Rob Gronkowski is retiring from the NFL—here's the 'broke habit' he kept even while making $8 million

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots looks on against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida.
Michael Reaves | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Sunday that he's retiring from football at age 29.

The announcement means that Gronkowski will end his $54 million contract with the Patriots a year early. But even without collecting a paycheck, the football star will have plenty of money to fall back on: Gronkowski hasn't touched a dime of this NFL salary or signing bonuses. Instead, he chose to live off of his endorsement money throughout his career.

He's particularly frugal when it comes to his wardrobe. "My 'broke habit' still is my clothing and shoes," he told Maverick Carter on a 2018 episode of UNINTERRUPTED's "Kneading Dough." "If I like the clothing, if I like the shoes, I'll wear those shoes and I'll wear that clothing down to the rags."

He'll sometimes wear a favorite pair of jeans "seven days straight," he said, adding: "I make sure I throw them in the washer, like, Day 3."

Wearing the same thing and getting the most out of his clothes feels natural, said Gronkowski, who grew up using hand-me-downs: "Whatever my brothers had — hockey equipment, baseball equipment, even clothes — [my parents] used to just hand it down to us kids. That's why I just feel like I have no problem ever just wearing the same shirt, wearing the same jeans, shorts, until I totally got to finally get rid of them."

It took Gronkowski a long time to decide to splurge on one luxury: a diamond necklace. "I finally went out and bought myself a chain," he said.

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"When I signed my incentive deal last year, my friend had a chain and I was like, 'Dang, man, that's a nice chain.' I never had jewelry in my life. He let me wear it last year at a party and it made me feel good," he explained to Carter.

"So then, in the back of my head, I said, 'If I hit all my incentives, if I do everything I need to do, get all my bonuses, put all the work in, I've gotta finally treat myself. It's been eight years. I haven't really bought anything in my career, don't really have anything luxury like that.'"

After a productive 2017 season that ended with 1,084 yards, eight touchdowns and another Super Bowl appearance, Gronkowski finally indulged. And he has no regrets. "I love this puppy," he told Carter. "Now I know why people got jewelry. Now I understand why."

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Don't cut back too much on spending or you'll be 'miserable,' says Ramit Sethi

Financial experts like Ramit Sethi would likely support Gronkowski's decision to treat himself. "Everywhere you turn, you hear people telling you what you can't do with your money: No lattes, no jeans, no vacations," Sethi previously told CNBC Make It. But it can help to give yourself permission to say "yes" occasionally. 

Extreme frugality just isn't worth it, Sethi says. As long as you're being responsible by covering your expenses, saving and investing, you should be able to spend leftover money on things that make you happy, guilt-free. After all, he says, "life isn't simply about cutting back."

As for what Gronkowski will do next, he's hinted at a desire to start acting or possibly try his hand at professional wrestling. Whatever he chooses, "it's time to move forward and move forward with a big smile," Gronkowski said in a post on Instagram.

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