Is Frugality Sustainable Without A Goal?

Mr. Frugalwoods and I had a conversation last night about how much more frugal we’ve become since formalizing our plan to retire in 2017 to a homestead in the woods of Vermont and it got us thinking: could we–or anyone–be this frugal without a destination in mind?

I’m fond of saying that when you’re working towards a goal, frugality isn’t about what you’re giving up, it’s about what you’re going to gain. I think a frugality-fueled goal could encompass a range of things from paying down debt to putting kids through college to having the ability to travel the world. But what if you don’t have a goal set at all?

A delightful homemade taco spread we had the other week. My goal is to eat this again in the near future...

A delightful homemade taco spread we had the other week. My goal is to eat this again in the near future…

The Frugalwoods Frugality Journey

I’ll be honest that our journey through, and to, frugality hasn’t been terribly rocky. We’ve never had any debt (other than our mortgage), we don’t have a secret passel of jet skis hidden in our basement, and we’ve always been mostly aligned in our approach to our finances. I think Mr. FW and I are both naturally frugal and inclined towards efficiency, optimization, and getting a good deal.

Me on our trip to Zagreb, Croatia

Me on our trip to Zagreb, Croatia

Plus, neither of us derives much pleasure from spending money. We use money to procure stuff we need (like groceries) or really, really want (like vacations across Europe). But here’s the thing: even with this ingrained sense of frugality, there was a period of time in our lives when we weren’t as frugal as we are now.

In college, Mr. FW and I were frugal out of necessity. We didn’t make much money at our on-campus jobs and thus, didn’t have much money to spend. It’s also fairly easy to be frugal in college–there’s so much free entertainment and free food (though there isn’t free beer…) on campus that you’d have to try hard not to take advantage of those opportunities. And our mode in college wasn’t that different from our peers. Nobody had loads of money so we all scrimped together, shopped at thrift stores, and used two-for-one Chinese takeout coupons. Mr. FW and I also joined every single student club we could find that offered a free meal at their meetings. It was a strategic approach to extra-curriculars, in our estimation. College was truly our training ground for future frugal weirdo status.

After graduation, I moved to New York City and worked for AmeriCorps, which is a story I should share in more depth at some point. To boil it down, I received a stipend of $10,000 along with food stamps, and managed to save $2,000 of it by the end of the year. Not too shabby. Mr. FW was similarly judicious with his incredibly low entry-level salary.

Too bad we didn't have Frugal Hound when we got married... she makes a good flower girl!

Too bad we didn’t have Frugal Hound when we got married… she makes a good flower girl!

By the time we combined forces and got engaged in 2007 and married in 2008, we were already in a rare position for our age group: we had no debt, we didn’t live paycheck-to-paycheck, and we earnestly wanted to buy a house. And so, we started saving even more. With the objective of homeownership guiding us, we were content with our uber frugal status. In the same vein as our current style, we rarely ate out, we didn’t pay for entertainment, we didn’t own a car, and we always shopped used. Plus, we lived in a supremely inexpensive basement apartment, which enabled us to ramp up our savings.

After buying our house in 2012, I’d say we experienced something of a spending Rumspringa. We suddenly looked at each other and realized we’d not only managed to buy a house, but, we were saving enough that we had a hefty little nest egg. And then something dangerous happened: we didn’t have a plan.

The Frugalwoods Adrift and Aimless (Sans Plans)

We’d barreled through our early and mid-20’s with a laser like focus on our aspirations: first to graduate college, then to get jobs, then for me to go to grad school, then to buy a house, and then to advance in our careers. And we’d done all that. Gulp.

While we were thrilled with our accomplishments, we started to wonder what might be next in our lives. And that’s when we began to spend more… Neither of us was very pleased with our jobs, or with the 9 to 5 grind, but we didn’t see a way out yet.

Mr. FW in a coffee shop without a beard... try to restrain your shock

Mr. FW in a coffee shop without a beard… try to restrain your shock

Instead, we did what most people do–we inflated our lifestyle to make up for not enjoying how we spent our Mondays through Fridays. We reasoned that this was just what people did, right?! Fortunately, we were both still guided by our internal frugal clocks and so our increased spending wasn’t rampant by any means. But we went out to dinner once a week, we grabbed coffee in eponymous shops, we bought more clothes than we needed (from thrift stores mostly), and we were just generally looser with our wallets. We were the very definition of not tracking our spending! The horror.

I’m deeply grateful that our version of increased spending was rather tame and still had us doing our own home renovations, cooking most of our own meals, contributing to our 401ks, saving a hefty percentage, and avoiding debt. However, we weren’t saving at a rate that would enable early retirement.

We’re Saved: A Plan Is Hatched!

Luckily, we had our watershed moment together and hatched our financial independence plot in early 2014–well before we’d had the chance to do irreversible damage to our savings. I shudder to think what might’ve happened if we’d allowed the lifestyle inflation train to dog us for another few years. In addition to mapping out a timeline, a homestead plan, and sketching our ideas for alternative revenue streams, we realized we’d need to take a careful look at our spending. We decided to live the next month as frugally as possible–and that month became the inspiration for the Uber Frugal Month Challenge.

Mr. FW and I cutting my hair at home.

True frugality: Mr. FW and I cutting my hair at home.

We lived that month like some hardcore frugal weirdos and realized: this is totally possible! Not only was it possible, it was a ton of fun! Frugality requires creativity, teamwork, a sense of humor, and a willingness to do some unusual things. It also necessitates teaching yourself new skills, relying on your own abilities, and having a clear idea about what matters to you in life.

In other words, frugality makes life more real. Spending money is an easy way to numb our true emotions. That’s exactly what Mr. FW and I were doing–we’d go out to dinner because we’d had a hard week, we’d reward ourselves with a treat because we didn’t like our jobs, and so on. But that’s not really living–that’s numbing the pain. Or at least it was for us. Conversely with extreme frugality, we were forced to face what our ambitions are, how strong our marriage is, and what we actually want out of life. There’s no easy paid-for solutions to hide behind. And what we found is that we love living like this–true, honest, and without expensive distractions.

Can You Be Frugal Without A Goal?

What I wonder is if this level of frugality is possible without having a specific goal to work towards? For us, every financial decision we make is grounded in our ultimate desire to quit our jobs and become self-employed homesteaders. And thanks to that goal, frugality isn’t a struggle for us. But would we be happy in our frugality in the absence of such a clearly articulated plan? I honestly don’t know.

And so, I want to ask you what you think. You’re a money saving bunch, so tell me, do you think a goal is essential for sustainable frugality? And if not, what motivates you to be frugal?

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153 Responses

  1. Mrs SSC says:

    I think for a small percentage of people, frugality is just how they live and who they are. They don’t have to think about it. And I think for another small percentage – like me and it sounds like y’all, we are naturally frugal, but not laser-focused frugal unless we have a goal. Then, there is a third class – this would be Mr. SSC, where being frugal hurts and is unnatural – but with a great goal in mind, they can survive the pain and be frugal-ish. Then the other 60% of the world thinks we all are crazy, and being frugal is ridiculous because they deserve more, and even if they have a goal, and don’t reach it – it is because of some external force, and not their fault.

    I mean, Mr SSC met with a financial planner for giggles yesterday, and the guy actually told him that we are saving a ton of money, but we don’t need to. And Mr SSC was like – um…. what else am I supposed to do with it? (I was so proud of him….)

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Those frugality divisions make sense to me! I think you’re right that it’s possible to assume the mantle of frugality when necessary, as your husband has done. That’s wonderful that he’s on board with it! And, I’m not surprised your financial planner said that… I don’t think they know what to do with us frugal folks ;).

  2. Kalie says:

    I agree that one’s motivation plays a huge role in how effectively the person can save money. Having a goal is important, but I think it also matters how important the goal is to the person. When our goal was paying off our mortgage early, I wasn’t as motivated because it felt impossible and I wasn’t excited about it. When our goal switched to increasing our financial flexibility (our version of financial independence) and that included being more generous and having time to volunteer, I was way more motivated to work toward the smaller goal of mortgage pay-off, as well as the bigger goal I felt was more worthy of sacrifice.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a great perspective. It definitely helps me to have smaller, more incremental goals as well. And, I think a big goal had got to be something you’re really passionate about. That’s wonderful that you found a way to blend the two!

  3. I suppose pushing your own personal comfort zone with respect to frugality is like making other types of sacrifices – easier when you have a clear vision and possibly an end point (although in some cases it will become habit along the way).

    I have to admit the frugality we cultivated in grad school (goal: max out IRAs each year) has gone out the window in the last 9 months since I defended, even though we have less income now and therefore should be more frugal. We have just had too much flux in our lives and, frankly, too much money in non-earmarked cash savings to have frugality be a high priority.

    I think having a clear vision for our finances would help motivate us a ton, and after reading this post I’m going to give that some serious thought and discussion because I don’t like feeling adrift the way we are.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like you’re sort of describing how we felt after we bought our house. We certainly spent more than we needed to and, when I think back, it was just sort of unconscious, unfocused spending. But, I also think that sometimes the less frugal times can be very instructive–it certainly helped us to solidify our longterm goals in a way that we hadn’t been able to before. You two are so on top of things, I can’t imagine you’ll be adrift for long :).

  4. Brian says:

    Yup, its possible. Some people are just born to not spend money, and they set up systems for themselves that make the act of living frugally automatic (much like you have). However, having a goal and a purpose makes going hardcore frugal poss ile for far longer periods of time without beijg burned out.

    Its just good eating habits…you ca eat healthy without a ‘goal’ of eating healthy, as long as you set up systems to make the process easy. Howevr, if you went on a diet sith the goal of losing weight, it would be very hard to accomplish it by accident…..its not sustainable unless you have a goal and purpose behind it.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Dieting and eating is a really good analogy. There are definitely two sides of that coin: a lifelong sort of decision vs. unfocused, short-term spurts. It’s certainly more sustainable for us with a true goal in mind!

  5. I think goals put actions into overdrive-always helpful. I want to hear your NYC living story. Spending $8k in a year is pretty impressive

  6. In my mind, adopting a fairly frugal lifestyle is just the intelligent thing to do. Since there aren’t unlimited resources – financial or otherwise – it makes sense to conserve. And on a planet with 7 billion people, it also makes sense to waste as little as possible. I don’t think frugality needs to have a goal. To me, it just makes sense.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s an interesting way of thinking about it. Frugality really does make sense! And, I think it’s a self-preservation mechanism as well–you’re really staving off future catastrophes by having your savings to fall back on.

    • +1 to that. Frugality is an ethical position. It’s also the only possible way we could ever get the whole world to a standard of living anywhere close to the first-world without completely burning up the planet.

      • Danielle says:

        I’ve been becoming a minimalist this year, and every time I bring a carload of donations to goodwill, I feel guilty about the amount of needless consumption I’ve done. It makes me want to never buy anything ever again!

  7. Emily says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this- part of why I enjoy your blog is I feel we are kindred spirits but you have a goal and I don’t! I grew up on a rural frugal homestead with creative parents who did everything themselves (homebuilding, furniture design, sew clothes, press cider, chickens etc.etc.) and now I live in NYC and work on fifth ave. My husband and I are puzzling out what our goal might be together and until then we are saving and learning. If you can’t force an answer – you live the questions instead. What can I simplify today, where I am? What can I learn? Do I need a $13 cocktail or do I really need a nap? Listening to my heart, the answer arises. work for me can be constant pressure to submit, optimize and meet goals- I don’t want my free time to resemble that.

    • Whitney says:

      ‘If you can’t force an answer- live the questions instead.’ Love the way you worded this! 🙂

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Wow, Emily! I’m with Whitney, that is tremendously well-said. And, I love that you’re in the mode of saving and learning until you do land on that goal. That’s the fabulous thing about frugality–it gives you options in life that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

        P.S. Your parents sound like my personal heros 😉

        • Emily says:

          The best line was from Rilke- but thanks. Also be prepared for your kids to inexplicably move to New York.
          Rainer Maria Rilke
          “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

  8. Greypaws says:

    I would think one would need some kind of short term and long term goal to sustain frugality. We’ve spent all our married life being frugal in part due to our upbring and wages. To keep the wolves at bay and not carry a large debt load, it was a necessity. But and there is always a but …… we didn’t, thought we couldn’t….. put in a better savings plan. We did do automatic savings deductions but without a clear future goal, we didn’t maximize those savings or add to them in an appreciable way until much later in life.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I agree with you on the need for shorter and longer term goals–that certainly helps me in all aspects of life, really.

  9. bev says:

    Since I am a person closer to retirement, rather than being younger, such as yourselves, my perspective might be different. When you are young, you look forward, but as you age, you look backward, and you wonder about all of your life’s decisions, all of the good and all of the bad. If you’re really “enlightened” so to speak, you realize that more often than not these were your decisions and not fate or the fault of others. Money does not solve all problems or make you happier, but it does make life easier when/if you are faced with difficulty. The more sensible you can be with your money when you are young, the better off you’ll be as you age. To answer your question….I believe, yes, having a goal to strive for is always better regarding frugality, and it reduces complacency. Once you reach that goal, work towards a new one, and when it’s time to look backward, you will feel pride instead of regret about your life’s decisions. Gosh, I’m long-winded….sorry!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Don’t apologize at all! I really appreciate your insights! I completely agree that money doesn’t equal happiness. But, like you said, using is wisely certainly does make life easier. And, I think you’re spot on that saving money when you’re young yields so many dividends for older age. I really like the thought of looking back and feeling pride instead of regret–that’s a wonderful perspective to have.

  10. Julia says:

    Having a stated goal has definitely helped us live frugally as a family. Our goal is to pay off our mortgage in four years, so neither my husband nor I needs to work full-time. When my kids ask why we can’t buy this or that, my answer is always the same – because we want to pay off our mortgage so Daddy can be home more – and it always satisfies them. They have even offered to give us some of their allowances to put towards the mortgage (though I talk them out of it and encourage saving for themselves instead).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like a wonderful goal to me! That’s great too that you’re educating your kids on your financial goals–what a good way to elevate their financial literacy. I wish you all the very best on your pay-off journey!

  11. K.W. says:

    I have to say I love the photo of the beardless Mr. FW! You’re trucking along, spending some and living a “normal” life, no beard…. Lo and behold the frugal weirdo homesteaders come out, the beard is grown, the escape plans to Vermont are hatched – gotta say, bearded hippie frugal weirdo is far more interesting than the “normal” alternative!

  12. A goal is an important part of progress for me. Paying off my loans was fun and quick. Financial independence is too far off at this point to drive our spending. We are saving for a house, but that doesn’t get me excited like I hoped it would. Travel is the only thing that gets me jazzed in the short term. I’m sure I’ll find some way to fund my travel while still adding everything I can to longer term goals.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Travel is pretty awesome. I’ve never regretted any of the money we’ve spent to travel! And, not sure if you’re into travel hacking or not, but I highly recommend checking it out. We’ve had free hotel rooms everywhere we’ve gone, which really cuts down on costs. I’m no expert, but if you’re interested in learning more, I recommend talking to Brad at Richmond Savers–he pretty much wrote the book on how to travel hack effectively. (can you tell I’m a fan of your travel goal ;)?)

  13. Mrs PoP says:

    I think it really depends on the personality type and what gradation of frugality you’re talking about whether or not a goal is necessary (or even a hindrance in some sense).

    Mr PoP is the personality type that absolutely needs a goal – and luckily he is great at setting them and looking forward and planning adventures for the future. I’m not naturally as great as he is on that on that front, but I’m a natural optimizer and frugality comes much easier to me than Mr PoP. But given a specific numeric goal, it’s also easy for me to take that too far and stress about it when it really doesn’t matter in the big picture. I shouldn’t stress over whether we saved $120K last year or $121K – Mr PoP helps me keep that in check because my natural tendency is toward exactitude and optimization when satisficing a goal can be good enough.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I tend to stress over those $1K variations as well and much like in your household, Mr. FW reels me back to the land of reason. Having a partner who understands your tendencies and can balance you out is one of the greatest aspects of partnership in my opinion. We definitely married the right guys :)!

  14. Laura says:

    I think a goal is pretty essential. My husband and I take pretty much the opposite approach to budgeting from you (we plan out each month and give every dollar a job). We save more than we “have” to for retirement, and we eat out a lot less than our peers. But we have certain fun categories of our budget that we throw a lot of money into because, well, we can. And I’m sure that if we had a goal I’d be much more frugal with those dollars.

    I’m the most frugal with our grocery budget, and honestly at this point it’s more a point of pride and a personal challenge than anything else. We could spend more on groceries than we do, but I’ve been doing the coupon thing for so long now that I just can’t not do it!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m with you, I love the personal challenge aspect of frugality! Mr. FW and I really do enjoy the competition we both have to spend less and optimize more. It’s a lot of fun!

  15. I definitely need a goal to keep me toting the frugal line. I am only as frugal as I have to be. For me, the point isn’t to be frugal but to live consciously and maximize my happiness in the long term and in the short term. That takes some soul searching. If we try hard enough we can always convince ourselves that we don’t need this or that thing to be happy and we can live without out. Sure we don’t need it, but if we can have it without sacrificing any of our larger goals, why shouldn’t we? To me, saving just for the sake of saving and spending for the sake of spending are two sides of the same coin when they are done to excess because they both result from of a lack of purpose/goals.

    The hubs and I have set a long-term goal of retiring in 15 years (when he’s 45 and I’m 48). We figured out how much money we’d need to have by then, calculated what our savings rate needed to be in order to accomplish that and used it to set our minimum savings goal. We know that as long as we’re hitting that number, we’re golden. That leaves us free to do whatever we want with the rest of our money after that. It also gives us peace of mind knowing that we’re not just saving for the sake of saving, but saving towards a specific purpose.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Saving towards a specific purpose definitely helps us to stay motivated and focused. I like your comment that saving or spending for no reason are similarly unfocused efforts. Congrats to you for working towards your early retirement goal–sounds awesome (and very focused 🙂 )!

  16. I can see how it would be harder to be frugal without a set goal in mind for why you are giving up some of the things that most people indulge in. Great post!

  17. We don’t have a clear goal, and I think it would help if we did. But, well, Mr. FP is goal-challenged. We’ve been married… umm, almost 14 years(!)… and he has had 6 jobs (well, 5, but one of them he had twice) in 4 different states, plus has attended 3 different graduate programs in 2 more states (he did finish one of them). So we’ve never really found a groove.

    Obviously, we’re frugal, but I think we could do better if we had a specific goal to work for besides “never being broke again.”

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow, you weren’t kidding–that’s a lot of different jobs! But I imagine the variety keeps life interesting :). Seems like you’re mighty frugal without a specific goal though. Do you see early retirement as a goal for you all?

  18. Goals really help you stay focused, help you move forward each step of the way,without them you still can be successful just not as consistently.

  19. That’s the clearest picture we’ve ever seen of you! I feel like I’m one step closer to recognizing you while I’m out, except the part about me never having visited Boston and with no imminent plans to go. 😉

  20. Kathy says:

    As a child growing up during the Depression, my mother has been frugal (well, actually cheap) all her life. And after she and my dad did a few improvements to the only house they ever owned, she simply saved. And saved. And saved. No plan to ever spend any of it. No desire to travel, or buy new furniture (other than a kitchen table and chairs she bought for $12 at an auction) and rarely even buying new clothes. So yes, it can be sustained, but perhaps for a different generation.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s an interesting perspective to have. I can imagine your mom’s frugality out of necessity probably became a very ingrained aspect of her life. My grandfather grew up during the depression and had a similarly life-long fierce frugality.

  21. “In other words, frugality makes life more real. Spending money is an easy way to numb our true emotions.” —-I could not agree more, especially on that lat point. I believe spending, especially when done mindlessly, is a classic form of escapism. Life is crazy, it’s time to escape. Had a bad day at work, it’s time to escape…and so forth.

    Anyway, I think frugality is possible with a goal though it’s going to be more difficult/not as sustainable without a goal that guides you. Thinking back to when I was paying off debt I was frugal (largely because I was forced to be) but it was still a challenge and slipped up. It has been much different for us now though – we have goals we’re shooting for and see foolish spending as a way to throw us off the big goals we have. When tempted to give in, it’s the goal that guides us back to see what is it we want – that thing in the moment or X goal we’re working hard for. It makes the decision to not give in that much simpler.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Your description of excessive spending as escapism is so apt. That’s exactly how I feel. Goals certainly do make the decision not to spend that much easier!

  22. I don’t think you HAVE to, but I think it’s a HUGE help, because they you have purpose, you can turn it into a game, you can explain to friends why you aren’t going out, etc. Otherwise the whole think just might be a drag.

  23. I guess we’ve always had a loosely designed goal of “don’t waste money on crap, because money can buy awesome stuff/experiences/freedom on the cheap if you’re clever”.

    It was never specifically “max the savings to retire as early as possible”, although reaching FIRE sooner was certainly a motivator.

    But then again, I might be a different breed of person with my Vulcan-like ability to defy Madison Avenue and not spend much. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You certainly have that natural, ingrained frugality down pat. That’s interesting that retiring early wasn’t your specific goal–but hey, you did it anyway!

  24. Samantha says:

    I do completely agree with this. For me, the choice cannot simply be boiled down to “Starbucks or no Starbucks?” or “Indian takeout or no takeout?” or even “Sparkly new dress or NO dress?” The choice must be “Starbucks or Early Retirement?”, “Takeout or Vacation?”, etc. I must have a larger YES in mind in order to firmly declare NO to all the little luxuries.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a great way of putting it, Samantha! I do the same thing all the time :). It really does make it easier and more straightforward for me when the option is “short-term want vs. long-term dream.” Brings it into sharp relief!

  25. Norm says:

    I know people who have always been “miserly” since high school, without a goal, and they’ve stayed that way. It’s just in some people’s nature. Think about old folks who went through the Great Depression. Fifty years later, after working their way up the ladder and retiring, they’re still clipping coupons and eating tuna sandwiches. What the heck are they saving for? I don’t know. It’s just in their nature.

    For me, specific events and ideas have spurred me over the years to be ever more frugal. I’ll probably outline those one day. Some are work-related (getting paid more, taking on work I don’t want to do and wanting to leave) some are things I’ve read (MMM, various charts) but most of all it’s my own calculations that compel me. I have had a gigantic spreadsheet of our projected money stuff for years which I have made changes to over the years. Only in the last year or two did I add a component showing our retirement needs and I saw the possibilities. I want to live up to the promise of that spreadsheet!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      For me, tracking is gamifying. I like to “win” things, and gosh darned it… if there’s numbers on a sheet I need them to be headed up! I update our master numbers once a year, in January, and it’s always a ton of fun to see exactly where we land.

  26. Nice says:

    I want to be frugal as it is the right thing to do, it is the smart way to live. Not living frugal is a mindset that was created by consumerism and people with greed. Frugaling simplifies my life and saves a lot of time and money. Frugality helps your big goal— financial freedom, it is a life long goal. It is also a way to show respect to the unfortunate people around the world….. Living a show off life is a crual drama that we play infront of humanity. I am in peace to my self when I am frugal… Lot more to write

  27. Mike says:

    Nobody who endured the Depression needed a goal to stay frugal. Then again, when you live in a world where $100 a month cell-phone plans and $5 coffee drinks are the norm, you need to really go against the grain to be frugal. Not to be all doom and gloom, but a dose of healthy fear never hurts when it comes to keeping those bills in your wallet.

    • Nice says:

      Yes it is against the grain ……that is the hard part.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Fear is a really powerful motivator, but I don’t know that I’d like to spend my life with that as a primary motivator. Folks who lived through the depression didn’t have much of a choice, but thankfully most of us do.

  28. Mrs. FI says:

    I think it would be much more difficult and darn near impossible for Mr. FI and I to save like we do if we didn’t have the goal of being FI in the back of our heads. We certainly wouldn’t spend ourselves dry…but we’d probably spend like you and Mr. Frugalwoods did when you didn’t have the goal of the homestead. Eating out every once in a while, buying things we didn’t necessarily need, going on more trips, etc. While I’m naturally frugal, Mr. FI is not, so we’d probably have more arguments about spending if we didn’t have this same goal as a reason to save…seeking FI saved our marriage! Okay, not really. But our goal for ER HAS brought us closer together AND saved us from unnecessarily arguing about money like so many couples do. P.S. How did you guys like Croatia? That’s on our list of countries to visit next!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Ah, the side benefit of reducing marital strife is a great point! We feel like frugality has helped us get along better too, even though we’ve always been on mostly the same financial page.

      Croatia was beautiful, cheap, and tons of fun. We were just in Zagreb… so we didn’t even get to see the “beautiful” part of the Croatian coast, but we had a great time.

  29. MrsB says:

    I think discovering your blog last week may have saved my husband and I… There are several statements in this blog today that really spoke to me: “We inflated our lifestyle to make up for not enjoying how we spent our Mondays through Fridays.” and “Spending money is an easy way to numb our true emotions.” After entering the workforce about 3 years ago, MrB and I payed off ~$100,000 of debt and saved enough to buy a house with 5% down in only 1.5 years… 1.5 years later we have payed off 20% of our house so we no longer pay PMI. We’ve been frugal, mostly out of MrB’s shear force of will (lol), but over the last 6 months we’ve been ramping our spending… and its because we’ve met our goals. I find myself hating the frenzy of the 9 to 5 schedule and we are constantly talking about retiring early but perhaps didn’t actually believe it could be done, so we didn’t have a solid goal. Both MrB and I are sitting down this weekend to set a goal and plan in place, to keep us on track. Thank you for your incredible inspiration!!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hey thanks! We too were surprised at how our spending slowly began to creep up. I think it’s just so “normal” for today’s lifestyles that we didn’t even notice.

      Good luck in setting that goal! Early retirement is definitely possible, and it sounds like you have the proper mindset and financial footing to attain it earlier than you’d think.

      I’d encourage you to really ponder what you want to do in life if money was not an issue. Once you’ve identified your list, figure out how to bend the rest of your life towards that goal. Hopefully your list and your husband’s list overlap a bit 🙂

  30. Megan says:

    When you have a dimple like that in your chin, it is against the law to cover it with a beard. I swear it’s on the books.

  31. mike says:

    You guys are becoming one of my favorite blogs. I like that you both agree on being frugal. Just a big thank you for your posts.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks Mike! It really helps to have both of us on the same page when it comes to finances. Team efforts make all the difference!

  32. GoodPinkSlip says:

    I think a goal helps a lot with sustaining frugality – I know for me, it wasn’t until I realized just how attainable FI was with a ramped up savings rate that I took a serious holistic look at my finances. I was always fairly frugal, but I was probably similar to your pre-homestead thinking. I’d think things like “I’m tired – go out to eat this week? Why not? I haven’t been in a while. Once a week seems reasonable.” And maybe it is for some people, but for my savings rate, based on my current goal to reach FI, it is usually not, and I know that now.

    Even within cooking, I’ve enjoyed setting a goal to gradually reduce my monthly food spending this year until it hits a satisfyingly frugal cost per meal. It definitely helps keep me on task, and its incremental nature helps energize me to keep going.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah, yeah, optimizing food has been a fun part of the journey. We’re always playing with new recipes and different ingredients, but careful to stay in a reasonable range in the budget. We’ve found that one of the keys is reducing the amount of meat we eat. If you go mostly vegetarian, you ca really splurge on very nice produce and spices without breaking the budget.

  33. I think it really motivates you when you have a goal. I’ve always been frugal…it has been ingrained in my brain growing up in a working class immigrant family. So I’ve always been a saver, but even as a saver, I still succumbed to the consumerist world we live in. While I tried to get good deals, I still wanted to keep up with the Joneses, plus there was nothing motivating me to save other than for the purpose of saving and maybe some vague notion of financial security for my future self. Once I started reading about early FI…it really boosted my savings rate and made me realize that more stuff doesn’t make me happier.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Goals help us all focus, but having a firm foundation like you did makes it easier to implement that focus when you have that realization!

  34. Monica says:

    I am 55 and was raised by parents who had to be frugal and as a result, as an adult I have always lead a “naturally” frugal life. I don’t now and have never really had a “goal” other than to live an enjoyable life and live below my means with the overall vague goal of having enough retirement money to be comfortable and have the means to travel and enjoy my life when I stop working. I have never had debt other than a mortgage and 0% interest car loans every decade or so, and I make enough money to support my two kids and our pets,, max out my retirement money and save for college and other things. I have never planned to retire early because I really like my job and don’t feel the need to leave it behind (I am an academic and am more or less my own boss – have lots of flexibility, work from home when I want, never have to ask anyone’s permission to go to a doctor or dentist appointment, or a school play – I come and go as I please and am do my job well). I guess my point is that in answer to your question : Yes! I do think it is possible to be a lifelong frugal weirdo with out a specific goal.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m so glad we found someone! Sounds like you have a great setup, and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Your perspective is a great addition to the comments!

  35. Nick says:

    I definitely had a similar experience! I’ve always been frugal, but I went through a brief period of lavish* spending in between getting a full time job and learning that I could buy my freedom with enough savings.

    Also, I recommend marinating those sliced red onions in salt and lime juice for a couple hours or overnight.

    Also also, thank you for teaching me the word ‘passel’.

    * Defined as frequent purchasing of Mexican sandwiches and renting a studio apartment.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Howdy Nick! Were those Mexican sandwiches from Tenoch in Medford? Because those are so good they are nearly worth the delay in retirement 🙂

      • Nick says:

        Nope, they were from Super Taco in DC! But now that I know about Tenoch I’ll have to check it out. Thanks a lot, you just added about $50 to my month expenses. ; )

  36. MandalayVA says:

    I was more frugal by necessity when I was younger, but with the Five Year Retirement Plan in full effect I’m more mindfully frugal. Just this afternoon I went to a retirement party at my job. The person retiring was of the “normal” age, possibly a little older, and as usual people were grumbling things like “I’ll never be able to retire” or “I still have ten years to go.” (and these were people in their fifties and sixties). I thought “the reason I cook in bulk and don’t buy clothes and got rid of DirecTV and get my e-books from the library is so I can be standing up there in five years.” I won’t be young–54–but I’ll still have a lot of living ahead of me.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yep. Stuff like that really brings the reality of the common life-arc to focus. I know some of my colleagues are just now starting to save for retirement, in their late 30s and early 40s. And I’m thinking “man, they are so behind”.

  37. In a word: a-yup.

    In a few more words: I think most long-term projects (sacrificing immediate pleasures for the sake of future goods) are difficult without a sense of what you’re aiming for (the exception is probably babies, because you can’t really get out of it once they’re there; even if you don’t see the future good, you still have to make the present sacrifice because, hmm. I guess because we all agree infanticide is bad.). That future good can be concrete (move to homestead, retire early) or more nebulous (become a better person) but either way you have to take actual steps, which means at least having a solid sense of what you think you want, even if that mutates along the way. As far as extreme frugality goes, I’ve said this before: I think I could do the level of frugality you’re at for three years. I don’t think I can do it for 30. But given salaries in my field and where I started from ($0 net worth as of age 35), I will be working for 25-30 years; no level of saving could get me to retirement earlier than my mid-50s at the earliest. So, a calculated decision to be probably at about the level of your spending rumspringa (hee.) Coffee in coffeeshops, some clothing, some personal care, some travel and movie tickets etc. Cutting those things out won’t make a meaningful difference to my retirement date but it will make a meaningful difference to my quality of life over decades.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Makes sense to us. Our homestead plans actually have us spending more than we are now, just because we want to make sure we’re fully experiencing our plan and goal. Saving-sprints sure do help accumulate quickly though. We’re sorta shocked just how fast, easy, and profitable the past year of extreme frugality turned out to be.

  38. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    I agree- a goal can make a big difference. I think it’s hard to live in frugal weirdo status without one ( but you can still live a frugal lifestyle).

    We’ve been married for 13 years. We had 3 separate goals that gave us laser focus.
    1) our wedding/ house fund.
    2) Several years later it was our adoption fund ( we chose adoption as the path to parenthood)
    3) then it was the “crap our savings has been drained post adoption and we need to rebuild” and then payoff residual school loans.

    We are still naturally frugal, but not as “scary frugal” as we were during those times. However we’re ok with this. We like travel and occasionally eating out- but at 46 and 48 we feel as though we’re at the perfect spot in our lives to do some things we enjoy that cost a little money.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Isn’t it interesting how life evolves, and goals evolve along with it? It think it sounds like you’ve carefully chosen how and when to spend, aligning closely with your values.

  39. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    Oh- l loved your “spending rumspringa”

  40. Christine says:

    I have always been a task oriented person. Without financial goals, I would not had the discipline to be frugal. It is one area where I have control and I want to be I control. Fuelling these goals is the fact that I was poor once and had no roof over my head or was unemployed for 6 months. So that keeps me up at night when I think of extreme situations of what will happen to me if I am not frugal. So fear and goals keeps me frugal.
    From Christine, Australia.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Well informed fear is a powerful motivator. It’s great that you’ve been able to turn that fear into concrete goals to drive your actions. A lot of people don’t turn their fear into something nearly as useful!

  41. Tawcan says:

    A goal can make a difference but frugality can also be a life long lifestyle without a goal. Both my parents and their parents (my grandparents) are frugal in natural without having an end goal. Frugality just runs deep in my family I suppose.

  42. Having a goal really helps get your frugal lifestyle started. If you aren’t feeling deprived in your frugality then the longer you are on it the more normal it becomes. I had a ten year retire early plan and the frugality that we used eventually just became our lifestyle and the same we live today in early retirement. I live the same life without having a specific goal unless it is a subconscious one to remain financially free.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I guess that’s true, once you hit that early retirement point… the goal becomes “make this sustainable”. A whole different kettle of fish, but important none the less.

  43. I think it’s probably possible for some people. but I need a goal to maintain any sense of motivation over the long-run. “Fortunately”, we have lots of debt motivating us…

  44. Kmaddie says:

    I’ve always been frugal by nature. I was the only one out of three sisters that managed to leave vacations with more money than I started. When I was babysitting as a teen, I saved every cent I could. I would line the pages of our The Complete Works of Shakespeare with 20s. I would buy comic books, both to read and as an investment. I worked full time my junior and senior years in high school, in addition to babysitting.
    Unfortunately I went off the rails a bit when I lost my scholarship to college after two years when I suffered an Air Force career ending injury. I was a bit adrift after that, never huge debt but enough.
    But I’m back on track and keeping my husband in line. Right now, I am working like mad and saving money for London (our respective 40th birthday to each other). But other than that once in a lifetime trip,I have no goal. I just like to watch the 20s pile up. Whenever I get a bonus from work it is immediately cashed out and put away for a rainy day. Or, you know, a trip out of the country.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I love it. Frugality from an early age certainly resonates with us. It’s a blessing to have that as our default mindset. Even if we drift occasionally, it’s much easier to get back to that point than to learn it anew.

  45. FWs,

    I believe there’s a subset of the population out there that’s just naturally frugal – like you guys. And like Warren Buffett (the guy could afford a city, but still lives in a modest house – by billionaire standards – that he bought in the 50s). And certainly like myself once I found that the gene was always there.

    But having a goal (or goals) definitely helps focus and strengthen that frugality. I think it’s a lot harder to question the value in frugality when you can actually see results against a goal. And I think it works the same with most things in life. Without goals life might feel a little aimless.

    I’d still live frugally without my goal of financial independence by 40, as I just find it wasteful to spend needlessly. But it sure wouldn’t be as fun or reassuring without that feedback.


    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Completely agree. Plus the aspect of not wanting to be wasteful really hits home with me. We haven’t written about it much, but our frugality is rooted in conservation of the world as well as conservation of dollars. Turns out being frugal and being “green” naturally go together (most of the time).

  46. For us, the goal has been a negative: to get out of debt. I don’t know if that is going to be enough from this point on though. We are just about debt-free except for the mortgage, and without a clear, unified vision of what we want from our future financially independent life, I’m not sure how devoted we’ll be to our still-relatively-new frugality. Time to start seeing visions!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That makes sense that you’d recalibrate and set new goals after achieving debt freedom (congrats on being so close!). It’ll be a new phase in your lives and I imagine you’ll find goals that resonate with where you’re at. Good luck in creating that vision–what an exciting thing!

  47. Ashley says:

    My family isn’t super hard core frugal which might be due to a lack of goal setting. However, for me, frugality is a fun hobby. I enjoy cooking 90% of our meals at home, shopping at Aldi, reading books from the library and growing a small vegetable garden each year. I wouldn’t say I enjoy cutting my own hair or DIY home improvements but it is more convenient than paying someone else to do it and the results are usually better. I just have have to be thoughtful and honest with myself about what really makes me happy. The money saved goes into a rainy day fund that gives us freedom from worry. My husband and I have never had a fight about money which is accomplishment enough for me!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Not ever fighting about money with your husband is an absolutely fantastic accomplishment! Makes life so much more enjoyable when you’re on the same financial page and able to work together towards mutual goals. And, I’m with you on frugality as a hobby–it certainly keeps life interesting!

  48. I do not think you need a goal to be frugal. Some people are just born with the frugal gene. Others develop it or implement it to meet a goal such as financial independence. Personally I was not born with it and am more frugal since developing my goal to be financially independent, otherwise I would be more of a spendy pants.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yep, I think it can definitely be a balance of ingrained frugality and goal-oriented frugality. It’s the combo of both that propels me and Mr. FW!

  49. It’s certainly harder to sustain frugality without an active goal. Once we had a savings account and a decent income (after being on disability and unemployment while paying down medical/student debt), we got a little freer with the money. I suppose we were still frugal comparative to others, but we definitely experienced some lifestyle inflation. More importantly, I stopped pushing as hard on the frugality front.

    Now that we’re saving for $25,000 in oral surgery, I’m more determined. Even once we do that, I want to then focus on opening/maxing out a SEP. Then paying down the mortgage. If I just keep certain goals in mind, we should be able to better sustain our efforts.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Those milestone goals all sound like a great idea. And, that’s definitely what helps me stay on the frugal path as well. Kudos to you for focusing on those future plans!

  50. Leigh says:

    I’ve thought about this quite a bit since I saw this post yesterday. My conclusion is that we’re all naturally frugal to a certain extent. We have a default lifestyle that we’ll all maintain with some thought. Some people default to spending all they earn, some default to spending a certain %, and some default to spending whatever amount makes them happy. A different amount of spending makes each human happy though. One of the frustrating parts about living in an expensive city is just how much housing costs! I calculated that if we don’t go on any trips in 2016, housing will account for ~2/3 of my spending. It’s really hard to fault/guilt myself for my total spending $ amount when that much of it is housing. I can concentrate on the rest though and that’s generally what I try to do. I never set out trying to retire early, but I probably will retire in my 30s. I think that goal would be more achievable if my boyfriend was on board because I’m not sure I want to retire by myself in my 30s! I’m working on him though 😉

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I hear ya on high housing costs–that’s very much the experience we have here too. But, like you said, we largely focus on the spending we can control. I wish you luck in convincing your boyfriend–I’m sure you can make him see how awesome your plan is 🙂

  51. Kate says:

    I think having a goal is always a good idea. Our current goal is to have the mortgage paid off by the time we retire. I have been making extra principal payments and I think with a little more “oomph,” we could be mortgage-free in 3 years, instead of 5. To us retirement means not getting up at 5:30 a.m. Not really sure what we would do with all that extra time…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That sounds like a great goal! And, I imagine you’ll find ways to fill the time once you’re retired. But, yes, the ability to sleep in will be nice!

  52. At first I needed a goal, but becoming frugal really changed my perspective about so many things – especially sustainability. I’d have a really hard time overspending on most things, because I know all of the environmental costs associated with it.

    Being a homesteading type, I’d be just find not needing much (or any) money, fulfilling needs we can’t meet via barter and whatnot. I do want to travel more, but I think I’ll prefer to do it via slow travel rather than jet setting about – both for the extra immersion and the lower cost to the environment.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a wonderful perspective to come to with frugality. I heartily agree that it has benefits extending beyond the monetary and keeping those in mind certainly helps make the lifestyle easier and more natural.

  53. Alicia says:

    This has been on my thought a lot lately as I start approaching the more saving-intensive part of the financial journey. Though not nearly as frugal as you two, I strive for optimization, sometimes at the cost of now. I too (like Mrs FW and Mrs PoP) can get bogged down in the very specific minutiae of the little variations that really aren’t important. I’m concerned I’m going to gave trouble duty the moving target of a more “normal” retirement age. It’s such a long journey. Debt repayment is a sprint in comparison to 30 years of saving.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s an interesting thought–the sprint vs. longterm goal mindset is definitely different. I’m sure you’ll find a balance between saving and living in the now that’ll be sustainable for you. You’re so on top of organizing your financial life that I have no doubt you’ll figure out a system that works well for you.

  54. I always need goals. The other day I was out for a walk in a very hot, sunny, desert-y kind of environment. I finally just kept throwing my keys so that I had little goals to accomplish in order to get back to the shady, air conditioned van. 😛

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, that’s pretty funny, but hey, whatever works :)! P.S. Glad to see you back around!

  55. B says:

    Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods

    Really good provoking thoughts there on the topic.

    I guess for me, a goal in mind motivates the whole perception about frugality, stepping up to a level higher than if I had not the same goal in mind in the first place. Sounds cliche, but yes the end objective is what is in mind.

  56. In our younger years, we lived lean out of necessity and with the goal of buying a house and having a comfortable family life. There came a point in time where the goal was to live for now! To enjoy life, kids, and stuff. We are given these beautiful gifts, our children, whom we want to create memories with and enjoy life with without the constant struggle of frugality. We are constantly working to find the balance between saving for our future and enjoying the now! Now has been our goal. Now is the best time of our lives!!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Well said! There’s definitely a balance to strike between enjoying the present and saving for the future. It’s what we aim for as well–good thing the best stuff in life is free :)!

  57. Kim says:

    I think you always need a goal. Without one, it’s too easy to justify stupid spending. I don’t think you always have to have laser focus, meaning if I want to buy my kiddo an ice cream cone or go out to dinner it’s OK. Life is all about spending and saving for the things that make you happy.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Agreed! I’d rather save on the less important things so I can focus my spending where it matters the most to me.

  58. Athena says:

    I think it depends on your personality type but goals for me definitely help. I like to spend and although I’ve adopted more of a minimalist lifestyle approach to where as I don’t buy things or junk, a goal definitely helps me. My study abroad trip to israel has helped me not spend on nights out or a Michael Kors bag!

  59. I think it would be incredibly hard to be withhold temporary pleasures without a larger goal in mind. I can not spend this or that when I know I’m choosing something better in the future instead.

  60. ‫Like Zigzag Zigzar says, if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time.

  61. I say that people drive around without a financial roadmap all the time and then they wonder why they are lost financially. Goals are the destinations you need to establish your financial roadmap. Without the goal, you will easily get lost and wonder why it happened.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I like that metaphor! When we got our plan together we definitely looked back and were like “huh, that’s what having no goal and vague plans will do!”

  62. Reepekg says:

    20-30% savings rate “frugality” was easy and we did it naturally. I don’t think you get to 70+% savings rates until you have a goal. For us, it was finding MMM and realizing we could avoid putting kids in daycare/spending more time with them. Without a goal, I think it’s human nature to save some resources for later, but use most of what is readily available today.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Good point on having kids as a goal. I think a lot of people would choose to spend more time with their family if they didn’t have the work constraints. It’s certainly something we’re keeping in the back of our mind as we look to the future.

  63. brookst says:

    “Frugality requires creativity, teamwork, a sense of humor, and a willingness to do some unusual things.” If I cross stitched I’d put this on a pillow. This is what I try to explain to people that my best creativity has been born out of the inability to spend money. This Mother’s Day I gave my mom the gift of a post on my blog dedicated to all she has taught me. I shared with the world what a great mom she has been. That’s way better than a $10 store bought card. PS. None of my business, but Mr. Frugalwoods has that adorable cleft in his chin…why is he covering it up?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So true about creativity stemming from frugality. And, I love that you dedicated a post to your mom–that’s certainly more meaningful than a store bought gift! P.S. I agree that Mr. FW has a pretty cute chin 😉

  64. Alisa says:

    My husband and I were discussing this topic this morning. He amassed a large amount of savings in his first year of work but then couldn’t find a direction for the money. Save to seven figures? To what end? He invested it in a house eventually, and it’s sucked all the money since then. Back then, he didn’t have this out-of-the-box concept that working till 65 wasn’t the only feasible way of living. In the past month, since stumbling onto this financial independence sub-culture, we’ve had some regrets for money badly spent, but we’re carving a path forward. It does involve a homestead but we live (born and bred) in the Caribbean, so it’ll be different from yours (rainforest setting but a small lot based on what we can afford). Exciting times ahead 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      A homestead in the Caribbean sounds wonderful! What an awesome goal to have. Welcome to the financial independence frugal weirdo subculture :). It’s a great bunch of folks–glad you’re here! And, I’m all about no regrets, only future planning. Onwards frugal friend!

  65. I absolutely agree that lacking a goal diminishes that laser focus. Going from being a broke college student with an intense focus on finishing school to a graduated 22-year-old earning a relatively high income in Technology, I let go of the reins a bit. Being naturally more conservative financially, it wasn’t as if I went out and bought a brand new BMW. However, I found myself eating out much more at lunch, driving to work (paying tolls and parking) when I didn’t feel like taking the bus, and spending money thoughtlessly on entertainment. After all, I reasoned, I was making a higher income, so it wasn’t a big deal. I could “afford” these small luxuries, so I reasoned. But over time I’ve realized I was happier with the level of control and discipline I had as a college student, and I realized that I enjoy spending money more toward freedom than on frivolous luxuries. Right now, the goal of a downpayment for a house is keeping my wife and I more laser-focused, and investing for early retirement will start immediately afterward. Knowing my own tendencies, I don’t trust myself to live without high financial goals, since I know I’ll let myself get sloppy.

    Great post!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome that you’re working towards a downpayment–that goal absolutely kept us on the frugal straight and narrow. I think the lifestyle inflation creep after college is a natural tendency. Kudos to you for finding that longterm goal together with your wife!

  66. Ginger says:

    I discovered when I started working in college, that working for needs as opposed to wants (in high school) stressed me out. I have a couple medical conditions that are worse with stress so I want to reduce that. By living on one income (beside daycare) it has reduced it some but not all the way, especially since I lost my job. My goal is to have our bare minimum expenses (and health care) covered and then we can splurge a bit. However, I don’t let being frugal run my life, we have a child, plan for one more and have two cats. I just try to find ways to entire a frugal life.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I think it’s definitely about finding that balance between keeping expenses low and still enjoying the good frugal life.

  67. A goal definitely helps. Just watching the money pile up is not bad either, especially if you know that each amount is a year of not working.

  68. Great post! My husband and I actually had a similar conversation a few months back and that is what has led us to our current situation of being much more frugal and money conscious. Our goal is to start a family in a few years and in order to feel prepared, we want to eliminate all of our debt (except our mortgage). As a result, we have increased our frugal ways and increased our debt repayment levels. We have a very manageable debt situation, but we realized we could afford to pay it off much faster (in 2 years), by simply being more strategic. I have enjoy our path over the past few months so much that similar to you and Mr. Frugalwoods, have decided to blog about our journey as a hobby.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s wonderful! Congrats to you for paying down your debt and ramping up your frugality! I wish you all the very best on this journey 🙂

  69. I personally need a goal because frugality doesn’t come naturally to me. We’ve paid off all consumer debt, have a house with a manageable mortgage and savings and investments but the next stage in our lives is to realise our crazy goal of chasing the summer around the world. That for me is motivation to be as frugal as possible. Great post!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That sounds like some great motivation! I feel like I’m someone who needs a goal too, so I can completely relate. Best of luck to you in chasing the summertime :)!

  70. Javier says:

    Great Article.

    I also strongly believe that without a plan which depends on your frugality, being constantly a true frugal person is a huge challenge because of lacking a north.

    My problem is that I’m a Venezuelan citizen living in Africa working for a private enterprise. My savings rate is 76% before any traveling expenses I may incur in, and which I’m totally fine spending as long as it is spent in an efficient manner. The thing with living an expat life and not coming from a developed country is the very limited (to none) opportunities one have to invest in assets, unless you go the traditional mutual fund way with an international bank, which I’d like to avoid for now because its not very creative or fun and you have little to no control. I feel this puts me in a situation in which I can’t really make a plan.

    How would you guys face a situation like this one?

    All best.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Honestly, I have no idea what options are available for a Venezuelan expat. With that savings rate, you must be sitting on a fair amount of cash! Maybe you could find a lawyer in Venezuela who has experience dealing with cross-border work and investing? Seems like a complicated situation, but you can’t be the first to face it! Good luck!

    • Mysticaltyger says:

      Yes, I would like to comment on the mutual fund thing. Americans really take for granted how cheap our mutual funds here really are (even the actively managed ones). Mr. Money Mustache has had guest posters from Canada on his blog talking about how much more expensive Canadian mutual funds are–even the cheapest ones typically charge about 1%. This is true in most countries.

  71. I think frugality is a lifestyle choice, not a goal, so I think it’s definitely sustainable. Having a goal makes things easier to vision and its good to know you’ll achieve something in the end

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I like the idea of frugality as a lifestyle choice–that’s certainly how I feel about it too. But, I also really like my goal. So maybe I’m a goal-oriented lifestyle-frugal weirdo ;)?

  72. Caroline says:

    This is very interesting, I think there is a 3rd category of uber-frugal and it’s not a terribly nice one; the person who is frugal through fear. What do I mean? Well, if a person was raised in hardship, possibly with some shame attached, and a sense of insecurity and fear about where the next meal was coming from, it can have the consequence of making them absolutely petrified to spend one solitary cent beyond the barest minimum necessary because ”we can’t afford it”. In the specific case I’m thinking of, the people concerned had 3 properties in an extremely wealthy area, absolutely no possibility of losing their high incomes… but they’d go cheap on absolutely.everything. Fixing up their home was agonising for them as they tried to spend zero… never did they ever EVER just have a celebratory dinner out for a special occasion, never. Always looking for the very cheapest, even when it was not a quality investment. I am totally onboard with frugality, I think the keeping-up-with norms and sense of misplaced pride people have in not admitting money is tight is mad and unsustainable, but these people were miserly from a place of worry and fear, which is sad. The key is to know when something has real value TO YOU (eg Frugalhound, your homestead, your eye surgery, a really gorgeous meal for a particular occasion, whatever!) and to derive pleasure from easily being able to go and do / have that, and appreciate it rather than fret and fret.

    I think it’s the polar opposite to people who are in dire financial straits, who just carry on and have fun and spend wildly because they feel helpless so they spend to make themselves feel temporarily better.

  73. sharon says:

    i like the idea of a goal. at age 60, we must think ahead as to how we will live when we can no longer farm. we are self employed so the reality is, my husband will never really retire as farming is a lifestyle, not a job, but surely we will cut back. we’ve always lived frugally out of choice and before it was talked about, it just was, again, a way of life. many times i’ve had small goals to ‘save’ for… and it does help…something to look forward to. but now, i think for us, it’s more knowing that slowing down will come and we must be ready. investing is an up and down deal, so i think we just hope that it’s up when we need it to be! love your website and learn something new each time i read!

  74. Alexandra Taylor says:

    I’m late to this post, but I liked thinking about it. We don’t have a clear goal like the Frugalwoods; we’re more or less content with our current life choices and don’t really want to make any big choices. I’ve thought about trying to make a big goal a la a homestead in Vermont (which in some ways sounds amazing as I am originally from Vermont and miss it a lot, except not the winter), but nothing has come to mind.

    I think we’re frugal because of our faith and our belief that, like many of the commenters here, overconsumption is a symptom of spiritual problems. The trouble with a goal is that once you meet your goal–where’s the motivation? Our goal is to live simple lives characterized by radical generosity and the flexibility to follow God’s call. We also desire to live in a responsible way that reflects good stewardship of creation.

    One of my primary motivators in frugality is constant awareness of how anomalous the contemporary American lifestyle of consumption is both in the context of the larger global picture and the context of history. Awareness of how the rest of the world lives and what they consider creature comforts makes it much easier to live a life that some Americans might consider “deprived”. The reality is that by virtue of having a stable environment, clean water, and reliable electricity, we are actually living in luxury. We feel an obligation to contribute the vast excess of our middle class American wealth to those who have less.

    So we don’t have a big goal but rather a world view that encourages simple living, thrift, and generosity. These traits actually used to be considered virtues, which is why early retirement blogs take on a moralistic tone sometimes, as hard as they try not to (and Frugalwoods certainly tries very hard not to moralize–the tone here is spot-on). I think a worldview might be more sustainable than a goal, actually.

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