Growing up in a migrant family in Uvalde, Texas, I’m careful with how I spend money. Whenever possible, I save first and spend later. A psychologist once told me this mindset is probably because I am afraid of going back to the days when our family needed government assistance to survive.

There is probably something to this clinical assessment, but there are likely other factors to consider as well.


Like almost anyone else, I look to get the best possible deal on anything. If I can get a cheaper flight, I will spend the time looking for it. If I can apply a coupon to reduce the cost of a grocery purchase, I’m all for it.

I remember the day I walked nearly a mile in Cancun to rent a vehicle that was significantly cheaper than the option at the airport. As it turns out, the only van available was a little beat-up, but it did the trick. Every now and then, my family reminds me of the weird sounds it made and how the control panel lights frequently turned on and off.

Pay Myself First

Not long ago, someone asked me about my investment strategy. As a Finance major at St. Mary’s University, I remember a key principle mentioned by one of my professors …

The key to financial wealth is to always pay yourself first.”

The concept is very simple. Before making any purchases beyond the staple items needed to subsist, it’s super-important we save. We also learned to take advantage of any matching program at our workplace.

If the employer matches up to 5% on the retirement program, we must contribute a minimum of 5%. This is a non-negotiable item.

We’ve also taught our children that the earlier they start an investment program, the better. I remember a saying from my days in Uvalde, “Old money is good money.” The longer the money can sit in a well-managed investment account, the richer you will be down the road.

This means that patience is necessary!

Spending Money

This brings me to the topic that inspired this blog.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, our family spent the week in Portland and Seattle. We make it a habit to get together as a family whenever possible, and these trips allow us to reconnect.

Per my normal frugal approach, I booked the outbound flight using United Airlines reward miles. My wife and I had two unused Southwest Airlines tickets, so we applied the credit for the trip home. I used a discount code to rent the Avis Rental Car. Since our daughter works as an Event Manager at Marriott, we leveraged her employee discount for the hotel rooms.

However, on Thanksgiving Day, we had reservations for dinner at the Seattle Capital Grille. That morning I told myself I would not put any limits on the dinner. Anyone could order what they wanted, whether it was the Thanksgiving meal or a $60 steak.

They could also order wine and desserts. I was fine with it!

While it is a great idea to invest and save where we can, it is important to let ourselves spend as well. Nowadays, I am doing a better job of letting go. It has been a long journey coming from the barrios in Uvalde to where I am today.

Although I’ve had my share of difficult times, God has been good to me.

He gave me a chance to have a beautiful family, and every now and then, I need to splurge on them.