In praise of Czech thrift: five ways to save during the credit crunch

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Canteen food, Czech style, complete with meat, dumplings and a thick sauce.

Canteen food, Czech style, complete with meat, dumplings and a thick sauce.

Thanks a lot for all your comments to my last post on the issue of spoilt and Western behaviour.  Rather than trying to reply to them all, I thought it would be easier to write a new post.

Just in case I didn’t make myself clear, I don’t think Czech thriftiness is a bad thing.   Far from it.  As one of you already said, what’s so impressive about the way Czechs save money is that they manage to do it so instinctively.  It is rare that Czechman would forget to prepare an adequate amount of sandwiches and other provisions to take along with us on the train or plane and why not: they’re cheaper, tasier and being wrapped up in tissue paper, better for the environment too.  However, what I do find funny (in both senses of the word) is that now I’m in Czechland the way I handle money marks me out as prolifigate while in British terms I’m considered to be what is euphemistically termed ‘careful’ (i.e a bit of a skinflint) .  

You should have my sister’s reaction when I made her have lunch in St Barts Hospital canteen (cost £2.50) rather than splashing out on poncey-nouveau-fusion-grub at a restaurant  (potential cost £10+). 

‘I come here sometimes with Czechman,’ I explained by way of justification.   

‘You deserve each other,’ she replied, looking up from her burger and chips with a contemptuous look.

Anyway, in the interest of balance and for the benefit of my sister, here are some valuable tips in the art of financial management I have learned from the Czechs.  None of them are going to make you rich overnight but hey, there’s a credit crunch on so every penny (or crown) counts… 

1) Grow your own.  Not a practical option for city-dwellers but this is something the Czechs excel at.  A weekend with Czechman’s family always means returning back to Prague with a sack of potatoes big enough to see us through a nuclear winter. I guess since they knocked down the Berlin Wall there’s less chance of that actually being necessary.

2) It is possible to make two perfectly good mugs of tea with just one teabag.  I was shocked when Czechman first attempted this but provided you avoid the horrible Lipton rubbish and stick to the Tesco Red Label builders kind, the results are perfectly drinkable.

3) When buying for any Czechs in your life, remember that inexpensive but thoughtful gifts will be probably be more appreciated than they would in the West.  For example, one Christmas when I was particularly short of money I managed to buy a copy of the Independent newspaper from 1989 featuring the Velvet Revolution on the front page.  It only cost me £3 including postage but he loved it.  Job done.

4) It is also possible to knit a bathmat out of old rags.  There’s nothing Czech about this but I think it’s the strangest thing I’ve ever done to save money. Czechman was very impressed by my ingenuity though.

5) The main lesson to be learnt from the Czechsters is this: you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good time.  During my long weekend at Czechman’s brother-in-law’s family cottage thanks to some clever budgeting we spent the grand total of 180Kc (£6) on food each.  This covered all our meals for three days.  Yes, we did eat some rather suspect pink luncheon meat but we didn’t resort to boiling any rabbits’ skulls or consuming any offal. 

My next post will steer cleer of matters financial and will not include a list.  Instead I’ll be writing about another Czech cultural institution: the summer film festival…



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10 Responses to In praise of Czech thrift: five ways to save during the credit crunch

  1. Marek

    #3 is so true. That copy of Independent would certainly make my Christmas.

    The knitting thing link does not work 🙁 Anyway, judging by the fancy tiles in your bathroom, you`ve saved quite a lot on bathmats. 🙂


    • girlinczechland

      Hello again Marek,

      Glad to hear that the Independant idea would also have impressed you. The problem is, I need to keep coming up with new, thrify ideas: tricky.

      I fixed the knitting link so now you’ll see that they aren’t my bathroom tiles – but I wish to stress our bathroom, unlike some in England, does not have carpet. How horrible!


      • Marek

        Oh yes! The bathroom carpets …
        … and separate hot/cold water faucets buried deep in a sink. Some Czechman should post some `cutting` comment on a UK shaving experience.

  2. Rose

    I love the bathmat!

  3. Rose

    but not the look of the canteen food.

    • girlinczechland

      The canteen food wasn’t too bad. Much nicer than the plate of chicken livers in some suspect brown sauce I had recently when eating Czech – yuk!


  4. Federico

    Ahhhhhhhh … soon im going to work to Prague , good bye Edinburgh , keep going with the blog crazy girl . Coz i like it !! .


  5. Lucka

    About the teabag…that’s funny, because I did this while camping in Maine with my am. hubby. He could not believe that I was using one “Lipton (nothing better on reach)” teabag for both mugs…I felt it’s strong enough for two servings…so why waste another bag? I guess this is very “Czech”…Looking forward for your new postings!

  6. nice observations as usual.
    re “it is also possible to knit a bathmat out of old rags. There’s nothing Czech about this” – i do believe there is, to an extent:) there was a czech lady making things out of rags, you sent her the rags+a small payment and she returned a mat, my mom had severel made for theit weekend house:) not sure of her whereabouts now (the lady’s not my mom, mom is fine:)
    knitting here is considered a bit of “old ladies” thing but i believe the current wave of the snoods, amigurumis and such might change. at least i try to help in this.
    off to knit socks

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