We are meeting reader Cindy today; she and her husband are full-time RVers.
I wonder if there’s a larger proportion of RVers in the frugal community because even though full-time RVers are a minority, Cindy is the second featured Frugal Girl reader who lives in an RV full time!
(Reader Sarah and her husband also live in an RV full time, in Arizona.)
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am 62; Husband is 66. I grew up on a small farm north of Grand Rapids, MI; Husband’s family was military, connected with Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, NC.
(We met at the University of Michigan — Go Blue!)
We’ve lived in Colorado since 1984; we moved here after a summer-long motorcycle trip, following Lewis & Clark’s trail all the way to the Oregon coast — and back.
Our daughters (32 and 34) live less than two hours away from us. We have no grandchildren; one daughter is married to our much-loved son-in-law; the other is happily settled with her partner.
Husband has done several careers in his life, including mechanical engineer, IT guy and schoolbus driver.
I have, as well, including catering, secretarial work, custodial cleaning — and doing marketing and layout for a newspaper, as well as a catalog company.
I was an editor for a national publication (Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine) for four years, and wrote/write for others.
Book #8, Colorado Curiosities, is due out in June from Arcadia Publishing; I also write a blog (www.cindybrick.blogspot.com).
I’ve done hundreds of articles on a wide variety of subjects, both for myself and as a staffer for various websites and publications – – lost count a long time ago.
I lectured nationally on textile history for decades; I use the past tense because Covid canceled my teaching gigs for the past two years.
(I finally got a new one — for August 2021. Covid’s been tough on us self-employed types!)
I am also a personal property appraiser (21-plus years with the American Quilter’s Society, and 6-plus with ASA, the American Society of Appraisers); I ‘do’ everything but houses and vehicles, though I specialize in textiles or related items.
One unusual thing about us: we live in a 32-foot fifth-wheel full-time. This makes it easy to travel…as well as take along our two big dogs, Charley and Ruby.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
At least three years. I particularly enjoy the ‘Five Frugal Things’ posts.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I had to!
When you grow up on a small farm, there is very little money for luxuries. I wanted to go to college, as well. That meant I not only needed to find work that paid but also stretch the money I got as far as possible.
Eventually, it became a habit. It’s not as critical now — we can live within our income — but it’s automatic now.
Even when I don’t need to, I still look in the clearance and markdown bins.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
At first, a lot of what I did was because I’d been raised that way — my parents were small-town farmers who never had a lot of money. Most of everything we got had to be raised by ourselves or purchased on sale (or secondhand), to keep the bills paid.
After years of this, the farm was paid off. Eventually, they were able to retire and live quite comfortably, in great part because they’d taken this approach.
(We call it “being a Hollander,” and are quite proud of our frugality.)
When Husband and I married, we were both working…and having a great time going to concerts and out to eat as much as we liked. He graduated with $10,000 in student loans, and we had little in savings.
I realized we couldn’t live this way — let alone purchase a house. So I went back to being extra-careful with what we purchased — and my husband joined in.
Eventually, that attitude let us buy two homes, 4WD vehicles, and go on vacation out of the country, as well as in.
My husband was able to retire early, and I can ease up on some of my work, without having to worry about paying bills. You can find out more about our retirement here.
You never know what will happen in the future, even when you’re reasonably set today, so it’s never a bad idea to have an emergency fund, or some extra stashed away.
It lets you take care of yourself, sure, but also lets you help others without worrying whether your own bills will be paid.
For many years, we were not able to have this freedom, due to sickness and living on one (lower) income — but now we can.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
Our fifth-wheel trailers.
We spent a LOT of time researching the best trailer to buy, then finding a secondhand one that fit our budget.
Fifth-wheel #1 seller was more than ready to sell — it had spent a year in storage. We talked him into taking a few thousand off the already-low price, then lived in it while our house went up on the market.
When that fifth-wheel was totaled, we used the insurance check (more than what we’d paid for it, by the way) to pay cash for a larger Fifth-Wheel #2.
Husband also talked that price down considerably.
We’ve lived happily in it now for more than a year…and saved a bundle over renting an apartment — or continuing to own our house, which sold in Sept. 2019.
Not having a mortgage, property tax, or rent payment is wonderful!
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
I purchased GameStop stock at $316 — and sold it a few days later at $60. I am an idiot.
Fortunately, it was only one share.
(It’s currently up at $140 or so.)
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
- Good dark chocolate — with nuts in it.
(Don’t laugh — lots of pop really isn’t that good for you. But I buy it as stock — if I’m going to drink it, so are others. Coca-Cola has done well for me.)
- Seafood…I knew panfish well when growing up in Michigan, but the only shrimp I knew had an inch-thick breading on it. And I can’t help myself; I only buy it on sale.
- Oysters (cooked and raw on the half-shell), shrimp, lobster, crab…I just can’t get enough.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Salmon: my uncles used to bring home dozens of pounds-worth, from fishing in the Great Lakes.
My family loves it, but I had so much as a kid that I have to force myself to buy salmon. Even on sale.
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
- Go out for a seafood dinner…and take our good friends with, as well as our family. (And dine INSIDE!)
- A bouquet of flowers, or some flowering plants
- A nice pair of boots for Husband
- The rest would go into savings, for a future vacation.
Actually, more than this will happen when the stimulus checks drop.
The only problem: the U.S. was already deep in debt when all these generous Covid-19 aid programs aired. How in the world will future generations pay for this?
10. Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers
1) ALWAYS bargain, when you’re buying gently used.
(And you should, for everything from appliances to vehicles. Including Ebay, if they include a ‘Best Offer.’)
You can always pay full price if the seller doesn’t budge — but you’ll be amazed at how often they’ll take a lower offer, especially when made in a friendly, ‘let’s-be-practical’ way.
Every dollar you save is a dollar that can be used somewhere else.
2) No matter what you’re making, put away 10% of your income in savings.
Use that money as your emergency fund; it can also help out with groceries for a needy family, or pay for a tow truck.
Once you use the money, concentrate on replacing it, so it’s there for the next time you need it.
And our secret weapon:
3) Tithe 10% of your income, as well.
Even at our lowest point (less than $20,000 a year, with medical bills to pay), we always did this. I still don’t know how, but even with less, our bills were always paid.
Put God first, and you’ll be amazed at how He provides for you, with more than enough.
Cindy, thank you so much for participating!
I just want to say that I am not tempted to buy salmon either, but that’s just because I don’t like it, not because I had too much as a kid.
But I am totally with you on other seafood, such as crab, shrimp, and especially scallops. So good!
Readers, feel free to leave your questions and comments for Cindy.
P.S. Reese and her family were down with a stomach bug when I published her interview. She did pop back on and respond to reader comments once she recuperated, though, and you can hop over here to read what she said.
Saturday 18th of February 2023
Two years later, I thought Kristen and her readers would enjoy an update on where we are today --
Still living in the fifth-wheel, though since Thanksgiving (I'm writing this in mid-Feb 2023), we've been staying in our friends' house. They spend the winters in Phoenix, and asked if we'd move in to take care of things. It's nice in some ways -- I have more room, being the primary one, and it's easier to use the washer/dryer or run downstairs quickly for something in the freezer, rather than trudging over from the fifth-wheel. But I have to admit that carefully preserving your friends' things, at the expense of your own stuff, is a bit weird. Their photos are all over -- ours are not. But because of a rather frightening situation last spring, when they (and we) were threatened, they really needed someone to stay in the house. So we are.
They get home in late April. By then, we will just be back from a two-week cruise to the Caribbean. We have plans to do some traveling, particularly to look at real estate in Wyoming. Maybe Arizona or New Mexico, as well.
The Brick continues to enjoy his retirement. I still do some appraising, writing and teaching, but find I'm enjoying stepping back from these to some degree, as well. We're down to one dog (Ruby); our beloved Charley died last February, just a few weeks after my mom died in late January. Because we lived in the fifth-wheel, we were able to travel back to Michigan and hunker down in the farmyard. The Mama made the rounds from care center to hospital to rehab for six months -- and one of us made the trip generally every day to see her. It was not easy, but it was important to do. And we couldn't have done it, if we'd been in a traditional house.
So life goes on. We're not sure whether we'll continue to stay at our friends' ranch in CO as unofficial "caretakers" -- or move on to our own place. God knows, though. Thanks for your interest in my life, Kristen! I continue to enjoy your blog; it's one of the first things I check every morning, just to see what you've been up to.
Wednesday 15th of March 2023
@CINDY BRICK, I came across this post by surprise since I was reading a recent Frugal Girl post (March 13, 2023) and it referred to your initial Meet a Reader post so I came over to read this first. I also read alllll the comments here and I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed your post and all your comments. I’m a long-time reader of The Frugal Girl but I don’t comment often. You sound so interesting and fun! We lived in our RV about halftime for about 5 years, traveling for my husband’s job…ending in 2012. I wish you well in your travels and your decisions for the future. I’ll be watching for you in upcoming Frugal Girl blogs.
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Hello, Cindy -- it is great to meet you. Loved hearing about all your talents and jobs -- what resumes you guys have and experiences. Not sure I could pull the level on living in a trailer but sorely tempted sometimes. A great read, thank you!
Wednesday 21st of April 2021
Thank you for your kind words!
Trailer living has its plusses and minuses, just like everything else. I do enjoy being able to sleep in my own bed, regardless of what view is out the window. I love being able to volunteer or work elsewhere, and still come "home" at night. And the dogs love being able to travel with us.
But... limited space. (We really have to be careful about this.) The trailer shakes when it's really blowing outside. A tad unnerving. We don't have as many expenses, but they do exist -- like the $800-plus we're going to have to put out on tires this week. And sometimes (fortunately not often) wondering where we'll be able to stop for the night.
In general, though, we enjoy it. And it certainly fits our lifestyle needs right now -- at much less $$ and hassle, as when we owned a house. We will again...just not right now.
Thanks for writing.
Joanne in the U.K.
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Great read Cindy, you have such varied interests and experiences, thank you for sharing. As a nonbeliever tithing has always made me wonder how those struggling can tithe with the little they have. I have had some interesting conversations with my tithing friends (LDS and evangelical Christian) and I see the commitment and spiritual side to this and am envious of this in a strange way. I am thinking about adopting the concept of tithing but picking a charity to tithe to rather than ‘donate’ as I think the change in terminology would hold me more to the commitment. Do you think this is religious appropriation or just ‘making it work for me’? Any comments?
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Funny, Joanne, I have been working on a post about this for my own blog. In some ways, it surprises me that this surprises others. I have been doing it so long that tithing is second nature -- almost like paying the rent or the utilities. ('Set aside 10% off the top. Okay, what's next...") Giving 10% is such an easy thing. You really don't miss it that much, and you can do so much good with a steady donation to causes you believe in. We don't always give it to a church, per se, but we do sponsor some missionaries and believe in causes like MCC, the Mennonite Central Committee, which builds water and agriculture projects for small communities. (And in their case, nearly 100% goes directly to the cause you specify it for -- unlike places like the Red Cross or United Way. I am NOT a fan of the Red Cross.)
YES, ABSOLUTELY, if you prefer to give this 10% of your income to something else, by all means. It will help them. It will help you, as well. Giving does a surprisingly positive number on our mental well-being. (While you're at it, add an additional 10% to your own savings at the same time, if you can.) Thanks for writing.
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
In my experience, as a lifelong Christian and church-goer, I can't imagine any Christian having an opposition to you giving 10% of your money to a charity. :) Sharing what you have is just a good practice, whether you are a Christian or not. I say go for it!
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Kristen, thank you so much for featuring my interview!
I really appreciate it.
Monday 19th of April 2021
Cindy, it's so much fun to hear the stories of fellow full time RV-ers! I agree with so much of what you said. There is nothing like living mortgage free, rent free and property tax free (well, taxes are covered in our dues so we pay them but it's minimal)! We own our lot in Arizona in a 55 and over RV Park. We pay a low fee of $1600 per year which covers our water, sewer, lot tax, maintenance of all the park buildings, pool, and grounds, etc. I read recently that there are over a million full time RV-ers including lots of young families. That number may rapidly increase even post covid because so many people need to find ways to live cheaply and now there are so many ways to make a living from home. Thanks for sharing!
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Thank you, Sarah...and you DO understand, don't you! :)
We are in Arizona right now, attending the gem show in Tucson. We've been thinking about buying a lot in a similar situation, particularly somewhere warm during the winter -- I would love to have regular access to a swimming pool, especially -- but just haven't found the right spot yet. We've also talked about buying a small house in poor condition and using it for storage while we're renovating it. But haven't found THAT right one yet, either. We keep looking. Thanks for writing.