When I woke up there was the sound of freshly whirling coffee beans spinning through a grinder along with a fragrant aroma of this same coffee bean brewing one individual cup after another in a decadent $230 coffee maker, waiting for me. I was vacationing in Sarasota, Florida in my sister’s new million dollar home she just bought three weeks ago. (she paid cash. it has 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms) If I wanted another individual cup of coffee later on in the day, there was a box of this exotic coffee @$45 for 40 Keurig k-cups (makes 40 cups of individual coffee) displayed right next to the $230 coffee maker for ease of use.
When we dined, entrees started at $35. When we went to the pool, entrance fees to join the Country Club started at $4,000 annually with $120 monthly societal dues. If you wanted to join in with the golfing crowd, annual membership was a $30,000 non-refundable fee with a $500 monthly due on the first of every month. There was tennis every day with your own personal trainer. All for a nominal, additional fee. Of course.
When we drove, it was in a 2021 $62,000 Tesla. No problem. Almost everyone had the same vehicle. All that changed were the colors. If the event was special, we had access to a $102,000 convertible Mercedes waiting for us in the spacious four car garage. “I only keep it for those special occasions” the owner chimed. “I use it specifically to keep up with everyone else. They all have a spare Mercedes somewhere around“.
When I dined it was in the most expensive restaurant (of which there were many). As I glanced over the menu prices, I turned to my host and asked to be excused from the table. “I’ll be right back” I hesitantly said, because I knew I wouldn’t be right back. Instead, I went outside the restaurant, sat down on a park bench and started crying. How did this happen to me? Why did I not belong here? I could have been part of this crowd but I purposely turned my back on this lifestyle. I didn’t want to be there. And now I was being forced to go against my own personal life beliefs and indulge myself into overspending when I knew damn well, I couldn’t!
I cried and I cried because it was all just too much for me. I thought one of the guests would come out looking for me, so I dried my eyes and tried to get myself back together. But it was impossible. I returned to my appointed restaurant seat and proceeded to continue crying right there at the dinner table. It was all just too much for me. I kept saying that over and over to myself. It was all just too much for me. I got through the meal. I ordered a bowl of soup and a coffee and got hit with a $36 menu bill. Tipping now is 20%. My total cost was $43. That’s a whole weeks grocery shopping to me.
Mostly everyone paid in cash. I put my spending on my credit card, keeping daily a check on the total amount I could afford. That was $100. I stopped using my credit card when I reached $99. I made the announcement that I would no longer be joining them for any more events out. I bought myself a container of Daisy 4% cottage cheese and a box of Quaker original oatmeal packets for $10 at a super expensive grocery store and that’s what I ate for the rest of the week. Along with at least 2 cups of that special coffee every morning.
When you looked at me, you would have never guessed I didn’t belong. I wore a $155 black designer bathing suit (that I paid $19 for) with matching cover-up at the pool ($25). I dressed in designer duds each and every day (most from Chico’s valued at least @$2000). I toted a $328 hand bag (purchased for $131) and I wore an expensive $1200 wedding ring (with diamonds! Three of them! all for the purchase price of $599) Oh, I knew how to keep up with the Joneses. I used to be one of them. How did I accomplish all of this? I shopped at their local Goodwill store (located right outside the guarded front gates) and got all the designer duds and athletic clothes for pennies on the dollar. I also shopped at their local outlet stores (of which, the women knew NOTHING about) and got brand named handbags and jewelry at heavily discounted prices.
I left this crowd when I was 32 years old. Stuck in a marriage with an abusive husband, who ran my father’s multi-million dollar empire, I turned my back on all of this for a much younger-than-me man (who just happened to be as poor as a door mouse BUT super, super talented!) My father, sister and brother were furious with me but I wanted a REAL life. One with experiences vs money. My brother and sister remained with my father who glorified them heartily upon his death. They all became multi-millionaires. I got a mere pittance (compared to them) BUT I got something nonetheless.
My brother and sister played the stock market. I played real estate. They won. I lost. They’re rich. I’m basically poor and at times very, very broke. But my new husband and I (now together almost forty years!) have had a great life together and still, thank the good Lord, going strong. I chose love over money. I chose experiences over money. I chose having fun and enjoying life over money. And now that I am back home in my own home, my own world, I’m finding out that I love, love, love the frugal lifestyle my husband and I built together.
I had coffee this morning brewed in my re-furbished, $17.88 Cuisinart 12 cup coffee maker. If I want to have another individual cup later on in the morning, I just add one scoop of my 100% Columbian coffee ($5.75 for 24 ounces that makes 90 cups of coffee) over the existing used coffee grinds, set the Cuisinart to 1-4 cups and get myself one cup of amazing-to-me coffee. No Keurig needed. I learned how to do this from The Frugal Gazette back in the late 1990s. Hasn’t failed me yet! I poured my coffee into my white Dutch-made, close-out find coffee cup and enjoyed my morning brew. Along with my 50% diluted (with skim milk) Hazelnut, real coffee creamer (I pour half the original creamer into a cleaned, empty Friendly Farms container and fill it up with skim milk. In other words, I make two creamers out of one. Can’t taste any difference. I save money, as well as calories doing it this way!)
I love my frugal life, I muttered to myself, only to find myself muttering it more and more to myself as I got through the day. I unpacked all my special clothes and gently put them away. I brought a carry-on suitcase on the plane as I have learned long ago how to travel light. I gently put my $328 hand bag back in to its protective sack and put my $1200 wedding ring away (hubby never bought me a ring when we were married. I used my mom’s wedding ring instead, that I inherited when she died 43 years ago)
I sat in front of the fire this morning while I drank my coffee. My sister is in the process of buying new furniture. She’s looking at couches in the $3500 to $5000 range. “How much did you pay for your new couch?” she asked me, as she knew I just recently made a new couch purchase to make way for our new pellet stove in the living room. “You’re not going to like my answer, but I only paid $834 for my new couch. It was a left-over from last year. But when you add on taxes and delivery charges, it was $1060!” I tried to sound enthralled.
As I was sipping my frugal coffee, my doorbell rang. It was my good neighbors from down the road welcoming me back home. They told me my husband missed me and did his best to fend for himself. Thankfully we have our little doggie (who needed a bath desperately when I got back home and gave her one immediately right there and then!) and she kept hubby in good company. My neighbors gave me a half-dozen eggs their chickens laid this morning. When I told them my daughter, SIL and granddaughter was staying over for the weekend they told me they would bring me another half-dozen so we all could enjoy a hearty breakfast (with bacon!) tomorrow AM.
I may not be rich but I am very happy. I purposely chose my life the way it is and I chose my lifestyle. My husband and I bought the land (3.5 acres in an upscale, celebrity-ridden area in upstate New York) for $51,000. I got the money from selling a piece of real estate I bought up in the Adirondacks Mountains, at a slight profit. We erected a custom-built modular home, which we bought for cash from the generous profit I made from my Hamptons, Long Island NY home sale (where I raised my children for 16 years). We downsized from an 8 room home to a 4 room home (we later added 2 more bedrooms and a full bath up on the 2nd floor for my two daughters, when they visited 2-3 times per year. LOL!)
I didn’t speak to my father for a very long time. But when he learned that I moved to upstate New York and when he knew he was very ill and only had a few months to live, he begged my sister to drive him to my new home so that we could see each other for one last time. When he saw my house, which at that time was a pre-built house sitting on a pile of mud, he told me he would leave me enough money to finish my home. My dad kept his promise. He left me $880,000, two hundred dollars ($200,000) of which went to pay outstanding taxes. I finished my new home, bought dirt, had it landscaped, put in a pond, erected a $50,000 pre-built barn for my husband to use (and dedicated it to my father’s memory, in stone, clearly visible to all who enter the barn) and I have lived frugally ever since so that I would be fiscally responsible to the memory of my dad’s generous financial gift to me.
I won’t gamble in the stock market with my dad’s remaining money. I won’t speculate in real estate with it. I won’t spend it frivolously with it. I only keep it in safe, secured, guaranteed investments, such as high paying CDs etc (of which, you can not get the rates I was fortunate enough to get for my dad’s money….thank the good Lord). Now that the stock market is getting set up for a crash (my sister lost $30,000 last week and counting. My brother has since passed away. He died of covid on April 13, 2020. His wife, two sons and four grandchildren inherited his millions). My net worth today is around $825,000, most of which is due to the increased value of my property. I’m not rich. I’m occasionally broke and I absolutely refuse to take any chances whatsoever on my remaining ‘good fortune’. Hubby drives a $56,000 pick up truck that we only paid $17,000 out-of-pocket cash, thanks to a great trade-in of a previously owned, paid-for vehicle. My original $170,000 home and property can probably reign me in $700,000 if I presented it properly, which I won’t. “When it gets to be a million“, I tell my husband “then we’ll sell. But for now? We’re staying right here.” I have a vegetable garden and a peach tree. I live very simply. I’m starting to incorporate minimalist living into my daily routine (translated: I got rid of a lot of ‘stuff’!)
I love my frugal life. I love my frugal life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wish my sister well. She deserves every single thing she ascertains. It was she who took over my father’s brutal business (it was the equivalent of a sweat shop) and managed it for him till the day he died. She never got out to live experiences as I have done nor did she ever get to live her life the way she wanted to. Daddy could be, at times, a very manipulative man. My sister suffered a lot at the hands of my father. And I suffered a lot at the hands of my abusive ex-husband. It’s time now for both is us to enjoy the rest of our lives and enjoy the lifestyles we have mindfully chosen for ourselves. I wish my sister no ill will. My crying fit is over. I realized when I got home late last night that I love, love, love my frugal life. I can keep up any anybody and any thing (thanks to my frugal shopping hacks) if need be. Instead, I chose a quiet, rural lifestyle. My sister chose the glamour and the glitz. No judgment here. Only love.
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