Interview with Jo and Leisa from Joleisa.com

Jo and Leisa are two sisters who came to the UK from Jamaica to be teachers. After a few years of teaching they decided to switch to blogging and set up Joleisa.com – penny pinchers paradise! You might recognise them from the TV as they have been on Channel 5’s Shop Smart Save Money!

In this interview, we get to know a bit more about them, including what they miss about Jamaica, why they quit teaching, their top frugal tips and more. Plus they share an authentic Jamaican vegan-ified recipe!

1.     On Joleisa.com, you share that you came over to the UK from Jamaica to teach. When did you make the move and what made you decide to come over here??

Leisa first came to teach in England in 2002 when there was a teacher shortage here. She was recruited from Jamaica by a teaching agency. Jo stayed back in Jamaica with her family and Leisa’s baby daughter while Leisa settled in to see what living in the UK would be like. At the end of the first year, Jo flew over to visit Leisa and also to reunite her with her daughter. She liked what she saw and decided to give it a go too. So the same teaching agency was contacted and an interview was arranged when she got back to Jamaica. The interviewers were impressed and so Jo also migrated with her family. 

What do you miss most about Jamaica and what do you like about living here

The switch was hard. The weather was….well typical British weather and the behaviour of the kids at school was abominable and not like anything we’d ever seen before. We knew kids could be naughty, but this was on another scale!

Leaving home in the dark to go to school, and getting back home in the dark (this was in January), was depressing.

We persevered because the salary was good. It afforded us the ability to save for what we wanted to achieve in life but also to be able to help family members and friends back home too! We love to travel and explore new places and this gave us the opportunity to do that too.

We miss the more ‘chilled’ life back home where things operate at a much slower pace. The constant sunshine is also something that we miss. The food is greatly missed too and we do cook Jamaican foods here but some authentic ingredients are hard to come by or are very expensive.

2.     What made you change direction from teaching to blogging and why did you choose to write about being frugal and thrifty on Joleisa.com?

After a while, the demands of teaching and running a family became rather difficult. We were spending long hours at school and only seeing our kids very little. At about that time too, there were some strange changes taking place in Education with every new Government minister wanting to put their own stamp on things. We felt that there was hardly any consultation with teachers. The goal posts kept changing according to the whims and fancies of those in charge. That compounded with the behaviour of many of the children. It made it feel like we were fighting a losing battle and not having enough time to spend with our own families.

So we had to take stock and decide whether we wanted to stay in our depressing jobs and be able to afford to pay for ‘stuff’( like the Joneses) or give up and live a happier life. We decided to go part time to test out living on a lower income. So that is exactly what we did. We were happier and got to spend more time with our families. So being frugal really did work a treat and that was why we decided to explore this more and encourage others to do the same. We both feel that this has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. So we started Joleisa.com before we totally gave up teaching. 

3.     How long have you been writing Joleisa.com for and what have been the highlights so far?

We have been writing Joleisa.com for nearly 4 years. Highlights include actually writing stuff that we enjoy talking about, getting to meet other bloggers, joining the UK Money bloggers group from where we have received so much help and being contacted by brands through the blog (and getting actual money for promoting what we believe in).

One big highlight too was being able to take part in all three series of the Channel 5 consumer programme Shop Smart Save Money, where we were able to give practical advice and support to families to help them manage their finance. It still brings a smile to our faces when people meet us on the streets and tell us that they saw us on tv. One lady met us in Wilkos and asked for tips and advice for redecorating her living room on a budget!

4.     Do you make money from Joleisa.com and if so how? 

Yes, thankfully all this work has paid off. We earn commission from Joleisa.com as affiliates, we write A LOT and we also get paid for ads on our blogs. We are paid also for working with brands and for sponsored posts.

5.     I read that you tried out Veganuary. How did you find it and how has that affected what you eat since?

We quite enjoyed Veganuary and don’t always cook meat with every meal. But we do have lots of friends who are vegan and who are always asking for recipes so we adapt some meat recipes to suit them and we quite enjoy partaking too. We also did some work with a brand on developing some Jamaican recipes to make them vegan friendly.

6.     Do you have any recommendations for vegan or vegetarian Jamaican dishes and any recipes that I and my readers could try out?

Sure! Ackee and saltfish which is a popular Jamaican dish can be easily adapted by replacing the salted cod with olives or mushrooms, preferably shitake for the meaty texture. Check out the recipe on our blog here: Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish (vegan version)

7.     I have heard/ read criticism that sustainability movements in this country aren’t inclusive enough. Is this a problem you have encountered and if so what do you think can be done about it?

In our humble opinion, sustainability issues affect all of us regardless of anything that seems to divide us. It is in all our best interest to take part by doing our bit. We can be sustainable with our shopping habits for clothes and food and body care products etc. These are issues that affect everyone. 

8.     What are your biggest tips for living the frugal life?

  • Budget wisely according to your means
  • Meal plan
  • Spend within your limit
  • Avoid credit at all possible costs
  • Save and invest
  • Shop around and check prices especially online
  • Don’t automatically renew anything
  • Use voucher codes, store loyalty cards and coupons
  • When you’re out shopping, haggle haggle haggle
  • Use comparison sites like Go compare, Compare the Market and other Apps that will show you the best deal.

9.     For anyone visiting your blog for the first time, where should they start and where can they follow you

Our blog is at Joleisa.com where people can read the latest posts. There is also the right sidebar which lists the latest posts, and also our most popular posts. Everyone is after something different and there is definitely something there for everyone.

I really enjoyed interviewing Jo and Leisa. I can relate to how they felt about their jobs and their journey too. Years ago I quit my job to become a blogger and also found that I prefered to live off less, but to have more time. I also did Veganuary for the first time this year and have been mainly (but not fully) plant based ever since.

Jo and Leisa are trained teachers turned full time bloggers. They hail from Jamaica and it is their passion to show others that they can live a good quality, happy life, at a fraction of the cost. They both have young adult children and currently live in Birmingham, England. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter. Read their blog at Joleisa.com