Expensive Cells & Chanel? How I Saved Money When I Didnt Have Money

Until recently, I accepted that it was not in my best financial interest to have both. 

I am not a miser by any sense of the word, I do however simply refuse to pay beaucoup money, for certain things.  My blog name alone “Cappuccinos & Consignment” truly gives way to my approach to life; financially frugal yet fancy. 

For much of my sons onze ans I was a single mother.  As if being a single mother isn’t difficult enough my son has special needs. He requires speech and occupational therapy in conjunction to having an incurable (for now, I have faith that he will be cured) disease.  I had to make every penny count. Before becoming a licensed funeral director, I was an apprentice, which meant I had zero benefits.  If I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. If I got sick I didn’t have medical insurance to cover a physician’s office visit.   Stressful was an understatement.

An additional degree later and a complete turn of events, I became a vingt-six ans intern in the federal government.  I will never forget the day that I received the email. It was the BEST birthday gift ever, outside of being gifted a trip to Paris.  I was in a Parisian flat with spotty wifi and randomly decided to check my schools email account. There it was, a welcome letter from a federal government hiring official.  There was absolutely no guarantee that after being an intern that I would be converted to a full time federal employee. I never let that stop me from going above and beyond to make that possible. 

Back to money.

As an intern, I was earning LESS than what I was earning as an apprentice at the funeral home. However, I knew focusing solely on my internship could potentially reap massive benefits.  For two years I worked an internship during the week along with school, and at the funeral home on the weekends and evenings.  It was brutal.

I didn’t have much at all but I knew I had to save something, anything.  And I also knew I had to be extremely financially savvy to make that happen.

Below are cinq of the techniques I used to save while making a little over minimum wage as a single parent and how I continue to remain frugal with a current six-figure income.  

My FIRST contract and “designer” phone.

Un. No Fancy cells

Until deux months ago, I NEVER had a cellular contract.  I used every prepaid carrier imaginable, from BOOST to Virgin Mobile.  Of course there were times throughout all of those years that I felt embarrassed about not having a “designer” phone. I would have to remind myself daily, that I was doing the same thing on my $50 phone that people were with $1000 phones.  The ONLY reason I recently upgraded to a “designer” phone is because I am now blogging, thus creating additional income.  Prior to this new amazing venture there was no way I could justify paying an expensive cell phone plan and over a mortgage payment on a phone.

When I would reluctantly disclose my apt address, people often asked “are you all safe around there.”

Deux. Living Arrangements

Prior to buying my first home, which is now an investment property I stayed in what I jokingly refer to as “the trap house.”  Again, I often felt embarrassed at the state of my neighborhood and the building I lived in but I continued to turn lemons into limoncello.  I painted the walls fun vibrant colors, thrifted art work and furniture to create un Parisian oasis for my lad and I. I repeatedly told myself that “un jour I will look back and smirk at these jours.”  The jours that I had to heat my lads bath water in the microwave because the buildings hot water heater wasn’t working.  Loved ones continued to tell me that I should look for another apartment but I stood firm in my conviction.  There was absolutely no way I could afford to pay rent in a ritzy D.C. neighborhood as a single parent receiving zero government assistance, while saving for a home.  I made that sacrifice and stayed put because I knew the creator and I had bigger things in store.

Trois. La voiture?

“Oh wow, I thought you would be driving a BMW or something.”

I am NOT a driver.  I cannot reiterate that enough.  To put that statement into context, I didn’t get my license until I was vingt-quatre ans only because the funeral home required it.  With that, buying a car that allowed me to not stroll my baby to and fro daycare, the hospital (he was receiving weekly blood transfusions at the time), my job, evening classes and home was a blessing, not a luxury.  We did not need a Lamborghini to drive us to the nearest metro.  We needed something reliable.  When I purchased my canary yellow 2003 Mazda 3 hatchback in 2010 with over 80k miles that had a SUNROOF, you couldn’t tell my baby and I that we weren’t in a Bentley.  I received so many “oh wow, I thought you would be driving a BMW or something.”  I took those comments in stride and I continued to keep my eyes on the prize.  Financial security.   

An evening alone, with my thrifted vin glass, 2014

Quatre. Subscribe

I thoroughly enjoy fancy libations and I prefer those that will not give me a headache.  Vin and magazines were (and still are) my “me time.”  With my limited income I set un petit aside for me to enjoy the few evenings I had off  avec verre du vin rouge et magazines.  I subscribed to a wine club that allowed me to enjoy fancy French wines at a fraction of the cost.  I also subscribed to the magazines that interested me.  Magazines can cost more that $8 each, a month.  By subscribing I saved over $200 annually. 

I’m tearing up looking at this pic. He was trois and I was afraid. We used to go to the park and play “Mario.” Collecting the coins we found on the ground, while spending quality time.

Cinq. Save, even when you think you can’t.

I thought that there was no way I could possibly set aside anything while I was an intern.  But I did.  I made the impossible possible by saving the money before I saw it.  I found an online bank that didn’t have an actual location which made it nearly impossible for me to withdraw the funds.  I put my lad first.  I opened an account for him and automatically withdrew $50 a month to his account.  The first few months were ROUGH but after sometime, I completely forgot about the $50.  That was dix ans ago. $50 a month for dix ans, he now has over $6000 in his checking account alone.  The strenuous sacrifice then makes me smile endlessly now. 

Save, save and save.  It doesn’t matter how much, DO IT. 

To date, my salary has certainly increased tremendously but I still (for the most part) continue to live well below my means.  Once earning a six-figure salary, I didn’t run to the nearest dealership and purchase a brand new car.  When I purchased my first home I did so modestly.  Two bedrooms and two baths.  All that was needed for my little guy and I.  I paint my own nails, I pack my lunch (most of the time), I thrift/consign, and coupon clip like no other.        

It is possible to (re)build financial stability with minimal resources. It takes time, dedication and extreme humility. I have and will continue to offer the beginners knowledge that I have on budgeting and saving. In a previous post “Money is the Root of All Evil?” I shared addition money saving tips. If anyone is interested please comment below and I will write a more extensive post detailing what you can do now to create a better tomorrow for you and your loved ones.

To assist with jump starting your savings/investments use the link below to receive a $5 investment credit. I began using the Acorns© app less than a year ago. In that time my reoccurring $5 monthly deposits have increased to over $1500. This petit pot of gold in conjunction to my savings, 401k and IRA brings tremendous financial pride.



  1. Katrina Washington

    I love how you make us visualize the journey as if we were on it. Also can you teach me how to make lemons into limoncello???

  2. I'm not crying, you are

    Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am and how much I do NOT have to complain about! Thank you for being willing to share such personal things. Inspiring me to the point of action for the future me and (maybe) a future lad of my own. Idk what else to say but that you really affected a reader today. *crying emoji*

    • Ugly cry hugs!!! This was by far the most difficult blog to compose. I couldnt even bare to thoroughly edit it. I kept tearing up thinking about how far we’ve come. Thinking about the days that I had to explain to a toddler that we couldnt buy juice, because I had to pay for his medication. And he understood. He’s my hero. He’s the reason why I refuse to settle. He deserves the world. And as we collected pennys in the park, I promised him that one day I would give him just that, the world.

  3. Moorsay

    This excellent information for a first step!

  4. Ebony Carrington

    Reach one teach one Jessie…I’m definitely interested it’s never too late and I’m beyond tired of the struggle..so I’m all 👂..so proud of you

    • I’m glad you said it! It is NEVER TOO LATE. Everyday is a new opportunity to create greatness. Mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. Thank you so much for your love and support. It’s not easy but it can happen, a penny at a time!

  5. Stacey Mac

    I love your blog. I signed up for Acorns last year, but sadly I’m not saving to my full potential. I will get back on track in June.

  6. Tush

    I finally made time to sit and read this. Can’t tell you how many times I had to look up so no one on the bus would see tears rolling down my face. Great advise and fabulous writing. Keep it up! Life is what you choose to male of it.

    • Tush!!! Now you’re going to make me cry! Thank you so much for your support. Now let’s go to happy hour at Carrabba’s in our Adidas 🤣🤣🤣

  7. Tush

    I finally took time to read this and was immediately pulled in enough that I had look up periodically so no one on the bus saw tears rolling down my face. So well written and said. Life is what you choose it to be. And you have choosen well. Great advice and please keep up the inspiration that so many need to hear.

  8. Malaika

    Hi! I am new to your blog! This was great reading! I try to save! I am also with Acorns, but I am a lil confused with it. They take money out of my account from $5 to $10, I guess it’s for investing. I also try to save by using the bi-weekly calendar. This really start at the beginning of each year. But, it really doesn’t matter, when you start, like you said, as long as you save something. Like you said, you have to be CONSISTENT! Looking forward to reading more of your blogs! #FinanciallyFree

    • Bonjour Malaika and thank you so much for reading and commenting! Yes, the withdraws that Acorns take are placed in stocks they believe would be best for your investment type. When you first created the account did you answer the standardized questions; how long do you plan to invest? what are you saving for? how often, etc. your answer to those questions will dictate how aggressive/conservative they are with your funds. I believe at anytime you can change your investment preference. Nonetheless, you started! Thats a HUGE accomplishment.

  9. stephanie

    I need ALL the budgeting and finance knowledge please and thank you very much

  10. AJ

    I loved this blog. It rings so close to home the humility you were willing to show manifested into a life well deserved. I remember having to scrap to get a $1000 car to get my son to school and me to work. Drove that car from Louisiana to Arizona 10 years ago and it died 2 months later. I almost feel like I am reading my story. Learned how to have the most with the least and it has paid of. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • Awwwwww!!! Reading your message means sooooo much to me! As the saying goes, we should NEVER judge a book by its cover. It’s so easy to do, but often times we are so wrong. I am so proud of you, ma ami! While I have no desire to return to the “struggle,” those experiences truly cultivated the woman I am today. I wouldn’t change that for all of the Birkins in the 🌎.

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