More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About the Frugalwoods Family
Welcome! We’re ex-urban, rookie homesteaders finding contentment (and a lot of chores) on 66 acres in rural central Vermont along with our our two young daughters.
I’m Liz, better known as Mrs. Frugalwoods, and I write about a wide range of topics, including my experiences as a parent, my adventures as a novice homesteader, and the financial decisions that made our life possible.
My philosophy is that managing your money wisely enables you to pursue unusual aspirations and opens up a world of options for how to live your life.
Through the application of frugality–coupled with good incomes and judicious financial management–my husband and I have created a life that we love living every single day. It’s not a life beholden to consumerism or the drive for material perfection or the incessant clarion call for more.
I started Frugalwoods in April 2014–before we moved to the country and before we had children–so the arc of my writing has changed over time, as have my thoughts and opinions. I often articulate that there are two sides of the financial independence equation–income and expenses–and that the more you earn, the more you can save.
A primary focus of my writing is on saving money, because that’s what I most enjoy writing about, but investing and income are key elements of financial independence and topics that I touch on periodically.
My book, Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living, was published by HarperCollins in March 2018. Read more about it here.
If you’re interested in jump starting your own financial management and frugality journey, take my free Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which charts the steps my husband and I took to change the way we think about money and ultimately, to reach financial independence.
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Who We Are
Frugalwoods began in April 2014 as a living documentation of our journey from conventional, 9-to-5 white collar professionals in ultra-urban Cambridge, MA to modern day digital homesteaders (pretty sure I made that term up… ) in rural Vermont. We moved to our homestead full-time in May 2016, so we’re still getting the hang of life out here on the farm. Our land is primarily forested with several cleared acres around our home and barn, which are populated with mature apple trees, plum trees, and vegetable gardens (which we have a spotty record of keeping alive… ).
Every day out here brings a new opportunity for us to learn, problem-solve, innovate, and make tons of mistakes. The self-reliance and aptitude for constantly trying new things (aka making mistakes) that homestead life mandates is precisely why we wanted to live here. Every day is filled with unknowns and adventure (did I mention mistakes?). I write about life on the homestead every month in the
obviously aptly titled This Month On The Homestead series.
For more about homesteading, check out:
- The Best And Worst Moments Of Our First Year On The Homestead
- City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown
We’re Hybrid Homesteaders!
My husband and I are not full-time farmers; we work on our land as one of the many projects of our lives. While we enjoy working in the dirt, we also choose to engage in decidedly less dirt-focused jobs (which is good for those long Vermont winters… ): Mr. Frugalwoods works full-time from home as a software engineer and IT manager while I’m a writer (one who actually gets paid! hooray!). Another source of income for us is our former home in Cambridge, MA, which we now rent out.
The rhythm of our days is such that one hour we’re harvesting asparagus while the next we’re writing code (or articles), and the next we’re baking bread, or clearing brush in our woods, or on a family hike. Of course a lot of our time is also used in service of raising our two small kiddos. This balance between manual labor and exercise of the mind is what constitutes, for us, the perfect life. Although we’re financially independent, we’re not early retired since we both choose to continue working from home.
Hobbies? Do We Have Hobbies?
I feel like before we had kids we had those things called “hobbies.” Now I’m wondering if changing diapers counts as a hobby? Reading books (to kids) maybe? When we do carve out “hobby” time, we love to hike, travel (uh, mostly without our kids… ) and read. Mr. FW dabbles in welding, woodworking, astronomy, ham radio, home repair, electronics, bicycling, gardening, forestry management, reading science fiction, and cooking. For my part, I like wine. I mean YOGA. I totally meant to say yoga there.
Our older daughter, Babywoods, is our mini gardener/hiker who adores being outside in nature with her parents every season of the year (and, ya know, stealing toys from her sister and eating dirt). Our younger daughter, Littlewoods, is a baby who likes to clap her hands, gum toys, and spit up.
A major factor in our decision to quit the city (and our office jobs) was our desire to be work-from-home parents. We are fortunate beyond belief to spend every day together as a family (I mean, some days it’s not so great, but on the whole we love it. Except for that whole potty training thing… ).
If you’re interested in my thoughts on parenting in this hectic modern era, and how we buck conventional wisdom that “children are expensive,” check out my Kids section.
Frugal Hound was the official mascot of Frugalwoods and was our 8-year-old retired racing greyhound. Sadly, Frugal Hound passed away in early 2018 and we miss her dearly. She was an integral part of our family and served as the motivator for my writing on frugal pet care.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I both went to college at the University of Kansas (where we met our freshman year), did relatively well, graduated in 2006 without any debt, and got good jobs. We avoided incurring debt from undergrad through a combination of attending an inexpensive state school, working while in college, scholarships, and–most crucially–financial help from our parents.
While neither Mr. FW or I inherited any money (or has a trust fund), we both come from families who were able to help us out with our undergrad tuition, which we’re deeply grateful for and which we consider a privilege (more about my thoughts on privilege here and here). I never want to lose sight of how fortunate I am to have a family who could support me through college and launch me into the world without debt.
After college, Mr. FW and I worked hard to advance in our careers. We figured this was what our lives would be for the next 30-40 years. We got married in 2008, I completed my master’s degree in 2011 debt-free (I worked full-time at the university while I attended grad school full-time, which entitled me to free tuition), we bought our first home in 2012 (with money we saved entirely ourselves–no gifts from family or friends), and adopted our sweet Frugal Hound the same year. That’s where our normal, standard timeline stops.
In 2012 we both landed what we considered our dream jobs–professional positions as managers in offices at desks under artificial lights. We thought we’d made it. But a strange thing happened. Here we’d achieved everything we’d set out to and yet, we weren’t fulfilled. We found ourselves working for the weekend and counting down the hours to 5pm every single day. Neither of us felt true passion for what we did on a daily basis. We spend so much of our lives at work and we started questioning why we were doing it. We started to feel like we were working to earn money that we weren’t spending (thanks to a combination of high incomes and frugality) and coming home exhausted and stressed. And so, we made the decision to navigate our way out of the cycle of consumerism and materialism that our society seemed trapped by. We now live a simpler, more creative life closer to nature, where we work together towards our future and our shared goals.
Our Quarter-Life Crisis
Mr. FW and I had a shared quarter-life crisis in March 2014 at age 30. We realized that all of our creative energy and our best ideas were funneled into doing work for our employers—not into endeavors that we find personally rewarding. And we had a sneaking suspicion that, if we didn’t change something, we’d wake up in 40 years still in those same cubicles We felt trapped.
We began discussing what we’d do if we didn’t have to work traditional office jobs for a living and we simultaneously agreed we’d live a simpler life in the woods. We love hiking and spending time together in nature and so, moving ourselves from the city to a more rural setting sounded ideal.
At first we thought, ok, we’ll move to the woods when we retire at 65. But the more we talked, the more apparent it became that we wanted to make this move sooner—much, much sooner. Our desire to live in ways that we find personally meaningful was powerful.
This was made financially possible by the fact that we’d always lived well below our means and that we’d continuously increased our salaries over the years, while saving ever higher percentages. In 2014, we’d been saving our money together for almost 8 years. We took a look at our finances and realized that if we embraced extreme frugality–and maintained our decent salaries–we’d be able to make this dream a reality much sooner.
A major component of our decision to go rural is that we’ve done the city thing. We’ve lived in the three big East Coast haunts: New York City, Washington, DC and Boston, MA. There’s a lot that we love about dense, urban environs, but it was time for a change. Also, city livin’ is expensive and didn’t provide the time or the space we craved to explore our myriad interests.
An additional factor spurring us on is that we don’t know how long we’ll be around–life is short and unexpected. We don’t want to work for the next 30 years and then finally move to the country in an effort to find solace. We decided to take this risk now so that we can build a meaningful life to enjoy.
We want to wake up inspired to try new things and create a life of variety. We crave adventure and part of what we disliked so much about working in offices is the lack of diversity and discovery. We’re victims of wanderlust. We’re committed to creating a life of purpose and intention. We’re striving for a life where we work hard, but on projects that are rewarding.
Through Frugalwoods, I share our journey and stories of intentional living. My writing is a narration of our successes, foibles, and lessons learned along this path to a wholly unconventional, whimsical, and purpose-filled life.
One of my goals in writing Frugalwoods is to build an online community of like-minded folks who value living life above spending money. We love the community that has grown here and we thank you all for sharing your personal stories with us and with each other. I’m so glad you’re joining us on this journey. Every month, I feature two series that directly engage readers: Reader Case Studies and Reader Suggestions. Please join us and chime in!
In sharing my story, I hope to prompt each of you to ask yourselves the questions that guided our transformation: what would you do if you didn’t need your paycheck? When are you happiest? And what’s stopping you from making that a reality?
Where You Could Start
If you’re new to the concepts of financial independence, or curious about how Mr. Frugalwoods and I approach it, start with How A Year Of Extreme Frugality Changed Us.
This is a pretty comprehensive overview of why we’re doing what we’re doing. If you’d like to know how we’re doing it, check out Why We Don’t Micromanage Our Money. I also break down our expenses every single month, which you can review in our Monthly Expense Reports.
Never saved a penny in your life? Have debt to pay down? Want to flex your frugal muscles? Take my free Uber Frugal Month Challenge. And if you’re seeking general personal finance advice, you might enjoy the Demystifying Personal Finance series as well as the monthly Reader Case Studies.
For more on the ideology that grounds my approach, visit the Frugalwoods Philosophy section. All other content is listed in the categories at the right, which I add to as I address new topics.
Thank you for joining me, I’m glad you’re here! I’d love to meet you and learn where you are on your financial journey. Email me or leave a comment below anytime. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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