When Johnine Mowatt graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1998 she landed a role as a regional engineer for Johnson Automotives in Michigan. This was her foray into her professional career–her first role lasted for roughly three years–next she became an ergonomics engineer at Johnson & Johnson near Franklin, New Jersey. Over a phone call, she expresses that though she hated her J&J job she was making the most money she’d ever made in her life. At this point in her life, she only had a few expenses like rent, utilities, and a car note. Naturally, everything else went into disposable income. At around 29 after working at J&J for a bit, she bought a Tiffany’s bracelet with a few charms to match for around $400 as her first splurge. At the time, she wasn’t budgeting but notes that millennial fashion lovers should save effectively before splurging–she feels that’s the most effective way to treat yourself. “I feel like there was a lot of money wasted. I wish I had saved more money so I could’ve had more freedom in my decisions.” While living in New Jersey, she found herself going into New York City often spending her time shopping for the hottest brands at the time.
After seven years, Mowatt left her job at J&J as it was not fulfilling for her. When detailing this life-changing decision she notes that one’s savings should be enough to keep them afloat before figuring out their next job or starting a business (this was the case for her). “I found myself in a place that I didn’t want to work [even though] I was making a ton of money and I was doing well.” Ironically, the day that she went in to quit her job, her manager was about to offer her a promotion and a new role. Mowatt was at a crossroads and decided to move on and sell the condo that she’d purchased during her years at J&J. Next, she started her engineering consulting firm in Orlando, Florida, and found out quickly that her way of living and her relationship with money had to change.
Before quitting her job, she said she was “living large,” splurging on clothing, spending $1,500 to $2,000 a month with her credit cards. She was also regularly shopping at local boutiques and stores that sold high-end brands like Filene’s Basement. “I had every piece of jewelry, I had every pair of shoes, I had everything.” For about a year after leaving her role, she prepared her company’s launch but was still spending frivolously while doing so. “I was still going to Tiffany’s and I was still buying things [all while] starting to rack up credit card debt.” Once she started her consulting firm, she was getting paid 60 days after a project and still had to pay a mortgage on a home she’d purchased near her parents in addition to plane fares, rental cars, and hotels for her business. That was her wake-up call. “That’s when I realized the luxury stuff, the things I liked to do, I couldn’t do it anymore.”
After that realization, Mowatt started to live on a minimum that she would set aside by automating different savings accounts. She now has a savings account for everything like her car, home, and vacations down to a clothing and accessories account where she automates money in each so that she won’t “miss” her money. Currently, she’s working as a media director and a young adult ministry director at Grace Bible Church in Orlando. She guides young adults through life and currently, financial literacy. She implores them that they must understand the importance of having an emergency fund of at least $1,000 and replenishing that money as soon as it is used. While her younger self might’ve made a few financial mistakes, Mowatt is now a frugal spender and still lives a full life often traveling abroad to destinations like Dubai and Jamaica with the help of her travel savings account.
“I’ve learned how to figure money out,” Mowatt said. “I’ve made a lot more money [years ago] but I wasn’t saving or spending it wisely. I just figured out what’s more important to me now.” While she told ESSENCE.com that she’s making less money now, she’s saved much more than when she was making a larger amount at J&J. “The frugality that I have now comes [from] the excess I spent earlier in my life.”
She may have had to learn the hard way to turn her spending habits around when it comes to luxury pieces but she encourages the youth she directs and fashion lovers to be mindful of what matters most to you so that you can spend accordingly without putting yourself in difficult situations. Unsurprisingly, she’s still a woman with high taste despite having to aggressively change her relationship with her spending habits 15 years ago. “I like nice things. I got a pair of Dunks and I’m going to get a pair of Jordans coming up. I do buy those things, but I don’t do it in excess. I work with young adults, so sometimes I have to compete with them.”