When Americans travel outside of the United States, there’s often a lot of culture shock experienced. The food might be prepared in a unique way and taste the exact opposite of what it is like at home. The languages are obviously different. And the amount of money people spend in other countries for everyday basic items…might not be as much.
This could be due to the exchange rate differences — check to see where the dollar stands against the currency of the country you are visiting to get an idea — or, it could just be the frugal habits that non-Americans have adopted in their financial lives.
The U.S. is known for its capitalism, wealth and price tags galore, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to spend a lot of money to meet their needs. Here are some frugal money habits Americans can learn from other countries.
Daily Grocery Shopping
Lots of Americans take one day out of the week to hit up the grocery store and buy everything they’ll need for the next seven or so days. In other places, a daily trip to the market can lead to surprising results, especially in their home-food budget.
“In places like Europe and Asia, many opt for daily visits to local markets,” said Jake Claver, financial director at Digital Ascension Group. “Buying fresh and only what’s needed for the day not only reduces waste but often results in healthier eating and surprisingly, savings over time. Americans, with their penchant for bulk buying, could re-evaluate this strategy.”
According to Kelly Palmer, founder of The Wealthy Parent LLC, “Europeans also save money by focusing on quality over quantity, especially when it comes to groceries. In European cities, you don’t find the same huge grocery stores you do in the U.S. which leads to a smaller, more curated selection of quality food. A smaller store means Europeans tend to just buy what they need and not stock up on items that will be wasted.”
In numerous Latin American cultures and countries, multi-generational collaboration is considered a financial cornerstone for families, creating an intricate and stable financial ecosystem. In Peru, for example, there is a practice of forming communal saving groups called “rondas” where community members add a weekly or monthly amount of funds to a shared pool. Per tradition, this communal account goes to one member at a time, rotating among the participants while promoting saving habits. It also reduces reliance on financial institutions while strengthening community bonds.
“Beyond shared living arrangements, the insight lies in understanding the financial ecosystem that emerges from multigenerational support,” said John Browning, founder of Guardian Rock Wealth.
“In various parts of Africa and Asia, community sharing of resources, be it tools, books, or even skills, is commonplace,” Claver added. “This collective mindset not only strengthens community bonds but greatly reduces individual expenses. It’s not just about pooling resources; it’s about creating a dynamic network of financial wisdom, shared responsibilities, and mutual support. Americans can explore the depths of this cultural approach, considering how intergenerational collaboration can go beyond mere financial advantages to create a resilient family foundation.”
Repair Instead of Replace
If an electronic device or a piece of furniture is broken, Americans tend to throw out the damaged goods and get a new one. But what if it was fixed instead? Not only would Americans be saving on the amount of waste; they’d also be saving on money, too.
“In many cultures, the first instinct when something breaks isn’t to replace it, but to repair,” Claver described. “Whether it’s electronics, clothes, or household items, the culture of fixing not only saves money but is also environmentally responsible.”
Barter and Trade
In America, if you want something, you see how much it costs and you pay for it, oftentimes overspending in the process. But outside of the U.S., bartering and trading are commonplace, with prices always in flux.
“This is a great way to save money and get the best deal possible,” shared Christopher William, founder of Balanced News Summary. “Whether it’s a car, a house or a service, people abroad are more willing to negotiate to get the best deal. This is an invaluable money-saving habit that Americans can learn from.”
A bartering system of commerce encourages the exchange of goods and services while frequently not including the use. Because there is no exchange of funds, there is a reduction of expenses by facilitating direct exchanges while simultaneously fostering a sense of community amongst the participants.
Prioritizing Work-Life Balance
“Europeans are far better at achieving work-life balance and this allows them to not constantly spend on short-term fixes for stress,” said Palmer. “By achieving a better overall balance, they save money that would be spent regularly and sometimes frivolously for Americans in the name of self-care.”
Other countries, like Japan, have methods of self-analysis such as the art of Kakeibo, which allows practitioners to uncover certain thoughts or habits through mind reflection, including when it comes to money.
“Beyond mere budgeting, Kakeibo encourages individuals to reflect on their spending with a sense of purpose,” explained Browning. “This reflection isn’t just about tracking expenses; it’s a practice in understanding the emotional and psychological drivers behind spending decisions. By adopting this holistic approach, Americans can cultivate a more profound understanding of their financial habits, paving the way for intentional and emotionally informed financial decisions.”
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