Her Royal Highness Speaks: An Interview With the Frugal Duchess
Is your inner frugal diva searching for inspiration? Looking for some great ideas that won't leave you feeling frumpy? Read on to get some words of wisdom from shoestring royalty. Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, otherwise known as The Frugal Duchess, shares her favorite sources and splurges, including regular shopping trips to the glamorous Hand Me Down Boutique. Read on to find out how this Miami Herald reporter and writer of The Frugal Duchess blog keeps it all together and on track financially.
Walk us through a day in your work at home life. The trials, the tribulations, and the trivia.
I have two speeds: super organized or totally discombobulated. When I’m organized and productive, I begin the day with a strategy mapped out the night before. For example, 7:00 to 7:30 am: Make school lunches and get the kids off to school. 7:30 to 8:00 write daily journal entry…and so on. As such, my day is charted in 30 minute segments from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I try to strike a balance between creative writing (fiction and poetry), blogging, journalism and various copy-editing projects for different clients.
However! On my disarray days, I enter the day-dream dimension and randomly drift from project to project, emergency to emergency. On those days, I often work harder and longer, but not smarter. My goal is to be more frugal and sensible with my use of time.
Secret source: Your favorite place to get good cheap stuff that you love.
This is a great question for me because I just found a cute skirt made by the Limited, but sold at Marshall’s for $1. I also have great luck at Anthropologie and Ann Taylor Loft. But really, and I’m being honest, my best bargains come from friends and relatives with great taste and generous spirits. The HMD (hand-me-down) Boutique is my best source of free, but elegant clothes.
Secret splurge: Anything you love so much you'll splurge on it no matter what?
I am a secret Spa Diva. I love day spas and massages. A good massage revives my spirits, soothes my aching typing muscles and makes me work harder. And yeah, I’ve totally rationalized that occasional splurge. I almost have myself convinced that I should have daily spa dates.
You have multiple projects and topics you write about, for the Miami Herald as well as your Frugal Duchess blog. And I know from having worked with you for a bit now just how busy your life is. How do you organize it all and keep up with everything? I know the readers would love some inside tips from a pro . . .
Your question is very kind and you make me sound as if I have it all together. Ha! Whenever I interview professional organizers, I can almost hear them shake their heads in disapproval of my cluttered and over-scheduled life.
Frankly, sometimes I commit to far more projects and deadlines than I can reasonably handle and still be sane. So my next goal is to be more realistic and honest about my time and to set better priorities. I spend a lot of time in my pajamas. Sometimes, I’ll look up at the clock and wonder how the day disappeared into my keyboard. I’m working on eliminating unproductive, wheel-spinning worries. Confession: I have days when I feel paralyzed by what-ifs and regrets.
If I’m stuck in a rut, I'll go for a walk, pop in yoga tape or talk to a good friend. A few days ago, I relaxed by painting with a watercolor set from a dollar store. Prayer, meditation and yoga enable me to keep going. And as I mentioned earlier, I really try to schedule my days. I’m such a dreamer and I need a strict schedule in order to keep myself anchored in reality.
Underwire or regular?
My mother would sooooo ground me for life if I answered any questions about my underwear.
What are your favorite ways to save money and live large at the same time? At Wise Bread, we're always on the look out for new ideas, and I've seen some cool ones your blog.
My favorite way to save money is to avoid shopping malls and avoid sugar. The best sales are those I completely avoid. I’ve also been cutting back on my sugar consumption. Between soft drinks, candy and cakes, I was really over-spending on junk food. I estimate that sweet snacks were costing me about $1,000 a year. Since, I’ve cut back, I have felt better physically and mentally. It’s a fiscal and physical purge.
I also enjoy the services of a personal yoga trainer. Her hourly rate is $70, but because I share her services with a group of women, it’s a very frugal deal. (We each pay $10 for the hour). Through this shared PT hour, we enjoy the benefits of a highly trained sports expert in a very small class setting. It’s affordable and luxurious. My inner spa diva is quite happy with the set-up.
Most memorable media moment?
My family has been on Oprah (long story, fun episode) and a few other national shows. Those shoots were fun and entertaining. But my weirdest media moment happened when I first moved to New York City during the mid 1980s.
I worked full-time as a research assistant for Editor & Publisher magazine. The salary was super low, so I also worked as a waitress at night. It was the mid 1980s, and Campbell Soup sponsored a contest for waiters and waitresses.
- The gimmick: We had to run around Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan while carrying a tray of soup.
- The obstacle: You had to run fast, but keep most of the soup in the bowl.
I was a fast runner and I came in second. But I panicked when I realized that the first and second-place runners were going to be photographed by the media, including print and television reports. Normally, I’m such a ham. I will smile and pose for any camera.
There was just one problem: In order to compete in the race—which was during business hours—I had called in sick at the magazine. I tried to duck out of the posed shots. No luck. I won a cash prize and I had to pose. I dreaded going to work the next day. Fortunately, my boss did not see any of the news coverage. But a few co-workers saw the coverage. I begged them to keep it quiet and learned important lessons:
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t call in sick if you’re not.
- Don’t compete for a big prize if you can’t afford to be photographed.
What I love about these responses?
They illustrate clearly how possible it is to be real and true to yourself while striking a professional balance in a very public line of work. Thanks Sharon, for such a candid interview! I'm looking forward to more great ideas from The Frugal Duchess.