When I talked to Jordan Page, the 30-year-old mother of five behind the frugal living website Fun, Cheap, or Free, I have to admit that I felt a little … well, like a loser.
Here is a woman who is my age, has five children under the age of six, a successful business, seemingly endless amounts of energy, can do a full face of make-up in less than five minutes, and just moved into a home that has its own tennis court.
Oh, and a life-sized chess board too.
What makes Page’s story all the more impressive is that she and her husband, Bubba, a sales technology entrepreneur, bought the house after spiraling into over $15,000 worth of debt only a few short years ago.
While living on Bubba’s salary of just over $31,000 a year and dealing with a real estate investment that went south, Page (a stay-at-home mom at the time) took charge of the family’s finances and invested all of her time and energy into saving money and living frugally.
When Page began learning more about their finances, she was surprised to discover that although she and her husband were both frugal people, they weren’t actually good at managing their money.
“There’s a difference,” explains Page. “We really didn’t know how to properly budget realistically and how to set up systems that would last forever.”
So Page decided to change the way they were living and start saving to pay off their debt. They had planned to accomplish this goal in five years. Instead, it only took 13 months.
Finding a lack of financial advice for moms like her who are “not naturally good with numbers [and] really like Target,” Page started a blog and used it to share her learnings.
Her tips, tricks, and energetic personality have landed her everywhere from the now-cancelled Extreme Cheapskates to Good Morning America. Her next dream? To have her own Extreme Makeover: Finances Edition, where she helps struggling families overcome debt. (Now, who wouldn’t watch that?)
Page says that the principles she and her husband learned changed everything about the way they manage money and it has also allowed them to live even better than they were previously.
According to Page, it’s all about learning to say “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to other things. It’s also important to understand that it’s never about saying you can’t afford something, but challenging yourself to find out how you can afford it.
For instance, Page really wanted an iPad for her birthday, but it wasn’t in their budget. So her husband entered every business giveaway he could at his work’s trade shows until he won not one but two iPads.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the year the Pages climbed out of their debt was also the year they had the most fun of their lives. They challenged themselves to find fun, cheap or free activities to do together and discovered there are lots of options — everything from free movies in the park to going on free vacations in exchange for attending timeshare presentations.
“Sacrifice,” she says, “is about giving up something good for something great.”
Eventually, her husband found success with new business ventures. That, coupled with her own success as a frugal living expert, helped them get to where they are now: living in a sprawling 8,600-square foot dream home in Utah.
When Page and her husband first purchased her house, she was faced with some criticism about advocating for “frugal” living while also living in a virtual mansion. But Page says that her new home is really a testament to what she’s been preaching all along: managing your money well can help you achieve your own individual financial goals, whatever those goals may be.
“I’m really open with my readers,” says Page. “Why would I feel like I have to hide this? No one handed us anything … it was all hard work and discipline. My readers started realizing: like if I had a fitness account but never lost weight, they might not listen to me. Success inspires hope.”
Page explains on her website that they previously bought fixer-upper homes that they flipped for significant profit. That, combined with her husband’s new-found business success and years of saving, enabled them to buy their dream home.
Page has built a devoted following on social media (who dubbed themselves “Freebs”) and believes that for women and stay-at-home parents especially, it’s extremely important to take part in the family’s finances, even if they are not earning an income.
“Whoever stays home is the most important person to be involved in the family finances,” she says. “They are the ones making most of the financial decisions for the family. A lot of people think it’s the big financial decisions that make a difference … but honestly it’s the day-to-day 5, 10, 20, 50-dollar decisions that make or break a family’s financial situation.”
And most importantly, Page says, managing your money needs to be a responsibility shared by both partners.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the one who makes the money or manages the money, it’s definitely a group effort,” says Page. “And you can’t really find major success unless you do it together.”
In the end, Page is not ashamed of living in what she laughingly calls an “ostentatious” home, because she believes that the principles and strategies that she teaches work — whether you are saving for your dream home or an indulgent trip to Target.
“[My tips] show people exactly how they are able to do it, with your own financial situation and your financial goals … Whatever it is, there’s no shame in it, as long as you work,” she adds. “Rock what you got.”