Categories: Intelligent ConsumerismSaving Money

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:

thefinancialjourneyman :Deciding to be free: My Journey toward financial independence

View Comments (9)

  • Thanks for joining in, we are big fans of discounts too! It is so amazing to find things 50, 60, or even 80% off sometimes!

  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

    • That is something.

      I don’t mind paying more for products that last.

      It sounds like you have a very nice watch.