In college I was broke 😭

Kevin here.

Don’t get me wrong. My family was middle class. But we did our fair share of “Asian budgeting” for saving money. Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Using groceries bags as trash bags
  • Reusing glass jars as cups
  • Reusing plastic takeout containers as “tupperware”

Seeing my parents work so hard always made me reluctant to ask for money. So I worked since I was 16.

I started as a cart pusher/bag boy at a bougie grocery store. Then I left a month later to sell vitamins and nutritional supplements at GNC. Finally in college I had a “more” legit job counting pills as a pharmacy technician.

Even when you have a job, it never feels like you have enough.

You might go out to eat, watch a movie, and fill up your car… and next thing your know your bank account is shitting the bed.

My high school/college car

College forced me to be creative with money saving “hacks” 😂

Things like…

  • Avoiding the campus bookstoreborrowing textbooks from the local libraries, and paying the overdue fees
  • Ordering nothing at a restaurant and telling your friends that I was “dieting”
  • Figuring out how to be an iron chef with protein powder

Walmart…your BFF

Around the same time, I was also looking for the best frugality tips. This was in the age of when “extreme couponing” was the craze.

I’ve gone through most of the internet looking for the “best” saving tips. You probably have too, but let’s be real. These tips aren’t realistic.

Sure. You can pack your own lunch, clip coupons, or cut coffee. There’s also always pulling cans out of the trash. Ask yourself first…

Is this the really best use of our time? Do we really want to live this way? Is this sustainable?

So today I wanted to share a better way than just follow “frugality tips”.

The best technique I’ve found

One of the best tips I found was the concept of “conscious spending” by Ramit Sethi.

It’s the concept of “cutting costs on what you don’t care about, and spending extravagantly on the things you do.

Like let’s be real for a second. Open up a account. Look at your purchases for the last week. Ask yourself…

  1. How many of these purchases did I not give a fuck about?

    For me, I was going to the movies every week… when I didn’t give a fuck about movies. Or eating “dessert” when I didn’t even like sweets and I was trying to diet. For you? It might be going out to eat when you love cooking or paying for cable TV when you love watching YouTube.
  2. How many of those purchases made me feel rich or happy?

    It’s important to know what makes us feel rich in life. For me, it’s purchasing books on Amazon, going to the gym, jiujitsu, coffee shops, and investing.

No lie. There’s no better feeling than having your Roth IRA maxed out in college 😂

And this is where I think most “frugality” tips fuck up. They just focus on being broke all the time. Who wants to live feeling homeless all the time?

Isn’t it easier cutting and saving money on the things that don’t matter? You probably won’t even feel the pain of “cutting back”. Add those things up and it’s easy to save +$100/month.

In fact, you’ll feel better because you’ll be spending more on the things you love rather than cutting back on everything.

The bottom line:

    • Before you buy something give it the… “Do I give a fuck about it” test
    • Write out 1-3 things that make you happy (books, the gym/jiujitsu, coffee shops, investing)
    • Write out 1-3 that you don’t give a fuck about (watching movies, cable TV, etc…)

Set up personal spending accounts with an online bank like Ally 💸

Have you ever felt guilty about spending?

I do, usually for self indulgent things like massages. Or for traveling. I mean how often do we catch ourselves saying… I don’t have enough money to travel?

And honestly this is the hard part. Spending money on what you love guilt free.

Now that you’ve figured out what you care about and what you don’t, it’s important to create a system so you don’t feel guilty about spending it. 

What’s one of the ways I like to do it?

I use an online saving account like Ally. Why? You can set up separate specific accounts so you don’t feel guilty about spending.

You don’t have to “think twice” about what you can afford. Your budget is right there in front of you.

If you have a stable job/paycheck, I like to setup automatic withdrawals from my bank account after my paycheck get direct deposited into my account.

So how do you go about opening an account? It’s easy.

Step 1: Open a saving account

Step 2: Rename your account to whatever you want

Step 3: Setup automatic withdrawal

Step 4: When you spend money, just transfer the money back into your account using the app.

Done. The part where you’re probably screw up is transferring the money back. I like to just carry my phone with Ally app.

When I’m about to make the purchase, I login and transfer the money right then.

This is totally optional, but I highly recommend it.

Force yourself to find creative solutions

I know what you’re thinking… “Well Kevin… What if I have no money to begin with?”

That’s a good point. Sometimes we don’t have money to begin with. Or maybe it’s just not really realistic right now.

For me, I recently lost my job. So it wasn’t really smart to pay for a jiujitsu membership in Boston. Jiu jitsu can cost up to $150 per month. 

I still wanted to do jiujitsu, but chances are I wasn’t going to find a job ASAP. So how could I still practice despite not having a lot of money?

So I went to my old kung fu school, where I’m a senior, don’t have to pay, and decided to drill my 10th Planet warmups with some my students.

It’s not optimal, but it’s a pretty good compromise.

I read in Principles by Ray Dalio that most problems can be figured out with enough discipline and creativity.

A lot of the time, we tend to tell ourselves certain stories and give up. Like… “I can’t do ______ because I’m broke.

What if we could reframe the question and instead ask… how can I do ______ despite not having money?

Can I mop and clean a gym in exchange for gym membership? Maybe I pool money with my friends to get a PornHub Premium membership. Or break an expensive meal into two meals so I get better value for my money?

The possibilities are endless.You better thank me for that PornHub premium tip.

Have you ever heard of anyone “saving their way” to a rich life?

I haven’t either.

At the end of the day, there’s only two ways to make more money. You either…

1. Make more

2. Save more

The truth is that saving only goes so far. Think about it. There’s only so many coupons you can clip and coffees that you can cut down on.

Even the best “frugality” tips can’t help you if you don’t make any money.

Instead if you focus on making more money, there’s no limit to that. Think about all the ways you can make more money. You can…

  1. Negotiate more at your job
  2. Open a business 
  3. Drive Uber
  4. Open a clothing line with
  5. Suck a duck for living (my least favorite)
  6. Invest (my personal favorite)

And that’s why I don’t really write about frugality tips. Is it worth your time doing one of the above or collecting cans…?

As my boy Ramit says, “Focus on big wins over small losses.

With my parents, they saved on the everyday things so they could take us on vacations like Disney World and give us life lasting memories.

Did this article help you? Share it with anyone struggling.

Also if you’re interested in investing, sign up for my email list below. You’ll be the first to know when my investing course comes out. 

Until next time,

Kevin the Refugee

PS… Thanks to my Lily my subscriber for suggesting this topic.