Frugality: Stopping Short like Frank Costanza

The OGs are both feet (well 4 feet) into the FI pool. Going headlong into all of the pillars. One of which is frugality. However, we soon discovered there are certain things that we won’t skimp on. For those, we’re stopping short on like Frank Costanza.

 

One of the regular conversations with FI frugality is how much is too much. You can read about early retirement extreme or some other minimalist sites about how far you can go to cut your spending down to dust.There was even a video floating around the interwebs about a guy who didn’t pay for anything. This was roundly dismissed by the masses, but it does demonstrate how far one can go to be frugal. Maybe eggs three meals a day that come from your own egg producing chickens, accompanied by some self-sustained hydroponic farm would be one of the cheapest ways to feed your family. I’ll go out on a limb and say most FIers wouldn’t be willing to do that. From limited clothes, no vehicle, tiny homes or being mindful of your carbon footprint, there are no shortage of ideas on how to be more frugal.

 

Smaller items

The hairstylist was one of the big items that we thoughtfully determined wouldn’t be pruned when looking through a frugal lens, even though we fell into a way to cut costs. But there have been a litany of areas that we chose not to take the most frugal path.

  • Dawn dishwashing liquid: We went with the cheapest thing available and it simply didn’t do the job.
  • Clothing detergent: Similar to the Dawn, the cheap substitute just has a fragrance I couldn’t live with. I would describe it as ‘it smelled cheap’. So, we went back to the Costco Kirkland brand we used previously.
  • Baby wipes: Quality counts when wiping that rear end. Plus, we don’t dig the fragrances of other brands lingering on our hand even after you’ve washed them. It’s strictly the Kirkland no-scent brand for us.
  • Non-Dairy Creamer: Mrs. OG2 couldn’t find anything better to replace the Nutpods she’s been using for the past couple of years. So, no el cheapo powerdery stuff for her.

Do the Doo

OG2: Practically speaking, I have limits. But this one is all about Mrs. OG2 and her hair. This is one area previous to a FI lifestyle, that I never argued over the cost. We’re talking nearly $300. I’ve always viewed this as much as a business expense as well as a necessity. Ironically, she’s always complained about the cost, even before FI. Understand, she travels for work 50% of the time and is very dedicated to that job when she’s working from home. With work and family duties she has made nasty habit of not even scheduling appointments for her hair. Yes, the standard cut and color. Any of you acquainted with beauty parlors or salons know that appointments are usually made a month or two in advance. It’s the exact opposite of OG2 strolling into the Hair Cuttery with no appointment and rolling out 30 minutes later with a #2 on the sides & back and #8 on top, with no care if the back is square or rounded.

 

With her busy schedule and uncertain travel, even when she DID make an appointment in advance she frequently couldn’t keep it due to an ever changing schedule. This led to frantic attempts to ‘cover the grays’ with a cheap box of a female version of Just for Men at the last minute, the night before she headed out for the airport. Although frugal, OG2 was not pleased to see his wife go from his beautiful bride to someone competing for an Eddie Munster look alike contest.

Then one afternoon while scrolling through social media I saw a post by a mutual friend who was showing off her new doo and thanking the stylist who came to her house. AH-HA! I pinged the friend, got the contact info for the stylist and gave her a ring. Now fellas, I’ll warn you right here… there’s a whole lot of information exchanged at a salon that we are never privy to. I’m not talking about which neighbor is shacking up with the a Danielle Steele cover model. No, there are color codes, styles, methods to cutting, blow drying and probably the formula for Classic Coke. When I got on the phone with the stylist to make an in home appointment for my wife, she laid all of these questions on me. Not to be deterred, I conferenced in my wife via a three way call. Yes, we were in the same house while having this call. My wife answered all the questions, found an opening on her calendar and the appointment was made. Viola! OG2 was making brownie points.

 

The appointed date came, the stylist arrived and when I got home from work that evening my wife was beaming ear to ear. Not only did she love her doo, she was able to continue working on conference calls while the stylist was doing her thing. To top it off, the cost was half of what she normally paid when she was actually able to keep an appointment at the salon. Accidental FI wins all around. Lower cost, efficient and a happy wife. OG2 is popping some corks with this one. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t quite fit the post’s theme, but the savings were just a bonus.

OG1: As with all things, there are limits.   OG2 is a vastly better planner than I am so our direction might be similar but our paths are not.  Yours are likely different as well. Funny enough, it seems that my wife and I are choosing to run into the limits rather than define them.  Our current approach is to simply cram as much into savings as possible and then let reality back us off. Why is that?

That approach may seem more passive than it really is.  First, we needed to make a major course correction to get onto a great path versus an ordinary path. Second, life brought us a LOT of unexpected things for the end of 2018.  There will be time to examine limits in 2019.

When we started on our path to FI, we focused on the basics of getting as much into our tax-advantaged accounts as possible.  Next we started to keep track of expenses and cut anything that seemed able to be cut or minimized in the short term. From there, we realized that we were in a short term state of flux and would be living off savings more than a paycheck while most of the pay went into the 401Ks, Roth, HSA, etc.  The REAL start for our planned finances was Jan 2019 and our first pay with fixed savings.

That is where we are at now.  I actually get paid just once a month, so today is the day of my first pay for 2019 and the first opportunity to see where the dust settled out.  We calculated all of our fixed expenses and it seems we should still be fine and possibly even able to save more without dramatic changes. Though I will admit to a lunch conversation with my wife where she suggests we are going to be very tight if we stick to things as they are, my own interpretation of the numbers shows we have some room.   So where are the limits to FI as we understand them?

Personal comfort seems to be a significant boundary for us.  We don’t like being cold or eating shitty food…and I’m not surrendering my beer.  My wife has a few luxury items that make her happy and I’m not about to impact those. They cost a couple hundred dollars per year total.   Like OG2, our soaps and cleaners were chosen because they do the job we want done, so we aren’t changing there either. Funny enough, my wife changed our shower soap recently and I used it once…I hated how it felt on my skin, so back to Dove.

The coming months will finally bring a stability to our cash flow and I’m looking forward to seeing where things go.  I suspect we will finally find some defined boundaries where we maximize our savings but further understand where living our lives in a quality manner has more value than saving another dollar.

 

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