Tell me about yourself.

thMy daughter just got tagged by the Sunshine Blogger Award, which is sort of like receiving a chain letter. In a good way, since it opens you up to new readers and gives you a chance to promote websites you enjoy.

How it works: Awardees get five questions to answer in print (here’s the link to Abby’s), and are supposed to send five of their own questions out to a handful of bloggers they read.

Of the questions Abby got my favorite was No. 3: “What do you think Victoria’s Secret is?”

Abby’s response: “That she’s very cold.” Snort.

But it made me think about putting my own questions out there – to readers, not writers.*


I thought it might be fun to learn a little bit more about the people who stop by. Some of you have already revealed small (or large) parts of your lives in the comments section. I’ve also had the good fortune to meet some in person. Still, answering the questions could be a fun exercise for the S&T community.


Inquiring minds want to know

Please know this: The exercise is not mandatory. You can answer one question or all of them, or none of them. It’s cool to ignore the questions and comment on someone else’s comments, too.

For those who want to play along:

1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? (Okay, that’s completely self-centered. But it’s my game and I get to make the rules.)

2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?

3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat?

4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it?

Looking forward to the responses, if any.

*I know that some of my readers are also writers, even if they’re not currently blogging/being published elsewhere. Didn’t mean to diss anyone.


Related reading:

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  1. Scariest: quitting cigarette smoking. 31 years ago. In desperation, after having cancer surgery, went to a hospital-run, smoking-as-addiction program for 8-10 weeks. hard work, but worth it.

  2. Fond this site: Dana Stabenow blog.

  3. 1) I think I found it because I was looking for other things you wrote, after reading “Living on $12,000 per Year” and you were no longer on something before MSN or in addition to. I was also looking for some new and different ways to save money and expenses. Why do I keep reading? It is fascinating: the content, the relationships with family and others that you reveal, money saving or expense savings tips or ideas. There are no errors in the writing: spelling, punctuation, etc. (which means I do not grind my teeth). The site/pages always open/load easily. The links work and the suggested topics are interesting. I crave new entries; how could a person not want to read it?

    2) Genius Grants: I would pay off the mortgages of my sisters houses and make repairs on mine. Give my daughter enough for a down payment on her home. Pay off the Parent Plus loans I’ve been paying on for 14 years. Pay off the medical debt I have transferred to credit cards and loans and am still paying for after 10 years.

    Pay for my sister Ivy’s back surgery.

    Pay the property taxes for my sister Cindy for the next two years.

    Set up a fund to generate interest, which would be used to purchase food (in combination with coupons and rebates) for the food banks in our area, leaving the fund intact.

    Set a college fund to generate interest to be used for academic college scholarships for women, to be used for tuition, fees and books, and not living expenses.

    Set up a training/survival skill program called lost arts, which will teach people things we used to learn from our parents and grand parents: how to hem a skirt or pants, how to fix a zipper, how to sew on a button, how to make use of the food stocks/supplies you do have (cook the bones instead of trashing them, freezer or leftover soup), how to fill out a job application.

    Travel, within the USA and without.

    3) I refuse to eat Weis Markets mac and cheese; tastes like glue, but glue tastes better. Probably would not eat generic SPAM as I do not eat name brand either. Will not eat turnips: tastes gross and brings back awful childhood memories of turnip soup and poverty. Will not eat chicken and dumplings by anyone. I refuse to use Ivory Soap or anything that smells like it.

    4) All expense paid trip: to the UK to see daughter and son in law, or USA road trip, or back to France – I did not know the line was to see the Mona Lisa and got out of line, 10 days in DC, to the beach, to the Western Maryland mountains, and I have not been to see Montana yet.

    5) Some thought required for this one…. Several things come to mind. Going to college and never having any money (food or busfare or tampons), and then continuing to go back when I flunked out twice for not enough credits for time attended. Becoming pregnant or childbirth; can’t remember which was scarier. Standing up to and saying no to abusive relatives, and refusing to allow the abuse to continue. Moving to another state when we knew no one there. Recovery from an awful auto accident – not sure I will ever stop being afraid; I often reflexively jerk to the other side of the road.

    How did I get through it? I keep returning to something that runs through my head like a mantra or prayer: I am secure in the love and support of my sisters.

    • Would definitely go back to Montana.
      I stayed 2 weeks in July 2014 and it was my first trip there.
      Cannot put into words the majesty of being in East Glacier National Park and looking over snow covered mountains in July. The sheer beauty of it is overwhelming. I tell everyone I know, “If you get the chance to go out West-go. You will not ever forget it!

    • Donna Freedman

      You and your sisters are lucky to have one another.

      Thanks for your kind words, and for reading and commenting regularly.

  4. Michelle Maloney

    1) I found it through looking you up after reading an msn money article or two, and I keep reading because your blog is both amusing and helpful. 2) no idea! 3) store brand mayo is disgusting. Any store brand. Horrible. Blech. 4) I would explore the Netherlands. 5) Anything out of my comfort zone scares the pants off of me, but I occasionally make myself do something so I don’t stay in scaredy cat mode.

  5. Valerie

    Ooooh this is fun!

    1. I know everyone is going to say it’s the how to thrive on 12k article, but what really inspired me was this article you wrote for GRS: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2012/08/28/25-ways-to-give-without-breaking-the-bank/ It’s one of the only articles I’ve ever bookmarked and that continues to inspire me whenever I read it.

    2. I don’t really know enough about the foundation to answer?

    3. Anything that’s not vegetarian.

    4. This one’s easy – Bhutan. I am inspired, enamored and awestruck by its beauty and the importance it places on its nation’s gross national happiness. First place on my bucket list.

    5. Giving birth to my first son. I’ve never been so scared in my whole life and never have I been happier that I fought through my fear. 🙂

    Great questions! 🙂

  6. 1) I don’t remember how I found you; I think through your daughter’s blog, or a link from some other pf blog. I keep reading because I like your writing style, your sense of humor, and I think we are in the same age bracket and see a lot of things the same way.
    2) I would donate some to my church; assist my nieces and nephews in some form or fashion that they needed; establish college funds for my great nieces and nephews, with guidelines for proper use; buy myself a home; hire a personal trainer and chef
    3)Tuna anything
    4) Alaska – that is my dream trip
    5) Letting go of abuse of past and learning to live with courage, recognizing my own worth is not what i was told for all those years — still a work in progress by the way

  7. Holly S

    1. From your old MSN Money writings, Read because you are interest, sometimes funny & I get a few new ideas.
    2. Not sure but would probably like to support promising medical research into various cancer, diabetes and altzheimers diseases.
    3. Cannot think of foods off the top of my head except Aldi pasta sauce
    4. Round the world cruise. THE packing/unpacking multiple times
    5. Do not recall

  8. 1) Read an article you wrote on MSN, thought it hilarious and practical signed up for your website. I’d lost my job and needed the help surviving–you were there.

    2)Give up my job and WRITE!

    3) Haven’t found any generics I won’t eat except for some of Winn-Dixie’s and Target’s–tastes like cardboard. Publix brand mayo is just like Hellman’s 🙂 Good!

    4) This is a tough one for me–there are so many places I’d love to see–Denmark?

    5) Soo many scary things–learned to scuba dive and ride a motorcycle in my 30s–scared to death and did them anyway. Starting over again in my career in my 40s–had no choice really; I had to do it so I did. It as painful and I just kept telling myself I could do it and it would get better. It did, and I may do it again now that I’m in my 50s!You helped me see that I could survive and thrive; even under very terrifying circumstances. Thank you forever for that.

    • Donna Freedman

      You’re welcome forever. So glad you made it through your tough times — now you can inspire other women to do the same. Maybe via the writing you mention in A2?

  9. 1) Money Talks News, enjoy your writing; 2) Give it to a local after school music program; 3) I’m like Holly, pasta sauce, gotta have name brand; 4) Ireland; 5) Not sure if this qualifies. Last year my husband ended up in the ICU. He is fine now but it was pretty scary for me. Family and friends helped me get thru it.

  10. Tina in NJ

    1. I think I found you through either MSN Money or GRS. I keep reading because your writing is genuine and resonates with me. Our ages and stages of life are comparable, while a lot of of bloggers are a lot earlier on their journey. Plus, the Jersey Girl sisterhood thing.
    2. Skip.
    3. Cheerios. Gotta be the yellow box (I usually get it from BJ’s, though.
    4. Kyoto, Japan for the cherry blossoms. Top of the bucket list.
    5. Traveled to Greece and Turkey in 1992 with my sister. Wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. Thanks, Sue.

  11. 1. I honestly can’t remember exactly when or how I found your site. I will say that I used to have literally hundreds of blogs bookmarkedon my old computer. When I came back online after a long hiatus, yours was one of the first I made sure to look up. Why? So many reasons! I like your writing, and your attitude toward personal finance. I trust you not to tell me my finances would be fine if I gave up my daily lattes and brown-bagged it at least once a week. I love feeling like I know you through your blog, and the sense of community in your comments.

    2. Not sure. I’d love to go back to school, but at this point I think I’d rather send my sons or my husband. Let them have their turn.

    3. There’s not much I won’t at least try, and I’ve often found the store brands to be comparable or even better than the national brands. Now, I don’t eat it myself, understand, but we have found that we’re better off to buy one particular national brand of cat food, as one of our cats has a very delicate stomach and the other brands don’t stay down well.

    4. That’s a tough call! I’d love to tour Europe, particularly Germany (where I lived briefly as a child) and Ireland–oh, and a trip through the V&A Museum in London, for my husband. But I’d also like to spend some time in different parts of Australia.

    5. I think the scariest thing I’ve ever faced is living in fear of running out of food. Counting bags of dried beans and days until payday and hoping they’ll match up, even though the kids are sick of beans and rice isn’t something I’d wish on anyone. We had a second round some 15 years later, only this time, we lived mostly on chicken leg quarters, rice, and homemade bread, and my husband was self-employed, so it was never certain just when payday would be.

    When I came home after my surgery, weak and blind and feeling damn near helpless, I begged our son, then 20 and working as a line cook in a pizzaria/Italian restaurant, to promise that if we ever came that close to running out of food, he’d help us out with some groceries. Bless him, he agreed not to let the family starve. 😉

    How’d I get through it? Well, there wasn’t much choice. It wasn’t all beans and rice, especially at the beginning of the month, and there was always at least some food to eat. I baked cookies and other homemade treats. We even managed to go out once in a while, especially around special occasions. And it always felt temporary–we were going through a really rough patch, sure, but we’d get through it and then things would be better.

    Interesting questions, Donna! I’ve enjoyed the comments so far, and look forward to others.

  12. 1. I actually don’t remember exactly how I started reading your site (it’s been 4+ years). I think it was because you commented on either mine or someone else’s that I read and I clicked on your site and signed up to get your posts via email. But it could have been from meeting you in person at Fincon, lol.

    2. If I was given $625,000, I would use it to buy and maintain more rental properties. I think we could live on the rental property income alone when we get 6 or more…that should put us right in that area. I think we could have our home paid off, 2 rental properties paid off, and 20% down on the other 4…

  13. 3. I try to stick with real Honey Nut Cheerios.

    4. An all expense paid tour of Europe would be cool. If I have to be specific, Italy…

    5. I don’t remember being scared very often. The most challenging things have been to keep a marriage going even though we got married at 21 and 22 and have had to grow up together without growing apart. Going to college while working was hard. Taking the leap to self-employment was more exciting than scary, although we’ve had low income months that worried me. I think the scariest thing I’ll ever do is maybe have a baby or two. That’s a lot of responsibility and the physical process scares me a little too since I just saw how hard it was on my little sister.

  14. Aunt Leesie

    1. I started reading your blog when it was brand, spanking new. I’ve continued reading because it’s fascinating to see how others live in other places, and I’m always looking for more/better ways to save money *or* maintain the simpler life we’ve created.

    2. I’d use the grant money to help develop comprehensive (yet enjoyable) educational materials to be distributed on a national level for those on WIC, SNAP and Food Bank (feedamerica.org) programs to include LOTS of tips, tricks, recipes and information about getting the most mileage from the foods available. Media has made basic nutrition confusing. A recent cross-country driving trip illustrated (to me) just how many Americans are living near or below the poverty line. We have the various government programs, but not everyone who qualifies uses them, and many who do lack the skills to be able to utilize them to the best advantage. California’s severe drought will drive food prices higher. It already is. Meaning the number of those needing the programs will increase.

    3. I won’t buy store brand or generic pet food. It makes our cats sick. Especially the older one who gets bloody… never mind.

    4.I’d want to visit all 50 of the United States. I’ve seen most, including Hawaii, but there are still some states I haven’t seen. And I’d want it to be a road trip as much as possible. My DH and I love a road trip.

    5. The scariest thing so far is when I had DCIS in 1999. My sons were young. Our youngest was only in the 1st grade. We lived more than 1500 miles from any family, and were new to the town, so had no close friends nearby. I’d known a handful of women who died with breast cancer after long battles with the disease. I was terrified. Thankfully, I dodged the BIG bullet and didn’t require chemo or radiation. The experience is really what planted the seed to get back to where much of our family lived/lives. I got through it by praying. A lot. And working in the garden planting roses (even before I’d fully healed from the lumpectomy). There’s little like gardening to give an immediate result. You can’t change many circumstances in life, but you can dig a hole and plant a rose bush. 🙂

  15. Gipssy T Lupin

    1. I found your site when I was researching what to do with my extra Coke bottle tops and have kept on reading ever since.

    2. Its a bit intimidating but definitely something to do with feeding hungry kids in this country and taking better care of seniors.

    3. None. The generic Ingles, Publix and Walmart brands, which are all that we have in my area, all have good products and I have not yet encountered any that would cause me to discontinue buying them.

    4. Scotland and Greece.

    5. Two things, first, moving to the U.S. from Cuba. It was just my parents, one grandmother, my sister and I. We had no money, no extended family nor support in this great big country. But we had freedom and opportunity. The second was going off to college and being on my own both financially and literally. I got through it because I wanted an education and was willing to sacrifice for it. It was worth it.

  16. I like this! 🙂

    1) I found this site through a comment on another blog, I don’t recall which one. I keep reading because no matter what topic the post is about the writing sucks me in and I can’t stop until I’ve read multiple other posts and realize a lot of time has gone by.

    2) I would use the money to pay off my husband’s school loans, buy a house, start investing, and go on a world trip to visit several friends domestic and abroad.

    3) Store brand pasta sauce. I’ve had it many times and have subsequently had one bad experience too many.

    4) I would go to Japan to see friends.

    5) I’ve done 2 pretty scary things in my life. I went to Japan to study without knowing anyone and having a rather basic understanding of the language. The other thing was moving out of my father’s house when I was 14 to live with somewhere else. I got through both events with friends that didn’t stop caring and gave me all the love and support I needed.

  17. S.E. Hudnall

    I first started following you on MSN Money then transitioned to your blog when you started. It is the only blog I actually follow via email. I keep following because it has happiness and contentment as well as frugality.

    Simple question with a lengthy answer. First, pay off the mortgage on my house so my largest expense is not hanging over my head. After that, pump cash (thoughtfully) into my writing. There are some writing classes/seminars I would love to attend. Travel for researching. There are some things Google cannot do. Pay my editor. Have some book covers professionally done with original art or photography. In short, get some things done so I can concentrate on writing the stories! Right now, the DIY method prevails.

    I don’t refuse to eat any store brands. Well, except mayo. I haven’t found as brand to equal Helleman’s.

    New Zealand. How long can I stay? 🙂

    Scariest thing? Deciding to take my writing seriously and quitting a well-paying career of over twenty years to do so, without any guarantee of success. How have I gotten through it? I’ll let you know. 😀

    • Donna Freedman

      I hope you will let me know. What kind of writing: fiction? technical? blogging? You can always e-mail me privately at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com.

  18. 1. Like so many others, I have followed you since the Surviving (and Thriving) on $12K a Year article. I keep reading because you feel like a kindred spirit, and you provide the perspective that frugal iving can be creative and fun!

    2. I’d use each of the quarterly payments to help one person or family escape the cycle of poverty, with the help of experienced social workers and other professionals. In my perfect world, each of those people might then go on to help with the cause of poverty alleviation, in some way.

    3. I try to eat organic, and have had good luck with store branded organic foods. I certainly have my preferences, but nothing so far has left such a negative impression that I would refuse to eat it! I could, however, go on for days about the store-brand products we DO like 🙂

    4. Cuba is next on our list of Dream Vacations: my husband’s family is from Cuba, but he was born in the U.S. and has never visited the place his parents are from. But we’ve been invited to a wedding in England next year and we aren’t certain of being able to afford it, so we might choose that.

    5. The scariest thing I ever did was so scary I won’t write about it! But I will say, with gratitude, that I got through it (and every other scary thing in my life) with the help of supportive, loving family and friends.

  19. 1)Not sure how I came across you, through a search I’m sure when I began my debt free journey about 10 years ago?
    2)Start up a running/fitness program for kids.
    3)I’ve not met a generic that I won’t at least try.
    4)African Safari
    5)I’ve done many scary things, as I constantly tell others “you should do that which scares you the most” – my first Half Marathon and ziplining in Alaska come to mind.

  20. Melissa

    Saw an article on MSN Money but don’t remember which one. Not sure what I would do with that much money…It’s more than I can wrap my head around. i would love to tour Europe. Not a fan of generic mac & cheese, just really like kraft. The scariest thing I’ve done is live at the hospital for a week while my 5 year old daughter received cortisone treatment intravenously. She was sick with a rare autoimmune disease that caused acute MS like symptoms. It’s called ADEM (Acute Disseminated Encephlomyelitis)

    • Donna Freedman

      Oh, man, I remember living at the hospital when Abby was sick with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Your whole world shrinks to four walls and hope. Oh, and the ever-beeping machines.

      I hope your daughter has recovered completely.

  21. Cathy Jensen

    1. Started on a quest to get out of debt and hit the internet and found your article, blog, and reader forums.

    2. Go back to school for a Master of Psychology or Social Work (long way from Business Admin) without having to work. Get a nice EF cushion and retirement account. Maybe with that kind of money I would retire permanently.

    3. Generic coffee and mac and cheese.

    4. Travel to Ireland or New Zealand, or Australia. Maybe flip a coin to decide

    5. I am terribly claustrophobic and got real tired of it one day. I decided to get on that elevator and did. I later had MRI’s done and the fact that I had gotten over the paralyzing fear of elevators helped me get through that. I have since stretched my boundaries and try things that I am scared of. I usually close my eyes and pray to get through it the first time. After that it is a piece of cake.

  22. Found you on MSN $$
    Grant $$ for: son’s education
    Over night field trips to Clear Lake Education Center for all 6th graders in Delta county.
    To complete bucket list (Redwoods in CA, Grand Canyon, and Isle Royale Nat’l Park)
    Generics/store brands – I am not too fussy..
    Travel to husbands bithplace in Scotland. Bucket list- redwoods in CA, Grand Canyon, and Isle Royale Nat’l Park.
    Breast Cancer13 ys ago. Got through it with good Drs., supportive family and friends and I was on blessed by many prayers. Sure does change your perspective on life and it’s fragility.
    *To make this less serious – i am allergic to fur, feathers and animal dander in general. Sitting bald and bloated from steroids on the couch watching TV with 6 yr old. During a commercial “mom if you die. I am getting a dog.” The 3 yr old wanted me to try the potions for hair loss. So fortunate to have humor – I ystill giggle when I think about it.

  23. 1. My students found you.
    2. I would use the money to fund scholarships to students in any field they wanted, even hairdressing, carpentry, small business experience, etc. I would also pay off my mortgage.
    3. Since I grow a lot of my own foods and buy very few prepared foods, I am not sure that I use any store brands. I will say that I do not like the Dollar Store’s cheap spaghetti sauce.
    4. I would love to go to the pampa region in Argentina and ride some really good horses.
    5. I am totally afraid of heights, totally, to the point of being paralyzed. My mother said that when I was 2, I fell out of a 3 story window. Not her fault–I climbed out of my crib when I was supposed to be napping and climbed onto the window sill. Soooo, when I was visiting out west this summer, I forced myself to go on every single overlook including ones in the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. I also scaled a huge cliff with a mountain climbing group. I am so proud of myself! I got through it by trusting the Lord and not eating before I looked over the edges.

  24. l. I’m not sure – probably just surfing around. I keep reading because I like your approach to life and your writing style.
    2. Make sure my grandchildren’s college loans are paid. Then find individuals and small charities that can use small anonymous donations and enjoy changing lives.
    3.No problem with store brands and generics. Will always check the sodium amount in any prepared food. A couple of name brands are way too salty.
    4.I’d like to take a train trip around the US, stopping a few days wherever I found interesting.
    5.The scariest thing I ever did was start college in my 20’s when I had 3 small children. I got through it because I had (and still have) a very supportive and helpful husband.

  25. 1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? (Okay, that’s completely self-centered. But it’s my game and I get to make the rules.)
    A: I don’t know– I had initially read your thing on MSN, but I don’t know where I read you after that. You were our blog’s first commenter!

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?
    A: Um… probably just put it away after donating some. It’s not enough to make a huge change to our quality of life at this point.

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat?
    A: Anything poor quality, which is a lot. That goes for name-brand foods too that are poor quality. Definitely nothing with MSG, yeast extract, HFCS, etc.

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    A: Eating tour of Italy.

    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it?
    A: Getting my wisdom teeth out after the intern anesthesiologist failed 4x at finding my veins. What got me through it was sweet sweet valium after the replacement experienced anesthesiologists tried 2 more times. Also a really nice nurse who calmed me down between try 4 and try 5 when I was literally having a panic attack.

  26. 1. Found you on MSN Money, one of the best writers there (you and Liz Weston were the ones I read the most).
    2. $ from grant: fund scholarships and offer money to land grant universities who agree to put academics before athletics, with bonuses to those who exit the informal NFL minor leagues.
    3. Oatmeal. The store brand oats are too mushy. Texture matters when you’re eating oatmeal.
    4. Trip? St. Petersburg, Russia. Or if tensions interfere, travel the US by train is a great idea.
    5. Scariest thing I’ve done: select a career to pursue when I was 38 and just laid off. I learned that persistence and determination really are the most important factors in success: what I will to do, I will do. I even picked out the company I wanted to work for, and in 8 years, I was an employee there in my chosen career. At the time it felt like I was just picking something cold, and then trying to force it, but actually, it didn’t happen that way: I chose my greatest strength, and then got jobs that I believed would use that strength. And it worked. I slowly built a resume that got me into the field I had hoped to join.

  27. 1. MSN Money
    2. Pay off my mortgage, do some home repairs, set up a charity to help seniors in their last days and continue to support a friend’s charity that teaches women in Uganda to support themselves
    3. Not fussy on the store brands since generic changed from the old black and white cans. I will not buy store brand toilet paper.
    4. I would love to take a leisurely trip through every country in Europe, doing different types of sightseeing. I’d like to do a river cruise, see friends, day trips, etc.
    5. I have two scariest things. First was when I moved across the country for graduate school and didn’t know a soul. I cried every day the first semester to go home but returned early at Christmas break. Lived there for 35 years so I got over my homesickness.
    Other scary thing was when I spent 28 days in hospital after a surgery when I was supposed to be there for 4-7 days. Took a while for doctors to discover I had colon cancer. Fought the fight. That was in 1999-2000 and I’m good now. However, if anything goes wrong, the first thing I think about is cancer is back. I’ve had two basal cell carcinomas removed but otherwise no return. Been tested for colon cancer again, but always come back negative. Wipes brow and gives thanks.

    • Donna Freedman

      Wow. That’s a tough row to hoe. Colon and stomach cancers are prevalent on my mom’s side of the family so it’s something I keep a weather eye on as well.

      Thanks for reading.

  28. teinegurl

    1. I googled how to survive on $12,000 a year around what I was making at the time and your article which is what this website is named after popped up. I clicked on it read the whole thing loved it and went through your entire site over time. At the time you were also at Get Rich slowly so I discovered them and The simple dollar blog and became a regular reader. Eventually I went to Abby’s site too since I learned she was your daughter come to find out she is a pretty good writer too. LOL

    2. I would buy a house and furniture. I would love to have a permanent place vs. renting and feeling like it’s not mine or temporary. With whatever is left over I would go on a dream trip to Disneyland cause I have never been would love to take my kids someday and the right just save.

    3. Idk? I usually don’t buy much generic brands with foods so I don’t know.
    4. Australia
    5. Pretty much scared of anything. I would have to say getting divorced was pretty scary but physically it was flying. LOL I did a lot of deep breathing, praying and closing my eyes. That was the first time I flew alone and my palms were sweaty I think the guy next to me was worried I would puke but I didn’t! Yay

  29. Cathy in NJ

    1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? MSN Money articles. I read because you reveal who you are in your writing.
    2.How do you use the money? Retire debt, fund EF, pay for daughter’s college. Start a small scholarship that pays for books for women going into STEM degrees at the local community college.
    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat? Can’t think of any at the moment. But store brand dryer sheets, clothing detergent and dish soap are useless.
    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Coin toss between Tahiti or Russia.
    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it? – Be a widow with a 7 year old, while having a demanding full time job and nasty in-laws, who for example, set off my burglar alarm on the anniversary of my late spouses death for the joy of harassing me. They wanted money and stuff. What got me through was great friends, neighbors, a good lawyer, a kind boss and endless prayer. The attorney taught me that the power of the written word could and would stop the nonsense.

  30. 1. I did an internet search for best frugal living writers and your name popped up. That was years ago. Been a hooked reader ever since.

    2. I am not a genius, so I’d hope they weren’t expecting much in return. 😀 I’d pay off our house, sock most of it in savings so my husband could quit his stressful job and retire early, set up a scholarship for students on the autistic spectrum at the tech school my son attends, and do a little traveling.

    3. I’m okay with pretty much anything, but had an allergic reaction to generic canned mushrooms once, so those are off the table.

    4. Great Britain to start and then on to parts of Europe, finishing up in Canada.

    5. There have been several: putting myself through college without debt after my dad died and it turned out he hadn’t saved anything for it; having a healthy pregnancy suddenly go dreadfully wrong; and taking care of my mother for the four years she still lived at home after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Got through it all with hard work, tenacity, prayer, good friends, great doctors, and a truly amazing husband.

  31. Lilypad

    I don’t remember how I found you but it was many years ago and I remain an avid fan.

    The hardest thing I’ve ever done is raising my 14 year old son who has multiple neurological disorders and accompanying depression/anxiety and also a high IQ which makes him question and argue about EVERYTHING. Because my husband works long hours, travels for work, and goes to bed early and leaves before my son and I wake up, I have to take care of my son by myself most of the time. We don’t get any help (or understanding) from our parents and sisters. There’s never enough money. My own health stinks a lot of the time and he gets his depression/anxiety directly from my branch of the family tree. So just surviving each day is an accomplishment for me. Your blog helps lighten the load, both with your financial info and also just knowing that you have survived your own difficult times.

    Lastly, if I had the money, I would take my son to Germany and Austria, places where I was happiest in my youth/young adulthood and where I still have cousins to visit—and coffee and cake to eat!!

    • Donna Freedman

      Glad I can help, even a little. Raising a neuro-atypical kid takes daily fortitude by the bushel. I bet when you hear other parents complain about tiny things — “She doesn’t want to do her homework,” “He won’t stop playing video games” — you want to smack a few heads.

      If at all possible, please find a few minutes a day to nurture yourself even if it’s just reading a chapter of a good book or taking a hot shower and blocking everything else out.

  32. 1. I think that I have been a reader since the inception of your blog. I found you via the famous $12,000 per year article. I love your sense of humor and your love of good writing. I also think that it’s really cool that we got to meet up for coffee in Vineland when you were South Jersey taking care of your aunt a few years back. Although we only had a couple of hours to chat, I felt like I had found a kindred spirit, even though our work lives were very different. I was in Alaska a couple of years ago (you happened to be away-darn!) and I was chuckling up a storm when the narrator on the train to Denaii proudly held up a program from (drumroll, please) the Talkeetna bachelor auction!
    2. If I won a MacArthur grant, I would quit the job that takes all too much of my time and would write and figure out a way to do some good in the world.
    3. store brand ice cream is the Zazu Pitts. No thank you!
    4. If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go…everywhere. I have a huge case of unrequited wanderlust, although we are working on our travel bucket list now that our kids are grown.
    5. The scariest thing that I have ever done was also the best-move my 2 kids to South Jersey and marry my husband. Like your DF, he is quite the veggie gardener and also nurtures me in all sorts of wonderful ways. He also makes me laugh-lots.
    Thank you, Donna for being a fun part of my week. I always look forward to your posts!

  33. Glenda Bossow

    1. Found you on MSN Money and kept following your writing.
    2. Hurry up and finish my master’s program in chemical education and then totally revamp the introductory chemistry courses at the small college where I’ve worked for 15 years, bringing in problem-solving and inquiry methods (my passion!)
    3.Canned vegetables (but only because I don’t eat canned vegetables at all; I always buy frozen or fresh)
    4.Germany; I was going to go with my daughter 10 years ago and then I somehow was able to buy a house instead. Never regretted it, but I’d still love to see where my ancestors came from. (Alaska comes in a close second).
    5.Started graduate school (on-line, only one course, but I was 59 years old and TERRIFIED).

  34. 1: Best Blog list from another PF blogger
    3: Washing up fluid. Blue Dawn all the way
    5: Australia or New Zealand

  35. Catseye

    1. I discovered you when you were still writing for MSNMoney.
    2. I would go to college full time to earn a BA. Maybe I’d start my own business. I would definitely put as much as I could into my IRA.
    3. Potato chips
    4. Hawaii, my dream destination.
    5. Going back to school at my age, in my precarious financial situation has been pretty damn scary. I just put one foot in front of the other and pray that this is going to pay off. Otherwise, I’ll have wasted my time and my retirement money.

    • Donna Freedman

      Going back to school in my late 40s, and graduating at age 52, was very scary indeed. I hope you will ultimately find it as rewarding as I did. Illegitimi non carborundum!

  36. 1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? Followed you here from MSN Money. Started reading when you were a student/handiwoman back in Seattle.

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money? I would fund the libraries in the hospitals in my area and promote health education and health literacy in the area I live in.

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat? I was raised on generic foods, so none.

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? I want to go to Australia/New Zeland.

    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it? I applied to graduate school 10 years after a less than stellar undergraduate performance. I found what I was supposed to be doing and graduated with a 3.75 GPA.

  37. Maureen

    Ok, I’ll bite!
    1) Found you through GRS. Love your positive attitude!
    2) Don’t know what the grant is, but I’d share money with my siblings.
    3) Will not eat Hunts or any ketchup other than Heinz.
    4) I would go to Alaska!
    5) Was being a parent and a wife! And I’d do it again.

  38. 1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? (Okay, that’s completely self-centered. But it’s my game and I get to make the rules.)

    Found you years ago on another site and realized you’re probably the best writer in the PF blogiverse. Follow.

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?

    Knock off working for the next 15 years and spend all my time writing.

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat?

    All of the above. My weirdness is I try not to eat processed foods…they’re oversalted & oversugared.

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

    Wherever they’d take me that didn’t involve riding on an airplane.

    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it?
    – See more at: http://donnafreedman.com/2015/08/02/tell-me-about-yourself/#sthash.ezNr0C7g.dpuf

    Divorced a strong earner to run off with a harmonica player. 😉 How’d I get through it? Raw luck.

  39. Jacqui B.

    1. Via MSN – your frugalness continues to inspire me and I like your writing style.
    2. I would buy some land and build a cottage amid trees for peace and privacy. Would build one also for my mom on the same property.
    3. Generics don’t bother me.
    4. England/Ireland/Wales/Scotland
    5. For my 50th birthday I decided to do something about my horrible eyesight. Contact lenses weren’t comfortable anymore and didn’t want to wear coke-bottle lenses. Eye specialist said eyes were too bad for laser surgery so I had surgery that implanted prescription lenses in my eyes. Super scary to think about someone cutting open your eyes. Glad I had it done, even though it will take me several years to pay it off.

  40. Michelle

    oooo I want to play!!

    1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? I think through GRS.
    A. I don’t read that one anymore, but I stick with yours because you just crack me up! You give great tips. I love your writing style and like others, the especially the fact that words are spelled correctly!

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?
    A. I’d pay off the house – that’s all we owe. Maybe take a trip and add most definitely save/invest the bulk of it. That’s just our way.

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat?
    A. That one is easy! Cheese Singles. Kraft has the only ones that are edible. I’ve tried every less expensive single out there and always end up throwing away most of the package because they are just nasty! Kraft all the way!

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    A. My first choice would be to go back to Ireland to spend more time exploring Blarney Castle. That was just the coolest thing I have ever seen and for some reason I felt the need to leave the castle grounds after only a very short amount of time to (gulp) shop at the gift shop. What in the world I was thinking, I don’t have a clue! Other than Ireland, I’d take a free trip to pretty much anywhere provided it came with an interpreter!

    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it?
    A. This one is easy too. I got pregnant and had a baby. I know that women all over the world have been doing it for centuries but getting pregnant was totally scary. I worried about everything I did, didn’t do, and ate. Giving birth to her was scary too, although I was SOO releived when my doc said she was stuck and I was going to have to have a C-section. No pushing! whew! Also scary – having a needle in my back scared the bejezus out of me too….but oh the sweet relief when it kicked in! Every day since has been kind of scary to… now I worry about what SHE does, doesn’t do, and eats! sigh!

    Donna – did I miss your answers to these questions?!

  41. Make Do Mom

    I was hooked by your $12K article, and reeled in by “The life I once led.”
    I would use the grant to fund side projects with the research I am currently pursuing – could be a game changer in safety of our food supply.
    I cook mostly from scratch and generics are about the same as name brands in the staple ingredients arena.
    I would book passage on the Queen Mary 2 to London then hop aboard the Orient-Express to Venice.
    The scariest thing I ever did was divorcing after 27 years of marriage. I got through it with the help of a small army of family and friends, and by finally realizing the marriage was far scarier than the divorce.

  42. Melissa F

    Fun questions!
    1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading?
    Somehow, I believe, I got your link through my FreeBeesForMe on Yahoo website. I keep readying because you are so down to earth and relatable with a great writing style. I enjoy the great advice mixed with bits of humor and some sweet things you share with your DF. I have to admit the bachelor auction thingy is hilarious and something I look forward to hearing about. I always say to myself that I would love to go there just once! Of course, I am deathly afraid of flying and also a little bit of a shy person (in person) so it is not in my plans just yet.

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?
    I would pay off my mortgage (under 15 grand), I would buy a newer used car (about 5 grand), I would put $100,000 grand away for retirement and give my children each $100,000 (2 kids). I would build a playground here in our town ($30,000) and wow, there would still be a lot of money left. I am a giver, so I don’t think I would have a problem finding people to help.

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat?
    Probably the only thing I have to have name brand is my Heinz ketchup. I never really cared for any of the other brands. Everything else is fine with me.

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    Las Vegas by train, bus, or automobile.

    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it? Woke up in the middle of the night and agreed to get married to my then boyfriend of 6 weeks. We left within 30 minutes of the conversation and headed to Virginia and got married the next morning in a little church there. And are living happily ever after…

  43. 1. I’ve been stalking you since your MSN money days.
    2. I’d really like to set up an animal sanctuary, but that probably isn’t enough money.
    3. Very few. But I’ve just discovered that store brand dishwasher detergent is horrible!!!
    4. England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. And since all expenses are paid, can I retire there???
    5. I moved out of the country for work. Got through the confusion with the help of existing ex-pat employees who were generous with their time and advice. I made sure to help others who were coming in as well, just to pay things forward.

  44. I googled you after msn, I like your voice, especially the humour, and I too grind my teeth at writers who don’t know the difference between your and you’re. Would spend the grant on world travel. so many here have similiar tastes, eating tour of Italy yes! and France, north and south, everywhere. Refuse to eat boxed mac n cheese. That colour is unnatural. Plus, I make great cheese sauce. Scariest thing, giving birth the first time, divorcing- scary but so necessary. Now, having to manage on my own. Realising in my society (not US) when you tell people you need help, they start thinking about how they can take advantage of you. Sad. I am more careful now.

    • Donna Freedman

      Hey, I was the one who initiated the divorce but yes, it was scary and yes, it was necessary. And believe it or not, the day I got up to go to court I felt a wave of regret and sadness. Now I think it was regret/sadness for all the time I wasted.

      Thanks for reading.

  45. 1. From GRS; I keep reading because you are smart and thoughtful, and talk about stuff of interest to me.

    2. If I got that grant I would pay off all our debt and cut five years off the retirement timeline and then dive back into competitive DanceSport to try & help get it into the 2024 Olympic Games.

    3. I eat numerous Safeway branded foods because as far as I know they are indistinguishable from “brand” names; I don’t eat generic meat.

    4. If offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere, it would probably be “me and husband eating (and drinking) our way through France, Spain, and Italy.”

    5. The scariest thing I ever did could be one of two things. Moving to L.A. without ever having visited it; or getting rid of the wanna-be-screenwriter even though it cost me $30,000 and almost all my furniture and a whole lot of angst.

    • Donna Freedman

      To paraphrase Mr. Wilde, angst is never cheap and rarely simple. But you’re out of it now.

      Thanks for your kind words about my writing.

  46. MSN , start a company to help people prioritize financial and legal goals that they could trust , cheez-its, Hawaii to see whales migrate up to Alaska on cruise ship, moved to a new state with 2 little kids and started a business, stubbornness!

  47. 1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? Your 12k Surviving & Thriving article on MSN. I continue reading because the posts are interesting & your site hasn’t turned into one of those snooty financial blogs where the articles are no longer relatable.

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money? Are there stipulations on how the money needs to be used? If not, pay off all of my debt (after November it’ll only be student loans & car). Pay off my Dad’s debt. Establish a sizable emergency savings & invest so it (hopefully) continues to grow. Hire a nutritionist & personal trainer/yoga instructor. Fund my photography/book idea. Take some photography education courses. And travel, a lot.

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat? I love store brand, especially Aldi, HyVee, & Target. But off-brand oreos & mac n cheese never stack up lol

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? I’m already planning my dream vacation to England (+ Scotland & Amsterdam) May 2016, so for this trip.. a tour around Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, & the Philippines.

  48. 1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading?
    I’m pretty sure I found this site through Get Rich Slowly. And I found Abby’s site through yours. I keep reading because I like your “voice” and most of your posts. I say “most” becaues I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes, so could not relate to your haiku. :-/

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?
    I’ll have to get back to you on this one. I can’t even imagine qualifying for something like that. Maybe I’d buy a little shack here in the Bay Area? (‘Cause you can’t get much house around here even with that much money!)

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat?
    I had a bad experience with generic canned cream corn as a child, so I guess that would be the food I’d avoid. (There was a bug in the spoonful I put in my mouth. YUCK!!)

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    The Talkeetna Bachelor Auction! Ha, ha, just kidding! Sort of…actually, I popped over here today to see when the planning for that trip starts since I’m thinking now that I’m on the west coast I may actually join you for the fun this year! I think if I did get awarded such an outstanding opportunity I’d opt for something very expensive like one of the repositioning trips on a Lindblad cruise across the Atlantic and up the coast of Africa…or a trip to Sri Lanka or Madagascar.

    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it?
    I got married. And then I got divorced. I got through the scariness of marriage by taking anti-anxiety meds and going to therapy. I got through the divorce the same way.

    • Donna Freedman

      My friend Linda B. — whom you’ll meet if you come to Talkeetna — loves tomato-based foods but hates raw tomatoes. She refers to the innards of the fruit as “tomato snot.” Eeewww.

      Hope we see you in Talkeetna. E-mail me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com with any questions you have.

      Airfares might not be so bad: I just got a one-way ticket to Charlotte, NC, for a little over $300 and a one-way ticket from Philly to Anchorage for $316. Unheard of in years past. And early December isn’t exactly the high season on the Last Frontier, so maybe you’d luck out as well. I have a couple other frugal hacks to suggest, so let me know if you’re interested.

  49. 1. How did you find this site, and why do you keep reading? (Okay, that’s completely self-centered. But it’s my game and I get to make the rules.)

    It’s been so long, I don’t even remember. I keep reading because every now and again you post another of your amazing short essays.

    2. You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?

    I’d probably write the boob book, which isn’t going to get done because I’ve got other things to do (like earn a living…) than try to hustle up another literary agent.

    3. Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat? Most of them. Processed foods are full of salt and sugar; I don’t eat them — brand name’s irrelevant.

    4. If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

    Probably back to New Zealand. Or maybe to the south of France.

    5. What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it?

    Scariest scary thing? Dodged a head-on collision. Made an instantaneous decision to pull my car across the oncoming lane (into which it had landed when I jammed on the brakes at 60 mph after a guy drove out of a country lane directly in front of me) and steer onto the shoulder on the opposite side of the road.

    Scariest thing that was actually a conscious decision? Divorced a man who was among the top 3% of earners in the US. Very, very stupid. Saved from taking up residence under the freeway overpass only by raw luck.

    – See more at: http://donnafreedman.com/2015/08/02/tell-me-about-yourself/#sthash.y67veEOW.dpuf

    • Donna Freedman

      The trouble with essays is that they take time to think up and then write — and that takes time away from earning a living and, yeah, my fella. Some day I will find the work-life balance. Today is not that day.

  50. Punkin Pye

    Okay, I know I’m waaaaay late for this party. It seems like everyone I know has been in the hospital all summer, so I didn’t feel like I had time to answer these questions when this post came out. But, what the heck, I’ll give them a go:

    1. I found you when I read your now famous article about living on $12,000. I was already frugilista but I was intrigued on how you were able to actually live on such a small amount. I keep reading because you are awesome (so is Abby).

    2. After paying off my house and getting new carpet and paint, I would help a young man I know get a car (he really deserves the help). I would get some really good mental health and career counseling for a couple of family members. I would help my best friends elderly parents.

    3. No one is taking away my Miracle Whip.

    4. The United Kingdom.

    5. The scariest thing I ever did was getting through my very difficult pregnancy. I had several bleeding episodes in my second trimester…as in standing in a pool of my own blood. Then the doctors very diplomatically suggested I have an abortion because my baby would probably be so physically and mentally damaged that he would live his life in an institution. He is now a college graduate and a 25 year old chick magnet. I got through it relying on God. He didn’t disappoint me.


  1. Ask me (almost) anything. - Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving - […] recent “Tell me about yourself” post produced some very interesting responses. One of the commenters, Michelle, asked whether […]

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