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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!
Related: 5 Things We No Longer Do To Save Money
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.
Before Baby FAF came back from China, Mr. FAF and I would eat out once a week. Eating out is the one activity that both of us enjoy doing and not having to reach a compromise.
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.
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26 thoughts on “10 Simple Things We Do To Save Money”
I’m tempted by cable after Xmas with the in laws… they had so many things to watch and you could record any of it. Drives me crazy since we can afford it but then again…. it’s a total time suck, which is even worst than spending money.
We live car free completely right now – maybe one day we’ll move up to just one but I don’t think we would ever be a 2 car family. We will always live somewhere with a high walk and bus score. It’s where the neat restaurants and fun stuff are usually 🙂
I know! I always feel tempted to get cable after we stay at a hotel/motel. Sometimes I just look forward to staying in the hotel room and watching TV (eh). But at the end of the day, cable is not necessary, and I should spend my time doing something else instead >_<
There are so many things you can watch for free, or rotate between Netflix and Hulu (no need to pay for both… Just cancel one and subscribe to the other when there is a show you want to watch). Personally, I love watching TV. It’s a “waste of time” but it’s pretty much the only thing I can relate to other people about in the workplace. So it’s good to have something 🙂
I crashed my Toyota Yaris that I bought used 7 years ago in September, and we have been a one car household. I can walk to the grocery store and restaurants, but it’s a pain to go to the doctor, visit my parents or do other chores like attend jury duty. My sister found me a $1500 1998 (before being bought by Ford) Volvo station wagon, so I’m thrilled. If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t pick a different car 🙂 insurance is not that expensive, compared to just being a driver on the other car and having to take a Lyft to get blood work done, go to the doctor, take my dog to the vet, etc.
Nice! We like cutting costs in many of these ways too! Haha- I think our generation is a very anti-cable generation… neither Mr. AR nor I have ever had a cable/TV provider our entire adult lives!
Agreed! I see that cutting cable is one of the first suggestions for frugal living/saving money. 😀
I just moved and bought a $20 couch and living room table. I’m hoping to DIY the sofa with velvet fabric and paint the wood to look like marble. If it fails I’ll have wasted a few bucks and just buy real furniture haha.
These are great tips 🙂
That sounds like a great project! Best of luck with the sofa. 🙂
For item #1, this one is always a bit of a dichotomy for me: Mrs. BD and I like to run races together (5k’s, etc.); they’re usually not too expensive, but you do get a “free” t-shirt, as well as other goodies, as part of the race gear.
On one hand we’re paying to run outside (which we could do for free); on the other, we’re a bit more motivated because others are participating and – most importantly – there is a FREE t-shirt.
Thanks for the post. – Mike
Thanks for your great comment, Mike! Mr. FAF and I do have a lot of free T-shirts at home. But we try not to accumulate too many free stuff when we have enough at home. It’s great to get freebies from events you would otherwise join and enjoy though! 😉
Oh nice, I didn’t realize you guys were a one-car family too. Seems more common among personal finance bloggers than the general population – which I am not really surprised about I suppose. 🙂
We did all those things when we were in our 30s. Now that we’re older, we are a bit more relaxed about spending. We still do most of those, though. I’m more open to buying better furniture now. We still have junky stuff, but I’m planning to buy nicer stuff once we move.
We do a lot of these things!
The free t-shirt one has backfired on me, though. Maybe because many of the free ones have round necks and I like v-necks. They just end up cluttering my drawers so I’ve learned not to take them unless I really love them. (At my former job we put on hundreds of conferences a year. Almost every week we received emails about T-shirts in the lunch room, free for the taking. I sat out the mass exodus to the lunch room.)
I totally agree on your point that these don’t seem frugal at all to me – it’s just stuff that I do every day!
I do differ from you on two points though – we celebrate Christmas (albeit with only one present exchanged between my partner and I) and I haven’t owned a car in seven years! The benefit of living somewhere where you can ride your bike everywhere 🙂
They may seem like small things, but they’re significant! Everything helps when building wealth!
I’m pretty sure you’ll get there one day, sometimes we take a little longer before we hit the ground running.
Wanting to keep up happens to everyone. I’m always looking up, and sometimes forget to realise how much I already have.
P.s: Your husband continually eating peanuts reminds me of my Dad. ?
We do most of these. #4 is probably the only one I don’t do on a consistent basis… since sometimes we won’t have any left over for me to bring for lunch (today for example).
I wear FinCon shirts around the house almost exclusively. They’re comfy and free, and it saves the wear on my nicer stuff (read: anything that isn’t a t-shirt) that I can wear when I go out.
Tim is obsessed with YouTube. He has a bunch of channels he watches regularly. It’s free entertainment and has helped him not miss cable at all, so I consider it a win.
And as of this year we’ve officially done away with celebrating anything other than birthdays and our anniversary, which should help us save big time!
We do so many of these ourselves! When you stop and recognize what you do, or rather don’t do, that is frugal.
I am the one to run races, so Hubs gets the benefits of all those free t-shirts. Which he needs as his are from high school!
#5, bars and clubs. Blech! Even in college we weren’t ones to go to these . The price for drinks plus the price just to get into them…. it’s ridiculous! To stand around or dance (which I have no rhythm so that didn’t happen)! Frequenting these makes you waste money and gain weight from all the alcohol. Not my cup of tea….
Once you have reached your financial goals, will you keep the same life style? You seem to enjoy your life now, so I am wondering how you think you will spend more freely. I have reached my goals and am retired. I continue to live mostly like I always did. I give more generously now, but frugality is part of my identity.
I’m not 100% sure, but I think we will. We might travel more and spend more on delicious food though hehe 😀
I mean, I think you had me until you said DC has the best public transit in the nation. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thinks that.
Maybe it would make sense to bike to the store? A 40 minute walk would be replaced by a much shorter bike commute. And you could go more often (this don’t need to carry a ton of stuff) and don’t have to wait for transit.
We share an electric toothbrush. Initially we thought we’d each have our own brush head and just pop the head on and off whenever we went to use it. We have multiple heads but wound up being far too lazy to actually keep swapping them out every day/every time we went to use it!
I picked something valuable in the first paragraph of your article. You don’t just cost cost and save money. It is good to note that you invest into your future. That is very important. Some people will be good at cutting costs but they won’t save or invest.
Using toilet paper for napkins? Don’t exchange gifts for Valentine’s, birthdays, and Christmas? My esteem for you guys has gotten even bigger.
We do most of these things as well. Also, we save on going to the barber for me since we have clippers and Mother with Cents cuts my hair whenever I need a cut. She also cuts her own hair every so often.
I’m 5 out of 10 – happy with that as it’s better than I imagined. My strategy of setting the bar low works again 🙂
Some of these are simple, but most of these are pretty big sacarifices to make 🙂 Very impressive how your family handles finances so well!