Author Topic: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...  (Read 5100 times)

infromsea

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Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« on: January 06, 2020, 03:29:00 PM »
Wife and I moved into our small home in 2005. It's a 3 bedroom, two kids, small square-footage, no spare bedroom.

So, we bought a new sofa with a hide-a-bed (paid cash for it, like most big purchases).

This was the WORST couch we've owned in 25 years of marriage. The middle seat was almost unusable, the bed, when set-up was about as comfortable as a military cot. It worked, we hosted family several times over the years and would pull it out, set it up and let the kiddos sleep on it/have pajama night etc.

We kept said horrible couch from say 2006 until two weeks ago. After several aborted attempts to select a new couch (is there ANYTHING worse than furniture shopping?) we finally bit the bullet about a month ago, took a Saturday afternoon to go to the local places (warning each salesman that we are picky and have been "shopping" for a new couch for many years...). About two weeks ago, we went and picked up the new sofa (super comfy, l shaped model with enough room for 2-3 folks to "lay-around" if desired) and it has changed how we use our living room and house. We used to sit in the dining room at the DR table, since the old sofa was so uncomfortable. Now, we spend a little more time relaxing together and "laid out" a little more.

We've experienced couches like our new model while out at motels or air-bnb's and this was one of our motivations for getting this model, we always enjoyed the L-shaped "laying around" model when out and about. We realize that this isn't something that "finally" makes us happy (happy is a mood/temporary thing) and we recognize that, eventually, we'll get used to this couch and won't be such a treat but, we waited TOO long to make this change. We've been FI for about 5 years and the cost was NEVER the issue, it was more about not having time/not wanting to spend the money since we both hold on to our savings/etc. a little "long".

So, lesson learned for us, there ARE things in your environment/life that you can take TOO far. I follower the stoic philosophy and it supports creating challenges in life/being a little uncomfortable on purpose but, in this case WE (this was a joint thing...) took it too far.

Sharing for the others here who might be taking frugality "too far" in some instances. Life is short, enjoy some of this crap. Keep it in check though.


Cassie

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2020, 03:49:53 PM »
Nothing worse than uncomfortable furniture.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2020, 03:50:09 PM »
Wife and I moved into our small home in 2005. It's a 3 bedroom, two kids, small square-footage, no spare bedroom.

So, we bought a new sofa with a hide-a-bed (paid cash for it, like most big purchases).

This was the WORST couch we've owned in 25 years of marriage. The middle seat was almost unusable, the bed, when set-up was about as comfortable as a military cot. It worked, we hosted family several times over the years and would pull it out, set it up and let the kiddos sleep on it/have pajama night etc.

We kept said horrible couch from say 2006 until two weeks ago. After several aborted attempts to select a new couch (is there ANYTHING worse than furniture shopping?) we finally bit the bullet about a month ago, took a Saturday afternoon to go to the local places (warning each salesman that we are picky and have been "shopping" for a new couch for many years...). About two weeks ago, we went and picked up the new sofa (super comfy, l shaped model with enough room for 2-3 folks to "lay-around" if desired) and it has changed how we use our living room and house. We used to sit in the dining room at the DR table, since the old sofa was so uncomfortable. Now, we spend a little more time relaxing together and "laid out" a little more.

We've experienced couches like our new model while out at motels or air-bnb's and this was one of our motivations for getting this model, we always enjoyed the L-shaped "laying around" model when out and about. We realize that this isn't something that "finally" makes us happy (happy is a mood/temporary thing) and we recognize that, eventually, we'll get used to this couch and won't be such a treat but, we waited TOO long to make this change. We've been FI for about 5 years and the cost was NEVER the issue, it was more about not having time/not wanting to spend the money since we both hold on to our savings/etc. a little "long".

So, lesson learned for us, there ARE things in your environment/life that you can take TOO far. I follower the stoic philosophy and it supports creating challenges in life/being a little uncomfortable on purpose but, in this case WE (this was a joint thing...) took it too far.

Sharing for the others here who might be taking frugality "too far" in some instances. Life is short, enjoy some of this crap. Keep it in check though.




In the same time have you bought anything faster or more spontaneous? I ask this because perhaps it was a priority thing. There have been several things over the last 4-5 years since fire'd I say I am going to replace and havent for various reasons that should be and other things I have done right away. Not sure its really an issue even if you do wait as long as it takes for you to be happy. Thats the key is finding the balance and if you have a budget and save for things then yes it should be somewhat easier to let go of some of that stash.

infromsea

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2020, 09:07:02 AM »
In the same time have you bought anything faster or more spontaneous? I ask this because perhaps it was a priority thing. There have been several things over the last 4-5 years since fire'd I say I am going to replace and havent for various reasons that should be and other things I have done right away. Not sure its really an issue even if you do wait as long as it takes for you to be happy. Thats the key is finding the balance and if you have a budget and save for things then yes it should be somewhat easier to let go of some of that stash.

Very insightful question and great points!

The answer is no, we've been "tight" in just about every aspect, too much so in most cases. We are working on this and seeking to overcome the "programming" that occurred earlier in life, now that the kids are out of the house and we HAVE to confront ourselves and have the time/energy to do so, it's taking us down some very interesting paths, one of which is not being in a place of fear/lack when it comes to money, a work in progress!

caracarn

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2020, 09:24:50 AM »
I would imagine this will be a relatively common thing with those of us attracted to FIRE or frugality in general.  I have a used Samsung tablet I bought off Swappa about two years ago.  I think it cost $100, for a tablet that was $550 when new.  Lately when I get ads in games I play on it it has a flicker on the screen.  My wife makes comments all the time about how annoying it is and how can I live with it, but the tablet works great for my needs other than that.  I have spent some time trying to fix it, and turning off the auto dimming has lowered the frequency substantially but still does happen from time to time versus every ad. 

For most people this would have been the "time for a new tablet" but for frugal me, I stick with it.  I am sure the argument can be made that for $100 getting the typical spendypants two years everyone else would have out of a tablet is good enough, but why?  Why part with another $100 just because of a flicker on a device I use for entertainment only?  To me it is similar to the car situation we all tend to have.  We keep cars longer and do not succumb to getting new cars every 2-3 years like we are supposed to.

I do like the statement made in the Playing with Fire documentary by one of the folks in it.  It talks about spending lavishly on the one or two things that bring us joy and cutting back savagely on all the others or something like that.  That is how I view our frugal journey.  The problem can be that sometimes you do not always know that joy will be attained by that new couch because you have been trained into your existence as it is.  Not sure there is a great answer on that as it is a slippery slope of buying things to see if they bring happiness into our lives, which is exactly what we know is not the case with almost all material purchases.  Going back to the tablet is a perfect example.  My first tablet was the least expensive Samsung I could find, so I bought an original Samsung tablet for $30 off Swappa.  It was so slow with most current apps that I did decide that I need to get something newer, which is the tablet I have now.  I had used the first one for a year before I gave in and sold it for $10 and then got the $100 third generation which I have now.  Since I had not had a tablet before the first one I had no expectations.  Similarly your couch seemed like a "good enough" situation until it wasn't.  I think the best lesson we can all take from that is to determine when we've been stoic enough and when we are crossing the border into crazy town.  I'd never consider separating my 2-ply toilet paper to make it last twice as long but some people do it. 

At this point your long term couch is water under the bridge and you cannot get that time back with your kids and family lounging around, but you can enjoy the time you have left.  As I like to say many people worry too much about if the glass is half full or half empty and instead forget that the glass is refillable.  You've refilled the couch glass, now make the most of it.

dougules

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2020, 10:13:06 AM »
It shouldn't be about frugality but about optimization.  More than not, frugality is the best optimization but not always.  Having a couch at all, even an old mediocre worn-out one, is a luxury when you get down to it.  The question is whether the new couch or a new anything brings more happiness than the time and effort it took to earn the money or the other things the money could have bought. 

Mr. Green

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2020, 10:50:05 AM »
I think this is very common for people who are picky about things. I'm extremely picky about how clothing feels on my body so I end up with a small number of clothes I'm completely comfortable in, then wear them until they're worn out. Then I simply replace the worn out article with something new that is equally comfortable, but this task can be very difficult at times so I don't do it unless I absolutely have to. Or if I find something exceptional I might buy it early knowing a particular article is wearing out soon.

We've done the same thing with our car. We're rolling around in a 2002 Ford Focus wagon, which serves a very specific purpose of being slept in during travel, while also being reasonably comfortable to drive. Though there are newer cars that likely would serve this same purpose while being quieter in the cabin at highway speeds, would likely be less susceptible to breakdowns, etc. But, again, the process of finding a newer car is a bear, and we're picky, so we just deal with what we have because we find it acceptable for the moment. If we went out and bought a newer car tomorrow I suspect we might feel like we should have done it a while ago. But we think about the buying process and think, "Ugh. Nah, we're alright for now."

infromsea

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2020, 02:02:13 PM »
If we went out and bought a newer car tomorrow I suspect we might feel like we should have done it a while ago. But we think about the buying process and think, "Ugh. Nah, we're alright for now."

Good points! This happens to us on a regular basis, "use" something longer than usual and then, when we finally replace it (often due to it just breaking/it stops working) we look at each other and admit, "we should have done this a long time ago...".

Part of this is just stubbornness, the wife has had a medical need for a knee replacement for years (long story) and she just recently agreed to get the surgery. I am 98% sure I'll be hearing "I should have done this a long time ago" at some point in the future.

bmjohnson35

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2020, 03:38:16 PM »

You can take frugality too far and we have been guilty of such from time to time. It's not always money that can delay an appropriate action and/or purchase.  For example, I remember living with some "flowery" wall paper in the kitchen of our 2nd house.  We really didn't like the wallpaper.  It wasn't until years later (when we were preparing it for market) that we finally removed the wallpaper and painted the room.  Afterwards, we both looked at each other and said, why didn't we do this years ago?  The short answer is laziness.  The wallpaper did fight us and it was a terrible job.  Of course, it took the same amount of effort in the end as it would have shortly after moving into the house. 

BJ

bacchi

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2020, 04:42:58 PM »
Isn't the "we should have done this years ago" feeling often just the newness of it? We fix it/change it/upgrade it and then we adapt.

We all know that a car just takes you from point A to point B but replacing that 20 year old beater with a 5 year old model is nice, eh? Better speakers, smoother acceleration, tighter steering, heated seats, etc. In the end, though, it's just a vehicle that gets you from point A to point B.

Mr. Green

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2020, 05:26:51 PM »
If we went out and bought a newer car tomorrow I suspect we might feel like we should have done it a while ago. But we think about the buying process and think, "Ugh. Nah, we're alright for now."

Good points! This happens to us on a regular basis, "use" something longer than usual and then, when we finally replace it (often due to it just breaking/it stops working) we look at each other and admit, "we should have done this a long time ago...".

Part of this is just stubbornness, the wife has had a medical need for a knee replacement for years (long story) and she just recently agreed to get the surgery. I am 98% sure I'll be hearing "I should have done this a long time ago" at some point in the future.
It's the devil you know vs. the devil you don't. I could probably use an arthroscopic knee surgery myself. The docs say 50/50 it helps me and the alternative is I continue doing all this rehab and having occasional setbacks. I could have the surgery and be almost good as new and think, "damn I should have done this years ago!" Or I could have complications and end up worse off than I am and think, "I knew I should have just dealt with it." Thankfully when it comes to things like cars and couches, the risk isn't life altering. I think we still tend to look at the replacement process and chance of not being happy with the new situation as good enough reasons not to make the change.

omachi

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2020, 05:51:52 PM »
Isn't the "we should have done this years ago" feeling often just the newness of it? We fix it/change it/upgrade it and then we adapt.

We all know that a car just takes you from point A to point B but replacing that 20 year old beater with a 5 year old model is nice, eh? Better speakers, smoother acceleration, tighter steering, heated seats, etc. In the end, though, it's just a vehicle that gets you from point A to point B.

Not always just newness. I bought a house with hardwood floors under the carpets. We lived with the carpet until it was starting to get worn out, putting off exposing the hardwood in case it was in bad shape in spots and we'd need to re-carpet. Really any number of excuses to not spend that money. Delaying purchases is not a bad adaptation, mind you.

Well, we removed the carpet and refinished the beautiful oak floors and had one of those "should have done this earlier" moments. Years later and I still love the floors and still think we waited longer than we should have. Were the years with the carpet in any way bad? No, of course not. But I'm still happier now with the hardwood than I was with the carpet. It's a warmer look, friendlier, with more character. I actually like it rather than putting it beneath my notice.

JoJo

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2020, 06:21:03 PM »
My multi-millionaire roommate also has a horribly uncomfortable couch he uses all evening, almost every evening.  His way to remedy this was to buy a new cushion for it! 

caleb

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2020, 07:01:42 PM »
We currently have no couch (gave the last one away when we moved) because if we're going to have a couch at all we want a good one.

Which means, of course, that we just live without one.  We can't bear the thought of going to a furniture store, and we aren't willing to gamble with an online purchase.  So, we have chairs in the living room.

Someday we'll buy a sofa.  Really.

caleb

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2020, 07:09:04 PM »
I agree with others above that cars, furniture, mattresses, and independent contractors are the armpits of consumer society.  Somebody needs to fix these experiences.

caracarn

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2020, 08:14:30 AM »
I agree with others above that cars, furniture, mattresses, and independent contractors are the armpits of consumer society.  Somebody needs to fix these experiences.
I have told people that anyone who wants to could make a killing by being a contractor and just showing up when they said they would.  The amount of projects I have ended up doing myself because I could not even get contractors to remember to show up for the estimate appointment they set numbers into the dozens.  When I had to add railing to my deck after removing an above ground pool I did not even waste time calling anyone even though it was a job I had never really tackled.  Figured the pain of learning the new skills would be less than the frustration with contractors who somehow seem to grumble about how they can make no money but never show up to do the work would be less.  I was right, and I had a pretty cool new learning experience out of it.

Mr. Green

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2020, 10:54:00 AM »
My multi-millionaire roommate also has a horribly uncomfortable couch he uses all evening, almost every evening.  His way to remedy this was to buy a new cushion for it!
I find this very humorous, though the reality is it's a perfectly acceptable solution. Some would say all the better because he kept a couch out of a landfill.

infromsea

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2020, 11:12:06 AM »
Thankfully when it comes to things like cars and couches, the risk isn't life altering. I think we still tend to look at the replacement process and chance of not being happy with the new situation as good enough reasons not to make the change.

Right you are! In this instance (the wife needs a new knee) it was pure stubbornness though! :)    Long story but it's so bad that her primary care doc asked her "aren't you a bit young" and then looked at her xrays and said "never mind, why did you wait this long"...

Were the years with the carpet in any way bad? No, of course not. But I'm still happier now with the hardwood than I was with the carpet. It's a warmer look, friendlier, with more character. I actually like it rather than putting it beneath my notice.

I think you hit the crux of the matter, knowing when to "suck it up" and be stoic/minimalist/frugal (whatever...) and when to recognize that a change of some kind, spending in a purposeful/well-thought out way, will bring us more comfort/peace/ease of life etc... I might be fooling myself but I think there is a time/place/benefit from this type of spending VS the mindless consumer culture we are all pushing back on.

infromsea

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2020, 11:19:14 AM »
My multi-millionaire roommate also has a horribly uncomfortable couch he uses all evening, almost every evening.  His way to remedy this was to buy a new cushion for it!
I find this very humorous, though the reality is it's a perfectly acceptable solution. Some would say all the better because he kept a couch out of a landfill.

I second the wisdom of this choice. Sadly, ours could not be fixed in such a manner, though we tried! We pilled up blankets under the cushions, put 2/4s under the framing and used about 30 bucks in screws to re-enforce parts of it but it was the built in bed/mattress design that just stunk from day one.

We were able to pass it along to a young couple in the area so it lives on in another home! One benefit of living in a high density suburban area, put something from free on facebook and 30 mikes later, it's GONE! (Downside-dealing with the crazies...).


infromsea

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2020, 11:28:18 AM »
We currently have no couch (gave the last one away when we moved) because if we're going to have a couch at all we want a good one.

Which means, of course, that we just live without one.  We can't bear the thought of going to a furniture store, and we aren't willing to gamble with an online purchase.  So, we have chairs in the living room.

Someday we'll buy a sofa.  Really.

We might be related... :)

We waited until it was a dreary day, we had NOTHING to do for the day (rare for us) and promised ourselves a nice glass of red upon "conquering" the furniture store. Funny thing is, we found the model we ended up with about 3 minutes after walking into the store. We knew it was the right fit almost instantly BUT, just to be careful, we still walked the floor and after 30 minutes or so, cut bait. The wife asked if I wanted to go visit another store (or couple of them) as I'm the "do maximum research/read 1,000 reviews before spending 35.00 on a coffee pot" type, I looked her in her ocular nerves and said.... nope.... (too much key and peele lately...).

I agree with others above that cars, furniture, mattresses, and independent contractors are the armpits of consumer society.  Somebody needs to fix these experiences.
I have told people that anyone who wants to could make a killing by being a contractor and just showing up when they said they would.  The amount of projects I have ended up doing myself because I could not even get contractors to remember to show up for the estimate appointment they set numbers into the dozens.  When I had to add railing to my deck after removing an above ground pool I did not even waste time calling anyone even though it was a job I had never really tackled.  Figured the pain of learning the new skills would be less than the frustration with contractors who somehow seem to grumble about how they can make no money but never show up to do the work would be less.  I was right, and I had a pretty cool new learning experience out of it.

Well done on the DIY. I've had similar experiences. I've found that 95% of "don't do this yourself, it's too dangerous" is contractor speak for "pay me to do this so I can charge 4x what it costs and take 5 times longer to do it....". I installed my own natural gas line/stove, even though the "conventional wisdom" says "NEVER DO THIS, YOU WILL DIE, YOU WILL KILL YOUR FAMILY IN THE NIGHT, YOU WILL CAUSE THE UNIVERSE TO CEASE ALL EXISTENCE...". However, after meeting with several contractors/doing my due diligence, I realized it was not rocket surgery and moved forward... conventional wisdom... yeah....
« Last Edit: January 08, 2020, 11:29:54 AM by infromsea »

caleb

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2020, 11:35:21 AM »
I agree with others above that cars, furniture, mattresses, and independent contractors are the armpits of consumer society.  Somebody needs to fix these experiences.
I have told people that anyone who wants to could make a killing by being a contractor and just showing up when they said they would. 

Yup.

Example: I've been trying to have a dishwasher installed in a house that's never had a dishwasher for the past 18 months.  I've called every appliance dealer in town that offers "installation" and asked them if they offer framing/plumbing/electrical work.  Not a chance.  "Find a contractor to do that, then call us back when it's done."  Unsurprisingly, we haven't moved an inch toward actually having a dishwasher installed.

The plumbing and HVAC industries seem to have figured out how to run a business with a scheduler and a bunch of employees who more or less show up on time.  I'm not sure why the rest of the home renovation world seems bent on chaos.

infromsea

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2020, 11:46:14 AM »
Yup.

Example: I've been trying to have a dishwasher installed in a house that's never had a dishwasher for the past 18 months.  I've called every appliance dealer in town that offers "installation" and asked them if they offer framing/plumbing/electrical work.  Not a chance.  "Find a contractor to do that, then call us back when it's done."  Unsurprisingly, we haven't moved an inch toward actually having a dishwasher installed.

The plumbing and HVAC industries seem to have figured out how to run a business with a scheduler and a bunch of employees who more or less show up on time.  I'm not sure why the rest of the home renovation world seems bent on chaos.

Where are you located? Is it cold there? Do you have good internet? Do you have a home depot/lowes close by? Do you have beer in the fridge? I'll bring my tools and a couple of DIY books (though I've done all you'd need on my own before) and we'll knock this out! Not do it for you but help/show/do those things you don't want/can't do.

Only kind of kidding... consider it... I'm a digital nomad without much doing these days and a serious love of working my hands/DIY/love to travel... and, 100% NOT a creeper.

Dicey

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2020, 12:01:02 PM »
Retiring early was my goal long before MMM was invented. I was always a single, moderate income worker in a HCOLA, with pre-existing conditions in a Before ACA World, so I knew it was going to take me a while to get there. I also believed in living in the moment because the future is not guaranteed, so I saved mightily and I spent juduciously.

I have always believed in doing and enjoying reasonable renovations first, knowing I could still easily sell the property as "updated" when the time came. When I turned 50, I resolved that I was probably always going to be single and didn't want to live like I was waiting for something to happen. I wanted my home to be what I wanted, not filled with stuff I accepted merely because the price was right, mainly free. I sold, returned or gave away anything that was crazy dated or I didn't really like. Then I hunted down better replacements. I scored some deals when a large furniture chain went belly-up. I found an amazing consignment store. I surfed Craigslist. I ended up with a place I was really happy with and loved coming home to. It was worth every bit of effort and money. It also required very little work/staging when I finally did get married and sold it for a handsome profit.

I have a friend who is way more frugal than I am. She is the person the family dumps their discards on. She is too cheap to say no. Her house is far from warm and inviting. She's an only child and her remaining parent recently died. She now has two homes, both of which are dated and even more dated, plus filled with stuff that no one could get rid of. I think it's sad that she won't quit working or make her surroundings a little nicer, even though she has millions. Caveat: I know this sounds judgemental, but there is a point when it's okay to stop living like a starving college student. Multiple millions with two free and clear houses and two very late model, paid for cars could well be the time to remodel a kitchen or buy a sofa that's comfortable and doesn't need to be covered with a sheet. Just sayin'.

MasterStache

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Re: Frugality taken too far? A post-FIRE spending story...
« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2020, 06:10:40 PM »
Yup.

Example: I've been trying to have a dishwasher installed in a house that's never had a dishwasher for the past 18 months.  I've called every appliance dealer in town that offers "installation" and asked them if they offer framing/plumbing/electrical work.  Not a chance.  "Find a contractor to do that, then call us back when it's done."  Unsurprisingly, we haven't moved an inch toward actually having a dishwasher installed.

The plumbing and HVAC industries seem to have figured out how to run a business with a scheduler and a bunch of employees who more or less show up on time.  I'm not sure why the rest of the home renovation world seems bent on chaos.

Where are you located? Is it cold there? Do you have good internet? Do you have a home depot/lowes close by? Do you have beer in the fridge? I'll bring my tools and a couple of DIY books (though I've done all you'd need on my own before) and we'll knock this out! Not do it for you but help/show/do those things you don't want/can't do.

Only kind of kidding... consider it... I'm a digital nomad without much doing these days and a serious love of working my hands/DIY/love to travel... and, 100% NOT a creeper.

I'll gladly help as well. Although I doubt you are near me. My post RE side gig is minor home renovations. I am always on time. The money is nice, but it's not necessary. I love the work.