Frugality. It’s the centerpiece of the journey to financial independence. You simply spend less money so you can invest it, and let those dollars grow via compounding interest. Or, if you’re like me, you diversify some of those savings and buy a few rental properties.
Along the way, you make a number of sacrifices in order to grow your savings. The trick is two-fold. One: Avoid keeping up with the Joneses. And two: occasionally appreciate the finer things in life, but with a heavy dose of frugality.
What is it about those “finer things in life”, anyhow?
You’d think that once you’ve read your Mr. Money Mustache twice through, you’d have fully converted to full-time stoicism on two wheels. You know, sell the car, move next door to work, hitchhike to Costco as needed. Never leave the house unless it’s to drop the kid off to school or for a reader meet-up…
But seriously, Pete makes incredibly useful points, in post after post. Essentially, it’s fleeting as fuck to get caught up in buying useless crap to fulfill yourself.
Part of what got me into trouble in my 20s and 30s was an over-appreciation for the finer things in life. I bought my first (and only) $1,000 watch, just a few weeks before getting laid off. That was choice.
I’d go out for lunch at bar and grill sit-down restaurants a couple times a week (on days I didn’t buy lunch in the office cafeteria.) My co-worker and friend called these “Hollywood lunches.” And he should know, he once worked in Hollywood.
I’d go to the mall seemingly every other weekend to shop around and buy nice clothes. Brand names that never go on sale. Can’t have enough Polo shirts and dockers, right?
I blame part of this on the stodgy workplace dress code at that time. The Mad Men code, that required dress shirts and ties. My much smarter colleague from Tinseltown would simply wear his hiking apparel, with a knit tie to meet code. He looked like a tent attending the governor’s ball.
One of the nice things about being a tech support guy, is you get first dibs on decommissioned PCs from the work. Once a PC was written off the books, we could bring it home for personal use. So even though I still had a car payment, student loans, and a Hollywood lunch addiction, I avoided a major expense on my computer.
That was then, this is now
These days, I avoid shopping malls like the plague. Not a big fan. I live in the town where the Mall of America resides, drawing in millions year after year. Many from overseas, just to SHOP. I’ll admit, we occasionally take the kids there to enjoy Nickelodeon Universe, but typically on Grandma and Grandpa’s dime. God, we’re cheap.
I’m no longer into fancy watches or clothes either. My mainstays are Marshalls and the Banana Republic outlet. The latter’s stuff is often pretty reasonably priced and quality-made. And bonus, Banana Republic’s threads fit skinny guys (like me) pretty damn well.
At lunchtime, you won’t find me at Champp’s (that’s how it’s spelled, folks) anymore. Nope. You’ll find me at my cube tucking into reheated leftovers. If I’m hitting the cafeteria once every other week, it’s typically to get an oversized cup of chili (dense in calories and only three bucks.) Hollywood lunches, get behind me!
My penchant for gadgetry has diminished as well. You might have read that I keep an ancient laptop in service, so that I might indulge you with luminous prose a couple times a week. My iPhone is an iteration 6. The iPad is a dinosaur model 3. And our life couldn’t be better. Though I still occasionally get wistful, longing for a 55″ TV for when the kids are old enough to screen Star Wars.
Where are the finer things in life to be found?
So now you’re wondering, “What the heck does Cubert consider a ‘finer thing’??” When it comes down to it, the finer things in life are not high-dollar, fatFIRE luxuries. Far from it. The finer things are durable, and often immaterial things. Not stuff you plunk down major coin to wear out and throwaway like Kleenex.
For example, with clothes, I’ve kept the same three suits in circulation for ages. I do try my darndest to keep in shape, to avoid any further tailoring. (Friggin’ co-worker suck-up doughnuts!)
I keep my shoes in shoe trees and buff and polish them by hand a couple times a year. If a heel wears out, I get the heel replaced at the shoe repair shop (they still exist!) I’ll indulge in getting dress shirts from Marshall’s tailored, since they fit like parachutes off the shelf. Unless you’re carrying a big belly, you need to bring in the sides, or you risk looking like a walking airbag.
With food, sure I’m eating leftovers, but it’s based on whole foods, prepared at home by chef de cuisine, Mrs. Cubert. We will indulge in the fabulous local restaurant scene here in Minneapolis, but never more than once a week.
As hard as my lovely wife works in the kitchen all week long, the reward of enjoying a nice meal at a nice restaurant is an indulgence well worth it. Don’t argue with me on that. I will win.
When it comes to travel, we have limited options. Mainly because we’re still working and also because the kiddos are in school. Still, we manage to fly off to Nevada once a year using points to stay at the in-laws. We’ll take a couple of road trips to visit grandparents in Michigan or family in Nebraska.
When travel becomes a “finer thing” is when the Mrs. and I jet off for a few days, while the grandparents hang back to watch the kids. We’ll probably drop upwards of $1,000 for the privilege, but we manage to fly ourselves out, and our in-laws in, using credit card miles. Once a year? Totally within the budget.
Sip some champagne and dip into that caviar. We’ve got more finer things to serve up.
My list of the obvious (and frugal) finer things in life
We’ve covered a few of the basics already. There’s so much to life that we have the privilege to enjoy in this country, and typically at low or no cost.
- Coffee. You may have to invest a few hundred bucks to get a decent burr grinder. But once you have that bad-boy and a humble Aero Press, homemade coffee of the gods is at your fingertips.
- Cycling to work. Didn’t see this one coming? Tell you what: Try it once. Let me know if your state of mind doesn’t do a 180 degree flip like mine. While riding, you think up new ideas and creativity flows much easier. When you’re driving, you’re quite honestly a zombie soaking in NPR pledge week.
- Craft beers and local tap rooms. What amazing times we live in. Growing up, my poor elders had to settle for swill like Stroh’s, PBR, and Miller High Life. Might as well have added yellow food coloring to seltzer water and called it “beer.” The perfect cocktail? Check!
- Travel to foreign countries. We currently stick to domestic trips but are hankering for something more exotic. When we travel to a faraway place, it’ll be with bonus miles, and accommodations by local friends.
- Reading by a peaceful body of water. Lucky for us, we live in a city with beautiful public-accessible lakes. Granted, we have to bite down on a stick during the long winters.
- Boating. Just don’t ever buy a boat. Rent one with a crew of friends for the day. Repeat maybe once or twice per summer.
- Dining al fresco. At home.
- Live performances. It’s not too difficult to find fairly cheap or free local bands or plays, or even comedy acts. Especially if you live in a sizable metropolitan area.
- Walks around the neighborhood. Taking a walk is so underappreciated but so good for the soul and your body.
- Cards against Humanity with good friends. Friends who are not easily offended.
Final thoughts on “finer things”
Is a life of frugal luxury something you’ve already mastered? Please share in the comments below! And enjoy (and reflect on) the long holiday weekend, everyone. Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, so we could enjoy the freedom to pursue the finer things in life.