Hot Dog Theory

Unheeded Advice

OG2: My Father in Law was a great guy. There were many lessons he shared that are just now clicking with us. He shared with my wife and I the whole low cost index Vanguard fund thing back in the late 90s. Boy, we sure did whiff on that one. I suppose we simply weren’t ready to hear it. Maybe if he had whipped out the compounding interest chart, it may have clicked. Or maybe not. Nonetheless, he understood and followed this simple path to wealth for himself. He also always preached about reliable Hondas and hanging on to them forever. We actually adhered to this notion. 


He worked extremely hard in his career and compiled a comfortable life prior to his  premature passing at the time my wife was pregnant with our second child. He wasn’t one for handouts, but was generous in the day to day things in life. My wife and I were always welcome to hang out at his house for a weekend for free food, drinks and premium cable channels. Which, at the time, was a welcome relief from the broke-ness that was our M-F existence at the start of our careers. We were always welcome to vacation with him, whether that was sharing a hotel room in Florida or a bedroom in the house he rented for the week on Hilton Head Island. It was understood that we had to make our own way financially, but he would be there for the small stuff.


On one such vacation in a major metro area, we were all sightseeing when lunch time rolled around. We decided the fastest and least expensive thing to do was hit a hot dog cart. The vendor wanted $4 for a dog. My FiL recoiled at the notion and moved one. He mumbled for nearly 15 minutes about he wasn’t going to pay $4 for a hot dog. We ended up sitting down at a restaurant for lunch that day and probably spent 4 times that amount on the meal. He didn’t flinch when the bill came. I sat there, puzzled, as he refused to pay for an ‘expensive’ hot dog, but didn’t think twice about spending so much more for some alternative choice.

The idea is simple. There are certain things, no matter the logic, that you refuse or have a lot of difficulty spending money on. For my Father in Law, it was paying for a relatively expensive hot dog.

At FinCon this past September, Ramit Sati was one of the keynote speakers. His general principle of ‘Spend lavishly on the things you love and cut ruthlessly on everything else’ really spoke to me. You can see that talk above. As you can see, he polled a few folks in the audience to gauge what they are willing to spend lavishly on. Those willing, shared their love to spend on travel, boots, care for dogs and yes, even Pasta!

The Hot Dog Theory is on the opposite end of the ‘spend lavishly’ spectrum. It is NOT about what you won’t spend money on, but rather things you purchase, but HATE spending money on. For me, it’s clothes and shoes. It’s born from equal parts that I don’t like to shop and clothing/shoes tend to be expensive, then stained, ripped or worn out so quickly. Let alone so few seem to fit just right.

Observing my upbringing, it would make sense that my willingness to spend on clothing should be the opposite. I never had name brand anything growing up. When ‘Jams’ were all the rage in middle school, I had some knockoff looking purple pair that my mom made, elastic scrunchy waistband and all. I didn’t have my first golf/polo shirt until my early 20s. I still vividly remember it’s Forrest Green color. Just one. Yet, I still can’t stand to shop for clothes. What I have learned to be ‘ok’ with, is spending on quality. My golf shirts generally come from Brooks Brothers and are all around 10 years old. These are my standard work shirts. The same goes to my dress shirts. I’ll admit, I rarely wear these, so it goes to figure that they would last. The point is, these shirts aren’t inexpensive. But their quality is undeniable. I think the only ones I’ve let go are those that have faded due to washing, over the course of a decade.

It wasn’t until two years ago I realized that part of my hatred for spending money on shoes had to do with that they didn’t fit until I ‘broke them in’. For decades I wore size 11 shoes, which were a size too big in length, but were tolerable in width. Turns out, I should have been wearing 4E width shoes when I had them digitally measured at a running store.. The availability of that size is very limited, but oh my goodness, what a difference it makes. My youngest has been saddled with this burden as well. Yet, I still pucker when I ring up purchase, whether in person or online, when buying clothes and shoes.


Another facet is probably that I’m a gym shorts, tshirt and flip flops kind of guy. This is my uniform at home, year round. I don’t care how cold it is outside. You can catch me checking the mail in February, in uniform. 


With Ramit, he openly encourages you to discuss what you joyously spend lavishly on. Within the FIRE community, we tout where we are frugal. But for those things you do spend money on, which things cause you the most angst?

What’s your Hot Dog?

This Post Has 5 Comments

    1. Can’t argue with that one.

  1. High quality Korean skincare products!

    1. We’ll have to look into that.

  2. At the risk of offending the Internet: Spousal Unit & I have a problem with tipping for things we can do ourselves & didn’t want done for us to begin with, like certain grocery chains that force you to have a bagger walk out to the car with you. We grew up poor (by American standards), always did everything for ourselves, and ppl want to jump in our way, slow us down, and then get paid for it? Just, why???

    [This does not mean we’re poor tippers at restaurants, or when we have willingly asked for assistance, such as curbside check-in with really heavy bags.] But tipping for things we didn’t even want done for us – that’s our hotdog.

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