Confessions Of A FIRE Blogger: I Don’t Live A Frugal Life

I don't live a frugal life

I must confess I don’t live a frugal life.

Being a FIRE blogger, this is something I have thought a lot about in the past few years.

FIRE and frugality often goes hand in hand, but in my case it doesn’t – at least not at this point in my life.

My wife and I live a life with spending above most other people in Denmark in absolute terms.

Sure, we still manage to save about 50% of our net income each month, but we could do better if we didn’t splurge so much on some things.

Why do we spend more than we have to? We choose to spend more than average on a few expense categories because we believe it gives us more happiness than to keep the money in the pocket.

I am a firm believer in the fact that the journey towards financial independence must be as good as financial independence and early retirement itself.

We have a network of friends who also spend a lot which is naturally also a driver of spending money when we are hanging out with them.

We splurge on some things

There’s generally three things we splurge on today.

Housing is probably our biggest non-frugal spending category. We have decided to live in the middle of Copenhagen in a large spacious house. This comes at a cost of 30% of our joint salaries each month, where 10-15% is used on paying down the principal on our housing loan (i.e. illiquid savings).

We know that we will not be living in the house forever, but we wanted something spacious to have our first kids in which is close to the parts of the city we like spending time in while we are young.

If we disregard the high monthly cost, it has been an excellent investment so far. Owning a house in the middle of a growing city means that prices are on an upward trajectory. We have gained roughly 10% in just over a year, but this is of course illiquid money and should not be an excuse to pay a lot on housing each month – and the real estate market might crash tomorrow.

The second largest splurge category is vacations. We splurge on vacations, and while we also have frugal vacations at home, we do take a few expensive trips doing the year to exotic places, stay at nice hotels and eat well.

I don’t really have an excuse for this one because I know that we could have equally good, frugal vacations, it is simply just a personal preference that we have.

The last thing we splurge on is restaurants. My wife and I like to go out and eat together, and we like to go out and eat with our friends.

Going out to restaurants costs more money than one would expect. When I look at a normal month’s expenses, this is something we spend a lot of money on.

It’s often the “easy” thing to do when we hang out with friends and it’s delicious to eat out in Copenhagen! However, we also enjoy making dinners at home and inviting friends over, so we do that often too.

… but we also save on other things

It might sound like we are living a luxurious life, but I don’t think we are.

There’s a few things we splurge on, but I also think we are very rational and consider our spending a lot.

We never buy crazy expensive clothes.

We never buy things of low quality that are not durable and can last many years.

We never buy big bottles with fireworks on clubs.

We never buy crazy expensive 5-star hotels.

We don’t own a car and always bicycle everywhere.

We make relatively cheap dinner at home many evenings and avoid food waste.

We don’t have cable nor any other media subscriptions.

We rarely take taxis around the city.

We always discuss our purchases and research for the best prices online.

We watch our savings rate and investments religiously.

I don’t consider us frugal though. This might be uncommon for a FIRE blogger, but we definitely have some frugal elements in our life.

If we decided to move to the countryside, go on low-cost vacations, skip the restaurant bills and optimized our spending on a few other categories, we would be able to save up towards 80-90% of our salaries meaning that we could retire within 1-2 years.

Will we do it at some point? Maybe. We are thinking about it, but for now, we enjoy life in the city and the occasional splurge. I think we will start living more frugally when we get closer to financial independence, but only if it gives us more happiness.

Your turn: Are you very frugal, or do you also splurge on some things?

10 comments

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10 comments

Save on Transfers March 27, 2019 - 12:44

I can relate to you. Frugality is a choice of a person to live with it or not. I am not frugal and buy things that I want. I want to live to the fullest and expertise things that others don’t have.

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Carl Jensen March 27, 2019 - 13:02

Very true! 🙂

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JB December 25, 2018 - 11:07

Thanks for an interesting blog!

Same for us – massive splurging.
A house in a nice area (25%-30%), the weekly cleaning lady, a car and vacations and even ”snus”

I think what we do differently than most is trying to maximize utility on spending. Having a car has high utility value for us with two small kids, but having a nice car is very limited extra utility. A 8Y used one it is.

We try to have mindful spending where me and my wife send each other a whatsapp message on each intended spend item.

Getting to financial independence has huge utility for us. But we like our life as is, so if retirement option is there at 36 or 40 matters less.

Savings rate is around 40%, with high salaries. We would likely cut back on the house & ”snus” if salaries where to drop, as utility of FI trumps these.

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Carl December 28, 2018 - 22:31

Thanks for the kind words, JB!

I believe a lot in utility maximization as well. As you say, utility maximization is both in the small choices, but also on the larger scale. For example, I believe in living a nice life (with selected splurging) towards FI, and not only when I am FI. I believe that will give me/our family the highest utility over a lifetime.

I love the idea about sending messages to your spouse about spending. My wife and I always discuss bigger purchases too.

… and great job with a 40% savings rate! Having the flexibility to scale down on some of the splurge items is also a good thing. It’s much easier to cut expenses than to earn more money if you decide to speed up your journey to FI at some point (or if, as you say, your salaries were to drop).

Happy New Year 🙂

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PiggyBanking October 29, 2018 - 14:39

I totally relate. We also splurge on the exactly same items plus on a cleaning lady which I consider the best money I spend every week! I have to say I am becoming more and more aware of the money I spend going out to eat and on holidays, because it can easily eat 20% of your salary. But, if you save 50% of your salary, I would say you still have a frugal mindset in other less important items in your life. The key is to prioritize and it seems you are perfectly handling it!

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Carl October 29, 2018 - 18:37

YES! Cleaning lady is the best money we spend – never any arguments over who’s cleaning when 🙂 I agree it is important to be mindful of where your money goes, so I’ve also started looking more carefully at our expenses.

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FUPT October 19, 2018 - 10:09

I agree with you so much. You don’t need to live frugal to fire. I’m a big believer in the saying “Build the life you want then save for it”.

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Carl October 29, 2018 - 18:35

I like that saying! 🙂 it is also easier to scale down than scale up I would say.

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Nick @ TotalBalance.blog October 19, 2018 - 08:47

Hehe. So now the skeletons finally come out of the closet, huh? 😛
I think as long as you’re able to keep your savings rate at (or above) 50%, you have nothing to sweat about 😉
Many people don’t even save 10%…
I can relate to your choice of “splurging” on nice restaurants, vacations and a fancy house. I’ve never been a huge city-goer, so for me, the calm and quiet country-side is more my kind of scenery – but I can see the attractions of the city, for young ambitious people, like yourselves 😉
During the last 10 years, I’ve spent more than 1 mio DKK on cars…I don’t regret it – but I don’t plan to spend another million on cars again! You grow older, and your priorities simply changes. You learn, and you grow wiser with time (some people never learn!). Since you don’t have a car at all, you’re already way ahead of me there!
I do feel like leaving you with one thought though. Imagine you had bought a house in the outskirts of town (some suburb), where the house prices are lower – but also, the property taxes. Those 10% that your house has risen in value, how much of that will be eaten over time, by the higher property taxes? Remember that the value of your house fluctuates (for better or worse), but your property tax only goes in one direction 😉
I really hate property taxes! I would rather pay 50% in tax on the gains that I had on my house, if I sell, than keep paying those darn property taxes!
Also, the problem with your house gaining in value, is that most people use those gains to buy and even more expensive house the next time (we did…).
Anyway, once you have kids I imagine you’ll start using the city less and less, and eventually – maybe even move to the suburbs! In a cheaper house 😉

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Carl October 29, 2018 - 18:35

Interesting to hear you story! 🙂 and you are right, we have to remember that saving more than 10% is still more than most people. I also envision that we will move out of the city in a cheaper house at some point, but let’s see – we are two that have to agree about that 😉

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