Frugal, Not Cheap – Or so I keep telling myself.

I am naturally cheap. I get it from my Dad.

The point is that being cheap is not a very desirable trait. I am conscious of this fact and strive against my instincts.

I purposely spend money now and again to guard against sinking into a miserly existence surrounded by my piles of gold and no friends.

As a devotee to FIRE, I can’t exactly bring myself to blow through money just for the sake of spending. So at the end of the day, what I am seeking is a balance between cost and value.

The idea for this exercise came from OurFinanciaPath’s post ‘Frugal, Not Cheap Challenege‘. It is likely to take off as another chain gang link.(Number 4 if you are keeping track).

I have come up with a few examples of dropping bills purposely in exchange for perceived value and the anecdotes to go with them.

First, my eyesight started failing around age 20. I was poor, so I just trudged onward squinting at road signs, that is until I stole re-purposed my first pair of glasses. It is OK though, really, they were left at my house by a stranger who was so drunk and so rude he had to be ‘escorted off the premises‘. Luckily our prescriptions matched and I could see again!

Fast forward 10 years or so and I forked over around $3,000 bucks to have my eyes fixed. Lasik was still some sort of Canadian pseudo science at the time and $3,000 was no small feat at that time in my life. Best money I ever spent! Now, I can not even remember what wearing/needing glasses felt like.

Second, we spend a third of our lives in bed right? Logic and experience sleeping on too many floors and couches drove me to my first Big Boy purchase. I was still living in bad apartments with ratty hand-me-down furniture, but I was working and so was DW, girlfriend only at the time. We combined resources and spent over $2,000 on a mattress.

There are some things in life you just do not go cheap on, sleep in one of them. Still have that mattress. In fact, we have upgraded 2 more times since then and I have never shed a tear for the money spent.

Third, that dreaded word all new parents fear, Disney! I knew I had to go at least once. It has become an American right of passage. The family talked it over and decided if we are only doing it once, we should do it right.

We stayed in the park at a resort for the whole week. We had ‘fast passes’ planned out and meal plans prepaid. I even spent money on an app to monitor ride lines. Result. No Regrets. Disney is a well oiled machine and a planned out vacation there is a lovely, fun even for the parents, family adventure. We might even go back.

Fourth, our cleaning service. We bring in a housekeeping service every other week. It is an expense that I always felt icky about. I felt awkward when I was home during the time they came. Eventually, I learned to love the housekeeping service.

Clawing back your time every weekend instead of scrubbing toilets is worth the expense. Your time has a price tag, it you can pay it, try it, you won’t regret it.

I would also make an Honorable Mention out of buying reliable cars 1-2 years old with low mileage.

One thing I’ve learned over the years of seeking FI and squirreling away money at every turn, is to remember to spend money once in awhile. Check out my ‘Wish List‘ post or my ‘Crying Over Spilt Money‘ post to see what I mean.

Others have posted their thoughts at; WorkingOptionalFinancialJourneymanKiwiandKeweenawPhysicianonFire

15 thoughts on “Frugal, Not Cheap – Or so I keep telling myself.

  1. Like Smog (was that the dragons name?) you kept Fire and gold close to your heart…I spent some money on a. Tempurpedic and so far so good. It sleeps me and the family quite comfortably. As for Disney, I have not made it with my son yet. Waiting until he is 3 or 4.

  2. Lasik was sooooo worth the cost! I remember hearing an ad on the radio, pulling over to call, and setting up my appointment a few days later. I have always been frugal, but I knew Lasik was a splurge I HAD to do!! I’m glad you felt the same. 🙂

    • I feel so strongly about that decision that I have told no less than 50 people over the years that it was the best money I have ever spent.

      • I had my eyes lasered 15 years ago and I’ve never regretted it. I estimated that it would take about 8 years to break even, so I’m way in front. I’m getting to the stage now of needing reading glasses, seeing as I’m getting elderly, tottering towards the grave… but that’s ok. I can live with reading glasses. I’ve had 15 years of not bumping into things all the time. Winning!

        • The whole holding things farther away so I can read them is weird. I think we are in the same place.

  3. Housekeeping would be on my #1 list of spoils when we reach that point of success (2 million.) For now I’m still really cheap 🙂 I wanted to be part of the chain but I can’t think when I’m not cheap. I…try to reuse paper towels?

  4. You know the more focused on FIRE I have become the less I find things to spend money on. But when I do I search for the best bang for my buck. I was cheap in my younger days, but now purchase items with a good quality to price ratio.

    Still, I do a lot of simple cheap things, your comments have sparked my memory. Yes, I cut away good stamps. Yes, the wife wants to bring the kids to Disney (seems like its for her sake currently) but they are only 2 and 6 months so I tell her they have to be old enough to remember before we go. Yes, we go out to eat but I often have a coupon of some sort and order a water in which I add lemons and sugar to make my own lemonade. That or just water. Also no appetizer, but maybe a dessert.

    Sort of my own little balance between the two.

  5. I have splurged on my bed because you are right, you spend 1/3 of your lives sleeping. I ended up getting a near top of the line sleep # bed and absolutely love it so no regrets. (btw I’ve done the good stamp on an envelop thing too 🙂 )

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