Why I’m Not Frugal (Sometimes)

I impulse buy. I don’t mind dropping $40 on Tuesday night drinks. I will randomly decide to gDon't Penny Pinch (All the Time)o out to dinner. I’ll buy the new iPhone when it comes out. I will never coupon. I go weeks without checking my bank or credit card statement. I go out for lunch just about every day at work.

I’m pretty sure I just admitted to breaking every personal finance rule in one paragraph.

So many personal finance sites tout how frugal they are. “I saved $50 on groceries!” just to see in the comments that someone else is claiming to have saved even more on the same products. They cut the cord on cable whereas I just added on more services (football!) and bought a Google Chromecast anyways. It’s kind of ridiculous the lengths people go to lower expenses that don’t need to lower expenses. (That’s a key point is “need.”)

First, let me be clear, I am frugal when it comes to larger ticket items such as rent, cars, clothing, etc. Also noteworthy, I’m debt free and thus not paying incremental interest costs on my purchases.

I live alone and work long hours, so most of the time I am ordering food for dinner as well. I try and cook at least 3 times a week but a lot of the time, it just doesn’t work out. (I think I’m ordering udon noodles tonight in case you were curious.) So with only a couple days left in the month, I pulled up my Mint.com account and in total between groceries, alcohol/bars, and restaurants I have spent a whopping $700 this month. If I back out the “expensive” items that were for special occasions then I spent approximately $500.

I’ll admit that even at $500, this is a lot for me in a given month. If I packed lunches, cooked dinner, and didn’t go out for drinks, then I can easily get this number down to $150. So why don’t I care about saving $350 a month or $4,200 a year (after taxes, mind you)?

Two words: Happiness and simplicity. (“And” doesn’t count!)

First of all, let me tackle lunches which account for approximately $40-$50 a week. It’s not unheard of for people in my profession to work past midnight on occasion. An early night would mean I get home by 7pm. What does this have to do with lunch? Sunshine and socialization! I need to get away from my screens and get outside where I can shoot the shit (that’s the technical term) with the guys over some food.

Now, let’s look at ordering dinner all the time. Assuming I get home by 7pm then I can probably eat by 8:15pm if I have to cook for myself. Conversely, I can order my dinner as I leave the office and it’ll show up to my condo as I do. Win! It’s so much easier and I save the time of prep work, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards. Plus I tend to waste a lot of groceries when do attempt to stick to cooking for a while. Quite frankly, when I get off work I want to sit on the couch, eat and watch mind numbing TV shows since I’m mentally exhausted.

The good news in that my parents are coming to visit in September. Even though its practically the same price to fly (after you factor in all the costs of driving/wear and tear) and much, much faster, they’re still driving and coming fully equipped with a cooler full of individually portioned homemade frozen food! This should help out my September/October spending at least.

Next up is alcohol! Alcohol is not cheap. Alcohol in a big city is especially not cheap. Back home in the southeast, we used to get pitchers of beer for $5. Now I’ve been conditioned to accept paying $5 for a domestic (though I think I get sticker shock around the $8 range for a nicer beer). It’s crazy but it’s the market price in big cities! Who wants to sit around and watch football on the couch all day when you can do it in a bar? It’s fun being a social creature. Again, happiness wins out.

The Bottom Line

I find it hard to rationalize cutting costs to the extreme if you don’t have debt. Your latte really isn’t going to kill your wallet. Nor is your $5 a month Sports Package. This is not to say that I’m going to go out and purchase a $2,000 suit (my last one is from Joseph A. Bank) or buy a brand new car because those are just silly and unnecessary purchases.

But why take away something you enjoy if you don’t need to?

As always, look forward to hearing your thoughts. Did I miss something? See any errors? Discussion in general is always welcome!

29 Responses to Why I’m Not Frugal (Sometimes)

  1. Ha, I’d rather buy the $2,000 suit than having a high food and restaurant budget! Just goes to show how much people differ.

    I understand what you mean by working long hours and not wanting to prepare dinner when you get back. I’m in the same situation a lot of times and it’s hard to start cooking after a long day at work.

    If you’re actively looking to retire early, cutting cable or reducing your food budget can make a big difference, but if that’s not worth it to you, who are we to judge? And I applaud the Chromecast, nifty little device.

    You should do a post on you monthly expenses and savings, should be an interesting read!


    • Jay says:

      I hear you, but if you’re well on track for retirement, then why cut costs that bring enjoyment? It’s not like it’s wasted money! (Also, I probably would spend on the suit but I don’t have to wear suits to work!)


  2. Ben says:

    I agree! Being financially prudent doesn’t mean spending $0 and saving every penny, it means living a financially balanced lifestyle. After putting away for retirement, savings and charitable giving, the rest is mine. I just know that my spending money is limited and therefore make choices to ensure that I maximize my spending money!

    • Jay says:

      Exactly. If I’m comfortable where I am in my retirement goals, then I can splurge some. I’m just lucky and I can sock away enough money, break the budget, and still be ahead of track. A lot of people don’t have that luxury.


  3. Reid says:

    For me personally, every time I’ve tried cutting costs.. I’m able to forgo the occasional small costs, such as money on food here and there, but always keep the large costs that are fewer in number, but make up way more of my discretionary spending.

    • Jay says:

      I agree. I COULD cut those smaller costs. But for me personally, the amount saved isn’t worth the value I place on those activities.

  4. May says:

    I used to feel the way you do but not anymore. I can see FI in the horizon (need a telescope to see it maybe – but it is there) and I want it above all else – so cutting costs feels good and will bring me to my goal that much faster. I have been really surprised at how much of a difference the little changes can make.
    The exception is if I am working hard – and spending will allow me to earn more- then I am happy to do it. With all things there has to be some balance. All work and no play…..

    • Jay says:

      I definitely see your view point. This is why I emphasized that I have no debt. Granted, if I saved an incremental $5k per year at 8% interest, in 30 years I’d have $550k (total investment of $150k). It’s a big chunk of change! I’m not comfortable releasing what I have towards retirement but I’m on path to do it before 60 not including what my fiance will be earning once she finishes grad school. Good luck to you! It’s simply a trade off between earning income later on and living life to the fullest today!


  5. Tennille says:

    Personally, I think it largely depends on where you are in your life. Since you have no one else to answer too (a spouse and kids) then I think you have the freedom to enjoy your foot ball channel and over priced coffee. As long as there is savings included in the amount you spend. However, once you do have a family (in you plan to) then I think things will change.

    For me, I enjoy the hunt for good deals. I think it comes from being raised by a mom who loved to shop the clearance rack (it was a sport to her) and I enjoy the rush I get from saving $100 a month on cutting the cable and streaming our entertainment.

    • Jay says:

      I don’t think it has as much to do with having people to answer to as much as it does being on track. You could be on the same track with kids and thus still be able to enjoy the extra TV channels and expensive coffee. It’s not having a family, it’s simply a matter of if you’re comfortable with where you project to be and with your monthly earning-spending surplus.

  6. I think you’re right, it makes sense for people to spend their money on what they care about. Everyone has their priorities for spending and, as long as it’s in line with someone’s long-term financial goals, makes sense to spend as you see fit. There’s certainly no one-size fits all for personal finance or early retirement!

  7. Pauline says:

    I cook at home because I have time and enjoy it. But other things like cleaning the house and yard work I hire out and don’t mind paying even though I could do it, because it is tedious for me.
    I spend a lot on travel, sometimes take 6 months long trips and won’t change that for the world either. Money is meant to be spent in things of value to you.

    • Jay says:

      Yep. If I had the time, I’d cook! I just can’t come to prep, cook, and clean after getting home so late! I am so jealous of your 6 month trips though, that sounds great.


  8. Kipp says:

    Interesting outlook on your spending Jay. It seems you are in a position where you can currently afford it and know where you can cut back if you change your lifestyle. I guess rather than not do some of the frugal things, maybe just focus on the ones with minimal time effort. Such as cooking in large batches and freeze the leftovers (kind of like your parent’s homemade frozen meals you referred to). Or fermenting your beverages for your at home drinking pleasures. If you haven’t read about that it was on Mr Money Mustache.

    I am not saying you have to change your lifestyle, I am just saying to choose frugal activities where the payoff is high for the amount of time spent.

    • Jay says:

      I know what my problem areas are, if you want to call them that, for sure. If I need to cut back, I can! There should be some enjoyment factor while being frugal. Don’t cut until you’re miserable.


  9. Finally! More voices in personal finance that question frugality. I’ve done this for close to three years. And you know what? When we paid off $160,000 worth of debt in three years by cutting out waste and earning more, some started saying that it doesn’t count because we didn’t suffer (and I still got my expensive haircut). Go figure.

    I say, life is for living and our one duty on this Earth is to leave the planet in a slightly better shape than we found it; or, failing that, not to cause more damage. This is all! I’ve never heard anyone managing to take their money and possessions with them at the end.

    • Jay says:

      People actually said it didn’t count because you didn’t suffer? Are you serious? Those are terrible people that are insecure with their own frugality (or more likely, their intelligence). I agree, life is for the living. Why earn a shit ton of money if you’re not going to spend it?


  10. Sarah says:

    Great post!! I completely agree with this. You have to enjoy life…and quite frankly it’s really hard to enjoy life if you’re counting every penny and never living in the moment. My motto is save, invest, pay bills and do what you want with the rest!
    Sarah recently posted…How to simplify your budget and save more moneyMy Profile

  11. John Green says:

    I can definitely relate on this one. I normally work until midnight and don’t want to think about cooking when I get home so I tend to eat out when I get done that late.

    In my situation, I focus on making more money as opposed to saving all the time. Like you, I am frugal when it comes to large purchases, but I try not to sacrifice living a social life to save a few bucks here and there.
    John Green recently posted…Can You Really Make Money Using Tsu?My Profile

  12. I’m new to your blog. What are your long term goals? Just shoot me the link if you’ve already blogged it. Thanks!

  13. I’m new to your blog. What are your long term financial goals? If you’ve already blogged about it, just share the link. Thanks!

  14. Sage Cincaid says:

    You really put things into perspective for me, with this one. It hasn’t been until lately that I really started to become more frugal with my savings but I still find myslef splurging here and there, as you do. I like in New York City, so that $40 on Tuesday night drinks that you mentioned, can prove to be the cost of just 2 drinks where I’m from, so things can reeeeally add up. I’m definitely getting a little better and fully recognizing the importance of becoming debt free, seeing as how credit cards are the devil and all.

    • Jay says:

      I feel you! Fiance and I had 6 beers total and some sake on happy hour and spent $80 the other night. Brutal but totally worth it. It’s great getting out the house and just talking instead of sitting in front of the TV and trying to talk. The atmosphere is worth it.

  15. Alyssa says:

    This is great. I thoroughly appreciate this post. It’s not often that I end up reading content like this through the PF blog sphere. We each have our own personal finance journey/goals, and if you’ve got it working for you and feel comfortable spending on things that make you happy – go for it! To me, I find a struggle because I’m really not looking to retire at 40.
    I’m such a busy body that I could foresee myself working for quite some time (whether in the office, or at home). I am incredibly comfortable for how much I’m setting aside for retirement to reach my goals (I also have no credit card debt and paid off my student loans), and that doesn’t necessarily include saving 50% of my take home income. Could I do it? Sure. But do I want to take the occasional trip & make an occasional purchase that doesn’t make me feel ridiculously guilty after I do so — yes! So wrapping this up, thank you for being honest! Happiness & simplicity is key.

  16. If you’re not in debt, have the savings you need to be saving, and want to spend money on what’s important to you, it sounds like you’ve got things figured out. They may not be the same choices I’d make, but they don’t need to be, that’s why personal finance is *personal*. Spending with awareness is the key.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Cut Your Cable Bill Without Cutting the CordMy Profile

    • Jay says:

      Agree completely. I think too many people read sites like this and take things to heart as the only way and then get confused when they see alternate view points.

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