How A Year Of Extreme Frugality Changed Us

Toilet paper is one of those things we do still spend money on

Toilet paper is one of those things we do still spend money on

Last March, Mr. Frugalwoods and I got serious about frugality. You could even say we become hardcore frugal weirdos. To prove it, we launched our Uber Frugal Month experiment. We slashed our already meager spending and started saving more money than we’d ever thought possible while still, you know, eating and bathing (even we have limits, people). We’d hatched our wild early retirement homestead plan and wanted to see just how far we could push frugality. Just how little could we spend and still enjoy life?

One Year Later

I realized the other day that we’ve been living the uber frugal life for over a year now and, it has become such an ingrained aspect of our existence that I didn’t even notice its anniversary. This is a great sign to me that we’re no longer ticking off the days ‘til financial independence and no longer giving much, if any, thought to our frugality. It’s just who we are. In much the same ways as we brush our teeth (not even with cheapo toothbrushes either, might I add), walk Frugal Hound, and look forward to pizza Fridays every week, frugality has become habitual and second nature (can it be first nature?). But, getting to this place was a process.

To be honest, the first month was difficult. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you, we had to work hard to get this frugal. People don’t just wake up one day and start saving over 70% of their income without a bit of a fight. After all, anything worth having takes discipline. At the outset, we had to think through our days and find ways to create efficiencies and form our frugal weirdo manifesto.

Our Culture Says: $PEND All Your Money (or at least most of it)!

Quick! Capture that frugal weirdo and make them spend their money!

Quick! Capture that frugal weirdo and make him spend his money!

Our dominant culture is geared almost entirely towards creating a life centered on spending money. Advertisers have engineered their reach such that we’re endlessly inundated with ads prompting us to buy. And many of those ads are intended to play upon our most base human emotions: fear, survival, and pleasure. We’re told we must have a new car every few years in order to be safe, new clothes every season in order to be accepted, and fine dinners out on the town every week because we deserve it. Clearly it would be counter-productive for anyone to run an ad that touts the merits of, well, not buying anything. And so, we’re left with a society that outwardly only values spending. Carving out a life that’s removed from this compulsion isn’t terribly common and doing so requires some grit and a good deal of creativity.

What we found that first month is that we’d relied on money to solve our problems for us in the past. We weren’t ever obscene spendthrifts, but we assuaged our dissatisfaction over our stressful jobs with dinners out, I hobby-shopped for thrift store clothes, and we’d buy gadgets for our house that we thought would increase our enjoyment of life.

Give Yourself The Gift Of Frugality

We discovered that once we stopped doing those things, we actually came into a deep and lasting happiness. The ability to find contentment with one’s surroundings and belongings is a recipe for enduring joy. And this is why I now believe that frugality is a gift you give yourself for a lifetime. Since Mr. FW and I aren’t executing frugality for just a month or even a few years, but for the rest of our lives, we’ve come to appreciate its wide-reaching implications and effects. Our lives are now simpler, less stressful, contain fewer decisions to make, involve far less arguing, and we have much more free time to pursue hobbies and self-learning (like how to cut hair and replace exterior window trim, for example).

Frugal Hound and I discussing frugality

Frugal Hound and I discussing frugality

Looking back on that first challenging month, I honestly felt overwhelmed at the prospect of living more frugally. I wasn’t entirely sure where to start since we were already spending far less money than our peers. I wrote Uber Frugal Month in large part as a instruction manual for myself. As we navigated each element of ultimate frugality—groceries, pet care, home maintenance, entertainment, personal grooming, transportation—I made notes that transformed into the utmost frugal challenge.

At first, it was a concerted effort for Mr. FW and I to deconstruct our traditional notions and expectations with regard to how money works. We had to create a parallel understanding of our lives—one that no longer concentrated on money as the only way to attain things or define success or direct how we spent our time. Once we removed spending as a regular, daily activity, we realized how very little we missed it. Having a conscious plan around every dollar we spend is now our modus operandi and every time we fork over our cash, it’s done with the full understanding of what that money means.

The Big Three Is A Big Joke

I’ve heard financial gurus say that as long as your decrease your expenditures on the big three—housing, food, and transportation—you don’t need to worry too much about the rest of your budget. As you might have guessed, I don’t buy into that philosophy one iota. Sure, this is an acceptable approach if your goal is to save more than the dismal 10% that’s fairly standard in our country.


Me victoriously on top of a mountain (a joy that cost $0 to attain)

But if you want to achieve the type of frugality that’ll enable you to retire early, you’ll need to focus on every single aspect of your spending. Mr. FW and I had so many “blind spots” in our spending before we started our own extreme frugality regimen that I’m almost embarrassed to think about it. We thought we were doing a good job—and we were saving more than half of our income—but we  weren’t tracking our spending or paying attention on our savings. Money just sort of slipped through our fingers when a trip to Target to buy two things ballooned into a $100 spree or a dinner out left us $50 poorer.

Interestingly, since assuming the consummate frugal mantle, our standard of living hasn’t changed much at all, which tells me that most of our previous spending was waste. It’s not like we had to make dramatic changes in our lives—we weren’t jet-setting around the globe one day and eating rice and beans the next. Yet, our savings rocketed up to well above 70%. How? Through purposeful, goal-oriented spending.

We decided to start from the assumption that we’d spend $0 each day and that every dollar we did spend was a debit against our future. Instead of spending until we hit a pre-designated amount, we weren’t spending at all—unless we had to. I greatly prefer this mentality in lieu of budgeting because instead of highlighting what we can and can’t spend (which is what a budget does) it’s about creating goal-based spending parameters (which are much more sustainable in the long-term and also easier to follow).

We made it through our first month and decided that, since we’d had so much success and hadn’t suffered, we’d continue. I noticed that by about the third month, everything felt much more automatic and familiar. The whole endeavor stopped being a struggle and transformed into a lifestyle. As with any other radical change in how we live, just about anything is possible when it’s guided by a focused goal.

No Clothes!

Some clothes that I did not buy in the last 16 months

Some clothes that I did not buy in the last 16 months

During these past 16 months, I also put myself on a clothes-buying ban. And this was a no-holds barred, no exceptions ban. I haven’t purchased a scrap of clothing during this time frame–not one sock or shirt or anything else. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after the first few rocky months, not buying clothes became the most ordinary thing in the world for me. At first, I was very conscious of the clothing ban. I thought about it a lot and I panicked a bit when I knew I had an event coming up that I’d normally buy something new for. But gradually, I just stopped thinking about it. Now, I’d be hard-pressed to name the last time I even so much as thought about buying clothes.

And don’t think for a hot second that I’m using my pregnancy as an excuse to run out and go shopping. I’ve received so many hand-me-down maternity outfits from my sister and some friends that I’m going to try and go as long as I possibly can without buying anything (hopefully the whole pregnancy!). I’m still wearing my regular, looser-fitting clothes and I’ll continue to do so until I need to move into my maternity hand-me-downs.

Life Events Are Not Excuses To Spend

There’s no reason to rush out and spend just because something new is happening in your life. Marketers prey on our life events as spending opportunities, but we can fight against that. Just because we’re getting married, got a new job, having a baby, going on vacation, selling a house, or moving–these aren’t all automatic reasons to go buy a bunch of stuff. Sure, they’re all thrilling transitions, but there’s no reason to celebrate them with spending.

What Mr. FW and I discovered over the course of this year-plus of profound frugality is that it all boils down to three simple things:

1) Routine and habit. If you get out of the habit of spending, it becomes very easy to continue not spending. Just as buying a coffee everyday is a habit, not buying that coffee is similarly a habit. The absence of actions truly can become a routine. Our mode of not spending is so ingrained at this point that we don’t have to budget or even think twice about whether or not to buy something. We just don’t buy it.

Go on this journey together

Go on this journey together

2) Be on the same page as your partner. If you share your life with someone else, you’ve got to be on board with this plan together. One person can’t continually tempt, taunt, or otherwise persuade the other to spend when they don’t want to. Collaborate and aim your efforts on a shared goal–you’ll find strength in pursing this jointly.

3) Have a goal. I totally sound like a broken record on this front, but it’s the guiding principle that enables our success. We are so completely focused on our goal of financial independence and early retirement to a homestead in the woods that spending on junk we don’t need (such as clothing) feels like a ridiculous allocation of resources. When your options are 1) stuff or 2) a long-term aspiration, it’s pretty clear which one will win out. Short-term desires pale in comparison to what you want out of life.

One Year Of Extreme Frugality Down, No End In Sight

Since we rounded the corned on year one of extreme frugality without even realizing we were passing the milestone, I feel pretty confident about our ability to continue on with this lifestyle into the future. This year will bring us an exciting new curveball–our first baby–but we’re thrilled at the prospect of childrearing in the frugal way.

It can be done as countless early retirement parents before us have shown (I’m looking at you, 1500 Days to Freedom, Root of Good, and Mr. Money Mustache) and we’re up for the challenge. So far, we’ve spent exactly $10 on Babywoods–for a baby bouncer from a garage sale. Since those things appear to be 1) very popular with babies, and 2) over $60 new, I’d say we’re in good shape. And, we found an exersaucer (upwards of $100 new) for free by the side of the road on our walk home from that garage sale, so we’re pretty pleased thus far.

For us, frugality isn’t a passing fad, a challenge, a struggle, or a depressive mindset. It’s a liberating way to structure our lives to enable the greatest freedom of all–freedom to do what we want with our time. And when you think about it, time is the only thing we truly can’t control or make more of in our lives. I can’t think of a more worthy trade-off.

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129 Responses

  1. Excellent point about how not doing something is still a habit–since I’m still trying to maintain new habits, this is incredibly helpful. I, too, need goals, but I needed both a long-term goal and short-term goals to ensure the perpetuation of our new habit. What I love about starting our new spending habit (i.e. not spending habit) is that there are fewer receipts to track in Mint, which is the short-term success I sought. Less time and money wasted. Success!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Fewer receipts is definitely a bonus! I actually had that same realization the other day–I save all of our paper receipts each year and, we buy so little that they all easily fit in a small envelope :). Life is easier and you’re totally right–time and money aren’t wasted. Best of luck to you with the new “spending” habit :)!

  2. I was never one of those anti-materialism types until I tried it to save money. Now I’m hooked. I totally get it. We are so much happier spending less money!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome! I find the same thing–now I’m really turned off by all the ads and all the unneeded stuff out there.

  3. Kalie says:

    It’s great to hear your story, your principles, and how it was a struggle in the beginning. I think frugality can be first nature, but maybe extreme frugality can only be second nature for those of us steeped in our culture as you described it. Good work on getting free and inexpensive second-hand baby stuff–it’s the way to go, and we’d expect nothing less than from the FrugalWoods!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love the idea of being “steeping in our culture” of frugal–that’s a great way to put it! We are so fortunate to have so many hand-me-downs for Babywoods already that I don’t think the kid will ever own anything new :).

  4. I’d never heard of “the big three”, but I’m totally with you on it being hogwash. Most people I know are actually extremely frugal on those big expenses and disasters on everything else.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Exactly! It’s not enough to just focus on those three and ignore everything else. There’s too much other spending that can creep on in…

  5. Melissa says:

    We found a like new baby bouncer on the side of the road near our house. It smelled freshly laundered and had working batteries with lights, sounds, and vibration! Our baby recently outgrew it and I sold it on craigslist for $15. Win! You really don’t need to spend a lot on a baby. If you want to chat about frugal baby tips or what gear you actually need or cloth diapering or anything, I’d be happy to have a side conversation. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Awesome bouncer find!! I’m happy to take any and all baby advice, thanks for the offer :)! We are very fortunate to already have a ton of hand-me-downs for Babywoods (furniture, clothes, slings, carriers, hiking backpacks, bottles… our friends and family have been very good to us with their old stuff 🙂 !!).

  6. EA Mann says:

    I’m excited to see how you handle frugal baby-rearing. As a parent, especially a working parent, you’re constantly making $ vs time decisions. When my wife was on maternity leave for 6 months we made our own wipes, cloth diapered and used breast milk exclusively. Almost all of that went out the window when she went back to work.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      It will certainly be a whole new adventure for us! Looking forward to hearing advice from experienced parents too–so feel free to send me your tips 🙂

  7. Keith Jolly says:

    A key with my daughter when she was under three was not to give in to birthday party excess. It’s like a wedding for a one year old. Out of control.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I completely agree with you! We will not be doing the crazy huge birthday parties at all for Babywoods. Not gonna happen, kid 😉

  8. Fiby says:

    As MMM would say, you’ve grown your frugality muscles!

    “I’ve heard financial gurus say that as long as your decrease your expenditures on the big three—housing, food, and transportation.” That’s a new one to me (but the only financial gurus I’ve actually listened to are the likes of yourself and MMM). I too agree it’s a load of bs.

    I think for most Americans, spending is like a gas – it expands to fit the space provided (and in some cases, they borrow to stretch beyond the space they’re actually capable of… ok that analogy breaks down here 😉 ).

    And I totally agree on the need for tracking spending. There is no way that I could be frugal without it. It’s amazing how small transactions here and there add up. Too many people miss the forest for the trees – it’s often not the occasional big ticket item that blows up somebody’s budget, it’s the sum of seemingly innocuous regular transactions.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Absolutely! I’ve actually used that “spending is like a gas” analogy before because I agree with you that it’s totally apt! I think letting seemingly insignificant purchases run rampant is a dangerous and slippery slope.

  9. First of all, congrats on your pregnancy!
    I had to wear pregnancy “suits” to work cause I had to dress formal each day. They were crazy expensive at the store and still pricey on craigslist. I ended up paying $30-$40 for USED maternity formal wear. I was able to resell it for what I paid, so at least there’s that.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Ugh, pregnancy suits–what a pain! Fortunately my office is pretty casual so I can get away with a dress and a cardigan. I am really thankful for stretchy summer dresses right now!

  10. Shannon says:

    That is wonderful you’ve already gotten so many maternity hand me downs! I had a former coworker who wore the same pregnancy pants and two of her husband’s t-shirts to work and that was it for the entire pregnancy! OK it wasn’t the most stylish maternity look, but I knew they were starvings students and super frugal.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Your co-worker sounds awesome–that’s some frugal dedication! I’m really thankful for all of the hand-me-downs and really hoping I don’t have to buy much of anything 🙂

  11. So helpful to hear how ingrained the habits have become for you. We’re still not on the same page about extreme frugality (though agree on all the rest), so this is a good nudge. Random Q — do you plan to unmask yourselves when you quit your jobs? 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, yes indeed we do :)! It’ll probably be anti-climatic though since we look pretty standard 😉

  12. I really like the concept of goal-based spending parameters. It feels so much more positive and motivating than budgeting, although I find a blend of both to be ideal for us.

    We got a lot of hand-me-down baby gear and clothing. It’s cheaper AND green!

    • Crunchysews says:

      I love when folks recognize that being frugal is also oftentimes being green!

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Totally agree! I definitely enjoy the green and environmental benefits of our frugality. We consume less, we buy less, we waste less–it’s all around more efficient!

  13. Hannah says:

    My husband and I talk about the big five instead of the big three. In addition to the things you listed, we include bills (utilities, cell, internet and insurances) and stuff (home appliances, electronics, tools, toys, clothes, etc.).

    With a baby, more stuff is very convenient, but it can mostly be had for free or very cheaply if you have the right friends (PS- the right friends are typically parents of 1-2 kids who have very doting grandparents).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Ahhh, the big 5 is a good idea! We’re very fortunate that we’ve already received a lot of hand-me-downs for Babywoods, so we’re hoping to not have to buy much of anything. Good call on friends with doting grandparents ;)!

  14. “Having a conscious plan around every dollar we spend is now our modus operandi and every time we fork over our cash, it’s done with the full understanding of what that money means.” — I sincerely appreciate this sentence! Having that conscious awareness when spending money is very key. It’s almost an art that takes practice, but is transformational. One year of frugality down, one step closer to the future homestead!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Ooo, I like the comparison to an art–that’s very apt! It’s definitely an ingrained part of our lives at this point 🙂

  15. That’s awesome that you got so many maternity hand-me-downs! I think you’ll be able to make it your whole pregnancy without buying any other maternity items. I am really tall (6’0), so I only really had to buy some maternity tall pants. It’s extra hard to find tall clothes used, unfortunately for me! But over my entire pregnancy I only purchased 1 pair of maternity jeans, 1 pair of maternity leggings, and 1 maternity dress (to wear for my baby showers), and got away with wearing non-maternity clothing otherwise. It’s totally doable!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome you were able to get away with buying so little! I’m really hoping I can make it all the way through without needing anything. The only challenge will be towards the end of the pregnancy if it gets really cold here in the early fall… I don’t have many true winter outfits (no leggings or tights either)… sweatpants to work, anyone ;)?

  16. Kara says:

    I put myself on frugal autopilot last October, in pursuit of paying off $16,000 worth of student loans. I cut back in every area and just stopped spending money. Lo and behold, I will be debt free in just two more weeks! I make about $27,000 a year but frugal autopilot has me paying off my debt super fast and living a great life. I totally agree with your mindset!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That is some hardcore frugal awesomeness, Kara! HUGE congratulations! That’s a serious accomplishment on a not very big salary. You should be proud! Wow. Just imagine what you can do with those savings once you’re debt free!!!

  17. Norm says:

    It is a mindset change. I find it infecting my thought process all day long. Not only when it comes time to buy something (“Will this thing make me money or save money or should I build this myself?” is the typical narrative in my head) but almost every action I take. I save up trips to certain parts of town until I have more than one reason to be over there, saving multiply trips. Put off buying any food items until my weekly grocery run. Calculate what combination of bus, bike and car results in the cheapest and most efficient errand run. It’s a good thing I enjoy all of this, otherwise I would be depressed and look like a plain old crazy person. And it’s a good thing I’m part of this blog community so I can deceive myself into thinking it’s normal!

    I bet the Boston area has a big hand-me-down event for baby stuff you’ll be hitting up. Albany used to (still does?) have one in a school auditorium.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha–you sound exactly like us, Norm! It is a good thing we enjoy these efficiency exercises ;). But in all honesty, I think it makes life more interesting, more challenging, and more real.

      Definitely looking forward to scoping out the baby consignment sales. We’ve already received so many hand-me-downs for Babywoods that I’m hoping we don’t have to buy too much…

  18. Hand-me-downs are the best! You remember those giant tent-style maternity shirts of the 90s? There was still one of those, with a rhinestone stork, floating around my older sister’s friends which came my way. Damn, that thing that comfortable. I mean, in the second trimester when you’re still adorable, you look askance at it, but when you start outgrowing all your cute stuff, the rhinestone-stork tent starts to look pretty good.

    Great exersaucer find! We got one from Freecycle–and a bassinet! We had a brand-new saucer-style bouncer that we had received as a gift, but both babies preferred the simpler one Grandma FP got at a yard sale.

    Our one really extravagant thing was a baby carrier that cost more than our crib (a Boba 3G, $140) and was worth every penny. Actually, we had TWO (the first was slightly cheaper) because we wanted to each strap a kid on our back and go hiking. Totally worth it. Someone else might want a really kickass stroller, but for us, it was the carriers.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Rhinestone stork tent! Hah! I only WISH I had a hand-me-down that precious. Sadly, mine are all really tasteful ;).

      Good to know re. the carriers! We’ve received a ton of hand-me-downs for Babywoods, including a Moby wrap, a baby backpack, a hiking carrier, and another carrier-thingy. I think we’ll just stick Babywoods in all of them and see which one works best (now watch, she’ll hate all of them 😉 ). I’m totally pumped about my free exersaucer! It’s in great condition too–looks barely used!

      • Boy, I wish someone had gifted me that many carriers! I did have a stretchy wrap that someone had handed down, which was nice for my winter baby for the first few weeks. (Little Brother was a summer baby–ring sling over nursing tank!)

        I’m convinced that the right carrier is a complex combination of parent and baby. Lots of people love those woven wraps; I’m convinced those are the same people who know like 12 different ways to tie a scarf. (I only know 1. Buckle carriers FTW!)

        I only got a few maternity things besides the stork shirt. My sister was pregnant right before/overlapping with me, but she’s a nurse, so all her work clothes were scrubs. My friends had not yet procreated and her friends were apparently all much larger or much smaller than me!

  19. Jo-Ann says:

    Congrats on Babywoods! I’ve seen baby stuff on the Cambridge/Somerville Yard Sale facebook group. That may be a good resource.

  20. Ali says:

    I think you’re right on in saying that the “big three” is a joke. I find it relatively easy to make smart financial decisions in housing, transportation and food because those decisions only involve me and my partner. Entertainment is the trickiest thing for me to remain frugal on. It is SO easy to spend lots of money on concerts, dinner out with friends, weekend trips, etc. It can be very challenging to balance being social with being frugual!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, I think true frugality really requires a focus beyond just those big three items. It’s all the little stuff that can creep in and destroy a budget! We’re lucky that our friends are happy to come over to our house for dinner, and vice versa, and we’re always on the lookout for free events in the city. We’ve found that a $0 entertainment budget is possible with some creativity (and flexible friends 😉 ).

  21. “No Clothes!”

    Make sure to keep this going for the baby too! We did buy clothes but mostly through Craigslist (just got 3 tubs of 3T and 4T for $40!) Now that we’re having a second girl, we don’t have to double up on clothes!

    Pro tip – Men’s t-shirts work great as an around the house shirt. My wife stole some of my junk shirts that I didn’t wear a lot for PJs.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! We’re really lucky that we’ve already received a ton of hand-me-down clothes for Babywoods (she has two girl cousins just a few years older than her), so I’m hoping we don’t have to buy too much more. Funny enough, I’m wearing one of Mr. FW’s t-shirts right now! Great minds think alike 🙂

      P.S. Huge congrats on your baby #2!!!

  22. Mrs. FI says:

    Totally agree with your point of view on” budgeting” and love the way you explained it! I need to try and be more diligent when talking to others about how we save by explaining how we don’t budget, we just don’t spend. Maybe then others will find the approach less restrictive and turn to ditching consumerist habits like we have 🙂 Great post as always!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I really do find the absence of a budget to be liberating–much easier to just not spend ;)! That’s awesome you guys have ditched the consumerist habits!

  23. Carolyn says:

    How do you handle gift giving?? Christmas, birthdays, baby showers…. It never ends!!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We’re pretty frugal in this department too. For Christmas this past year, we used our cash back rewards points to buy gifts for our families from Amazon and we ended up spending $0. For birthdays and other smaller occasions, we do homemade gifts–breads, pies, cookies, cakes, etc. The one major exception to the homemade gift rule for us are weddings–I like to purchase a nice gift off of the couple’s registry, but, I often am able to use a gift card to do so (I am notorious at saving gift cards for the purpose of buying gifts for other people). In this way, we give gifts, but we honestly don’t spend much at all each year.

    • Charity says:

      We use the rewards on our credit cards for gift cards for gifts. We pay off our card every two weeks on paydays and then save the points for gifts. Just ordered a Father’s Day and birthday gift card today with zero out of pocket for us. We treat our credit card like cash – if we don’t have the cash to pay it off immediately, it doesn’t go on the card.

  24. Maura says:

    Well said. I’m so happy that I found your blog. I started reading your blog 2 weeks ago and feel so incredibly inspired. Thank you.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much for reading, Maura! I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying it :). Happy to have you here!

  25. brookst says:

    I have a question for you and your readers. My husband is away on business. It’s just my daughter and I. I’ve barely spent anything all week. Last night I treated us both to Dairy Queen. It cost over $7. I felt kind of ill afterwards and my daughter barely ate her blizzard. What a waste and unhealthy choice. My question is, what do you suggest for a treat when you have a nice evening together (it doesn’t have to be food related). Thanks. I am also trying to teach my daughter the joy of frugal living (kind of failed last night).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a great question. Mr. FW and I usually create treat nights around a special meal we prepare at home. We’ll plan and grocery shop for it in advance and then look forward to sharing it. Other treats for us involve taking walks or hikes or just hanging out on the back porch together reading. And, I’m sure other readers will have other good ideas!

    • A says:

      Dessert isn’t an everyday occurrence in our home so the kids are always thrilled to get something. Serving ice cream in a cone is extra fancy for them (and fun!) We’ll probably have one today to celebrate preschool graduation. Cones last forever in a zip lock bag. I also make cupcakes and frosting from scratch, freeze them on a baking sheet, and put them in a zip lock freezer bag so I can take out one or two when I want. Our favorite non-food treat is a family bike ride to a destination chosen by the kids.

  26. Tara says:

    I just found your blog and I am so excited! My hubby and I were just discussing living on a farm in our near futures. And congrats on the baby!! We have 2 little girls and it is actually very easy to live frugally with a baby, they really only need 2 things breast milk and to sleep next to you, both of which cost nothing!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hi, Tara! I’m so glad you found us :). And, thanks for saying hi–it’s always so great to hear from readers. I love the minimalist approach to babies–sounds great to me!

  27. Tawcan says:

    Excellent points. Frugality is a practice and a life style. Even with a baby it’s easy to be frugal by buying 2nd hand items. Have you guys looked into clothe diaper? That will save you a lot of money in the long run.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Good to know it’s possible to be frugal with a baby :)! We’ve been really fortunate to receive lots of hand-me-downs for Babywoods already, so we’re hoping to buy as little as possible.

  28. Jessica says:

    I think it’s great that you two have found a groove where frugality is just natural. I 100% agree that a big goal is helpful to attain that type of savings. For me, I know I have trouble being motivated when I’m doing something just because I “should” do it. When I think to myself that I have to pay off my student loans simply because it’s the responsible thing to do, I have a harder time. On the other hand, when I think about the freedom paying off my loans will give me I’m much more motivated! I do still struggle with wanting to buy clothes tho. 😛

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, the “shoulds” are harder for me to follow as well. Much easier to actually want to save towards something :). Good luck with the clothes–stay strong my frugal friend :)!

  29. The sad thing is that you might be viewed as weird and everyone else caught up in the consumerist industrial complex as sane. 🙂

    By the way, excellent start on baby-related frugality. We spent almost nothing for our 3. We did crack at one point and bought a new (clearance) crib and mattress from target for under $150, used it for 3 babies, then sold it for $135 on craigslist. We did have to order a free parts kit from the manufacturer to fix a recalled issue before I sold it, but it was kind of a silly recall (basically a hard to do operator error that could cause the crib side to slide down partially though I can’t figure out how a baby could get injured from this).

    And you’ll undoubtedly get some stuff from family and friends (hopefully in the form of target/walmart gift cards or cash so you can buy what you actually need). We went with disposable diapers but bought store brands online and saved tons vs. name brand. In the end, I bet we spent a little more than cloth diapers after factoring in water, energy, and detergent for laundry. In this case, the convenience was probably worth the tiny extra cost.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes!!! Your comments are always so reassuring to me because I think we’re going to have a very similar parenting approach :). We’re really fortunate that we’ve already received a ton of hand-me-downs for Babywoods (a crib and mattress, changing table, dresser, car seats, sling, carriers, clothes, bottles, and more!). I’m really hoping we can eek by with buying very little…

      Did you find any good cost/benefit analyses for cloth vs. disposable? I agree with you that the water, energy, and detergent is likely to make the price differential a wash. But, I’m curious to see if anyone makes the reverse conclusion.

  30. mike says:

    This is rather embarrassing but please bear with me. In regards to toilet paper:

    Saving money, the hassle of having to constantly buying it are only side benefits. So here goes: Use a moist clean towel instead of dry paper. It’s more hygienic.

    So not only is it cleaner, it’s not smearing your you know what around. No need to wear underwear.

    Sorry for the off color subject, but I find this need to use toilet paper (at least here in US with access to clean water) one of our cultural anachronisms.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hey, I knew someone would disagree with the need for TP ;)! Only challenge there is that then I’d have to incur the cost of water, energy and detergent (even if homemade) to wash said cloths. But, I’m all for whatever floats your boat.

  31. Mary says:

    First, I have to commend Frugal Hound on her ability to take pictures (Go on this journey together picture-who else could have taken that picture :-)). I follow Darren Hardy’s daily blog (of Success Magazine) and his post for yesterday follows your post –

    I live with a husband and three sons and I want to give myself treats every so often – that is a habit I need to break. Those treats are usually some yarn, coffee, never anything huge. I took the challenge to not buy clothes this year…we will see.

    Congratulations on your baby!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Many thanks! And yes, Frugal Hound is quite the photographer ;). Actually, that hiking shot was taken using our little portable GorillaPod flexible tripod, which we attached to a friendly tree. Congrats on taking the no-clothes challenge–I wish you all the very best! You’ll have to let me know how it goes!

  32. Emmylou says:

    Great post and helpful inspiration!

    For what it’s worth, you might want to check out an alternative registry like:

    Just had a baby and wish I’d done this!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks so much for the registry suggestion–I’ll have to check it out. And, many congrats on your new baby :)!

  33. Even Steven says:

    What fun would it be if I didn’t throw my Disagreement Cap into the ring, is this a thing, surely not but I’m sure someone owns one that I can borrow for a few minutes. The Big 3 is a joke…..I think if you eliminate 2 out of the Big 3, you just put yourself in one of the greatest positions of all time. If you are able to eliminate/drastically reduce Housing with roommates or an investment property, Cars by biking/public transport/walking, and Groceries by eating in/learning to cook more, that the rest of it becomes like coasting down a hill.

    I will admit for my personal situation it did inspire me to incorporate reducing smaller cost items like cell phone plans, gym memberships, and some DIY repairs, it puts you into an even better position. Big Wins>Small Wins, but winning is still great either way.

    By the way am I allowed to challenge someone with a higher savings rate than me? Is this like challenging Chuck Norris to who has a better beard?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love your Disagreement Cap!! I definitely think you can’t avoid economizing on the Big Three, I just think it’s a fallacy to only focus on those three things and ignore everything else in the budget. Like you said, big wins are better, but they’re all opportunities for saving. You can totally challenge us any old time 😉

  34. 🙂 I love how you say it’s all become habit. We do expensive things all the time, in part because our dream goal is not close enough to be tangible, I think. We’ve still got a few million more to put in the bank. Details, details.
    Love it… keep it up!

  35. L says:

    I am new to your blog but am loving it so much already! We have recently realized a similar goal and reading about your journey further inspires us! We were already employing a savings plan, but now we are ramped up to become extreme frugal weirdos too 🙂

    One tip for frugal baby raising that I’ve been employing with my own kiddos – Children’s Clothing Consignment shops.Here’s how it works: I found one in my area that has a huge selection. I buy what I need used from her (clothes, toys, equipment) – I use it for as long as I need it and then return it to her and she re-sells it. I then get a check for the items of “mine” that she has sold, and then use it to buy clothes in the next up-coming sizes for my kids. A huge portion of my children’s wardrobe has in a sense been rented, for a fraction of the cost.

    Best wishes for you and yours! Keep writing so I can keep reading!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, L! I really appreciate you reading! And, thanks for the tip on consignment shops. I’ll definitely be buying Babywoods’ clothes used, so that’s great to know about the consignment system!

  36. All about breaking those bad habits and changing your mind set, after you got over the first month hurdle it was all down hill. Congrats on an amazing first year and a change for the rest of your lives.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Definitely all about changing the mindset–you’re so right! Many thanks for the congrats 🙂

  37. Jo says:

    I was surprised just how easy it is to opt out of commercialism. I’m now the crazy lady who asks businesses about their ethics before handing over any money.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome! I think once you turn on that mindset, it just becomes part of who you are.

  38. Yay on hand-me-down maternity clothes! Now let’s hope someone blesses you with hand-me-downs for the baby too.
    Congrats on one year of the frugal life. It’s totally neat how much you love it and it’s become habit. It will be fun to watch your frugal habits pay off!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks so much! We are very fortunate that we’ve actually already received quite a few hand-me-downs for Babywoods. She has two cousins who are girls and just a few years older. So, I’m hoping she can wear their old clothes for many years to come!

  39. Love your optimism, Mrs. FW! You are really an inspiration for living modestly and well, at the same time. Those are challenging to accomplish. I’ll be linking to this article over the weekend. Much appreciated encouragement on the frugal journey! 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much, Sam! I really appreciate that–and, you’re an inspiration for all those things too! Many thanks for the link 🙂

  40. Mr. 1500 says:

    Thanks so much for the shout out. It is quite an honor to be mentioned in such incredible company!

    Regarding babies, ceiling fans provide hours of amusement. Well, maybe not hours, but turn it on low, lay the baby under it and see what happens. It’s the simple things, right?

    Now get on with that finding that homestead so Mr. FW and I can build some cool stuff in the woods of Vermont!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I would mention you in every post if it wouldn’t make me seem like some sort of frugal fangirl/stalker. Ceiling fans–genius! Sadly we have none in this house, but maybe on the homestead… We actually went homestead hunting this past weekend but didn’t find “the one.” Ahh well, we have time.

  41. It’s cool to think about the lifestyle you are going to be able to provide your kid growing up with your homestead. That’s not a typical upbringing and I think they will have a very cool perspective on life because of it. I think having a goal can push people to do things they otherwise don’t think they would be able to do. Before I decided to get my MBA I had no idea how I would fit GMAT studying into my already crazy schedule of work, blogging, and house projects. But once I was set on it I made it work and now I’m just a few days from the GMAT.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! I’m hoping the homestead life will be a wholesome and unique upbringing–they’ll certainly have plenty to do in the woods and in the garden! Best of luck with the GMAT!!

  42. Heather says:

    I like how you talk about how the absence of habits can become habits. That’s a really good point! I have so many friends that are pregnant right now…I may refer them to your blog so they can get some ideas on frugal parenting!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, I think it is possible to make non-actions a habit, odd as it sounds, since that’s definitely what we find ourselves doing with spending/buying. Many thanks for referring your friends–I hope I can be helpful to them :)!

  43. Great reminders Mrs. FW and congrats on making it past the 1 year mark!!

  44. Inspiring as always 🙂 In particular the discussion on how major life events are NOT excuses for spendathons. I think that’s definitely when I feel most tempted to start shelling out money I would normally stuff into a savings account, so it’s a good reminder to get a reality check from someone else to keep me on track!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I have to really check myself with major life milestones, because it is so tempting to go out and adorn the “new” in my life. Gotta keep it under control ;)!!

  45. I couldn’t agree more. Once you get in the habit of trying to be frugal and not spend full-price on new items, it becomes the norm. It has definitely helped me cut my costs over the past year! Hope the homestead hunt is going well.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome that frugality has become habitual for you–way to go! The homestead hunt continues on and we went out there last weekend to look, but didn’t quite find “the one.”

  46. April says:

    Great article! I love my budget, and I think I’ll always keep it. Having said that I love the idea of starting each day with the idea that I’m not going to spend a penny! I need to really put that mindset into effect. Most of my spending is done on Friday which is grocery day, and I do pretty good the rest of the week but sometimes I get a little careless with the small things. I think I’ll need to start asking myself what would the Frugalwoods do? lol

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Many thanks! I know that budgeting works well for many folks and if you like it, then I say keep doing it! I think it’s all about figuring out what system works best for you. Good luck with the “no spending” approach :)!

  47. Michelle says:

    That Big Three thing is crap, it is a complete joke. You can’t just neglect the rest of your budget because you’ve reduced your expenses on your top 3 budget areas. If you’re normally a spender like I was, especially on expensive stuff like clothes, your budget can get out of control.
    You’re absolutely right that once you stop the spending, it just becomes normal to not spend. I too am loving the land of frugality and less is more. My entire routine throughout the day is so super easy now, it involves little to no thought so I can focus on my job and more important things.
    I’m getting through my no clothing ban quite well. Now that I’m almost at the halfway mark, what was once the little voice in my head telling me not to spend has now taken over the show! Yipee!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome, Michelle! I know how hard it was for you to do the no-clothes-buying ban and I think that’s fantastic! Huge congrats. And, I’m with you on how easy and stress-free life becomes when you know you’re not going to spend money. It’s a great hidden frugal secret ;).

  48. Jen says:

    This is a great article! I really enjoyed reading this because it sounds so familiar! Our waste came from food where at one point we were spending over $1500.00 per month for two people! Once I realized the waste, I started looking at every area of our lives to see what we could cut down on
    or eliminate. We are in a much better place today financially and I have to say that we have both enjoyed the process!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Major congrats to you on getting your food bill in check! Groceries can definitely become a runaway train–they certainly used to be for us too. And, glad to hear you’ve enjoyed the process 🙂

  49. Congrats on the pregnancy! I just had my third – you’re embarking on a wonderful journey <3

    In the quest to follow your lead and go without purchasing any new clothing, my new project is upcycling or refashioning my closet. I've been finding all sorts of great ideas on Pinterest, including how to make clothes into maternity items. With very basic sewing skills I was able to transform a never-worn sweatshirt into a comfy skirt ( I bet you've got some things you can rework to accommodate the growing belly 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks so much! And, huge congrats on your third baby–how exciting! Very cool that you’re refashioning your existing clothes–great idea!

  50. Mrs. Frugalwoods, you are really a financial guru! This one-year extreme frugality has given you positive results. Yes for FREEDOM!

  51. Kurt says:

    Congrats on the anniversary, even if unnoticed at first! Exciting to see the example you set for all who want to live simply, be debt free, be more self-reliant, and, most importantly, be happier.

  52. Joe says:

    Great job!
    Frugality is really a gift for life. I bet you’d loosen up a bit when you hit FI, though.
    Being super frugal all the time gets a bit tiring. 🙂
    Nice going with baby spending too. I’m sure you’ll spend a bit more as the baby comes along, but you’re doing very well so far.

  53. Marsha says:

    Toilet paper is free every place you go! Make it a game. I have beautiful wicker baskets in my bathrooms and every time I am out and visit a public bathroom I take some for the next job and put in a plastic bag in my purse. Over time will be able to know how much for a 1 job and 2 job. Free is good!

  54. Charity says:

    You guys are ridiculously inspiring! And I mean that in the best way. When I started working back in February, I made a plan to save between 20-30% of our income every month. I’m pretty sure I found your blog sometime in March. In April we made it to 39% (less than $18 shy of 40!) and last month we got to 47%! We are on track to get around 45% this month. I’m considering a frugal/no buy month for July (June is hard with Father’s Day, the husband’s birthday, as well as the mother in law’s birthday), just to see if we can still top 40% even with having to run the A/C. I feel like we need to be friends so we can talk budgets and savings and spreadsheets because none of my current friends seem to find those things fun or exciting! I literally spent all day today (Saturday where we live) online reading finance blogs and working on budget spreadsheets. Our Italian greyhound tried to help but she ended up just using my laptop as a pillow to nap.

    • Charity says:

      And a huge congrats on the baby!

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Huge congrats on ramping that savings rate up! You are rocking it!!! I do love the online community for discussing personal finance–nowhere else have I found people so excited to chat about savings rates ;). So, keep me posted on how it goes for you! Greyhounds, unfortunately, are not great at personal finance, as I’ve discovered ;). And, thanks for the baby congrats!

  55. Marcia says:

    This was an awesome blog post. I don’t know how I didn’t find your blog before (I’m a regular at MMM), but I found you through a comment on “Frugal Trenches”. (As someone’s favorite blog.)

    I decided to go on a clothing ban this year. And you know? It’s been not too terribly hard. I simply walk by clothing in stores (not gonna lie, it’s tempting), but I will fess up to buying $10 of new underwear (I lost 26 lbs last year, baggy underwear is not comfy). I have been invited to THREE at home clothing parties, that I simply said “sorry, I made this crazy pledge to not shop!)

    The challenging thing is being “between sizes”. My post -pregnancy clothing was geared for a weight ~25 lbs heavier than I am right now. My pre-2nd baby clothing – the pants mostly fit for work. But as for summer shorts – capris and such – they are too tight or pretty loose. I’m trying to lose another 7-10 lbs, maybe that will help.

    The shirts, I think I’m screwed. The post baby shirts are too big and the pre baby shirts are WAY too small. It looks like my shoulders got broader (and my ribcage) during the second pregnancy. If I manage to lose the 10 lbs, I’m going to dig out that bucket and donate what doesn’t fit.

    I find that after the kids it’s been a bit too easy to lay off on the super frugal tendencies because of exhaustion and laziness. The full time job + 2 kid thing is no joke. It takes WORK to choose free things over invites to restaurants!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Way to go on the clothes-buying ban–that’s superb! And, I totally understand the need to buy new underwear. I’m a firm believer in comfortable underwear (and shoes and clothes for that matter 😉 ). Congrats on losing so much weight!!! A full-time job + 2 kiddos sounds daunting to me, so I’m impressed that you’re still frugaling!

  56. Ginger says:

    Congratulations on the baby!

  57. Jade says:

    This is a great parenting philosophy of not providing so many toys and gadgets for babies. It also ties in with being frugal, take a look if you are interested!

  58. Nate says:

    These are some great tips. We only have a small variety of toys for our kids and tell everyone to add to their college funds instead of buying a million toys.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That sounds like the perfect solution to me! Mr. FW and I were just talking about our hope that we’ll be able to encourage family to do the same for Babywoods.

  59. Aerynn says:

    I love this! I went frugal a few years ago because I started a new grad school program in a very expensive place to live. I think I “overdid” it (no such thing) – in the last two years I have not only stayed on-budget, but I paid off my credit cards, too! Now I’m working on paying off my old student loans BEFORE graduation.

    I have to say, though I am single, no children, and live alone in an apartment (so I can’t use most of the advice), I have found so much inspiration in my old beat-up copy of Amy Dacyzyn’s “Complete Tightwad Gazette” that whenever I slip into spending, I just read it again.

  60. Cute Greyhound, I agree frugality can change your life. It took me a long time to realize how much money I was wasting. I also agree it is in our culture to spend, spend.

    The problem with that idea keeps most people in debt. The economy is reliant upon spenders. Anytime that happens is a disaster for home budgets.

    Some people are catching on to their bad spending habits.

  61. It’s motivating to see someone else accomplish their goals.
    Good post about defining your wants from your needs. As we examine the motives behind spending, it gets easier to let go of things that are just clutter.

  62. Myria says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It is very interesting how the standards of the world can shape our everyday lives. However being unaware of these tactics can make us fall victim to them. I am on a journey to regain financial independence, while soaking in the most important things in life. The most important thing I realize is that life is worth more than the superficial things the world tries to pressure on us as living. Truly living is freedom and the things that we can’t buy. Thank you for helping me to see that I am not alone in my thoughts of freedom.

  63. It was really good to hear about other people being so frugal and yes free is really nice. Congratulations on your baby.

  64. Nora says:

    Congrats on your baby. And yes to living frugal as a parent. I haven’t read all the comments, so maybe I am repeating someone else’s experience. We’ve had a baby last year and even though we did not buy much, we still have too much. Maternity: I got through my pregnancy with one pair of leggings and two dresses that stretched well around the waist. Baby clothes: There are plenty of people who are happy to pass on their pre-loved, cute baby clothes. Pram/baby carrier/sling: I recommend a (2nd hand) woven wrap. It’s cheap, will likely last you through all the children you might have, is super versatile, keeps your hand free and baby snug and close and well, baby-wearing is great. No need for a (expensive, over-priced) pram. Maternity bra: I haven’t found them to be necessary. Breastpads: Reusable ones worked great. Nappies: 2nd hand washable nappies and washable wipes are great and save money in the long run. A simple water proof changing map that can be used on the floor is great once the baby gets all wriggly as there is zero danger of falling down. Cot: We bed-share. Makes breastfeeding a million times easier and lets me sleep at night. No need for a cot. Weaning: We let our son eat what we eat with his hands, off the table, and help him drink from a regular glas, i.e. follow baby-led weaning. No need for any special spoons, tubs, cups, etc. Toys: Surprisingly, our son prefers the “real” stuff, spatula, rolling pin, whisk, empty bottles filled with rice, a blanket put over a chair, etc. are all fun to play with. We have spent very little on our baby, the biggest investment was the washable nappies. I don’t feel I am missing anything.

  65. Melissa says:

    I just found your blog. I am inspired! No kids, no plans to have kids, but lots of student debt to pay off (we’re talking six digits!). I don’t spend much, but I don’t earn much at the moment. I was just recently disabled, but I can still work, and I am looking for more work that I can handle with my disability. I’m always looking for ideas and tips on frugality!

  66. Mrs DGFree says:

    Interesting and very informative. We are newbies to this and I’m struggling with balancing frugality with friend outings. We had a birthday dinner over the weekend which ended up costing us $40 and I have an evening with friends at a restaurant later this week. How do you balance gathering with friends and frugal living?

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