Frugality has brought so many benefits to my life.
Thanks to my frugal habits, I have been able to save for a rainy day and have never borrowed money from friends to get by.
I learned how difficult it is to make even one cent and the importance of investing early for the future.
I have also started a personal finance blog which I absolutely love.
There are of course downsides to being too frugal.
However, today I will discuss the five ways frugality has helped me stay healthy over the years.
1. No coffee or tea
The only two things I drink every day are water and whole milk.
People are always surprised when I tell them I don’t drink tea or coffee.
Their first assumption is that since I am Vietnamese, I don’t drink coffee like many Americans.
I always tell them that Vietnam is the second biggest coffee producer in the world, and that many Vietnamese people drink dark coffee as a past-time.
Their second assumption is that I don’t drink tea because people in Vietnam don’t like tea.
But it’s not true either since tea is the one thing Vietnamese people, like many other Asians, love.
I always tell people the reason is that I’m sensitive to caffeine, which is true.
One time I drank a cup of Thai tea at 2 PM and couldn’t fall asleep until 3-4 AM that night. I’ve had other similar experiences after drinking caffeine, so I know I need to stay away from it if I want a good sleep at night.
But if I really want coffee or tea, I can train myself to get used to it if I want to. After all, self-discipline and self-control are the two things I am good at.
The real reason why I don’t drink caffeine is because I want to save money. I can buy spiced tea to drink for the taste. But instead of spending $3 on 10-20 tea bags, I want to keep that money in the bank or use for my real meals instead.
I can live without some tasty drinks. But I can’t live without food.
2. No sugary drinks
It’s always nice to have some sweet drinks every once in a while. I used to like Coke, Fanta, iced tea and many other nicely flavored drinks.
But I rarely buy them except for some social occasions like potlucks and dinners with friends.
I like the taste, but I don’t want to spend the money.
Not wanting to drop even $1 on a huge Coke bottle was my biggest motivation to not buy it in the first place.
At first, it felt like a deprivation for me since I couldn’t enjoy what I liked.
However, over the years, I have gotten into the habit of not buying soft drinks.
I do enjoy a cup of Coke or sweetened iced tea at work or social functions.
But I don’t go out of my way to buy it at the grocery store.
And since we don’t have it readily available at home, Mr. FAF and Baby FAF are also less like to develop a liking for soft drinks in the future.
3. No snacks
I grew up poor and didn’t get to enjoy snacks often. My mom wanted to spend money on real groceries instead of candy or cookie. Back then, I just wished that I would be able to make lots of money one day and buy whatever snacks I want, be it beef jerky, candy, jelly or cake.
If my dad ever brought home some snacks one day, I would feel like it was a really special occasion and would try to make the snacks last as long as possible (or ate it all in one day!).
As I grew older and realized how much snacks can cost me (i.e. $4 or a bag of chips), I have opted to cut snacks out of my diet almost completely.
The reason is that I don’t want to spend a couple of dollars here and there on colorful foods that would amount to $10 or more a week (or $40 a month).
$40 is almost a week’s worth of groceries when I was still single.
I did feel like I was missing out on something I long yearned for when I was little and even now.
However, I realized the importance of sacrificing my wants to save up for more urgent things in the future.
Whenever I go to an Asian store, I would walk through the snack aisle that displays some of my childhood favorites and things that I also want to try as a grown-up adult.
I would pick up the snacks, think about the costs, debate whether it’s worth buying, and put the item back on the shelf. I would then walk away and focus on my real groceries instead.
Sometimes I do give in to temptation and buy snacks. But most of the time, I just don’t buy them. I have also realized that not buying sweets or chips helps me stay away from binge-eating.
I generally don’t consume sugar or unhealthy foods. I mostly just eat my three main meals a day and forget about food until the next meal.
I usually brush my teeth after having lunch and dinner as well, so the thought of having to repeat that activity after eating a candy stops me from snacking.
Related: 3 Weird Things We Do To Save Money
4. Almost no fast food
I love KFC fried chicken and McDonald’s French fries. I have KFC probably two or three times a year, but I do wish I could eat it more often.
I tend to crave fried chicken when the clock strikes 10 PM. That’s when everything is so quiet and makes me think about food.
It helps that we don’t live close to any KFC, so I can’t just walk across the street or drive for less than 5 minutes to enjoy a juicy chicken drumstick.
There are times when I get lazy and tell Mr. FAF to go get it for me.
Depending on his mood, health status (i.e. hip pain), and sleepiness, he might agree.
But when he doesn’t, I feel relieved that I won’t spend $10 on a late night snack and gain weight.
I don’t eat McDonald’s French fries often although I love them. It’s because I don’t particularly love the burgers. It’s something I have to get through in order to enjoy my fries.
Sometimes when I fly somewhere, however, I will give myself a break and enjoy some MdDonald’s deliciousness at the airport.
Not eating fast food often helps me stay away from saturated fat and lowers my likelihood of having high blood pressure or heart attacks.
It starts with me wanting to save money and ends with me not having to worry about health problems related to fast food. I think it’s a big win after all.
Related: How I Lost 40 Lbs On A Budget
5. More walking
Mr. FAF and I own one car and are not planning to purchase a second one any time soon.
When Mr. FAF still lived in another city, I would walk 40 minutes both ways to a nearby grocery store to buy food.
I would bring with me a carry-on or a small cart (which I had inherited from my ex-roommate) to put the food in.
Sometimes when it rained or snowed outside, I’d feel tempted to call a Uber or a cab.
But the thought of dropping $5 on a 5-minute ride made me choose to walk instead.
Even when Mr. FAF is now in DC with the car, I still walk and push a stroller to take Baby FAF to see a pediatrician. The walk is about 20 minutes, so it’s not too exhausting. The byproduct of this frugal habit is that I get more exercise to keep fit while being able to save money at the same time.
Not having coffee, tea, sugary drinks, snacks, fast food, or Uber rides might sound like a life of deprivation to many people. Admittedly, sometimes I do wonder if I should just loosen up a little bit and enjoy life more.
I have set so many rules and force myself to follow them for years. I monitor my own behavior. I feel guilty and upset when I break my own rules. No one is there to tell me what the consequences are or shame me for what I’ve done.
But deep down, I know that in order to uphold my frugality, I need to follow my ow plan and not rely on other people to live my life for me.
Everything I mentioned above might not seem expensive. But if I buy them on a regular basis for years, the costs will add up and will affect my savings, investment, and my health.
I might not be at a stage in my life where I have a lot of health problems just yet. But I believe that whether I’m young or old, my passion for frugality will help me stay on the right track to achieve both good health and secure wealth.