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Top 10 of the Most and Least Frugal Things This Doctor Does

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As a personal finance expert, I often have people tell me that they think I’m very frugal … like very, very frugal. But I actually don’t think that I am. Believe it or not, I have a healthy balance between the frugal and non-frugal things that I do. Below, I share the 10 most and least frugal things that I do. 

(And for the record, it’s really not the frugal things that I do, but the frugal things that my wife Selenid and I do. We are generally on the same page about this stuff, which is really important!)

1) Most frugal – My car

I have a feeling that most people think I am overly frugal because of my car, a used Toyota. I decided to buy this rather than spend more money on a luxury car that the masses may consider a “doctor car.” Why? Because I am not a “car person.” I really just want something reliable. It didn’t make sense to spend a ton of money on something that wouldn’t bring me a commensurate amount of joy. 

2) Least frugal – Lawn care

I hate landscaping. I think I was scarred as a kid being sent out to pick weeds all the time. I just really hate it. Even mowing the lawn.

So, Selenid and I hired a company to mow our lawn and do all of our landscaping. It’s not cheap and it’s not frugal. But we budget for it and it works in our financial plan.

I know plenty of doctors who do these tasks on their own, either because they enjoy it or to save money. But that doesn’t work for us.

3) Most frugal – Leaf care

While we are on the topic of lawn care, I refuse to pay someone to clear leaves off our yard during the fall. I just don’t get the point. Who cares enough about the leaves to fruitlessly shuffle them around the yard? Besides, letting the leaves stay will allow them to compost and feed your lawn. Is that a rationalization? Yes. Am I OK with that? Also yes.

4) Least frugal – Education

By some stroke of magic, we live in an area of the Buffalo suburbs that is both low(er) tax and has a great school district.

But do we send our kids to the local school district that our taxes pay for? Nope! This was a decision that we spent a lot of time on. But ultimately we decided to send our kids to a private school that we felt was a better fit. 

This was not a frugal decision! In our monthly expenses, child education is always near the top. But we are very happy with the decision so far. And we feel fortunate to have the financial flexibility to even have this option.

5) Both most and least frugal – Our home

Our house definitely falls into both categories.

On the one hand, it can only be called a doctor’s house. We came from living in a small apartment in NYC with two kids and a dog. When we moved to Buffalo, we wanted space. And while the conventional and generalizable advice would be to rent your first home, we decided to buy. 

And buy we did. Every month, our biggest expense is our home mortgage and interest payment. 

On the other hand, we did buy the house very intentionally. And we bought it well below market value due to a combination of luck (pre-crazy housing market) and good negotiating/sticking to our numbers. Also, all of the luxury furniture in the home was included and we continue to use that furniture today. 

6) Most frugal – Spotify

I’m a big music fan. In fact, I can’t really imagine operating without music.

However, I absolutely refuse to pay for Spotify Premium. Why? Principle.

Every 30 seconds of ads that I suffer makes me feel like I am winning this battle with big music streaming. 

Prideful? Maybe. Do I get made fun of a lot by the residents and OR team? Yes. But am I gonna pay anytime soon? No way!

7) Least frugal but trying to become more frugal – Food delivery

My favorite meal is cereal. But my family doesn’t have cereal every meal. And I have to admit that Selenid and I don’t cook as much as we used to. Chalk that up to having two toddlers that really sap our energy during their whole bath and bedtime routine.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for us to stagger downstairs, exhausted and hungry, deciding we are too tired to cook. Or drive for pick up. So we order delivery instead. 

And man, delivery fees on sites like DoorDash are insane! 

We are definitely not frugal about this. But it is something we are working on. Unlike other non-frugalities, this one doesn’t completely line up with our values.

8) Most frugal – Clothes

Much like with cars, I am not a big luxury clothing person.

When I am home, I am always casual. At work, I am largely in scrubs. For formal clothes, I am looking to be comfortable and stylish enough. But I could care less about brands.

As a result, I really don’t spend much on clothes at all. I tend to ask for gift cards for my birthday/Christmas and then buy anything necessary then.

9) Least frugal – Self-improvement

I never was one to worry about self-improvement. Or to really spend any time or money formally on it. And how did that work out? Well, I ended my training burned out following goals that were not my own

But then I changed. 

In the past few years, I have committed more time and spent more money on self-improvement than ever before. This includes things like books, courses, meetings, and coaching.

And guess what? The return on that investment has been incredible. My mindset in terms of personal growth, abundance, and overall well-being has skyrocketed as a result. Moreover, my financial education has had the biggest impact of anything on my net worth!

10) Most frugal – Toys

As a family, we have really begun to focus more on experiences rather than things. In fact, it’s become fair to say that we are downright frugal when it comes to toys for us and the kids (don’t worry, they have plenty of toys!).

Instead of buying toys, we reallocate money and spend big on experiences. And we are very happy doing this. It aligns much more with our values and brings us greater joy.

So, to sum up: Does frugality matter? I honestly don’t know.

Looking back, a lot of the frugal things I do probably don’t move the financial needle much. Some others do. Plus you can see that in some areas we are not frugal at all.

Like everything in life, it comes down to balance. As high income earners, we are blessed financially with the ability to be non-frugal more than the average person. So spending money intentionally is OK. But we still cannot totally eschew frugality. 

And this is a concept that is tough for many physicians. They spend as much as or more than they make. And a vicious cycle is created at the expense of financial freedom.

I was headed down this path until I began my financial education and became passionate about helping all doctors reach financial freedom. And I can tell you that the path to financial freedom is much better!

What do you prioritize spending money on? Share in the comments!

Jordan Frey, MD is a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY at Erie County Medical Center and the University of Buffalo. His clinical focus is on breast reconstruction and complex microsurgery. He is also the founder of The Prudent Plastic Surgeon, one of the fastest growing finance blogs. There, he shares his journey to financial well-being with a goal of helping all physicians reach financial freedom, practicing on their own terms.

Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz

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