What Losing Everything I Had Taught Me – 3 Things about Frugality


Written by Liz

Just your regular 27-year-old, queer, super-introverted, FIRE-chasing, frugal Singaporean, who lives a pretty good life while earning only a modest salary, but still plans to retire at age 40 with $1,000,000. Click here to read more

May 6, 2018

It’s been an… Interesting few years.

In a nutshell – I lived a lavish lifestyle growing up because of my wealthy parents. Then I came out, and got rejected by them. After which, I went through a lot of emotional torment, including losing my inheritance and purpose in life. I ended up with a whole host of mental illnesses and was on a downwards spiral to what I thought would eventually be me ending my own life.

It was an insanely tough time for me to get through.

But somehow, there was always a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. When my world crumbled to pieces, that light was faint, but it was still there. Each day I contemplated taking my own life, that light motivated me to hang in there. To take things one step at a time. To start afresh.

Eventually, I built myself back up and continued trudging toward that glimmer of light. In fact, I’m still in the process of making that walk.

But some days, I’d stop and look back along that dark tunnel, thinking about everything that I had gone through. Thinking about how far I’d come. I’d smile and think, maybe, all that struggle was for something after all.

Maybe, it was to teach me a lesson about frugality that I so desperately needed to learn.


Frugality isn’t Hard

I used to be one spoilt and self-entitled prick of a rich kid. I would blow through thousands of dollars every month on worthless shit. I bought clothes that are still hanging in my closet, untouched. I spent on shoes that I never wore and are now collecting dust. I signed up for classes in the spur of the moment but eventually never went for. I purchased stupid knickknacks that I eventually threw away, because I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I would buy that in the first place.

Sometimes, I would reflect and regret some of the purchases I had made. But then I would go out, do it all over again, and repeat this vicious cycle.

As my relationship with my parents worsened over time after I came out to them, I knew it was impossible to live like I had before. The money habits that I had in my previous (luxurious) life would drive me into massive debt. For my own survival, I had to change my lifestyle drastically overnight.

At first, it was a real culture shock. Budgeting? Saving? Recording expenses? (Insanity, you mean?) They all seemed like foreign concepts to me. But for me, it was really do, or die.

I struggled first with sticking to a budget. I would attempt to save 30% of whatever income I had before spending the rest. But month after month, I would be puzzled at why I just couldn’t save. So I started recording down my expenses. At the end of each month, I would see what went wrong (and regret). And learn from my mistakes, of course.

When I finally got the hang of budgeting and saving, I gradually increased my savings rates. First, from 30% to 40%. Then 50%. And then 60%. Up and up it went.

And the interesting thing?

The easier and easier being frugal became.

It took me months of floundering around to realise that I am capable of saving and building my own wealth.

By the time my relationship with my parents hit rock bottom, I was saving almost everything I was making.

Right now, I save more than 70% of my monthly income. Every month. Sometimes, I even save more than 80%. My current income’s far from great, but I keep my spending as low as possible to achieve a high savings rate.

Not too shabby for a spoilt and self-entitled prick.


Frugality Maximises Happiness

When I allowed myself to spend 100% of my income, I usually never thought twice before buying something or spending on something.

Paid for classes I never attended? It’s alright, I’ve still got lots of money left. Spent on something I never used? That’s okay, there’s more where that came from. Bought something but then got bored of it after a short while? No big deal, I’ve still got some serious cash to burn through.

Stuff I paid for but didn’t enjoy were always just thrown in a corner, because I constantly told myself “I still have money to spend”.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works when you’re on a tight budget.

Every dollar wasted on useless stuff is a dollar that could be used to pay for necessities, such as housing, food, and transport.

I stopped telling myself that I still had money, that I could afford to blow through serious cash. Instead, I asked myself a variety of questions. Do I actually need this shit? Would I still be using this in months or years to come? Do I really need this stuff to be happy?

If my answer was yes to all the above questions, I would then wait a couple days or maybe even weeks before buying it. If I kept thinking about it every single day for weeks, then I would eventually get it. If not, then it’ll just be a forgotten memory.

Once I got myself to ponder deeply about whether stuff I wanted to buy would make me happy, I became more aware about what contributed to my happiness and what didn’t. I now know that shopping for clothes and shoes doesn’t increase my happiness. (Well, maybe for the occasional pair of sneakers.) Going out on the town and spending on booze also doesn’t do anything for my happiness levels.

So I stay away from all of that.

You know what? Without all that shopping and boozing, I’m still as happy, if not more.

And when I do spend on myself, it’s going to be on amazing stuff. Like paying for a blog theme, or buying a new musical instrument to learn, or purchasing language books to study.

And that makes me so happy.


Frugality Buys Decades of your Life

I stumbled onto a couple of financial freedom and early retirement blogs one fateful day. At first, I was skeptical, wondering what sorcery this was. But as a little more time passed, and the more I allowed myself to be exposed to such unconventional thinking, the more convinced I was that I could make it work too.

One day, that light bulb in my head shone brighter than it ever did before. I had my Eureka moment – so that’s the true value of money! Money’s true value is its ground-breaking ability to buy financial freedom, rather than just being a tool for accumulating more material possessions. People save aggressively and make their money work for them, so they needn’t rely on anyone else to give them a paycheck. So they needn’t spend their entire lives in the cubicle, miserable and dreading every single work day. So that they can escape the cubicle life decades ahead of their peers.

So that they have the choice to go out into this great big world and do what truly matters.

It’s a simple, yet beautifully astounding, truth. It was the truth that saved my life. It was the truth that made me realise that maybe, life was worth living after all.

And I’ve been truly and completely fascinated by the concept ever since.


So, Be Frugal

Right now, I do whatever I can to save as much as possible, usually living on less than a thousand dollars a month, and spending only on necessities (alright, alright, I’ll admit, as well as the occasional shopping item).

Determined to make sure I don’t have to stick around in a cubicle for too long, I dug down, cut out the fat in my life, and made frugality my lifestyle. It was uncomfortable at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. And once I did, I started loving it. I came to learn that being frugal wasn’t some death sentence; being frugal actually allowed me to be happier and more self-aware.

So, be frugal. It isn’t difficult once you get used to it, and you’re in complete control to ensure that every dollar you spend maximises your happiness. And the best part? You get to escape that damned cubicle as soon as humanly possible.

So, be frugal.

I’ll see you on the other side.




Become a Millionaire and Retire Early on a Modest Salary Book Cover

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  1. Zach @ Four Pillar Freedom

    Great message, Liz! Money certainly buys stuff, but frugality can buy time and freedom. That’s incredible that you can live on less than a thousand dollars per month. It won’t take long for your savings to grow into a sizable amount if you keep up that frugality. Excited to watch your savings journey 🙂

    • Liz @ Splurging on Freedom

      Hi Zach, thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement! I will definitely keep it up, quit my job in the near future, and finally have the freedom to focus on what truly matters 🙂