Being Frugal is Easier When You’re Young & Healthy

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

Mark Twain was not addressing young people finances when he said that but he might as well be, it’s true. It’s easier to save money when you’re young even though it may not seem like it since the paychecks tend to be smaller. Life is a little less layered when you’re young.

Bad health makes living simple and frugal more difficult. Which is even less excuse for the young and healthy kids to start shoveling money in now to take advantage of their blessed health today.

Someday, someday sooner than you’d think,  the big stork carrying babies will start dropping them down like grenades. They’re little but they come with their own hospital bills too! Watch for that just in case and save more today.

I am astute with saving money and being frugal but I don’t think I’m a great minimalist since I hold onto things a bit too long. I was never a big spender, I’ve always been conscious about spending so there is no hoarder situation going on…otherwise, I might be in trouble.

Going for the frugal and minimalist life…

Lately, James Altucher has been popping into my head a lot. Don’t take his weird bitcoin ads too seriously. Some of his thoughts on failing as an entrepreneur are very good.

The gist is that he was this entrepreneur multimillionaire who once lost it all (about $10 million dollars worth) in a single afternoon, lost his house, lost his wife and had to live out of his backpack with about $70 dollars left in his ATM.

That’s a pretty steep drop from multi-millionaire. He eventually earned those millions back – which is not too, too surprising – as is the life of a serial entrepreneur.

Related: Why The Rich Are Frugal Even When They Don’t Have To Be

He is also a minimalist, living on 15 things out of his backpack for a year. Anyway, I’ve been going the Altucher approach:

If I had to evaluate in an emergency or the house is foreclosed on, how would I best pack my entire life into my backpack?

It works for everything except food…I can carry that in my stomach! I haven’t figured out food yet nor do I want to yet.

That very simple question has cut down a lot of unnecessary spending. I was at a second-hand store looking at a lime masher tool and I almost got it because freshly squeezed lime tastes light years better than bottled. But it’s weird getting one specific tool for one specific citrus so I passed. I was doing pretty good with not buying crap even at great thrifting price.

“Aw yah, I’m doing sooooo good…”




*12 hours later*

I threw my neck out doing God knows what! (While I was asleep.)

I can’t believe I’m 26 years old. My back hurts, my legs hurt, my feet hurt and I’m trying to not move my neck and shoulders too much.

I’ve been taking it sleazy. It’s hard to sit up straight so I’ve been keeping away from working and blogging this entire weekend.

I throw my neck/shoulders out an average of about once or twice a year. I’m just clumsy. This happens to me once in awhile and I’m good as new in a few days and can move my head and shoulders again.

If this weekend of prolonging discomfort has taught me anything it’s that we Normies don’t give enough credit to those with ailing health, age, and pain.

It makes everything harder. Everythingggggg.

Related: Why Some People Won’t Save Money

If you’re submerged in pain and discomfort, everything including a simple matter like money seems pretty transient to just a spare moment of easy mobility. Any money means less and less as you’re just looking to spend anything to feel better.

I guess that comes in the form of retail therapy…or in my case…prevent my accident-prone nature from striking blind again. I pulled 5 triggers on purchases in my weekend strain/boredom haze…

1) Anesthetic Cream

You know that peppermint-y smell that some old people have? Yup, just realized it’s from those creams. I bought a giant 3-pound tube from my dad for $5 and it numbs the discomfort even though the numbing properties don’t last too long.

He gets it from his Chinatown buddies without the retail mark up and…passed the savings onto me. (I didn’t have to pay him $5 but that’s how much it cost him. They retail for $8-$12 on Amazon.)

My husband found it a bit sad that my dad’s leg pain is simply masked by gobs of this cheap cream but I told him that’s a pretty typical life for immigrants and to not be surprised. Darn it…now I’m sad thinking about it at midnight.

2) Neck Brace

Yup, a neck brace. I don’t think I need it really but just in case for the next time I do something clumsy…like you know…existing. l will wish I got one to try. My neck is so uncomfortable holding up my giant bobblehead right now. My original plan was to use a travel pillow an Airbnb guest left but it’s too flimsy to support my neck and head.

3) 2 Special Pillows

pink, pillow, thrift store
Oh Rosler cart, you save me so much money from hailing a cab.

I’ve been complaining about bad nights sleep since I was a teenager. It started with my family spending their entire life sleeping with old mattresses found on the sidewalk. I was a 16 year old with loads of back and neck pain. We didn’t own pillows either. Man, the more I grow up the more I’m realizing how much creature comforts are missing in a real bare-bone immigrant’s household.

Related: 11 Perks of Growing Up Poor (Do I Sound Crazy?)

For the past few years, I’ve reverted back to having no pillow. My theory was most pillows are too tall for my small neck so they end up doing more damage than good. But that’s just a theory. Sleeping without a pillow might (or might not) have anything to do with my neck injuries 2x times a year.

This time I did my research and bought a fancy new memory foam pillow at the insistence of my husband. I’m not too confident about it because most pillows don’t work for me so I don’t have high hopes. But hubby worries and insisted so…all the features made it seem like a good value for the price from the reviews. We ordered it used from the Amazon Warehouse for $15.

The other pillow I picked up from a thrift store visit just a day before I threw my neck out. It’s one of those obscenely huge, hyper pink bedrest pillows that you can buy at Target for $20. I got it for $3.99. If you haven’t visited your local thrift store (or an online thrift store)…guys, you guys…you don’t know what you’re missing.

I don’t know what in the world prompted me to buy something so obscenely huge and cart it home but I was just talking to my college roommate from freshmen year who had one of these neon pink pillows…and look…there is one for super cheap in stellar condition right as I walked into the store! I’m so happy I bought it because this baby has helped so much with sitting upright in bed this weekend.

4) New Ugg Boots

Like regular Uggs but more rugged with a taller heel.

I take good care of my Uggs. They’re not exactly cheap although I think mine are cheaper, I got them for $65 during Ugg’s annual sale 2 years ago. I’m on my feet a lot living in a 3 story townhouse, AIrbnbing, living car-free, walking my daycare doggies (and Grace) and I dance/exercise up to 2-3 hours EVERY morning. A small collection of quality shoes are important for each physical job.

A few months ago, my dad decided to wash all of our shoes. My dad gets bored a lot. He only has watching TV, groceries shopping, and walking the dogs occasionally as entertainment. As a senior person, I think he goes out of the way to be helpful when he’s not in one of this “moods” which is his form of damage control.

Anyways, Uggs are made from sheepskin which is not great for getting wet or dirty…pretty much anything intensive. They’re high maintenance boots. He didn’t know that and just dunked my boots in water. Even though I proofed them to be water resistant, they’re not completely waterproof and dunk proof.

I splurge on Uggs because they’re so comfortable to wear and as long as they’re taken care of on the outside you can always buy new footbeds for $15 on eBay. Any new footbed replacement will make you feel like you’re wearing new Uggs, which essentially feels like you’re stepping on a bed of soft puppies. That’s being frugal compare to just buying new shoes every time.

In my combination of neck, back, and foot pain I decided to just buy myself a pair of classic Kristin Uggs from eBay for $80 instead of waiting for a better deal. It’s not a bad deal. They’re $150 retail price and those boots are my new shoes for the year. I generally limit myself to 1 pair of new shoes a year. Because I choose to only get one pair of shoes a year, I shoot for practicality and quality.

See? Frugality is fun; with limitation brings creativity.

These winter Uggs are like normal Uggs but they’re sturdier, weather-resistance, and has a thicker heel perfect for Seattle splash puddles during rain.

Also, the old man will know not to wash them anymore. 😌

5) Another Credit Card

I met up for lunch with an old coworker who came to town last year and he saw my wallet once and thought I had a credit card problem.

“It’s so unlike you to carry so many credit cards…you have to be careful with them.

“What?? I……you think I have credit card debt?”

“Oh. Doesn’t everybody?”

Related: How to Overcome Credit Card Addiction (Re-written so it’s stronger content now.)

I can see why people are wary of credit cards but to be blunt – credit card rewards is a definite perk for those who are naturally astute with money and has their money on a firm footing to back it up. Yes, yes you, reading this personal finance posts in your spare time, you’re astute! Word of the week is astute!

Double cash (left), Venture (right)

I applied and was approved for a Capital One Venture card with 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. I have pending business expenses coming in the next few months that will push us right past the $3,000 charge. Our family monthly spending (around a $300 to $1,000 dollars a month) doesn’t warrant much action for headline-making credit card hacking rewards but whenever we anticipate higher spending I take full advantage of it for some free banker money.

The Chase Business Ink sounded tempting with 80,000 points but we know we won’t be able to spend $5,000 in 3 months even with my new business expenses so we went conservative. Either of us wanted to manufacture spending (like buying the rest in Amazon gift cards in order to hit $5,000).

Capital One Venture is now our 13th active card between the both of us. Not too entirely minimalist if your wallet is 10 inches thick full of plastic but that’s only the outward appearance. My favorite is still Citi Double Cash because it’s quite an effortless card.

Related: What’s in Our Wallet? Summary of Our Credit Cards


You know I crippled myself to bring you guys this lesson right? 😸

Being unhealthy makes frugality and minimalism harder among other things too. I pulled a few triggers on things that I wouldn’t have as quickly if I wasn’t sitting here bored and injured, trying to distract myself from the discomfort.

My thought process goes like this when it comes to purchases:

OK if I had to evaluate my house after a foreclosure, how would I best pack my entire life into a backpack?

Which was immediately followed by:

Shut your cake hole Lily. This is not the time right now. Everything hurts. Buy this, get that, so you can be better prepared the next year when you throw out your neck…AND FOR THE LOVE OF CHRISTMAS PRAY FOR A BETTER TOMORROW.

I’m pretty sure hardcore minimalism, fitting your life in a backpack, super lean frugality is for the physically healthy.

I mean…

Do I find joy when I pick up one of my lumbar pillows?

No. Why would I, it reminds me of my impending old age.

Do I need it?

Yep, pretty much, especially when I throw my flexibility out the window which will occur more often because of my impending old age.

That neon pink bedrest pillow is not going to fit into no James Altucher style backpack life.

I think we forget that some people have it harder when it comes to living with pain and bad health. It completely jumbles up a person’s priorities as we’re all constantly try to escape from pain and discomfort.

Subtract the snark…

I’m still going to use that basic question when I’m deciding on a purchase but there’s no reason to take it to the extreme. Minimalism isn’t about extremes and frugality is only bad if you’re miserable. I hate having clutter around the house but sometimes, clutter is necessary especially if it’s health-related like a huge lumbar bedrest pillow or a bulky, uncool tube of anesthetic cream.

Related: 3 Signs When Frugality Isn’t Worth It

I still think frugality and minimalism are both absolutely, resoundingly brilliant concepts and I’m proud that the millennial generation/our community is particularly inspired by it. Maybe I’m not as gong-ho about attempting both from the perspective of a bummed out paralyzed person at this particular second1…but THE CORE MESSAGE IS SO GOOD.

We should have a healthy relationship with our possessions. We should try to spend less than what we earn. No rocket science here!


Have you ever indulged yourself when sick? What mental trick do you use to make sure your purchases are sound?



  1. (Update, it’s Monday morning and I’m feeling 85% better. Solid life lesson  but I never want to try that again :p)

38 thoughts on “Being Frugal is Easier When You’re Young & Healthy”

  • I agree that when you’re hurting it’s a lot harder in general to make good buying decisions. I think it has to do with mental bandwidth–you only have so much, and if it’s taken up with intense pain, that’s less neurons to keep your spending in check. Luckily you’ve got the frugal upbringing to fall back on. I think that’s one of the things that my upbringing has really handicapped me on. If we were in a pinch, my parents would essentially be like, “Eff it. Just buy a new X.” And so that’s kind of my go-to response. It led to me spending $900 on new airline tickets when I got the day wrong. I came up the day before, so I could have just waited one more day. Mr. ThreeYear still won’t let me live that one down. But over the years I’ve gotten slowly better. Now that we’re in the middle of a bunch of upheaval in life, I’ve been less inclined to spend quite as much money. Still spending more than normal, mind you, especially on eating out, but less than I otherwise would have if I hadn’t been practicing frugality these last ten years. I hope your neck feels better soon! Mine occasionally does that and it’s absolute agony. Love those Ugg boots, by the way. I have a pair and they keep my feet so toasty in the snow!
    [email protected] recently posted…How Do You Plan to Pay for College?

  • ….the big stork carrying babies will start dropping them down like grenades

    You have a way with words 🙂

    I associate ‘being healthy’ not just with feeling good but with fitness. Body-wise we’re still the same homo-sapiens we were thousands of years ago, and we’re meant to run, jump and move. Those things keep me healthy and make me happy. It’s like going back in time, except I don’t have to live in a cave to do it!

  • we had 2 of those memory foam pillows and mrs. smidlap hated hers and stopped using it. i’ve been happily using mine about 10 years. when we got to about 40 years old our hips, backs and shoulders started getting achy. about 10 years ago my spicy pepperpot (mr.s smidlap) sold 5 painting at once and splurged on a temput pedic mattress which changed our lives in regard to the aches. i agree with steve that staying active really helps. being sick or in pain sucks and until you have experienced it it’s hard to empathize.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…So, you like the idea of owning a big old f’ing house?

  • Mr. FAF had a hip pain problem for almost 3 years. During that time, he couldn’t carry heavy stuffy (like a TV), so I helped him with that. Fortunately, he finally found the right doctor who diagnosed the problem, gave him a shot, and hubby recovered after a month or so.

    I have never own Ugg boots before, but I remember seeing lots of those when I was in college. Even my professor talked about buying her 8 yo daughter a pair of Ugg boots @[email protected]

    My mom always says “Just eat lots of veggies and fruits, and you won’t need to take as much meds or buy skincare products in the future.” I’m not a big fan of veggies, but I love fruits!
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…How We Are Keeping Up With The Jones

    • In my 40’s I had persistent right hip pain going on three or four months and had just assumed it was connected to my lower back issues at the time. Turns out it wasn’t since the back cleared up but the hip didn’t, my doctor diagnosed bursitis in my hip, and he first prescribed some industrial strength Ibuprofen, and that did the trick in about a week. Haven’t had a repeat in many years.

  • I am agreeing here with Accidental Fire.

    I associate “feeling good” with my fitness level, which is why I prioritize my fitness over EVERYTHING else. Yes, even my finances. I can read/talk/write about finance all day, but if my health is ignored, then I am going to have a difficult time sustaining my energy over the long-term. I plan to live into my 90’s because of my health/fitness level, so I invest with the idea of my money compounding over 45-50 years, instead of the 30-40 years that most invest before withdrawing. That isn’t to say I wont withdraw my money until I am in my 70’s, but like I said, I do plan to live very long because of my health/fitness!

    Awesome post!

    • I was hoping by the time I’m 70, they could cure everything with genetic modification 🙂 I think it would be easy to live past 90 by the time we’re old.

  • EVERYTHING is better when you’re healthy, which is a large part of my drive for financial independence even though I don’t want to quit my job. Life can change in a flash and suddenly it isn’t so easy to “just get another job.”

    And I wouldn’t have bought the lime masher either, but that’s because we have a small kitchen and have to be very mindful of what we bring in, or it won’t fit.

    • Yes exactly! You never know with life.

      We have a super tiny kitchen too!!! I bet you ours is smaller than yours. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours ;P

  • Nothing like losing your good health for a little while to make you appreciate it! I try really hard to keep focused on gratitude, and tell myself often “hey isn’t it great your elbow doesn’t hurt right now? you have working eyeballs. nothing is fractured.” Life is so short, but it can seem a lot longer when you’re uncomfortable or in pain. Wishing you a speedy recovery to 100%!
    the Budget Epicurean recently posted…Weekly Eating – 4/16/18

  • Yesyesyesyesyesssssss

    Girl, I feel you so much. I feel like this is a perspective that we easily forget in the FIRE community. Many of us are young and able-bodied. The second you take that away, you’re looking at a mountain of costs, as well as the emotional component of not feeling good.

    I had surgery last month and it was a bummer for the budget. Nearly $5,000 of savings gone — poof! I had to take a week off work to recover and couldn’t move my head, so I sympathize. Neck pillows fo’ lyfe!
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! April 22

  • You take care of yourself, Lily! If you don’t have health, you really don’t have much at all. I’ve been lucky throughout my life. Only broke a finger so far up to this point in my mid 30’s. Blessed with great health. But that can change in a hurry. I’d like to think daily workouts have served me well but who knows. Maybe it’s my red meat diet? 🙂
    Mr. Defined Sight recently posted…The Art of Workplace Interaction: 4 Key Steps To Win People Over

  • Sorry to hear about your pain…pain, any kind of pain, just sucks. I don’t think I’ve ever really just indulged myself with a purchase because I’m sick, but with both my wife and me being sick and in pain, it has definitely cost us a lot. It’s the reason I had to retire early (not like FIRE, more like oops, that didn’t go according to plan), the reason my wife had to stop working (we’re thankful for disability insurance!), and the reason that our monthly medical expenses are higher than our mortgage. Unfortunately, being sick wears you down and makes it harder to do anything, being frugal and minimalist among them, while at the same time making those things even more important to your future. We try to do what we can, relying on our natural frugal tendencies, and when we don’t quite hit the target, we learn from our mistakes and move on.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…6 More Things It’s Never, Ever OK to Do with Your Money

    • Aw I’m so sorry to hear that Gary. I didn’t know about any of that at all! I think my little neck pain is nothing now and I should be more appreciative that my love one isn’t in pain. Thank you for another invaluable lesson!!!

  • Bummer about your neck. I recommend a good acupuncturist or 中医 if there is one in your neighborhood. Combined with good ‘ol western medicine they can be a life saver.

    We are slightly older than you and Hippo, and health is something staring us straight between the eyes. We both see and feel age coming at us light a bullet and there isn’t much we can do about it. In addition, that stork has hit our home twice and yes, keeping the little ones healthy is never anything to be frugal about.

    But in our infinite wisdom gained from back pain, child-birth, and general decrepitness, I’d say I agree with you post, but from a different angle. We will spend pretty much whatever we need on food and health related items. We eat veggies and lean meats, but we will pay a bit extra for organic or no hormones. I don’t buy shoes often, but when I do, I go with Ecco for casual or Johnston & Murphy or Allen Edmonds for work because in the long run, they are way more comfy than cheaper brands and save me ten times their cost in lower back pain. I too have a super ergonomic, memory foam pillow (love it), and I spend money on vitamins because we also live in the pacific northwest and Vit D is seriously lacking.

    My point is that, while I love being frugal on things, health is not one. Health and education are two areas where I think we are better off spending on quality. In fact, both of these areas really are investments in us as human beings. The returns, both short and long term, are worth the upfront costs. After all, who wants to be financially independent if we are stupid and feel like s**t 🙂

    Thanks as always for making us think and I hope your neck gets better! – FS

    • That’s a terrific mindset FS! I completely agree, I wish I had known the difference sooner about being cheap on health vs making smart choices on health. I think I’ll adopt your mindset more and more 🙂

  • AWE feel better soon Lily! I wish you could be gumby and not achy with muscle aches! When your body hurts it really throws a wrench into feeling good. I had wrist pain from carrying my baby for 8 months. It was like sharp pain and I bought a brace for night time. I was debating whether to buy it (it was $14 on Amazon) and then sucked up and bought it. It helped. It was bad, I couldn’t move my wrist and had trouble using a pen.

    I know you don’t want unsolicited health advice, but if your hubby’s extended benefits have coverage, IMS from a physiotherapist or acupuncture really helps! My wrist pain was on the way out after 7 months (my tendons were very inflamed and ropey) but was still there. After acupuncture, it is gone!
    GYM recently posted…If You Decide to Buy a Home, Don’t Be a Gumby and Overstretch Yourself

  • Like Accidental Fire and Sean I believe fitness is really key in having good health. Working out, healthy eating and a good night’s rest is a great combo for healthy living. I just started to develop a workout routine again earlier this year and it feels great to get back at it.
    I had neck and back problems too in my mid-late 20s and went to the chiropractor. I went there for about a year and it really helped me because I haven’t had any problems ever since….well outside the $5K medical bill that I had to deal with right after. I do some daily stretching now and I’m good to go.
    Kris recently posted…My Evolving Relationship with Money

    • Ooh, so a chiropractor does help? I should consider it. I always thought of it as…like alternative medicine that might not work? Maybe I watched too much 2 and half men.

  • Sorry to hear about your pain and hope you feel better soon. It is always easier to be frugal when you are feeling better. Even when I am depressed I don’t feel myself. But staying healthy is the important thing and don’t be frugal when it comes to your health.

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