Momentum Series Interview – The Rich Miser: Living It Up For Less
This marks feature #27 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
This week I’m excited to welcome the great blogging duo of Lily and Miguel from The Rich Miser to the Momentum Series.
Lily and Miguel are a originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico but as of 2015 now live in Miami. They share tips, tricks and tools on their blog to help readers live it up for less. From travel hacking, luxury reviews, cost-saving techniques, personal development and a ton more, it’s a great resource.
If you wanted to connect with The Rich Miser duo:
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get started with the Momentum Series Interview – The Rich Miser: Living Well For Less.
We’re Lily and Miguel, a husband-and-wife team of attorneys and bloggers who are passionate about sharing tips, life hacks, and reviews on luxury for less.
We were both born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but have lived in Miami since 2015. We’re both 35 years old, and have a daughter on the way!
Lily majored in labor relations in college before going to law school for her J.D. (both at the University of Puerto Rico). I (Miguel) majored in political science and philosophy (at Boston College) before getting my J.D. (from the University of Puerto Rico).
We both started out working for big corporate law firms in San Juan. After about 3 years, I left to join my father’s practice, where it’s just him and I. Lily also left her firm to work as a US Government attorney. Before moving to Miami, we took and passed the Florida Bar Exam, and got licensed to practice law in Florida.
We like the balance that these careers provide. My work is task-based, meaning that I have to get projects done by deadlines, but I can manage my time as I wish. This allows me to pursue my blogging passion, and juggle it effectively with practicing law.
Lily’s work is more time-based, meaning she’s required to work (and account for) a certain number of hours each week. However, it’s a “reasonable” 40-50 hours, as opposed to working at a law firm, where it can be far worse. Since the government does not ask her to hand her life over to work, we get some family time and balance (in exchange for a lower salary).
Has taking control of your money and mastering your personal finances always been your mindset as an adult? Can you share the coles notes version of your financial journey?
I’ve always been a saver, and have loved seeing a rising bank balance. When I was a kid, I used to ask all my family members to give me money for Christmas and my birthday, which I would deposit in a savings account and use throughout the year.
I didn’t work in college, but I did work through most of law school (part-time during the semesters, and full time during the summer and winter breaks). I mostly spent the money (something I regret), and lived with my parents.
When I started working as a lawyer, I wanted to buy an apartment, but then the Great Recession hit and my employer froze my salary. It was a blessing in disguise, since I dropped the house-hunting plans and continued to live with my parents (but they started charging me rent). Still, I was able to save about $25,000 in a couple of years, and any apartment I would have bought would have probably declined in value.
Things changed when I went to work with my father, left my parents’ house, and Lily and I got married. Financially, I’m paid a somewhat modest salary, but I get bonuses when cases pay out. That means that my income is very volatile, and can vary hugely year-by-year. So, we balance that out with Lily’s government job, which of course pays an extremely predictable, steady salary. It also provides both of us with health insurance and other fringe benefits that I don’t get from my job.
So our “system” right now is that we live off our salaries (and save a little bit), and save up most of my bonuses. There’s still lots of room for improvement, though, since we’re not saving enough.
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your life to best set you up for financial success?
The biggest would be automating savings. A percentage of Lily’s salary is automatically invested in her government retirement plan, which is then matched by the government and goes into the stock market. We also have auto-withdrawals every month from our checking account, where the money goes into several robo-advisor accounts and is invested.
Second, we prioritize spending on (hopefully) appreciating assets like our house, rather than depreciating assets like cars (we recently traded in our luxury car for one that’s non-luxury). We don’t buy much “stuff” anymore, and try to get coupons and discounts when we do.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
We’re coming to realize that we might have bought a house that’s too big and expensive. We can pay the mortgage, but the property taxes are very high and getting higher every year. We might move next year, thought it would result in a longer commute for Lily. It’s an issue we’re wrestling with right now, especially with a baby on the way.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
Apart from the housing issue I just mentioned, we want to keep optimizing and reducing our spending. Also, we’re trying to make the blog turn a profit (hopefully this year)!
If you could send a memo to every 18-22 year old in North America about better managing their finances and understanding money but it could only be 3 sentences long, what would that memo be?
Don’t buy a lot of stuff, but spend some money on awesome experiences (you’ll never get your 20s back). Get a budgeting app and make sure you set aside as much as possible for investing. Invest in broad-based stock-market funds, or use a robo-advisor and set it up to buy mostly stocks.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
We’re kind of cherry-pickers here. There are few blogs or publications that we read consistently; rather, we just open and read particular articles that interest us, from a wide variety of blogs and websites. When we want to learn about a topic, we immerse ourselves in it, from whatever source is available.
Lately, I have been turning to YouTube a lot for tutorials on specific subjects that I want to know about. Lily likes podcasts, while I prefer reading and YouTube videos. I also check out the Rockstar Finance daily email for interesting posts.
I’m also very interested in newer innovations in the world of finance; we use an online bank (Ally), have accounts with two robo-advisors (M1 and Betterment), and invest around 5-9% of our portfolio in cryptocurrencies.
Can you explain the idea behind the name Rich Miser and what it means to you in terms of how you live your life?
The basic idea behind being a Rich Miser is to build wealth but spend little on the stuff that doesn’t matter, while also living well. Luxury for less, to be brief.
We respect our fellow hardcore frugality bloggers, but that’s not our mindset. We like to live well, but spend less than what it would “normally” would cost to have that level of luxury. For example, we have a nice, big house in a great neighborhood, but we don’t drive luxury cars. We also love to travel, and try to travel hack our way to nice vacations in far-off places. Also, we enjoy eating and drinking, so we go to nice restaurants but make heavy use of dining rewards programs.
What are some of the strategies you use to balance living well while also remaining smart with your money?
The biggest would be to automate saving (with monthly auto-deposits to investment accounts), and having an order of priority for spending. First we spend on necessities, then on experiences, and finally on things. We are also constantly looking to squeeze more value from our money, time, and energy with life and spending hacks (which we share on the blog as we discover them).
Are there any surefire tips you can share on how most readers can look to enjoy the finer things in life but never pay retail or life hack there way to remain cost-effective?
Buy quality goods (even luxury goods) used on retailers such as The RealReal. Shop mostly online and use programs such as Ebates and Swagbucks. Buy as little stuff as possible, since most will wind up gathering dust eventually.
For shoes, Cole Haan often has sales and makes nice shoes. Have no more than one or two fine watches, and buy them used from a reputable retailer. Tag Heuer and Rolex make very classy stainless steel watches in the US $2,000-$3,000 range (less if used).
Buy good-quality food at ALDI and Trader Joe’s.
Get a great credit card like the Uber Visa (4% back on dining) and join every dining rewards program possible (Visa Local Offers, Swagbucks Local, Rewards Network (airline miles)). Those programs will automatically give you credit when you pay at a participating restaurant, and can be “stacked”.
Want to learn more? Check out this post that highlights a program that gives you free money when you swipe your Visa.
Drink Presidente beer (it tastes great and is less than US $1 per bottle), highly distilled American vodka (it’s cheap and basically tasteless), Puerto Rican rum (DonQ if you can find it; it’s cheap and tastes great), cheap-but-good bourbon (rather than Scotch), and wine that you like that costs $10 or less per bottle.
Do as much travel hacking as possible, and favor hotels that have free breakfast and parking.
Lease, so you can have a new, nice car every 3 years (even though it’s not the cheapest option). Good higher-end makes are VW, Acura, and Alfa-Romeo.
You can ride in style with these 5 cheap exotic cars.
Buy the worst house on the best block, and remodel over time. The land will probably hold its value and even appreciate. If you do the opposite and buy a “palace in the hood”, the “hood” will bring down the value of your palace.
If renting, try to save money by renting in a non-dangerous gentrifying neighborhood (find one where gentrification is a positive force, not where people are being wrongfully displaced).
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I launched The Rich Miser in mid-2016 when I realized that Lily and I were using all sorts of life and money hacks to live well for less, and that many of those hacks were not commonly known. At that time, I only wrote about 10 posts and stopped; we were remodeling a house and had a lot going on, and it just fell by the wayside.
About a year later, in 2017, things had settled down, and I found a renewed interest. Since then, I’ve gotten more and more involved by the day. Lily joined in December of 2017, and loves writing a weekly post.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with The Rich Miser?
Over the long run, we want to learn about life and money, and share our journey and knowledge with the world. We don’t think there are many blogs devoted to luxury for less, but believe that most people would love to live more luxuriously while spending less and saving more. So, we think that there’s an audience for it.
Even more long term, we want to learn about life and success in a broader sense, and share it with as many people as possible in the form of a large blog or media company.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog(s) over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
We want to turn the blog into a full-blown, profitable business. To achieve that, we are currently focusing on getting more exposure, by expanding our reach on social media and by writing for other blogs and sites. We’ve been seeing success lately and have been appearing on multiple sites, including large commercial websites.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
- This Powerful Japanese Technique Makes You Better Every Day: This is a life philosophy post that helps you make positive, lasting changes in your life.
- Dramatically Cut Costs and Increase Investments with the Lasso Method: This post describes a method to cut your expenses and increase your investments gradually, month by month.
- Be A Restaurant Hero With 6 Dining Rewards Programs: This is a very practical post that provides immediate value, since it will help you get more money back when dining out. You can join the rewards programs in less than 20 minutes – that’s all it takes.
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
As my father always tells me, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Success is achieved by making many small investments and improvements on a daily basis (and avoiding major mistakes). Over time, you will reap what you sow, and build up your accomplishments.
In terms of money specifically, the worst thing you can do is buy excess stuff. It’ll mostly wind up as clutter in your life, and each dollar you spend on unnecessary things is a dollar that you can’t invest and grow via the miracle of compounding. Buy just what you need, buy quality, and splurge on experiences, rather than things. Experiences are what will give true richness to your life.
Any special shoutouts?