It all started with a simple decision — I wanted to simplify my life — so I decluttered my apartment. Months into my decluttering, many changes happened in me. One of them is becoming a frugal wife.
My husband created a chart for our monthly expenses to see where our money goes. All the while we thought we were being wise with our money — a belief led by our healthy savings account + private life insurances — but really looking into where every penny goes made us realize that we aren´t careful enough with our money.
We dine out way more than necessary, we eat takeouts more than we ought to, we spend too much on groceries while letting foods expire or go bad — all because I wasn´t paying attention.
Within the six plus years in our marriage it´s my husband who did the grocery shopping because I hated doing it. He shops for groceries every Monday after work. When he shops, he just takes anything he sees at the store. As a result, we´d end up having too many fruits than we could consume, too many tomatoes than we could cook, too many expired canned goods in the storeroom, or too many frozen foods forgotten in the big freezer in the basement.
I don´t blame my husband. I blame myself for not stepping up on my wifey duties.
Well, big reveal … now that I´m learning to be a frugal wife, I took drastic changes to stop being wasteful. They´re drastic in a sense that I couldn´t imagine doing them a year ago, but now I´m having fun. Yet if I were to be honest, although these changes I´m taking seem drastic to me, they´re actually only baby steps into becoming simple and frugal.
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1. We pay only with cash.
You know how comfortable it is paying with plastic, right? You just insert the debit card into the machine (we don´t use credit cards in Germany) and you don´t have to deal with heavy coins. The problem is, even if you do estimates in your head how much you´ve already spent, you tend to miscalculate it and you´re shocked to find out how much is left, if anything, in your bank at the end of the month. You simply lose track.
But with cash, it´s simpler and easier.
Since my husband is the main provider, he withdraws our budget for the grocery and the miscellaneous from his salary account at the start of the month and we stretch it until the end of the month.
No more paying with plastic.
2. We jot down everything we spent.
This is my job. I carry a small clutch wherever I go. In it is a small notebook, a pen, my wallet, and receipts. Once the receipts are recorded, they get discarded. But there are tiny expenses with no receipt, so they get jotted down in the notebook right-away.
At the end of the month, we do a balance sheet. (Balancing the sheet is nothing fancy, just with an A4 paper, a calculator, and a quick summation of everything recorded in the notebook for that month.) This is really effective in monitoring where our money goes.
3. I pack my husband´s breakfast and lunch.
A big chunk of our money was spent on my husband`s breakfast and lunch — he used to buy breakfast on his way to work and then buy/order lunch during his lunch break. Now, I pack both his breakfast and lunch. Big savings, although more work for me.
When I´m still sleepy early in the morning but I have to getup to make him breakfast and pack his lunch, I tell myself, “If you want to save, you got to work for it.” I cook a bigger meal for dinner and the leftover I pack for my husband`s lunch the next day.
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Although it`s more work, I feel good knowing that my husband eats healthier during the day than he used to. For his snacks, I pack him fresh fruits — whichever fruits I bought on sale.
This leads to …
4. I do the grocery shopping!
Haha! The one who used to resent the time spent on grocery shopping now takes the job seriously. I go through the weekly grocery catalogs, look for the featured discounted items and cut coupons. I do weekly inventory of the refrigerator, the freezer, the pantries and storeroom, list down what I need for the week and buy only what´s in the list.
No more room for waste.
5. I cleaned up …
the big freezer, the pantries, and the storerooms. I disposed the already expired foods and cooked the soon-to-expire. For a few weeks I was cooking mostly what we already have, just in time before they go to waste.
I also went through the cabinets in the bathroom and saw too many bottles of shampoos and body wash. We kept on buying while many are still unused. No more buying until everything is used.
6. We cut down on eating out.
For six years my husband and I spent our Fridays for Fridates. He works long hours during the week but comes home early on Fridays, so we often had lunch in the city on this day. We don´t regret spending so much money on our Fridates, we had the most of our pre-baby moments, but now that we decided to go frugal, we´re limiting dining out to rare, special occasions.
The good side to this is, if you spend money on dining out only on special occasions — like birthdays and anniversaries — you`ll really enjoy it. But if you always go out and dine out, it becomes a routine and thus, you no longer appreciate it as much. In short, you don´t get the most of your money.
We also cut down on takeout foods such as foods from the Chinese restaurant. This means more cooking at home, but I´m loving it!
7. We stop shopping for clothes and shoes.
This is a no-brainer. As I´ve mentioned a few times here on the blog, both my husband and I have accumulated too many clothes and shoes, so we decided that for the years to come, we will not shop for these things.
8. We buy second hand.
I´ve saved lots by buying second hand goods for my baby. Before and after he was born, I frequented flea markets and hunted for baby stuff. Most of the second hand items I bought were clothes, shoes, and baby blankets + beddings. I also went to Baby bazaars, these are bazaars of second hand goods for babies. The prices are a bit higher than I would normally pay at flea markets + they charge 15% tax, but they offer more options.
I developed a quick eye for good pieces. I paid little money for barely-used (even never-used) nice clothes and shoes. When you look at my baby, you wouldn´t think I spent little on what he wears. I also accept hand-me-downs.
His brand new clothes and shoes were gifted by our friends and his grandmother.
I very rarely buy him toys. Most of his toys were gifts. Some I got for free from flea markets. You know, when I buy plenty from a seller she`d give me toys as giveaway. I don´t want to bombard my son with too many toys, so I purposefully limit his number of toys. I don´t want him to develop consumerism, that something I am tying to walk away from. After all, why would I spend too much money on toys if he can be creative? He likes to play with empty water bottles, lunch boxes, and empty paper boxes.
I skipped the baby stuff that I could do without. The ones necessary we purchased ahead from the nearby department store that was closing for only half the price. His bed is second hand. His playpen is hand-me-down.
Disclosure: Children in Germany receive monthly allowance of 192Euro until they turn 18.
Because of these frugal moves, a big amount of my son´s monthly allowance from the government goes into his savings account and insurance plan.
When it comes to frugality, I´m still a newbie. There are still many things I need to learn. However, I´m enjoying learning how to be a better manager of God´s blessings. I get excited with how much money we could save by going simple and frugal.
Money-saving aside, what I really like about frugal living is the state of contentment that I have now which I never experienced when I was living a consumerist life. I find more joy from simple things — even as simple as scoring a pack of discounted tomatoes. I´ve become more grateful.
Frugality has humbled me down (more on this on another blog post).
Going frugal also means we´ll have more room for those who need help. God told us to take care of the needy — not only our friends and relatives, but also strangers who are in dire need.
What are your thoughts on frugality?