’t make or do myself.

I learned a long time ago that if I was going to be in television I’d have to be really good with money.  The world of television is a precarious one at best. You have a show, your show is great, your show is cancelled. No more show. No more money.

It could be a year before another show looking for a mouthy blonde came along, so if there wasn’t money in the bank to pay the mortgage the only house I’d be entering was The Big House on charges of cheque fraud.

Luckily that only happened once, (where I was without work for an extended period of time … the cheque fraud’s actually happened a few times).

This isn’t a new way of living for me.  I’ve done this my entire adult life.  The practice came in extremely hand for the first 2 years of this blog when I made no  money at all.  None.  Not a thing.  I had the fella with me at the time so of course that helped, but we had certain bills we each paid every month and I was still able to pay all of mine.  I had money saved in the bank, if something broke, 9 times out of 10 I could fix it myself and I could make what little money I had go a long, longggggg way.

So I’m not cheap, I’m not rich and I do have an affinity for really expensive things.

Making/fixing/doing things myself has helped me afford these things but I DIY for many other reasons too.



Tomorrow I’m going to give you a list of every single thing I do to save money.  Ways to save big money and ways to save small money.

I know this is all basic advice and information that grandfathers have been dolling out since pickles were invented but it’s still good advice.

I’ve saved thousands and thousands of dollars  throughout the past 15 years by using these little tricks. And I continue to do it.

And so could you. And it isn’t alllll about fixing things yourself, although that is a big part of it.  People tell me all the time that they aren’t handy. And I get that. Some people really aren’t handy. But even more people just haven’t tried.

They think they can’t do it.  They can’t grow vegetables, they can’t use a saw, they can’t install a dishwasher.  Well that’s just not true.  You can.  You really can.  The real answer to why you don’t do those things is either a) You don’t know how to do it or b) you just don’t want to.

If you tell me you just don’t want to that’s fine.  But don’t tell me you can’t. Don’t you dare tell me you can’t.

You can.

You can do it.

It ain’t that hard.  Any of it.

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”5342563″]


  1. Karen too says:

    I can already tell this one is going to be a keeper! Thanks in advance!

  2. Ella says:

    EXCITING! And very interesting window into your mind. That’s some good self-awareness 😉

  3. victoria says:

    LOVE IT. I’m the same way. For example, I don’t pay for manis and pedis, why when I can paint my own nails!!?? Instead I can take looong vacations, and buy expensive stuff if I want to!! Looking forward to reading all your thrifty tips!

  4. shuckclod says:

    Still love you 🙂 I am not cheap either. I do love what I love though. I also hate copy cats. Who the hell are the Jones’s anyway? Keep up the great blog & newsletter. Looking forward to the tips.

  5. ruth says:

    Amen sister.

  6. Anita says:

    Just when I am starting to fret about money, and not being able to take a fabulous vacation to Norway and Iceland next year (hello bucket, meet list), along comes Karen with a healthy dose of common sense and perspective. Thank you!

  7. Andrea says:

    A) good for you! Loving this blog, wishing you good unicorn karma.
    B) DIY dilemma, and this is probably embarrassingly newbie but here we go: i start in with good intentions and lots of energy, and then something sticks. The tension shower rod won’t stay tense, even after being rejiggled. The ceiling fan light works great, but the fan mysteriously stops working. And I just blank and do a deer-in-the-headlights thing. I try to fix it. I fail. I can’t see a way forward that isn’t complex and/or expensive.

    What to do at that stage of things? This is maybe more an epistemological question than a DIY one?

    • Karen says:

      Lol, well it just so happens, tomorrow’s post addresses that issue a little bit. The whole admitting defeat thing and calling in the pros. But one explanation is that things are only complex when you don’t understand them. Once you learn more and are able to wrap your head around it things are less intimidating and complex. – karen!

    • Jake says:

      Google it.

  8. Becky says:

    First everyone tells me I have to be afraid of the zombie apocalypse and now you are telling me its disgruntled unicorns.

    I may never leave the house again.

  9. Jasmine says:

    I have had coffee from a Jura machine. Say no more.

  10. Shelley says:

    Disgruntled Unicorns is my new band name

  11. Claudia says:

    Hee hee, when I first read “perform my own oral surgery” it reminded me of the guy on a German TV show ages ago, who alleged he did his own oral surgery with a drilling machine from the hardware store, some dentist’s burrs and a set of mirrors. He claimed it would take waaaay longer than at the dentists, what with the slower rotational speed of the machine, but he would save lots of money. Or maybe he just was masochistic or didn’t trust his dentist. (Actually, German health insurance compensates for most of the usual dental treatment.) His teeth did not look good.
    Well, I guess there *are* limits to what we should do ourselves – unless the unicorns take over, of course 😉

  12. Robin says:

    Wow! I think I love you. My husband has the same habit of doing/fixing/making/repairing things himself. Only he doesn’t do the spending part – that is where I come in. We need a happy medium – can’t wait for your tips – thanks.

  13. Raymonde says:

    You are so right! Over the years, I’ve saved enough money by doing things myself, even cutting my own hair, that I’ve managed to buy stuff I really wanted, like an Aga stove and a huge copper sink. I have my priorities straight!
    When I was a teenager, I read that if you know how to read, there’s nothing you can’t learn to do. It stuck with me, big time!
    I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s post, I’m sure I have more things to read about and learn! 🙂

  14. meg says:

    I would’ve expected that tiny sliver of your pie to be bigger!
    … that’s pretty much my favorite part.

  15. Pat says:

    I can hardly wait for your list. For years now people have said to me “You’re so lucky to be able to go on a trip to ________.” “You’re so lucky that you could retire.” It has nothing to do with luck. It is all about making choices….do I spend the money or do it myself. Do I buy such and such, wait until it is on sale or make do. Do I really need this, want this, absolutely love it and can’t do without it? Can I make do with something else? I have been reusing, reinventing before it was fashionable. And, if we can’t do something ourselves around the house, we try to find someone we know, or someone who knows someone who can do the job. And the internet has been a boon for DIY information. However, after saying all that, you, my dear, take it to the top in the DIY department and to be admired for that!

  16. judy says:

    My husband was an Engineer and we lived in neighborhoods that were “white collar”. He did Everything-repaired our used cars,wiring,plumbing -I had more than one neighbor comment on how “John does everything himself with a near sneer and an offer to put me on to their “man.” I would thank them kindly and explain that John actually enjoyed it which was always met with a smirking disbelief and the suggestion that he take up golf or tennis-so much more enjoyable and you meet the nicest kind of people-doncha know. Actually paying for the houses that put our kids into the best school system left no money for not doing it ourselves-our tradeoff and glad to do it and he really did enjoy it.

  17. nancy says:

    That’s weird about men. Years ago, I bought an old house with a very large kitchen that had been paneled in the years they were paneling. It was awful and I wanted to paint it. Every paint store/hardware store I went to, I was met by a man that said “can’t be done” for every reason you can’t think of, or if they thought it could be done … I just couldn’t afford anything they recommended. I called a lady I worked for in high school (Miss Honey had a “home interior shoppe”) and she said “oh hell, pick your paint color, get some No Sand and primer, just do it.” And it came out lovely and I learned then, between me and my Readers Digest Fix It book and Miss Honey attitude, I could do anything. The old Ace Hardware store guys can be useful, if you just know what advice to ignore.

  18. JennyW says:

    Oh Yes I Can!
    I got myself over a fear of power tools because I was really, really tired waiting for someone else to do projects for me. Between wonderful Bloggers, like yourself 🙂 , and carpenters on youtube, I have managed to put up board and batton, crown moulding, frame out doorways, build desks and add trim to cupboards. Not to mention prettify and fluff all the rooms in our home! People walk in and can’t believe that I did all of the work myself. Oh, and thanks to you, I put a pond in our backyard too! You, Karen, are an inspiration to a new generation of ” Yes I Can” women (& men) everywhere. Thank you!

  19. Look forward to tomorrow!
    Timely for me, as I’m thinking of giving up my job, and wondering how I can survive on a tiny pension!

  20. Sally A says:

    First of all, I thought the announcement was that you were going to quit your blog. That would be alarming and I panicked a little! Then, I had to look up the Jura coffee maker and there was a picture of a guy in a tux drinking a cup of coffee. Do you wear an evening gown when drinking yours? I think you should. While riding a Unicorn.

  21. Mary says:

    Great post, one of your best. I will be forwarding it to my daughters.

  22. sue says:

    Oh, my, were you thinking of me when you wrote this? I spend my entire life telling others, you can do it (I’m a reading teacher for struggling little ones) yet do I TAKE MY OWN ADVICE?
    Baby steps, one foot in front of the other. I have got to learn that I can do things because I know nothing is impossible if you want it badly enough. When your self confidence wains, it is hard to be the cheering squad. I guess that is one of the reasons I am drawn to blogs of handy women.
    Thanks for your sass and concern for your readers. I too thought you were hanging in the towel and was concerned…

  23. Tigersmom says:

    Heheheheh…..I remember you calling yourself cheap. I just thought you meant in a slutty way.

    But seriously, I have known for a while that you just have your priorities in line. Having been on both sides of the have/have not coin at different times in my life I can relate to the appreciation for splurging on the things we want that we can’t do or make ourselves.

    There is a lot that I will gladly do without so that I can have certain things that could be considered luxuries. It just depends on what provides the quality of life I want and what I can do myself once I try. And on a willingness to make things happen for yourself and not wait around in hopes that someone else will do it or that it will miraculously happen on its own.

    Even at a point when I don’t have to do so many things myself, I still do because its incredibly satisfying. (Except for the whole growing my own veggies thing. Apparently I have a passion for the result, but not for what it takes to get it. And that’s ok.)

    I will take this opportunity to remind you of something I hope you already know. Without you (and Kate from Centsational Girl, which is how I found you) inspiring me( and countless others, I’m sure) to try and do things I never thought I could do, I would not have had the courage to do the little things that led to the bigger things that have led to me starting a business. I have changed because of you in a very positive way. So, forgive me if this gets mushy, but I owe you an embarrassingly large debt of gratitude. Your wealth in being an inspiration to many is pretty staggering. So, thank you. Thank you so much for all you do. And congratulations on being able to find a way to do what you love that is as beneficial to others as I hope it is rewarding to you.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for saying that Tigersmom. And yes, this blog is hugely rewarding. I absolutely love it. I wake up very day and can’t wait to start working. When I started this website I wanted to show people how they can do things themselves but at the time I didn’t really realize it would turn into what it has. I had no idea it would motivate and inspire so many people and give them the courage to do things for themselves. Women in particular. It’s something I’m very, very proud of. ~ karen!

  24. Su says:

    “Every dollar I save by doing something myself is money I can put towards something I can’t make or do myself.” ….this should be placed over doors of schools and hardware stores… there is something so empowering when you do it yourself… you stand back and look at it and say hell yes!! I did that….
    it’s cool, it’s fun and it gives me the pennies I need to lay on the beach in freaking February when it’s a frozen tundra around here….
    I shopped at thrift stores long before it was cool to do so but I also got designer clothes I could no way afford otherwise. When I did buy new my mom taught me that a $200 blazer – this was way back when -was cheaper in the long run than a $50 one….the classics last longer style-wise and when you amortize the cost over the years she was right!! (go Mom!)
    That’s not cheap, it’s frugal, it’s thrifty and practical!

  25. Beth W says:

    Here Here!

    I too subscribe (innately I think) to the belief that tomorrow could be a catastrophic financial disaster, so I better save my pennies (although we don’t have pennies anymore, stupid Canada). Plus, if it costs $18 and 4 hours to frame in the furnace pipe myself, why would I pay $300 for some guy to do it? So what if I haven’t done it before… it’s not structural, so the worst that happens is that it looks ugly and I spend another $18 trying a second time.

    That being said, I’m also a big spender where it counts, and often on a whim (when I get tired of seeing my back account grow past it’s limits). I think it freaks my husband out, as he’s not really the saving type, but I’d rather ride around in my 1964 Mustang convertible than have beers twice a week with friends just ’cause.

  26. Jody says:

    I’m so inspired now to do–something. But I don’t know what. Actually a couple months ago I flipped the door on our dryer from right opening to left opening. I was very proud of myself after that accomplishment. And it wasn’t that hard!

  27. Liz says:

    Wonderful post with perfect timing! My husband and I are building our own house, but only the part after it’s dried in–not taking any chances on it falling down. We’re doing it because we want to and we don’t want another mortgage at our age. I was beginning to lose faith in my abilities since I didn’t win the pink tool belt (where can I buy one as it would match the trim on my steel-toed work boots), but you have given me a new perspective AND assuaged the guilt over spending an indecent amount on a perfect-fitting pair of jeans. After all, a girl needs a lift after spending the day in overalls and work boots. Thank You!

  28. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    Karen, you never fail to deliver. I’m waiting with bated breath for tomorrow’s post!

  29. Lisa says:

    Love this post! I do the same thing! I have a terrible time shopping, because I always think “I could make that myself”. I just finished tiling my kitchen backsplash and conquered my fear of the wet saw. I draw the line at electricity and medical procedures, but pretty much everything else is fair game.

  30. Pate Garson says:

    You rock honey. I look forward to your list, maybe I’ll even send you mine. You are doing a great community service for your “girls” by getting this out there.
    May the multiverses (thats another discussion) bless you little one.
    Mom must be so proud.


  31. Ev Wilcox says:

    Thanks for yet another great post. Your philosophy rings true and familiar. I hope you blog on forever!

  32. Terri in Colorado says:

    Love your attitude! Other than saving money, the best part about doing things myself is not having to wait for a contractor to show up on his schedule. Sometimes I get in over my head; but there’s no better feeling than conquering something that I thought I couldn’t do.

  33. Patti says:

    Good Morning !!! I Love My Coffee, too !!! Try Community Coffee from New Orleans.
    It’s all I buy anymore.
    Your Blog sounds a lot like me…as many have said. We work hard to get what we want and Like…DIYing, Recycling and Repurposing helped me get my Kitchenaid Mixer etc…………….Just to name One !!!!

  34. kari says:

    This is exactly how I roll…… except that I have a super handy husband that I ask to do those jobs for me. Now, his real job has gotten really demanding and I’ll have to learn how to do these things myself. Like finishing our 2K bathroom renovation that I got quotes of 10k by two professional contractors. That is what my business is about too. Recycling, reselling boutique and designer kids clothes so that mom’s can dress their kids nicely without breaking the bank. Then you save your money for vacations or whatever floats your boat! Or buys a boat…hmmmm. I like boats.

  35. Brenda J. Moore says:

    Well now…feeling better?
    AN $800 ESPRESSO MAKER!!!! I feel really cheap-ass using ground coffee in that refillable filter-thing-amajig I bought ($12) for my Kuerig. I’m a coffee junkie too…love it, pee it, drink it again. I bow to you Oh Mighty Karen-One…you are my idol of Coffeeholics. Bravo.

  36. Mary Werner says:

    You left a piece of pie out of your graph – actually two pieces. One: you like it. Two: you like to make us happy with pictures of Betty.

  37. ~JackieVB says:

    I’ve always tried to cut back where I can – I bring my lunch to work, do my own pedi’s etc… and when it came to house repairs I have family members who are very handy so I didn’t have to hire anyone to do the work. But lately I’ve been trying to learn and do more things for myself. Why should I have to rely on someone else (even if they are willing and happy to do so) when I can do it myself? There is a pride factor that goes along with this – and I must say that that biggest slice of the pie you have there with the disgruntled unicorns is what is driving me even more to take care of as many of my own needs as possible.
    Oh, and let’s not forget car repair either(kinda goes along with that smallest slice of the pie). There are many things you can do for basic(and beyond) car repair that don’t require the computer to diagnose the problem! My local oil change place wants $45 for the plain ole oil change and it goes up from there. I’ve been doing my own oil changes for a while now and I’m getting ready to replace my brakes. I’ll have a friend handy so I don’t do anything that’s dangerous, but still we forget that people used to work on their own cars all the time.
    With the money I’ll save I’m going to buy that $300 water filter I’ve been wanting – I think I hear a stampede in the distance – sounds like disgruntled unicorns to me.

  38. Mimi says:

    Can’t wait for tomorrow! I need a little saving inspiration. We have a Jura. We love it. To meld it into the budget we decided to forgo silly little gifts for Mothers Day/Fathers Day/Birthdays/Arbor Day, etc. Best coffee, and junk reduction ever(dumb gifts). Plus we had more time to sit around and drink espresso since we weren’t out buying said dumb gifts.

  39. Kathline says:

    Beautifully presented and defended! I have a few friends and relatives who have accused me of being cheap. Those people are the same ones spend money they don’t have and end up broke every couple of months. They’re also the same ones who, when I do splurge on something I REALLY want and get the best I can afford, look at me suspiciously as though I’ve been holding out on them somehow. Maybe they think I just knocked over a liquor store or sold a kidney. All I know is that I don’t need to spend money on every little thing when I can save it for a gorgeous pair of boots and a slightly used V6 coupe!

  40. Cynthia says:

    Can’t wait for the tips. My current money leak is having lunch out with my daughter. 🙁 big money drain!

  41. Coffee is the staff of life. You will have to blog all about it and do a review. Is Jura Ena a boy or a girl? We have a Rancilio that we call Sylvia. (that’s the model) She’s the best and we love her. She is six years old now with no problems. She’s not a push button kinda girl, but she’s really easy to operate. I would go into a coma without her!

  42. Robin says:

    I CAN.
    I DO.
    I’ve always DONE.
    I LOVE the sense of accomplishment!

    I say to my friends all the time, Don’t buy it, try to do it yourself. Don’t call someone…try it yourself!
    Most of time it ends up being, “Hi Robin, can you help me……………”
    But my nature is to try. Always has been. I come from a long line of DIY’ers and a bonus is the savings and the atta’ girl attitude!

    So my opinion…definitely DIY!

  43. jainegayer says:

    I can’t wait ’til tomorrow!!!

  44. JoBea says:

    This is Great! Thanks for saying all this, and the graph. As a fledgling DIYer I’d have to switch the turquoise and purple reasons, otherwise it’s right on.
    I decided to paint the kitchen, decided to take out the nonworking intercom box, and today amy going to put the drywall patch in place in that hole. I went to one of the BIG hardware stores yesterday looking for drywall repair clips which I had seen used on Utube (is that how it’s spelled?) Male after male didn’t know of what I was speaking but were quick to tell me how I could or should do it. Politely and respectfully but still… I stopped at home to do some research and went to the other big hardware store. My helper hadn’t heard of them either but said he’d show me where the drywall tools are. I mentioned that the website said they had 36 of them and what type of packaging they are in. He found them. Now to try them out..
    I didn’t get the sawhorses I asked for for Christmas. I’l bet I get the cordless drill I’m going for for my birthday! : D

    • Karen says:

      Hi JoBea – If you want a quick, easy sawhorse you can buy sawhorse brackets to build your own out of the brackets and some 2x4s. If you have the 2x4s laying around the total cost would be around $10. ~ karen!

  45. Carie says:

    How appropriate that I read your post right after making some alterations to 3 pairs of pants. Something I normally would have taken to the tailor but decided to try it myself (with a little help from Youtube). You are my guru.

  46. Jacqui says:

    I had to look up Jura Ena and I’m a world-class spender of The Money too! I buy my furniture secondhand off Kijiji when I can. I refinished my dining table, built my own bedroom furniture (using an Ana White plan) and grow my own vegetables but I also send my kids to an expensive private school, live in a large home and stay at fancy hotels ! Saving where you can is the key but like you there’s just so much satisfaction in doing it yourself!

    Can’t wait for more tips!

  47. Patti says:

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s post. Just wish I hadn’t waited until this point in my life to start thinking seriously about money. Karen, I hope the people at HGTV or DIY are onto you, I would be a faithful watcher of your show geared towards women doing for themselves!

  48. Lupina says:

    Thanks so much for your post. I think it’s become the new “thing” to admit that you’re cheap! It’s suddenly become the smart thing to do. I’m a nurse in a retirement community, and it’s my pleasure to work with people who have always been “cheap”. They lived unextravagant lives, saved their money in good reliable retirement plans and now live in this beautiful community. They are retired school teachers, telephone operators, the occasional physician or vet, but they’ve made wise choices with their money. I am learning new things from them every day. It’s smarter to live cheap, because the expensive things will come. Guaranteed!

  49. Kelli says:

    LOVE IT! No you’re not cheap, you’re smart. You’re doing things RIGHT. Golly, saving money for something you actually want? Whodathunk??? It’s how our parents generation worked, and look at how well they succeeded.

    Had to chuckle while reading this (more than usual I mean). After forwarding several of your posts to a very creative/DIY friend of mine, she finally asked: “Does this woman actually make money by blogging?” To which I replied:

    “Yes, probably from a portion of the purchases from her advertisers, BUT she’s obviously doing very well because she’s always doing things like: redecorating her whole house, rebuilding her entire kitchen, creating a new backyard, building a coop and raising chickens, traveling to Thailand for 2 weeks, and buying very expensive coffee makers. (yup…I looked it up) So obviously she ain’t hurtin.”

    However…I now know the real story: you’re just smarter than the average bear. 🙂 Looking forward to tomorrow’s post!

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