Airman’s Blog Mixes Fun into Lessons in Frugality

Amiyrah Martin is obsessed with shoes and not shy about it.

Peep-toe pumps, ballerina flats, motorcycle boots, open-back clogs, Grecian sandals … if they belong on two feet, she wants them … on her two feet!

“I openly covet shoes,” she told Debt.org. “Nothing makes me happier than splurging on a nice pair of shoes.”

That’s kind of a bummer because she’s also obsessed with being frugal. Dropping $100 on a cute pair of Steve Madden boots is not really the kind of scrimping she recommends on her popular blog, even though she openly admits to owning more than 60 pairs of shoes

“But no way do I come close to paying $100 for a pair of shoes,” Martin protests. “I might spend $25 or $30 on a pair or maybe even up to $50, if I have a great gift card and the shoes are on sale or I go online and find a deep discount.

“But no way am I spending $100 on shoes. I’m only window shopping in the stores that sell the $100 shoes.”

Get Something for Nothing

Finding ways to get something for nothing, or as close to nothing as she can get, is Martin’s off-duty occupation. Her full-time job is being a munitions specialist for the U.S. Air Force, which she says is a polite way of saying she builds bombs. She’s based in New Jersey, and her unit builds, inspects and then arms Air Force fighters.

“It’s actually a fun job,” Martin said. “The Air Force does a good job making you proud of what you do. You understand the severity of the job and how you have to protect the people that are protecting you from the bad guys. You get pumped up about what you’re doing and your responsibility for doing it. That’s been good for me.”

The adrenaline left over from her full-time job goes into her part-time position as a blogger for those who’d like to blow up their own budget. She started writing after she came home from a Christmas vacation in 2006 and discovered the brand-new Honda Civic she’d purchased six months before, was missing from her driveway.

She called police to report it stolen. They responded with even worse news: The car had been repossessed.

“I just about dropped the phone,” she said. “I kind of knew we’d had trouble making the payments, but I thought I deserved that car. It was mine! Getting that news was like a shot right in the heart.”

She and her husband, Brandon, both worked 40-50 hours a week. They had a son, Brandon Jr., shortly after getting married and would welcome a daughter, Alannah, a few years later. Their lifestyle was fun, but certainly not outlandish. Yet they couldn’t afford payments on a Honda Civic. Time to blow up that budget.

“I honestly couldn’t figure out where all our money went,” Martin said. “Our budget really wasn’t a budget because everything we made, was being used. There was no room for splurging because the money was already spent.”

She decided to take a daily accounting of her family’s spending habits and blog about it. She quickly discovered that paying for daycare, eating out four to five nights a week, impulse shopping for shoes, hats, clothes – and Honda Civics – made for a humbling experience when the bills arrived at the end of the month.

Detailing all that in a blog helped her reverse direction. She started out writing about cheap recipes that helped the grocery budget. Readers responded with cheap recipes of their own. She moved on to cheap ways of shopping for clothes, shoes and accessories. Readers continued to respond, and soon 4hatsandfrugal.com was alive with fun and inexpensive ideas.

Videos Increase Fun Factor

Martin added some personal touches with music and videos, both done on the cheap — meaning she writes, films, edits and stars in all of them herself. Many of the videos include catchy background music that adds a great tempo to the message. The music is downloaded from a website that offers free tracks.

“It’s free, as long as you credit the artist,” Martin said.  “But it just shows that you can do things well and not have to pay a lot of money for it.”

And that remains the focus of her site. She has videos on removing acne with a drop of vitamin E oil; a list of clothing and home appliances that typically are discounted heavily in February; a recipe for slow-cooking chicken in beer; and tips on how to inexpensively satisfy an obsession with hats.

“When I started the blog, the goal was to be accountable and responsible about spending,” Martin said. “My family, especially my husband, has been great about that, and we’re in a very, very good place with our finances now because of it.

“But I also want this to be fun. If you stay within your budget, eventually you’re going to have enough left over to splurge on something. That’s always my goal: Be frugal enough that I’ll have some money left over to splurge on something that makes me happy.”

Sounds like another pair of shoes is headed for her closet!

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

Amiyrah Martin

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