Lily @ The Frugal Gene - The Super Savers

The Super Savers: Q&A w/ Lily @ The Frugal Gene

My Strategic Dollar Building Wealth, Guest Posts, Millennials 16 Comments

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Today, I’ve got a great Q&A session with Lily over at The Frugal Gene (aka the SUPER SAVERS). Lily is an immigrant who has taken The (new) American Dream by the horns. Her story is incredible and I hope it inspires you as much as it’s inspired me. Enjoy!

Hi, I’m Lily. I am a millennial money blogger. Lance has graciously invited me to guest post here 🙂 Me & my husband are the ultimate super savers. We save over $100,000/year in the grandest pursuit of financial freedom. Hubby & I live our lives car-free and debt free. I moonlight as a host on AirBnB and my favorite past time include making budgets and making out in the rain. It’s a total dance party 


Hiya! My name is Lily, I was born on the coast of Southern China. I’m 25 years old and I work as a full-time AirBnB hostess, entrepreneur and blogger. My family and I immigrated to San Francisco, California in 2000 when I was 10. I grew up in San Francisco with my parents.

Coming to America – The Beginning Of The Super Savers

San Francisco’s often been associated as the playground for the wealthy. When I was in college people asked me where I was from and when I said “I’m from San Francisco” they immediately assumed my parents owned a million dollar house. My family actually rented the inside an old single car garage in the outskirts of the city.

My personal experience growing up in San Francisco has always been more about the hidden struggles between the rich and poor. No one hears the ignoble details because everything is swept under the rug. San Francisco has this interesting detachment where one city block can be filled with high end French boutiques and the next block, there would be an overwhelming presence of poverty, homelessness and gang violence. The city has absurdly clear yet invisible dividing lines between the rich and poor. It makes the entire scene comical from a sane outsider’s perspective.

When did you start learning about money?

My parents did not drop an ounce of knowledge on me in terms of money. They encouraged me to study hard and, yeah, that’s pretty much it. I was not fully conscious of money but by the time I turned 13, I had promised myself that I would never encapsulate MY own children into another cycle of poverty. There were plenty of kids at my school who got knocked up and there were the kids who flunked out too.

I was bright enough to ignore the gangs, drugs and peer pressure. When I was in high school I had about $5,000 saved up from various summer internships. I understand to most people that’s probably not a lot of money but for a destitute 16-year-old, that wasn’t bad. I hoarded it all. No prom, no high school yearbook, no dances, no dating, no lunches, nothing. I have zero regrets.

I had one objective for high school: get out of the inner city ghetto and go to college.

How much debt did you have?

My university career was not particularly cheap but not outrageously expensive. The whole experience landed me -$20,000 in student debt after I graduated but that just lit a bigger fire under me. I dug down hard and ended up in the positive of $22,000 within 2 years.

Student loan debt was the only debt I had. I can’t even remember what the minimum payment was on my student loans. I just logged in every month and threw everything I had into it until it was killed off. It was the only debt I had. I was able to live car-free which was a huge money saver. I worked 2-3 jobs and had no expenses outside of housing.

Some people think it’s discipline to be so robotic about debt but it’s not discipline. Look at where I’m from and that’s going to be the best lesson in debt on this whole planet.

If you grew up with nothing then it’s hard for you to miss it or feel like you even deserve it.Click To Tweet

What stepping stones did you take to become financially fit?

I was a fond follower of Financial Samurai. I think he was really my final stepping stone to becoming financially fit. My husband and I always had a good amount of money (in 2015 our net worth was 400K and now it’s almost $800K) but we were not utilizing it as we should have. Most of it just sat in the credit union and less than half of the $400K was actually invested in anything! Nothing! Thank goodness for the personal finance community…now we believe we’re on the right track!

How did you start on AirBnB?

After I relocated to Seattle, I told my husband-to-be, “you want me to be the wifey? Buy me a housey.” Haha my goodness, I’m just kidding. But I did do some half decent math and explained, “we can leverage and break even with AirBnB which means we basically get to to live rent free.” My husband is not the type to say no to me…🙃 Thankfully, AirBnB was a success both in location and timing. I have managed a 98% occupancy rate since inception 2 years ago. We even expanded to a second rental.

Guest Post: Q&A w/ Lily @ The Frugal Gene - The Super Savers

What are some of your future money goals?

I’m 25. My friends are still in shock at how much my life has changed in 2 years. Me too…I was the last person to believe I would be married by 23. A few of them told me “you’re set for life, just have a baby already.” Haha nope, and that’s very awkward! I want to keep building my business until I feel like I’ve proved my purpose…even if I fail over and over. Ehh, realistically, in 10 years I’ll probably be an average stir crazy mommy blogger.

We want to keep maxing out our retirement accounts which takes a pretty big chunk of the monthly net income. Hopefully if we invest it right, it’ll be bigger the next time we peek in. We pour in close to $60K a year. It will be locked in there for about 30 years.

By 2035, there should be at least 3 million in the bank. If there isn’t and we somehow fail that goal, meh, water off a duck’s back. It’s the basic discipline that we should learn, not the numerical value of the exact dollar. Plus, I just want my hubby and my puppy with me for life 🙂

What obstacles have you ran into?

I don’t believe in treating myself. On most days I just suffer in hunger. I still don’t eat lunches. I eat just 1 meal a day (not healthy I know) just like in high school when I couldn’t afford to eat. There is such a thing as too frugal and to a point you question why if you have the money, can’t you treat yourself. The answer goes back to my rearing, I am forever stuck, suffering from a shortage of money even though it is far from so.

Another problem, I really like clothes. I don’t like wearing clothes…but I like to hoard clothes. It’s fantastically dumb. I have maybe 5 outfits that I wear but I have 30 dresses that I never wear. It’s very strange but that’s kind of what I am. I give myself a pitiful $275 a year (during X-mas) to buy clothes. It’s fun to argue with yourself about it when I technically can afford it but it’s completely out of line with my principles.

The financial obstacle for my husband is quite simple. He’s very risk averse and he finds personal finance incredibly boring. So I end up making the financial decisions for us (which brings me some anxiety too!)

What advice do you want to give other people?

I have been very fortunate in marrying a wonderful man and I have to thank my rough upbringing for it. It taught me how to be fiscally responsible by force and it taught me everything I shouldn’t do. Don’t ever let poverty be your excuse! Do not ever let your income (at whatever number) hold you down. Don’t ever play the victim because you are not! You’re a hero who is in the middle of your story that hasn’t finished yet.

Make sure to check out other guest posts here.

-Lily @ The Frugal Gene

Do you have an inspiring story and want to share? Contact Me.

Comments 16

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  2. It’s cool to see how everyone has their struggles and strengths and we’re all unique. Sometimes it’s easy for us to focus on what the “right” answer should be, “What is he/she doing? Maybe that’s the ‘right’ way..” But the right answer is what makes us happiest and closer to our goals. You only eat one meal a day, but if you’re happy with it, who is anyone to judge? I eat the same type of sandwich almost everyday at work and even though people sometimes bring it up, I’m fine with it. It’s cheap and fast and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. It’s not only ok to be different in pursuit of something better, it’s almost necessary. To live better than “average”, you can’t just do what everyone else is doing!

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      I love your comment about letting people do what makes them happy. That is certainly how I approach life.

      And I’ve definitely been a victim of being made fun of for eating the same meal at work every day. LOL

  3. I loved Lily’s no-nonsense approach to personal finance, even at a super young age in high school. It’s super impressive she spends $275 a year (during X-mas) to buy clothes. I wish my clothing budget were that low- always room for improvement!

  4. Thanks for sharing Lily! It’s funny because I started with Financial Samurai as well (along with Retire by 40 and Mr. Tako and Mr Money Mustache). Immigrants are a different breed. I think that’s partly what it is. We’re “hungry.” I came from nothing as well. My parents are missionaries. I came here with zero, and built myself an “empire.” And I’m still building. I used to be hardcore frugal. Now I’ve moderating, but I’ve over-corrected because I spent $15K on clothes in 2016. Just on me. The wife probably spent something similar. That’s crazy. So I think we went overboard because we were so “repressed/suppressed” from saving for so long. And now that our income is high, and continuing to soar, we still save a good amount. Probably between $80-$100K a year. I stopped budgeting a few years back because I know I’m good if I have roughly $7-8K to put into investment every month. Everything else is gravy. I think we’re going to moderate back the other way, and settle at some sort of happy medium. I think people in this community might think I’m a crazy spender, since I’m new to the scene, but at my core, I’m very frugal. And it’s rooted in the fear of running out of money (not having enough). But as our income is healthy ($300K+ and rising), we’re able to eat well and save well.

    1. I * LOVE * your reply Tim. I feel like I got such an insight from you (and honestly putting myself out there like I did above does make me a wee bit uncomfortable, I know it’s part of blogging but, wounds, I’m sure you understand.)

      I don’t think you’re (or your wife) are crazy spenders (and a good community should understand the differences in wealth vs living misery.)

      There are misers like me who wouldn’t float $5 for anything and that, in another view, is just as unhealthy. I think I wrote about how many missed opportunity I had in college because I was too afraid of loss, sigh.

      Your savings rate is MORE than healthy. If you can enjoy life and still save like a pro then there’s no need to be money obsessed. Does high end clothes have a better resale value? I think my friend keeps about $50,000 in handbags as investments, but her family makes crazy money too 🙂

      1. Lol nah, clothes are 100% consumption. My wife once tried to convince me that $10k Hermes bags can be investments and I want like NO LOL. You can get lucky once in a while but luck and investing don’t go together. That’s more like gambling.

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      Awesome Tim! I appreciate your comment. Stories like yours and Lily’s have humbled me so much. It’s amazing to see people, specifically immigrants, make such HUGE strides.

      1. Thanks! We wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing if we weren’t in this country. People born here taken it for granted but the amount of bounty here is just ludicrous. The amount of money that’s flowing, opportunities, freedom to do business, etc. People need to travel overseas to see how bad it is out there and how good we have it here. We need to start counting our blessings and waking up every single day with a pep in our step!

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