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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
1. Mr. FAF driving to DC instead of flying
Mr. FAF and I don’t live in the same city. He usually drives more than 10 hours almost every month to see me. I wanted Mr. FAF to fly to DC this time given how busy he’s been with his work. A return plane ticket costs roughly $200.
The problem is that since we don’t have a car in DC, it’d be difficult for us to get around (i.e. grocery shopping, eating out). We thought about renting a Zip car, but it’d be expensive (~$100/day).
If Mr. FAF drives, the gas costs roughly $80 both ways. We can have the car in DC to get around and have more freedom to run errands (i.e. post office) without having to pay an arm and a leg for a Zip car.
The drive, however, is more than 10 hours one way and usually takes Mr. FAF at least one day to recuperate. I’m fully aware of the effect the drive has on his health and insists that Mr. FAF fly instead. But he wanted to save money and have the car for mobility.
Mr. FAF has been driving back and forth like that for 3.5 years. People are always surprised when I tell them that. I guess this is proof that long-distance relationships are doable if two people are dedicated to each other.
2. Getting hands-me-down for Baby FAF
I’m always amazed at how toddler clothes are almost as expensive as adult clothes. I mean, don’t they use less material to make clothes for kids? I’m sure there’s a logical reason for the prices (i.e. almost the same manufacturing, consumerism). I just won’t know what it is exactly.
Ever since I was pregnant with Baby FAF, I’ve been trying to get hands-me-down clothes, toys, blankets and other items for him. Last week, I posted on some Facebook groups for moms to ask if anyone had any toddler clothes they wanted to give away.
A nice mom messaged me a couple of days later and said she had a few items. Mr. FAF and I went to pick them up this past weekend, thinking it’d be a small bag. It turns out to be a huge bag of toys, gloves, socks, and toddler clothes at different sizes, some of each are a bit too big for him now and will be put away for the future.
The next day a neighbor texted me and asked if I still needed the clothes for Baby FAF. The answer was Yes. I went to her house to pick them up.
Both batches of clothes definitely have a lot of wear and tear. Part of me felt happy because I got some great stuff for Baby FAF. Part of me felt bad because he has to wear old clothes.
But at the end of the day, I have to tell myself he will grow out of his clothes fast, and that there’s no point in spending a fortune on his wardrobe. It’s more important to prioritize the investment in his education and nutrition. I feel really grateful for everything that we got.
Our treasure this weekend displayed on a couch we got from our friends for free
3. I cut my own hair.
I’ve lived in America for 12 years, but I’ve never gone to a beauty salon for a haircut. I do it myself. I just couldn’t stand the thought of spending $30 or more to have someone trim the tip of my hair.
The first time I cut my hair was in college. Some of my friends went to beauty salons where the hairdressers were in training and would cut people’s hair for free. I wanted to try it but didn’t want to spend an hour on a haircut.
Now I’ve gotten so skilled at cutting my own hair that it takes me less than 5 minutes. When I visit my family, everyone thinks I get my hair cut by a hairdresser.
I bought Mr. FAF a hair clipper for $50 almost four years ago. There have been multiple incidents where the haircut got so out of hand that he had to wear a hat even in his office for two weeks.
I was partly to blame for those incidents (ehem). But we got a good laugh out of it, and Mr. FAF never got mad at me for trying to help him (yay!).
4. We cooked for the week on Sunday.
Mr. FAF and I usually cook for the week on Sunday. And this past Sunday was no difference. We actually got a phone call from a friend asking if we wanted to meet up for dinner. We were already in the middle of cooking, so we told them we could do this weekend. Our friend happily agreed.
I forgot to take a picture of what we made. But below is a picture of some dishes we made one time.
5. I went to a ladies’ tea party.
I joined a ladies’ tea party with some female neighbors. We get some funding from the community and have events every once in a while. I brought Chocopie and organic green tea I had bought in Asia. We had tea, coffee, cookies, macaroon, and fruit. It was a fun and frugal party!
A sneak peek at our tea party & my plate
2 FRUGAL FAILS
Mr. FAF lives in a city with much lower costs of living compared to DC. That means that everything there (i.e. housing, food) is cheaper. There’s an Asian food court near his place that offers an array of delicious Chinese dishes.
Prior to 6 months ago, I’d try to go grocery shopping in DC and spend the weekend cooking a lot of dishes before Mr. FAF came to visit. But to be honest, I’m not good at cooking. Despite my efforts to learn from Youtube and Mr. FAF, my cooking skills haven’t improved a lot.
What I make is edible, not tasty. Mr. FAF knows it. I know it. Mr. FAF would end up rolling into the kitchen to cook for both of us (with my assistance) the next day after driving for more than 10 hours. I felt really bad for him.
One day he brought to DC a couple of dishes from the Asian food court in his city. They turned out to be delicious and saved us a ton of time. And he’s been doing that ever since when he comes visit me in DC.
The only difference is that this time Mr. FAF bought 6 different dishes instead of 2-3 dishes like before. It was $83.3 in total. Some of these were pricey (i.e. roasted duck for $13.38 and braised rib fish for $10.95).
I thought all of this food would last us for at least one week. But we rant out of pretty much everything except for the big tray of chicken and the pancake after 5 days. Next time, I’ll just ask Mr. FAF to buy only 2-3 inexpensive dishes.
2. Ripoff hotpot
We took a good friend of ours to a Japanese restaurant. I just wanted to go to a buffet to so that we could fill up our bellies with all a kinds of good food. But Mr. FAF loves hotpot and wanted to try this relatively new place in town. I eventually gave in.
It was a total disappointment. We paid $90 for us and our friend and got home feeling hungry, cheated, and angry.
The veggies consistsed mostly of napa cabbage which is virtually tasteless and is one of the cheapest veggies you can find at the grocery store. The noodles were spread out on the plate to look like a lot, but it wasn’t. The meat was paper thin and also spread out to look like a lot, but it was basically 5 super thin slices of beef.
The broth was just bland and did nothing to enhance the flavor of the meat and veggies. There were two sauces: (1) soy sauce with vinegar and (2) peanut sauce with garlic. The sauces were the only two distinct flavors I tasted throughout the meal.
Mr. FAF wanted to get a tiny scoop of ice-cream for $3. I was so disappointed by the whole endeavor that I didn’t even bother to object. In hindsight, I should have given how we can get a tub of the same ice-cream at the grocery store for the same price.
They gave us a complimentary scoop of lychee ice-cream which was basically the best thing we had at the restaurant. That’s definitely not a good way to describe a hotpot. That was our first time at the restaurant and will be our last.
When we got home from the restaurant, both of us were mad about paying for a tiny portion that left us hungry. We tried to forget about the hunger and just go to bed.
But I started getting light-headed, which had never happened after we had a hotpot. Right before midnight, Mr. FAF and I went to the kitchen to heat up leftovers and started laughing about the experience. I guess we can only learn from mistakes.
I realized most of our frugal wins and fails have to do with food. It’s because we don’t really much much on other aspects of our lives. We don’t go to the movies, buy expensive clothes, or go on expensive trips. Eating delicious food is one of the biggest joys of our lives. That’s why I wrote about our dilemma of eating out versus cooking at home.
While the hotpot incident still pains me a little bit even now, looking at all the frugal wins this past week makes me feel really good about life and our frugality.
What were your frugal wins and fails this past week?