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Frugal with a twist

Last Updated on June 17, 2019 by Mr. FightToFIRE

Just like most people trying to achieve FIRE, I encounter the occasional jab regarding my way of living or at least how “I’m being cheap”.
I just don’t like throwing my money through the window every day and if I can save money by being more mindful I will do, i.e., being frugal.

I consider myself a frugal person, though it’s not as “bad” as the people perceive it to be. While it’s correct that I do watch how I spend my money, there are a few instances where I tend to splurge or at least don’t mind spending more money:

  • Health
    • Food
    • Sports
  • Holidays

These four points can become quite expensive. The reason why people still think I’m “cheap” is most likely because these are activities or things I do that don’t impact others or aren’t as visible to others. People tend not to see how much you spend on vacation after all.

But regardless of the type of expense, I spend most on. If there is one thing you should take away from this, it’s that it boils down to getting value/quality for your money.
I’m just less strict on the aforementioned points and I’m quicker to spend more on a smaller increment in improved quality.

(more after the image)

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten
The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten - Benjamin Franklin

Keeping up with the Joneses

Before getting into the four points mentioned where I really tend to splurge I should clarify my understanding of the quality-price heuristic. There are quite a few studies that show it’s not as clear cut (Obermiller, 1998). It can depend on a number of things and price is just the clearest and well know one.

Shoes maketh the man

Take shoes as an example. My friend buys cheap sneakers/shoes of €30 that last him, at best, about 3 months. The soles are thin, and the footbed flexes in all directions. The material the shoes are made off is fabric instead of leather. I, on the other hand, have 3 pairs of shoes costing about €250/pair. They are Goodyear welted and are made of full grain calve’s leather with a sturdy sole.

I’ve known my colleague for 7 years now, and I’m certain from experience and talking to him that the average life of his shoes is around those 3 months. My shoes are still good (though obviously show wear).

Leather shoes
a pair of quality leather shoes is always a good purchase and will last you years if well maintained.

A quick calculation learns that I spend €800 (incl. two repairs) in these 7 years. This includes two repairs to make the as new. His expenses?
4 x €30 pair every year = €120/year on shoes x 7 = € 840 and that’s excl. other indirect effects like the comfort I have compared to his very flimsy support.
I can honestly say that I have saved money compared to him AND have had more comfortable walkers.

Does this example proof you get what you pay for? To a certain extent. I pay for the high-quality leather, the sturdier soles, the better stitching, the overall support and yes, the brand. The exact opposite can be proven as well, just look at Apple. No, not their laptops, they are actually fairly priced. I’m talking about the accessories.

Overpriced accessories

Apple sells quite a few extras which are sometimes needed to make full use of your main product. Their USB‑C-to-HDMI-adapter is the prime example. Yes, minimum quality is required but you can get a similar adapter that will work exactly the same and will be just as sturdy for half the price.

This isn’t to dis Apple. They were the ones that first came to mind. There are numerous other examples. You have brands that specialize in overpriced accessories that offer no proven benefit. You literally pay for the label.

Once again, this is mainly to show that the price-quality heuristic isn’t so straightforward and why I take my time when I want to buy something. I don’t want to be a mindless consumer, trying to keep up with the Joneses (White, 2014).

The not-so-frugal expenses

My health

Let us get to the most important thing of all, health (Maslow, 1943). If there is one thing I really don’t skimp out on, then it’s this.

Be it my physical or mental(!) health, I do my best to have it in optimum condition. At times this is not easy but by making sure the basics are checked I hope to prevent major issues for a long, long time. I try to get 8 hours of sleep per day and when it comes to food and sports I’m less picky about how much things costs.


Let’s get into the meat of how I try to maintain good health: the food. You can get a lot of cheap food from stores such as Lidl and Aldi and they are a perfect alternative to the branded items. There one food item in particular that you are better of paying more for: Meat (red, white, fish).

I mention this because plumping (as this technique is called) is something a lot of people don’t pay attention to when buying meat eventhough it has an impact on the nutritional values of said meat (Freixenet, 1993; Acton, Dawson, & Halpin, 2013).

There is a good reason why certain meat is cheaper. It has more water than actual raw meat. It doesn’t immediately mean more expensive meat is better. It means that your attention is required when going for the cheaper produce. You can still get cheaper meat that has equally high nutritional value. The next time you purchase meat, take a look at the ingredients label if you see water in there (and sometimes a percentage) you are partially paying for the water in that meat.


Staying fit
Staying healthy is one of the most important things you should do. Always take care of your physical and mental health. It’s the foundation of a good life.
Photo by Alexander Redl on Unsplash

With food, I only tackled one of two health components I spend more on. I’m someone who really enjoys sports. Like, I really enjoy it. Not a day goes by where I’m doing something.

I start my day cycling to the train station to get to work and this is the bare minimum. After work, I either do martial arts or weight training. During the weekends I try to do some running or cycling. I’ll be honest though, in the winter I don’t do as much condition work but I still try to do some weight lifting.

Knowing this, it’s not hard to imagine, I don’t mind spending a bit more in stuff like sports clothing and equipment. Especially when it comes to equipment I pay a bit extra. The extra money does still go to brands that sell parts known for their durable material usage.

My holidays

The last big thing I can spend more on, are holidays. It’s not only just because I want to. There is a limit to cost-cutting measures. I already talked about a big one before. That’s the more rational reason for spending a bit more on flying. The less rational thing is flying business class. I did it when I went to the US for the first time three years ago. I mainly did it to experience what it’s like and I got to tell you, it’s really fun.
Yes, 3 times the economy price is too much for basically a fancier way of moving from point A to B for something that lasts at most 8 hours, but being able to start my holiday relaxed from the start was truly enjoyable.

Flying business was something special, what I do on a regular basis when I plan my holiday is looking for decent accommodation. It doesn’t mean it has to be hotels all the time, in fact, for my US trip, I used at Airbnb because booking a hotel as a single is rather expensive.

Overall, it’s again about finding that balance between quality and price when planning my holidays.

Adding it all up

I’ll repeat with what I opened: look for quality when you buy something. It’s what I try to do every time. I don’t always succeed, but it is in the back of my mind. I spend more on health and holidays but even then I have that on my mind and look for a good balance between money and luxury.

Of course, before all that, don’t forget to think about your wants and needs first.

Do you have any guilty pleasures where you spend just that bit more on? Or can you be very strict about your expenses and is there nothing that gets past you?

Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts!


I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium that is present in over 40 countries. I have over 8 years of working experience in the development of customer applications focussing on all aspects of banking. This helped me gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of a commercial bank. All of this experience in both banking and life culminates in this blog about personal finance and my fight towards FIRE.

1. My remarkable budgeting ways to reach the illusive Financial Independence
2. The Most Important FIRE Ratio: FIRE Savings Rate
3. How I achieve a +80% Savings Rate and is it the Key to Financial Independence?
4. Cafeteria plan: improving wants & needs for your convencience
5. Frugal with a twist
6. My Belgian cafeteria plan: like a kid in a candy store
7. My monthly Savings Rate report: October 2019
8. My monthly Savings Rate report: November 2019
9. My monthly Savings Rate report: December 2019
10. My monthly Savings Rate report: January 2020
11. My monthly Savings Rate report: February 2020
12. My monthly Savings Rate report: March 2020
13. My monthly Savings Rate report: April 2020
14. YNAB Vs nYNAB Vs Excel: A Helpful Budgeting Tool reviewed
15. My monthly Savings Rate report: May 2020
16. My monthly Savings Rate report: June 2020
17. My monthly Savings Rate report: July 2020
18. My monthly Savings Rate report: August 2020
19. My monthly Savings Rate report: September 2020
20. My monthly Savings Rate report: October 2020
21. My monthly Savings Rate report: November 2020
22. My monthly Savings Rate report: December 2020
23. My monthly Savings Rate report: January 2021
24. My monthly Savings Rate report: February 2021
25. My monthly Savings Rate report: March 2021
26. My monthly Savings Rate report: April 2021
27. My monthly Savings Rate report: May 2021
28. My monthly Savings Rate report: June 2021
29. My monthly Savings Rate report: July 2021
30. My monthly Savings Rate report: August 2021
31. My monthly Savings Rate report: September 2021
32. My monthly Savings Rate report: October 2021
33. My monthly Savings Rate report: November 2021
34. My monthly Savings Rate report: December 2021
35. My monthly Savings Rate report: January 2022
36. My monthly Savings Rate report: February 2022
37. My monthly Savings Rate report: March 2022
38. My monthly Savings Rate report: April 2022
39. My monthly Savings Rate report: May 2022
40. My monthly Savings Rate report: June 2022
41. My monthly Savings Rate report: July 2022
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I have switched my main grocery shop from Colruyt to Lidl 1 year ago and man, what amount of money I’m saving there!

Yes the meat/fish isn’t the best, and I’m still going to the other stores for quality meat, but all other products are very close to offer the same quality, for much less price.
I live with my girlfriend and we are close to +/- 80€ of grocery/week all included.
Which is approx 6€/person a day…

Still stunned by how many people shop at the other stores and don’t realize the amount of savings they will do by going there.

An example of few weeks ago
Emmental 500g at Colruyt (white labeled) = 7€
Emmental 500g at Lidl (white labeled) = 3€

B at Fire The Boss

You hit the nail on the head here, the key to spending is intentionality. That’s what I’m all about too. I don’t mind spending a lot of money on a gadget from the aforementioned fruit brand 😉 but that is because I want it, get value out of it. Not because “I have the money so why not”.

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