39-year-old self-made millionaire: 7 frugal habits I will never give up, no matter how much money I have

As a first-generation Filipina-American, saving money wherever and however possible was ingrained in 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 in $300,000 of debt that left me feeling anxious and hopeless about my ability to pursue that American dream for myself. I started developing a passion for personal finance because I wanted to learn everything I could to help me change my situation. 

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

Regardless of how much wealth I continue to build, these are seven frugal habits that I don’t intend to quit— no matter how much money I have.

1. I buy the least expensive cuts of meat 

Yes, I’m the woman who’s blocking the chicken section, looking for the cheapest pack of chicken thighs to save an extra 23 cents.

For example, I absolutely love eating Korean barbecue. Beef short-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 end-cuts that are only $7.99 per pound.

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

2. I save my hotel room vanity kits 

As part of my work with Crush Your Money Goals, I often travel for paid speaking engagements — and I’m always excited when the hotel provides a complimentary vanity kit. The items in these kits can come handy in unexpected situations, especially if you’re on the go. 

My favorites have been from my trips to Asia, where they often include toothbrushes, toothpastes and higher-than-expected quality combs and hair elastics. I use the shower caps and hair elastics to organize my various electronics like spare chargers and converters.

I’ve even repurposed those extra toothbrushes and toothpastes to clean my shoes when they’ve gotten dirty from long walking tours.

Bernadette Joy on a trip to Seoul.

Photo: Bernadette Joy

3. I repurpose my takeout food containers

Did your parents also keep leftovers in old margarine and cool whip containers? The takeout containers I get from restaurants nowadays are so much fancier than those Country Crock tubs my mom used. 

Now, instead of discarding the containers, I reuse them for my own storage purposes. They often come in various sizes and are sturdier than traditional plastic tubs, making them perfect for storing leftovers or organizing small items around the house. It’s also more environmentally friendly than tossing them after a single use. 

4. I use every drop of my favorite beauty products 

I’m not embarrassed to say that I will be squeezing that toothpaste tube until I get that very last dot. I recently saw a friend throw theirs out too soon and I nearly passed out. I feel the same ways about personal hygiene and beauty products, especially when it comes to skin-care. 

It may sound too frugal to some, but a lot of it stems from having grown up with eczema, a skin condition that has required me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on medications and specialized lotions. 

These products helped me avoid getting bullied as a kid, and now stop me from feeling self-conscious as an adult — especially as someone who speaks in front of large audiences. You can bet I will absolutely get my money’s worth out of that $30 bottle of lotion!

5. I look at the menu prices before I choose my order 

I’m proud to say that I’ve reached a new comfort level in my finances: I order the extra guacamole. But no matter how much I earn, when I’m dining out, I don’t think I’ll ever kick the habit of reading what the dish costs first before I make my decision about my meal. 

I’ve noticed that many restaurants strategically place higher-price items at the beginning of the menu to catch your attention. So what I do is start at the end. By reading in reverse, I’ll usually spot the more affordable options first. You can still enjoy a premium meal without the attendant price tag. 

6. I preserve high-quality shopping bags 

Growing up, my mom saved every single bag, even if it was just the flimsy plastic ones, to use for trash, or food scraps, as she peeled vegetables. So I admit, I do have my own collection of bags hidden underneath my kitchen sink. But give me a well-made, stylish and sturdy shopping bag, and I will make sure I get my money’s worth out of it!

Those can serve as carriers 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 toss them for convenience. I always keep a disposable bag or two in my luggage when I travel.

7. I wear free T-shirts to the gym

Thanks to the rise of the athleisure industry, sometimes going to the gym feels more like a fashion show than a fitness routine. Since I go to several conferences and events a year that offer swag, I will gladly wear those free T-shirts to my yoga dance classes instead of spending money on designer 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 those gift bags suit me just fine, too. 

Why these frugal habits will always mean so much to me 

These seemingly silly saving habits make me feel way less guilty spending money in areas where others might feel the pinch. For example, I will happily shell out more for experiences that matter to me, like seeing K-Pop concerts and live comedy events, and buying from local and women-owned businesses, even if it is a bit more expensive.

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

Bernadette Joy is the CEO of Crush Your Money Goals, a personal finance training company serving up education with a side of pizzazz. As the eighth child in her father’s brood of nine and a first-gen Filipina-American, Bernadette understands those who feel like they missed the money memo and wants to help others find their financial peace. Bernadette paid off  $300,000 of debt in three years, and became a millionaire in her 30s. As a money coach, she has helped thousands ditch debt, master their savings, and start investing. Bernadette loves K-pop, yoga, karaoke and spoiling her nieces and nephews. You can find her on Instagram and YouTube.

Want to make extra money outside of your day job? Sign up for CNBC’s new online course How to Earn Passive Income Online to learn about common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.


Leave A Reply

© 2024 Time Bulletin. All Rights Reserved.