With a passion for frugality, I have read multiple blogs and listened to multiple podcasts about personal finance.
It’s interesting how some people are just naturally frugal and others aren’t. Or are they? Is frugality an innate ability?
Below are the four reasons why Mr. FAF and I are frugal:
1. We came from low-income families.
Mr. FAF and I were born into and grew up in low-income, if not poor, families.
Money was always an issue for my parents. My parents only graduated high school, and they made a low income.
They always scrambled to make money in order to put food on our table and to give me a good education.
I remember my mom taking on multiple side hustles such as knitting sweaters and making yogurt for a street vendor to increase our income. My dad would wake up at 3-4 AM almost every day to go to work.
There were times when my dad made financial missteps that cost our family more than we could afford. It was my mom who toiled away in her sweat to hold our family together.
Seeing the challenges that my parents went through to make ends meet, I’ve always been conscious of my spending habit. I always think about how hard it is for my family to make money in Vietnam before I make an expensive purchase.
I could make $7 an hour as a college student, but it would take my parents 3-4 days to make the same amount. It took me years to be completely comfortable with eating a $7 meal without feeling guilty about it.
Through careful budgeting and saving, our parents are now much better-off financially. They have set a good example for me to follow.
Mr. FAF was born into a well-off family by Chinese standards at the time. However, his family’s business went bankrupt, leaving his grandparents struggling to make ends meet.
After a series of ups and downs, Mr. FAF’s parents are doing better financially than they used to. However, they still maintain their frugal habits. They always finish all the leftovers. My mother-in-law rarely buys new clothes for herself. With their diligent saving habit, they were able to help Mr. FAF and me with the down payment for our first home in DC.
2. Mr. FAF and I want to be financially independent.
Mr. FAF came to America at the age of 29 to pursue a PhD. I came to the US at the age of 18 for college. Neither of us have family in the States. If a catastrophe happens, we need to fend for ourselves without our family’s assistance, at least in the short term.
We have to be financially self-sustaining out of necessity. The fear of being penniless and ending up on the street is real for us. We’re sure our friends would land us a hand. But we do not want to be a burden to anyone, especially to the ones that we love.
3. We don’t make a lot of money.
Mr. FAF has been a graduate student for the past six years. He receives a meager monthly stipend from his school which is enough to support only himself. I just started my first full-time job two years ago and have been the breadwinner in the family since.
After years of living on two poor graduate students’ low income, we have learned to live within our means and try not to fall into the credit card trap. For us, debt is bad, and we want to stay out of it at all costs.
4. We’re driven to achieve our future goals.
Mr. FAF and I often talk about our long-term career and family goals and what we plan to do to achieve them. An important part of the equation is money whether it’s traveling, buying rental property, or supporting our parents financially.
We’re willing to delay our gratification to realize our long-term dream of financial freedom. Sometimes we fall prey to temptations (i.e. eating out, buying an expensive dress), but we know how to regroup and avoid major deviations from our plan.
Whether frugality is an innate ability is debatable. Our family background and income levels are the two key reasons why Mr. FAF and I are always mindful about our finances.
Our parents are now much better-off than before. Once Mr. FAF finishes his degree, our income will increase substantially. However, we plan to stick with our frugal way of living. It gives us comfort in knowing that if something happens to us or our family, we will always have enough funding to keep ourselves afloat.
And more importantly, thanks to frugality, we have been able to focus on the big picture and forgo the short-term temptations that will only make a dent in our budget.