Meet My Frugal Sister, Liesl

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my witty, younger sister, Liesl. We’re both frugal – in some similar ways and some different. You can read her perspective below!

Thanks, sis, for sharing with everyone!

Tell us about yourself and your family.

My name is Liesl. I have 2 beautiful daughters and a handsome husband whose work has brought us to Okinawa (the “Hawaii” of Japan), where we attend the only Lutheran church on the island. The very first family we talked to had a random connection to us, which makes the whole Lutheran circle look like the size of an eraser head.

Who’s more frugal – you or your spouse? How so?

Jose is more frugal when it comes to everything besides food. He will go without or come up with crazy ideas to make me not buy something that we probably don’t need anyway. Our house would be bare except for the fact that he loves me too much to say no to meevery time I want something! He just handmade a kite to fly with our daughter, he refuses to pay more than $5 for a shirt, and he once went an entire summer using only a spoon and a microwaveable bowl as his kitchen utensils. He also tells me that if he wasn’t married to me, he would be a millionaire because he would sleep in the back of his truck and shower at public facilities.

Were you raised to be frugal? If so, how? If not, what made you become this way?

I thought everyone was raised like me. I thought the kids who ate Oreos for lunch were rich, because we never got Oreos. My siblings and I thought my parents were splurging when they took us to Pizza Hut for the free personal pan pizzas we’d earned through Book-It. Not only that, I seriously remember them just sitting and watching us eat our little pizzas and then going home, where they would eat their own dinner. You know you were raised to be frugal when you don’t learn restaurant etiquette until you start working in one in high school. Jose has made me more frugal. We have spray painted old furniture (but it’s pretty :-)) and all the art on our walls is homemade as of now.

Who (or what) has had the most influence on your frugality?

Even though we have so much more than we need, thoughts of our children’s education and ways we could be better using our money to help others keeps me saving. Yes, we can afford a new shower curtain to tone down the unflattering tile, and we could even afford to replace the government couches so it feels more like home, but we don’t think that buying everything just because we can will help to instill the values of hard work and humility and generosity in our own kids. And although we are expecting all our children to get huge scholarships for being geniuses, I’m sure we’ll still have to contribute a bit to their college tuition. Those 2 thoughts keep me from forking over more money for the new season’s adorable palette of coordinating plates, bedding and storage bins from Target that I don’t really need.

How does your faith influence your frugality?

God speaks right to me in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” I want to be content, and I want to be a cheerful giver, and being frugal gives me even more to give back to God. I try to keep in the front of my mind all the good that my saved pennies can accomplish.

What’s so appealing about being frugal?

Even though it takes time to be frugal, I think in the end it helps to simplify your life by bringing your focus back to your core values. Frugality means living more simply and cutting back to me – cutting back on the clutter, the time spent purchasing and organizing and cleaning your possessions. We had a possession “detox” when we moved to Japan because we couldn’t bring much, and that has helped make my life simpler. I couldn’t even clean out a closet now if I wanted to, because everything we brought, we use! Frugality also leads to lots of awe-inspiring talks by Jose to his co-workers, who are incredulous of our frugal ways. Also, it’s cool to use a bent wire coat hanger to hold up your Christmas wreath. I don’t think that’s tacky.

What is your biggest frugality challenge?

Right now, I have lots of them. I’m realizing how cheap things are in America, and I miss it. I can’t make use of sales in the grocery stores and doubling coupons or comparison shopping, and the cheapest place to buy clothes is not nearly as cheap as Ross. Aside from going on big shopping sprees when we come back to the states for a visit, I can’t find a way around buying over-priced clothes for the adults in our family. Buying clothes online for myself is too much of a pain with the sizing and shipping charges to send things back. On the flipside, I’ve been more frugal here because I can’t impulse shop at Target and Wal-Mart every week, and the yen rate and clothing choices out in town keep me from doing much purchasing other than groceries!

What’s your best frugality tip?

If you live far away from humongous, awesome stores like Kohl’s and Target (Yes, I kind of miss it!), get in tune with the seasons. I recently snatched up tons of $2-3 great quality kids clothes online because it was the end of the season. I didn’t realize they actually dump merchandise off the online “rack” like that, but it sure beats going back to the store every week to see the new sales! To make sure your savings count, buy as much as you need to get free shipping so you don’t negate the savings with horrendous shipping charges. Then explain to your husband when the large package arrives how you actually just saved him a lot of money. (But really, I do always aim for free shipping!)

Any final frugal thoughts to share?

Yes, actually. I can’t speak yet to whether the Japanese people are more frugal than myself, but it is a fact that they have smaller houses, less space to call their own. Many of their rooms are true multi-purpose rooms. The less space you give yourself to accumulate, the more frugal you can be by spending less to fill and maintain your space. That’s my hypothesis, anyway! I almost don’t want to get back all the stuff we have in storage, because we are still living in plenty without it. I hope that as time goes by, I can raise an even more frugal family so that our joy may increase as we learn to get the best out of life, living with less.

Each month, we feature an interview as part of our “Meet a Frugal Lutheran…” series. The interviewees share how their faith has shaped their frugality. If you’d like to participate, simply send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll send you a questionnaire!

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