Is My Husband Frugal Or Cheap? I Can’t Decide.

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Mr. FAF and I have been planning one of the most important trips of our life for the past few months.

We have been talking about it with joy, excitement, and pride.

The trip will be important for a couple of reasons.

First, it will be the first time we’ve taken Mr. FAF’s mom on a long trip so that she can see more of America.

Second, Baby FAF will be able to see where his parents (Mr. FAF and me) first met and practiced driving together.

Third, it will mark an important milestone in Mr. FAF’s pursuit of the American dream and a step up in his career.

As you might have already guessed, we will be traveling to where Mr. FAF got his doctoral degree, which is about an 11-hour drive from DC, to attend his graduation ceremony in December.

(Mr. FAF graduated in August of this year, so he couldn’t attend the ceremony in May and had to wait until December.)

The travel hype

Our family doesn’t travel in the US often. When we do travel, it’s usually a 20-hour flight all the way to Asia which is both costly and time-consuming.

Mr. FAF’s family is in China, and mine is in Vietnam. When we travel internationally, it means a trip from the US to Asia and another trip within Asia.

We need to save up all of our annual leave (3-4 weeks) for such a big trip. An average plane ticket to China or Vietnam is roughly $1,500. When you multiply that by 3 for our family, the total cost can add up to $4,500.

Having a legitimate reason to take a few days off work to travel domestically got me really excited. I started to picture all of us sitting together on an airplane for 2 hours, then dropping off our belongings at an AirBnB or a hotel, and going sightseeing in the city.

Mr. FAF has been driving back and forth from that city to DC almost every month for the past 4 years, a trip that usually takes him about 20 hours both ways. I was relieved that he can eventually say good-bye to the long and exhausting trip.

Now that we got a jump in our income thanks to Mr. FAF’s new job, we can take a 2-hour flight to go somewhere instead of sitting in the car for hours. I didn’t tell Mr. FAF, but I was estimating a budget of $1,000 for the travel.

Mr. FAF would be in charge of buying the plane tickets. I would look up a nice AirBnB where all of us can stay comfortably and maybe cook together to save money.

Mr. FAF wouldn’t be tired from the driving. All of us would happily drive around so that Grandma FAF can check out all the tourist attractions in the city.

The new money-saving plan

I was blogging away one night when Mr. FAF said he wanted to have a family meeting to plan the trip. I was excited to say the least.

He started showing me Spirit return tickets for $81. It’s a total of $324 for our family of four. It sounded perfect to me until I realized that Spirit is an airline notorious for delays. What if we miss the flight and thus Mr. FAF’s graduation ceremony?

I suggested we buy a ticket from a reliable airline like Delta which would be around $125 ($500 in total). However, Mr. FAF said it was too expensive. He insisted on Spirit, saying that it’d be ok to miss the graduation ceremony if we had a long flight delay.

I eventually agreed. After all, it is his graduation ceremony, so I let him decide.

When looking more closely at the tickets, however, Mr. FAF realized that we would have to pay extra for baggage. He then proposed what seemed to be a brilliant solution: He would drive our whole family to the city for 11 hours and then drive back to DC after 3 days.

To him, it was the most economical solution of all. We would depart at 6 PM after Mr. FAF and I come back from work on Wednesday and come back to DC on Sunday (a 4-day trip). We would stay overnight at a hotel on Wednesday night and resume driving on Thursday.

The dissipating excitement

Once I heard Mr. FAF’s new travel plan, my interest level plummeted.

In my mind, the nice and relaxing trip on the plane is now replaced by a long exhausting drive with a crying baby who refuses to sit still in the car seat. I then would worry about his safety while feeling frustrated that he wouldn’t let me buckle him up.

After we arrive at the destination, we would probably be too tired to go sightseeing and would just want to relax at the hotel. Mr. FAF would be exhausted from the drive and in no mood to drive us around the city.

I could drive, but every time I do, people would honk at me for reasons that I don’t really understand. I don’t feel confident about ensuring safety for our whole family.

By the time all of us recover from the long drive, it’d be time for our family to sit in the car for another 11 hours to go back to DC. It didn’t sound like a vacation to me at all. To me, it was just a trip we needed to get done while trying to save money.

I asked Mr. FAF, “Why don’t we just live a little and take the plane? We can pay for it with cash. You have a job now. We can afford it.” Mr. FAF insisted that we need to save up for more important things such as our mortgage and Baby FAF’s daycare tuition.

I asked him when we could finally have a relaxing vacation without worrying about money. He said in a year, but I really doubt if it would never happen. Mr. FAF is a frugal man.

I’m not promoting spending thousands of money on an expensive trip at a resort. But I wonder if we can just have a relaxing family vacation after being frugal for years.

The questions

Mr. FAF’s decision got me thinking about lifestyle inflation and our frugality. Before Mr. FAF started working, I would be the one worrying about money and trying to cut costs wherever possible.

Now that we are a two-income family, I feel a huge burden taken off my shoulder as the breadwinner. I still try to save money, but I also no longer stress as much about Mr. FAF’s spending. I know he is not a spender in any way.

I am glad that Mr. FAF is budget conscious and doesn’t give in to the temptation of lifestyle inflation. He wants to get his financial priorities straight for the family.

However, part of me is not perfectly happy that he doesn’t want to spend a bit of money on a nice trip for everybody. We have no consumer debt. Our car is paid off. We have an emergency fund in place. Is Mr. FAF being too frugal?

I’m not sure what the answer is. At least, Mr. FAF is not dropping thousands of dollars mindlessly on an expensive trip.

I will also look on the bright side that we will get spend time together as a family whether it’s in the car or on the plane. After all, having a car is better than being carless. And having a frugal trip is better than not having any vacation at all.

What do you think about Mr. FAF’s plan? Do you think he’s too frugal (or cheap) by choosing to drive more than 20 hours in a span of 4 days to save a couple of hundreds of dollars?


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36 thoughts on “Is My Husband Frugal Or Cheap? I Can’t Decide.”

  • Hahaha I love these stories. It’s tough to decide whether he’s cheap or frugal. What does he consider himself?

    What has worked for our family is that we each pay for whatever we care about the most. For example, you could use your income to pay for trips, fun, entertainment and he can use his income to pay for the boring day-to-day expenses and monthly bills ?

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    • Haha thank you! Mr. FAF considers himself to be frugal, not cheap. But other people, including myself, might disagree in some cases (like this one) lol Thanks for the tips! ^.^

  • I think your husband is overreacting to his sticker shock. After accounting for gas, wear on the car, hotels, pit stops, the extra day you’d be taking off of work to drive, etc., 22-hours round trip by car is going to be about as much as those Delta tickets, maybe more. Plus, I think there’s something to be said about putting a value on your family’s time and comfort. As well as his own– he’s not going to be happy at work Monday after so much driving and will not get the same boost in performance as he would have after a real vacation.

    • I totally agree with you. I was trying to explain to him that it would be super tiring for him. But he said he’d be ok @_@

  • Ah! I fully understand this dilemna and we constantly oscillate between frugal and cheap! My husband despises flying, so we end up driving most places because it is less stressful for the two of us. We also have an hour drive to the closest, reasonably priced airport, so he wins me over in the argument about flying vs. driving when he starts factoring in traffic, TSA lines, getting to the airport, etc. Now that we use credit card rewards for most of our travel I’ve gotten him to “splurge” on flying a time or two extra.

    Sometimes it’s hard to get sticker shock from paying for multiple flights! But that’s a long car ride for such a short trip! Do you think he wants to show his mom the drive he did regularly while getting his PhD? Is it a scenic drive, where you could make a stop along the way for a fun sightseeing trip for your MIL?

    • Hi Mrs. Wiki, I don’t think Mr. FAF was thinking about a scenic drive along the way at all. Plus, I think my MIL would be too tired to look at anything on the road for long. I’m glad Mr. Wiki is on board with flying places with you now!

  • Here is my two cents. I think that your views of this trip are different. You’re thinking that this is a vacation and he’s seeing it as a ceremony that doesn’t really matter if he missed it. Maybe convincing mr FAF that this can be a great family experience and you’ll create some everlasting memories as a family will change his mind.

    For me, when it comes to spending my money (I gotta spend it some time in my life), I am more than willing to spend a bit to treat the family to a good time. My three year old knows how to have a great time on vacation and he keeps on asking when are we going on the next vacation.

    Money spent on your family is worth every penny ?.

    • “Money spent on your family is worth every penny.” Could not agree more. The best argument to save on this trip is that you want to use the funds to travel somewhere for a true vacation – not just this place because of the ceremony is there.

    • “I think that your views of this trip are different. You’re thinking that this is a vacation and he’s seeing it as a ceremony that doesn’t really matter if he missed it.”

      Great observation, Leo! I never thought of our approaches that way. I think you’re right. I was dreaming about a mini-vacation while Mr. FAF just wanted to get it over with. I will talk to Mr. FAF and let him know it’s ok to splurge on family time every once in a while. Thanks for the great tip! ^.^

    • Totally agree with this comment. If it provides comfort and joy for the family, it is worth it. But then again driving can too if you take breaks, take a scenic route, etc. Personally, I’d fly and save 9 hours and use it for fun stuff at the final destination 🙂
      Having said that, I don’t recommend Spirit; had a bad experience with them.

  • I’m biased because Minneapolis is such a big hub for Delta, but I’d have booked those tickets in a New York Minute (or really a minute anywhere….never understood this phrase). It’s a good price, Delta won’t nickel and dime you like Spirit, and the service is generally good. If those tickets are still available, book them. Hell, i’m tempted to book them FOR you to save you the drive. 🙂 Travel time is a big thing to consider, especially when the price for tickets is so low.

    That being said, road trips COULD be awesome but this doesn’t seem like the proper trip for it. Let us know how it all pans out!

    • Thank you, Dave! I don’t like airlines that nickle and dime either. It could be so deceiving since the total price can be significantly higher than what they say. Will keep you posted!

  • I agree with Leo, maybe he views this as just his graduation trip. Or maybe he would prefer driving so that it’s more flexible (you can stop over when you feel like it), or that you can see more scenery while driving. It does seem like a pretty good deal though! Here in Canada the prices for flights within Canada are very expensive- it’s cheaper to fly to Asia or Europe these days than across the country.

  • What a tough place for you to be in! Because it was such a huge part of his life, I can see why driving for him feels so routine. But now this drive is costing you time & potentially stress.

    Sometimes it’s nice to be able to pay for something like a reliable Delta flight so your family travels on time & can enjoy their time exploring the city! It’s nice he’s cautious about lifestyle inflation. But it’s a “smaller” trip out of your routine. Not like you’re adding money into your daily routine…like regularly eating out now or anything . You’re just able to spend a little more in exchange for a relaxing time with family on what sounds like a rare occasion for you.

  • I think it’s frugal to drive. To me, it’s so annoying to take a plane. You have to go to the airport early, be around other people in bad moods, have your ears pop on the plane, disturb your neighbor any time you want to get up, pee in a gross airplane bathroom, wait for your bags after you go, when you get there, rent a car, etc. I hate it all! I would take an 11 hour drive over a 2 hour flight anyway, because with driving to the airport, going through security, waiting for delays, waiting for your bags, weird rules about bag size and unexpected charges on cheap carriers, etc, it takes at LEAST 5 hours to do a 2 hour flight and is much more stressful with rushing to the airport and having things out of your control. An 11 hour drive is nicer…you’re in your car, you can stop for snacks or food without getting gouged or pack your own without worrying about flight restrictions, you can stop and go to the bathroom, you don’t have to be smushed with a bunch of gross strangers, and you have your car when you get there. Just leave really early in the morning!

    • I think this is completely subjective. To me, it is the other way around. I feel that when you drive you have to deal with traffic, honking drivers, yucky gas station bathrooms, restless kids and a much longer commute just to save a small amount of money (in most cases). You have to plan for overnight stays and book hotels etc if the drive is too long. You end up exhausted by the end of it all and need an extra day to recuperate. Flying, even with the extra couple of hours it takes to deal with airport security etc, is much more easy and comfortable for me.

    • I think you made a great argument about driving! I totally agree that a 2-hour flight can turn into 4-5 hours due to the drive to the airport, TSA, waiting at the gate, and getting the luggage. Flying can indeed be a hassle sometimes.

  • Totally understand but don’t think it’s a cheap our frugal thing. Think about it. Your husband has had to be very careful with his spending for so long. Just because he can afford it now the wealth was built up from disciplined saving. I think th is mindset shift will come in due time if you remind him that you guys are in a better position. I know for my parents, they are slowly getting into the groove of “splurging” for things, and this is after 20 years after reaching a comfortable standard of living!

    You have the choice now to go with what he does and perhaps slowly try to change his mindset,or what iI would do and tell him we are getting the plane tickets and then later have him thank you for making this better decision.

  • Oh I love Leo’s point! I think these are two different things in both minds, one more ambient and the other excitement.

    For the record, I do think you guys should fly. Especially with a baby since they get fussy easily. We had a 16 hour drive and I was miserable, wishing we flew.

    Spirit has a lot of small fees so read the fine print and you should be fine. It’s not as bad as people say. When is the ceremony? Book a ticket that gives you guys some buffer time.

  • He’s being cheap. Keeping your wife happy is worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per month. Let him know this is a vacation to you, even if it’s just a meaningless ceremony for him.

    • Thanks, Luxe! I’ve thought about using a credit card to earn points before. But because we don’t travel a lot domestically in a year and only go to Asia once every two years or so, I have to admit I get lazy about collecting points. >_< I know you've done a great job with it thought! 🙂

  • Not gonna sugarcoat it, he’s being cheap. Just take the $500 Delta flight. Once a car ride is over 5 hours you need to evaluate if it’s worth it for your time and sanity. If you can afford an expensive trip to Asia you can afford a cheap domestic flight.

  • No bueno. You’re not saving much after you consider gas , auto maintenance, and time. Plus you have a baby and a grandmother on a long road trip.

  • I think he is being a bit cheap to be honest. Travelling with a toddler and an elderly person for 11 hours in a car sounds exhausting. And you are not likely to save a huge amount anyway after accounting for the petrol costs, hotel costs, meal costs etc. I mean I understand being frugal, especially when you are still a student but there comes a point in everybody’s life where your time and health have to take priority over saving some money. As a PhD holder, doesn’t he think his time would be spent much more profitably if he used it to catch up on some work or even relax so that he can be more productive on monday? Does he really want to be tired and cranky after coming back which might affect his performance at work? And whether he acknowledges it or not, getting a PhD is a huge deal, why not spend a couple hundred dollars more to enjoy the moment? He is not likely to get a chance to experience it again. I think he is just adamant on not paying more because he saw the spirit prices and now compares it with delta. It happens to all of us. Once we get the idea of a cheap deal in our head, it is tough to let go. But I think he will come around if you sit and talk and you explain to him how you feel.

  • I think your husband hasn’t figured out how to value his time yet. If he value his time at just $20/hour. The flight would be worth it. I used to be like that too. 🙂
    Actually, we’ll probably drive to the Bay Area this Christmas. Tickets are expensive around Christmas and the airports are way too busy…

  • I think the both of you have different expectations for the trip. You want to make it into a vacation and he is seeing it as a quick trip to celebrate his graduation. You should talk to him about making it into a mini-vacation and enjoy the city while you guys are there for the graduation ceremony.
    Personally, you guys should fly Delta but if you can get around baggage situation and use carrying on exclusively then use Spirit.

  • Sounds like minimal savings for an extra ~10 hours of travel (assuming flight+airport BS = 5 hours each way). Add in the car maintenance/depreciation plus gas for 20 hours of driving plus a hotel and you’re looking at serious $$ that’s probably not too much less than $370 (w/ 1 checked bag) on spirit or $500 on a major carrier. I’d be tempted to fly instead of drive, especially given the turn around time (if you had a week in the destination city to relax and recuperate, that would be different).

    We faced this exact same scenario last month. Drive ~12 hours Raleigh to Miami, 1600 miles round trip including an overnight in a hotel on the way down, or fly down there (2 hours on a plane plus 3 hours to deal with the airport). Cost was $200 for driving + parking for a week plus whatever car maintenance and depreciation plus $50+ for a hotel (even using points to pay) vs $400-600 for flights for the 2 of us (which ended up being $660 but I paid using 44,000 chase UR points so no $$ out of pocket). We picked the flights and it was 100% the right choice.

    However we’re in the sweet spot of already being FI and having more money than we know what to do with. I’m actively looking for ways to spend more money in ways that will improve quality of life. The choice to fly was one of those ways. Net cost to fly instead of drive (ignoring the points game) was only $300 or so. But let me tell you, not facing that 12 hour drive home on the last day of our cruise was worth every penny. Relaxed at the airport, took a nap on the plane, and arrived home at a reasonable hour not very exhausted. 🙂

  • Hehe, good question. Unfortunately I can’t answer because it’s such an individual thing for the two of you, but I’m sure you know that already:)
    Now that I’m no longer working, I’m looking after the pennies more than I used to. What’s important for me now is to get good value, which is also a very personal thing, as good value in my eyes might be cheap or extravagant in someone else’s view. It’s weird that I still care more than I think I should about what people might think of me, and one of the things I care about is that they don’t see me as being cheap.
    What would I do in your situation? I’d fly. Why? I think the costs of driving may add up with hotels, gas, snack stops etc, and even not working, my time is important – getting to my destination fresh so that I enjoy the mini break is better value than getting there tired but for less money.

  • It’s a personal preference. For your husband, probably 11-hour drive is not a big deal, as he did it many times. Plus the drive could bring him back a lot of good memories. I like to drive on some old routes I used to drive many times.
    I’m very frugal, and don’t travel much at this time. But if I travel, I like to make the trip as comfortable and relaxing as I could afford to, so I can really enjoy it. Life is short.

  • Looks to me like it’s minimal savings (relatively) and it seems that the vacation aspect of the trip is important to you, so he should consider that more.

    And I would never fly Spirit, some of my friends have horror stories. They’ll try to charge you an extra fee for going to the bathroom on the plane if they could.

  • “I could drive, but every time I do, people would honk at me for reasons that I don’t really understand.” That line totally cracked me up!

    We’re a family of five and we’ve done the drive from New Jersey to North Carolina a few times and we made it all the way to Florida once too. It’s a tough drive but I really don’t mind and it can be a fun adventure too…just hopefully not in a Griswold kind of way!

  • I wouldn’t fly Spirit, but I wouldn’t drive either. If it was just me, or me and PiC, then yeah, fine, we’ll take the cheapass flights and suffer the consequences of delays and annoyances and being nickel and dimed. But when you add in the comfort of his mom plus your child who doesn’t travel in the car well, the drive sounds like a potential nightmare. And this is from someone who does 8 hour drives 3-4 times a year with her family – I love my family and because of that, it’s worth considering how to maintain everyone’s sanity, not just one person’s. With a child that doesn’t love the car seat, anything more than 4 hour drive is hard on everybody but especially on the non-driver. PiC is normally the driver for our trips because he would MUCH rather not have to entertain JuggerBaby for the whole drive. I don’t mind either job, so it doesn’t matter to me, but it is objectively exhausting.

    So frugal or cheap doesn’t come into play for me here (because I know I’m both hah). What does is wisdom: is it wise to spend twice as much, but still less than $1000, to reduce stress and fatigue? I have a top threshold I won’t go over but I always do that calculation of what makes the most sense overall. HE might not mind driving but is he taking into account the fact that he’s going to be driving with all 3 of you with your various needs and so on?

    Good luck!

  • With your post, my attention went more towards the detail of achieving one step of the American Dream. Is there any guilt with that? Outside of family, is there any thought given to helping those in your home country? I’m not sure if there is a term for it, like “survivor’s guilt,” but I was curious. Congrats on the PhD.

  • Love your blog!!! Ah the dilemma to fly or drive is a common one! When my husband and I were young we would drive no problem and save money. However when you add Grandma and baby to the mix on such a short trip, it seems like flying would be better. But also each person’s expectations of this trip are different so that can add to the conflicting opinions. Hope it turns out well and just remember the most important thing is Mr. and Mrs. FAF’s relationship ; stay a team and you will always be content in your life!

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