About PennyWise Newsletter

Paula Vogelgesang, of Wanblee, South Dakota, practices what she preaches in her PennyWise frugal newsletter, which she puts together each month in her home office.

When she first came up with the idea of starting a newsletter in 1993, "I saw a television show about someone publishing a newsletter on how to save money, and I thought, 'I could do that'. I realized being frugal is something I've done all my life. Those in agriculture are automatically recyclers and re-users of everything."

Paula and her late husband Conrad were partners in the family farm, which is on the edge of the Badlands, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in western South Dakota. They are the parents of two grown children and raised their grandson, Michael, who is the fifth generation to share the land they live on and love.

Her expertise comes from her occupation of farmer/partner.

Farmers are paid just once a year when they sell their crop, and that money has to last twelve months. And weather, insects, market price all affect that income. There have been years when Paula's family of two adults and three children had a spending plan of $300 a month or less. It wasn't easy, but they proved it could be done with careful planning and smart spending.

A newcomer to publishing, Paula gathered up her ideas and filled the first issue of PennyWise with money- and time-saving hints, hand-drawn illustrations, recipes, and craft ideas. For the first 4 1/2 years, the newsletter was typed on a $25 second-hand typewriter. Headlines and graphics are still done with a black marker, although the text is now typed on a computer.

Marketing was basic. 

I mailed it to everyone I knew and asked them to share with friends. We now have subscribers in all 50 states, and overseas, too, who came mostly by word-of-mouth.

Subscribers play an important part in the lewsletter's success, as readers send in their own hints and ideas. They are great at sharing ideas on how they make do. "Rural women are quite adept, as anyone involved in agriculture knows knows how to stretch a dollar," Paula says. Prices fluctuate like a yo-yo and farm women are able to stretch a dollar further than anyone else, because they don't know what their next paycheck will be from one crop to the next. And often, they have only one paycheck per year.

Paula's goal for the future of PennyWise is to one day soon hire local women. On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, jobs are scarce and there is very little industry. The unemployment rate is between 70-80% and it's often a 30-40 mile one-way drive to a minimum wage job.

Paula also wants to encourage others to follow their dreams. 

When I started this business, I had $200 and a dream that I could make a difference in people's lives, and it's working beyond my wildest dreams! People are learning to simplify their lives, live within their means, and enjoy themselves again. Today, Paula writes columns for several publications, does a monthly demonstration of frugal ideas on KOTA-TV in Rapid City, and has a booth at the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City in late January-early February each year.

"You can choose to be in debt the rest of your life," she says, "or you can manage your money in such a way that you are free. The true joy in living is peace of mind and freedom from financial worry."

PennyWise has subscribers in every state and three countries. 

There is no advertising and the newsletter is subscription based. Subscribe today to start your own journey to debt-free, simple, joyful living.

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