If a fashionista is a slave to fashion, is a frugalista a slave to saving money?

Hardly. In fact, I see frugality as a liberating force. Being a frugalista means refusing to be enslaved -- by debt, by convention, by financial insecurity. It means figuring out how to buck spending habits that aren't working for you, how to get what you want for less, and how to shed what wasn't making you happy anyway. It's about playing the marketers instead of letting the marketers play you. And on the best days, it's about getting free chocolate -- or better yet, making money buying it.

My name is Carrie Kirby, and I am the Frugalista. I'm a Chicago-area stay-at-home mom and writer. After quitting my job as a newspaper reporter to be with the kids, I quickly learned why they call it home economics. It seems you have to be an economic genius to make a home work these days on just one income.

My grandmother, who grew up during the Depression, had that frugal genius, and I learned a lot from her. But the big difference between the coupon-clipping moms of yore and the Frugalista? Community. Today, you actually don't have to be an economic genius to fill your household needs for cheap or free, because there are so many people out there showing you the way. There are online forums, coupon databases and blogs all dedicated to sharing the latest deals while they're still hot.

Here at Frugalista I'll give you a heads up when hot deals are discovered, especially Chicago-area deals. And I hope you'll tip us off too when you find a good one.

Frugal living is a hot topic these days, and I'm glad so many more people are learning to live less expensively. But I don't see it as a fad. I think once you learn to live the Frugalista lifestyle -- getting high-quality groceries for ramen prices, toiletries for free, eating at nice restaurants for dimes on the dollar -- you won't go back, no matter what happens to the economy. You'll be a frugalista, too.

Can't get enough of the Frugalista? Luckily for you, I'm all over the freakin' Internet:

Wise Bread -- Frugal lifestyle blog to which I contribute. Lots of tips and novel ways to look at life without financial distress. And hey, we just wrote our first book: 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

My Funny, Funny Family -- This is where I write about being a mom to two rowdy little women, recently joined by a little brother who I imagine will show me the true meaning of the word "rowdy."

Chicago Moms Blog -- I belong to this network of fab local moms who write about every aspect of raising kids in the Windy City.

If all that's not enough, I worry about you. Shouldn't you be out getting some free Vitamin D before the sunshine leaves us for another 9 months? But, OK, whatever -- you can get even more of the Frugalista if you follow me on Twitter -- I'm @carriekirby. Consider it the intraveinous drip that tides you over until the next Frugalista post.

If you have a tip for the Frugalista or just want to send lavish compliments, I'm carrielynnkirby AT You know, but with an @ where I wrote AT. It's our little code.

Disclosure: As of March 9, 2010, I'll be using some affiliate links on Frugalista. This means that if you click through my link and buy something or sign up for a program, I'll make a little money for that transaction. If you choose to make your purchases this way, I thank you kindly for helping me continue paying my babysitter so I can write Frugalista! If you don't want to use these links, we're still friends!

Does this mean that Frugalista is only going to write about products that will make me money from now on? Hardly. For instance, I will continue pointing you to all the great coupon deals at the grocery stores, which of course won't generate any revenue for me. But if I get the chance to make a few bucks on a deal I was going to point out anyway, why not, right?

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