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Saying 'no' to Madison Ave.
Holly Ordway doesn't let advertisers influence her buying habits because she's tuned them out.
February 15, 2005: 9:59 AM EST
By Deshundra Jefferson, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Madison Avenue can't sway Holly Ordway. It can't even reach her.

The 30-year-old technical writer, and creator of SpendingWisely.com, rarely listens to the radio, doesn't watch broadcast or cable television, and doesn't subscribe to "ad-filled" magazines.

Holly wants to disconnect from what she deems the "consumer-hype industry." Frugal living is her long-term savings strategy.

"I have lots of little tricks, but any one of those is irrelevant by itself," she explained. "It's the big picture, and for me the big picture is: I think about what I spend."

There's no budget or spending plan involved in her decision-making. Holly simply aims to spend as little as possible and save the rest. She admits that it runs counter to the pay-yourself-first theory of saving, but it's a strategy that has allowed her and her husband, Noel, 32, to save more than half of her gross income.

"If you have the philosophy of saving 10 percent to 15 percent then you end up spending the rest. That also puts you in the trap of thinking, 'As my income increases, so will my spending,'" she said.

Neither she nor her husband has any debt. Holly had about $10,000 in student loans, but paid that off within two years. There's no mortgage to worry about as they opted to rent rather than buy so that they can pick up their stakes as they please.

Choosing to spend less

A frugal life can be a fairly comfortable one too.

Holly decorated her previous apartments, and current San Diego-area digs, mainly through rummaging through the classifieds, flea markets, and used furniture stores. Among her findings: an antique cherry wood desk acquired for $70 and a solid oak dining set, purchased for $100.

She's well-versed in the Yankee skill of haggling, thanks to her dad. That helped her shave a few dollars off a coffee table she bought for $10 (seller wanted $15-$20) and a futon purchased through Craigslist (paid $120 instead of the $150 asking price).

Many of her finds are better quality than new items sold for the same price. And having an apartment that she can "live in" is a higher priority than a polished, designer magazine look.

Holly has an impressive 200-plus DVD collection that costs nothing to add to. Using an Amazon.com Visa card to pay for ordinary purchases garners enough points to qualify for a $25 gift certificate every other month. They pay off their balance each month, making that gift certificate a fun little freebie.

She also reviews DVDs for an Internet movie site, so that helps to add new titles to their collection.

"I get to watch interesting things that would never occur to me to buy," she notes. "It's nice when you can take one of your hobbies and make it work for you."

Another thing that keeps them out of the theaters is their entertainment system -- complete with surround sound -- purchased a few years ago to recreate the movie-going experience.

Doesn't sound like much of a money-saving move. But Holly's fairly astute at determining which purchases are needs versus wants, and which wants are worth indulging.

"I'm willing to think critically about purchases that most people in the United States take for granted," she explains. "For instance, in my household we have just one car."

Except in bad weather, their preferred mode of transportation is to bike. So there's little reason for the pair to get that second car or to worry about all extra expenses, be it gas or insurance, that would come with one.

She's careful about committing to recurring expenses -- yet another reason not to subscribe cable -- as she says it can really add up.

All things considered, Holly and Noel live on less than $30,000 a year. Not bad for a six-figure couple.

"Being frugal is all about making good choices with your money," she said. "It is important to understand how you are spending your money and to know that you are spending it in ways that match your goals."  Top of page

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