Interview with a Self-Made Millionaire

Below is a composite interview, representing responses of several female self-made millionaires.

The topic was ‘What did today’s millionaires do to be thrifty before they earned their millions?”

I’ll call the composite person Peggy – to personify the group.

Me: What do you think of the mass move towards thriftiness in today’s twenty and thirty-something crowd?

I pointed out the multitude of new blogs related to saving money, being frugal, getting debt under control and learning about finances.

Peggy: I’m glad to see folks finally interested in saving and investing. For so long, we plodded along with next to nothing while our neighbors were running up their charge cards and using home equity loans to take vacations. But, I can’t believe people are making big bucks telling other people how to control their spendthrift ways, or sharing how to shave a few cents off a grocery bill. I wish we’d thought of writing a book or something on it because we sure lived the life!

Me: What kinds of frugality did you practice while you were earning your millions?

Peggy: Well, probably some of the same ones being espoused now (maybe our kids did pick up on some of our examples!). We shopped at garage sales, turned down the heat, combined errands to use less gas, didn’t buy a lot of prepared food, cooked at home and the like.

Me: Are there specific examples you recall that you haven’t heard people today doing?

Peggy: Oh yes! Some of the things we did back then were laughable even back then. I remember that we re-used our coffee grounds. Coffee was pretty expense (relative to our income) and we were addicted to the caffeine even then.

Me: What do you mean, re-used your coffee grounds?

Peggy: We made our first pot with fresh coffee grounds, finished drinking that pot and perked another pot using the same grounds with new water.

Me: Wasn’t that second round of brewed coffee pretty weak?

Peggy: You bet it was, but it was better than doing without.

Me: What else do you recall doing to be thrifty?

Peggy: Well, we did everything ourselves.

We mowed the grass, made our clothes, cleaned house, cooked, and fixed broken stuff. We changed our own oil and rotated our own tires. My husband tore off our roof and put a new one on. I cut the family’s hair. I even made the kid’s play dough and finger paint.

We also did without a lot of things.

We had a dishwasher, but it was broken and we didn’t want to spend the money to repair it – so we did without one – for 10 years!

When we bought our first home, we knew we would eventually try to move up to a better neighborhood so we only did DIY inexpensive or absolute necessity projects to the house. We did finally move up to our current house after 10 years.

We didn’t have a clothes dryer. When our first baby came we used cloth diapers (so we didn’t have to pay for the disposable ones) and had to freeze dry them in the garage in the winter. That took forever!

We line dried all of our clothes, summer or winter.

We spent practically nothing on entertainment. If it couldn’t be done for free, we didn’t do it or did it very, very seldom. Eating out or going to a movie were once a year events. Taking a vacation – well, we only went on 3 trips in our 15 years.

We saved and saved and saved.

Instead of spending his birthday check for $10, my husband put it in savings – every single time. I wasn’t quite so good on that one!

We intentionally went on a fairly strict cash only basis for everything. We especially never put anything consumable (like gas, food, eating out, movies and etc) on a credit card. Plus we payed off the balance every cycle.”

Me: Is there anything you hear about now that you didn’t do back then?

Peggy: Something really cool being done today is that the stay-at-home Moms trade babysitting days so they can get some time off and give the kids a play day. We didn’t do that one, although we did have one morning a week Mother’s Day Outs at the local church.

Of course, we also tried to maximize our income.  My husband worked overtime – 10 hours a day and a lot of weekends. I worked a part time job the weekends he wasn’t working.  Plus he worked hard at entering contests, trying to win things and money – and he did win some – once even a nice bicycle.  I also took jobs that let me work during the day while still having the kids around – one was delivering neighborhood newspapers.  I put the baby in a backpack while I walked the delivery route.  It was pretty good exercise!”

Are you on your way to being a self-made millionaire?  What methods are you using to help get there?  


Interview with a Self-Made Millionaire — 33 Comments

  1. I’ve heard about reusing coffee grinds, people that do thsat today. I think this post shows that frugality can be more than a mindset, but really a way of life to be able to stretch your budget further. I think an important way to get to that self-made millionaire status is thinking outside the box and doing what it takes to be successful.

  2. I would like to think I am on my way but have to admit the way Peggy got there doesn’t sound too appealing to me. I do save a lot of money but we do spend on things that are important to us even if there is a cheaper way to get it done in some cases.

    Instead I am focusing on growing my income and investing our savings to get us there. I am sure we will make it one day!

  3. Great interview, thanks so much for sharing! I’ve read a lot of Thomas Stanley’s work: Stop Acting Rich, Millionaire Next Door, and the Millionaire Mind, and I think “Peggy” fits right along with what you find with your typical American Millionaire.

    I’d like to think we’re on our way, but my weakness is that we don’t do everything ourselves. I do place value on time and think outsourcing some things are okay…but it does cost us more money. For instance, I just got some work done on my lawn and it ran me about $350. I could have rented the equipment for $100 and done it myself…but I wasn’t willing to give up my entire Saturday. 🙂

  4. We don’t drink coffee, so that’s a savings right there. I don’t know if I could be that frugal. We do as much as we can with repairs, but since we both work full time, we do have to hire out big things. I also think vacations are very important. They don’t have to be luxury. We usually go somewhere within driving distance, but we need that time to unwind and have family adventures.

  5. Wow, reusing coffee grinds is not what I want to do — it sounds like “Peggy” stayed at home while her husband made a lot of money. That’s fine, but just goes to show that the most cutthroat frugality doesn’t mean anything if your husband works at McDonalds.

    • I work at mcdonald’s as a single mom and being frugal has allowed me to pay my bills. I may not be a millionare but i would reuse coffe grounds if i drank coffee. This yr coming up i will pay off this car loan and will be saving for a house at the same time as saving for emergencies.

  6. This is an awesome interview. I do a few things too, out of neccessity, not because I am going to be a millionaire. I cut my dryer sheets in half, I only put dish washing soap in one cup in the door and I use less detergent in the washer as well.
    There are so many great ways to be frugal that save loads. No pun intended!

  7. Great interview! Hmmm..not sure if I’m at self-made millionaire yet :), but hopefully I’ll get there. I am certainly not as good as “Peggy”, but I do try to do as much as I can myself – own cooking, cleaning, etc..

  8. Coffee ground re-use is an interesting idea. Not bad at all if you like weak coffee. Millionaires think alike. They exert lots of common sense and frugality in everything they do. Great article!

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