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.
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