Budgeting & Saving Money

My Obsession With Saving Money

January 31, 2018

Orgasmic. That’s the greatest word to describe my non-sexual, unhealthy obsession with saving money. For years, I saved 50 cents out of every dollar I earned. Now that I’m married and need my husband’s approval on finances, I’ve compromised down to 25 cents.

I am the type of person who picks up every penny I find on the ground. I cut my own hair for free. I use canvas bags at the grocery store to save 5 cents. When my phone company surprised me by lowering my bill to $19.00, I screamed like a little girl at the top of my lungs.

My best money saving idea was in 2013. I worked at a massage parlor making $3.00/hour. The MTA (which stands for Might Take Awhile) increased the monthly MetroCard fare again. I couldn’t afford to ride the subway to work, so I bought a foldable adult kick scooter. Every day, I kicked myself to work and back. I hit the jackpot with this one. Not only did I save money, I never dealt with morning train delays again.

Last April, soon after the David Dao fiasco, United Airlines lowered their prices. Being money-savvy, I bought a round-trip ticket from Lubbock to NYC for $396.60 from United. Later, I wanted to change the departure date, but United wanted to charge $200.00, plus the difference for a new ticket.

I said no.

I bought a one-way ticket for much less, planning to still use my original return flight. I thought I was genius—until the day before my return flight. Since I didn’t take my original flight, United canceled the itinerary. I wasted $400.00 on another new ticket. Meanwhile, United sold my original seat to someone else, making double the profit!

Something in me snapped.

I felt like starting a national movement to boycott United Airlines. That’s how angry I was.

It wasn’t just about the money. It was about how little control I had over the situation due to their ridiculous policies. It was exactly how controlling my parents were while growing up and how helpless I felt. The whole reason I saved every dollar was to break free from their control.

A significant moment in my life was when I fell in love with Matthew. He was my Aladdin; he showed me the world and how to order food from McDonald’s since my parents never allowed me to do that. I realized how much freedom I lacked.

My parents attempted to separate us by confiscating my cell phone. That didn’t work. I started paying my own phone bill and got a second-hand phone. This gave me a taste of freedom that even my parents couldn’t take away from me.

From then on, saving money meant total freedom from my parents. Now that I’ve moved out, my obsession with saving money is about achieving total freedom in life.

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  • Reply Kelly February 14, 2018 at 11:44 PM

    You do not need your “husband’s approval on finances.” You do need to comprise but he doesn’t get the only vote. Your marriage is a partnership not a benign dictatorship. At least I hope not.

    But I hear you! My parents were the same. My hubby and I dated before cell phones. My parents didn’t like him. So we bought a marriage license – good for only 6 months so let’s plan. They tried to get us to put the wedding off but I am too frugal to waste a $35 license and buy another later.

    Since my parents biggest taboo subjects were sex and money, what do I teach? Personal finance and pregnancy prevention talks. Abstinence is a very frugal option and 100% effective.

    I was wondering if I was a bit compulsive about my frugality but then I read The Millionaire Next Door. Oh, I’m just Scottish and they are among the most frugal people on the planet. So its not compulsive; it’s just genetics. Are you Scottish too?

    • Reply Annie Margarita Yang February 17, 2018 at 5:57 AM

      Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for leaving the thoughtful comment on my blog post. This was actually my application essay for being a writer for the NYTimes and I was limited on the number of words. I should have specified… so the way we do it is I make the household budget every month and he looks at it and tells me what he likes and doesn’t like. I can be extreme about saving money but he thinks we should live a little, so I save less than when I was single. Maybe the word “approval” wasn’t the right word to use here. It is a compromise, not a dictatorship.

      And your marriage story is a really cool story! Haha. I understand not wanting even $35 to go to waste. And I like that you do personal finance and pregnancy prevention talks. Before meeting Handrio, I actually abstained from sex (he was my first sexual partner). Condoms cost money! So do pregnancy tests, Plan B, doctor visits, yikes! Do you have a website I could take a look at? I would like to learn more about your work.

      Oh yes, the Millionaire Next Door. Maybe it’s not just genetics but a mix of culture. My parents are Chinese and I am American. I got my frugality from them, as they are immigrants and I am the first generation. Are you Scottish born and moved to America? What is your background?

      • Reply Kelly Thomas February 18, 2018 at 11:37 PM

        I’m told my family has been Scottish and American since 1770; this also made it possible to collect us to make some Cherokee relations and, hence, we were requested to walk to Oklahoma. But it was fun to pass the buck pack down the family line for that compulsion.

        But most immigrants are very frugal that first generation; they are very aware of the value of their opportunity costs to be here to make that money. By here, I am assuming the USA, but with the internet, I could be wrong. And with people emigrating back out of the USA for retirement savings, that could be a whole ‘nother discussion.
        I saved another $32 dollars during my wedding preparations by not changing my last name and as a result having to pay for new IDs.
        1) I thought my name was just fine the way it was.
        2) I didn’t want to spell his all the time.
        3) I didn’t want to fill out ‘maiden name’ lines on forms
        4) He was using Thomas on the wait lists at restaurants.

        And at the time 20% of woman weren’t taking their husband’s family name and the divorce rate is still 50%. I was hedging my bets perhaps, but we’ve been married 33 years now.

        It’s only been a slight problem for our kids as people seem to ask them, and not us, “Are your parents divorced?” That is surprising in comparison to the stats that kids who make it to age 18 in a household, with still married parents, is only 12%. My stats might be out of date; it has been a while since I checked them. But I doubt if they have improved.

        My hubby didn’t like his family name either but wasn’t as brave as I was to defy tradition further. But Grawunder is the original German spelling and that gives him his own story to tell.

        Now while I grew up in fiscal ignorance, my husband grew up so poor that there were only 3 meals a day. No snacks. It occurred to me he would only have been bigger if he had more food. He is 6’ 4” and our son is 6’ 3”. The son blames me but I have to put my foot down and explain sternly that I am perfectly average – not small.
        The result is that when, in charge of my own life, I wanted to be very very frugal, my husband needed to feel less. He was afraid of going back to ‘eat it even if it is burnt’ level of frugality. So we compromised.

        Not that I ever intended to go that far. I did ruin a pot of rice and it is the trash can right now. It was a new brand with funky directions; I didn’t get it fluffed as per directions and it was sad sad starch ball.

        But I know I have achieved success and the next generation will be secure. Our son, the youngest, told me yesterday how he followed our example, and made what he had work rather than spend some of his hard-earned money on a replacement. Hooray!

        I don’t have a blog. Someone told me I should have one but at the time I didn’t even know what a blog was. I was busy raising my 3 kids. I need to write my book about having children frugally in a consumerism world; many people have asked me to get on with it. In the meantime, I have been lurking on others’ blogs and teaching in homeschool groups.

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