Meet a Reader is back! Lina is a relatively new reader (she found me at kind of an odd time in my blog history, which you will see), and she’s lived in Germany, Asia, and Sweden.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
I am in my mid-forties, originally from Germany, but now living in Sweden – after many years in Asia. I have no kids but am happily married.
After many years with only odd jobs or jobs without many prospects, I have finally had the chance to build a career in my new home country, working in life science.
However, I had to work hard for this, and I also needed to learn a new language, which meant taking after-work classes and a lot of self-study.
But life is of course not all work and studying and I like to enjoy beautiful things which are nature (I am equally up for a day at the sea or hiking in a forest), my allotment*, and cooking.
And music, especially classical music.
I like to take a little walk during my lunch breaks whenever possible.
*Note from Kristen: I wasn’t sure what an allotment was, so I googled. Here’s a short post about a Swedish allotment garden.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
Since April 2022. The post where Kristen wrote about her separation was one of the first ones I read on the blog.
I found the blog looking for frugal recipes. Somehow, I was watching a video of Korean YouTuber Maangchi making something she called a frugal Korean dish, which made me think that I probably should look for more frugal recipes to save money on expensive ingredients.
Well, and that’s how I ended up on Kristen’s blog. I stayed because I really enjoy her writing style – and it is interesting to see how it evolved comparing older posts to the recent ones.
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
Pure necessity: I grew up with a single mom, who was only working odd jobs most of the time. We really didn’t have much money to spend, all my clothes were hand-me-downs (mostly from my older boy-cousin, not fun when you are a teenage girl, and you have to wear boys’ clothes!).
I also didn’t have much money when I studied at university in Germany and right after graduation. The good thing was, I didn’t get used to a “luxury lifestyle” (whatever that is) during all those years.
This changed when I moved to China for work. I lived in different cities, had different kinds of work and varying income.
But a lot of things which I would call luxury here in Sweden were very affordable for me when living in China. Taxi rides, tailored clothes, and massages, just to name a few.
And eating out wasn’t the exception for me then. Restaurant food was just cheaper than when I cooked meals myself, because at that time I couldn’t cook any Chinese food, and Western food needed things like olive oil, cheese, butter, pasta…all expensive in China because they have to be imported.
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
Well, I can’t say it comes naturally to me.
Of course, due to my upbringing, I was used to getting along with little money. But I had a few years where I really enjoyed that I could spend more money without thinking a lot.
Until I realized that however hard I work now, I would probably never earn enough to be able to retire without money worries – if I didn’t start saving more.
This and the fact that buying new things, restaurant visits and a lot of fancy entertainment events lost their attraction to me, especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gardening and nature became much more important (though gardening can also lead to surprisingly high expenses 🙂 ).
5. What’s your best frugal win?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without my education. And I mean continuous education.
It is not enough to get a degree somewhere in your twenties if you want to get somewhere careerwise (of course it is also totally fine to live a completely simple and frugal life).
Anyway, if I hadn’t started learning Swedish and taking lots of courses, I would probably still be financially dependent on my husband, which I want to avoid – I mean I love him forever, but I still want to be able to support myself (and even him if that should become necessary. :))
6. What’s an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?
Funnily enough, my answer here is also education-related.
When I was in China I was in between jobs for some months, and I thought it might be a good idea to get a certificate for being a language teacher. At that time the demand for foreign English teachers was so high that schools even hired non-native speakers, as long as they looked, well, foreign.
I paid about 400 USD for an online course. But the thing was that the whole course consisted only of reading, reading, and reading, plus handing in assignments. No lectures, no seminars, no real interactions.
I think I didn’t even finish the first module…
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
Food. We don’t eat out often, but I like to cook.
And I try to buy high-quality food stuff, preferably local products and whenever possible ecological. Even if the imported ones are cheaper – see my photos of cottage cheese which I found at Lidl here: one is produced in Germany and the other one in Sweden.
The price signs tell how much both costs per kg, so it is easier to compare.
Another thing I splurge on is stays in hotels.
When I was younger, I used to stay in youth hostels to save money. But seriously, nowadays I want a private bathroom and my body needs a comfy bed. But if I really had to, I could do youth hostels again, I suppose.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
Cars. I do drive, but not very often. I guess I am just not interested in cars.
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
Use it for some renovation/home improvement projects and give some to a charity.
10. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?
I think Sweden has a lot of benefits for families with children.
And then there is the great nature which is free to enjoy.
You have the “right to public access” (allemansrätten) which gives everyone the freedom to roam and explore the beauty of the country, as long as you don’t disturb and don’t destroy anything.
This also gives you the right to forage berries and mushrooms.
This year was a great year for foraging, with blueberries and mushrooms aplenty – see my picture of chanterelles (very expensive when you buy those) and chestnuts.
11. Which is your favorite type of post at the Frugal Girl and why?
“Thankful Thursday” and “A day in the life”.
12. What is the hardest part of being frugal:
I love to cook, I love to meal plan. But grocery shopping and cooking do take a lot of time.
There are not many eateries around the place where I work, which is in a boring industrial neighborhood. So, preparing lunch boxes became a habit for me and I am saving a lot when bringing my own food.
Usually, I or my husband cook every evening and we make enough so that it lasts for lunch the next day or even the day after.
But I am not a batch cooker, I just don’t have the storage place (this is actually a bit better in winter when some of my lunch boxes move out to the balcony which has refrigerator temperature here in Southern Sweden from November to the beginning of March.)
So planning and preparing meals after a loooong day at work (and I have quite a few long days) can be challenging. So, I am extra curious how Kristen will handle those situations now in nursing school and when she starts working.
13. What is something you wish more people knew?
Flowers can really brighten one’s mood. And during summertime, you can grow many of them easily. I rarely buy flower bouquets anymore, at least not for myself.
The flowers pictured at the top of the post were grown in my allotment!
Lina, it was a delight to get to know you! Our lives have been so different, but I think we have so many things in common that we would be friends if we lived near each other.
For example, you probably saw that I foraged chanterelles a few months ago. And I love to pick wild berries when I go for my walks.
Like you, I’m interested in classical music (I’m a classically-trained pianist), and I’m curious what classical music genre is your favorite. I like pieces from the Romantic era the best.
And your story about the hand-me-downs from a boy cousin reminded me that when I was in early grade school, my mom put a pair of green pants (handed down from my older brother) in my drawer.
I hated them (not girly enough for me!) and never wore them. My mom eventually noticed that I was avoiding wearing them, so I came up with a plan that would trick her into thinking I’d worn them.
I took them out of my drawer and threw them into the hamper, feeling quite pleased with myself. But…I didn’t even unfold them!
So as soon as my mom looked at the pile of laundry, she knew that I hadn’t worn them for even five minutes. 😉
(I may have told this story before somewhere, but since you’re new, you probably haven’t heard it yet.)