being frugal in zhongli or taiwan

except for riding a bike to work, i do zero of the following things, and my bike cost NT$8000 because it’s cute. but sometimes i think i could be frugal.

to my mind, the cool thing about being frugal is that it generally turns out being good for the earth and healthy, too. philosophically, i am down with frugal 100%…but then in reality…i end up spending more than i want to on beer and new restaurants, clothes and books, and whatever else catches my eye. still, overall, we’ve saved more here than we could back home, and we have more dispensable income…we’re working on it. hoping we’ll figure it out before the apocalypse. if not, hey…

ride a bike to work, or walk
a nice new scooter might cost you as much as NT$90,000. a lemon might be less than NT$10,000. because the cost of repairing and maintaining a scooter here is much less than repairing and maintaining a car back home, you might never spend that NT$80,000 difference in repairs. however, the mornings when you’re running late and that little asshole won’t start, you’ll wish you had a reliable set of wheels. if it’s too far to walk to work, consider getting a bicycle, especially a secondhand one. you won’t even have to pay the measly NT$150 a week it costs for gas. you might also consider renting a ubike, but even that NT$20-NT$40 a session might start to add up. bonus: bicycling is healthier, and if you enjoy it enough, it’s a good way to get out and explore on the weekends, too. make some cycling buddies!

drink at family mart aka “club FM”
i’m not saying don’t drink cause that’s crazy talk, but drinking is one thing that’s just about as expensive or even more expensive in taiwan than it is back home. but it’s totally permissible to sit in front of a 7-11 with your 7-11 beers and cigarettes and hang out with your buds. you can even get a bag of beers and go drink in the park, which is illegal back in the u.s.! just please don’t be assholes about it: don’t get rowdy, don’t start peeing everywhere that isn’t the bowl of the toilet/urinal, don’t be puking or shoplifting or scaring children. and when you see the old people doing their laps, that means the sun’s about to come up and it’s time for you to go home.

make your coffee at home
okay no lie this one always feels like too much work to me since you can get coffee at 7-11 for like one u.s. dollar. but, hey, you can get a bag of grinds for a couple of bucks and make loads of coffee yourself, so…it is technically cheaper. however, i do think the convenience-store coffee, if you don’t hate it, is a good financial compromise between making your own and going to starbucks or some place where they cold-brew coffee in a chemistry set and charge NT$240 for it. bonus: even 7-11 will give you a small discount if you get your coffee in your travel mug instead of a paper cup. bonus bonus: also sometimes the coffee at 7-11 and Family Mart is “buy one, get one 50% off”…and they’ll tell you that and be like, do you wanna “ji yi bei”? and if you say yes, they’ll charge you for that coffee and the next one, but then they’ll give you a receipt with a special stamp on it or a little slip of paper, and as long as you bring it back to that exact same location and get the exact same drink, you get your coffee and you saved that money. Your future self will thank you!

no pets
this one makes me sad but it’s just a fact of life. even getting set up with a fish bowl or taking in an about-to-be-homeless hamster costs money. you got the big initial splurge, then the regular care costs, then you’re gonna wanna upgrade… then like one of the hamsters got sick and i took it to the vet and that cost NT$500 and then it died the next day, anyway. i love having pets, but if your mind is on your money, then you gotta know that they can be big expenses.

eat local
i don’t mean the same thing as back home when it means get all your meat and produce from the farmers market; i mean enjoy yourself some chinese food as often as possible. once you start getting into cheese and guacamole and all that, prices start rising, even if you’re cooking at home. and there are more benefits than the financial: the local food in taiwan is always amazing, but you know you’ve had some funky salads or pizzas you wish you could take back. and if you want to branch out, vietnamese places here have really good and cheap food, too. if you can learn to cook some chinese food at home, and shop at the markets instead of the grocery stores, you can save even more!

learn some chinese
if you know how to speak and even read some chinese, you can order loads more from local restaurants

wire money home as infrequently as possible
otherwise you get those transfer fees here, the bank fees there…they really add up!

rent an older place
what i mean is don’t rent one of the apartments in the nice, new buildings. first of all, you’ll end up paying extra in guard fees, parking fees, etc. then if you’re in a fancy neighborhood, which in zhongli is the sogo neighborhood, that’ll cost ya extra, too. we found a really old place down near the xinmin night market. it’s a five-floor walkup, so that might be an issue for some people, but for us it’s okay. we have very big rooms, and old hardwood floor, and more storage space than we need, all for NT$11,000 a month. and to hear our taiwanese friends tell it, we could have gotten it for even cheaper if we had bargained.

turn off your a.c.
i mean, i don’t do this at all because i am a large baby and i can’t stand the heat or hearing J complain about the heat, so when summer comes, it’s running all the time. but i’ve heard legends of people who get by with fans, or only use their a.c. at night, and they pay a ton less in electricity bills than we do.

get an e-book reader
if you’re a voracious reader, and i am, and you have sunk a lot of money into books that you had to toss when you had to pare your life down to what could fit into two suitcases, then devices like my kindle and my nook are dreamy. i get to keep whatever i buy! you can also legally download many versions of the literary classics because they’re old, or get them for real cheap on amazon. i still end up paying full price for some books, but i’ve gotten so many for free or cheap that i can’t be mad. and think of all the luggage space (and fees!) you save when you can pack 200 books in a device the size of a slim notebook. also, i think you can set up a local library account before you move out here (or when you’re back on holiday) and then you have access to gazillions of books for free. in the meantime, harvest time usually has some books available to borrow, or you can try to hit me up for some (zhongli only, and only if i know your face).

you don’t need a costco membership
if you aren’t making western food and you’re trying to save money, there isn’t much you need to buy at costco, and definitely not anything you can’t ask someone to pick up for you next time they go, like a NT$900 box of australian red wine.

steal clothes from your friends
like not really, but when people leave, and they can only pack what they’re really attached to, offer to be the receptacle for whatever they aren’t taking with them. and whatever you don’t want, take to the thrift store, and while you’re there, see what else they’ve got for you. otherwise, being heavier or bigger than most people here will save you money just because you won’t be able to find clothes that fit. until you find out how to order things online…

get that unlimited internet
i know a guy here who was paying NT$800 a month for unlimited internet for his phone, and then used it as a hotspot to get online at home. for everything short of downloading torrents, i don’t see why this wouldn’t work.

be picky
not everyone is gonna be on the same page about the same thing. if you think that eating out and drinking are places you could cut costs, but your friends are saving money on buying books and clothes so they can pig out on saturday nights, you might get distressed. but you can compromise by showing up just for a beer, or showing up just to say hi, or pregaming at home and meeting up with everyone later at the bar, or just, i don’t know, finding new friends. you aren’t gonna be talking to but three of these people a year after you move, and ten to one it’s not even the three people you think it is, so don’t stress about fitting their birthdays into your budget.

get a hobby
if you get into something like drinking old-people tea, playing guitar, painting, writing, learning chinese, becoming a film buff, etc., you have stuff to do on the weekends besides get drunk and overeat. invest some of that extra free time in yourself, and enjoy a skill or knowledge base that will bring you many happy returns.

what else is there?

what do you do to be frugal in taiwan?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *