I confess: I don’t have a single cent of my own. My wallet is empty, I don’t have a bank account, and no secret cash stash hidden anywhere.
How so? And how do I still get along?
When I moved to the US from Germany a little over two months ago I took the money I had in my bank account with me. Part of it paid for some wedding expenses, part of it was used to pay rent and other necessities.
And now – I don’t own any money of my own anymore. I can’t work at the moment as I don’t have my greencard yet, and it will be several weeks, even months, before I get it. More weeks with zero income on my part, meaning more weeks without my own money.
Is it hard? In a way. Is it horrible? No! It is an experience I would never want to miss! To be honest: I am so grateful for it! It taught me many important lessons that I will draw on for the rest of my life.
I always thought of me as being a frugal person. However, I still never had real savings. My profession, I am a nurse, is paid extremely bad in Germany. At times I worked 42 hours a week, three shifts, for way less than $2000. So there wasn’t much money to begin with. But I also spent the most money for useless things:
- I got a lot of stuff “to go”, coffee, snacks, water…
- I had subscriptions for things I didn’t need or use, like cosmetic sample boxes, magazines…
- I had a gym membership but no time, nor motivation, to go to the gym.
- I was very susceptible to limited edition make up products. Whenever a new edition came out I bought something.
- When I had “a phase”, like weightlifting or running a beauty blog, I’d buy every supply necessary, like four different protein powders or three different mascaras “for testing”.
- I’d smoke a lot. Luckily I kicked that habit a few years ago!
- I’d buy something new without using up a similar product I already had just to have something new (especially regarding cosmetic products).
Where does the frugal part come in? Well I did save money (or so I thought!), but in all the wrong places:
- I’d buy very cheap clothes on sale that wouldn’t last more than one season and sometimes wouldn’t even fit properly, but “it only cost $5!”
- I’d eat “cheap” convenience food and lots of fast food.
- I’d buy the cheapest possible cleaning products and I wouldn’t have cared if the active ingredient was Agent Orange, as long as it was the most inexpensive choice.
- I’d dye my hair myself with harsh colors, ultimately destroying it.
- I’d buy many, but cheap, cosmetic products full of low quality chemical ingredients.
- I’d buy things like food “cheap in bulk”, but let it go to waste.
You see, I did everything wrong! And while many of these issues improved over the years, I still was a lot less frugal than I thought.
It took this current situation of having not a cent of my own to really open my eyes. My husband has the cash and pays for rent, food and everything else, and of course for whatever I need and want. But wow, how my views about what I “need and want” changed! Now I am really thinking about every single purchase I make because I buy it with money that is not my own.
- I make a meal plan for every week’s dinners so we only buy what we need.
- I always look for sales and try to create our dishes around whatever is on sale and preserve as much as possible.
- I cook and bake from scratch and don’t use (often more expensive) convenience products – unless I made them myself.
- I don’t ask about going out for dinner unless it’s a special occasion (partly because the initial excitement about all those American restaurant “must visits” wore off, haha!)
- I don’t buy new clothes just to have new clothes.
- I go to Goodwill and other thrift stores to get furniture or other goods.
- I make treats for our dogs instead of buying them.
- I don’t buy new cosmetic products unless I completely used up a product and have no back up.
- I make cleaning products myself, chemical free and at almost no cost.
- I cut my hair myself.
- I repurpose and reuse everything that can possibly be repurposed and reused.
- I try to make the most out of everything we buy, especially food.
- I use whatever I earn with my online shop to keep the shop running until we are balanced with what we have spent and what we earn.
- No impulse purchases whatsoever. No quick snacks on the way home, no succumbing to candy cravings at the checkout, no “but it’s just $5!” nonsense things that I don’t need.
All this made me realize something incredibly valuable:
I do not need most of the things I thought were “important”.
I don’t need them. I don’t miss them. I don’t even think about them!
Cosmetic products? I have three eyeshadow palettes that will last me a few more years. If I don’t have a certain color, well, then I can’t use this certain color. Nobody cares if my eyelids are this particular shade of green that is now “so on trend”.
Brand new furniture? A $25 desk I found at Goodwill is the most practical for my purposes and the scratches it has don’t bother me at all.
New clothes? I have a whole closet full of practical and pretty clothes. I donated five big trash bags full of rarely worn clothing when I went through my stock before moving, and still have plenty.
A few days ago I did find $66 in my purse that are my own that I actually completely forgot about. Guess what: I had no idea what to buy with it when I found it. I really don’t need anything. So I decided to put the cash aside to start a little savings jar to buy a sewing machine, as this is the one thing that I really want at the moment. It will be a smart investment and not an “impulsive purchase” of something that will only make me satisfied for a little while.
This already shows me that even when I finally earn my own money again I will continue being frugal and save as much as possible to help fund our goal of having a family and a house on a few acres of land to start our country homestead in a few years. Because that is what is important!
I’m grateful, I’m happy and feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity to realize what, out of the many things money can buy, is really necessary, and that is surprisingly little!