Episode 48 Bonus – Living Frugally in Hawaii with Cathleen of Cooking Up Fire


In this episode we are speaking with Cathleen Hutchins about how she lives frugally in Hawaii, how she went to college debt free and other helpful tips.

We love having conversations with our listeners. Every valuable lesson on this journey has come from the wisdom of others in this community.

In today’s Friday Bonus Episode, Cathleen of Cooking Up Fire, gives us some practical ways she has been able to live frugally in paradise.

Take a peek at some of her tips!

Keeping Food and Grocery Costs Low – Lessons from Cathleen’s Mother 


  • What foods are inexpensive
  • What foods are a good buy and when to stock up on them
  • What food you can pair together to make delicious dishes
  • Replant veggies with roots and grow them for food
  • Spices are super helpful in making food

Cathleen only spends $100.00 a week for her family of three.  Her tips for keeping her food budget low while living in Hawaii:

She looks at sales BEFORE she meal plans

(Wendy’s additional tip – also shop your own pantry and freezer as well, before meal planning)

Then meal plan!

Rules for buying “unnecessary items” 

1. It has to be on sale or on clearance

2. Put all your necessary items on the belt first

3. Last, put your extra nice to have, condiments etc. and watch the display.  Purchase what you want from this group until you reach the end of your spending allowance.

How Cathleen and Her Husband Went to College

Without Student Loans


Cathleen’s husband paid for and received a vocational certification in HVAC.   Then he worked and cash-flowed his education at university. He never took out any student loans.

Cathleen utilized several tools, that combined, made her out of pocket expenses minimal.

  1. She knew how much money her parents had saved for her education and avoided applying to schools she knew were outside of her price range.
  2. She knew she had to have good grades and extra-curriculars so that she would qualify for scholarships.
  3. She took advantage of work-study.
  4. In her second year, she applied for an receive a scholarship that paid for the balance of her tuition.

All of these tactics combined allowed Cathleen to graduate without ever taking out any student loans.


Re-amortizing a Mortgage


Another way Cathleen has reduced her monthly expenses was to pay additional principle on her mortgage and then re-amortize with her lender. In doing so, she reduced her monthly mortgage by $600.00. 


Cathleen on the Final Questions:

One lesson she learned as a child she has carried over into her FIRE journey:   Always comparison ship.

One lesson she wants to pass on to her children: To always educate yourself.  Libraries are MAGIC!

Where can you find Cathleen:

At her blog Cooking Up Fire

We loved having Cathleen on and hope you enjoyed her tips.  She has written a companion article to the show, you can read that HERE.


Connect with us and each other.  Our group is full of other parents on the same journey.  We built our group to share and support one another and grow our House of FI family!


2 thoughts on “Episode 48 Bonus – Living Frugally in Hawaii with Cathleen of Cooking Up Fire”

  1. Thanks for having me on, Wendy and Curtis. I really enjoyed myself (though may have lied when I said I wasn’t nervous…I was). Hopefully these can help other people with budgeting.

    1. houseoffi

      Thank you Cathleen! We loved having you. You sounded like a pro. 😉

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