I am Frugal, not Cheap

While my wife likes to tell people that I am cheap, I am just frugal.  I don’t like to spend money.  When I must spend it, it is like saying good-bye to a close friend.  Well, that might be a bit dramatic, but it honestly does sting some when we part ways.

When I do spend money, I seek out value.  I want the best quality product at the lowest price.  In the past, there have been times when I bought the lowest priced product, but the quality was not there.  Most of the products that I bought based on being the lowest price did not last long and had to be replaced.  I follow the German phrase: Weniger aber besser.  In English, that translates to: Less but better.

The internet has made finding value easier.  I am a big fan of reading product reviews.  I find that Amazon is a good starting point for most products because they seem to sell almost everything.  Amazon also tends to have the best price on many items.  When I am looking to buy a product,  I like to read 10 or 15 reviews and try to verify that the review was made by someone who bought the product.

I am a brand loyalist.  After I find a brand or product that I like, I stick with it unless they make changes that reduce the quality.  Two areas of where I display frugality by shopping for high quality at the best price are cars and clothing.

Since I live in Pennsylvania and use my car for work, I need a high-quality vehicle that is good in all weather.  A few years ago, I was in the market for a new car.  My Honda Civic had 212K miles on it and the clutch was shot.  I decided that I wanted to buy a Subaru Legacy.

When I started looking, I knew I wanted a certified used car, so I would not get hit with the depreciation costs.  I searched a 25 miles radius from my zip code on Cars.com.  One-year-old Premium models were selling for $24K with over 25K miles on them.

I decided to expand my search, I changed the search radius to 150 miles.  I found a one-year-old certified Legacy at a dealer in Philadelphia for $19,500 and it had only 9K miles on it.  We drove 2 hours to Philadelphia and traded in the Honda for the Subaru.  That car now has 130K miles on it and I will keep it for 3 more years.

I am not a clothes horse or a fancy guy.  My job requires that I dress business casual.  My position involves interaction with the public at career events, universities, and health care centers.  I don’t have to wear a suit, but I do have to look presentable.

For shoes, I have found that Johnson and Murphy are my favorite.  If you are not familiar with this brand, you might get sticker shock when you see the price.  However, I only buy them when they are on sale or at the discount outlets.  I will pay up to $100 for shoes that retail for over $150.  The reason that I am willing to pay $100 for these shoes is that they last.  I get 5-6 years out of them and they are comfortable.

For pants, I like Eddie Bauer.  I will not pay full price at the retail store.  Their website frequently has good sales on the athletic cut that I wear.  Just like with Johnson and Murphy shoes, these pants last a long time.  I don’t mind spending $50 on a pair of pants that will last 7-8 years of frequent wear.

For shirts, the Jos. A. Bank wrinkle-free travelers are my favorite.  Again, I will not pay full retail.  I wait until they have 3 for $99 and buy them then.  $33 for a wrinkle-free dress shirt is a good price.  These shirts are also long lasting and do not have to be ironed.

There are many other examples of how I am frugal and not cheap that I could write about.  For big-ticket electronics, I try to wait until Cyber Monday.  For sporting goods, I buy out of season.  For groceries, my wife used to cut coupons, but now we shop at Aldi.  For investing, we only use low-cost index funds.

While I have always been frugal, I am always looking for ways to get more for less.  By nature, I like to optimize.  Since I have officially joined the financial independence community, I have become even more motivated to reach financial independence by stretching our money even further.  The next frontier that I am planning on studying and implementing is travel hacking.

Please check out the “Frugal, not Cheap Challenge” chain gang:

10 thoughts on “I am Frugal, not Cheap

  1. Pingback: Frugal, Not Cheap - Or so I keep telling myself - OthalaFehu's Blog

  2. Mrs. Kiwi @ KiwiAndKeweenaw.com

    I love product reviews, but sometimes spend too much time going down the rabbit hole trying to find the perfect balance of price and great review! Fortunately, I don’t buy much stuff new. We are also very brand loyal and love Keens shoes. They last at least a year with everyday use and can go on sale for 50% off online! We each get two pairs when they do, then no shoe shopping for our house for a while!

    1. thefinancialjourneyman Post author

      Hi Mrs. Kiwi,

      Thanks for the comment.

      You are right, you don’t want to waste too much time looking for the best blend of price and value.

      I have a pair of Keens that I use for Kayak Fishing.

      They are great quality shoes that hold up well when used for outdoor sports.

  3. Ms99to1percent

    Hi Dave,

    You seem to know how to spot good quality like those pants that last 7-8 years of frequent wear!!! I’m happy if mine last a couple of years 🙂

    Not sure why your wife calls you cheap, but you don’t seem cheap at all, unless you left out something hahahaha

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  5. MrFireby2023

    We have so much in common taste-wise, its scary. Johnston & Murphy is the only shoe brand I buy, and always at the outlet mall. I love Eddie Bauer jeans, my slacks are always Hagger, you should give them a try. Shirts in my closet? Again, like you, Jos A. Bank. Same with sweaters and sport coats, same retailer. I guess this is all on account of us guys being simple AND loyal to our brands.
    I consider myself also frugal. The compromise I made was with watches. For my wrist I purchased a pre-owned Rolex Submariner. I believe in living a frugal lifestyle but I also believe in never being in a state of want. I had wanted one for many years and finallly decided “to heck with it” and pulled the trigger. I have no regrets and make no apologies for the one time splurge.


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