I am fascinated by shopping habits, financial spending, and basic consumer behavior. I discuss this with friends, family, co-workers, and strangers. And I have learned that I am weird, and my spending habits are a bit of an outlier. Basically, I am frugal, but in weird ways that separate me from the coupon cutters and other stereotypical groups depicted on TV.
What I “give up” by being frugal:
We moved out of and sold our larger home with pool, hot tub, large back yard, and “extra” rooms. We now live in a much smaller home that perfectly fits our household. Our small home requires less furniture, less electricity to heat & cool, and less time cleaning it. The smaller back yard has less patio furniture and a smaller water bill due to desert landscaping and less grass, and we do not pay landscaper or pool maintenance. The smaller house is the most cost saving change and makes the most impact to monthly budget and unplanned expenses.
Zero or low car payments. I buy cars for (mostly) cash then keep them an average of 7 years. As the cars “age” registration and insurance drop significantly. Typically, I buy a car 1-3 years old (and get the extended warranty), and let someone else pay the depreciation. My current car was a Phoenix Open “demo” model. Meaning that it was parked at the event with a sign advertising the car & dealership, driven a total of 300 miles, then significantly reduced with full original warranty. I paid a large cash down payment and financed the balance for zero percent interest.
All credit cards are zero balance. I use these like charge cards, earn points or cash back, and pay off the balance every month. I will pay an annual fee for better rewards and services, but I will not pay interest to a credit card for borrowing money. The annual fees that I pay cover extended warranty on purchases, roadside assistance, access to airline lounges, travel upgrades, cash back/gift card rewards, and other services that provide greater value to me than the annual fee charged. Last year our vacation was “paid” through frequent flier miles & hotel points that get a healthy boost from linked credit card purchases, and other shopping rewards points paid for a new refrigerator.
Limited passive entertainment budget. I make one annual trip to the movies (or less). This year I had a couple free passes to the local movie theatre, so I shared my extra pass with a friend and only paid for a bottle of water in the theatre. I do not subscribe to Cable TV or any kind of satellite service. Instead, we have high-speed internet at the house and Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime for streaming movies and TV shows. We save about $1,200 annually on movies & TV and have more than enough content available.
We own one TV. We finally broke down and purchased a flat screen TV several years ago after many years of owning a 17 inch CRT. We will keep this TV for many more years before we consider replacing it with a newer, bigger TV. In general, big ticket electronic purchases are few and far between. The average US household spends $1,380 annually on consumer electronics – we spend that every 5 years (maybe). The old TV found a new home, and did not simply move to another part of the house, it is gone. We save on cost of ownership, but keeping electronics longer and having fewer of them reduces the electric bill. I also spend less time in front of the TV, and more time being active.
Less clutter in general. Again this speaks to the small home, and I spend very little money on décor, decorations, “dust collectors”, and miscellaneous crap to clutter my home. Most of the items in our home have a specific function. We have a few select pieces of art work, a few overflowing bookcases, and a tiny collection of DVDs. When I do buy the rare DVD, I prefer Digital since they are usually less expensive and there is nothing physical to store. I frequently buy used books and often resale them when finished. When I commuted downtown via mass transit, I would read about 1 book per week, so I borrowed books from the library (for free). All of this saves money and space (which also saves more money).