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Meet an Australian/Canadian reader | Helen

Today, we’re meeting a reader who has such an interesting life story; I found the circumstances of her marriage to be so touching. And while I didn’t plan it this way, it seems appropriate for Valentine’s Day!

Here’s Helen:

1.Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Helen. I’m from Australia but am living in Ontario, Canada.

Helen on a bridge

In Australia!

As the pandemic began, so did our marriage. I married in my early 40s. My husband was a widower and has two young children and I’m in the process of adopting them.

Helen and her husband.

My dear husband and I on our wedding day. Right at the beginning of the pandemic with 5 people in attendance, no celebration, no photographer. But we got married!

To say that this time of pandemic has been overwhelming and chaotic would be an understatement! And yet there is also a lot of joy and love in our home.

I am a nurse, but at present I’m staying home with our 2 littles and am relishing this unexpected blessing of marriage and children.

two girl running on a sidewalk.

Our girls taking their dollies for a walk on a warm spring day last year. Free entertainment is usually the kind we enjoy most!

My husband was married to one of my dearest friends – so we find ourselves in a very special situation. As Christians, we see God’s fingers all over our unique story and are thankful to lean on him for guidance when the days are tough.

Some days we definitely just try to make it to quiet time and bedtime – but in general we are growing and thriving.

A home with a for-sale sign in the yard.

Our new home in the country. We are thrilled to be living here and look forward to spring and growing!

We recently moved to a more rural part of our city. We were always city folk, but were looking for a place to start anew – and also give our children space to thrive and grow.

We weren’t exactly sure what would best suit our needs, but we have ended up with a beautiful bungalow on a 1 ½ acre lot just outside the city. We are thrilled to be looking at planting some fruit trees, putting in a veggie garden, getting a dog and some chickens.

spaghetti squash

A beautiful spaghetti squash growing in our raised beds.

Lots of exciting times and hard work ahead! And we are thankful! Especially during this time of pandemic, it feels like such a wonderful thing.

We literally have our own personal toboggan hill right outside our garage door. Across the road our neighbours have 3 horses.

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

I’m trying to remember when The Frugal Girl first popped up on my feed of blogs. It’s been a while because at the time, Kristen was busy homeschooling her 4 little ones.

I don’t often comment, but am a faithful reader.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

I spent a few months in British Columbia with some dear friends who were huge Dave Ramsey fans, and introduced me to the concept of living without debt.

While I’m not completely without a credit card, I learnt so much from his method of budgeting and money management.

I was able to buy a house at 30 and rented out part of the house to cover my mortgage and was able to pay a lot of it down over 10 years.

A vegetable garden.

We built raised beds in our front yard at our old house. It was so fun watching people walk by and stop to take a second look at the crazy folk who were growing food! And wow… it grew so well!

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

During the single time of my life I was very much focused on saving and budgeting and living frugally. I fully expected to repatriate back to Australia to care for my aging parents – and wanted to be able to afford the move without struggling financially. House prices and the cost of living were much higher in Australia at the time.

Since then Ontario has bolted ahead and it’s not cheap here anymore either. So, I’m thankful that frugality has been a part of my life.

This frugality allowed us to move to the rural home we just bought. We hope and pray that we can use this home to bless those around us.

husband picking fruit.

Foraging pears in the neighbourhood. We made perry with them.

5. What’s your best frugal win?

There are quite a few things that make this list. But one particularly memorable time was when I found a pair of brand-new Birkenstocks in my size at a garage sale and bought them for $2.

Several years later the leather strap was tearing a little. I paid $6 for the cobbler to add a bit of extra leather to the strap and wore them for a total of 7 years. That was about $1 a year!

6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?

When I was much younger I really didn’t have a clue about money. The focus was on keeping up with the Jones-es and I spent a lot of money on unnecessary fashion items.

7. What’s one thing you splurge on?

We splurge on good food. I try my best to stay in budget – and aim at $150-175 per week for 2 adults and 2 children. But we highly value quality meat and vegetables. My husband and I both love cooking and enjoy hosting family, friends and church family.

We also splurge on travel. My immediate family is literally dispersed all over the globe and it is important to us to be able to visit and connect.

These last two years have obviously been different, but prior to that I travelled a lot – and almost always to visit with family and love them where they live. We continue to enjoy local travel here with our little family. We love camping and the outdoors.

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

Selfcare items – especially manicures and pedicures. I can’t stand the feeling of nail polish on my nails – and would much rather wear my nails naked. It’s a cheap win!

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

Likely it would go towards some foundation work needed on our home, even though it isn’t nice to have to spend money on unseen successes – it feels so adult-like.

10. Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers.

I have a few tips that I find helpful. Hopefully other readers also appreciate them:

1. Iceblock trays are my friend.

I often freeze things in iceblocks and then put them in freezer bags to use later in small portions. Eg pizza sauce, pork drippings for gravy, freezer pesto. I’ve even frozen leftover water from boiling veggies (eg beets) to use in fruit smoothies.

The iceblock size is so handy, freezes and defrosts quickly, and allows us to use up all sorts of things in appropriate portion sizes. We just grab out two or three freezer blocks as needed, rather than having to defrost an entire container and discard the waste.

2. Doing a clothing fast for a year taught me so much.

Going through a full cycle of a year of seasons helped me learn to shop my closet, wear and care for clothes well, be much more thankful, and realise that I really didn’t need that new jacket or boots to be happy.

It is still my number one tip for anyone learning about frugality.

3. The pandemic has given us opportunity to learn all sorts of fun things.

Recently we made sausages with our brother and sister in law.

homemade-sausage making.

We made 400+ sausages, from good cuts of meat, and figured out that they were about 50c per sausage. This is cheap for us, and it was a lot of fun making the sausages together.

4. We try to use the “buy-me-once” method when we look for something we need.

In the long run it’s much cheaper to buy something of good quality that will last for years that we will enjoy using, than continually having to replace something cheap and poorly made. Kristen often speaks of this with her Vitamix blender – and we would concur!

We recently invested in an Ankarsrum Assistant (a high-end mixer, blender). We hope that one day we can pass it on in our inheritance. It came in very handy when we were sausage making a few weeks ago.

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

We live an hour from Toronto – so one of the most expensive housing markets in North America. Our own little city is also becoming expensive and this is challenging.

We don’t want to move away from this area, but having to spend $1million+ on a house is definitely not adding to the charm. It has taught us the need to stay frugal in other areas though – so that we can live within our means.


Helen, I wanted to tell you that one of my co-workers at Nordstrom, a widow, had married her husband’s best friend. I remember her saying it was so lovely, because they both loved her first husband, and they  could share each other’s grief over missing him. I always thought that was beautiful, and your story reminded me of hers a little! 

I loved reading about the life that you guys are building together, and I hope that the Lord blesses your family richly.

Readers, leave your comments and questions here for Helen!

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Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

This was a lovely read - thank you for sharing! Your love story is a beautiful one.

Sarah K

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

I don't often comment here but I am touched by your story. Thank you for sharing.

Helen 't Hart

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

@Sarah K, thankyou Sarah for taking the time to comment. We hope our story encourages others.


Monday 14th of February 2022

Hi Helen! Your story is lovely! I have a feeling your friend is smiling down on your family and is so happy that your daughters have you.

Helen 't Hart

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

@BJS, thankyou. I often wish I could speak to her and ask for some advice on a specific scenario :).

Stephanie in Brooklyn

Monday 14th of February 2022

Your wedding picture is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing all of this.

I also love that you suggest a clothing fast. I did one years ago after getting disgusted with my overstuffed closet, and I am so glad - it totally reset my purchasing habits and certainly saved me a bundle over the years.

Helen 't Hart

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

@Stephanie in Brooklyn,. Glad you've also enjoyed the benefits of a fast. It sure was a mind blowing experience and the lessons I learned were helpful in many areas of budgeting...not just clothes.


Monday 14th of February 2022

Helen, our widowed sister-in-law is in a long-term relationship (we do not think she will marry again) with someone who was a longtime close friend of her husband's. It's lovely because he never had to try to fit into the the family and group of friends like a newcomer would have. We joke that he just snuggles up closer now.

Helen 't Hart

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

@Ruby, what a lovely image of snuggling in. Thanks for sharing.

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