Being Frugal in Chicago with Lisa Koivu

By , March 15, 2010 11:42 am

Lisa celebrating a life of frugality

Lisa celebrating a life of frugality

With the tough economy still all over everyone’s mind, we’ve decided to feature Chicago’s very own frugal tip celebrity, Lisa Koivu. Lisa is the blogger behind Fantabulously Frugal, a blog dedicated to sharing how to live a life ‘On-Sale’!

F: What inspired you to start the Fantabulously Frugal blog? It must have been good timing with the recent recession when you decided to start it.
LK: I started Fantabulously Frugal when I was reaching the end of grad school and was in a bit of a panic about what I was going to do with all of my free time. I was still working full time but was worried about all of the hours I’d have free in the evenings. (I guess I’m a little crazy.) I spent a weekend just thinking about things that I might be good at, but had to rule most of them out. I mean, I love reading gossip magazines but with no access to anything Hollywood-related, couldn’t really parlay that into anything substantial. I also love eating cupcakes, but I abhor making them. It came to me literally in the middle of the night that one thing I’m quite good at is finding bargains on the internet. And thus Fantabulously Frugal was born.

F: How did you get so good at finding deals and steals?
LV: I think it goes back to have a very thrifty childhood. When I was growing up we didn’t buy anything unless we had a coupon or it was on sale. I remember standing in line at the grocery store with my dad once and complaining about how we never bought Lucky Charms and I told him it was stupid that we needed a coupon in order to buy something. I remember him asking me why I thought it was stupid to want to save money on something, and that has always stuck with me. Why would you want to pay full price for something when you can so easily get it for less? And now that I clip coupons I realize that there were probably many coupons for Lucky Charms and my parents were just ignoring them.

Their sense of frugality has always stuck with me and there are very few things for which I’ve ever paid full price. I’m a Mac gal and I even spent time trying to figure out how to get the best discount on my Mac before purchasing. I feel good when I don’t pay full price for something, and I enjoy helping others feel the same way.

F: Any particular post on FF that got the most attention ?
LK: One of my favorite posts to compile and one that people seem to find over and over again is a post I did on everything I was able to get for free on my birthday. I’d had that post in mind ever since the early days of Fantabulously Frugal and I spent those months trying to get myself onto every mailing list possible, and especially ones that asked for your birth date. I have to say – my haul was pretty good, though I have high hopes that my tally of freebies will be much higher this year! I received multiple free meals, cosmetics, and many other items – it was awesome!

F: What neighborhood do you live in? And what do you like about it?
LK: I live on the edge of Lincoln Square and on the edge of Old Irving and so I’ll cover them both. What I like about the Old Irving Part of town is that I’m just a half mile walk from the Target on Addison. I make a trip to Target every single weekend so this location has been great for that. I can combine walking with shopping! In terms of Lincoln Square, I love how walkable the neighborhood is and the large number of outstanding restaurants. We used to live in River North and so we were able to walk to all of downtown Chicago’s finest establishments. I’m not kidding, however, when I saw I prefer the atmosphere and the restaurants more in Lincoln Square. Bistro Campagne is a particular favorite of mine.

F: What are your favorite places to bargain hunt in Chicago?
LK: Target, Target, Target! Seriously, I cannot get enough of that place! One Chicago-based store that I write about on my site is AKIRA Chicago. The fashions are fun and also remarkably affordable. (And they always have a killer sale section!)
Another of my favorites is Craigslist. I know that sounds kind of silly but Craigslist has been a life saver since I moved to Chicago 6 years ago. I’ve found so much inexpensive furniture through the site and even sold some myself. You never know what you’ll find and I try to check the listings at least once per week.

F: Tell us what things that you’re not frugal with and love to splurge on
LK: For the most part, almost nothing is off limits to my frugality. This is kind of embarrassing, but two months ago my boyfriend and I bought a puppy. We picked the puppy we now have because he was on sale! However, there are really only two exceptions to my frugal ways. Like I already said, I’m a Mac gal. (The computer, not the make-up.) I was lucky when I bought my latest MacBook that I was able to figure out a way to buy it with a little bit of a discount. However, even if I hadn’t, I still would have bought the computer. Buying a much cheaper PC is just not an option. Also, I’m not frugal about restaurants. I will never choose to eat at a restaurant because it will cost less than another restaurant. Dining choices are based strictly on quality.

F: When not updating FF, what else keeps you busy in the city?
LK: I enjoy taking my new sale puppy, Bacon, out for walks in Chicago’s many parks. In the summer I enjoy hitting up different farmer’s markets around the city. I just discovered the new French Market in Ogilvie and plan on heading down there on a regular basis to do the bulk of my grocery shopping. That market is amazing and has everything from meats to cheeses to freshly baked breads to Belgian french fries! Delicious! If you haven’t guessed, my favorite thing to do in the city when it comes right down to it is eat. I’m constantly trying new restaurants and trying to find new markets!

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