How to De-stress During Quarantine: Finding Joy in Frugality

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Burnout

Lately, I have been burned out at work. In order to make up for my back of a degree in tech and to prove myself, I have been working anytime I can.

That is, besides taking care of kids and housework, most of what I do in my free time is working whether it’s early in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends.

I feel guilty when I’m not working. I’m afraid that I might fall behind my colleagues and won’t be able to catch up with their fast pace.

After all, I entered the tech industry with no formal training and no prior work experience. If I don’t try hard enough, I might get pushed out.

And depite the warnings from my mentors and colleagues, I kept at that pace until I started feeling so tired of working all the time.

In fact, I have cut down my work time quite a bit, especially on the weekends, to take care of our kids and housework since Mr. FAF is applying for a new job. But that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Ever since I started in the new job a year ago, I have taken only two days off because it was “use it or lose it.”

Even when I’m not working, I am still preparing for the technical interviews since you never know when you will need to apply for that next job. And going through the technical interviews in tech is not easy.

And the result: I’m burned out.

Rethinking

I decided to listen to my body and my feelings instead of my mind. On weekdays, I feel happy when I’m productive. But on the weekends, when I’m alone, I find myself looking up the old blogs I used to follow like Frugalwoods, The Frugal Gene, and The Frugal Girl.

I have long stopped following the personal finance community to focus on my career transition. Now that I feel somewhat settled in the new position, I want to spend time on my other passions as well. And pesonal finance is top of the list.

Some of those blogs don’t post as often. And some just stopped posting altogether, which made me feel a bit sad and nostalgic.

Reading those blogs reminds of me one of my biggest passions so far: blogging about personal finance. It also reminds me that I pushed myself to work so hard on the blog that after six months of launching my blog, I was burned out, as warned by other bloggers.

I then took time off, and posting became less frequent.

I don’t want the same thing to happen to my new career. That’s why I have decided to spend more time with my family and pursuing my other passions instead of trying to get work done whenever possible.

Minimalism

Lately, I have announced on my blog that I have been pursuing minimalism. And it has been going well so far.

I haven’t bought any new clothes or random things that I don’t need. We have also been trying to finish our food in the pantry and freezer.

But one thing I realized is that I should also pursue mimalism in my mind as well. That means that I need to be more in the present, not try to control the situation, and do too many things at once.

It made me feel anxious and caused tension in our marriage. Mr. FAF and I have since decided that I would work less, spend more time with the kids, and try not to sway the decisions my way all the time.

And it has worked like magic.

We fight less, spend more quality time together, and don’t argue about how to do certain things as much anymore. As I have more mental space, I have also been thinking more about what I like and have found joy in just being frugal.

1. Making pho at home

I love pho, and so do our kids. If we eat out, we will likely pay for three bowls of pho or roughly $45 in total.

This weekend, in an attempt to clean out the freezer, I used the $24 oxtail we got from Costco to make pho broth. Mr. FAF got $5 worth of dry pho noddles and paid $3 for green onions and cilantro.

After adding spices and electricity, it probably came down to $50 for a huge pot of pho broth.

We finished one half. I saved the other half of the broth and noodles for next time.

If I count the cost of my time, it was probably more expensive than eating out. But I found joy in making my favorite food for the people that I love: Mr. FAf and our kids.

Home-made pho

2. Cleaning out our pantry and freezer

I’m not sure if it’s because we are moving to Seattle this summer, but Mr. FAF suddenly became interested in finishing up our food in the pantry and freezer.

And I was totally onboard. First, it dovetails nicely with my minimalist effort. Second, it helps us lower our grocery bills. And third, it prevents food waste and freezer burning.

Before

3. Reading free books

Our son is starting first grade in six months. On the weekends, I have been spending at least an hour and a half a day teaching our son how to read.

In the beginning, I would read the books to him. But gradually, he recognizes the words and started reading by himself.

I will help him out when he sees new words or mispronounces something. And we got most of those books for free from our kind neighbors.

Books from our neighbors (displayed on a free couch)

4. Exchanging clothes through the Buy Nothing Group

This so far has been my most favorite frugal thing this year. In our local Buy Nothing Group, we had a round robin where we pass down our clothes to the next person and pick out the things we like.

I make sure to wear gloves and wash the clothes before wearing them. We also just do dropoff and pickup on the porch, so we don’t come into contaxt with anyone.

I have been able to get nice pieces of clothing from other ladies in the group and passed down the clothes I no longer wear.

5. Using up free soap

I cleaned out one of our hallway closets the other day and found some free soap I had gotten from business trips. I decided to use them up instead, which will make our current soap supply last us hopefully until we move to Seattle.

I just felt so happy using the soap bars instead of tossing them out. Some of them must be at least 2-3 years old, but my skin is ok so far.

6. Throwing a frugal birthday party for our son

Our son recently turned six. We decided to get him a fruit cake from Giant for fifteen dollars. I could have baked it for cheaper, but I honestly had been craving that fruit cake for a while.

Instead of buying decorations and toys for him, we got him the cake, sang him the birthday song, and took some photos together.

The not so frugal part of the party is that we ate the frozen lobster tails I had gotten from Costco for $68 for Christmas. We ate so much during the holidays and didn’t get a chance to eat the lobster tails.

As it’s been three months, we decided to put them to good use.

Mr. FAF looked up a recipe online and made this beautiful dish for us (four lobster tails in total). If we had gone to a restaurant, we would have easily paid way over $100 for the food.

It was good, but Mr. FAF and I agreed that we probably won’t buy those again.

Conclusion

One benefit of being so obsessed with work is that I don’t feel the need to go shopping or buy random things online.

I know people deal with stress differently. Some go shopping. Some snack, and I do that sometimes. But I have been feeling happy trying to find joy in different things in life rather than just focusing on one thing: work.

If you feel stressed out and bored during the quarantine, maybe you can do some soul-searching to see what has made you happy in the past or might make you happy now and in the future.

Hopefully, it will help you destress and feel more excited about life like frugality has helped me.


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2 thoughts on “How to De-stress During Quarantine: Finding Joy in Frugality”

  • Burnout is so real. This wasn’t my first blog I started. In my first blog, I posted 3x a week and wow was I stressed out. I left after 7 months. I learned from that experience and am now only posting 2x a week.

    I’m hopeful that I’ll make it at least a year, hopefully forever!

    • I experienced burnout too. I think it’s a good idea to cut down on the frequency of posting. Best of luck with your blog! 🙂

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