Moving Around, Resiliency, and Owning our Voice

Our next installment on the Hero’s Journey shows us how resilient we can all be. A close friend of mine has moved 16 times in her short 30 year life across three countries. As I prepare for my own journey abroad I feel dread at the upcoming changes and hope that I will be able to stick to my own values of frugality as Ai-Chan did. I also really admire her willingness to share with others and her kindness even when things were not going as well as she wished. This Hero’s journey will be a reverse one. I’ll start by bragging about her frugal super powers, the time her super powers couldn’t save her, and how all this moving may have affected her.

Ai-Chan and I met our first year of college as roommates. We hit it off really quickly and proceeded to continue to room together during our four years of undergrad in college. We often split groceries and did laundry together to keep costs low. We bonded over moving around a lot as kids and tubs of ice cream. Saving comes easy to Ai-Chan and she’s never been in consumer debt. In her own words she only has debt for the essentials: her car and student loans. Her student loans are on the ten year repayment plan so she’s due to be done with them very soon. It helps that her main hobby is free once you pay for basic utilities: Ai-Chan is a huge gamer and thinks nothing of spending an entire weekend at home.

What It’s Like Now

Although she doesn’t really follow a budget, she said that when it comes to money, “I just know not to spend too much and try to hold back on impulse purchases. I also look at deals online a lot and I always try to pay as less as I can. I look at a website called Dealnews often and look for Amazon Prime Lightning Deals to save most on essentials such as soap, toilet paper, kitchen items, etc.! I try to look for the best deals [online] before purchasing, unless I really need something in a rush.”

She and her husband split everything, especially the essentials like housing and food. As for entertainment she’s into buying gaming monitors and video cards, which is much less expensive than the three day music festivals or exotic traveling that I tend to go for. Ai-Chan and her husband also have separate accounts. Ai-Chan takes care of her student debt (almost paid off!!), her car loan, and they keep savings separate, since she’s more of a saver than he is.

When she returned and needed a car she decided to buy a car rather than leasing because in the long term buying is more affordable, although the monthly payments are higher. Did I mention Ai-Chan likes sharing? She shares her phone plan with 5 other people and borrows Netflix and Hulu from friends

What Happened

Ai-Chan’s major expenses since college have been on moving. In fact, she’s moved EVERY year since graduating. Before college her father’s job had her family move every few years. After college Ai-Chan has moved for many reasons; from her roommates moving out, to being closer to work, to downsizing her living arrangements. However, there was one move that turned out to be a financial catastrophe.

1987 Born in Torrance and then moved to…
1989 Kentucky
1991 Monterrey, Mexico (where she learned Spanish)
1996 Back to Kentucky, this time to a different city
1998 Illinois, outside Chicago
2000 Ann Arbor, Michigan
2002 Edinburgh, Texas (the Valley – her least favorite place ever)
2005 Irvine, California (4 years of undergrad)
2009 Whittier, CA
2011 Buena Park, CA
2012 Anaheim, CA
2013 Toyohashi, Japan (major financial castastrophe)
2014 La Habra, CA
2015 Brea, CA
2016 Anaheim, CA
2017 Corona, CA (it’s super hot out there)

In 2013 her boyfriend took a job teaching English in Japan. She agreed to move with him and took a major leap by quitting her job and selling as much of her stuff as she could. Unfortunately her frugal nature meant she didn’t have much to sell. She ended up either giving away or donating whatever she couldn’t take. The biggest loss was on her car. Her 2002 Camry was easily worth $8,000, but it was sold for only $2,000 because there wasn’t enough time to find a willing buyer.

Ai-Chan lived in Toyohashi for 10 months before her relationship completely disintegrated. In her words it took courage to move back to rebuild her life and she had to learn to speak up for what she needed. She moved back with only $4,000 to her name and no job. Her old employer re-hired her for the same rate of $15.85/hr and from there she slowly began to build herself up again. Fortunately, she did not have to go into debt when she moved. She was very diligent about her spending, including on food. The biggest change was that before her move she had her own apartment at $1,100/month and once back she had to rent a tiny room in a condo for $650 with a lot less privacy.

Ai-Chan is now a proudly married woman living in a luxury apartment. She manages a department in a small import company and is looking forward to visiting Europe in the next few years. Just like with her last man, Ai-Chan met her partner playing online video games. After dating for 3 years and saving money, Yusaku moved to SoCal from Japan on the fiancé visa. Shortly after that they were married. They now work in the same company and as gamers they continue with their frugal lifestyle.

What it Was Like Before

Although Ai-Chan’s move abroad was a major financial drain, she’s okay now. It definitely took time to move past it, and in fact I think she still resents her ex for asking her to shoulder their finances. But now she’s definitely on her way up, as she’s making 160% more than 3 years ago!

As I mentioned in the introduction, both Ai-Chan and I moved around a lot as kids. We had both lived in 7 very different places by the time we made it to college. I’ve always been very outgoing and all the moving made me even more curious about other people. But it also made me blunt and a bit rude, since in my mind “I won’t be seeing any of these people again anyway.”

On the other hand, Ai-Chan is quieter and also much more polite than me. In fact, she didn’t complain when one of our roommates had crusty dishes in the sink for days. I on the other hand put said dirty dishes on her bed; I’ve learned to be a lot more diplomatic since then. Ai-Chan often lived in places where she was the only Asian in the entire school, which made her feel like an outsider. This made her retreat into her comfort zone of gaming and family even more.

When it comes to her job Ai-Chan has really had to get out of her comfort zone to ask for what she deserves pay wise. She is a good employee and has impressed every boss she’s had, but it’s taken time for her to get paid what she’s worth. That’s one of the main reasons why she’s changed jobs twice in the past 2 years. Her next review is in two months and she’s due for another raise, especially now that she’s more vocal about all the skills she brings to her job.

Who knows, maybe the move to Toyohashi was more than a financial catastrophe; it was also something that forced her to speak up and go against someone else’s wishes. She moved back home, dusted herself off, and is now better than before. Ai-Chan ended our talk by telling me that, “I’m still working on becoming a more assertive person than I was in college.” As always, her hero’s journey continues.

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