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Friday, August 12, 2011

Being Thrifty!

 Thursday is feria day (farmers market day) for me and the nearby town of Salinas. We have the time slot from 8am to 12:30 pm to shop. Then this same group of vendors, they pack up and go to the city of Atlántida (5 kilometers away), reopening in that city for business from 3pm till evening, on this same thursday.

I've mentioned this farmer's market several times before in my blog because shopping at your local town's feria is a ritual, a way of life, here in Uruguay. Each town or city has their own special day, when the farmers and sellers roll into town and set up shop or in this case their stalls. 

If you miss your town's feria day, then you have to know what day a nearby town has their day on. For instance, the town of Parque del Plata has their's on friday, I believe.

Besides wanting fresh produce, people try and make it a habit to shop at a feria because the government allows them not to charge the same kind of tax as regular stores do. That's a big savings! Did I ever mention to you that our tax down here is called I.V.A. and it's 23%! I used to think that Washington State's tax was bad enough when they crept up from an 8 point something tax and went on into the 9 percent something tax rate on purchases.

While it's true that SOME THINGS are exempt from this I.V.A. tax most things are not!
Prices of items listed, generally have the I.V.A. already added to them. So you don't have to mentally go around and add 23% to everything you just know that, it's already in the price.

I used to think that milk and such basics were exempt but apparently not.

I'll give you an example from a short visit to a regular grocery store. I bought 3 bags of milk (yeah, bags not a carton or a jug) each tiny 1 liter bag of milk cost me 13 pesos each. Other brands with omega whatever s in them would cost more but I'm being thrifty so $13 (pesos) is what I spend per bag. So the 3 bags cost me a total of 39 pesos. Next, I went to the in-store butcher and bought two small Milaneses ( a breaded cutlet, I like the chicken one) for a reasonable $59 (pesos) total and I also bought 1/2 a kilo of hamburger (especial, a polite word meaning a cheaper quality) that cost me $68 (pesos) in total. Butter or manteca in Spanish just went up from $43 to $44 (pesos) for a large stick and finally, I bought some brussel sprouts that looked better in the store than at the feria and they were amazingly a little bit cheaper! The package of sprouts cost me $25 (pesos). At another store that same package was $42 pesos. It pays to shop around. So to recap, 5 items and all of it food. The bill went; $39+59+44+68+25= $235 (pesos) out of pocket. On that list of strictly food related items, nothing was exempt from the I.V.A tax. The bill showed me that the items were worth $191.09 and I paid $43.91 in tax (i.v.a.). For a total of $235 pesos.

Bottom line is that, if you don't have to pay 23% tax on something, why would you want to. I've bought dishwashing liquid at a feria for $30 (pesos) when I would have had to pay $38 at a regular grocery store. Ferias also have clothes and other non-edible items.

I've been really thrifty while Wally is away. I limit my weekly feria trip to $500 (pesos) a visit (per week). That includes the $112 pesos, I pay for a large bag of dry dog food (8 kg s.). Other known brands can cost 3 to 6 times that, but I'm being thrifty so an off named brand it has to be. If I miss my feria day than that same bag costs me $135 at a local store. I do buy a better brand for my cat (he eats less) but it costs me a whooping $101 to $107 pesos (for only a 1 Kg. bag) at a regular store.

 Some favorite items that I buy at the feria are; a little bag of dry parmesan cheese, 100grams for $11 pesos and pitted prunes at $13 pesos per 100grams. A can of whole sardines costs $27 pesos, 2 bars of soap, $27 pesos (you get a better price when you buy the two)! You get the drift. I spend roughly $125 pesos for vegetables and about $75 p's for what nots and $112 for the dog food, then with the rest of my money, I go to the regular store for a little meat and etc...  Wally could never be this regulated (read stingy) he loves to cook and eat well! Our normal budget is over 2 1/2 times that, per week. However, this current tightfisted budget of mine has allowed me to do some extra projects around my house and to pay for purchases like a dog house for Barney. Shila will soon get her own dog house.

I haven't minded my self-imposed budget, because of what I have been able to accomplished with the savings, around my house.

Recently, I learned an interesting lesson. I don't know if it's an interesting thing, a good thing or just a petty thing? If a person is on too tight a budget then you start to see money leaks everywhere.
 I have noticed however, that I also get angry when I feel, I've lost a peso or two, not the best quality.

The other day I wanted to treat myself to a Torta frita. It's like a fried tortilla or an elephant ear you would find at a country fair. Well, I noticed a man in Atlántida standing on a corner with his little cart so I went up to buy one. However, I also noticed that he was selling his fritas for $12 pesos and not the usual $10. Since I was already at his stand, I thought Okay, it's only 2 pesos more, so I ordered one. He then handed me one, already fried up, which meant it was cold and hence NOT crispy! So I paid 2 pesos more for an unpleasant taste treat. Being much more thrifty now, I have discovered that the best places to buy a HOT, fresh Torta frita, for only $10 pesos, is in front of a school. Go when the kids are being let out and you'll find a vendor selling to them at reasonable prices! I guess that was the interesting part of the lesson learned, where to find good tortas fritas!

Over a year ago Uruguay decommissioned their little silver 50 cent coin. Everything now is in dollar pesos. There are metal coins in addition to paper money but they are a $1 peso coin, a $5 peso coin and a $10 peso coin. What this means is that you can lose tiny amounts.

 As an example, I bought some more hamburger recently ( I asked for a 1/2 kilo, as usual) and the butcher put in a little extra, about $68.85 worth (i.v.a. included). When I went to pay for it, the store rounded it up to the nearest dollar or to $69 (pesos) despite the lower sticker price (because they don't have small coinage here only dollar pesos anymore! So, I should have had the butcher put in a pinch more hamburger for an even dollar amount, since I ended up paying for it anyway! I guess I have to stop thinking like a North American and not imagine that I lost 15 cents but instead remember the first Spanish phrase I ever learned here, "Es lo que hay." It is, what there is! or in other words, "It is, what it is" Another lesson learned!

I have a few more projects, I want to do around the house (like that second dog house for $1960 pesos). Things are not cheap here! However, I will soon buck up my budget so that I will not become a miserly person but just stay a thrifty one!

P.S. A Special "Thank You" to Syd and Gundy for dropping off (by my door) a primrose plant gift for my Wedding Anniversary. Sorry, that I missed seeing you!
When I inquired later about the plant, they said, they got it at the feria! Of course!


Alfonso said...

There are things that are at a better price at the feria than at the supermarkets, but not everything. Just because it's from a feria doesn't mean it's gonna cost less.

About the coins, I have to say that there are 2 pesos coins too. And by the way, the 50 cent coin doesn't help so much either, because you can only use them when you have a bill that says (for example) $28.50 (or a similar amount). You couldn't have paid your $68.85 meat with a 50 cent coin because you can't round it to 68.50 (besides, there isn't much you can do with 50 cents to worry about the difference)

Denise said...

You're right! I forgot about the $2 peso coin,Oops!

My point was that there are only dollar amounts in use now and no more coins at all, representing cents.

That is something completely different than from the USA, where we have a penny (1 cent), a nickel (5 cents), a dime (10 cents), a quarter (25 cents) and a half-dollar (50 cents). We also have a saying that we should "watch our pennies" and another saying that says, "I'm being nickeled and dime d to death".

I mentioned in my post that I bought some brussel -sprouts from the regular store because not only did they look better but that they were A BIT CHEAPER than the feria's price. So I agree with you that just because it's from the feria it doesn't mean it's gonna cost less, as my store purchase demonstrated.

I still have to go to Tienda Inglesa for my imported products and expensive expat tastes.

Anonymous said...

We've been reading your wonderful blog. We are also planning to relocate to Uruguay, but for us it will be in 3-5 years. We are watching global inflation and currency devaluation with concern along with everyone else... We are semi-skilled homesteaders and frugal. My first question is not whether it is 'inexpensive' to live in Uruguay, but whether or not there is strong local culture, such as the traditional ferias, that provides a network of community support outside the currency-driven marketplace (such as supermarkets)? - Relationships directly with farmers and ranchers (either through the feria or personally), opportunities for barter and such? And finally, from your perspective in Uruguay of the global financial transitions, do you feel that you and Wally will stay? Muchas gracias! ~ MaC

Denise said...

Dear MaC,
Thank you for your kind comments!

There IS a strong local culture here. Friends and family are very important. Because of prior financial depressions, like the melt down Argentina had in 2002. Uruguayos as a whole have learned to be very thrifty and value social networks over money driven ones.

Unlike garage sales back home bartering is NOT in practice here. Even in home buying a seller will basically stick to his price and would rather have the home sit on the market for years than to lower the price by much.

They will however, in general day to day living, try and protect your money. A mechanic for instance would suggest replacing one screw before he would dream of telling you, you need an entire engine rebuild. How unlike the States where finding an honest mechanic is a triumph! Latin American countries have a cycle of highs and lows. Uruguayos have learned to tighten up their belts and wait out the lows.

Since the USA is itself under going a financial depression, I don't know where we would go and not be affected with dollar devaluation. At least here, we can be learn to be frugal with an entire nation setting the example for us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this thoughtful reply, Denise; your last point in particular was well-put. Best wishes! MaC

Denise said...

I need to make a small self comment correction.
I meant HAGGLING prices down is not done here.

Sometimes a BARTER can be made with vehicles. I'll give you my motorcycle and cash for your truck etc.. but usually bartering is not a concept here. Instead, friends and family is where you turn to in order to exchange items and trade help services with. That's why they're so important here in Uruguay.

Anonymous said...



Seamus said...

I'm surprised th hear that people don't haggle in UY. I would expect they would not do it in large corporate department stores, but I'm surprised they don't in smaller shops. Again, I thought that not ALWAYS haggling was an American failing. I thought only we were in the habit of paying whatever is asked.

I have found that in most of the world, esp when one is a tourist, or stranger at the very least, it is absolutely necessary to ask the price BEFORE saying I'll buy something. And I mean for EVERYTHING. Taxi rides to churros. Otherwise, if you just say 'Déme eso', the price is MUCH higher.

I was first mildly berated even in Austria in the '60s for paying what was first asked. And indeed, after I said 'Ich kaufe diese Uhr' I had wondered why the clerk knocked 5% off the price even without my asking. The fellow European student who was with me knew that I'd paid so much, the clerk was ashamed that he was about to reap such a windfall.

Just as the British reserve to themselves the exclusive right to criticize the Queen, I have always been proud to be an American, yet I think we need to be more cognizant of our faults. I have long felt that it is a serious handicap for Americans in ANY dealings with other peoples that WE are poor negotiators. Some of this may be just the view from where I'm standing, but I think this is a skill wherein we as a nation are at least mildly lacking.

Anyway, I have made it my one man mission (one of many) to correct this here in the USA. Now, whenever I buy something where there is the slightest chance the clerk may have the authority to reduce the price, my motto is, 'If you don't ask, you don't get!!' If I'm so much as buying a loaf of bread that has been squeezed a bit, I ask for a few cents off.

And, actually, slightly tongue in cheek, I would argue this is scriptural: 'Ask and ye shall receive. Seek and ye shall find.'

Denise said...

Seamus, Your right in asking FIRST what the price of an item is, so as to avoid "sticker shock". People here are not above raising the price to a foreigner but haggling is something other countries seem to do over this one. Once a price is given here, that price sticks! If you think it's too much you then go elsewhere! Lower prices can be had that way(elsewhere). I too normally ask for a discount in the states and have gotten it. Here pride or necessity, they know what they want to sell it for prevails.

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