Frugal Homestead Series Part 3: Why Vermont?
Greetings frugal friends! Welcome to Part 3 of our Frugal Homestead Series, which explores the finer points of how we’re going to reach our version of financial independence and move to a homestead in the woods in 2017 at age 33. Mr. Frugalwoods and I plan to buy 20+ acres of wooded land, likely with an existing home and outbuildings, in rural southern Vermont.
Today in Part 3 of the series, I’m delving into the rationale behind our tentative selection of southern Vermont as our ideal homestead location.
You Can Live Anywhere You Want
One of the primary reasons for our goal of financial independence is the ability to live wherever we want. Up to this point, we’ve been tied to our location by our jobs. Financial independence blissfully obliterates the requirement of living somewhere in order to work there. And in the absence of that monetary tether, we’ve been free to explore different regions.
So how do you decide where to live when you’re financially independent and not tied to a city based on your job?
We started by identifying the type of lifestyle we want to live (homestead, outdoors, frugal weirdos with a greyhound) and then made a spreadsheet to compare potential locations. It seems most of our pivotal decisions are made via spreadsheet…
Locales as diverse as Kansas to California to Minnesota to Texas were all considered. We enumerated the pros and cons of each and were able to whittle down the list pretty quickly. New England in general–and southern Vermont in particular–rose to the top. It’s not that southern VT is without its flaws, but it most nearly meets our requirements.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I feel it’s important to be intentional about where we live and we want to situate ourselves in a place where we believe we’ll thrive.
We don’t fear change. Over the course of our 31 and 30 years, Mr. FW and I have–between the two of us–moved 14 times and lived in seven different states. Suffice it to say, neither of us has an aversion to the upheaval that moving inevitably entails.
We’re both comfortable with exploration and a certain amount of risk-taking–after all, why not. You only get to live once, might as well make it unexpected and unique. As opposed to dreading it, we’re looking forward to living in yet another state and experiencing a completely new way of life.
Why Southern Vermont?
It’s Geographically Well Positioned
From a practical standpoint, southern VT is well within the tourist halo of Boston & NYC, which is crucial for our planned AirBnB efforts (the “yurt factor” if you will). There is in fact a train that runs from Penn Station in NYC directly into downtown Brattleboro, VT (one of the towns we’ve been building our search around). Brattleboro is an attraction in its own right as it’s rife with art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops and nearby vineyards and cheese purveyors.
This is really a quadruple benefit as it means:
- Tourists for our AirBnB lodgings will be plentiful.
- We’ll have ready access to two cultural hubs of the world.
- It’s a 2.5 hour drive to Cambridge, which is key as we’ll be renting out our home there and serving as property managers.
- The greyhound adoption agency we got Frugal Hound from is a mere hour away in western Massachusetts. You know, just in case we need an additional hound at some point since greyhounds are such helpful farm dogs… hah.
It’s rural without being remote. We’ve concentrated our search within a 30-minute driving radius to the nearest medium-sized town, which means we’ll still have easy access to hospitals, schools, dentists, vets, yoga studios (you know where my priorities are), grocery stores, culture, and other services should we need them. We want quiet but not desolate.
Southern Vermont, for us, is an exclusively post-early retirement destination as there are very few traditional jobs there; but, thanks to frugality and the internet, that won’t be an issue for us.
The Weather = Ideal
Vermont’s climate is essentially ideal for us. And that’s saying something considering I’m writing this in early February with 36″ of snow on the ground and more predicted to fall. What can I say, we’re some winter-loving frugal weirdos. Fueling our passion for winter is our hatred of hot, swampy summers (I’m looking at you Washington, DC, where we lived and sweated for two years…). It’s just not our thing.
We enjoy the change of seasons and living in a place with four true seasons feels intrinsically right. While we love visiting my family in sunny San Diego every winter, their year-round balmy climate is frankly kinda boring to us. We prefer the radical experience of swinging from deepest, darkest winter to hopeful spring, to temperate summers, to cool autumns.
Mr. FW would probably say that winter’s his favorite season, but mine is without a doubt the fall. And New England does fall perhaps best in the world. Apple picking, pumpkin picking, gorgeous leaves, crisp weather, glorious hiking–New England is where our Americana ideals of autumn and the harvest were forged. It is, after all, the birthplace of Thanksgiving. And, Halloween is possibly my favorite holiday. That’s neither here nor there, but I just want to underline how much I adore fall. Plus, Frugal Hound is pumpkin-colored… coincidence? Unlikely.
An additional pro in the weather category is that there aren’t many natural disasters to contend with in Vermont. As long as you know how to stay warm, you’ll be fine since the primary “disasters” are frigid cold temps and loads of snow. The caveat is that if you live right next to a large river, you’re susceptible to flooding. For this very reason, we plan not to live adjacent to a large river. Problem solved.
Four Seasons of Outdoor Attractions
Skiing and snowshoeing in winter, hiking in the summer, leaf peeping and apple picking in the fall, and maple syrup tapping in the early spring are just a small sampling of the seasonal delights offered by Vermont. I kinda feel like Martha Stewart saying this, but, it’s a good thing.
This gives us a plethora of outdoor pursuits and also ensures a year-round influx of tourists for our random assortment of rentable AirBnB dwellings.
The climate and geography of Vermont (and much of New England) lends itself to a level of rural sustainability that’s tough to achieve in other places. In this region, you don’t have to worry about water (there’s plenty), you have a decent (though not long) growing season, the land is arable, and there’s ample timber for fuel (many homes in rural VT are heated by woodstove, which makes wood a vital aspect of life).
Southern Vermont is heavily wooded. We’re talking waaaaaaaay more trees than people. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, we love the woods! There are few things we relish more than walking hand in hand through a majestic wooded forest. Hence, we plan to buy one.
We’re interested in properties with an existing forest, which we will manage for timber resources and recreational use (like hiking!). Fortunately, most of the rural properties in VT have significant wooded acreage. Win!
From a fiscal perspective, there’s often timber value to realize on forested land. Creating a sustainable forestry plan is responsible as well as potentially lucrative. And if we have sugar maples on our land, we’ll tap them for syrup. We’ll discuss these factors in greater depth in an upcoming installment of the series that’ll be dedicated entirely to assessing land.
Another attractive feature of the properties we’re exploring is their intense history. There’s a real sense of place and a connection to the past that comes through geography and land use. Many properties have old stone walls and there’s perhaps no better connection to history than walls that were built stone by laborious stone by ancestors we’ll never know, but who forever altered the land. …And that concludes my poetic reflection for the day.
Culture and Vibe
In a statement that will shock no one, we like Vermont because we’re liberal hippies. I’m sure you suspected this predilection of ours, so let me disabuse you of the notion that we’re conservative, preppy folks ;). To us, it makes sense to live in a place with like-minded folks and where the political current is in sync with our own. We’ve discovered that our general philosophies about life will fit well in liberal, progressive Vermont.
Furthermore, many a successful homesteader is frugal, which means we’ll be more likely to have neighbors and friends who espouse the simple, non-materialistic life. That’s one aspect of city living that really gets us down–seems like just about everyone is engaged in an endless race to keep up with whoever their personal Joneses are.
As a state, Vermont values what we do: education, internet access (shockingly hard to find in rural areas, but VT is investing in it), arts, wine, culture, cheese, and the outdoors. The schools are pretty good–not great, but not bad–and they tend to be small, which has its own benefits. While Vermont is typically considered a high-tax state, the taxes are progressive, so if you’re not bringing in a high income, you’re not impacted. Since we’ll be living in VT during the lowest income years of our lives (assets don’t count as income), it shouldn’t be a problem for us.
Additionally, the artisan culture is alive and well in Vermont and there are purveyors of custom beers, cheeses, llamas… you name it, they artisan-ize it. We appreciate the creativity that goes into ventures like these and will likely create a cottage industry of sorts on our own land. Greyhound fur spun into yarn, anyone? Didn’t think so.
Affordable Land and Low Cost of Living
Land is relatively affordable in Vermont, as compared to many places. Over the course of our search we’ve found a number of properties that are well within our price range and meet nearly all of our criteria. Plus, goods and services are less expensive than what we currently encounter in Cambridge and, it’s possible to drive about 30 minutes into New Hampshire to shop tax-free.
Vermont is one of only four states in the nation with a law prohibiting all billboard advertisements. Enough said.
The Con In a Field of Pros
As I mentioned, Vermont isn’t a utopia and there are certainly a few downsides. The primary disadvantage is that it’s not close to either of our families. We hate this and sincerely wish there was a way to co-locate with one of our families, but alas, they live in regions that aren’t conducive to the type of homestead we dream of having. Our hope is that they’ll come visit us often and stay for long stretches since we’ll have commodious space for guests. Going to visit them will also give us a good excuse to travel.
Although we’ve concentrated our search in southern Vermont, we remain open-minded. Western Massachusetts and upstate New York are other possible contenders as they share many attributes with southern Vermont. It’s safe to say we think we’ll end up in Vermont, but nothing’s final ’til we buy a place.
It feels like a tremendous luxury to be able to choose where we’ll live with few limitations other than what will make us happy. We fully realize how fortunate we are to be in this position and we don’t take the privilege of it lightly. For us, this freedom to locate where we believe we’ll flourish is perhaps the greatest gift of financial independence. Without debt, without over-spending, without excessive material consumption, and without lifestyle inflation, we’ll be able to bring this dream to fruition. And we’re very grateful.
And with that, I conclude the third installment of the Frugal Homestead Series. Next up in the series: searching for land! Want to make sure you’re among the first to receive Part 4 delivered hot and fresh to your email machine? Sign-up in the Frugal Hound email box below and she’ll send you a message.
Do you live in your ideal location? How did you decide to live where you do?
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Ooh it all sounds perfect! I love the idea of owning some woodland – think of all the wildlife that might live in there 🙂 plus the self-sufficientness of it all is a definite added bonus. I cannot wait to see where you end up living and how you get to your final destination. Frugal Hound is very cute too!
I love thinking of the wildlife too! There are plenty of deer, squirrels, bear, moose, and more in Vermont so I imagine we’ll be in for a few surprises. As long as they don’t eat our garden, we can happily share the land :). Thanks for reading!
Deer eat everything. If they can get to your garden they’ll eat most everything in it.
I can’t wait to see pictures of your yurt when you guys buy your property. I’m already trying to convince my husband to go stay in it!
I can’t wait either :). You three definitely need to come stay with us!
Vermont really is lovely, and seems to fit your criteria very well. I’m with you on the change of seasons. While winter is tough for me, without it, the other seasons wouldn’t be quite to wonderful. I lived in the SF Bay Area for almost two years, and found the lack of clearly defined seasons difficult to take. Yes, there are variations, but nothing like true seasons.
I live in upstate NY, and it shares a lot of similarities with Vermont. (Although it’s not nearly as reliably liberal.) I’m happy with our house, but would like more usable yard space for gardening. There are woods behind our house, which has its advantages, but more garden space is something I really desire.
San Francisco is a favorite place of ours, but not somewhere we’d live given the absence of seasons (not to mention the cost of living…. 😉 ).
Upstate NY is definitely on the list, though I’m not sure it’ll pan out in the end given the distance from Cambridge. But, I bet it’s beautiful where you are 🙂
Don’t forget to include Maine!
Oh yes, Maine! Thank you for reminding me–Maine is on the list too 🙂
Aren’t their property taxes insane? Same with NH unfortunately. I plan to own a place, and not buy much, so I’d rather have higher sales tax.
Oh, yes. Though you can apply for property tax relief if you make under a certain amount (in Vermont). Without that relief, I would pay $3100 for 1300 sq with no land.
I love reading about how you are achieving your goals. You two and frugal hound have a definite plans for lives. It will be fun to see how it all turns out.
Thank you so much! I really appreciate you reading 🙂
On the growing season, with permaculture short seasons don’t matter that much. Lots of ways to hack microclimates together. Even with annuals, some of the coolest season extension techniques I’ve read about have originated in Maine, where it’s even harsher than southern VT.
The two biggies are woodfired water stove radiant heat for greenhouses and wax valve hinges for cold frames.
I’m really hoping my family farm transfer works out, as we could quite likely do a bare-bones FI and scoot by on minimal cash layout, living off the land for the first few years, then slowly adding farm income to pad the lifestyle and/or get our goblins started in life. Since it is land that’s been in my family since the late 20s, being able to restore it and heal my small part of the planet has great appeal versus starting over from scratch.
But if it doesn’t, VT is one place that does attract me as well. We need to travel more before saying we are in love with anything.
I’d heard of the stove method, I haven’t heard of the wax valve hinges on cold frames. Do you have a link to something that describes the idea? I tried google, but this thread came up as #1… which isn’t helpful, yet!
Free-ish land would certainly give you a massive leg up on the homesteading process. I forget, have you been to the property recently? Would be a neat post to see how you’d evaluate the land and brainstorm possibilities. Though probably smart not to get too involved until you know if the actual land transfer is a real possibility.
I had to poke around a bit, but this is an example I found:
I have no personal experience with them, just remember reading about them a while back and thought they were nifty.
As far as the land, I’m just now entering in preliminary negotiation/feeling out. 2/3 are leaning (slightly) towards selling it to the farmer who’s currently leasing it. I haven’t been out to the property since my grandfather passed, which was 8 years ago.
We’ll see where it goes 🙂
Oh man, what a clever design idea! Thanks!
Good luck on the land!
I was wondering where you adopted Frugalhound from. There is another huge agency in that area I won’t even name, because we had an awful experience there. Glad you didn’t use them. Maeby came from an agency in NY.
I agree with all your points about Vermont. I learned about the billboard law during a tour of the Cabot cheese factory! I’ve thought of moving elsewhere after retirement, but I don’t think I could seriously permanently leave New England. I want to travel a lot, but this area will always be home. I’ve thought of retiring to Vermont, so maybe we’ll see you there one day. B-boro is one of my all time favorite towns.
If you like stone walls so much, you would get a thrill hiking around the Brattleboro Retreat if you haven’t already. There’s buildings and a big stone tower out in the woods!
Hooray for Cabot cheese! Brattleboro really is a special place. I admit I’ve fallen in love with it, so I’m hoping we’ll find a place within 30 minutes or so of there. But, we’ll have to see…
That’s fabulous that you’re thinking of Vermont for retirement too! We could start a greyhound/early retirement co-op ;).
We haven’t hiked around the Brattleboro Retreat before, but that sounds wonderful. Mr. FW is a serious devotee of stone walls, so that sounds right up his alley. Thanks for the tip!
My dad built a stone wall with the use of a book called ‘The Granite Kiss” which Mr FW might enjoy, I think it’s useful with a wink of humour (the kiss being the pinch you will inevitably experience moving so many rocks!)
Have you read The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing? They left NY for Vermont to homestead in the 30s. They chose the are for similar reasons. I bet you would love their book. They were frugal to the max.
Funny you should ask about The Good Life–we have it on hold at the library, just waiting for it to be our turn :). Mr. FW is reading the Nearing’s maple sugar book right now and says he’s enjoying it immensely. He reports it’s an excellent historical overview of maple sugar production in New England.
Southern Vermont is a great choice! Also if you settle near Brattleboro, a frugal gentleman just left the library and hospital a total of 6 million bucks, so you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of his frugality.
We just read about him–what a fantastic story! I love that he left his money to benefit the town. Such a wonderful and generous thing to do.
Have you heard of Ben Falk (http://radicalpersonalfinance.com/124)? He is a permaculture designer and lives in Vermont. He sounds right up your alley.
We have indeed! Thanks for mentioning him!
I actually had no idea there was a train from Penn Station to southern VT, but I can’t wait to stay in your Air BNB!! Hubby and I talk all the time about going to VT (especially southern VT) because it’s really not that far from where we live and perfect for a quick weekend getaway.
Fabulous! Can’t wait to 1) have a place in which to host you, and 2) host you :)!
Right now we are thinking western Virginia as our dream location. For us, the main draw is it reminds us of the different places we grew up, plus it has four seasons (fall is my favorite, also!), and not too harsh of a winter. We love that you can drive to many places from there, with nice hiking and camping nearby. I love New England, even lived in Boston for a few years, but the taxes in some of the states scare me!
Virginia is beautiful! We stayed in a yurt near Charlottesville and absolutely loved the area. Such fabulous hiking! I’m excited for you 🙂
How did we come to live here? By accident! Mr. FP got a job in Denver, the pay was good, and we heard there were hardly any bugs. This turns out to be true. 300 days of sunshine, hardly any bugs, no nasty gross humidity. Sold! We will be working for years, if not decades, to come, so we do need good access to good jobs as well as culture, both of which Denver provides.
Like you, the big downside is that it is far from our families. I am very close to mine especially and really miss being able to pop down for a weekend (to the extent that a woman with two toddlers could “pop” anywhere!). And the tears in my mother’s eyes when we left after our visit were hard to take. But I’m sure we can maintain those relationships with some effort, even if it’s “not the same” as constant access.
Denver is a wonderful place! Love the “no bugs” clause, that’s pretty ideal.
It is so hard to not be close to family, but, I agree that it’s entirely possible to sustain close relationships with them from afar.
This sounds so wonderful. It shares a lot of characteristics with where I live, especially the wonder of 4 majestic seasons. I don’t get how people can live in So Cal. I need the variety. (totally a need, not a want!)
I live where I live because my grandparents settled here and few people have left. I did an analysis before I went to college to find an area with everything I wanted- namely 4 seasons and strong thunderstorms and I couldn’t find a place that made it worthwhile to move. But now you’ve got me curious, how are the thunderstorms in Vermont?
Four seasons are absolutely crucial :)! There are indeed thunderstorms in Vermont–nothing like the midwestern plains supercell storms, but there is thunder and lightening.
Well I’m sold! Sign me up as your first air bnb guest! There are many parts of the NE I’ve never been to and always wanted to do a Fall driving tour. I love that you are both so open to change and risk. I’ve become a lot less “changy” in my advanced age. lol!
Oh the fall colors here are glorious–you should definitely come stay at the AirBnB in the autumn! That’s interesting about change. In some ways, I feel like I’m even more open to change as I age, but I’m sure I’ll have my limit 🙂
Vermont is an amazing state (says this NH resident)! I love New England as well but my dream is early retirement in Virginia or the Carolina’s as I cannot take winter anymore. As a lifelong resident of New England, the winters are just too long for me. With that said, I know it will be hard to leave New England. I am enjoying this series 🙂
And this winter is a real doozy! Virginia and the Carolinas are all lovely places too 🙂
I enjoy reading your blog and can’t wait to follow you on the upcoming adventures! Have you read the book “Mud Season”? A memoir about a family who moved to rural Vermont. It’s hilarious! Good luck….
Thank you so much for reading, Anne! I haven’t read “Mud Season”–thank you for the recommendation. I’m reserving it from the library now!
Make sure you check into USDA conservation programs through Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). They offer forestry programs and monetary incentives for land owners working to improve wildlife habitat, soil, forests, etc.. We live in the Midwest and are working with our local office to develop nesting habitat for endangered birds on our property.
Oh neat! I have the vaguest inklings about such programs, but certainly a ton to learn. Thanks for giving me the googlable terms 🙂
what are the reasons that people are selling their land ???
I also have dreamed of Vermont & curious as to why they want to leave
Oh, I think it’s all the normal reasons people move. Jobs, Family, Change in housing needs. There are quite a few people who retire and want to move south to avoid the winters. We like the winter though, so we’re happy to take over!
Western NY State is a very nice area, but I’d caution against it strictly because of the taxes. My sister in law lives there (Finger lakes area) on a few acres in a small house, and they pay more in taxes in a MONTH than my wife and I do in a year where we live.
Vermont is a very nice place, but I havent had the chance to spend much time south of rutland. I do like the artistically cheese/hard cider/etc there.
Figuring out the various property tax implications has been as complicated as it is interesting! Vermont varies wildly but is indexed to income on the low end so we’d be fine. MA has some similar programs, but not as sure we’d qualify. And I haven’t research NY state’s at all yet, so that’s good intel to know that at least in some parts… it’s quite high! Thanks!
Yes – They live in Yates County, which is a pretty cool area. Lots of wine, breweries, mennonites that you can get hand crafted things from (Cider, flour, etc etc) and it has the lowest of all the taxes in NY state – but they are still high. I think they pay > 1000/mo for a small house on a small acreage. They can grow a pretty freaking sweet garden out there, but the taxes are terrible. I know where I live (Wyoming) taxes are comically low, but NY state is bad.
Sounds wonderful! We are thinking of a WV or Upstate NY place ourselves because we have connections both places.
HOWEVER, you have incorrect information about Thanksgiving! The first actual celebrated Thanksgiving was in Virginia at Berkeley Plantation, which is off Route 5 between Richmond and Williamsburg.
Oh no! All my visions of Thanksgiving are dashed ;)! Thanks for setting me straight!
It sure looks beautiful there. I moved ten times before I was fifteen. I agree with the humidity complaint..I just spent time in North Carolina. It was ungodly humid.
Give me San Diego any day! Today it will be 78 degrees and sunny! I will hike up a mountain this morning, go bike riding along a trail, and maybe take a nap at the beach.
All right, all right, your San Diego plans do sound pretty good right about now :)!
Worst part of living in Vermont is Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders. But Sanders won’t be around much longer.
My sister went to UVM… Vermont has very little sun. Burlington has one of highest suicide rates in the country.
“Vermont had 13.7 suicides per 100,000 people, according to the report. The U.S. average was 12 suicides per 100,000.” http://vtdigger.org/2011/11/15/suicide-rate-up-13-percent-in-vermont/
I say get yourself a tanning bed when you move up there. You’ll appreciate it….
What a weird thing to bring up to people looking to move to VT. Would you really make a re-location decision based on suicide rate? Besides. Arizona’s suicide rate is 16.2 per 100,000, Andrew. Those in glass houses…
I think people here off themselves in July & August, when the heat becomes unbearable.
Wow, Vermont seems gorgeous. I definitely want to visit some day. I love the woods too and the lifestyle you’re describing seems idilic, it’s not possible for us right now, but we do enjoy visiting and spending some vacation time in places like that. Best of luck!
Thank you! It’s definitely a beautiful place to visit and vacation 🙂
Vermont looks like a gorgeous place to live! I live in the valley of California and everything is flat. So the scenery isn’t that great. But it’s ideal given the friends and family I have there.
That’s really nice that you live near family and friends–that certainly makes a place special!
I had a family reunion in central Vermont last summer, and it was awesome! I can totally picture you guys there.
Sounds like an ideal place for a family reunion! Nice!
Mmmm, spreadsheets for life decisions. That’s how we get down, as well.
Political sync is awesome, and all of that cottage industry is fantastic, yay! I wish I had some sort of artisanal thing, but every one I’ve thought of just doesn’t have the ROI I need to justify the time (compared to my day job, if I earned less, more things would make sense. For now, the internet is the best thing I’ve found :-)).
A bit of an aside, but have you two considered taking a PDC? That’s a permaculture design course. It’s on my to-do list but alas is quite pricey and as I do not live in a city, there are no evening/weekend courses available to me. (Vacation days are my precious, taking a week for this isn’t high enough of a priority at the moment.) Permaculture is fascinating and if you have a whole homestead to work with, can mean huge savings and fantastic incorporation of food growth, etc.
I’ve read some about permaculture, but not as much as I would like to! I don’t know if I’d be into taking a course… I’m more of the “volunteer on the farm and pick their brains” sort of active learner. But it’s certainly something that will be a big part of our life in the not-so-distant future. I need to reserve some more books at the library… 😉
I’m digging the intentional living aspects of your decision to decamp to Vermont. Given how you like winters, it’s an infinitely better choice than if you went with the common retiree trend of retiring to Florida (then coming half way back to NC).
Thanks! Yeah, I don’t think we’d be very happy campers in Florida 🙂
This post makes me want to move to Vermont right now! I love New England in every way…geography, culture, climate, political/lifestyle mindset, etc. Particularly, I’ve always been fond of Maine ever since I traveled there with my family as a kid. I could definitely see myself moving to a quaint town along coastal Maine in my FIRE years.
Awesome post with beautiful imagery. You just took me on a mental vacation while sitting at my desk here on lunch break. Well done!
Glad to provide a mental vacation :)! A quaint town along the coast of Maine sounds like a pretty ideal spot too–you should do it!
Sounds like you really found your perfect place, I’m not familiar at all, but I like the local items available reminds me a little of Wisconsin which i’m shocked you did not choose;). We are not in both of our best places to live, despite my love for Chicago we both are not happy. Mrs. Even Steven prefers Florida and I would prefer a college town/atmosphere, so we are heading in the right direction.
That’s kind of how we feel about Cambridge right now. We like it a lot for many reasons, but it’s certainly not our ideal longterm spot.
Yes, I would say that we do finally live in our ideal location. But we mostly got here via dumb luck, no spreadsheets involved. We grew up in FL and lived in Los Angeles for five years for school. There is a lot to love about LA, but we really wanted to live somewhere just EASIER. We moved in the fall of 2008, which made it impossible to move back to FL near our families because the economy was in absolute shambles there. It was not possible to find work. We ended up in Durham, NC mostly bc that is where my husband found work.
The number one best thing about this place for us is that it is diverse enough that our conspicuous family doesn’t stick out. There are quite a few families that look like us in the neighborhood and in our city. If we ever move again, demographics will be be a top consideration.
Other wonderful things include four distinct seasons, mild enough winters that we never have to shovel snow, a well-educated, fairly liberal population, the inability to swing a cat without hitting a church, many colleges and universities in town without it being just a college town, the cultural opportunities that go along with that, a stable economy based largely on medicine and research, relatively low cost of living, great food with a robust local farming community, and nice hipster ameninities like fancy beer and artisanal cheeses. The schools are not as wonderful as I would like, but they are better than the ones we grew up with in FL.
It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s nice that it is both small enough that the problems of this city don’t feel absolutely intractable and large enough that there are enough people committed to trying to solve them. We would love for our families to be closer, but not enough to move back to FL. We are at least on the same coast now and it’s a significantly quicker and cheaper trip to see them now.
Sounds like you’ve ended up in a wonderful place. Not to mention the inherent value of craft beer and artisanal cheese!
We considered parts of NC as well (especially Asheville) since Mr. FW’s family lives there. The cultural grounding of a university is ideal, in my book, and its something I wish Brattleboro had. There’s a small college there, but not a large university.
Out of curiosity–and stop me if I’m prying–what do you mean by “conspicuous family”? You’ve got me intrigued…
Oh, just that we are different races. My husband and I adopted our son, he is Black, we are both white. We don’t raise many eyebrows around here, which is nice. And we live in a place where our son can be part of the majority, which is also nice.
Gotcha. At first I thought you meant you were conspicuously frugal ;). Agreed on the importance of diversity. Cambridge is incredibly diverse, which is something we really appreciate. And the lack of diversity in Vermont is a huge downside.
My first comment, though I’ve been addicted to your blog since the PBS newshour segment. I am a frugal and anti-consumerist to the core. Artisanal hippies is music to my ears. Once lived in MA (between Worcester and Boston), and have hiked and backpacked my way around all of A. trail in the white mountains region. So love that area, specially Vermont. I’d love to live in a place you describe here– 100% my kind. But, I’ve always been hesitant about lack of diversity. That in itself is not a problem. My concern is are the natives in the region welcoming to people of different origins/races? I am not a native born (but a naturalized citizen who has lived all over US for 2/3 of my life). One look at me gives that away. 🙂 Are the people of Vermont in the area you live in welcoming? If so, you describe heaven on earth for me (maybe tiny bit less severe winter would be nice too). Would love to know about this.
Durham is a cool place! I adore the Sarah Duke Gardens there. I also like some of the Raleigh area, even if it part of it does remind me a bit too much of the DC suburbs. My best friend and one of her daughters live in Asheville and we go to visit them now and again. I love Asheville but it has gotten so cool and hipster that the prices are out of sight. Not to mention being near the very pricey upscale Biltmore.
Also being a Boomer who lived the 60’s and early 70’s filt tilt boogie as a hippie, I am not sure I want to spend my later years revisiting that era continually. I want to keep the best of my gen’s ideas going but staying a flower power hippie is not idea of the best part of the 60’s. The activism and the change were the best things that came out of that era and I wish sometimes that more of today’s youth could grab ahold of some of that behavior.
Oh you know another often overlooked place nearby your proposed Vermont homestead is Montreal, Quebec! We Americans often talk about the proximity of areas in New England to Boston or New York, but just over the border, about a 3-hour drive from Brattleboro, is Montreal. A short distance to travel to experience a unique culture. An just an additional hour’s drive or so is Canada’s capital, Ottawa. So you’re in close proximity to several big, world-class cities while still living in a rural area.
Such a great point! I can’t believe I forgot that! And, I can’t believe our Canadian readers didn’t yell at me :). Thank you so much for mentioning it.
All these reasons sound fantastic. Kinda makes me want to move to Vermont too! I think we will definitely look into moving to a smaller town somewhere in Canada one of these days.
Thanks! Small towns definitely appeal to me after so many years in the city.
Vermont also has some great craft breweries – so if you ever decide to spend a little extra income outside of the homestead I’m sure both of you along with Frugal Hound will have lots of relatively inexpensive beer options to make your way through!
Yes! How could I neglect to mention the craft beer :)! We’ve enjoyed tasting some great, local beers on our homestead hunting trips and been very impressed with the breweries. We’re also planning on trying to brew our own beer, though TBD if it’ll be any good… 😉
You had me at the first mention of cheese 🙂
Haha, oh me too :). Glad I’m not the only one!
We live in the suburbs. It’s not my ideal location, but it does work for us pretty well. We’ve had the opportunity to move and that sort of reinforced how good of a fit it is for us. We moved here because the schools were good, it was an easy commute downtown, and it had a nice fenced backyard. you know, the suburb basics.
Sounds like a good situation, even if its not ideal. A fenced backyard sounds like a dream to me right now :). We have a funny little concrete patio at present–not so great for Frugal Hound to play in.
Wow! As I was reading this, it was as if you were typing out everything in my mind. Well except for being liberal hippies (that fits me to a T, but not the hubby). We had the same exact ideas, and decided to embark on a year long camping/road trip to find the right place. After traveling around the country for a year, Southern Vermont was our very first pick. We looked at properties, did tons of research, but for reasons related to jobs (we’re not in what will be your enviable position of being financially independent), we wound up moving elsewhere. But to somewhere almost as amazing – Maine! Love your ideas and love that area! Can’t wait to keep following along. And if you’re ever up in the Portland, Maine area… 🙂
Oh that’s so exciting! And, that’s incredible that southern VT was your first choice too! It definitely doesn’t have a lot of jobs though, that’s for sure. I’ve never been to Portland, Maine, but I hear it’s amazing. We’d really like to take a trip up there someday! Congrats to you for finding your perfect place 🙂
It’s a beautiful area and has a great spirit to it. If you’re not already following Going Slowly, you should. Besides being my favorite blog of all time, the couple who write it blogged their way through a two year round the world biking trip and are now hand building a homestead in southern Vermont. Right up your alley! And thanks for the kind words. We’re super excited that we wound up somewhere so awesome!
Thanks for the recommendation on Going Slowly–I haven’t read them before! Much appreciated 🙂
This Kindle book is free today: :”The Prepper’s Guide To Off The Grid Survival: The Beginner’s Guide To Living the Self Sufficient Lifestyle In Financial Peace” You can read KIndle books online or on your own pc, even if you don’t own a Kindle.
It’s right up the Frugalwoodsy alley.
I also read GRIT magazine online. They have some great section for buying and selling rural property and a section for people who want to exchange simple rural living information.
Very cool! Thanks so much for the reading recommendations–most appreciated.
The setting sounds ideal for you and your pursuits. We have chased jobs during our moves, but plan to end that soon. We own our 155-acre “beach” out in West Texas (and yes, I’ve taken a geography class) where we will be marooning ourselves during our early retirement. Mr. Maroon’s true passion is agriculture, so we will have plenty of space to pursue those dreams.
Can’t wait to hear of an actual purchase!!
155 acres is incredible! I’m so excited for you guys. How exciting!
And, I can’t wait ’til we make an actual purchase either ;)!
I have to admit that when I saw the title of this post the first thing that went through my mind was a scene from my all-time favorite movie, “Animal House,” where the new pledges are getting their frat nicknames (note: “Vermont” is subbed in instead of the name).
JOHN BELUSHI: From now on, your Delta Tau Chi name is … Vermont.
PLEDGE: Why Vermont?
JOHN BELUSHI: (loud belch) WHY NOT?!
Mr. Mandalay and I are planning an urban retirement–we moved into the actual city of Richmond 3.5 years ago and love it, but the summers suck. You lived in DC so you know but Richmond? Is the Sixth Pit of Hell in the summer. So for our retirement we’re looking at–get ready for it–Pittsburgh. I’m originally from New Jersey and would love to live in the Northeast again. The ‘burgh is a very affordable city in a state that doesn’t tax pensions or Social Security. World-class technology and medicine are there. And for me, the sports junkie? OMG HOCKEY AND FOOTBALL AND BASEBALL THAT I WOULDN’T HAVE TO COORDINATE A SIX-HOUR ROUND TRIP JOURNEY TO GO SEE. Some people want to retire to a beach, I want to retire to a city that has major league sports. 😀
Nice! Pittsburgh sounds like a perfect spot for you! I love that you were so intentional and careful about picking a city–that’s awesome. “I want to retire to a city that has major league sports” HAH, that cracks me up 🙂
Hey, Mr. & Mrs. Mandalay, I am in Richmond, VA!!! Pittsburgh is AN AWESOME TOWN! I LOVE IT! W
We considered Pittsburgh but we want to be a tad more rural. Mary
ALL HAIL THE RVA!!!!
And it is true that Richmond is in the 7th Circle of the 6th Pit of Hell in most summers. We’ve had a few that were okay lately but one year when we had all those 90/100 degree days and all the stinking humidity where you could smell the factories off J.D.Highway and Hopewell were just awful with a Capital A. And when it gets cold here, it just gets damp and miserable with no snow to soften the misery. M
I worked with someone who came out here from Arizona and ended up going back because her family couldn’t take the damp.
Sounds nice! We’re still not sure where we plan on settling down. We are moving to Colorado at the end of this month, but we’re still not sure if it’s our forever place.
Your Colorado plans sound good–and Fruita seems like a wonderful place! We’re not sure if Vermont is our forever spot either, but I think it’ll be right for the next step.
Snow!?! Lots of it!?! Totally not for me. Summers up there, maybe, but I’m pretty sure I’d have to fly south with the geese… =)
Our current area in S FL is pretty great for what we want, though. Being relatively close to the coast means that we don’t get the intense overbearing heat that can happen inland in places like Orlando as we have afternoon/evenings breezes and storms that arrive virtually every night in the summer, washing the heat away. Our summers are a little longer, but far less intense than those in DC. And the winters… oh the winters! I love that I can do outdoor sports year round here. It is also going to be a great base camp for when we want to start sailing. The gulf, the bahamas, and the Caribbean are supposed to be excellent training grounds for beginners to get their feet wet with sailing and we’re right there. Heck we even own a piece of land with a saltwater access canal on it if we haven’t sold that by the time we get around to having a boat… Though depending what size boat we end up with the canal might not be big enough. But we’ll worry about that when the time comes.
That’s great that you own a place with an access canal! And, you’re definitely in a good part of the country for setting sail. We’ll come visit you in February and you can come visit us in July 🙂
It will be fun to see where you actually ‘land’! I have lived in Florida, Iowa, Tennessee, and Oregon. We always end up coming back where I was raised in the Pacific Northwest. It’s beautiful here and there is much to be explored! We are still looking for that ‘forever home’ but are in no hurry.
Oh the Pacific Northwest is an area I’d really like to visit–we’ve never been. Seems like our kind of place with so much natural beauty and good coffee :).
I’m sure you’ve researched this…but, what are the property taxes like in VT? A lot of other East Coast states charge exhorbitant property taxes. With 20 acres, I’m thinking that could be an issue.
They tend to be somewhat high, but are mitigated by a couple of things:
1) If you own more than 27 acres, you can put 25+ into a program called “current use” which means the land is taxed at the agricultural value and not the market value. This can be a decent savings.
2) Vermont’s property taxes are progressive based upon income. So if we keep our income low and expenses low, our taxes will also be low.
And at the end of the day, I don’t mind paying a little extra in taxes to live in an awesome state that values the things I value.
Ok, thanks for the explanation!
Vermont sounds lovely! I wish I visited while I lived in NYC. I’ll have to come visit and we can drink box wine 🙂 I love that VT has no billboards. I often wonder how different my state of mind would be without ads.
Yes! You must come visit and I’ll ply you with box wine ;). The lack of billboards really struck me last time we were there. It’s just so peaceful without them. I found myself just gazing at the trees, the horses, the cows… all very idyllic and non-commercial.
As liberals, please do think twice about your comments on and thoughts about taxes. You mentioned that Vermont’s high taxes won’t be “a problem” for you because you won’t earn much, and then you mentioned driving to NH to avoid taxes. If you believe in liberal/progressive politics and you want to reap the benefits that those taxes provide (rural internet as well as many of the other positive things you mentioned about VT), it’s good to celebrate taxes rather than trying to dodge them or think of them as a “problem.” Taxes are the price we should (mostly) happily pay to live in such a great country with safety nets and other public goods. Were I high earner, I wouldn’t think twice about moving to VT if I wanted to live in VT, and I wouldn’t think of their taxes as “a problem.” I would also never drive out of my way to shop in a state without taxes. The taxes I pay are my share of what it costs to get the benefits I get in my state – roads, libraries, art, education, etc.
Hey Margot! I agree with nearly 100% of what you state 🙂 We live in a high tax state now (MA) and I’m happy to pay income and sales taxes. Like you say, it’s the cost of having a well organized society.
However, I’m also a big believer in using the law as it’s written, and not how I think it should be written. For example, we take our mortgage interest tax deduction every year even though I firmly believe it’s terrible public policy. But I’m not going to avoid free money that the government is handing me either.
It’s a fine ethical line, I’m aware, and I think we’re still feeling our way through the implications. But the gist of our feelings about Vermont taxes is this: We’re not afraid that the taxes will sink us. And many folks immediately cry “taxes!” when hearing about vermont, so I wanted to dispel the idea that the taxes there are a terrible scourge 🙂
Sounds like a great choice! Upstate NY has some beautiful country too! We live on Long Island, I can be in NYC in less then an hour so it’s not bad. My wife is from CA. She would much rather live on the West Coast.
Long Island is beautiful–we have some relatives who live on the North Fork and it’s just gorgeous where they are. But, it’s definitely a far cry from the beaches of the West Coast…. 🙂
Sounds like a great plan Mrs. FW! Like you and Mr. FW, I have lived in 7 different states and lost count as to how many times I’ve moved. I’m sort of the opinion of where I lay my head at night is home, though we’ve been in Omaha (or the staple in the atlas as I call it) for the past 13 years. That said, I don’t know that I really have an ideal place to live but Mrs. FR would definitely say San Diego so that would be just fine to me. 🙂 If it weren’t for the high cost of living I suppose we’d be there now. As an aside, be very glad you didn’t choose Kansas…the governor is unfortunately driving the state into the ground.
I know, it’s truly sad about Kansas these days. We love Lawrence so much and might’ve considered living on a farm there if not for the unfortunate political situation. San Diego is a really nice place and my family enjoys living there, so we’re happy to visit. But you’re right about the cost of living–even their quasi-rural spot way outside of San Diego proper is nearly as expensive as Cambridge! I haven’t spent much time in Omaha, but glad to hear you’re enjoying it!
Very awesome! I was waiting for the point for you to mention that you were hippies 🙂 Just kidding!
That’s a great benefit of FI that I really hadn’t considered before, but it makes perfect sense. We will have to give some thought as to where we’d like to settle down once get get to FI.
Haha, yes, guilty as charged for being hippies ;)! I think it’s a wonderful aspect of FI–having the freedom to live anywhere is pretty exhilarating to me. Good luck in thinking of a place 🙂
Southern Vermont has it all- sounds perfect for us too, except for the long freeeezing cold and snow season. We are NE Ohioans so we know snow and cold- I am just so done with that! Our area has the myriad cultural and some but not all perks of your destination, but I am just not signing up for that weather. You guys like the wintery slant, so it seems you have found the perfect place- best of luck!!
Thanks so much! There are certainly plenty of great locales a tad farther south with similar attributes–Charlottesville, VA and Asheville, NC come to mind first for me, though I know there are plenty of others as well. I know the intense winters aren’t for everyone 🙂
Just found you guys on recommendation of a friend- so glad she did! You’re fantastic to to read and I find I’m intrigued by your sly pictures, like Wilson poking his head over the fence! Also, your dog is adorable and incredibly tolerant of things being placed on him for photo ops- can you do a post on how to teach my poodle that?!
Have a great (and frugal) day!
Thanks so much for reading! I’m so glad you found us :). Frugal Hound is definitely a very patient dog–she lets us dress her up too! Not sure there’s much strategy to it… it’s mostly just that she’s used to it and is a very laid-back (some might say lazy) animal :).
Oh, this is very exciting! I’m in love with the idea of a rural homestead, and Vermont looks beautiful. I’ve been reading your blog for a bit, but wanted to comment as this is to amazing. Plus, I love the way you incorporate Frugal Hound in all posts. It adds a great touch. I can’t wait to adopt/rescue my own greyhound (studio apartments seem a bit too small for a hound).
Why thank you! It’s always so nice to hear from others who also wish for the homestead life :).
And, I’m delighted that you’re planning to adopt a greyhound! They make wonderful pets and actually, one of the reasons we chose a greyhound is that they do very well in the city and in small spaces. They need very little exercise and spend most of their time sleeping (they are retired after all 🙂 ). Frugal Hound refuses to do the stairs so she lives just on our main floor, which is about 800 sq feet and she’s perfectly content. So, you might be just fine with a greyhound in your studio! They’re large but very lazy :).
VT is wonderful and we love it here. From the looks of that flannel shirt, you’ll both fit in swimmingly. We are in northern VT, in a small town outside of Burlington, but look forward to the time when we can cut the chains of Chittenden County and head to a different part of VT.
A Vermonter! Hello! Burlington is fantastic and we’d love to live there, but, the prices for land are higher and it’s just that much farther from Cambridge. But, what a wonderful and beautiful place! Out of curiosity, where else in the state are you interested in moving to?
Burlington is not our first choice in Vermont, but that is where I found a job after grad school. The only reason we can afford to live here is that we found an inexpensive rental and then purchased a house through a shared equity housing program. We both prefer central/southern VT as well for many of the reasons you listed. I grew up in Randolph, geographic center of VT, and while it is nice we are in no hurry to be there (too churchy). Northwest VT is much like upstate NY, as is much of area along Route 7. Anything around the Green Mountain National forest is gorgeous, though much of that area is still recovering from getting thwacked by Hurricane Irene in 2011. The area around Springfield is lovely, but run screaming from Springfield itself (DH grew up there). The Northeast Kingdom is somewhat of its own personality within VT. If you are perusing a town and see a lot of “Take Back, Vermont!” signs and you are of liberal leanings, then it is probably not a place you want to live.
Ahhh, gotcha. Thank you for the local/native perspective–much appreciated!
Looks beautiful! I’d love to retire somewhere peaceful like that. I think it’s awesome there’s no billboards allowed in VT, too. The scenery really reminds me of upstate NY (as I saw someone else said). My fiance went to college there, and his cross-country coach actually purchased a B&B there. We stayed just for a weekend but it was amazing. We saw a family of deer pass through the backyard, and it was right off a few running trails. I prefer having all four seasons, even if snow is horrible. The humidity is just too crazy down here!
Upstate NY is definitely on our list of possibilities–just not quite as high as Vermont at this point. How awesome that you saw deer while you were there! Yeah, we’re not huge on the NC humidity either. Sounds like you should move to Vermont too…. 😉
I love the approach you two took of examining what is important to you in a location and filtering your choices from there. I’ve never been to VT, or really any of NE, but it sounds like a great choice for you. In fact, I think you may have talked me into visiting sometime.
Thanks! You should definitely visit–it’s a gorgeous and relaxing place to vacation 🙂
Great post and wonderful series! I look forward to reading more of these, if you choose to keep writing them. I’ve never been to the east coast, but it sounds lovely and much more convenient (in regards to proximity of other cities) than the two states I’ve lived in (Texas and Montana). And what better way to discover that part of the country than by starting with your yurt? I foresee travel plans in our future…
You are very welcome in our yurt :)! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series–thank you! And, fear not, there will be plenty more installments to come ;).
I knew so little about southern Vermont before the post, so thanks for the knowledge. Also, I find your opening statement / heading to be true but to be something people don’t realize – you really can live anywhere you want!
It’s such a freeing thing to know you can live anywhere :)!
It sounds strangely like Colorado minus the plentiful water and access to trains! I love not having to worry about tornadoes, hurricanes or 100 degrees with 97% humidity. We talk about finding the perfect place all the time, but once you boil it down, where we live is pretty sweet until we get the big city itch a few times a year. Usually a few days in Phoenix or Denver cures us of that need and we’re happy go get back to the boonies. No desire to homestead, but I do believe in outdoor space, personal freedoms, and small schools, not necessarily in that order!
Colorado seems like a very similar spot and we’ve definitely considered it a number of times! It’s wonderful that you’re in a place you enjoy 🙂
Vermont seems to be an ideal place. Based on the pictures, it looks really good and is for those nature lovers. Me? My parents chose this place because it’s near everything like relatives, hospitals, school, and work. We’ve been here for 25 years and liked it so much. Although the place is highly commercialized, we’d still want a place like that Vermont for vacation.
Vermont would definitely be a lovely place for a vacation home :)!
I had no idea that billboards were illegal in Vermont – that’s wonderful! I wish they would outlaw billboards here :/
You have such a wonderful future planned out, it’s truly inspiring and you’re so close! Hopefully, someday, we can join you in acheiving freedom from the status quo.
I agree with you–I wish they’d outlaw billboards everywhere! Thanks so much for your kind words. And, I’m sure you’ll achieve your freedom too :)!
We’re not in our ideal location – I’m starting to hate the tax situation here, and I haven’t technically paid any property taxes yet! We’re also not far enough north for my tastes – Pittsburgh still gets too hot in the summer for me. We have however hit a minor snag with the tax situation – almost forcing us to select a state with no incomes taxes or at least doesn’t tax retirement income (or get “double taxed” on our 401k/IRA funds). Wyoming is looking appealing to me right now 🙂 We haven’t really considered where we’ll actually settle down – I suspect some of that will depend on where Daughter Person ends up – since we’ll be retiring just as she’s thinking about college – I think we’ll take a 3-5 year side trip to whichever state she wants to go to school in.
That could be a great way to get in-state tuition for her too! Wyoming is supposed to be beautiful :)…
Hey Frugalwoods – great article! I grew up in Western Mass and always imagined my wife and I retiring to somewhere outside of Northampton – that area has a lot of the same benefits you’re describing in southern Vermont.
It’s refreshing to read about someone early-retiring in New England. Most blogs cluster in the south or in Colorado. I agree that the taxes look bad here if you’re just comparing a sheet of numbers across the country, but in my lived experience (we’re in RI now) they haven’t affected our lives negatively. And as you point out, they’ll affect us even less in retirement. Good luck!
Thank you so much! It does sometimes seem like there aren’t many of us FI-seekers here in New England, so it’s good to hear from a neighbor :). I confess I’ve never been to Northampton, but sounds like I should visit!
Love your blog. Love your ideas! Vermont is a great place for Liberals! Myself….Happy to be in Mississippi!
Thank you so much! Appreciate you reading! And, it’s wonderful that there are so many different places across the country–adds to the flavor of life 🙂
Enjoying this and slightly envious. Hubs and I have similar dreams but hesitate because of our children. In the meantime we just save, dream and keep our eyes open in case an opportunity comes up.
My parents and relatives from the UK love to go to Vermont to see the fall colors. They say it is breathtaking and plan to go again in a year or two. Good luck with your plans and look forward to following along.
I think saving, dreaming, and looking out for opportunities is an awesome strategy. The fall colors are pretty amazing up there, I must say… 🙂
I can’t wait to come visit you on your homestead! You make this southern, warm-weather-loving girl see the benefits of living so far north 😉
Yay! Can’t wait to have you come visit :)!!
I used to think that LA or San Diego would be my ideal place to live. But I hear the weather’s been going crazy over there recently. The temperature’s in the 80’s right now in LA, which is pretty hot considering it’s winter!
Yeah, I think 80 degrees in the wintertime is just wrong 🙂
I just found your blog and am so excited, because my partner and I have such a similar lifestyle and goals to yours! In fact, we’re moving to the Brattleboro area in two weeks and also hope to start a homestead there soon. Looking forward to following along on your homesteading adventure. 😀
Oh wow! How awesome! You’ll have to let us know how it goes for you! Feel free to email me anytime (email@example.com)!
Sure do! It took us a while (and a trip here first) to fall in love with Austin…BBQ, live music, and the great southwest. We love it here and couldn’t see ourselves moving anywhere else. It is a blue city in a red state, but with low taxes (and no state income tax) we are stoked to live here.
Once FI hits, we will be moving a bit further out and getting a large plot of land, building our own homestead and living the dream. Excellent post!
That’s great, Brian! Austin sounds like a special place–I’ve heard wonderful things about it. And, I (obviously) love your homestead plans!
I hear ya on all of these. i live in a mountain town near-ish to san francisco. we have a lot of the “big city” amenities (art, music, dining etc) while still being in nature. i love that i’m creating a biz for myself that’s not location dependent. it’s a good thing because- not many jobs in my small town and not many good jobs in my small town.
forgot to mention: i live on 5 acres with lots of pine trees and a creek on the property 🙂 AND i have the same fireplace in my cabin that your VT AirBnb hosts had 🙂
That sounds marvelous, Sara! I really like the idea of living out in the woods but still having access to cities and culture. And, definitely key to have a location independent job!
Hi FWs! I found your blog a few weeks ago and have been catching up. Very interesting reading! We’re planning to retire in a few years (5ish), and want to find the right place! Would you mind sharing your spreadsheet, perhaps as a google doc? I imagine some of the ratings would be subjective, but that’s no problem. I was just thinking about a starting place. 🙂
I’m enjoying your journey!
Hi Pat! Thank you so much for reading–I’m so glad you found us :)! Sadly, I think that spreadsheet went by the wayside with my old computer… it was tragically before the days of google docs.
I can tell you the cities we seriously considered though, in case that’s helpful: Lawrence, KS; Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; Ann Arbor, MI; Fallbrook, CA; Charlottesville, VA; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Asheville, NC and then just about everywhere in MA, NH, and VT.
Some of the factors we considered were: COL; land prices; proximity to culture/big city; proximity to mountains; public school system; proximity to airports; political leaning of the city/state; general cultural feel of the area; climate (we wanted 4 real seasons); jobs (this was back when we were planning to work 9-5 forever, so our considerations were a bit skewed).
Hope that helps! I’m sorry I don’t have the complete list anymore. Feel free to email me with any specific questions!
I moved to northern VT ten years ago. I fell in love with the man from here first and the love of the state came second. Being a city girl, moving here was quite a shock, as I had never experienced country life. Now, I can’t imagine going back. Your lifestyle sounds perfect for Vermont. One thing I found here was peace….and I mean peace like I never knew existed. I came here a broken soul for numerous reasons, and the peace, calm, and quiet healed me. And the funny thing was, I didn’t know how broken I was. Vermont opened her arms to me….her woods, covered bridges, small towns, clean water, clean air all found their way into my heart, and I gradually started to heal from the inside out. There is something different here that I wish I had adequate vocabulary to express. I believe you will both be happy here…..as well as any other place you might choose instead. And the reason for that is that you both are already happy and you already know what you want. Best of luck to you.
Bev, thank you so much for sharing this! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate hearing from people who love living in Vermont. It’s a risk for us since we’ve never lived there before and every time I hear a story like yours, I feel soothed and convinced that this is the right choice for us.
Everything you described–peace, woods, covered bridges, clean air–is exactly what we crave. Mr. FW and I really need a change of pace from city life and I hope that Vermont is where we’ll find it! Thank you for reading and for sharing your experiences.
Have you considered renting a place in VT before making your commitment? Although, from what you describe about yourselves in your blog, I believe you’ll be blissfully happy here. I’m a new reader, and as I was scrolling through it, I saw your consideration of VT and I smiled to myself! It took time for me to adjust because I had no idea what lifestyle I was embarking upon. I fell for the guy and moved here to be with him. He laughed at my high heels on my first day work! Those shoes are long gone. We live on 10 acres, and while I’ll admit it’s not for everyone, part of the peace I spoke of was found in my own backyard. Talk about Wizard of Oz!! VT lifestyle is all about green, sustainability, fierce love of your land and independence, etc. Although, be warned, long time Vermonters will welcome you so long as you don’t try to change their way of life. But, from your descriptions of yourselves, you will belong here before you know it. I love your blog and your dog. Go find your dream, Frugalwoods, and don’t deter, and don’t look back! It’s not always roses and butterflies, but you won’t be sorry. Keep the posts coming, and thanks for the work you do here.
Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Bev! Greatly appreciated. And, so wonderful to hear from a Vermonter! We have considered renting (or buying a multi-family and renting out half, living in half) in town if we don’t find a homestead in the right timeframe. We’re trying to stay flexible and open to lots of different possibilities. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your experiences :)!
I’m conservative and really like your blog so far. I just found it!
Thanks so much for reading :)!
sounds heavenly -Vermont sounds like my kind of place. Love the no billboards. I’m returning to my 1970s inner liberal hippie too after morphing as someone else through a few decades (needless to say it pays to know yourself which you seem to). I grew up in the Southern Appalachians and now live there again. Boone-Blowing Rock, NC is my plan – only an hour away from where I am now – I’ll be leaving in the winter though for somewhere milder – i hate winter. 🙂 . Wish I was a smart as you too – you have a happy life and happy future.
I mean “two” not “too” of course.
I love that you’re returning to your inner liberal hippie! Sounds like a great plan to me :).
I like S. Vermont and Brattleboro – visit often while i’m at my farm in north central Massachusetts. Brattleboro is in the 20 mile evacuation route of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear power plant. I know it’s closing/closed but it will take 40 years to completely shut down, from what I’ve heard. I love the towns located along Rt. 91 south of Brattleboro, and towns a little more east on Route 2 – Templeton, Hubbardston, Phillipston, Baldwinville, Orange (and I LOVE Royalston, very “vermont-like” but maybe too far off Route 2. The pro might be a shorter commute back to Cambridge if your future tenant needs something. and you have the Quabbin Reservoir, Mount Grace — just a beautiful area. the forgotten corner of Massachusetts. Greenfield, Rowe, Orange, Hubbardston … all have farming, artisan communities.
Northfield — on Rt. 91, lovely old homes right on the main road, right on the Ct. river, right off Rt. 91 (but still in that 20 mile radius of Vermont Yankee. Bernardston, just north of that — looks like you’re in Vermont!
As you see, my favorite area is North Central Massachusetts, for its convenience to Eastern Mass (just don’t travel during commuter hours), the people, the prices (fantastic), and the natural resources of the area. it’s about 40 minutes to Mt. Mondanock (maybe 24 miles, but takes 40 minutes). no big shopping areas (although Market Basket just built a store at Exit 18 off Rt. 2), but I think that’s not a problem for you.
I’m gradually making my way through your archives and enjoyed this post. We live in rural northern Nevada right now for work. My dream is to move to my family’s ranch in Montana and homestead there when we hit FI. My fiance isn’t quite sure what his dream is yet though, so I just keep working on him. Vermont sounds nice, but I am a western girl, I would have a hard time leaving my mountains and wide open spaces.
I think it’s a very wise decision for you to keep the Cambridge house as a rental while you homestead in the woods. Believe me, as a senior, I can assure you that you will change your priorities as you get older. Someday you may want the convenience of town living, being near everything, especially health help. If/when that happens, you can move back to your town home and not have to pay the outrageous prices of real estate in 40 years or so. You did say you like Cambridge, so it will be a possible option in the future. In the meantime, enjoy your rural living while you’re young. My dream is to move to Prescott in AZ but they get terrible wildfires there, 19 hotshot firefighters died there together a couple of summers ago. It’s beautiful and wooded and with mountains and mild winters, though. Tucson AZ where I live is GREAT for 6 months or so but the summers last 4 months or so with high heat and it gets old after the first month of 105+ heat.
Make sure that your wood stove is not coated with that toxic spreading rust coating.
Bad for kidneys, pregnant women and everyone.
When you reuse old tech research for dangers
So I Googled “best place to homestead in Vermont” and this post was the first thing that popped up. Which is funny because it’s the perfect blog series for exactly what we want to do. My husband grew up in the city, me in the suburbs and we have no experience but know that homesteading is the only logical choice. We just came back from a 10 day Permaculture Design course in Vermont and that solidified our crazy new direction and love for the state. The plan was to save like crazy for 5 years or so to buy a house outright, but my husband was able to convince his job to relocate him so now we’re moving in a month and renting in Brattleboro while we search for the perfect 5-10 acres. I am very risk averse when it comes to money and hate the fact that we have to get a mortgage since we just got out of debt last year, but I’m going to have to bite the bullet because I want to plant my fruit trees like yesterday, lol.
You mentioned you want no less than 20 acres and was wondering what factors went into choosing that amount of acreage?
Good luck on the house hunting and can’t wait to read more of this series!
Oh that’s awesome! I’m so glad you found us :). You’ll have to let me know where you end up buying–we might be neighbors! We came to the 20 acres+ number (and we’re actually now looking at more like 40+) because we want to be immersed in the woods. We’ve looked at smaller lots and, after walking the boundaries, just don’t feel that those are quite what we’re looking for. On the land, we want to build hiking trails, tent & yoga platforms, cabins, gardens, and Mr. FW is very interested in sustainable forestry management. The stewardship of a larger swath of land is part of what we hope to take on with our homestead life. Good luck with your search and please do shoot me an email with where you land :)!
We do like the Mad River Valley area, Moretown, Warren, Waterbury, Stowe but it’s pretty pricey for our budget. Brattleboro seems awesome, it’s closer to our family and a little bit warmer but we’ll see. Living in the state for a year will help us narrow it down. We don’t think we can handle more than 10 acres since we have no clue what we’re doing. Your future homestead sounds like it’s gonna be paradise, I wish these aspirations were more mainstream so everyone can have a meaningful rewarding life. Will keep you posted on where we end up!
Hi there! Stumbled upon this blog researching our next phase. Partner and I are mid 50s. Lived in lovely northwest corner of NJ. Horses, farms woods. Love it here except for the taxes.
The two places debating are southern vermont and Shenandoah area of virginia. Love the vermont state of mind. Love the low taxes in Virginia. Both have fabulous mountains and beautiful vistas.
Thinking of the change in next year. Will miss our little spot of heaven here, but need to downsize and play more 🙂
Good luck. If I was 20 years younger would be chipping in on a big parcel with you 🙂
The news of your homestead purchase inspired my husband and I hit the planning spreadsheets again. We share in your goal to move to the woods when we achieve FI for similar reasons to you guys (The Nearings inspired us with The Good Life and Mr. Money Mustache showed us the way to our dreams through FI!). We are about 10 years behind y’all in terms of achieving FI, but are already researching an ideal place to retreat so we can include it in our dreams of the future 🙂 The challenge is that the places you listed in NE have everything we want except the intense winter. My husband grew up in NE and loves the seasons but not the long winter. I am from Texas and saw snow for the first time when we moved to Denver a few months ago, so…I probably wouldn’t like the cold, either. No one likes humidity, but I can deal with it as long as we travel away in the summers 🙂 Did you come across any areas in your research that you’d recommend for us?
One difference in our requirements list is the amount of land we will need – we only need enough land to grow plant-based food (and maybe house a few rescue animals – we’re vegan). Thanks for any advice you or your readers have!
That’s awesome you’re planning a homestead escape too–I wish you all the very best on your journey! Unfortunately, I don’t think I have anywhere to recommend as we concentrated our search in the Northeast, but I’m sure you’ll find somewhere lovely. And hopefully there’s someone else here who might know of a place!
Thanks for your response! I hope others in the community have some ideas to share – we would really appreciate the input.
Are you guys living on the homestead now and getting your Airbnb set up? We will be in your neck of the woods in July – we would love to stay at the yurt or whatever it will be 🙂 It would be a great learning experience!
You are an inspiration… I just wish we could find our happy balance somewhere in the near future…definitely a bit trickier with two kiddos under 3 + 2 furry kiddos…
I want to find a Vermont like a place but in Canada! (Western if possible)
Excellent series! You speak our language. My partner and I and our pooch plan to move that way in 4 or 5 years and attempt the same thing.
I’ve been working online and spend many hours a day in the garden. My spouse is a CPA, so he’s glued to his office for now, but we yearn to cash in on our quickly escalating property here in Colorado and be able to purchase a few acres with a cabin or camper!
I look forward to reading more!
My parents live in West Dover. I went to school at Johnson. VT is lovely but I missed the ocean too much when I lived there. I had to move back to a coastal state! Enjoy your blog and hope you are enjoying your new home!
Thanks for the great info! My partner and I are potentially moving to Vermont, and just returned from a quick trip to Burlington. Beautiful! He has a more corporate job, I’m the urban-farmer type and we are excited to find a place that works for both of us. If you are familiar with that corner of the state, do you have any recommendations on towns and areas that stand out from your frugal standpoint? Just curious.
Take care and thanks again!
thanks so much for this post, given me a lot to think about. I never thought about moving in this way and have always either moved for work or back to my home town. I guess ive always thought being close to family and friends the only thing which is totally wrong. Where i live is hours from the ocean, we have no snow and for me I love the seasons and especially the winter which only rains here. I’m totally miserable living where I live now. I would love to move to the US or Canada for the space, opportunity and weather which is hard when everyone thinks your mad if you don’t wanna live in the UK. Food for thought, thanks so much maybe time for that move.
I have found you serendipitously. My husband and I have a five year plan to get to Vermont. We currently reside in Pennsylvania. It’s sometimes pretty, but I am looking for a breathtaking revolution. I don’t care how broke I am, I just want to earn enough to be humble and get by. In these 5 years, our goal is to fix the current house, pay down our current debt, and get a game plan in place for our Vermont future. Mount Ascutney needs me.
Hi, I am wondering if you are going to stay on your homestead for the rest of your life. What about being elderly and needing help with travel, shoveling snow, and the like. I would enjoy the solitude, but I would be concerned about when my wife and I get older.
Every time we try to look rural we are surrounded by trump flags- UGH… we aren’t into extremes if it was a nice traditional conservative neighbor thats ok- but Trump flags and all that mess is a ….d-r-a-g especially for us liberal scum bags – lol