Hello, everyone! We’ve met a lot of long-time FG readers in this series, but today we have the pleasure of meeting a reader who’s pretty new here; she started reading in 2020, and I’m delighted we get the chance to know her.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Hana and I am a 31-year-old living in the upstate of South Carolina with my husband and two young children. My husband and I are both teachers, and our backgrounds are both in English education at the high school level.
However, since having children I have taught at my kids’ preschool, with a brief stint of virtual teaching at the middle/high school level during the first year of Covid (that was quite the experience with a baby and a two-year-old at home with me during that time!).
I am starting to feel restless and like it might be time to return to the workforce in a more full-time capacity, but we shall see.
In my free time, I love, love, love baking. I especially love baking and decorating cakes. I wish I had more time to do it, but at least I have birthdays and holidays to regularly bake for!
As a family, we enjoy being outside in the woods. My husband and I are both rock climbers, and our kids are just starting to get into it as well.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I am pretty sure I found The Frugal Girl in 2020, so I am a newer reader, but I have definitely spent time in the archives reading lots of older posts! I believe I was searching for ways to live more frugally after I had our second child in March 2020, and I realized that I would not be going back to work anytime soon.
I have so enjoyed all the tips, tricks, and camaraderie Kristen’s blog provides!
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I have always been a saver.
As a child, I distinctly remember wanting to save any birthday or Christmas money I received, and I have a vivid memory of my Oma (German for grandmother), telling me when I was six years old, that I should save my money to buy a house one day. She lived through the horrors of WWII as a child in Hamburg, Germany, and nearly starved to death during that time.
Her stories always remind me how tenuous our hold on stability can be and being frugal is one way to help build a financial cushion for hard times. My parents also influenced my frugality and have always stressed the importance of making wise decisions with money.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
As teachers working in the south, my husband and I do not make very much money.
When I stopped teaching high school, it became apparent rather quickly that I would need to track each and every penny we spent to make sure we were living within our means. We have never carried debt outside of our mortgage and one car loan, which has since been paid off, and the thought of “going in the red” gives me stress hives just thinking about it.
I realize what a privilege it is to be able to live within our means without debt. My husband and I were both incredibly fortunate to graduate college without student loans, thanks in large part to ample scholarships we both received, and generous parents who were able to pay what remained.
Additionally, I want to model prioritizing saving to our children so they understand that smart money decisions when you are young can help build financial security as you get older.
5. What’s your best frugal win?
My best frugal win has definitely been buying our house.
I followed my Oma’s advice and saved all the money I earned growing up. I bought our house at age 23 when my husband (at the time, boyfriend), and I moved to the upstate from the coast. I knew I wanted to buy a house, but the reality of that happening while living near Charleston as a teacher seemed unlikely.
So I started looking in 2015, and ended up buying a house right at the end of the school year. I actually bought the house without seeing it in person, which sounds crazy now, but my parents lived in the area where I was looking, so my mom went to look at the house and sent me tons of pictures.
It was a foreclosure in a neighborhood I knew well, so I felt comfortable putting in an offer.
I ended up having the best offer, and spent that summer (and most of the subsequent summers) renovating. Our house is now worth 3x what I paid for it, and we still have a couple of renovations, like the kitchen, which will increase the value even more.
Our yard is so beautiful in the spring and summer- and is mostly free to maintain!
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
I can’t think of anything horrible, but I do wish I had opened a high-interest savings account earlier.
I wasted years letting money sit in an account that earned basically no interest, and switching was such an easy thing to do.
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
I am so fortunate to have a father who lives close by and is extremely handy and helpful, so in some ways the renovations are frugal, but when we decide to update something, we do it without cutting any corners.
We renovated a bathroom while I was pregnant with our first child, and we had to gut the entire thing. It was pricey to replace literally everything, but again, we were able to do the entire renovation ourselves, so ultimately it saved a ton of money.
I was able to make sure the materials we picked were quality and that the installation was top-notch. Spending the money to make our house both sturdy and updated feels like a splurge, but hopefully, the money invested in the renovations will pay off.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Technology. I could care less about new technology and am perfectly happy using phones or computers until they just won’t function anymore.
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
I would probably invest it or put it towards a house project.
10. What’s the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?
The easiest part of being frugal is that I actually enjoy it. I have always been frugal, so it is just a part of my life that I have always known.
The hardest part is having to say no to things with friends because it’s not in our budget.
11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
I don’t think there is anything very unique about frugal living in our area.
I actually think our area is less frugal than lots of other areas. Our city has grown quite a bit over the past 20 years and is becoming like a “boutique city”. It’s hard to be poor where we live now, and even being in the middle class feels challenging as things in our area become more and more expensive.
12. What frugal tips have you tried and abandoned?
I tried making yogurt and baking sandwich bread for a while, but it just was not worth the time after I went back to work out of the home.
13. What is something you wish more people knew?
One thing that has really helped our family is WIC and Medicaid for the kids. The income caps were higher than I realized because I assumed since my husband was employed full-time with a salary that we would not qualify for any assistance.
However, when I investigated it after our second child was born, I was surprised to learn that we did qualify. This has saved us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the past two years.
Hana, thanks so much for participating! When I saw how your name was spelled, I wondered if you were of German descent, so then I was not surprised to see you have a German Oma. 🙂 I’m 3/4 German, although my German grandmother just went by, “Grandma”.
Like your Oma, my grandma was very into saving money, and I have often thought she would be so proud to see what I am doing with my money-saving skills. She would love the community here!
I share your love for the woods and also for baking, so we are kindred spirits in that way as well!
Have you always lived in SC? I know I would not want to live as far south as Georgia or Florida, but I have sometimes wondered if I would enjoy living in the Carolinas. Thus far, I’ve really only ever been to the beach in NC and SC.
Tuesday 24th of January 2023
Enjoyed your article! My husband and I lived in Piedmont/Simpsonville area. We moved there from Illinois. Fell in love with the area. We now live in Florida. If we had to move north, we’d definitely move back to the Upstate!
Wednesday 11th of January 2023
Thank you everyone for the kind words! I loved reading all of the comments, especially about how much many of you enjoyed my flowers! It was also really nice to see some fellow SC followers here.
Kristen, I personally really enjoy lots of things about the upstate, especially how easy it is to get to either the mountains or beach! It's a beautiful place to live and my only complaint is that I wish it snowed just a little more often than our once a year trend!
Friday 13th of January 2023
@Hana, Hi Hana, I also used to live in upstate SC! We still own and rent out our house there while my husband and I are in school in Utah (PLENTY of snow, I keep trying to send some to our parents in SC and GA!). I taught in a GCS middle school for a few years, so I know those salary struggles. Thanks for sharing!
Tuesday 10th of January 2023
Thanks for sharing your story! I love the four generation picture, you are all beautiful ladies. So nice that you still have your Oma.
Monday 9th of January 2023
Hi Hana, Love your yard. First time I saw azaleas was rolling into the train station in NOLA. They were as big as trees!
Monday 9th of January 2023
I love your landscaping! The red flowers make me quite envious. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.