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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.
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!
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?