Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Irish Year in Frugality

It probably comes through loud and clear with many of our blog posts, but we should begin by stating clearly here that we are frugal. Cheapskates, penny-pinchers, tightwads, thrifty, call us what you will.

In Iowa, it became something beyond a necessity, beyond a hobby, beyond a skill; it became a way of life. Thrift store shopping was just the beginning. Learning to live high on the hog and low on the price tag was a mission; and we were good at it.

When we were getting ready for our move to Dublin, we knew that we would have to change our financial reality and our perspective. We knew that Dublin was the most expensive city in one of the most expensive countries in the world. Our spending power would be much lower, especially with only one income.

Could we still find ways to feed our cheap addiction in a new land? How have we learned to adjust our thrifty expectations and techniques in one very fast year?

Cheap Goods?

When we arrived in Dublin, we tried to work with all of our old thrifty habits. It was all we knew. To set up our new apartment, we visited a block of thrift stores thinking to fully stock our kitchen, bathroom, and closet with bargain basement secondhand goods... but sadly it was not to be. Thrift stores here are small and comparatively expensive. We were left to stock our home with the cheapest department store home goods we could find- after looking all over town.

We have yet to find the golden goose large thrift store dealing in piles of clothes priced by the bin- not individually- and shelves of out-of-style cookware, candle-holders, garden supplies, electronics, tacky wall art, dirty toys, and mostly-unbroken lawn furniture.

Grocery shopping has been more or less a wash for us. Certain kinds of goods are much more expensive than those in the States, while a (very) few can be picked up more inexpensively. We have changed our diet to match the prices of certain foods, namely meat. Our protein sources now come mostly from dry beans and lentils, which are cheap and easy to carry. Meat, which used to be a staple, is now more of a luxury item for us. On the other hand, milk chocolate digestive cookies were unheard of at Hy-Vee in Iowa, but these delicious, buttery, chocolatey cookies are so tempting on the shelf for 50 cents... is it OK to replace meat with cookies in the diet?

How Have we Saved?

In one area, we have excelled in saving- transportation. This has been one of our great savings success stories in Dublin. Because Sara has a short commute to work and I have... no commute to work, we don't have to rely on daily transportation on Dublin's good-try-but-not-quite-there public transportation system or (Heavens, no!), a car. We have definitely pumped our walking and cycling muscles since moving here, but more importantly, we've adjusted to the planning required for a largely foot-powered lifestyle. Shopping trips can't be quick runs... unless we are literally running to the store. We have to plan our trips to and around town, always keeping in mind time and carrying weight. Need something bulky and heavy? Better pick it up at the end of the day out and as close to home as it is available.

With almost everything costing more here, we have learned to be selective about our chosen pastimes and entertainment. It would not quite be accurate to say that we are living without or depriving ourselves of comfort and leisure activities, but do sometimes have to make difficult choices. This isn't all bad, as it happens. We have learned to appreciate our luxuries when they come, because we can't make them happen all the time. When we do go out for a pint, we usually keep it to one overpriced round, which is nursed and savored with the knowledge that the next one might not be for a while.

Maybe we can take these habits with us when we move on to an almost certainly cheaper place than Dublin. We could be the champions of thrift and economy!

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