More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About the Frugalwoods Family
We’re a couple of ex-urban, rookie homesteaders finding contentment on 66 acres in central Vermont along with our daughter and dog. Extreme frugality made this dream a reality; now we’re charting a life of purpose beyond the 9-5. And trying to figure out what to do with a massive crop of rhubarb…
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Who We Are
We’re Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods, 32-year-old frugal weirdos living on a 66-acre homestead in central Vermont with our daughter, Babywoods, and our rescued racing greyhound, the infamous Frugal Hound. Mostly you’ll hear from me (Mrs. Frugalwoods) here on the blog, although Mr. FW chimes in with the occasional post.
Frugalwoods began in April 2014 as a living documentation of our journey from conventional, 9-to-5 working professionals in ultra-urban Cambridge, MA to modern day homesteaders in rural Vermont. We moved to our homestead full-time in May 2016, so we’re still getting the hang of life out here on the farm. Our land is primarily forested, though we enjoy several cleared acres around our home and barn, which are populated with mature apple trees, plum trees, and extensive garden beds. Every day out here brings a new opportunity for us to learn, problem-solve, and innovate. The self-reliance and aptitude for constantly trying new things that homestead life mandates is precisely why we wanted to live here. Everyday is filled with unknowns and with adventure.
We’re not full-time farmers, however–we work on our land as one of the many projects of our lives. We enjoy working in the dirt but we choose to engage in decidedly less dirt-focused jobs as well: Mr. Frugalwoods works from home as a software engineer and IT manager while I’m a freelance writer (yes, one who actually gets paid). The rhythm of our days is such that one hour we’re harvesting rhubarb, while the next we’re writing code (or articles), and the next we’re baking bread, or clearing brush in our woods. This balance between manual labor and exercise of the mind is what constitutes, for us, the perfect life.
Our lives are unconventional and of our own design. Frugality is what makes our lifestyle possible, but it’s also what brings us peace. We don’t stress out over impressing people with our stuff, or buying the latest and greatest gadget, or keeping up with any Joneses.
Our favorite hobby is hiking, closely followed by travel and eating delicious vittles prepared at home. Mr. FW is an avowed Renaissance man who dabbles in welding, woodworking, astronomy, ham radio, home repair, electronics, bicycling, reading science fiction, and cooking. He has a robust beard.
Coincidentally, I’m an avowed Renaissance woman of varied talents who adores yoga, home improvement, determined yet amateur use of the circular saw, frugal fashion, reading all of the things, learning to drive our tractor, singing, dancing, playing piano, writing, and creativity. I am very humorous and organized.
Frugal Hound, the official mascot of Frugalwoods, is a 6-year-old retired racing greyhound. As she has already achieved early retirement, her hobbies include: snoozing, sneezing on her parents, giving high-fives for treats, chasing squirrels in her dreams, carrying her toys from one room to another room, and tripping her parents while on walks. She also enjoys practicing yoga with me at home (practicing might be overstating it–she primarily gets in the way on the yoga mat).
Mr. Frugalwoods and I both went to college (where we met our freshman year), did relatively well, graduated in 2006 without any debt, and got good jobs. We avoided incurring debt from undergrad through a combination of attending an inexpensive state school, working while in college, scholarships, and help from our parents. While neither Mr. FW or I inherited any money (nor has a trust fund), we both come from solidly middle class families who were able to help us out with our undergrad tuition, which we’re deeply grateful for and which we consider a privilege (more about our thoughts on privilege here).
We proceeded to work hard and advance in our careers. We figured this was what our lives would be for the next 30-40 years. We got married in 2008, I completed my master’s degree in 2011 debt-free (I worked full-time at the university while I attended grad school full-time, which entitled me to free tuition), we bought our first home in 2012 (with money we saved entirely ourselves–no gifts from family or friends), and adopted our sweet Frugal Hound the same year. That’s where our normal, standard timeline stops.
In 2012 we both landed what we considered our dream jobs–professional positions as managers in offices at desks under artificial lights. We thought we’d made it. But a strange thing happened. Here we’d achieved everything we’d set out to and yet, we weren’t fulfilled. We found ourselves working for the weekend and counting down the hours to 5pm every single day. We were grouchy. Neither of us felt true passion for what we did on a daily basis.
We spend so much of our lives at work and we started questioning why we were doing it. In examining our peers, we realized they were working to survive–spending to the point of living paycheck to paycheck on white collar salaries. We couldn’t relate to that in the least. Neither of us is driven by a desire for professional notoriety, fame, a fancy-pants lifestyle, or wealth. That’s key to understand about us: we’re not out to get rich, rather, we ascribe to the judicious management of our financial resources.
We were working to earn money that we weren’t spending and coming home exhausted and stressed. And so, we made the decision to navigate our way out of the cycle of consumerism and materialism that our society seemed trapped by. We now live a simpler, more creative life closer to nature, where we work together towards our future and our shared goals.
Our Quarter-Life Crisis
Mr. FW and I had a shared quarter-life crisis in March 2014 at age 30. We realized that all of our creative energy and our best ideas were funneled into doing work for our employers—not into endeavors that we find personally rewarding. And we had a sneaking suspicion that, if we didn’t change something, we’d wake up in 40 years having simply worked in cubicles for the bulk of our lives. We felt trapped.
We began discussing what we’d do if we didn’t have to work traditional office jobs for a living and we simultaneously agreed we’d live a simpler life in the woods. We love hiking and spending time together in nature and so, moving ourselves from the city to a more rural setting is our ideal.
At first, we thought, ok, we’ll move to the woods when we retire at 65. But the more we talked, the more apparent it became that we wanted to make this move sooner—much, much sooner. Our desire to live in ways that we find personally meaningful was powerful.
This is made financially possible by the fact that we’ve always lived well below our means. In 2014, we’d been saving our money together for almost 8 years. We took a look at our finances and realized that if we embraced extreme frugality, we’d be able to make this dream a reality much sooner. To give you a sense of our definition of extreme frugality, in 2014, we saved 71% of our income (after 401K contributions).
And thus, our plan to retire early to a homestead on 40+ acres of wooded land in Vermont was officially launched. We purchased our homestead in 2016 and you can check out our Frugal Homestead Series for the details.
A major component of our decision to go rural is that we’ve done the city thing. We’ve lived in the three big East Coast haunts: New York City, Washington, DC and Boston, MA. There’s a lot that we love about dense, urban environs, but it was time for a change. Also, city livin’ is expensive and didn’t provide the time or the space we craved to explore our myriad interests.
An additional factor spurring us on is that we don’t know how long we’ll be around–life is short and unexpected. We don’t want to work for the next 30 years and then finally move to the country in an effort to find solace. We decided to take this risk now so that we can build a meaningful life to enjoy. We want to wake up inspired to try new things and create a life of variety. We crave adventure and part of what we disliked so much about working in offices is the lack of diversity and discovery. We’re victims of wanderlust. We’re committed to creating a life of purpose and intention.
Please don’t misunderstand, we’re not aiming for a life where we sit on a beach all day and drink rum (although that is nice on occasion). We’re striving for a life where we work hard, but on projects that are rewarding and produce just enough revenue to support us. By adhering to a lifestyle of low expenses, we’re in a position to support ourselves through entirely nontraditional methods.
Due to our conservative fiscal approach, we don’t plan on going entirely sans income after quitting our 9-5’s–we pull down rental income from our Cambridge, MA home (where we used to live), we’ll grow our own veggies, perhaps build a few cabins to rent out on Airbnb, freelance writing and editing (Mrs. Frugalwoods), welding-for-hire (Mr. Frugalwoods), and whatever else comes our way. Plus, we don’t need much to live on and if we needed to, we’d be able to comfortably withdraw 4% from our investments to cover our expenses.
A common thread through all of our writing is how much we rely on one another and the strength of our marriage. We feel incredibly fortunate that we found each other and that we share the same outlook on life. What’s especially interesting to us is that we’ve changed in unison and made this decision to live an unusual life together. I’m grateful for Mr. FW every single day.
I go into more detail about our relationship to each other and our finances in Behind the Scenes of a Happy Frugal Marriage. If you’re hoping to bring a reluctant partner around to your frugal way of thinking, you might enjoy this compendium of advice from dozens of Frugalwoods readers.
Through Frugalwoods, we share our journey and daily life stories of intentional, joyful frugality. My writing is a narration of our successes, foibles, and lessons learned along this path to a wholly unconventional, whimsical, and purpose-filled life.
One of our goals in writing Frugalwoods is to build an online community of like-minded folks who value living life above spending money. We love the community that has grown here and we thank you all for sharing your personal stories with us and with each other. I’m so glad you’re joining us on this journey!
In sharing our story, I hope to prompt each of you to ask yourselves the questions that guided our transformation: what would you do if you didn’t need your paycheck? When are you happiest? And what’s stopping you from making that a reality?
Where You Could Start
If you’re new to the concepts of early retirement extreme and financial independence, or curious about how Mr. Frugalwoods and I approach it, start with How A Year Of Extreme Frugality Changed Us.
This is a pretty comprehensive overview of why we’re doing what we’re doing. If you’d like to know how we’re doing it, check out Why We Don’t Micromanage Our Money. I also break down our expenses every single month, which you can review in our Monthly Expense Reports.
Never saved a penny in your life? Have debt to pay down? Want to flex your frugal muscles? Take our Uber Frugal Month Challenge and check out How We Save 65% Annually (actually it’s 71% now). And if you’re seeking general personal finance advice, you might enjoy our Demystifying Personal Finance series.
For more on the ideology that grounds our approach, visit our Frugalwoods Philosophy section. All other content is listed in the categories at the right, which I add to as I address new topics. We’ve covered everything from what we eat for breakfast to how a mortgage works to stuff we’ve found in the trash.
Thank you for frugaling with us, we’re glad you’re here! We’d love to meet you–where are you on your financial journey? Drop us a note or leave a comment below anytime. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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