The Economides have found fame as America’s Cheapest Family, surviving on half a normal family’s budget, but many of their frugal methods do make sense. Malaysians can learn a thing or two from them.
THOUGH there are many people in the world truly deserving of the unflattering title, “cheapskate”, a family in the United States has found ways to stretch the boundaries of extreme frugality without going overboard.
A few years ago, the story of Steve and Annette Economides made headlines when people learned of how their family of seven could survive on half the grocery budget of the average American family.
Though it is by sheer coincidence that their surname sounds like the word “economy”, the frugality of their methods bordered on the extreme.
The Economides family plan and do their grocery shopping once a month, buying only items that are heavily discounted and plan an entire month’s worth of meals based on what they buy.
So effective have their methods been that they found success in releasing a book “The Money Smart Family System” and giving talks on sharing their frugal practices all over the United States.
Between purchasing marked-down foods near its expiration date for freezer storage and not letting a single supermarket coupon go to waste, the self-bestowed title of “America’s Cheapest Family” is well justified.
Although we have yet to identify a Malaysian counterpart to this, many Malaysian families have simple tips and ideas to save a little money on your grocery expenses to put you in the running.
According to some, it pays to look at local wet markets for things like meat and fresh produce.
“I usually go to the wet market because the groceries that I can get there are much cheaper than at the supermarket,” said 58-year old homemaker Alyssa Tay.
“If it’s possible, choose local produce over imported ones and try to buy those that are in season.”
Or in the case of meat products, local butchers and delis may offer better prices for items of similar quality.
Tay’s daughter, Kelly Ch’ng, 26, helps out with the grocery shopping and adds that one foolproof method to avoid overspending is to stick to a shopping list and make sure that they do not buy unnecessary items.
Homemaker Hartini Mohd Saleh agrees with this method, saying that practising moderation in their shopping is great to ensure that they live within their means.
“However, if I have coupons for the items I could use or if those items are on sale, I will certainly think twice about buying more of it,” said Hartini.
While the Economides family will not think twice about buying marked-down meat products nearing its date of expiry, Hartini thinks that this is potentially risky and not worth the trouble.
Chua Chiu Sin, 57, and her husband Chan Yok Kim, 60, admit that they do find better savings in stocking up on products that are on sale.
“Buying more of a product on sale does work out to have a cheaper cost per unit on your receipt,”
“Especially if it is an item that you will use at some point, I think you should take advantage of it,” said Chua.
As someone who drinks coffee every morning, Chan adds that he sometimes buys extra bags of coffee when it is on sale.
“I once saw someone buying as many as ten bags of coffee powder!” Chan exclaimed.
“We may not be that extreme, but if our local supermarket has a big sale going on, we will certainly stock up on the marked-down items that we need,” he added.
Chan also admits that taking note of other promotions offered by supermarkets is a big plus – for example, having a 5% discount for spending more than RM100 in a single receipt.
Frugal shopping habits are not just adopted by families, but also younger single adults who live away from their loved ones.
“I almost always buy supermarket brands for general consumables because they’re just as good as the well-known brands,” said Kuala Lumpur-based Penangite, Justin Chee, 26.
He finds the different brands of everyday things such as dishwashing liquid and mineral water do not make much of a difference to him.
“But to take care of things like clothes, I usually invest in better quality detergent,” Chee added.
In addition to that, many supermarkets and stores across Malaysia offer a variety of great deals for loyal shoppers through their respective membership cards.
Membership cards can either get members great discounts on items or collect points that can later be used to claim attractive gifts.