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🌊 Celebrities living frugally

January 21, 2021 Sign up

Happy Thursday everyone! As usual, we'll cover three trending money topics in today's edition of The Gist. 

  • Building a frugal mindset.  What do Awkwafina and frugal living have in common?
  • How soon can you become a millionaire?
  • Do you know how much you should be spending on your "wants" this year?

But, before we dive into it, can you guess how many millionaires there are in the US?  See the answer in the "Becoming a Millionaire" section below.


What do Awkwafina and frugal living have in common?

Nora Lum, aka Awkwafina, is an American rapper, comedian, actress on hits like "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Ocean's 8," and if you recall, the first Asian-American to win a Golden Globe award.  What's so unique about her isn't just her mad entertaining skills, but also the fact that despite her net worth, she still spends no more than a couple thousand dollars a month.

So what's her recipe for frugal living success?

Play it safe mindset

"I don't splurge on literally anything..." she tells guest host Lisa Ling on an episode of "Death, Sex & Money."  It's a mindset she grew up with.  Her mother passed away at a young age, so she was raised by her grandmother in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens. 

Watching her grandmother struggle to pay the bills while working four jobs was seared into her childhood memory.  Awkwafina goes on to tell Ling about her grandmother...  “She would lie awake sometimes, and we’d be next to each other, and I asked her, ‘What is your only wish, Grandma?’ And she was like, ‘Just being able to pay my bills this month...’  It was something that ate at her and I remember as a kid thinking that we don’t have money.”

Despite her rise to fame, she still lives in the same old Brooklyn apartment, shops for clothes at Target, and lives her life like she might lose everything tomorrow.

Our take on Awkwafina's story

💪 Focus on your passions and persevere. Some people call this grit. 

💪 Adopt the minimalist mindset. The "just the basics" versus "keeping up with the Joneses" approach frees mental space and reduces your stress, so you can unlock creative superpowers you may not know you had!

💪 Turn your weakness into a strength. Don't let your bad life episodes take you down.  You have the will to overcome your past.

Btw, Awkwafina isn't the only celebrity to adopt a frugal life...  Warren Buffet still lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500, and Carrie Underwood still clips coupons, makes all her own meals, does her own grocery shopping, and considers a Subway sandwich a splurge.  It sure does give us something to think about.


How soon can you become a millionaire?

Photo by Vu Nguyen on Unsplash

If you're suspecting you're already a millionaire, hit the pause button and find out your net worth using this tool from Personal Capital.

But if you're not, how do you become one?  What's the safest path, and how long will it take you to get there?

💵 Start early so you can take advantage of compounding (aka "math magic").  Say you're able to save $19.5K per year, which is the maximum 401(k) contribution for this year.  Assuming your investments are growing at 8% per year, it will take you 21 years to become a millionaire (or 26 years if you adjust for inflation). 


💵 Save regularly.  If your income doesn't allow you to max out your retirement savings contributions, plug in your assumptions into CNN's millionaire calculator and find out how long it will take you to get there.


💵 The biggest obstacle to becoming a millionaire?  It's lifestyle creep.  It happens when your expenses go up because you have more money to spend.  Side effects include not prioritizing big financial goals like saving for retirement or getting out of debt.

Do you know how many millionaires there are in the US?  It's 19 million or 7% of the US population. That number also represents about 40% of the world's total millionaires!


How much should you be spending on your "wants" this year?

2021 is looking to be another unusual year for those of us trying to budget.  In normal years, by now you would've had specific ideas for how to spend your summer, holidays and your own free time...  Not this year! 

So how do you figure out how much you should be spending on your wants for this year? 

Establish your "wants" bucket

Subtract the money you spend on necessities, loan payments, retirement savings, and investments from your after-tax income, and the rest is your "wants" bucket.  This number is your upper limit for discretionary spending. You can also establish sub-buckets within your "wants" bucket if you want to get even more granular about managing your discretionary spending.

Reflect on your wants for this year

Maybe you won't be traveling extensively, and you won't be dining out with your friends and visiting shopping malls, but you'll substitute this with local stays, take-home meals, and online shopping!  And all of that requires some moola.

There are no hard-set numbers when it comes to discretionary spending

The popular 50-30-20 budget is just a guideline—spend 30% of your take-home income on your wants.  But you may have to live more economically if your circumstances dictate so.  In that case, try Truebill to review your bills and subscriptions, and trim where you need to.

Discretionary spending should not give you a guilt trip

Don't completely deprive yourself of enjoying your hard-earned money every now and then.  And remember that budgets are not set-and-forget, but rather living, breathing, and adaptable!  Join the discussion below.


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