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

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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.

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

1. Takeout

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?


The Pros & Cons Of Our Long-distance Marriage

Why We Sent Our Son To China

Frugal Wins & Frugal Fails series

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19 thoughts on “5 Frugal Wins & 2 Frugal Fails – May 10, 2017”

  • I cut my hair last week…it did not go so well and now I look like I have joined the military. At least I will know next time that worse case scenario I shave it all off. Next attempt will be in two weeks.

    We used a lot of hand me down baby stuff and are now in the process of handing it down even further!

    As for travel, this probably kicks our butt the most. Flying west to east coast to see family gets expensive after a while.

    • Mr. FAF had a series of bad haircuts before he got skilled at it. He always wore a hat to hide it for a while. It’s great you’re trying to do haircuts at home. It saves a lot of money!

      I know what you mean about traveling. Mr. FAF’s and my family are in Asia, so we can’t go visit them often. When we do, we notice a significant dip in our savings. But we value spending time with family, so we usually try to save up as much as we can before the trip. 🙂

  • Sorry about the hot pot experience. We have one here and I love it. Totally get over paying for food though. With Mother’s Day around the corner, we decided to have a nice meal in rather than pay inflated prices at a restaurant.

    • Thank you, Janet! I usually eat out maybe once a month when I’m by myself. But with Mr. FAF here to visit, we just can’t get over the excitement of going out and eating delicious food we can’t make at home yet. I’m really looking forward to the day when both of us are perfectly happy eating at home 100% of the time.

      Happy early Mother’s Day to you! I’m glad you and your family will have a nice meal at home on that important day.

  • Sorry about the hot pot. That sounds terrible. The hot pot places here are all you can eat. 🙂 That’s the way to do hot pot. At home is really good too.
    I cut my own hair since I quit working in 2012. I just do a buzz cut all over. Easy and cheap. It sounds a lot harder for women, though. Pretty amazing that you can do it.
    Whoa, you’re having a baby and live in different cities? That’s going to be tough. I’d like to read more about it.

    • I know! All you can eat hotpots is the way to go. There’s one right next to that expensive hotpot, but Mr. FAF wanted to try something new, hence the hotpot debacle. I guess sometimes we just need to stick with what we know best.

      We do have a hotpot at home, but there’s something about not having to do all the grocery shopping, prepping, and doing the dishes that’s really tempting @_@. Mr. FAF and I are making an effort to eat hotpot at home though.

      I did have a hard time cutting my own hair at first. But I tie my hair back in a ponytail most of the time, so it’s not that easy to notice a bad haircut.

      You just gave me a great idea for a new post, Joe! I’ll write a post about Baby FAF soon (he’s two now).

  • Good and interesting article. Eating out gets expensive, we still do it once or twice a week. It can be fun and delicious to learn how to cook. Pick a few dishes you like to eat and practice on those dishes. You should be good at it in no time.

    Definitely surprised you and Mr. FAF live in different cities. Might be cheaper in the long run to find one city that will work for your jobs.

    • Thank you, Ray! That’s a great suggestion. 🙂

      It’s definitely more expensive for both of us to live in two different cities. We’re also trying to figure out how we can be in one place under one roof as a family. More updates to come soon!

  • I agree eating out is expensive! But for mother’s day my dear hubby grilled crab cakes for me with sliced sweet potatoes and other grilled vegetables. Very reasonable cost, great food and didn’t have to wait in line for an expensive meal and poor service on a busy day.
    And dear hubby has been my stylist since the first time he gave me a haircut shortly after we met. He always does a great job, I told him this was not a one time good deal, he was now my regular hair stylist and he laughed, then said of course I will. He gives haircuts to my children, my mom and even given two of my friends haircuts when they were visiting when I was getting mine trimmed. Saves me hundreds a year, never a bad haircut.

    • Oh wow your husband is a keeper! It’s amazing how he can give great haircuts without fail! I’ve been cutting my own hair for more than 10 years, so I think I can do it faster than if I ask Mr. FAF. To be honest, I don’t want to take the chances of him making a mistake with my hair. -_-

      It definitely saves hundreds of dollars to have a haircut at home. I’m glad it works out for you and your family. 🙂

      • Definitely a keeper, he does 98% of the cooking, I do bake though, my mom asks what he is cooking on weekends and then hints that it sounds good, fishing for an invite that is always extended. He does alot of home projects and repairs, very talented with the tools., he buys good quality and he has some that are over 30 years old, that still work fine. Very much a diy guy, very handy to have around, not just to keep my hair looking great. He does my braids quite fast, but he does take his time when he is wielding the shears, very meticulous, has to be done right.

  • Next time, come to Baltimore! There is a ton of cheap Korean restaurants with hotpot. You can get all that you got AND MORE for like $27 in a shopping center between Maryland and Howard St. All the good Korean places are by this 1 shopping center with a laundromat. All the international Hopkins students wearing Commes des Garcons Play and with Issey Miyake Bao Bao totes are there…getting a deal!

    • That’s great to know, Louise! Sounds like a great place to eat and hang out. Thanks for letting me know!

  • I’ve been having food frugal fails too! It is so hard when you are away to eat frugally. I know if I made more effort with it, I’d be able to do better when we are away. We’re going 2 places this month where we are going to have to eat. I’m going to try to take food to at least the one place.

    • Hi Christy, I totally know what you mean. When we travel, we just don’t have all the ingredients, seasoning, and cookware that we need to stay frugal. Then there’s the thought that we’re traveling, so we should enjoy life a little.

      In fact, I wrote about how Mr. FAF and I cooked food at home, put it in the fridge at a motel we stayed at for two days, and ate out only once to enjoy the local food. We were two poor students at that time, but we had LOTS of fun on the trip. Food was only a small part of the enjoyment! =)

  • My kids are 7 and have worn handme downs their entire life as have my husband and I (for the past 10 years). We buy socks, underwear and 1 pair of runner new every year. If you ask me, people have no idea.

    With my kids, I take really worn clothes and repurpose them in my sewing basket. Ones with (coverable) stains or tears get cool patches. I also put patches on knees and shirts that don’t even need them. I cut off/make bows and put them on my daughters plain tshirts. I bought $1 worth of lace at the sewing store and added it to the bottom of cut off jeans/turned into capris. I cut the “fake sleeves” off of long sleeved shirts and turn them into tshirts. Sweatshirts can be made into vests. People often comment on my kids clothes and ask where I bought a particular piece.

    While it might sound like I’m sewing inclined, I’m not! I can sew a straight seam and hand stitch a few stitches. My daughter has taken an interest in sewing and has even done a bit herself.

    I’m a bit of an accessory hoarder though. I buy (new or used); fedoras, ties, headbands, gloves, sun glasses, purses. They can add to the whole look and make it yours. My son just gave me 13 (!!!) ties that he doesn’t wear or like and he still has a drawer full 🙂

    Some people spend a lot of money on their new clothes and don’t look as good as others that know how to shop for their size/shape/style and have access to a good thrift shop (this is key).

    Long story short, your child won’t know or care and if/when they do, you can talk to them about why you made the choices you did. If they still don’t like it, they can earn money to buy new/different items themselves. Sounds like a learning opportunity to me.

    I’m a new follower to your blog and enjoying your content. Keep it coming.

    One question, feel free to point me to a blog post or tell me none of my business but why do you and your husband live in different cities?

    Besos Sarah
    Journeys of The Zoo

    • Hi Sarah, fist off, welcome to the Frugal Asian Finance blog! Second, I was really amazed at your thoughtful comment. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and how you make all the great clothes for your family while not spending a fortune on brand names. I have no doubt the clothes look great, and that you kids must be so happy and lucky to have such a wonderful mom!

      I like how you use accessories to make the clothes more beautiful and reflect your styles. I absolutely agree with you that many people spend a lot on expensive clothes, but they might not look as good as those who know how to style an inexpensive outfit. 🙂

      Your advice on talking to the children is great and much needed! I want Baby FAF to know that I love him and want to invest in his future, but clothes are not a priority. Talking to them will make them better understand our decision instead of demanding new stuff. I used to wear hand-me-down clothes from my uncle’s wife in middle school and high school. I didn’t really understand why my mom rarely bought me anything nice. She never really talked to me about the reasons other than the fact that we needed to stay frugal. Now I understand why she did that.

      I really appreciate your question. Feel free to ask me anything :). Mr. FAF and I met while we were in grad school in a city 10 hours away from DC more than 4 years ago. Then I moved to DC for a new school while he’s been staying there to finish his PhD program. Mr. FAF is supposed to graduate this summer and already got a job offer in DC, so hopefully we will be united soon!

      Gracias, Sarah! 🙂

  • My husband and I have often complained about how DC has a lot of overpriced restaurants, which usually end up leaving me disappointed. I guess my expectations are always very high due to the hype and cost, and most places fail to meet them. We’ve established a list of our favorite “cheap eats” for when we want to go out, and a few nicer places to take friends and guests. I don’t know what neighborhood you’re in, but I’m happy to offer some suggestions. Of course it helps that we’re not huge drinkers either 🙂

    The tea party looks adorable too. Also, any tips on cutting your own hair?

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