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Meet a Reader | Jo from South Africa

Hello, everyone! Today we are hearing from Jo, who lives with her family in South Africa. Jo sent me so many pictures, I couldn’t even include them all, but I think there are enough sprinkled through the post to give you a really good peek into her life.

Here’s Jo!

1. Tell us a little about yourself

Hi! My name is Jo, and I’m a part-time researcher and farmer on a small urban farm in Cape Town, South Africa.

Jo and family.

My husband Eugene and I have 3 kids, ages 12, 11 and 7. Eugene makes children’s books, and so we’re able to both stay home with our kids as they grow and learn.

My parents live with us on the farm in a separate cottage.

We have ducks, chickens, geese, goats, quail, guinea pigs… and I just turned 40…


2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?

A very long time. I think 2007?

When we were in Boston and in debt, Eug and I took a faith-based course on giving more generously, and it helped get us talking about money, frugality, and values.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

Growing up as one of four kids in a single-income household in Durban, South Africa, there was sometimes a sense of scarcity. My parents managed their money well and also gave generously, but there was also some underlying stress anytime someone needed new shoes.

When I received scholarships to attend a really good high school in Wales, and then university in Boston, where many people came from much more affluent backgrounds, I was met with diverse approaches to money, and it took a while to figure out where I stood.

But frugality was always very necessary to get through young adulthood in foreign places without my family nearby.

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

Over time I guess the “why” has evolved. When our family had 2 incomes and no kids, it was to figure out how to be generous.

Then for Eug to pursue creative dreams.

eugene with a goat.

Then it was to try to pay off debt to move back to South Africa to be with my family.

Then it was to have a little farm without debt, then to be able to farm & parent without feeling we were rushing everything.

kid with bananas.

Maybe the underlying theme is that we’re trying to experience money as a gift and a tool, rather than something that controls us.

5. What’s your best frugal win?

My parents live with us on our farm, and having them here is amazing because we’re able to look out for their needs as they age, and they’re a source of so much love for my kids.

It feels very frugal to share our space on many levels- we share one 23 year old car, one washing machine, one utilities bill, and sharing labour makes the farm workable.

6. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?

Over time, Kristen’s voice has crept into my voice around frugality. I love the notion of feeling abundance without being super consumerist.

She gave us inspiration to take furniture off the street in Boston and rehab it, made making yoghurt and bread seem practical, and in the 15+ years since we’ve just kept on building on those inspirations!

homemade food.

As a person of faith who has also had some hard times with church, I also appreciate Kristen’s clarity and strength in talking about faith.

7. What’s one thing you splurge on?

Gym membership. I get exercise on the farm, but the work can be hard on my back. So for about 2 years, I’ve been swimming every day, either at the gym or in the ocean.

It’s expensive and out of character, but I’ve grown to love it so much.

8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?

Most things..but not because I’m noble- It’s just a lot easier not to be tempted if you don’t have access to U.S. online shopping and you live in a poor neighbourhood…

A glass-bottle wall at our house

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

I’d give it to the school next door to us, where they care for teens and are just generally kind and awesome.

10. What’s the easiest part of being frugal?

Over time, we feel a lot more abundance, as choices compound, and it gets easier and easier. I genuinely stop wanting stuff!

The ocean is about a ten-minute walk away for us.

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

We live well below the U.S. poverty line, but we’re still comparatively rich for our neighbourhood. It’s weird and difficult to feel the push and pull of living, or being aware of, multiple worlds and ways of living.


Frugal in one place is normal in another.

Most people are much more frugal than we are out of necessity, and when they splurge it’s often linked to real stressors and trauma. So I guess we are still finding our way.

We really miss the amazing things you could get free or second-hand in the U.S. We would go walking and find things out on the street all the time!

On the other hand, I love that our kids are not exposed to as much marketing as they would be in the U.S.- they still see ads on Youtube, of course.

but I don’t think it compares to the marketing and social pressure that kids in schools, and many parts of the world, are exposed to.

kitchen shelves.

We also don’t have much access to fast food…

12. What single action or decision has saved you the most money over your life?

Taking a course on generosity really shaped our marriage conversation around money.

Firstly, in putting our wealth in perspective (we entered our income into one of those calculators that compared your income to the global population and suddenly felt super rich) so that we didn’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to richer people, and secondly, in giving us a framework to actually talk about money, so that we didn’t just assume we were on the same page.

13. What is something you wish more people knew?

Small changes compound into big transformations. Taking time to think about where you’re hoping to be, and small things you can do today to get there, can be transformational.

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

All of them! I love cooking posts, WIS/WIA, and five frugal things, for getting me thinking about our own frugal journeys.


Jo! My goodness, when I look at all that you are your family are growing and making, I feel astonished that I have been able to inspire YOU in any way.

I am amazed at what you guys do. So impressive.

I think your glass bottle wall is just lovely, your food looks delicious, and the ocean view near you is amazing.

Do you mostly eat the food you grow, or do you sell some too?

Can you tell us about the tiles on your kitchen backsplash? Did you make those?

Readers, the floor is yours!

P.S. Want more of Jo and her family? You can follow them on Instagram here.

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Thursday 11th of May 2023

I have so many questions! How do you find the racial dynamics, given my memory of apathied Sth Africa? Do you feel your financial position is somewhat influenced (as in, you feel your money goes further) in SA vs other places you've lived?


Tuesday 9th of May 2023

Hi Jo from a fellow South African not far from you in Somerset West. I really enjoyed your post and it was lovely seeing familiar sights.


Thursday 11th of May 2023

@Lisa, Thanks so much Lisa. I wondered if there were fellow South Africans here at Kristen's and am so grateful there are!


Tuesday 9th of May 2023

What a beautiful, rich and intentional life you and your family have built. Thank you for sharing. I want to come visit! Cool people, beautiful scenery, baby goats, yummy food :)


Monday 8th of May 2023

Glad to meet you, Jo! It is inspiring to see how thoughtfulness changes our lives. I too have faith struggles but the gifts of my faith family are wonderful. Who else in the U.S. is questioning our consumer culture? Or working on gratitude? Or supporting the dignity of individuals? I am also a "third culture kid," adjusting from ideas of what it means to be rich, and grateful for reminders that our best lives are in our relationships, not our bank accounts.

Best wishes on the well being of your farm and all who live on it. And a second vote for "Recipes for Murder," a TV series featuring another South African woman and her farm and her cooking!

You are doing so very well. To have a farm, three healthy children, and your feet on the ground at age 40! Brava!

Anita Isaac

Monday 8th of May 2023

jo, so wonderful to read about you and our family. thanks for posting. i am so impressed by your photos and the word that go with them. good luck to you and your family. your kids are truly blessed to live near their grandparents. All the best to you all.

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