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No one wants to be struggling financially and not be able to make ends meet.
Not having enough necessities and not being able to buy what you need is not desirable.
I grew up poor, so I know what it’s like to have little to no money to spend.
What I am going to discuss in this post is different. I will talk about the intentional avoidance of using money and how I have become happy with that choice.
I have been broke pretty much most of my life. It wasn’t until I got a full-time job four years ago that I felt a little breathing room in my budget. And when Mr. FAF started working two years ago after finishing grad school, we got a 128% boost in our income.
We had lots of plans for that milestone: eating steak at TGI Friday’s every weekend, traveling to Hawaii, eating out more often, buying beautiful dresses (for me) and fancy electronic gadgets (for him), etc.
However, when we actually got the first dual income paychecks, we changed our minds. Those fancy ideas no long appealed to us. We ended up putting $15,000 towards our mortgage payment that month and paid off our mortgage recently.
Over the past two years, Mr. FAF has bought some fancy gadgets for himself like the 3D video game (which he later returned), an Apple watch, and a Fitbit watch. Mr. FAF has some other expensive purchases like a $600 mattress from Costco. And we went on a road trip to Atlanta.
But we have eaten out much less than before and definitely don’t go to TGI Friday’s every weekend. In this post, I will talk about my own experience of wanting to stay minimalist and being content with the things that I have.
I think of not wanting or not needing to buy anything as a happy state of mind. In my case, it means that I have everything that I need. And they are:
We have a paid-off house. I don’t have to worry about making the next mortgage payment. We have enough money for home insurance and property taxes, which is much more manageable than a huge mortgage.
Our house is not fancy or big in anyway. But it’s easy to clean, and we don’t have to sweat bullets when something breaks because most of our furniture was either sold as defective at a discount at the store or picked up from the curb side.
That said, Mr. FAF and I are saving up for our next house which Mr. FAF wants to be bigger and newer than our current one. I honestly don’t think it’s necessary. I just want another property as an investment. But marriage is about compromise, so I agreed.
After having Baby F2, eating out sounds more like a chore than leisure to me. Our kids refuse to eat most things in public.
If we go to a restaurant, our son will willingly go hungry, and our baby will get bored and start crying in the high chair. When we get home, I will need to feed Baby F2 and try to force Baby F1 to eat something.
Our meal goes from lasting an hour at home to an hour at the restaurant and probably another hour at home. It just sounds so unappealing and exhausting to me.
What I love these days are Mr. FAF’s home-made fried rice and steak. Mr. FAF loves steak. We used to go to a steak house once every few months when we had less money, which was like a big reward for us. But now Mr. FAF just gets the raw cut from Costco (roughly $9.99/lb) and makes the steak at home.
One piece of steak is usually so big that both of us can share it at one meal and then have enough for Mr. FAF’s next meal (3 meals in total). We have steak once every month or so and totally skip the drive and the wait at a restaurant.
When we have old rice and want a quick lunch on the weekends, Mr. FAF whips up some egg, adds in some frozen corn and cabbage pickle, and turns those simple ingredients into a tasty dish that I can’t have enough of.
I used to go to a pho restaurant whenever I craved it. I have, however, learned to make pho from scratch at home. I usually make a lot of broth and just freeze it for the next time when I crave pho. It takes about an hour to prepare to make the broth.
My home-made pho (with vermecelli noodles)
I then let it simmer for 3-4 hours, let the broth cool off room temperature, and let it sit in the freeze overnight. And the next morning, I heat up the broth again and voila! I have home-made pho for multiple meals.
That, to me, is happiness. I used to dream about eating a buffet at a 5-star restaurant, and I would if I could (with a big discount). But that idea no long appeals to me. I feel happy with a homemade meal made by Mr. FAF and me.
I went on a clothing ban in 2018. I did buy a pair of $76 black boots and got a few clothing items from my family in Vietnam. But other than that, I didn’t buy any clothes.
I am happy to report that in 2019, I only bought a pair of undergarments from Costco for $15 which I project will last me for years. I also bought a pair of flip flops for $9 from Target and a pair of ballerina flats from Amazon for $12.5. But as you can guess, the Amazon shoes broke after a month, which was then past the return date (lesson learned!).
I do have two other pairs of work shoes that I can wear to work, so I am not buying any more shoes for the summer. I didn’t buy any more clothes in 2019.
I am as frugal about using utility at our house as usual. That means turning off lights when they are not in use, using water sparingly, and keeping the thermostat at 76 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter.
I used to commute to work. I signed up for a monthly pass for the Metrorail in DC and paid $162 with my pretax dollars. Mr. FAF and I have a car, but he drives it to work. We only use it to go to the nearby mall for a walk or go grocery shopping together on the weekends.
Mr. FAF has been talking about buying a big screen TV to put at home. But I have absolutely no interest in it. Mr. FAF and I never watch TV although we have two at home. We share a Netflix account with our friend, but I watch YouTube primarily.
Our favorite fun activity is going for a walk in the neighborhood or at the mall. Sometimes Mr. FAF craves cheesesteak, so we will get a regular cheesesteak with fries and coke for $12 at the mall food court and share it with our son (he only wants the fries and coke). It’s usually for fun. We will eat our lunch or dinner at home afterwards.
After our baby had a fever throughout the trip to Atlanta, I have lost interest in going on a long trip. My biggest fear is that if we go on a trip somewhere, and Baby F2 will get sick and we won’t be able to go anywhere.
I definitely want to check out new places, and I’m looking into travel hacking. But I want to wait until her immune system builds up so that she won’t be so vulnerable to random germs and viruses in public.
Sometimes I just think it’s so odd that I wanted so much more when I was broke. I wanted nice expensive clothes, restaurant food, fancy resort stays, delicious snacks, expensive hotel stays, etc.
And now when we make more income, I don’t really want those same things anymore. I am happier with simple things in life and don’t see the fun in spending lots of money on clothes and food.
You might be wondering what makes me happy and keeps me motivated these days then. My focus right now is raising my two kids and advancing my career.
A job to me is not just a tool to make money. It is a playing field for me to explore my potential and that challenges me intellectually.
But for now, I am content with the things that I have.
Sometimes I think it might be a good thing that I grew up poor since I don’t need much to be happy. But I definitely don’t want our kids to experience the hardhips that I did. And that’s more motivation for me to work harder to build a better life for our family.
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