When time is tough, we tend to get creative with how we can save money.
Mr. FAF and I have done weird things to save money, including using toilet paper as napkins and not paying for a car wash.
Below are the 5 things we no longer do to save money:
1. Live in a garage turned bedroom or office (for Mr. FAF)
Before moving to DC permanently, Mr. FAF used to live in a $250 garage turned bedroom to save money.
Mr. FAF is not particular about housing. He just needed a place to sleep and put his stuff. And he wanted to cut costs with cheaper rent.
Mr. FAF usually drove to DC to visit me, so I didn’t get to see his room in person until May this summer.
When we were talking on the webcam, I usually saw the wall and the ceiling behind Mr. FAF. Everything looked fine until I set foot in the house.
The couple renting out the room was busy, so the house wasn’t in good shape. The landlord also had a lot of DYI projects in the house that I was sure weren’t up to code.
When I saw Mr. FAF’s living conditions, I felt such a strong sense of guilt and affection towards him.
I felt bad because I was living in a townhouse that we own in DC while he was getting by in a cramped space.
Mr. FAF assured me that he was fine with the room, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
I was also thankful for him for making such a big sacrifice for our family. Mr. FAF once lived in his office for almost a month to save money for our soon-to-be-born son. He then chose to live in a shabby place to save money for our family.
When Mr. FAF finally moved to DC permanently, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that he would no longer live in such rundown condition.
2. Only use a free TV
We have had one TV over the past four years. And it came to us free of charge.
I was living with two roommates about 2.5 years ago. One of them got a new job in another state and decided to give away most of her furniture and appliances. I was the first one to pick what I wanted to keep because I was her favorite friend/roommate (sweet!).
At Mr. FAF’s suggestion, I requested her 32-inch TV so that my in-laws could watch TV when they later came to take care of Baby FAF. Since then we have moved twice, but we have always brought our endearing TV with us.
We put the free TV in the dining room. Right now, its main purpose is to entertain Baby FAF with ABCs songs when he’s eating.
Mr. FAF recently bought a Roku TV for my MIL to put in her bedroom on the second floor. The TV offers a series of English and Chinese channels.
My MIL doesn’t speak English, so it’s really hard, if not impossible, for her to switch from ABCs song videos to Chinese movies.
With the new TV, she can turn it off when she needs to go somewhere and turn it on to continue the series without having to ask us for help or not being able to watch TV at all when we are not at home.
Mr. FAF and I prioritize my MIL’s entertainment since she doesn’t speak English and doesn’t have a lot of friends in our community.
Having her feeling lonely and home-sick is the last thing we want. With the TV, my MIL can watch TV comfortably in her bed before going to sleep at night.
3. Use manual toothbrushes
Mr. FAF has been dreaming about using electric toothbrushes for years.
After Mr. FAF started working, however, we upgraded our dental care tools to Oral-B electric toothbrushes which we got from Costco for $65 (for two). We also got two for our in-laws.
The moment I started using the electric toothbrush, I instantly wish we had budgeted for it earlier. Manual toothbrushes will never be the same anymore.
If we take better care of our dental hygiene, our dentists probably won’t tell us to see them as often during the year. We can therefore save money on the co-pay. Sometimes we just need to spend money to save money.
4. Not buy holiday decorations
Although Mr. FAF and I have been married for almost four years, we have never decorated our house on holidays in America for two reasons.
First, up until we bought our first home in DC, we had always been renting and didn’t want to spend money decorating a place that didn’t really belong to us.
Second, Mr. FAF was in school, and I was the only one working full-time, so we didn’t want to spend money on something that wasn’t necessary: home decorations.
Third, one month after we bought our house, my in-laws took our son to China, and Mr. FAF went back to his city to continue his studies. I was alone in DC and didn’t feel like decorating our house.
2017 is the first year our family is reunited. Mr. FAF decided to take the whole family on a Halloween shopping trip at Target.
Mr. FAF is originally from China, and I’m from Vietnam. We didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween, but we wanted our son to experience the joy of celebrating American holidays.
We ended up spending $25 on a costume for Baby FAF and another $25 on a pumpkin light and a spider prop. We also bought decorations for Christmas for $2 from the Dollar Tree. These were one-time purchases which we can use in years to come.
Our Christmas decorations: a snowman face & a hanging Christmas tree from the Dollar Store
5. Not buy seafood
Our family loves seafood. Before Mr. FAF started working, we rarely bought shrimp, mackerel, or even crabs. We usually ate pork, tofu, fresh veggies, and rice at our meals.
We would buy seafood maybe once every 3-4 weeks. We usually buy the fish with the lowest prices (often $2-3/lb).
After we got an income increase thanks to Mr. FAF’s new job, Mr. FAF bought two huge crabs from Costco. We now buy shrimp and mackerel more often.
Our hotpot get-together with friends
Sometimes I wonder if Mr. FAF and I are experiencing lifestyle inflation or we’re just buying the things we’ve been putting off purchasing because of our limited budget.
Lifestyle inflation has such a bad rap to it. It basically means you increase your spending when your income goes up.
If I follow the definition, then our family has indeed suffered a mild case of lifestyle inflation. We have spent more money improving the little things that add quality to our lives, from the toothbrush we use to the food we eat.
One thing I know for sure, however, is that we are still happy with our house, our car, our clothes, and our vacations (or the lack thereof). Despite a 128% increase in income, our spending has not doubled.
That said, we will need to continue monitoring our expenses so that we won’t suffer a serious case of lifestyle inflation.
What are some of the things you no longer do to save money?