There is a difference between living below your means and frugality.
My definition of living below your means allows one to buy whatever they want as long as it is easily affordable. That is why it is very difficult to dogmatically state that buying such and such is bad and living a certain way is wrong. The fact remains that those who are able to earn more CAN simply live higher up on the scale.
Someone can own the most expensive home in your city but if that house is worth less than 1% of their net worth, then that person is definitely living below their means.
That in essence is the template. The nuances of what someone buys who declares they are good with their money is all noise and distraction. That is where the FI community seems to become derailed. I often say over and over, there are many ways to FI. If you do not earn a lot of income, you will need to be more creative with ways to save money. If you make more money, you likely need to focus on a few big ticket items that flush your funds away rapidly but could probably ignore the minor lifehacks.
Living below one’s means is a value system and becomes a way of life. It has nothing to do with following someone else’s rules. You can read about what others have done but it is the durable application to your own life and connections that make it real for you. Otherwise, you have just changed being thunk upon by CorporatIons to another guru. Avoid gurus.
Bargain hunting, riding your bike, travel hacking. These are simply the means to an end. You actually would prefer to live your life buying what you want and wanting what you have. And if you can do all that while living within your means, then you will live a more consistently enjoyable life.
So yes, judge away all you like with what someone buys of things and services. The fact remains that all that energy would be missing the point. The whole point of money and FI is to give you and your loved ones options. And if you exercise your option to buy new cars and house cleaning, then that is exactly the point of FI. You get to choose. You are no longer following a script and you get to decide exactly what you want in your life.
It is always easier to be told what to do in life. But in the end, you are opting out of thinking about what matters most to you and your life. It is the effort in thinking and the practice in living our own lives which hold the keys to satisfaction. It is similar to holding certain investments. If you do not understand the granularities of the investment, you will either hold on too long or sell too early since you did not understand how it all fit into your investment armamentarium.
I try to avoid being dogmatic. I also avoid cults and groupthink as best as I can. Every investment has their time in the sun. Rarely is anything black and white. This FI community has provided a healthy forum for each of us to explore this path to FI and beyond. It is more useful if we can keep an open mind.
I have often found that whenever a message caused a gut reaction for me, I should pause and examine it thoroughly rather than dismiss it quickly. Most times, it was during those examinations where I challenged what I really wanted from certain investments or completely different ways of thinking.
It is the learning that is the journey. There is no playbook and no answers that applies across the board. Accepting that truth has been very enlightening.