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It is no secret that Mr. FAF and I are a frugal couple.
During our 4-year marriage, I have observed certain things we usually do to save money, cut costs, and invest for our future.
Some of them are straight out weird such as living in an office or using toilet paper as napkins.
Some are just the usual plain old tricks such as mending old clothes and socks.
If you Google “How to save money,” you will find long lists of things one can to do stay on a budget.
But what I’m more interested in is what other couples do every day that helps them embrace frugality.
And today I will share with you what Mr. FAF and I do on a regular basis to help our joint bank account stay strong and healthy and to express our love for frugality.
1. We wear free T-shirts at home.
Mr. FAF and I share a stack of free T-shirts that we wear on a daily basis.
Mr. FAF wears one size bigger than me, but I’m fine with bigger sizes. They are just really comfortable.
We got those T-shirts from Mr. FAF’s old school, our campus events, and my work.
Each of them has a logo and thus reminds us of the old time or a particular experience in our lives.
But the main reason why we keep those T-shirts is because they are made from cotton (thus comfortable) and free.
2. We have never used cable.
We currently pay $49.99/month for our Verizon Internet service. Our promotional offer expired after a year, but I called the company and got the price down from $59.99/mo to $49.99/mo ($120/year saved!).
I have gotten a couple of calls from the company encouraging (pushing?) me to buy their internet and cable bundle for $79.99/month.
Although it’d be nice to have TBS, HBO, and a couple of news channels to watch every day, I refused to give in to temptation and their marketing tactic. I stood my ground and told them a decisive no.
Verizon gave up and never called me again. They should know by now that one of their Asian customers is very frugal and is not that interested in paying $30 more each month to watch TV.
3. We use cheap and alternative means of entertainment.
If if were just Mr. FAF and me at home, we would never turn on the TV. We usually watch free entertainment on Youtube. We also share a Netflix account with our friend, but we don’t use it as often as Youtube.
After launching my blog, I no longer watch Youtube on a daily basis. But I used to be mesmerized by the various topics covered by hundreds and thousands of Youtubers.
There are been phases in my life when I was obsessed with certain topics on Youtube: makeup tutorials, polyglots, clothing hauls, money saving tips, landlording, personal finance, Korean mukbang, traveling to Japan, etc.
Youtube helps satisfy my curiosity and interest so that I don’t have to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to shop for clothes, buy books on personal finance and property management, or travel to Japan to see what it’s like. And the best thing is that it is FREE!
4. We pack lunch to work every day.
Mr. FAF and I love eating out together. But we usually do it on the weekends and with friends. With my MIL and Baby FAF in DC, we now eat out less often because it’s much more expensive for three adults and one toddler.
On weekdays, we just pack leftovers for our work lunches the next day. Baby FAF also gets a portion of the leftovers for his meals at daycare. My MIL usually also has dinner leftovers the next day or makes something simple for herself.
For me, packing lunch also saves me so much time at work. During lunch time, my colleagues might be making a trip to a nearby eatery or wait in line for 20 minutes during rush hour at Chipotle.
However, I can just take my lunch bag out of the fridge in the office, microwave my food for 2 minutes, bring it back to my desk, and eat my lunch while reading blog posts or interacting with others on Twitter.
It’s a much efficient use of my time, and the packed lunch comes at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal ($2-3 v. $12). It can amount to $198-$220 in savings for a typical month of 22 work days. Multiply that by two working adults, and you can save $396-$440 in monthly food expenses.
5. We don’t go to bars or clubs.
Don’t get me wrong. Bars and clubs can be a great place to socialize for a lot of people. However, as Mr. FAF and I are already in our 30s, the idea of dancing uncontrollably in a tiny space and drinking expensive alcohol in front of a crowd doesn’t really appear to us.
(I can totally picture Mr. FAF sitting in a corner quietly checking Twitter at a club and wondering when we would go home so that he can sleep.)
Mr. FAF usually buys beer from the grocery store to drink at home while munching on leftovers or pan fried peanuts. It is much cheaper than buying alcohol at a bar or restaurant.
He likes watching history documentaries while drinking. Mr. FAF goes to a pub to watch soccer sometimes, and he usually orders iced tea instead of beer or wine.
6. We own only one car.
For most of our 4 years of marriage, Mr. FAF and I have been a one-car family. We briefly experienced a two-car phase for about six months.
After Baby FAF was born, my father-in-law was worried about the safety of our aging $1,500 Toyota Corolla (1999) and urged us to buy a new car. We purchased a brand-new $18,000 Toyota Corolla on a loan and paid it off in six months.
Sometimes I wish we should have looked more closely into buying a used car instead. Our 1999 vehicle decided to reject any kind of engine repairs six months after we bought the new car. We paid $95 to have it towed away to a junk car store.
Saying good-bye to our old car wasn’t easy since it was the car Mr. FAF used to teach me how to drive. That old car saw how Mr. FAF and I fell in love and took us to our wedding ceremony. It even helped us take Baby FAF home from the hospital. To us, the car was like a family member and will always have a place in our hearts.
While the public transit system in DC is the best in the nation, it is still difficult for me to go grocery shopping or get around without a car. At one point, we entertained the idea of buying a used car ($2,000-$5,000) for me.
However, when I thought about the costs of insurance, maintenance, and fuel for a second car, I told Mr. FAF and myself that a weekly 40-minute walk to the nearby store didn’t sound too bad. My friends were also kind enough to give me a ride every once in a while. I usually took them to lunch or dinner to thank them.
Although Mr. FAF now has a new job and we can afford a second car, we will still stick with having one car. In the future, we plan to have a second kid and have our parents living with us, so we will think about buying a minivan. But for now, one car serves all of our travel needs.
7. We eat at home most of the time.
I usually let Mr. FAF decide where to go (he usually picks a Chinese restaurant) and what to order from the menu. I want to experience different kinds of cuisine. But I know Mr. FAF won’t enjoy it as much as he does Chinese food, so I’ll just let him decide so that both of us can be happy. We usually spent $12-$30 for two people.
After my mother-in-law (MIL) took Baby FAF back to DC, eating out is now expensive for three adults and one baby. My MIL is very frugal, so she usually objects to spending $50 for the three of us to eat at a restaurant. We feel the same way and eat at home most of the time.
8. We use free and hand-me-down furniture.
After buying our first home, we furnished it with all kinds of free and hand-me-down furniture we had accumulated from friends, neighbors, and the curb side. We spent roughly $3,000 on some new pieces (beds, desks, sofa, etc.) we bought at Bob’s Discounted Furniture and Amazon.
The one piece of new furniture Mr. FAF was particularly excited about was a $450 desk we got from Amazon. We had been using free or $10 desks up to that point, so Mr. FAF wanted to have a fancy desk with a huge bookshelf.
The piece of furniture turned out to be too cumbersome and thus a huge disappointment due to its size. By the time we realized that, it was too late to return it to Amazon.
Mr. FAF seemed to have learned his lesson about the beauty of simplicity. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.
9. We don’t celebrate any occasions other than our anniversary and the Chinese New Year’s.
Mr. FAF and I didn’t grow up with lots of presents for our birthdays, New Year’s or other special occasions. Our parents were too busy trying to make ends meet and didn’t throw us birthday parties on an annual basis. I remember having 2-3 birthday parties in total. It was nice memories.
Mr. FAF and I don’t exchange gifts or do anything special on our birthdays, Valentine’s, or Christmas. In fact, even forgot each other’s birthday this year although they are only two days apart from each other. I’m not proud of that. But we didn’t get mad at each other and found humor in our forgetfulness.
We usually go to a steak house to celebrate our anniversary and have never spent more than $100 on food. It is a rare family tradition Mr. FAF came up with to reminisce about how we met, what challenges we’ve overcome to be together, and how we want to move forward as a family.
The Chinese New Year’s is special because it’s a time for family gathering. We also celebrate the festival in Vietnam. We usually cook a lot of good food and enjoy being together as a family.
10. We don’t compete with other people by buying things we can’t afford.
Let’s face it. All of us are competitive to some extent. Mr. FAF and I are no exception. I was particularly competitive when I was in middle school and high school because our grades were pitted against each other to see who was performing the best in class. Fortunately, those days are over.
Mr. FAF and I know we’re not as well-off as many people we know, including our friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
It is tempting to keep thinking about buying a brand-new minivan for our family when friends just got one. It is also tempting to see a female colleague wearing a beautiful dress and want to shop for a similar dress the next day.
But we always remind ourselves of our goals in life and assess our budget to see if such items are what we really need and can afford. Our priorities at the moment are (1) to take good care of our son and (2) to advance in our careers.
We have bigger goals, but those won’t materialize unless we get our priorities right. Flaunting the wealth we don’t have is not what does or should occupy our minds at the moment.
I hope you can relate to some of the things I mentioned above. I am sure that you have many frugal things you do in life either by yourself or with your family that you may not have realized yet since they just seem so normal and somewhat trivial.
I didn’t decide to write this post for months until now because I just took the frugal things we frequently do for granted. But we can always take a step back and realize that loving frugality doesn’t have to be all about having big investment or increasing our savings rates.
It can start with what we eat, what we wear, and how we celebrate special occasions with the ones we love every day.