Happy Monday, everyone! Today we are meeting Brooke, a Florida reader who grew up near me in the Mid-Atlantic area.
She’s a Disney savings queen and an avid baker, and I think you will probably chuckle at the money mistake her husband made before they got married. 😉
1. Tell us a little about yourself
I’m 49, and I’ve been married for nearly 24 years to the kind man who introduced me to Jesus (insert kissy face emoji).
My husband and I were born and raised in the Mid-Atlantic (Delaware and Maryland), but we’ve mostly lived in Florida since 2010.
I’m currently a homemaker, caregiver to my 81 year-old father (mostly long-distance with an in-person visit every month), and a part-time eBay seller.
Other interesting jobs that I’ve had in my life include working at a public library, being an assistant to a financial planner, and acting as a standardized patient at a medical school.
I’ve recently suffered the loss of 3 loved ones (my mom and second dad died in 2020 and 2021, and another family member is now estranged from me), so it’s been a rough road.
After these losses, it’s taking a long time to get back to doing the things I love (crafts and sewing, baking desserts, and planning frugal-ish trips to Disney World).
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I remember recommending Kristen to a friend around 2011, and I had been following her for awhile, so I must have started reading close to the beginning of the blog.
I have fond memories of Wednesday Baking and Food Waste Fridays – but I equally love the newer series, especially Thankful Thursdays.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
My mom raised my sister and me on her own for a good bit of my childhood, and money was very tight.
Mom grew a garden to supplement our food, and although Mom found a way to meet our needs, we didn’t have a lot of extravagance. Going to Burger King or Shakee’s Pizza once a month was a special treat.
I learned to budget as a girl and to not outspend my income, and I’ve never looked back.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
I have been a homemaker most of my marriage, and in the beginning we had to stretch a dollar to make ends meet. Over time, it became less of a necessity – until my husband left his career and went back to school in 2014 to complete his Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees.
(I was tickled to hear of Kristen doing something similar! And a special shout-out to 2-year colleges – LOVE them!)
We had a very lean almost-8 years during his schooling, including moves to Iowa and then Michigan, for my husband’s graduate school education, and starting over in each place was challenging and costly.
We relied on lots of help and my income to make ends meet and try not dip into our savings/retirement fund. These days we stay frugal to make up for those years of not contributing to our retirement funds.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
We have never had a car payment during our marriage.
(My husband did, ahem, charge a used car to his credit card a couple of years before we met, though.)
We’ve been able to save up and pay cash for vehicles, vacations, and anything else we’ve needed or wanted. We’ve also been able to be a one-car household for probably more than half of our marriage.
At times it wasn’t easy (think one spouse working and one spouse going to school and working a part-time job, on completely different schedules), but it was always worth the sacrifice to keep our costs down and not go into debt.
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
When we bought our first house in Baltimore in 2001, we made the dumb mistake of taking out a HELOC to pay for things like carpet, kitchen modifications, and…. furniture. 0/10, don’t recommend.
Fortunately, we smartened up pretty quickly and paid it off in a couple of years, but it still cost us a lot in interest, and we’re committed to saving up and paying cash for those sorts of things in the future.
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Vacations – mostly to Disney World. I’m an avid researcher, and I think I’ve found a million ways to save money at Disney.
I geek out over the details and research involved in the attractions, hotels, restaurants, etc., and my husband and I love to interact with the Cast Members. (We’re the people that are always asked by family members: “You’re going to Disney AGAIN??”)
I also travel once a month to see my father, who lives 2 states away, and we like to visit my in-laws in Maryland as often as we can, less often since the pandemic started.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
I am blessed with a husband who prefers my face without any makeup, and really, I can’t be bothered with it.
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
Save it for retirement after giving a portion away. Boring but practical!
10. Share a frugal Disney tip with other Frugal Girl readers
(A personalized question for Brooke, since she’s a Disney fan!)
At Disney, don’t plan to go to the parks every day (and spend more on tickets). You’ll need the rest, plus there’s plenty to do outside of the parks for free or low cost:
Spend some time exploring your hotel (especially if at Disney…the details are amazing and most people are too busy to notice) and enjoy the perks like movies at night, pool activities, and walking and biking trails.
Alternatively, use Disney transportation to visit other Disney hotels (from Disney Springs, walk to Saratoga Springs and then take a boat back; take a monorail from Magic Kingdom to the Polynesian Village Resort and enjoy a Dole Whip).
Have fun talking with friendly Cast Members and relax with your family. Sometimes the best memories come from these quieter moments, not while chasing all the latest and greatest rides.
11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
We currently live on the east coast of Florida, and when we moved here for my husband’s job I was shocked at how expensive it is, at least compared to the inland Florida city where we previously lived.
However, Florida has amazing state and local parks, and it doesn’t cost a lot to visit them (and some are free). Some of our favorites are Honeymoon Island and Little Talbot Island State Parks.
When we lived in Gainesville, we often visited the University of Florida campus and the natural history museum for free.
We once took my parents to see the bat houses at the university, and hearing my mom giggle when the bats emerged from their houses was priceless – and literally free.
Where we currently live, we can see rocket launches from our parking lot.
We also currently live about one hour away from Disney World, and although that is not an inexpensive place to visit, we can drive to Disney Springs and walk around all day for just the cost of a few small tolls.
Brooke, thank you for participating! I love the story of how you guys have worked together to make your husband’s education happen, and I really like the picture of your hands together.
Your peach cobbler looks so delicious; do you have a link to the recipe? I have some frozen peaches that I could use up that way. 🙂
I am curious: what’s your favorite Disney park? What’s your favorite ride? And what’s your favorite time of year to go to Disney?
Alrighty, enough from me.