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Four months after starting Frugal Asian Finance, I asked Mr. FAF to sit down with me for an interview.
I invited the readers to submit questions for Mr. FAF and received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Thank you all so much for your support!
I asked Mr. FAF to be honest in answering all of the 34 questions some of you had submitted. During the interview, I learned a lot of new information that he had never told me before.
I divided the questions and answers into five categories to make it easier for you to follow: Romance, Family, Blogging, Finance, and Career.
Take it away, Mr. FAF!
How we met
How did you guys meet? – Lily
We met through a mutual friend who invited us to a Thanksgiving lunch. We met at the parking lot in front of a grocery store. Ms. FAF just stood out from the crowd. I approached her and said Hi. That’s how we met.
First 3 words that popped into your head when you saw Ms. FAF? – Lily
Beautiful, tall, and elegant.
3 words when Ms. FAF saw you? – Lily
Ms. FAF: I don’t remember having any particular impression of Mr. FAF. It was winter, so I think he was wearing a black jacket.
When and how did you know you wanted to marry Ms. FAF? What are your favorite qualities about Ms. FAF? – Jing
Two months after we started dating, I asked Ms. FAF to be my wife. I realized that Ms. FAF and I shared similar values. She’s family-oriented, hard-working, and frugal.
Our long-distance marriage
Was pursuing higher education in a different state worth the long distance relationship? – S
Yes. In China, we have this proverb: “You taste the bitterness first, and you will gain the sweetness for the rest of your life.” It might be difficult being away from each other for a couple of years, but I will have much more opportunity after finishing my doctoral degree.
Do you guys watch TV or shows together despite the long distance? – Lily
We watched TV shows together only when we are in DC. But it’s difficult for us to agree on what we both like. I like science-fiction while Ms. FAF likes romantic comedy.
How do you stay involved in the day to day and the little moments happening in DC, and still be focused to do your job? – Ember
We spend 30 minutes to an hour every day talking to each other about the details of our lives on Google Hangout before we go to bed. During the day, we send each other messages on Gchat.
What are the benefits of long distance? – My Sons Father
We can focus on our work. We can have our own circles of friends so that we have more stories to share with each other. We cherish each other more because we can’t meet every day. We have to make the most out of the time when we are together.
What conflicts do you avoid because of long distance? – My Sons Father
When we are not together, we don’t need to worry about what to cook, what to do on the weekends, etc. We have more freedom to focus on what we like to do as individuals. I can be lazy when I’m alone.
What conflicts do you have just because you are long distance? – My Sons Father
We need to carefully plan our work schedules to meet. We might have conflicts about when to visit each other. Sometimes it’s hard for me to explain myself if there’s a misunderstanding or disagreement between us.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of a long distance marriage. Do you think your challenges are the same as Ms. FAF’s? – Jing
Challenges for Mr. FAF
The biggest challenge for me is to show Ms. FAF that I’ve made progress in my doctoral program. Usually, Ms. FAF is unsatisfied because she supposes that I’m not hard-working enough to achieve my goals.
Ms. FAF is very strict with my food expenses although I spent $250 on rent in a metropolitan city. Even if a meal there was $5-7 and could be split into two separate meals, she still wanted me to cook at home.
I had to use my separate account to fund my social events so that she would not be mad at me. For example, if I had a get-together with my roommates or some other events, I had to tell Ms. FAF it’s $5, but it’s usually $15-20.
[Ms. FAF’s input: I didn’t know about this. This is very helpful information.]
Challenges for Ms. FAF
Ms. FAF doesn’t have a car in DC, so it’s hard for her to do grocery shopping, hang out with friends or meet new people.
What’s your secret to long distance driving? Do you just chug coffee or some kind of energy drink? – JM
I always try to sleep well the night before I drive 11 hours to DC to see Ms. FAF. If you drive long distance more than three times, you will get used to it. I usually don’t drink energy drinks or coffee.
How much longer will it be before the three of you are all living under the same roof for good? – JM
We are now officially together under one roof because I defended my dissertation and moved to DC in late July.
What do you think are the biggest role/responsibilities you take care of in the marriage? – Jing
I think my biggest responsibility is to support the family financially (my wife, kids, and our parents). I also change Baby FAF’s diapers and feed him for almost 2 hours on the nights Ms. FAF is busy so that he can grow. I do 95% of the driving for the family.
How do you feel about Baby FAF being so far away? – Jing
I felt motivated to finish my degree and get a job faster so that we can afford to raise Baby FAF as a family in America. And I made it.
What are you most excited about when you all are eventually under the same house? Most scared? – Pete
The most exciting thing for me is having baby FAF crawl onto my belly and watching him sleep. I’m scared of feeding him for two hours at dinner every day; it seems to go on forever.
Can you cook?! – Lily
Yes, I usually cook for Ms. FAF when my mom is not in DC. I can cook some typical Chinese dishes such as tomato egg soup, tomato fried egg, chili fried pork, and pork rib soup.
When I just came to America without any cooking skills six years ago, I starved myself for 3 days. I had no car and no Google maps, so I didn’t go to a restaurant. I had to learn how to cook from my roommate and practiced cooking by myself.
After I met Ms. FAF, I had to improve my cooking to impress her. I learned many recipes from Youtube videos and other online resources. I have to cook for Ms. FAF because she cooks like a Martian chef.
Favorite frugal date night(s)? – Guy on FIRE & Ying
We went to CC pizza, which was $5/person. That’s one of the cheapest dates we have ever been on. We used to go to an Indonesian restaurant where you could buy one meal for $5-6. Now we just go for a walk at the mall or eat out together.
What are your thoughts before Ms. FAF launched her blog and your thoughts today? – Chris, Pete & Tina
I thought blogging was something people used to share their interests or professional trouble-shooting skills. That’s all the impression I had of blogging. I never thought someone could make a living off of it.
Ms. FAF has shown me a couple of bloggers who make big money, so I think it also has an income potential. But I still think those bloggers are few and far between.
If you were to start a blog, what would it be about? – Jing
It would be about how to build a life in a new country as a Chinese immigrant.
Was your background similar to Ms. FAF’s (where she grew up in a low-income family) and did that help shape the way you manage your money? – JM
I was raised in a lower middle class in Eastern China. I came to the US on a scholarship, so I had to manage all of my living costs on a limited budget. That’s why I was on the same age with Ms. FAF when we met.
How did you both get on the same frugal page? – Guy on FIRE
I didn’t budget my spending before I met Ms. FAf although I could barely support myself with my stipend in a metropolitan city. When we started dating, Ms. FAF asked me to budget my expenses even under my minimum living standard.
After we got married, every month I was asked how much I spent on my living costs, and then I had to present my spending pie charts. Each time I was asked to reduce my spending, so I did a couple of things to lower my expenses. I moved to a $250 bedroom in a suburban area which was 13 miles away from my job. I bought $7-8 dishes and ate them for 2 meals. I tried to cook, but I didn’t have time.
[Ms. FAF’s input: The pie charts are a bit of an exaggeration. I didn’t ask Mr. FAF to make pie charts in Excel and present them to me. But I used to ask him to list his biggest expenses every month, and eating out was always on top of the list (roughly $500 for one person).]
Who is more frugal? – Guy on FIRE
Ms. FAF is more frugal than me. She doesn’t eat out often. She eats out by herself once or twice a year. Each time it’s the food court or the mall. She is using a 5-year-old laptop, and the screen of the laptop can’t hold itself. We have to use a metal bookend to hold the screen. She packs lunch to work every day. She doesn’t buy new clothes often. The list goes on.
How do you talk about $$$ with your wife? – Leo
1st attempt: Ms. FAF manages our joint account. I don’t have any secrets.
[Mr. FAF couldn’t keep a straight face and started covering his face with his hands.]
Final answer: I always tell Ms. FAF that being frugal is one thing, but it’s more important to make more money. We should have a balance between frugality and investment.
We don’t disagree about money often. I always think highly of Ms. FAF’s frugal tips. But sometimes I can’t follow them. I have to apologize to Ms. FAF and tell her that I’m going to get a big salary.
What are both of your biggest pet peeve spending habits about each other? – Guy on FIRE
Mr. FAF: Ms. FAF doesn’t spend money.
Ms. FAF: Mr. FAF spends too much money on eating out. My mother-in-law would agree with me.
What spending habit do you guys argue about the most? – The Luxe Strategist
Eating out. Ms. FAF limits how much I can spend on eating out. For example, I was asked to buy Costco Lipton tea after Ms. FAF knew I went to Starbucks with my colleagues to get tea ($3-5) every day for a month. I secretly gave up on the idea of buying tea from Costco because bringing a cup of Lipton tea to Starbucks with my colleagues would be embarrassing.
When I splurge, I am spending money on… (fill in the blank) – Mrs. Adventure Rich
– Eating out.
What would you do if Mrs. FAF makes say $100,000/year from this blog or some other side hustle? Can you handle making less money? – Joe
I will be happy if it happens. We will have a vacation in Hawaii in the winter. In the summer, I want to go to Alaska with my family for a whole week.
Ms. FAF has been the breadwinner for almost 2 years. We are a 21st century family. We respect gender equality. It doesn’t matter which one of us makes more money. What matters is whether we’re living a happy life.
However, $100,00 is only a fraction of my annual income. I’m confident that I will be the breadwinner in the future because I have a great job.
[Ms. FAF’s input: This answer is open to interpretation.]
What is your top money saving tip? – Ying
Living in a very shabby place to save on rent.
Who got your hair and how much? – Lily
I usually cut my hair myself. I’ve gone to a barber shop 6 times over the past 6 years. Two of them ($15 each) happened in the past 8 weeks since I wanted to have a nice haircut for my dissertation defense. I went 8 weeks before my defense, but my hair grew back fast, so I went again 4 weeks later. Ms. FAF wasn’t too happy about it and told me I could have done it myself.
What is early retirement? How to go for it? – Wealthpedia, Lily, & Shivika
It means $5M before 50. I’m a Software Engineer working for a top company. My goal is to become a top player in the software industry. I want to retire by the age of 50. After that, I want to found a phenomenal company so that I can change the world.
Why didn’t you try to find a school closer to Mrs. FAF? – S
When we started dating, I had been in the PhD program for two years. I didn’t transfer because I had my fellowship at the original school which I could use to cover my living expenses.
Do you ever wish Mrs. FAF took a job closer to you? – S
Of course. But she couldn’t find one in my city.
What is/would be your passion project? – Mrs. Adventure Rich
I would love to get a degree in Law or History. I have been a big fan of history since I was in my early 20s. But I found out I wouldn’t be able to make a decent living being a historian.
In the first 2 years of my PhD program, I seriously considered applying to law school because being in a law-related profession can improve the world. But I found out that going to law school was too expensive and difficult for an immigrant. Maybe in the future when I retire by 50, I could pursue one of these projects.
What would you like to say to the reader? – Ms. FAF
Hi guys, thank you for being a reader on Ms. FAF’s blog. There will be more stories to come. Stay tuned!