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The Path to Wealth: 7 Frugal Habits of a 39-Year-Old Self-Made Millionaire

As a first-generation Filipina-American, the value of saving money was deeply ingrained in Bernadette Joy early on, watching her immigrant parents strive for the American dream. In 2016, she found herself $300,000 in debt, burdened by mortgages, student loans, and everyday bills. This financial strain ignited her passion for personal finance as she sought to change her situation.

Bernadette developed a plan, paid off her debt in three years, and ultimately became a millionaire in her thirties. Today, she runs a coaching business called Crush Your Money Goals, teaching others how to make their money work for them. Regardless of her wealth, she continues to adhere to seven frugal habits that she believes contribute to her financial success.


1. Buying the Least Expensive Cuts of Meat

Bernadette is known for seeking out the cheapest cuts of meat, such as scouring the chicken section for the most affordable pack of chicken thighs. Her love for Korean barbecue, for instance, leads her to buy end-cuts of beef short ribs, which cost significantly less than traditional cuts. These end-cuts are not only easier to prepare but also more budget-friendly.


2. Saving Hotel Room Vanity Kits

Frequent travel for her business, Crush Your Money Goals, often results in stays at hotels that provide complimentary vanity kits. Bernadette collects these items, finding them useful for unexpected situations, especially while on the go. The kits, especially those from Asia, often include high-quality items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, and hair elastics, which she repurposes for various needs, such as organizing electronics or cleaning shoes.


3. Repurposing Takeout Food Containers

Inspired by her parents’ habit of reusing containers, Bernadette repurposes takeout containers for storage. Modern takeout containers are often sturdier and come in various sizes, making them perfect for storing leftovers or organizing small household items. This practice is both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.


4. Using Every Drop of Beauty Products

Her frugality extends to personal hygiene and beauty products. Bernadette ensures she uses every drop of her favorite skincare products, driven partly by her experience with eczema, which required expensive treatments. By maximizing the use of these products, she manages to get the most value out of her purchases while maintaining her confidence, especially when speaking in front of large audiences.


5. Checking Menu Prices Before Ordering

Despite her financial comfort, Bernadette continues the habit of checking menu prices before deciding on her meal. She has observed that many restaurants place higher-priced items at the beginning of the menu to catch attention. By starting from the end, she usually finds more affordable options, allowing her to enjoy a premium meal without overspending.


6. Preserving High-Quality Shopping Bags

Following her mother’s practice, Bernadette saves well-made shopping bags for various uses, such as carrying snacks, lunches, or small items when on the go. These sturdy bags are a practical and eco-friendly alternative to disposable ones, and she always keeps a few in her luggage when traveling.


7. Wearing Free T-Shirts to the Gym

Attending numerous conferences and events, Bernadette collects free T-shirts, which she wears to the gym instead of purchasing designer workout clothes. She also prefers using free water bottles from these events, avoiding the cost of expensive ones, especially given her tendency to misplace them.


The Importance of Frugal Habits

These frugal habits enable Bernadette to spend more freely in areas that matter to her, such as attending K-pop concerts, live comedy events, and supporting local and women-owned businesses. Maintaining these habits also reminds her of her parents’ sacrifices, helping her become a better budgeter, a more confident investor, and ultimately, a self-made millionaire. Through these practices, Bernadette continues to build wealth while staying true to the values that shaped her financial journey.

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