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Ever since the Covid storm hit the US in late February, Mr. FAF, our kids, and I have been in quaratine for about five months. Mr. FAF and I work from home and take turns doing housework and taking care of our two kids. You can read more about our division of labor here.
During the time when layoffs happen everywhere and people are having a harder time finding a job, we sure feel lucky to be able to stay employed and work from home.
We definitely don’t take this for granted. We have made a lot of sacrifices in the past to get to where we are today. Even when things get tough these days, we know that we are in a much better place compared to when Mr. FAF and I had a long-distance marriage for four years and when our son was away from us in China for more than a year.
One silver lining I see during this Covid time is that Mr. FAF and I have been able to save quite a bit of money by doing the 10 frugal things below (in some cases, involuntarily).
Due to school and daycare closure, our two kids stayed at home for about four months, which saved us $9,280 in tuition during those four months or $2,320/mo.
In July, my son’s pre-K started their summer camp with all the recommended measures from the Health Department. Mr. FAF insisted our son go back to school to interact with other kids and learn from his teachers since both of us are busy with work and Baby F2 every day.
At first, I disagreed since I was worried that our son might get Covid at school and bring it home. But Mr. FAF said that this situation would last a long time, and that we need to balance our lives and our kids’ lives and development. I finally agreed.
With our son in school, now we pay $295/week ($1,180/mo) for his tuition but save $1,140/mo since Baby F2 stays at home with us.
We have a three-level townhome with a finished basement. It’s been 90 degrees and above in DC, and it’s getting hot outside. Instead of cranking up the AC to the low 70s, Mr. FAF decided to move to the basement with our son. Baby F2 and I stay on the second floor.
We have been keeping the temperature inside our house at 80 degrees most of this summer. During the day, I turn on the fan on the lowest level and find it comfortable. At night, before I fall asleep, it gets a bit chiling with the fan on, so I just turn it off.
Another reason why I set the thermostat at 80 degrees is because at night, I notice that Baby F2 coughs while sleeping if the temperature is set in the low or mid 70s.
That’s why Mr. FAF and I got into a fight about what temperature to set. He was complaining that it was too hot in his room on the second floor, and I told him our baby will cough at night if the temperature is too low. In fact, one time I set the temperature at 77 degrees, and Mr. FAF woke up the next day complaining that it was too cold in the basement.
I compared our electricity bills for July 2019 and July 2020, and realized that it’s $30 lower this year, which is even better considering Mr. FAF and I stay at home all day and use all sorts of electronic devices at home.
$30/mo might not sound like a not, but it adds up. And the most important thing is setting the temperature at 80 degrees inside our home ends all of the disagreements and complaints related to the AC between Mr. FAF and me.
As you can already guess, staying at home all day during this quaratine means two things: (1) eating lots of snacks and stuff we shouldn’t be eating and (2) not exercising enough.
As a result, both Mr. FAF and I have put on a ton of weight. I decided to go on a diet two months ago and have lost 10 lbs in total. My goal is to lose 10 more pounds.
I have written about my weight loss after giving birth to my son before – losing 40.2 lbs. The main reason for my weight loss is portion control. I still eat pretty much everything I want, including ice-cream and sweets. But I try to reduce my portion at each meal to 1/4 of what I used to eat.
Seeing my that diet is working, Mr. FAF is now also controling his portion and eating much less than before. This diet can help us a lose weight and stay fit. But it has also reduced our food consumption and thus lowered our grocery bill.
I haven’t done the math to give you an accurate number. I’ll just stay that on average both of us are eating at most half of what we used to eat before. Hopefully, it will have a similar impact on our food bills.
Things do get a bit boring at the FAF household at times. Prior to Covid, we would go to the mall and the grocery stores as a family to have a walk and look at stuff.
We have been exploring different parks near our house, but doing that for months also got us a bit bored. And a lot of the parks are getting to get a bit crowded since it’s getting hot in DC.
These days on the weekends, we would go for a car drive somewhere, burning some gas and then coming home. Sometimes Mr. FAF will go get bubble tea or Rita’s ice-cream while the rest of us wait in the car to avoid contact with other people.
But it happens maybe twice a month. Most of the time, Mr. FAF just buys ice-cream from Costco. We buy the Thai tea and green tea powder and the dry boba from the Asian store, and we make our own bubble tea at home.
A boba tea or a Rita’s ice-cream is about $5 each, which is quite expensive in my opinion, considering we can make something similar at home for $1. But it’s just fun, especially for Mr. FAF, to drive somewhere and get something to eat.
I suggested we bring boba tea from home and just drink it during our car ride, but Mr. FAF refused. Mr. FAF said he wants to try new flavors at the boba place, so I agreed.
Related: 7 Fun & Frugal Family Activities
Although some restaurants in our area are open for dining in, Mr. FAF and I have not dined in yet. Usually, Mr. FAF cooks on weekdays, and I cook on the weekends. When both of us are tired from working or of our own cooking, Mr. FAF usually gets Chinese takeout.
Instead of ordering food through an app and having to pay service fee, he would just drive to the restaurant and pick up the food from there.
It’s a nice break for both of us. We order takeout about once a week, and the food usually lasts us a couple of meals.
For example, last week Mr. FAF was having hip pain and couldn’t cook, and I was busy with work. He ended up ordering Chinese takeout twice and paid about $100.
We made rice and 1-2 veggie dish, but the takeout lasted us the whole week. We also buy frozen pizza and frozen dumplings/wonton from Costco to make a lazy meal on the weekends.
6. Entertainment/movies/documentaries/kids’ songs
One of our friends has been sharing their Netflix account with us over the past few years. But Mr. FAF, our kids, and I get our entertainment mainly from YouTube. Mr. FAF likes watching documentaries. I like watching personal finance, cooking, and coding-related videos. Our kids like nursery songs.
Mr. FAF mentioned that he wants to get YouTube Prime for $11.99. I personally don’t mind the ads. But if that makes him happy during this quarantine, I wil let it slide.
Besides watching videos, we have also been doing more reading at home. Mr. FAF purchased the Epoch Times subscription for $79 for 6 months ($3.04/week). I have also been reading to our son and toddler the books we have gotten from yard sales and also for free from our neighbors.
As for me, I just found out that my new company has a library with a lot of free books/audiobooks/Kindle books. I’m still exploring the different books to read and listen to. Mr. FAF just bought a Kindle, so the library and the Kindle will come in handy during this time.
8. Hand-me down clothes
Most of our baby’s clothes are hand-me-downs from our kind neighbors. I have not spent more than $100 on her clothes since she was born.
After our baby outgrows her clothes, I gave them to my colleague and neighbor, so the favor keeps being passed on.
Given that we stay at home all the time these days and our baby is so young, I don’t see the point of buying expensive clothes for her. I just need to make sure that her clothes are comfortable and can fit her well.
Related: 4 Reasons Why I Buy Cheap Clothes
9. Gas and car maintenance
As you can imagine, our car just sits idle in the parking lot most of the week. As a result, Mr. FAF saves $100 each month on gas despite our grocery trips and random car rides. It also helps keep the mileage low and reduces the need for car maintenaince (in my opinion) since the car is not being used as much.
Mr. FAF and I were planning to take long trips this summer, especially before I got a new job. We talked about going to Floria, Haiwaii, the Bahamas and Alaska, which would have cost us at least $2,000. However, due to Covid, we haven’t been able to travel anywhere far. While it’s a bit sad to miss out on fun summer trips, we have saved the $2,000 and put it in a money market account for our second house.
I know currently it’s a tough time for a lot of people. But I think it might be a perfect opportunity for us to (1) learn a new skill for a better job and (2) explore new fun activities at home and in our neighborhood.
For us, dealing with the Covid outbreak hasn’t been easy. It sure has caused a lot of tension and arguments between Mr. FAF and me about what best to do for our family. But at the end of the day, we are still a family, and we are stuck together, literally. Saving money, surprisingly, has been one positive thing I like the most about the situation that we are in right now.