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7 Frugal Habits I’ll Never Give Up

As a first-generation Filipino American, saving money wherever and whenever possible grounded me early on, as I watched my immigrant parents try to live the American dream.

But in 2016, between mortgages, student loans, and everyday bills, I found myself with $300,000 in debt that left me feeling anxious and hopeless about my ability to pursue this American dream on my own. I began to develop a passion for personal finance because I wanted to learn everything I could to help change my situation.

I developed a plan, paid off my debt in three years, and eventually became a millionaire in my 30s. Today, I run a coaching business called Crush Your Money Goals, where I teach others how to make their money work for them.

No matter how much wealth I continue to create, these are seven frugal habits I have no plans to give up, no matter how much money I have.

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1. I buy the cheapest cuts of meat

Yes, I’m the woman blocking the chicken aisle, looking for the cheapest package of chicken thighs to save an extra 23 cents.

For example, I love eating Korean barbecue. Beef ribs can be expensive. At my local international grocery store in Charlotte, North Carolina, the traditional cut is $11.99 per pound, but I buy the final cuts which are only $7.99 per pound.

They’re not as pretty, but since they have fewer bones, I find them easier to prepare. They are delicious and ultimately better for my budget in the long run.

2. I save vanity kits from my hotel room

As part of my work with Crush Your Money Goals, I often travel for paid speaking engagements – and I’m always delighted when the hotel offers a free vanity kit. Items in these kits can come in handy in unexpected situations, especially if you’re on the go.

My favorites come from my travels to Asia, where they often include toothbrushes, toothpaste, and combs and hair ties that are better than I expected. I use the shower caps and hair ties to organize my various electronics like spare chargers and converters.

I’ve even reused those extra toothbrushes and toothpastes to clean my shoes when they get dirty from long hikes.

Bernadette Joy on a trip to Seoul.

Photo: Bernadette Joy

3. I reuse my takeout containers

Did your parents also keep leftovers in old margarine containers and fresh whippers? The takeout containers I get at restaurants these days are much fancier than those Country Crock tubs my mom used.

Now, instead of throwing away the containers, I reuse them for my own storage. They often come in different sizes and are sturdier than traditional plastic bins, making them perfect for storing leftovers or organizing small items around the house. It’s also more environmentally friendly than throwing them away after just one use.

4. I use every drop of my favorite beauty products

I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m going to squeeze that tube of toothpaste until I get the very last dot. I recently saw a friend throw his away too soon and I almost passed out. I feel the same way about personal hygiene and beauty products, especially when it comes to skin care.

This may seem too frugal to some, but a lot of that comes from growing up with eczema, a skin condition that required me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on medications and specialized lotions.

These products helped me avoid being bullied as a child and now prevent me from feeling embarrassed as an adult, especially as someone who speaks in front of large audiences. You can bet I’ll absolutely get my money’s worth from this $30 bottle of lotion!

5. I look at menu prices before choosing my order

I’m proud to say that I’ve reached a new level of comfort in my finances: I order the extra guacamole. But no matter how much I earn, when I dine out, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up the habit of first reading the price of the dish before making my decision about my meal.

I’ve noticed that many restaurants strategically place the most expensive items at the beginning of the menu to grab your attention. So what I do is start at the end. Reading backwards, I’ll usually spot the most affordable options first. You can still enjoy a high-end meal without the price tag that comes with it.

6. I preserve high-quality shopping bags

Growing up, my mother would save every bag, even if they were just flimsy plastic bags, to use as trash or leftover food when she peeled vegetables. So I admit that I have my own collection of bags hidden under my kitchen sink. But give me a well-made, stylish and sturdy tote, and I’ll make sure I get my money’s worth!

These can act as a holder for snacks, lunches, or small items when I’m on the go. I also don’t feel as bad if I lose them or have to throw them away for convenience. I always keep one or two disposable bags in my luggage when I travel.

7. I wear free T-shirts to the gym

Thanks to the rise of the athleisure industry, going to the gym sometimes feels more like a fashion show than a fitness routine. Since I attend several conferences and giveaway events each year, I will happily wear these free T-shirts to my yoga dance classes instead of spending money on branded workout clothes.

I’ve also lost way too many water bottles to feel good about buying an expensive one, so the free water bottles I get in these gift bags work out great for me too.

Why These Frugal Habits Will Always Mean So Much to Me

These seemingly silly saving habits make me feel a lot less guilty about spending money in areas where others might feel the consequences. For example, I’ll happily shell out more for experiences that matter to me, like attending K-Pop concerts and live comedy events, and purchasing from local or women-owned businesses, even if it costs a little more.

Maintaining these frugal habits also reminds me of the choices my parents made to give me so many options now. Learning to see the value in small, everyday activities is what helped me become a better money manager, a more confident investor, and ultimately become a millionaire.

Bernadette Joy is the CEO of Crush your financial goals, a personal finance training company that offers education with a twist. As the eighth child in her father’s brood of nine children and a first-generation Filipino-American, Bernadette understands those who feel like they’ve missed the memo on money and wants to help others find their financial peace . Bernadette paid off $300,000 in debt in three years and became a millionaire in her 30s. As a financial coach, she has helped thousands of people get out of debt, get on top of their savings, and start investing. Bernadette loves K-pop, yoga, karaoke and spoiling her nieces and nephews. You can find it on Instagram And Youtube.

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