7 Frugal Wins & 3 Frugal Fails – May 24, 2017

Frugality is present in almost everything I do. Some of those activities are pretty mundane (i.e. drinking water instead of soda, eating leftovers, not buying new clothes).

However, sometimes I do feel ecstatic about being able to save money on certain things. Other times I feel guilty about spending too much money on something unnecessary.

In order to document those special moments, I have started a “Frugal Wins & Frugal Fails” series where I tell you all about my frugal success and failure.

5 Frugal Wins & 2 Frugal Fails – May 10, 2017

7 Frugal Wins
1. Cooking at home for the week

We spent 3 hours on Sunday cooking for the week and cleaning up. I usually prepare the ingredients (i.e. chopping garlic, onions, ginger, cutting the meat, washing veggies) and clean the kitchen after we cook.

Mr. FAF is the actual chef in charge of looking up recipes and making the magic happen.

I’ve been trying to learn how to cook from my parents, Mr. FAF, and Youtube for the past 3 plus years. But my cooking skills remain basic and below average by our standards.

Sometimes I make something new and don’t even want to eat it. After a couple of attempts to salvage the food, Mr. FAF suggested he do the cooking instead. I eagerly agreed.

Cooking in a big batch for the whole week saves us time and weakens our urge to eat out when we’re feeling hungry and lazy. When we’re tired of eating the same thing, we can just make a quick dish or a soup to freshen our meal.

Knowing that there’s food ready in the fridge, we think about spending 10 minutes microwaving it instead of driving for 30 minutes or more to eat out. We actually give in to the urge on Friday night when the supply is low or on the weekends when we’re bored with staying at home.

Sauteed green beans, tomato egg soup, duck wings cooked with Chinese five spices, chicken hearts stir-fried with jalapeno, stir-fried leak and bean curd, braised fish, and deep-fried breaded pork

2. Cleaning the storage shed

We have a small storage shed in our backyard. We didn’t touch it for more than a year until Sunday. Boy, did we have a lot of stuff!

I am not a minimalist, and we don’t hoard. We just stored a lot of Baby FAF’s clothes, unused diapers, baby gadgets, and my in-laws’ clothes in the shed about a year ago.

My mother-in-law is very frugal, which is a great trait, but sometimes she stores things we will not need maybe ever.

Without her here in DC, we took the liberty of throwing out some of the odds and ends (i.e. worn-out suitcase/bags/purses collected from the curbside/friends/neighbors, tote bags, mattress plastic wraps, plastic bags). I hope she won’t mind when she comes back.

While cleaning the shed, we found three pairs of flipflops for Mr. FAF to wear for the summer. We usually go for a walk after dinner, and Mr. FAF has been wearing his shoes to go outside. I’ve been thinking about buying him a pair of slippers from Walmart, but now we don’t have to (yay!).

Our storage shed must have been happy to unload so much stuff!

3. Giving away freebies to our neighbors

I gave away some of Baby FAF’s baby gadgets (i.e. bassinet, bouncer) to our neighbors for free for three reasons.

First, they took up a lot of space in the storage shed. We originally wanted to save those for our second baby. But we might have to move to another city in a couple of months, so we will need to get rid of them sooner or later.

Second, even if we end up staying in DC, our neighbors give away baby stuff all the time since it’s a community of young families. We can always get something else for Baby FAF’s siblings.

Lastly, I wanted to pass on the baby gadgets to families who need them. When we were pregnant with Baby FAF and didn’t have much, we got lots of help from our friends and colleagues. They gave us their baby stuff for free.

When we first moved to our current community, I tried to sell some items on the community’s Facebook group. But I realized people were just giving away stuff for free. I got a lot of freebies from my neighbors, so I wanted to do the same for them.

We still keep his baby clothes just in case. Baby clothes are expensive, and I think I’m a little attached to those tiny teeny onesies, pants, and tops. They remind me of Baby FAF when he was little.

If we have to move, I will give them away. But for now, there’s still space in the shed for those cute little things.

Getting money is great. But it’s an amazing feeling to know that our neighbors will give Baby FAF’s old items some good use.

4. Mr. FAF’s haircut at home

Last time I wrote about how I cut my own hair for free. Now it’s Mr. FAF’s time to shine. After his 4 year-old hair clipper decided to stop working, Mr. FAF got a $25 set and took the matter in his own hand.

I was busy cleaning the kitchen this time, so he did everything by himself, which turned out to be ok despite some tiny imperfections here and there. 😉

5. Not eating out in week 3

A question we asked ourselves a lot this past weekend was “Do you want to eat out?” We would go through the options and asked ourselves that same question.

After I reminded Mr. FAF about our exploding food expenses this month, we decided to roll into the kitchen and cook on Friday night. Later on, Mr. FAF wanted to have a bubble tea instead, so I gave in.

We usually just get one bubble tea ($4.77) and share it between the two of us. I suggested we buy the powder from the grocery store and make it at home.

But Mr. FAF said he likes the experience of going out and enjoying the atmosphere at the cafe. I compromised and said ok.

6. Going to a park 

On Saturday afternoon, I was tired of staying at home and wanted to go to a park. We went to a national park nearby and took a good walk among all the trees and next to a beautiful lake.

When we got to the gate, there was a sign that says non-county residents had to pay an admission fee of $10. Mr. FAF has an out-of-state driver’s license, and I forgot mine at home.

I didn’t want to spend $20 on doing something we intended to be free. We actually live in the county. I decided to explain our situation to the ticket seller. She asked for our zip code and let us in for free.

We saved $20 that day with just one question. Score!

 

7. Refusing to forget work lunch at home

It rained heavily in DC on Monday. I was carrying my bag, the umbrella, and a phone on my hand trying to listen to a podcast. Lo and behold, I didn’t realize I had left the lunch bag at home until the train had reached a new station.

I ran a cost-and-benefit analysis in my head, trying to figure out if I should just go straight to work or walk home in the rain to get my lunch.

Costs of walking home

– Pay roughly $2 for the train ride I had taken

– Walk 15 minutes from the Metro station to home and another 15 minutes back

– Showing up at work 45 minutes later than I had planned. I got up at 5 AM that day, so I wouldn’t be late. But I just wanted to start my day early if I could.

Benefits of walking home

– Not having to buy lunch

– Not having to walk to a restaurant or food stall and wait in line for at least 15 minutes to buy lunch

– Not letting the food go to waste since I had already taken it out of the fridge

– Exercise for the week

I finally decided to go home mostly because the thought of letting the food Mr. FAF and I had spent 3 hours cooking go to waste pained me. It may not be a rational decision, but at least it put my mind at ease.

3 Frugal Fails
1.  Another expensive trip to the restaurant

Our grocery expenses for this month have gone through the roof! I’ll provide more details in the food expenses report for May. But I’m feeling guilty just typing this.

Prior to starting this blog, Mr. FAF and I just estimated how much we spent on food each month. Now that I have a reason to tally up all the food and drink bills, it scares me just to think about how much we actually spent on groceries and eating out before.

We treated a friend to dinner and dropped $90 on a Japanese hotpot restaurant in week 1. In week 2, we took two of our good friends to a restaurant famous for Beijing roasted duck and dropped another $105.

 

Beijing roasted duck (beijing gao ya) wrapped in a packcake and dipped in hoisin sauce

 

Braised eggplant and Hunan beef

I consider this a frugal fail since the food quality didn’t match up to its prices. We had heard raving reviews on this delicacy, so we wanted to try it.

We usually don’t take our friends to these expensive places. But Mr. FAF was gone for 2 months, and we wanted to catch up with and thank our friends, who had been helping me out when Mr. FAF was in another city. One friend was kind enough to give me a ride to different social events since I don’t have a car in DC.

At least now we know what the rave is about and probably won’t try this dish again.

2. Burning one of our dishes

One of the dishes we made this past weekend needed to be simmered for a long time. After finishing cooking, Mr. FAF left the kitchen thinking I would turn off the stove after I was done cleaning.

I, on the other hand, thought he knew when to turn it off. We both left and returned to a smoky kitchen, a half-ok/half-burned dish, and a burned pot.

I left the windows open but could still smell the smoke in my sleep and in the morning. Although most of the food is still edible, the burn altered its taste and ruined a good part of the dish.

3. Exploding food budget

Our food budget for both groceries and restaurants has skyrocketed, and we have more than one week left until the end of May. This is probably our biggest frugal fail this month.

Two trips to two expensive restaurants have taken a toll on our wallet. This is when I feel grateful I started a blog to document our frugal adventure. It has swerved off the path a bit this month, and we will need to be more careful going forward.

Stay tuned for our May food expense report coming out on June 2 for more details!

Conclusion

I didn’t mean for it to happen, but we have had more frugal wins than frugal fail this past week. The food budget killed me a little inside, but I have to look on the bright side and think positive thoughts.

What about you? What were your frugal wins and frugal fails this past week?



19 thoughts on “7 Frugal Wins & 3 Frugal Fails – May 24, 2017”

  • I switched my cell phone to xfinity mobile, which is new in my area. Because there is no line fee, and the data charge is minimal ($12.50 per gig), I was able to get a new phone and estimate that my cell phone bill will be half of what it used to be. Not a huge win, but $40 a month here and there adds up to a nice vacation at the end of the year.

    • I’m glad you found a less expensive service for your phone. Mr. FAF and I just discussed changing our cell phone plan yesterday. We will start looking into new plans probably right before or after he starts his new job in the summer 🙂

  • Congrats on the frugal wins! I especially like reading about your giving away baby items and at home haircuts. We have a toddler too, and have benefited from people giving us hand me downs. Someday we hope to pass it on to another young family. The haircuts are the same for us- I cut my own hair and my husband’s. He too, endured a couple less than perfect haircuts when I was first starting to use the kit. 🙂

    • Thank you, Cheryl! I’m glad you liked some of the frugal wins. It felt GREAT to know that Baby FAF’s items will be put to good use by other parents. Less than perfect haircuts have become part of Mr. FAF’s life with or without my help, so I think it’s used to it =)

  • Food is one of our consistent high cost expenses. Even when eating st home we tend to spend a lot at the grocery store. Still food brings me pleasure so I am not jumping to cut it way down.

    • Food brings us so much joy in life but also makes us so guilty at times. When I’m by myself, I’m very conscious of my food budget. But when Mr. FAF comes to visit, everything changes! @_@

  • My wife and I try to do a lot of shopping for deals when it comes to food. We do a pretty good job of this but there is always room for improvement. Tallying it up we probably have more frugal fails. Especially since we went on vacation this month so we spent more on eating out than normal. It stinks when the kitchen doesn’t have all the pots and pans you expected it to have. Oh well, we ate well and had fun!!!

    • I’m glad you and your family went on vacation and had fun! Vacation is a time when Mr. FAF and I tend to splurge on out food a little bit especially if the location has its famous local cuisine.

      We usually buy fresh meat, veggies, and fruit from Great Wall (Chinese grocery store). There aren’t that many deals there, but sometimes they do for fruit. And yes I will stock up on the mangoes since I LOVE them!

  • Wow, that’s a lot of food misadventures in just a week(?). Keep cooking and you’ll get better. Mrs. RB40 was a terrible cook when we first got married, but she’s a lot better now. I’ve always been a good cook. Heh heh, just kidding. I’m a lot better now too.
    That Beijing duck still looks great. We haven’t had that dish since we went to China in 2010. 🙁 It is so expensive here and no where as good as in Beijing…

    • lol great catch! It was actually more than 1 week (maybe 10 days or so). I haven’t given up on cooking yet. I’m still trying to learn. But it’s really puzzling to me as to why I haven’t made a lot of progress despite following Youtube videos and learning from other people for such a long time. >_< It's amazing both you and Mrs. RB40 have improved your skills since you got married. It's such a great survival skill set! I was in China in 2013 and tried so much good food there. I can't wait to go back just to eat all the delicacies! Mr. FAF actually ate the roasted duck in Beijing, and said it was far better than the one we had at the restaurant. =)

  • We don’t have an actual restaurant budget because going out is usually a spontaneous thing we do when friends ask if we’re in the mood.
    Since they so rarely ask, we tend to say yes every time. Especially if they mention the secret password: sushi! (I may have a problem, I’m obsessed with it!)

    So at least, eating out for us isn’t a frugal fail. It’s simply an unplanned for expense that we manage to keep under control by balancing the other budget ‘categories’.

    • Hi Andriana, that’s a great way to look at it! We don’t really have a detailed budget for eating out either. We try to eat out once a week and estimate in our heads how much we’ve spent and try not to go over maybe $100/mo or so. The tricky part is that Mr. FAF visits me only once a month, and we just feel like hanging out with friends to make up for the lost time we’re not together. We have never fallen behind on bills because we eat out so much, so I guess it’s not too bad.

      It’s great you guys keep eating out under control in relation to other budget categories! 🙂

    • We’ve never made homemade pizza before, but that’s definitely a great idea! I think anything we make at home will be healthier and cheaper than what we can get at restaurants. =)

  • Only 4 years for a set of $50 clippers? for one guy that is odd. I bought a set of wahl clippers about five years ago for $55. Better quality bearings, less vibration , noise and cut better was what I read in the reviews. Husband uses them monthly and has done over 175 haircuts with them, never a problem. (Not on my locks, sharp hair shears only) He keeps them oiled and they cut like new. I definately got my money’s worth from the purchase, many times over. I have heard that some cheapie sets have lasted people over ten years, so I guess you never know.

    • Wow that sounds like a great purchase! I’m so glad you shared your experience with the $55 clippers. I thought 4 years was already a good amount of time. Mr. FAF used them monthly too. I need to talk to him about how we can try to fix the old ones. Looks like we might be able to get some more life out of it. Thanks for the tip! =)

  • I’ve never kept track of my wins or fails, in fact, until recently when I started reading FIRE blogs, I only kept track of my net worth (and a rough number at that) each year. So much to learn. Thanks for sharing. Besos Sarah.

    • Hi Sarah, I’m soo glad you can leave feedback on my posts now! =) I never kept track of my wins or fails until recently when I started blogging about them. Now whenever I do something I think is frugal or wasteful, I will try to remember it in my head to share with you all. I think it’s really fun, and I’ve been enjoying it so far! ^.^ Keeping track of your net worth is fascinating! Our net worth is like a constant every month, so there’s so much fun in sharing it. 🙁

      Btw, I visited your blog and thought it was so cute and helpful! =)

  • It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this outstanding blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

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