Musings on a recent trip downtown and tea

Adopting a frugal mindset does something to your mind. I’m not just talking about looking for offers or making your money stretch as far as possible, I’m talking about simple desires.

A few weeks back, Mr. E. and I went down to the city centre. It was quite the event. We hadn’t done so in a couple of months, at least. But we had a small handful of things that we wanted to buy in different shops, and the would-be added costs of shipping made the bus ticket worth it. Also, Mr. E. was buying a used book, and needed someplace central to meet the seller. Still, not being financially independent yet, we made the trip on a Saturday, yikes. 

Still thinking frugal

It was a beautiful day. Autumn was on the rise and the wind was picking up, but never the less, a nice day. We decided to make use of that by walking down to the city (about an hour) and then taking the bus back when we were done and tired, thus only getting tickets one way.

The first thing we did was head to a local cafe. Mr. E. needed to split a larger bill into the correct change, so he scoured the shelves for something that would suit. He landed on a small bottle of juice that set him back over 40 NOK (almost $5)! Feeling a bit lightheaded from such frivolous spendheartiness, we found a table outside and waited.

Once the transaction had been successfully completed and Mr. E. had his book safe in hand, we headed on to the tea and coffee shop. I have to admit, one of the things that really surprised me about where we lived in London was the never-ending challenge of finding good tea. It was all PG tips and sad black tea in bland tea bags. Having grown up learning about tea-drinking Brits (and they certainly are), I was surprised. In Norway, our tea drinking is still moderate enough that we feel like we can afford to keep loose leaf tea shops in business. Plus they smell divine. So, using Mr. E’s 10 % student discount, we loaded up on our tea needs for at least a couple of months.

In defence of good tea

As a side note, we are coming to realise that our tea tastes are not really in line with our local tea shop. They are very floral and fruity, while we go more for the spice. On the other hand, we know exactly the kind of tea shop that does cater to our tastes, and have a friend with similar tastes who regularly visits said shop in the city in question. Henceforth, we will be placing tea orders with her whenever she is in a travelling mood.

Fancy loose leaf teas might sound like a terribly extravagant choice for self-acclaimed frugalists, but it is one of those luxuries we allow ourselves. Hear me out though. Most bland, store bought tea bags make me sad. I will drink it when visiting someone, sure. But in my own home, and on a daily basis, I like my brew to bring me joy. And it isn’t that expensive either.

A 100 g bag of tea (we usually go for more of the kinds we know we like) sets us back about 60-80 NOK on average (about $7-9 for ~3.5 ounces). For 1 litre of tea, one small tablespoon will suffice. For good quality tea though, the same leaves can be used for 2-3 consecutive brews. That’s how much tea we drink in a day on the weekend, on average. So say 1 tablespoon is one days worth. There is more than 30 tablespoons in my 100 g bag, so that is more than a month’s worth.

Contrast that to buying tea bags in the store. Not just do I have the added trash of tea bags and extra packaging (our loose leaf can be composted and comes in a paper bag), but a 20-40 NOK package usually consists of no more than 20 tea bags. Even if we were being Scrooge McDuck type cheapskates who clung to our tea bag all day long, that still would mean one teabag per person, per day. So one box would only last us 10 days, netting us 60 NOK in sad tea or 120 NOK in tea that is somewhat drinkable but not great.

True enough, I probably wouldn’t drink as much tea as I do if all we had was PG tips or Lipton, but this is one luxury that increases our happiness and daily joy. We consider it worthwhile for a warm hug in a mug.

The noise, noise, noise!

(The Frugasaurus household – not unlike the Grinch.)

To come back to the downtown trip, what stuck with the both of us after having been in our own little bubble for so many weeks, was the noise and the people. Even though we both work/study at universities and encounter groups of people on a daily basis, the throng of people in the city was still a loud and obnoxious shock to our systems. By the end of the day, we wanted nothing more than to finish our last few errands and hop on the first bus home.

  • We didn’t want to stop by a cafe to buy a meal, even if we were both tired and hungry by the end of it.
  • We had no desire to browse other shops that weren’t on the list, the only exception being the sight of crocheting yarn on sale in a basket outside a haberdashery shop.
  • We vehemently agree that we’re near-hermits at heart, and that Saturdays are hardly worth it, even outside tourist and Christmas season.

These were things that previously, would not have fazed us as much. Sure, I still did not enjoy shopping on a Saturday because of the people, but it didn’t overwhelm me as much as it did now. I also would not have thought much about grabbing something to eat to bring my energy levels back up, but now, it just wasn’t worth it.

Even if we live in the outskirts of what is, in Norwegian scale, a reasonably large city, I just have no desire to visit the city centre on a regular basis. We get what we need from the grocery shop and infrequent trips to charity shops or Finn (like Craigslist in the US or Gumtree in the UK). This, in a way, makes me happy. It means that our dream of living someplace more remote will most likely not make us miss city life. We’re already in a city, and we’re not even enjoying the “city life”.

There is happiness on the horizon.

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