Ingram: Living frugally is all about value

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Going the do-it-yourself route on home-improvement projects isn’t always the most cost-effective way, says Leah Ingram. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it could cost more in the long run.

Ingram is the author of the “Suddenly Frugal” blog and two books, and is a columnist for Good Housekeeping and Parade magazines. She says her brand of frugal is more about value—getting the best bang for your buck, she says—rather than the least expensive way to do things. For example, she and her husband installed their own kitchen cabinets and did their own interior painting. However, a few projects, such as exterior painting or refinishing a wood floor, call for an expertise or equipment that they don’t have. Ingram says that, in such cases, she believes that it’s more frugal to use a professional to avoid spending money to fix mistakes.

When it comes to investments, Ingram says she plays only in conservative mutual funds, and she adheres to the recommendations of her financial adviser. She says having a professional guide her investment decisions fits with her “frugal value” philosophy by lessening the chance of her losing money because of stock-market fluctuations. Ingram says she used to invest in short-term (no longer than 6 months) certificates of deposit but now avoids them because of a lack of value: “With interest rates pathetically low, that kind of strategy simply wouldn’t make sense these days,” she says.