Hey everyone! For our first reader interview in the new year, we’re meeting a nurse who recently moved back to the U.S. from Hong Kong.
(You may remember we met another reader from Hong Kong in November!)
1.Tell us a little about yourself
I am a 53 year old wife, mom and gramma. My husband is a teacher and I am nurse and in June we moved back to my home state of Maine after being in Hong Kong for 9 years.
Before that, we lived in North Carolina for 16 years and in Indiana for 4 years. Even though this (Maine) is the area I grew up in, I haven’t lived here full time since I graduated from high school.
To go from a metropolitan city like Hong Kong with a population of nearly 8 million to a very, very rural town of 104 takes a bit of adjusting, but I am loving it.
I am convinced that you can make a “home” anywhere in this beautiful world, and you can live a frugal or extravagant lifestyle no matter the surroundings. It’s all up to you!
The house we live in now was actually my great grandfather’s barn, and we are also building a log cabin about a mile from our home on a small lake.
Our neighbor helped us the first couple of years, but now my husband is doing most all of the work himself.
We never wanted to go in debt, so we are taking it slowly, but it’s so worth it.
Our children are all grown and the youngest will graduate from college in May (he took multiple gap years and got married in between). We managed 4 college degrees and 3 weddings with no debt…my kids all got the frugal gene from their mom!
I have 2 beautiful grandchildren and 1 on the way. The kids are scattered around the country and that was a big reason for my wanting to move back to the US. I missed them so much and Covid was making travel difficult.
I’m very frugal by nature and love to get a good deal. While we lived in HK, we traveled extensively, and my budgeting was focused on finding great travel deals.
We visited 27 countries while we were there and didn’t even touch our “salary.” How?
The school where we worked gave a housing stipend on top of our salary, and if we didn’t use it all, we got to keep the difference. That difference in our case varied over the years, as we moved several times and rents changed, but it was between $800 and $1200 USD a month.
The school also paid for our flights back to the US every other year, and you could choose the cash over reimbursement for a ticket.
You can bet I found the cheapest flights available, so that money almost always paid for several other flights. Using these two strategies, I made it my mission to use that extra money for our travel fund. It was a good run.
Now, my hobbies are foraging, taking long walks/hikes, gardening (didn’t get to do much last summer, but I’ll be ready next year), reading and being with my wonderful family.
I do have a youtube channel (haven’t posted since leaving HK, but plan to start sometime) and a blog, which I started the year after Kristen, but mine is more of a family/hobby blog, so again, I’m not very consistent.
I enjoy it when I do post though.
I am currently taking a bit of a break from nursing so that I can spend some time with my family. My husband is working part time as a teacher. Fun fact: we are bringing home 1/6th of what we were making in Hong Kong!
2.How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I found Kristen shortly after I started my blog, so probably 2010-ish, but I wasn’t a consistent reader until we moved to Hong Kong in 2012.
Now I rarely miss a day, although I usually only comment on “five frugal things.” I LOVE reading all the comments and learning from others, and we all know The Frugal Girl is the nicest blog out there!
3.How did you get interested in saving money?
I am definitely hard wired that way. I remember using a coupon when I was 12 years old in a drugstore that was pioneer in double coupons and I got the item for free. It was like a light bulb moment. I remember thinking, “I won’t ever have to pay for anything!” I still love those deals.
We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, but not many people in this area did (do), so I never really felt any pressure to conform to a higher standard.
4.What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
Debt gives me cold chills and puts my stomach in knots. I married a man who has the same philosophy; we’ve always made it our goal to avoid debt and live below our means. It’s not drudgery if you enjoy it.
We want to be financially secure when we retire (not rich, but secure) and the only way we know to do that is to save. Also, I like to help other people/charities/missionaries, and the more I save, the more I can give, so that keeps me motivated.
5.What’s your best frugal win?
Being debt free.
We’ve been married 29 years, and we’ve marched to the beat of a different drummer. To have our home, cabin, vehicles and college expenses (our own and our kids) all behind us with zero debt feels wonderful. It wasn’t one big thing; it was a million little choices.
If you are out there grinding right now, DON’T GIVE UP! It is so worth it.
6.What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
Even though we didn’t have much money when I was growing up, my mom really wasn’t a saver. She also believed that if someone gifted you money, you should spend it on something you wanted, and I adopted this philosophy from her.
Granted, I was never really gifted much until I graduated from high school/college (still not a huge amount, but a lot for me at the time), and I spent it all.
I have no idea what I bought. That was stupid and I wasn’t challenged on this until our honeymoon.
I remember we brought our cards with us and we were opening them one night and I started talking about the new furniture/appliances/stuff we could buy with our “gift” money and my husband very matter-of-factly said, “We don’t need anything new. We can buy second hand furniture and use the money for your tuition.”
(I was in my sophomore year of nursing school when we married; he had just graduated.)
Epiphany moment. He was right. Wedding gifts paid for my junior year.
7.What’s one thing you splurge on?
My kids and gifts/charity for others. That’s been the hardest thing about the decrease in salary. I got accustomed to being a bit more generous…like the year we flew all kids to Hong Kong for Christmas (Covid hit a month later!)
8.What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Clothes, jewelry, make-up, new cars, big houses, trendy food….
9.If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
Gift some, invest some.
10.Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers
Little foxes spoil the vines. Live below your means.
11.Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
Like the Colorado readers who shared recently, I would say Maine’s biggest draw is her natural beauty. If you are a creation lover, this is your place.
There are so many free outdoor resources here, from hiking and canoeing to more productive hobbies like hunting, fishing and foraging.
Also, as I mentioned above, the area we live in is still quite economically depressed, so there isn’t a lot of pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” because, well, the Joneses don’t have much either!
You can find super cheap land here still. Come visit!
Thanks for reading!
Trish, thank you so much for participating! I find your story very inspiring, and I love your attitude about making a home anywhere.
Also, that photo looking up at your cabin in the woods? SO beautiful!
I have a question too: when you say you are not tempted to spend on trendy food, what types of foods are you thinking of? I’m wondering if you are thinking of foods that become popular as health trends, like goji berries or turmeric latte mixes, or if it’s something else entirely.
Oh, and I am also curious to know what type of nursing you’ve done in your career.