5 Things We No Longer Do To Save Money

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.

Now that both of us work full-time and no longer need to stress out about money as much, I have noticed some financial changes to our lifestyles.

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.

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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.

Our free TV

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.

But every time this topic came up, we both decided that spending almost $100 on an electric toothbrush instead of $2.37 on a manual toothbrush was not in our budget.

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

Conclusion

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?

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28 thoughts on “5 Things We No Longer Do To Save Money”

  • Nice post! Item #1 impressed me; right out of college, I had a few friends who lived in their friends’ apartment closets when we lived in New York City. The rent was so expensive, they had 3 or 4 people living in a 1.5 or 2 bedroom place. Similar to Mr. FAF, the friends just needed a place to sleep; the rest of the apartment had the living space they needed.

    On your question: Not join a gym.

    I know we can workout on our own – go for a run, do body-weight exercises, etc. – but we enjoy and find being members of a gym so much more effective. Mrs. BD goes to classes offered at her “big box” gym, and I go to classes at Orangetheory Fitness. It can cost more, but the results and accountability/motivation work much better for us.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Thank you, Mike! I also heard that rent in NYC is crazy expensive. I think your friends made the right move. It will pay off in the future.

      Mr. FAF also likes working at the gym too. His office building has a gym in the basement. But he was really considering buying gym membership as well! 🙂

  • Very good post. I usually wash the car myself. This month, I took an exception, and went to a car-wash place. With six bucks spent, the car looks like a brand new one. At this time of the year, washing it on my driveway is probably not worth the hassle.

    • Oh cool! Seeing our car all cleaned is definitely a great feeling! We usually just clean the inside of the car and let the rain clean the outside for us 😀

  • Income goes up 128% and lifestyle goes up a little equals major win. You guys rock. And Mr. FAF is my kind of man. Sacrificing your comfort for the good of your family is the very definition of heroic. Oh, and thanks for reminding me about electric toothbrushes. I used to have one years ago, but for some reason shifted to the manual brush instead. Got to get back to the electric toothbrush.

    P.S. I thought you were from China as well. I’m so pumped that you’re from Vietnam. Thailand and Vietnam are on our bucket list. So before we book our trip to Southeast Asia, we’ll be sure to pick your brain. Cheers.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Mr. Groovy! I will make sure to tell Mr. FAF that. I think he’ll be super happy! I’d totally vote for an electronic toothbrush if you have want or plan to buy one. It’s definitely revolutionalized my dental care.

      And feel free to email me about your trip to Vietnam. I’d love to be able to help as much as I can. 🙂

    • Thank you, Joe! I’m feeling so much better about those purchases now. I’m glad you got the electric toothbrush too! 😀

  • 2 ideas:
    1) don’t let kids eat in front of TV. They don’t need to be entertained while eating. Sit with them.

    2) enrol MIL in English classes.

  • Those are some great things to give up that don’t cost a ton but improve your quality of life – I like it.

    We don’t really have much, other than going out for drinks as frequently as we used to. Honestly that was a huge expense of ours in 2016 but it went down quite a bit for 2017.

  • We have a Roku device too. It’s super-easy to use and can support so many apps. I’m planning on canceling my TV service very soon and can’t wait to have less TV watching options available as weird as that sounds 🙂

  • Um, I was so happy to see the electric toothbrushes! I tell everyone to get one. Seriously, once you go electric there’s no way you can downgrade to manual. It cleans your teeth so much better. To me, manual toothbrush is like cleaning you floors with a flimsy broom instead of with a vacuum cleaner.

  • I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with lifestyle inflation. As long as your bills are paid and you are able to put away money for a rainy day, then of course it’s fine to spend on the things that make your life easier or more enjoyable. What’s the point of pinching pennies your entire life and never spending anything? You can’t take it with you! You’re “lifestyle inflation” seems perfectly reasonable!

  • Was that pin made recently? I love that green!

    We have an electronic toothbrush too. They’re getting so fancy with that. Ours comes with an anti bacterial light for the tooth brush heads in its own chamber. Jared had it before he met me. It was a $199 set.

  • I would say this small level of lifestyle inflation is well deserved and overdue! I’ve lived in converted garages and attics before, bless his heart for doing that for years all for the good of the family. Enjoy your new normal!

  • Uh oh, lifestyle creep! (J/K). In college, I sublet a nasty room w/ cockroaches. I was fine w/ it, but my parents came to visit and freaked out. Moved me out that same day.
    With increasing income comes lifestyle inflation – it’s inevitable. Psychologically, we feel like we deserve better after sacrificing so much. And being frugal can be painful. The human brain doesn’t like pain. As one gets older, time becomes more precious and people will pay to have more time. I outsource a lot now. Just don’t go crazy and buy a Tesla or something.

  • Haha I have literally done all of these at some point!

    Electric toothbrushes FTW. I have crowded teeth and this has made a huuuuge difference – going to the dentist now is a breeze since switching over.

    Seafood is just so dang expensive and not super filling so we hardly ever get it plus I don’t really know how to cook it myself (but I do love ordering it when eating out). That said sometimes like this weekend we splurge and buy fish and prawns to cook at home – so yum.

  • Yes to electronic toothbrushes!! I thought it was a fancy way to brush your teeth but after buying one it changed my view of them. They clean your teeth and in a more convenient way than manual. It is worth the splurge to upgrade.

  • That hot pot looks incredible. And still 10% of what it would cost if you had it at a restaurant.

    The way I look at lifestyle inflation is that it’s great if it allows you great joy in your life (a few holiday decorations, seafood), but it’s terrible if it only gets you a small percentage of joy over not having it (eating out for lunch every work day or driving a super expensive car on credit).

  • That’s so amazing that Mr. FAF was able to sacrifice so much for his family. So glad to hear you got your MIL a Roku. My MIL only speaks Spanish so I can only imagine how lonely she would be if she came to visit. I’m sure your MIL is glad to have some entertainment! One tip for holiday decorations for the future (although you probably already figured this out): buy them right after the holiday for the following year. They’re way cheap that way! 🙂

  • The electric toothbrush is a clear money saver since it’ll improve your dental hygiene and reduce the incidence of cavities and possibly gum disease. I finally made the move after the gentle suggestions from my dentist and hygienist. Considering a cavity costs $100-150 to have filled here, and an electric toothbrush is $15-20 or so (Sonicare E-series), plus $10-15/yr for brush head replacements, if I only prevent 1 cavity every 6-7 years I’m still coming out ahead (not to mention the time savings of electric brush and aesthetic improvements of cleaner teeth).

  • Great post! The manual toothbrush part really got me. I’ve been thinking about it for a while too, I might just need to make a trip to Costco. 🙂 It’s nice to have a little luxury in your life, even if it’s with the small things. You both really sacrificed a lot, so it’s good to let loose on some small items that keep you happy.

  • I’d say that it technically qualifies as lifestyle inflation, but it’s so mild that it really shouldn’t count.

    We’ve had our fair share of inflation — both mild and not (when I just didn’t feel like an argument and caved) – and I’m working on that. By most people’s standards we probably still live pretty frugally, medical costs notwithstanding. But by PF blogosphere standards, we were edging toward dubious territory.

  • There could be opportunity in every adversity. When you don’t have enough money, it is either you learn how to cut costs or you quickly think of what to do to augment the income. But as you continue to have more, you tend to relax. You don’t track the details of dollars and cents you spend. I think it is natural but we need to be conscious of this so that we don’t slip back to where we are coming from.

  • My wife got us to switch over to an electric toothbrush. My take on whether it will be worth it will come when I next go to the dentist, so for right now the jury is out. 🙂

  • It’s very sweet and special how you view your mother-in-law’s needs. It’s a small price to pay for allowing her to feel less isolated, and provide her with some entertainment. But not everyone would be as kind-hearted.

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