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Meet a Reader | Maria in Florida

Today we’re meeting a Floridian reader…and I know we have some regular commenters who also hail from Florida, so you will especially enjoy this. 🙂

1. Tell us a little about yourself

Greetings from sunny Florida! My hubby and I retired in Central Florida after downsizing to a new home in order to age in place and enjoy the warm weather.  

Joaquin, our sweet, trusted, good-looking companion lives with us rent-free. 

white dog wearing a bow-tie.

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

I’ve been reading The Frugal Girl since retiring in 2015 and look forward to the blog every week.  I especially enjoy Meet the Reader, Thankful Thursday and Five Frugal Things.

florida lake.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

My hubby and I have always been frugal with our hard earned dollars.  However, our deep desire to retire early in order to enjoy our golden years fueled our efforts to save consistently for retirement.

After retiring early in 2015, we intensified our savings efforts even more because we retired before the eligibility age for Social Security.  This posed the problem of paying in full for both our health insurance plans since our employers no longer contributed to our healthcare needs.

Florida beach

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

Our primary “why” behind our money-saving efforts now is to be able to pay the 15-year mortgage on our new build in 10 years instead of 15.

Staying in place as we age is important to us so making sure our mortgage is paid off is a top priority.

Florida home.

Our secondary “why” is to have the funds to pay in full for our yearly vacation since we’ve acquired a love for river cruising.

Note from Kristen: I didn’t know what river cruising was, so I googled! Here’s an explanation but basically, I gather you are on inland routes rather than on the open ocean.

We seldom took vacations when we worked due to hectic work schedules, two children in college and maxing out our retirement plans to retire early. For this reason, we now prioritize vacations while we are still healthy.

dutch windmill.

4. What’s your best frugal win?

Our best frugal win has been our health insurance plan.

Our plan provides a free gym membership for each of us. Since retiring we have become gym buddies and have taken advantage of this great health benefit.

We also enjoy forest bathing*, walking, and hiking in our local parks. 

tree with sunlight shining through.

*Kristen here again: I also didn’t know what forest bathing is. Maria is teaching me new things! Basically, it’s spending time in the woods, soaking it up with all of your senses.

Which is kinda-sorta what I am always doing when I take walks in the woods, except for the fact that nursing lectures are usually playing in my earbuds. That is probably not in line with forest bathing. Ha.

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

The biggest money mistake I’ve made was in my early 30s. In preparation for a big move,  I took out  $10,000 from my  retirement plan. At tax time, Uncle Sam took $5,000 right back.  Boy, did that hurt!  

What can I say… I was young, misguided, uninformed, and naive!  I learned a valuable lesson the minute that money flew right out of my hands. I learned to educate myself about all money matters before making a rash decision.

red cardinal.

6. What’s one thing you splurge on?

I splurge on food! We love fresh seafood and living in Florida provides us easy access to delectable seafood.

Salmon and sushi are always favorites or fresh salads made with local organic produce.

restaurant plate.

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

Starbucks! I love my homemade cup of coffee that’s good to the last drop!

coffee in glass mug.

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

I would send it directly to our mortgage company for our sweet little home. The goal is to have a zero balance on our mortgage by January 2030 . 

yellow door.

9. What is something you wish more people knew? 

I wish more people knew that we need very little in life to be truly happy.

True happiness for me personally stems from having a deep relationship with God, family, and nature, spending time with my grandchildren, and always having a little fun.

magnolia blossom.

Our motto for a happy life is: Quality over Quantity, More of Less and Less of More. 


Maria, tell us some more about river cruising. What makes you prefer that over open ocean cruising? Also, how did you guys get into forest bathing?

I enjoy Florida mainly in the winter; I’ve been to Disney in January and I thought the weather then was quite lovely. But to be there year-round, you really need to be a person who enjoys hot weather (or you need to live in the air-conditioning!) Lisey loves that type of weather, so she could definitely be a Florida gal.

In fact, she considered looking for a job in Florida, but ultimately decided on Hawaii (and who could blame her?)

What’s your coffee-making method? I have a very, very basic drip coffee machine, and I’m sure what I produce would make a barista cry. 😉

Readers, the floor is yours!

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Tuesday 12th of March 2024

Hi Maria! Lifelong Floridian here first 32 years in Miami and now I have lived in North Florida (outside of Gainesville) for the last 24 years. I love everything about Florida and never plan on leaving. Thank you for saying positive things about it because we seem to get a lot of hate down here, lol.

We are mortgage free and plan on keeping our home as long as we're on this side of heaven. But do plan on spending a lot of our retirement months down in the Keys, camper-styling it. The freedom you have when you're mortgage free is the most wonderful feeling of all.



Tuesday 12th of March 2024

Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your life, Maria!

I have a couple of questions about your mortgage. What interest rate is it? Since it's only a fifteen year loan and you're ten years into it, do you know how much interest you're actually paying now? Most mortgages are amortized so that the interest is front loaded. The older the loan, the less interest you're paying. Sadly, you don't get any of that front-loaded interest back if you pay it off early, boo!

Another option is to pay the extra to yourself first. Put those extra payments into a high-yield savings account (~5%), or add it to your retirement savings. Once you've accrued enough to pay it off in one fell swoop, you can do so then, if you still want to.

Even though your house is new-ish, there will always be a need for a maintenance fund, especially as you intend to stay there for many years.

Just something to think about. Having more money than you ever dreamt was possible is far more exciting in the long run than paying a mortgage off early.

Congratulations on reaching FIRE!

Linda Sand

Monday 11th of March 2024

For me, river cruising is much calmer than ocean cruising. It doesn't have all the clamor of ocean cruise boats plus you dock right downtown so often you can walk to whatever you want to see/do in each town. And the towns tend to be historic ones since most countries, even the USA, built their first towns along rivers. Plus, river cruise boats don't carry as many passengers so you don't get caught up in crowds everywhere you go. I have done several of each type and I much prefer river cruising.


Monday 11th of March 2024

Hello Maria, I love very word you wrote in answering the question about what you wish people knew. In fact I am going to borrow/steal your motto.


Monday 11th of March 2024

Hi K, María here! We started River Cruising when I explored alternative options to ocean cruising. River cruising became appealing because we took an ocean cruise to Alaska, and I was very seasick. With River cruising there is no ocean waves so the likelihood of getting seasick is slim to none. About Forest Bathing, I read a book on Japanese culture and forest bathing was mentioned as a way to reduce stress that didn't require any special equipment. Finally, I use a Nespresso Coffee machine which I received 3 years ago for Christmas . When I run out of pods which are somewhat expensive ( remember quality over quantity), I use an Italian Moka pot. I buy flavored creamers but the real secret to the coffee craft is a little machine called an electric milk frother that fills my cup with delicious creamy foam! I learned about these coffee techniques when my daughter and I traveled to Europe for 14 days a week after retiring .

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