This 31-year-old 'frugal' millionaire spent over $45,000 on an aquarium—here's why he says it's worth it

Graham Stephan has always been frugal. From pinching pennies on coffee to avoiding installing an air conditioner in the old set for his popular YouTube channel, the self-made millionaire isn't one to spend money on anything unnecessary.

Even his Tesla was an experiment in savings, with Stephan explaining in a video how the car will ultimately pay for itself over its lifetime. "In the past, every single one of my purchases was really well calculated," the 31-year-old tells CNBC Make It. "I know if I'm going to spend money on something, here's how much it's going to make me back residually or here's how it's a good deal." 

But Stephan made one recent purchase where he ignored his philosophy entirely: his $45,000 aquarium. The massive 310-gallon tank sits in the entryway of his Las Vegas home, equipped with color-changing lights and filled with coral reef and brightly colored fish.

Despite the hefty price tag — a result of money spent on the aquarium, filtration system, coral and marine life — Stephan has zero qualms about the purchase, which he admits is "purely an expense." 

Stephan has been "obsessed" with reef aquariums ever since he was young. "This for me is the tank I would have set up as a kid when I was 12 if I had whatever I wanted." 

When he isn't in his office working on videos for his five YouTube channels, Stephan is often tending to the marine life in his tank, watching the fish, shrimp and hermit crabs go about their daily routines. 

"The level of enjoyment I get from the aquarium is just unparalleled to any other experience that I would be able to buy," he says.

He has plans to continue spending on the aquarium and introducing new, sometimes expensive, fish to the tank. But with his $6.1 million annual income and lifelong passion for aquariums, he isn't worried about the price tag. 

"This is something that I've always wanted," Stephan says. "I don't even look at the cost of this aquarium."

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