Frugal Tips From An Immigrant Part 2

Buying lettuce whole is much cheaper than the bagged salad mixes.

Buying lettuce whole is much cheaper than the bagged salad mixes.

In the first part of this post, I wrote about some of the frugal tips that I observed in my parents, grandparents and other immigrants. As I wrote in the first post, I know many multigenerational Americans who use many of these tips as well, while many immigrants are not frugal at all. This is just a general observation. Today, we continue the topic. Let’s get to the second part of Frugal Tips From An Immigrant. 

4.       Find good deals and barter.

Instead of paying retail for our stroller, we saved HUNDREDS of dollars by looking for deals and buying a slightly used one.

Instead of paying retail for our stroller, we saved HUNDREDS of dollars by looking for deals and buying a slightly used one.

Most immigrants are geniuses at finding good deals. I think it probably goes back to the Russian bazaars, marketplaces with many sellers. Haggling with the merchants was something that was part of the whole shopping experience.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a deal and keeping an eye out for sales and discounts can save you quite a bit of money.

Here’s a great article from Dave Ramsey about getting great deals.

Live on less than you make. In the old country, credit cards didn’t exist. (That has since changed.) If you didn’t have the money for something, you just didn’t have another option other than saving up for it or going without. It seems like a novel idea nowadays, but it’s such a basic principle. By not getting sucked into society which thinks that it’s impossible to survive without a credit card, you will save so much money and frustration by not getting into the trap and becoming a slave to the Master –  Mastercard.

5.       Hospitality.

IMG_3229 (500x334)This part may seem contradictory to frugality, but hospitality really works out to be a benefit in the long run. Slavic people are very friendly. They will invite strangers to their homes, they are very generous to guests and love having company. Since they are so hospitable to others, people are hospitable in return. It’s very much a part of our culture to make room for others in our homes. It’s not unusual to have 10-15 guests in your home in addition to your immediate family staying with you when there’s a family wedding. Most people will stay with family or friends when traveling, therefore saving a lot of money on hotels and restaurants. It’s a very cultural thing. I’ve noticed that the younger generation is different nowadays and are more likely to get hotel rooms and go out to eat.

6.       Dress Up, Not Down. Always.

My awesome grandfather, who is on his way to a Banya. (A place where people used to take baths, since they didn't have hot water and running water in their houses.)

My awesome grandfather, who is on his way to a Banya. (A place where people used to take baths, since they didn’t have hot water and running water in their houses.)

This isn’t exactly a frugal tip, but I think it does have a role in frugality. Russians dress up for everything, no exceptions. In fact, we are usually overdressed. It’s part of our identity. We get dressed up to go to the grocery store.  You won’t catch somebody Slavic in their pajamas at Walmart:). Even though there wasn’t much money available for many nice outfits, people would make the most of the clothes that they had.

The way you dress plays a huge part in your self esteem. If your clothes are frumpy and your hair is a mess, you won’t feel good about yourself. On the other hand, when you are dressed sharp, you will walk with your head held high, with an excellent attitude and ready to take on the world. The more successful you feel, the more success you will actually achieve in every area of life. People will respect you more too, if your appearance is clean cut. Think job interviews, purchases, getting promoted, etc.

7.       Education is vitally important.

Immigrant Spirit-1-11 2In Belarus, calculators are scorned, excellence is expected and shortcuts are avoided like the plague.  My parents always made sure my schoolwork was completed in perfect penmanship, work was done very well, if they didn’t think we got enough homework, they came up with additional assignments, such as reading a book, practicing Russian reading and writing, learning the multiplication table in 1st and 2nd grade, etc.  Remember how sometimes the homework assignment was to do only the odd or only the even questions in the book? Our parents didn’t understand that and made sure we completed the whole assignment.

My parents are big readers and they passed that love on to us. Most Slavic people (or maybe it’s just my family and our relatives) are very proud of their bookshelves filled with books. You will see many photographs with the family members posing in front of the full bookshelves. It was a favorite activity of our family to read books aloud together as a family. We were all carried away in our imaginations together, learning, having adventures and also spending time as a family.

Not only did they expect excellence from us, they worked hard themselves to get an education. My Mom is so smart, she did better in college than I did. She has been a Registered Nurse for years now. Dad has had his own business for most of our life in America. My parents are always reading and learning. 

8.       Dream big and work hard.

Enjoying a stroll on my parents' property.

Enjoying a stroll on my parents’ property.

I wrote a lot more about this in a post about the Immigrant Spirit, so I won’t go into it much here, but one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my parents was to dream big and not be afraid of hard work. One of my parents’ dreams was to have their own property and building a house and they did just that. My siblings and I grew up with 100 acres of land as our playground. It was phenomenal. It’s my favorite place in the world and I dream of living in the country someday too.

The immigrant spirit has been rooted deep inside of me from early childhood. It’s a desire to grow and learn, to always take advantage of the opportunities that life presents, stay humble and be thankful for the blessings that I have. I believe that deep inside all of us, God planted a desire to always become better, and I’m so thankful that we can do so in this land of opportunity.

9.       Always be grateful.

Frugal Tips From an Immigrant-1-2

I love this picture of my grandfather having some quality bonding time with his children, my mom and my uncle.

The most important lesson I learned from my parents and grandparents was to always remember where I came from and not take for granted the blessings that I enjoy today. It’s so important for all of us to remind our children and tell them stories of the old country. Grow in them a love and respect for their heritage and an appreciation for this amazing country that we live in today and are proud to be citizens of. In the Bible, there is a passage that talks about passing down the stories of God’s goodness from generation to generation.

“Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm…. But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done… Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (A few excerpts from Deuteronomy Chapter 11.)

I loved the times when my siblings and I would gather around my parents and hear their stories of Belarus, of coming to America, of the first few years in America and all the adventures that they have experienced. It’s so special to hear the stories that they heard from their parents and grandparents. So we reminisce, we remember and we will always cherish our heritage and look back on the goodness of God in order to be grateful and appreciate our future too.




  • Natasha (@NatashasKitchen)

    I really enjoyed reading this post Olga :). I totally agree with you – we must always remember where we came from and be grateful for every day that God gives us. My parents still tell us stories from their past with all their adventures. I learned to be frugal from them as well :).

  • Becky

    I loved reading this post! I always love to read stories about immigrants – their stories are truly inspiring. This country was founded by strong, hard working immigrants and I think it’s fun, and vitally important to remember their stories, their sacrifices, their lessons. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • olgak7

      I certainly have a soft spot for all immigrants. This is what this country was built on, immigrants from all over the world coming to America with a dream for a better life with more opportunities.

  • Alla

    Hi Olga,
    I recently came across your blog and have added it to my feedly reader. I absolutely love reading all your posts, particularly your Russian recipes. However it’s the posts on immigrant life that really resonate. I’m also originally from Belarus, (Minsk.) Moved to Los Angeles when I was 9. So obviously I relate very well to everything you post on the subject. It’s interesting and reassuring seeing how standard cultural values survive even when people relocate to a place that has very different values.

    Keep up the awesome posts!

    • olgak7

      Hi Alla,
      Thanks for taking the time to write. I’m so glad to meet someone else from Minks, and I’m thrilled that you are enjoying the blog.

  • Anastasiya

    I loved your “Frugal Tips” article! Coming from a large family (like most Slavic families) it was pretty much a necessity to always look out for a good deal to make your money go further. I still scour the clearance racks at the mall today. And I can’t say enough about DIY projects. They not only help you learn about your abilities and discover new hobbies but they also help you save money and are an avenue for money making. Great stuff you have on your blog. Keep up the hard work! May God bless you, your husband and those little ones you care for so much!!!

    PS. Dave Ramsey is awesome!!

    -Nastya 🙂

    • olgak7

      Thanks, Anastasiya!
      That’s a really good point that you brought up, that finding good deals and making food and projects from scratch save money AND can be a money making avenue as well. Isn’t that awesome?
      I’m so glad that you are enjoying the blog:).
      God bless you too.

  • Julia @Vikalinka

    All of these tips are so spot on! I think being frugal is second nature for anyone who came from Europe, and the more East you go the more frugal people are. One of the first posts I wrote was on the virtue of frugality- saving leftover mashed potatoes and making them into glorious salmon cakes 🙂 It was written very “tongue in cheek” but in all seriousness I think, I am able to get a lot more out of what I buy than a lot of people around me because of my upbringing. Also, the love for books is one of the defining features for anyone from the former Soviet Union. It’s truly amazing how much we read! 🙂

    • olgak7

      Frugality is definitely a virtue and such a valuable gift that we were given from our upbringing.
      I feel like a homemaking rockstar when I make use up bits and pieces of ingredients that most likely would get thrown out if I wasn’t resourceful and creative:).
      And yes, BOOKS ARE AWESOME! I have loved to read since I was a little girl and I love that most people in my family are readers as well:).

  • Elena

    I just have discovered this blog recently. I absolutely love it. Thank you for taking time bringing joy to other people’s lives.

  • Valentina

    What an awesome post!. Love it. Though we all love your recipes, posts like these are great and give us a glimpse of who u are. Great job!.

  • oxana

    I grew up in Belarus and agree with every point you made. I smiled when I read your thoughts on generosity… from my experience I learned from growing up in Belarus is that people may not have much to offer but they will still welcome a stranger to their home. And I definitely agree with education part!

  • Katia B

    This post is simply inspirational 🙂 I think the love of books on so many Slavic people comes from our cultural pride in our literature and education system . I remember back in Belarus, in one school year we would read War and Peace, Crime and Punishment (really lengthy novels) plus an array of poems and smaller pieces by Russian, Belorussian and foreign authors.
    Also want to comment on your food photography! Awesome photos! 🙂

    • olgak7

      Good books are awesome! I’ve learned so much through books. Reading is my favorite way to relax too. It’s a wonderful way to keep your mind sharp.
      Thanks for the compliment:).

  • Aleisha

    Hi there! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new
    iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!

    Keep up the superb work!

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