Resisting Cheap And Our First Test In Frugality

As we confessed in our post Frugality Is A Choice, Not A Punishment, we were not always frugal. In fact, some might even say that we were the complete opposite of frugal. To us, frugality was associated with being cheapand neither one of us desired being labeled as cheap.

Just the word “cheap” implied that we were inferior, substandard, low-quality, shoddy, and low-end. We assumed that people who viewed us as being cheap would think that we were miserly, stingy, tight-fisted, penny-pinching weirdos. I guess when you really look at it, we were afraid of cheap.

Facing Our Fears 

New and expensive comic books Mr. FE no longer buys!

But, after we had our epiphany we knew that adopting a life of frugality meant that we would need to reach beyond our comfort zone. We knew that in order for us to achieve FIRE, financial sacrifices would have to be made. We also knew that we would be going against mainstream ideology by living below our means.

As we tried to imagine our future, it didn’t take long for us to become overwhelmed by the idea that we were working towards a seemingly distant dream, and would have to be in this for the long haul. These assumptions consumed our thoughts and caused our emotions to go on a roller coaster ride as we tried to imagine how our lives were about to change.

And despite that fact that we were excited about our newfound dream to achieve FIRE, we somehow managed to convince ourselves that in the interim, our lifestyle would suffer tremendously because we would now be forced to give up the luxuries we had become accustomed to. Our minds knew that we wanted this, but our hearts were still steeped in skepticism.

But, eventually we knew that we would have to face our fears and accept our new reality. Therefore, we were forced to digress and embrace the possibility that we may need to concede to being viewed as…that dreaded word…cheap.

Setting the Bar

The first step we took in our attempt to adopt a frugal lifestyle was to figure out which expenses could be reduced or eliminated. Using our bank and credit card statements as a guide, we went through each expense line by line and created a list of items we knew we would have to get rid of. This was a daunting process, and as each expense was added to our list, we realized that this was the moment that we were going to either succeed or fail

We each decided to pick one thing that we believed we couldn’t live without, and try to find a way to either reduce or eliminate that expense. Mr. FE decided to work on his comic book habit, and I decided to try to cure my addiction to Starbucks. We had both picked some ambitious goals right out of the gate, so we knew this would be the real test.

The Comic Book Challenge

Mr. FE’s comic book collection was (and still is) his pride and joy, so he decided the first step should be to create a catalog so he could get a proper assessment of his inventory. It wasn’t an easy chore given that fact that his comic books had taken up our entire spare bedroom. When he finished the project he came to the conclusion that he owned approximately 4,000 comic books.

One of Mr. FE’s stellar trade deals!

Mr. FE then decided to take a couple of days to ponder how he should handle this new quandary. He knew that he didn’t want to give up the hobby he has loved since he was a child, and looked forward to acquiring new reading.

Then Mr. FE came up with a solution. Instead of accumulating more comic books, he decided to make trades. Mr. FE was happy with this compromise because it meant that he could continue to enjoy his hobby without spending a single dime, or adding more comic books to his already bloated collection.

For the comic books Mr. FE couldn’t get by trading, he’ll find on Ebay. That way he can track down what he’s looking for and send an email to the seller to negotiate better deal. Then in order to keep control of his spending he assigned himself a $25.00 monthly allowance. Now instead of dropping an average of $1,800 a year on comic books, he spends $300 or less. Mr. FE succeeded in his challenge to find a frugal alternative.

The Starbucks Challenge

Starbucks wasn’t just a place to enjoy a beverage or two, it was more of a reprieve. My one true salvation to help me deal with the trappings of my 9-5 job. Psychologically, I was addicted to the temporary euphoria and I knew that giving this up wasn’t going to be easy. But knowing that Mr. FE was brave enough to conquer his challenge meant that I needed to at least try to meet mine. So not ready to give up my latte just yet, I set out on a mission to find a replacement for my iced passion tea.

All it took was a couple of key strokes in the Google search engine, and lo and behold what did I see? A box of Tazo iced passion tea for $3.49 at Amazon. Six quarts worth! Then I started to research other retailers and discovered that a seller in our area not only carried this same tea, but that it was on sale for $2.99 a box. Woo hoo!

The ease of this first task came as a complete surprise. For some reason, I had believed that Starbucks had some secret recipe behind their tea, and that it was locked up in a titanium safe in a deep, dark dungeon that only Howard Schultz had access to. I was shocked at just how easy this was. Shocked, I tell you!

Tazo iced passion tea score!

Then came the big one with my much-needed caffeine jolt. First, I tried to give up coffee altogether, but this turned me into something that resembled a grizzly bear and the office joke was to stay away from me until at least noon. So in an effort to redeem myself I reluctantly returned to Starbucks. I decided to consider it as an investment in my career. That was until Mr. FE discovered what I was up to and challenged me to do better.

So my research resumed as a looked for a way to make a quality brew at home. After going through four coffee makers and a lousy pod coffee machine, I eventually struck gold with my $2.99 Melitta Pour-Over cone. Not only did I manage to save a ton of money, but I no longer missed out on my daily trip to Starbucks. Mission accomplished!

The Moment of Truth

After we both conquered our initial goals, we soon realized that frugality was not about being cheap. Yes, frugality is about saving money, but it’s more than that.

It’s about finding more efficient ways to manage your life.

Mr. FE discovered how much easier it was to have a catalog of his comic books, and he looked forward to the challenge of making a worthwhile trade.

By making my own coffee and tea, I had spent less on gas and had freed up a substantial amount of time from standing in long lines, and then I found a new way to channel work stress by taking an afternoon stroll during my lunch hour.

Soon we experienced a domino effect as we started to apply our new skills to other areas. We both noticed that the quality of our lives improved dramatically. We became obsessed with frugality and no longer cared about how other people viewed us, nor did we care if they thought we were cheap. For us, we were proud of the fact that we had finally conquered our fears.

Do you believe that there is a fine line between frugal and cheap? Which side of the fence do you think you fall on? 


26 thoughts on “Resisting Cheap And Our First Test In Frugality

  1. ” It’s about finding more efficient ways to manage your life” THIS exactly. When faced with a choice I always consider the expensive and convenient route first, but then take five minutes to figure out the alternative. Generally the more frugal alternative will win and I feel proud of myself for figuring it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice work guys. I believe it’s a grey line, rather than a fine one. Items that Mrs. IS and I are not willing to buy, may be someone else’s purpose in life. I think something so individual is very much a grey line. We try to spend intentionally, and pay up for quality if the item is something we need. It has served us well so far. Hopefully it will in the future as well.

    I hope you guys have a great week!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Bryan! That’s an interesting way of looking at it. We like how you spend *intentionally* and focus on quality. It sounds like you guys have found a system that works well for you.
      Hope you enjoy your week as well! 😃


  3. There is definitely a line, and you will find out (eventually) when you cross it – mostly in buying crappy products based solely on price that break right away

    I mostly fall on the frugal side, at least when it comes to any significant purchase – the cheap side takes over when looking for commodity goods – most of those products are the same to me

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny how you say that because we tried taking a short cut on buying a couch, and it was made so cheaply that we will never try that again!
      It sounds as though you have achieved a perfect balance between frugal and cheap.


  4. You can call me frugal all you want, but calling me cheap is using “fighting words”. There is definitely a difference. Frugal implies you are being mindful of your spending with a purpose. Cheap is just plain bad!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. To me, “frugal” is being careful with how you spend your money. “Cheap” is separating your two-ply toilet paper into single ply to make it last, or taking 30 packets of ketchup from a fast food restaurant so you don’t have to buy your own bottle from the store. Frugality is focused on self-reliance; cheap-ness is focused on mooching off others for your needs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really like the spin on being frugal. I definitely agree that it is more a way of life. All my frugal habits are directly stemmed from wanting to achieve FIRE and although I tend to cut costs when I can, I wouldnt consider myself to be cheap at all. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think we worried about the very same things, we don’t want to be cheap, we want to spend money to have awesome stuff! Well, that soon ended and not painfully either. I can safely say that cutting our spending and being more thoughtful about how we spend has not negatively impacted us. Quite the opposite, we now get a lot of satisfaction from thinking through a problem or purchase rather than just throwing money at it. It really is quite a change in mindset.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great how you discovered the same thing as we did, that the quality of life actually improves once we focus on what we really want in our lives. It’s nice to hear that you are on the same page!


  8. I’m definitely not cheap. I spend money and time on things that I value. I also question what I and the broader culture assign value to. I check in to see if I’m doing something because I want to or for some other reason. Being a lesbian actually helps a lot here. Most normative things don’t fit my life and don’t appeal to me. “Sorry, I can’t buy these expensive heels that hurt, lesbians have more freedom in footwear.” In all earnestness, stepping away from what is viewed as typical to create what works for my heart has been so freeing. I hope more people find such freedom from compulsion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Advertising can be very persuasive so that’s great how you are able to separate the difference. Awesome! Love that you have gone sans heals! I gave them up years ago and have never looked back. I am sure that surrounding yourself with what matters most to you makes a big difference in the quality of your life.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I would not want to be thought of as cheap but I’m proud to say I’m frugal. I think it depends on the item, eg I’m not a coffee addict so I don’t value that so much. I do struggle with presents especially for those outside my immediate family – they can add up and they might spend say $50 on my child so I don’t want to be ‘cheap’ by not reciprocating.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Congrats and well done to both of you making that change. You have saved many thousands over the rest of your lives 🙂

    I agree with your definition of frugal, for us I’d describe it as trying to get the same/best result for as good value as possible. Cheap is definitely the wrong word for it, I wouldn’t be offended because I know they’re describing it wrong and we’ve gotten exactly what we wanted.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Tristan! We have saved a ton of money by making these lifestyle changes. 🙂 You seem to have a firm understanding of frugal vs. cheap. We’re envious of the fact that you aren’t offended by being referred to as cheap. Maybe one day we’ll get to that point! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. 4000 comics! Can I come over 🙂 When I left for college I left my comics with my parents – I had about 200-300. When my parents moved the boxes of comics vanished. My childhood died that day.

    As a guy who put Cheap in the title of my blog, I definitely know the fine line between cheap and frugal. I’ll own the word cheap because that’s what people think on the surface, but I believe I’m really frugal. Ramit Sethi says “Spend lavishly on the things you love, and cut mercilessly on the things you don’t”. I spent $300+ on wrestling tickets not too long ago. WRESTLING! Cheap people don’t do that.

    While there are times that I cheap out and get the generic products (Kirkland shoes – horrible idea), I do feel I spend my money on what I value most. So I won’t go out to eat everyday for lunch not because I’m cheap, but because I’d rather spend that money taking my family out to dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Come on over! Lol!:) So sorry to hear about the lost comic books. You can always track them down again. Mr. FE gave away a bunch of boxes with He Man comics years ago and now wishes he had kept them. He’s been tracking them down one by one. He even collects the He Man toys. In fact, as I sit here and write this, I have this weird evil looking He Man creature staring right at me. Let’s hope these things don’t come alive at night like the movie Toy Story!:)

      Wrestling tickets are definitely not cheap! Mr. FE used to pay about the same when he went to those events in Boston. He now watches his wrestling on YouTube or cable which is why we still pay for cable. It it were up to me, I would have cancelled cable years ago. Great quote by Ramit Sethi by the way!

      We buy mostly generic products also. Kirkland is usually a good quality, so that’s surprising about the shoes. Although now that I think of it, we did return some shoes last year that Mr. FE didn’t like. It sounds like you have your priorities straight on where your money should be spent, and I agree, you are definitely more frugal than cheap!:) – Mrs. FE

      Liked by 1 person

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