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Meet a Reader | Jean from Michigan

Hello, everyone! Today we’re meeting Jean, who hails from a chilly part of the country: Michigan.

1. Tell us a little about yourself

I am in my mid-seventies and seem to have “retired by default” to Muskegon, Michigan.

Muskegon lake.

on Muskegon Lake, with the town in the far background

I was married for many years to a man who was an engineer with the State Department, so I have lived and traveled all over – Kuwait, Athens, Greece, and Ankara, Turkey.

My two boys came with me back to the Midwest when we divorced in the 1990s. Employment and relationship opportunities brought me to the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in 1999, and here I’ve retired.

jean next to pink flowers.

Last spring with my favorite flower

My oldest boy lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family, and I haven’t been able to visit often enough in the last few years. Airfare is getting more and more expensive, and it’s just far enough that driving out and back takes too much time.

For company, I have lots of friends (my made-up family), and I have two rescued cats and a lovely little Jack Russell terrier, Daisy Mae.

cat in a basket on a desk.

Simon relaxing in my sewing room

2. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?

I am stuck in that no-man’s-land of having a fixed income when prices are absolutely not fixed, and I’m exploring ways to stretch my budget as far as I can without having to suffer too greatly!

blue glass jar.

My kitchen window

I also have some unpredictable additional income — I buy and sell old junque at a local antique mall and on eBay, I walk dogs, and currently do merchandising for Five Below, putting things on the shelves at the store a couple times a month.

a garage with shelves.

My garage, demonstrating what happens when you buy and sell junque

3. My frugal ways

My mother was a bit of a spendthrift, so I have fought against that tendency for a long time. I was also accustomed to having more money coming in every month, so it was easy to be a frivolous spender.

Now I’m having to budget quite closely to live comfortably, eat nutritiously, and continue to save for my old age (although apparently THIS is my old age)!

cat in a basket.

My cat Weenie helping cut quilt pieces on the dining room table

I love to read but rarely purchase new books, although walking into Barnes & Noble without buying at least a fancy magazine is a struggle.

West Michigan has an excellent local library system, so I’m able to get almost everything I’m interested in delivered to my branch.

We also have an active free book giveaway twice a month, where I donate what I’ve read and find free books for my Little Book House donation spot at the local supermarket and for my own reading shelves, as well.

little free library in the snow.

My little donation project

I knit and crochet and sew many of my own clothes, although I wish it weren’t so easy to run into Old Navy to buy a $10 white t-shirt.

I am a messy eater (watch me drip sloppy joes on my boobs), so I don’t spend much on a t-shirts because they get stained too easily.

However, that cheapie t-shirt is cut on the crooked of the fabric, so it never hangs properly, and the knit it’s made from has become thinner and less sturdy.

One of my current projects is to create a t-shirt pattern for myself with various necklines and sleeve lengths, so I can make one when I need one.

dog on a crocheted rug.

Daisy and my most recent crochet blanket

Cooking (and grocery shopping) for one person is challenging!

Aldi and Trader Joe’s, please don’t put three green peppers in a package! I love soup (which is a frugal meal) but cooking an economical batch means eating it for days.

The freezer on my fridge is freezer-burn-city, but at this point in my life, a chest freezer doesn’t seem sensible.

4. What’s your best frugal win?

Buying the house I’m in, and refinancing it almost right away to lower the interest rate and get rid of the private mortgage insurance.

I own a little three-bedroom ranch on a large lot in a 1960s subdivision, and I squeaked out enough money to purchase it from a friend in 2018.

home in snowy weather.

My home, during our “no sunshine” January

It has almost doubled in value, so even though I hope to age in place, if I had to sell I might have enough cash to find another, smaller place to live.

5. What’s an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?

I didn’t imagine I would ever marry again, but I fell in love with and created a business with a person I didn’t marry.

We were together for almost 25 years until we weren’t together anymore. In the end, there was no legal protection for the assets of unmarried couples; our earned money is in his bank accounts and in his name.

If he dies first I will inherit; in the meantime, I’m living on a small pension and social security. My monthly stipend is comfortable but not generous, so I am having to count every dollar.

The mistake I made was not planning with legal counsel for my protection in the event we split up.

6. To splurge or not to splurge

Cable television is my #1 splurge.

I love movies and certain embarrassing reality television shows (Amazing Race, anyone?) and can’t seem to keep the ever-rising costs of cable TV at a reasonable level. I have tried a satellite dish with mediocre results.

I MUST have Netflix, but I’m not quite ready to go to all-streaming entertainment.

I’m not much of one for diamonds and furs. Also, booze, to be honest. I buy an occasional bottle of wine, but I’m not much of a drinker. Not having a drink with dinner out keeps costs down.

7. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?

Save it in my trip fund for a trip to Scotland. I love to travel and have long wanted to visit the country where my family originated.

8. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?

My county is fairly small, with about 100,000 people.

Craigslist and Buy Nothing groups have fizzled, to some extent, and with the nearest big city 45 minutes away, it almost doesn’t pay to spend gas to travel to get something free.

However, our second-hand markets are very, very strong. We have a Goodwill Depot where things are sold by the pound. The Rescue Mission has several good stores, and many churches have as their mission the resale of used items in various ways.

a garage with shelves.

My garage, which demonstrates what happens when you buy and sell junque

We also have great “antique” and refurbished furniture shops for furniture and household goods. I think the most expensive item in my entire house was my $197 television.

My second-hand books on their second-hand bookcases

9. What frugal tips have you tried and abandoned?

I am not fond of couponing or apps like Gas Buddy. I want the cheapest gas to be on my main street, not in the next town 12 miles away!

I’ve also tried in-store coupons, which drive me crazy – either the expiration date is too soon, or they offer products I have no interest in purchasing.

The grocery stores are offering app-based coupons for Buy-One-Get-One Half Off, which was a terrible invention.

I need only one. I want only one. Please do not ask me to buy two, because buying two does not save me money today. Toothpaste, maybe – but canned peaches. I don’t think so.

Where we walk near the Muskegon River

10. Which is your favorite type of post at the Frugal Girl and why?

I live vicariously through your “what I spent” each week, and I can’t figure out if I’m just nosy (just what did you spend that money on?) or curious as to how you manage to feed yourself and your girls with today’s food prices.

Thanks so much for letting me go on (and on). Please enjoy your ski trip, and let me know if you need anything else. It was strangely liberating to write this, and I am amazed at how beautiful this area is, even in the dead of winter.


Jean, I really enjoyed getting a peek into your life! Thank you for sharing! I think your secondhand bookshelves are so beautiful; I love how you have them styled, and I love the artwork on your walls there too.

I want to know more about the colorful dishes in the background of one of your cat photos. Tell us about them, please.

Also, I totally agree about “buy one, get one half off” sales. That’s only 25% off each item, which is not that good. Buy one, get one free sales are way better.

Readers, the floor is yours! Leave your questions and comments for Jean.

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Fru-gal Lisa

Thursday 16th of February 2023

That photo of Daisy Mae on the blanket you just crocheted: darling dog, and you are amazingly talented to have made such an intricate creation! Loved seeing all the scenery shots -- what a beautiful area! I'm wondering if you could find T-shirts made of good fabric at the Goodwill sell-by-the-pound place? Just a thought...Also, sadly, yours is not the only story I've heard about not being married and ending up a displaced homemaker. No need to be embarrassed, we all make mistakes, and I'm truly sorry you are having a bad time of it. Ladies out there, don't move in with a guy (or marry a guy, for that matter) until you have consulted with a lawyer about all the potential problems and pitfalls, and take the attorney's advice about how to protect yourself from the worst-case scenerio. Yes, it COULD happen to you. You think your love will last forever, but often that's not the case!


Wednesday 15th of February 2023

Nice meeting you Jean! Your pets are adorable and I am in awe of your crocheted blanket. ❤️ Take care!

Anita Isaac

Wednesday 15th of February 2023

Jean so nice to meet you. You are very wise and very photogenic. Love the pet photos. So sorry that you can't visit your family as much as you would like. I hope you get to Scotland one day. I have been there and it is beautiful. All the best to you. This was a terrific post.


Tuesday 14th of February 2023

Jean, I'm in Michigan, too, though on the other side of the state. My best friend lives in Grand Haven, so I've had lots of good experiences on your side of our state. It's beautiful over there!

My husband and I honeymooned in Oregon, and ended with a few days in Portland. We spent a day at Powell's Books - they shipped all of our books home for only $13! The airline would have charged $50 for the extra suitcase, so I count that as frugal.

Your home is lovely! Your blanket is just gorgeous I'm just learning how to crochet. My nine year old daughter wants to learn how to make amigurimi, and asked me to figure it out and show her. My grandmother was a wonderful crocheter(?). She's passed on now, but I still have some of her doilies. She tried to teach me as a teenager, but I never got beyond a very long string.

Thank you for doing the interview!


Tuesday 14th of February 2023

I loved getting a peek into your life! I enjoyed your comments on 3 peppers in a bag. I , like you, live alone since my husband passed. I don’t use up many items sold in bulk. I shop at Aldi and some items at Costco, but to buy individual products I’m forced to go to other stores. Not a real money saver! If I make chicken broth, I use pint jars so often my freezer is full of broth and such. Not an impossible situation, but certainly frustrating! Lol! I love your photos and meeting you. I too, at some point would like to visit Scotland! Take care!

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