The Ultimate Guide To Frugal Boston Living
It is 100% possible to live frugally anywhere. Of this, I’m convinced. I often hear folks bemoan our high cost-of-living city as thwarting frugal endeavors, to which I say preposterous! For all of our post-college years, Mr. Frugalwoods and I have lived in notoriously expensive locales: New York City, Washington, DC, and Cambridge, MA (twice). And we’ve still managed to adhere to–and enjoy–an extreme frugality regime.
Lately, I’ve been pleasantly inundated with messages from fellow Boston-area frugal folks–thank you all for saying hi and especial thanks to those of you who’ve invited us over to your homes, we look forward to meeting you!
In an effort to give the people what they want, I’m devoting a few strokes of the pen (keyboard?) to detailing how Mr. FW and I frugal it up in one of the priciest zip codes in the country. What we’ve discovered is that high cost-of-living areas are actually secret boons for thrifty people. Hidden amongst the ritzy retailers and posh restaurants are havens of frugality sure to make even the most frugal among us leap with glee.
When the naysayers scoff at your undertaking of devout thriftiness in the big city, tell them nay! For as city-dwellers know, a large metropolitan area is home to the frugal weirdo’s greatest advantage: options. Much like frugality gives you options, options themselves yield frugality. It’s a virtuous cycle, my friends. From grocery stores to hamster wheels, there’s rarely a monopoly on any one good or service in the city, which serves to foster healthy competition for low prices. This glut of options–not to mention the sheer number of people living densely compacted in one area–facilitates a robust used market at thrift stores, garage sales, on Craigslist, the Buy Nothing Project, and of course, my personal favorite, the side of the road (aka the trash).
And as we find ourselves on the eve of perhaps the most epic trash find weekend in Cambridge–the annual September 1st move-out–I feel it’s only appropriate to humbly submit this guide to frugal living in our fair city of Boston, MA.
The Frugalwoods Guide To Frugal Boston Living
1) Epic Grocery Store Savings
Mr. Frugalwoods and spend a cool $300-$350 per month on groceries–and since we don’t eat out, this is every morsel of food we consume. We’ve judiciously price-compared our way around town in order to uncover the dirt cheapest deals on tasty, healthy food in our region. And there’s only one champion in these grocery store wars: Market Basket.*
I’ve lauded them before, but it bears repeating that Market Basket–a local New England chain of grocers–has the lowest prices of any store I’ve ever frequented. Their costs are comparable to Aldi’s, but I find their quality vastly superior. Especially in the produce department, Market Basket throws down top-notch organic veggies so fine (and so economical), they’ll bring a tear to your deal-seeking eyes. Might I also point out that Market Basket is a haven for local Boston flavor, replete with their sawdust-on-the-floor cleaning methodology and lengthy, colorful loudspeaker announcements ranging from Red Sox scores to employee birthdays to, you know, things actually happening inside the store like sales on charcoal and cat food.
We frequent the Somerville Market Basket (a mere 1.5 miles from our home) and apparently, so do many of you since we’ve actually been recognized there as Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods. So if you see a bearded guy and a pregnant lady with a cart full of veggies (and homemade tortillas–those things are amazing), please say howdy!
A crucial element of cunning frugal food procurement in the city is is to not fall victim to the nearest grocery option. Since there are so many stores in our region, it’s tempting to just trot to the closest one and stock up. But for Mr. FW and me, that would be the Whole Foods right down the street and I think we all know how quickly our meagre grocery budget would inflate if we went that route. Definitely worth it for us to travel a few extra miles to snare the bargain-basement deals of Market Basket.
*In the interest of full disclosure I will note that at 0.39/lb, Stop-and-Shop’s bananas are a full 0.10 cheaper per pound than Market Basket’s. Other than this glaring caveat, MB seems to have the lowest prices on every single item we buy.
2) Bulk Shopping For The Win
We have both a BJ’s and a Costco within a mere 15 minute drive of our house. How lucky are we, guys? Mr. FW and I are Costco people, but the ability to choose is, again, a wonderful thing.
Our $55 annual membership at Costco is made entirely worth it by the savings we reap on Frugal Hound’s food alone. For you see, Costco stocks a generic version (Nature’s Domain) of the expensive, grain-free kibble we used to buy for Frugal Hound (Taste Of The Wild). Costco’s hound chow contains identical ingredients but for a fraction of the price. Win!
We also have a standard list of items that are cheaper at Costco than at Market Basket, thanks to Costco’s bulk offerings. Can’t beat Costco’s 0.10/serving oats! And of course there’s the gloriously low-priced toilet paper…
Although storage space for bulk products can be a challenge in cramped city quarters, if you can inventively find a way to squirrel away 45 rolls of toilet paper and 4 lb cans of garbanzo beans, it’s worth it! I recommend hiding products in the drawers of unsuspecting partners/roommates. Think of the fun they’ll have discovering the fruits of your frugal shopping alongside their socks!
3) A Stellar Used Market
Thanks to the large population, there’s a robust used market here in Boston (and in any big city). Lots of people = lots of used stuff! Additionally, there are many extremely wealthy people here who often give away/throw away their deluxe, nearly-new items. Capitalizing on this notoriously hot used market is a central strategy for Mr. FW and me and it’s how we outfit ourselves and our home for a nominal cash outlay. The used market takes many forms and woe betides the frugal weirdo who neglects one of the below listed options.
Thrift stores are a chief destination anytime we need, well, just about anything. Their principle utility is for clothing, which is a prime example of an item that can (and should) almost always be purchased used. What I’ve discovered is that the most noteworthy of thrift finds are at stores in uber-wealthy zip codes. Fortunately Boston has quite a few of those, which serve to supply us with a plethora of discount threads. And the sheer volume of used clothing in the region renders shopping new a nearly obsolete concept.
My fave Boston-area thrift joints:
Revolve: by far the absolute best in lovely, consigned garb for ladies. Much more expensive than Goodwill, much cheaper than any new store. With locations in Belmont, Lexington, and Winchester, this shop certainly ticks the box of posh zip code. The superlative clothes in my closet are sourced from none other.
- Keezer’s: our top source for second-hand men’s dress clothes. They boast a huge selection of tuxedos, suits, slacks, sport coats, ties, shoes, sweaters, and more–all at fabulous prices and served with a classic, old-school Boston touch. From the exterior, the building looks like it might be abandoned and doesn’t improve much after you enter. But, boy do they have superb threads! Located near Central Square in Cambridge.
- Buffalo Clothing Exchange: decent duds for men and women. Skews slightly younger and less professional, but I’ve found fantastic dresses here–including the periwinkle J Crew number I’m wearing in the photo above. Mr. FW has several casual button-down shirts from here as well. Locations in Somerville and Allston.
- Goodwill (especially the Central Square and Davis Square locations): you know, it’s Goodwill! Home to gigantic racks of the cheapest clothing in town! We’ve had the most luck with clothes for Mr. FW–can’t beat $2 shirts and $4 pants. Word to the wise: their baby clothes are vastly overpriced (in the opinion of moi)–you’re much better off going the hand-me-down or garage sale route for your kidlets.
- Boomerangs: not quite as prodigious a clothing selection, but Mr. FW and I have both found nice outfits for reasonable prices. Worth it to peruse their hilarious hipster housewares selection alone. Plus, they have a commendable mission.
Another upside to thrifting is the ability to sell or donate your cast-off garb back to any number of consignment shops around town. Just this month, Mr. FW and I donated a ton of clothing to Goodwill.
The Buy Nothing Project
One of my most beloved frugal discoveries, the Buy Nothing Project, was initially suggested to me by a reader (thank you, kind reader!) and I soon learned it’s an international organization with hyper-local chapters organized to enable neighbors to give and share their used things with each other.
I’m a member of the Cambridge group and I cannot tell you how appreciative I am for this community! In addition to receiving an incredible slew of items for Babywoods’ $0 nursery, we’ve been able to give away quite a few unneeded things to the group (a picture frame, a window screen, a chip-and-dip, a cheese plate, a shoe rack, and throw pillows in the last few weeks alone!).
The Buy Nothing Project serves as my constant motivator to clean out our clutter and give away things we no longer need. I love finding folks who can use our old stuff and I also love receiving their old stuff! Such a fabulous group for recycling, building community, and shunning the traditional consumer economy.
Garage Sales and Craigslist
Here again we Boston-area folk benefit tremendously from our densely populated urban area. Both the garage sale and Craigslist markets are saturated with high-quality used goods and I defy you not to find a deal on what you need. Our entire home is furnished courtesy of the Boston Craigslist and we couldn’t be happier (check out my tips for how to Craigslist like a boss).
Garage sales are a terrific source as well and usually yield lower prices than either Craigslist or thrift stores. The hitch is that it’s more time consuming to travel around to different sales since you never know what they’ll be offering. We like to stroll to nearby sales early on weekend mornings–that way, it’s an enjoyable outing whether we find anything or not. Plus, arriving early ensures you’ll have your pick of the choicest items.
4) Landmark Trash Finds
Nowhere have I experienced trash finds so illustrious, so momentous as on the streets of Cambridge, Somerville, and sundry surrounding regions. Cantabrigians (and Bostonians) tend to move frequently and the side of the road is often the recipient of anything they can’t/won’t take with them to their new abode. And never are the pickings better than circa the move-out day of all move-out days: September 1.
As today is August 29, I can barely type for the excitement coursing through my frugal fingers as I anticipate what riches might await us this weekend! We kicked off this season right by snaring a working mini-fridge last night, which I spotted on my way home from yoga (don’t worry, there’s a future post in the works on why we need a mini-fridge… ).
Over the years, Mr. FW and I have netted everything from furniture to baby goods to clothing from the streets of Cambridge and Somerville. To peruse our highlights, check out our Great Trash Finds section. And if you’re a newbie to the trash finding cult, you might enjoy my tutorial: Our 12 Tips For Finding Roadside Treasures (aka Great Trash Finds).
5) Endless Free Entertainment
Beyond the astounding people watching opportunities our fair city proffers, big cities are goldmines of free entertainment. Mr. FW and I have no problem adhering to our $0 entertainment budget thanks to the wide array of gratis fun things around here. From street festivals to free days at museums, one need look no further than outside one’s front door to stumble upon free entertainment.
Our top free entertainment haunts in Cambridge:
The Harvard Art Museums: always free for Cambridge residents and free for Massachusetts residents on Saturdays from 10am–noon. Mr. FW and I can spend hours browsing these gorgeous galleries. And, the view from the top floor is spectacular. A perfect indoor frugal activity–one of our wintertime favorites.
- The Harvard Peabody Museum Of Archaeology And Ethnology: free to Massachusetts residents every Sunday morning (year-round) from 9am–noon and on Wednesdays from 3pm–5pm (September through May).
- The Cambridge Public Library: we are devotees of the main branch, which if you’ve never been, is an architectural destination in its own right with a sprawling lawn and playground out front. Added bonus: the tennis courts next to the library are free to use, which we’ve done (and I’m pretty sure people gathered to laugh at our abominable tennis “skills”). In addition to books, which you can request online, the library offers free and discounted passes to local museums and attractions, which you can borrow just like books!
Another wonderful thing about Boston is its proximity to countless regional historic sites and attractions. Mr. FW and I recently took a very frugal day trip to Salem, MA and there are dozens of other quaint destinations within striking distance. The best part about visiting these towns is usually just walking around–which is totally free!
The region is also home to a number of excellent spots to revel in the great outdoors. Although our preferred hiking destinations are in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there’s a bevy of lovely locales closer to home.
Our favorite places to experience the outdoors:
- The Blue Hills: boasts hiking trails that we traverse when we’re not able to drive the 3+ hours to the mountains. A brilliant in-town option for getting your nature on.
- The Middlesex Fells: ditto to what I said about The Blue Hills. The Fells has a plethora of beautifully wooded trails and you can lose yourself in the forest just a few minutes outside of Boston. Check out my hike review here.
- North Point Park: a bucolic and surprisingly spacious park tucked next to the Charles River and across from the Museum of Science. Perfect for picnics, dog romps, and general breathing of fresh air.
- Cambridge Common: a delightful grassy knoll near Harvard Square well suited for roaming or cycling.
- Boston Common: ideal for strolling hand-in-hand while taking in the sights of downtown Boston. Wander past the swan boats, the frog pond, and through the Boston Public Garden.
- Prospect Hill Park: just a few steps from Union Square in Somerville, this adorable park offers panoramic city views and fun history to boot.
- Walden Pond: Thoreau’s famed stomping ground from 1845-1847. A scenic and historic body of water to waltz around.
6) Transportation Choices
Since we can bike, walk, take the T, or drive to get where we need to go, we find we’re able to get by on about one tank of gas per month for ol’ Frugalwoods-mobile. This gas savings is also offset by the fact that when we do need to drive somewhere in town, we usually don’t have to go terribly far.
Taking advantage of the multiple modes of transit available in the city is an ideal money-saver. And, plenty of frugal folks don’t even own a car at all! Plus, transportation becomes entertainment when you discover…
7) The Joy Of Walking
This is perhaps our absolute favorite thing about city life, and probably what we’ll miss the most once we’re out on the homestead. The ability to walk out our front door and essentially get anywhere we need to go is a phenomenal luxury of living in Cambridge. This is a relatively small town geographically speaking, and we’ve walked from our house to Fenway Park, to the Cambridge Common, to the Museum of Science, and all points in between.
For us, strolling the city is equal parts entertainment, exercise, and mode of transportation. The world looks different when you take it in on foot and we love the vibrancy and culture we absorb on our jaunts. Plus, Frugal Hound is a fan.
8) Hack Your Housing
No post about city living would be complete without a mention of the white whale of urban life: housing. Our greatest hack for housing is pretty simple: don’t live directly adjacent to a transit line. We were able to buy a single-family home in Cambridge, but it’s about a 20 minute walk to the nearest Red Line stop. We wouldn’t have been able to afford a place closer than that. And as a result, we find that we T less and bike or walk more–thus saving even more money in the process!
There’s a huge difference to be had in prices over the course of just a few blocks. For more on how we managed to buy our Cambridge house, check out Why Did We Buy Our House? and Our 12 Tips For Visiting Open Houses: We’ve Been To Over 270.
9) High Paying Jobs/Commensurate Benefits
This is the crux of why we live here in the first place. Although Mr. FW and I certainly don’t make investment banker salaries, we’re able to earn more thanks to working in the city. If you’re living in Boston but aren’t being aggressive with your career, it’s sort of like getting a brain freeze without being able to taste the ice cream.
At the end of the day, the high cost-of-living is worth it if you’re reaping the commensurate benefits–such as a respectable salary or a world class education (hello Harvard and MIT). Use the city to its fullest potential and leverage a higher salary or a terrific education or an amazing experience. If you’re not netting a significant benefit from living here, it’s not going to be worth it.
The crowning glory of living in a large city are the immense number of options we have in where to spend our rarely-spent dough. The myth that cities are inherently anti-frugal is utter hogwash–and I’d wager there are more opportunities for free and inexpensive endeavors inside the city than out.
Leveraging this multitude of choices to your advantage saves a tremendous amount of money and, it’s also a wonderful way to live. By opening ourselves up to the diversity of experiences that the Boston area offers, we’ve been able to enjoy all the benefits of a world-class city on a budget that saw us spend a mere $13,000 (other than our mortgage) in all of 2014. It can be done, and it can be done well. Beyond just surviving in cities, frugal people can thrive in the urban corridor.
What are your top frugal hacks for Boston or for your own city?
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I live in a teeny tiny Alabama town (for now – migrating to Alaska in 6 weeks) and the thing I miss MOST about living in/near a city is being able to shop thrift stores/craigslist, and all the free entertainment! Previously I was living in Pensacola, FL about 1/2 a mile from the downtown area. Between the free concerts, festivals, and the beach (a few miles away) I felt like I was permanently on vacation – and saved a fortune in entertainment costs!
So true about the awesome used market and free entertainment options. Cities really do corner the market on those. Very cool that you’re moving to Alaska–sounds exciting :)!
I’ve been to Boston a few times but luckily I’ve avoided the cold pretty well each time. Apparently you guys get this weird thing called “snow” which I’ve heard causes panic and fear in the hearts of all Floridians.
Great tips though! They’re easily translatable to most places regardless of climate. Especially walking and biking. Also, how many Smoots across the bridge were you in that first picture?!
Haha, yes we are known for some snow up here ;)–I don’t recommend visiting in January or February. Smoots–love it! An engineer would know that!
I went to college in Boston – go, Eagles! – and I remember what a great city it is. (My sister lives in the area, so we get to visit fairly often, too.) Although I really appreciate all the great things big cities have to offer, I’m really happy living well outside of one now. (Although we’re not quite in the woods of VT…) However, I’ve often noted that some of the great deals and finds you score would not be available outside a big city, or at least not where we Iive. It’s suburban-to-ruralish, so there really aren’t many opportunities to find stuff at the curb. I guess the flip side is that we have lots of of good, reasonably-priced agricultural options. 🙂
I completely agree that the competition in cities can drive down prices. My husband and I moved upstate from NYC, where there are dry cleaners on every corner. I was shocked at the price of dry-cleaning up here, where there are far fewer options. I quickly resumed washing and (occasionally) ironing my husband’s work shirts myself!
That’s awesome you went to college here! It’s definitely a winner of a college town. So true about the options and the used/free stuff. I think we’ll have to trek down here from the homestead periodically to avail ourselves of the thrifting/Craigslist market!
I lived in Cambridge over 30 years ago on a Harvard fellowship that was meant to support one person but was actually supporting me, my teen-aged daughter and my toddler son. There was a store that redeemed recycled bottles on my corner, and early on weekend mornings I would take my son’s stroller and pile on cases of empty beer bottle that students put out for the garbage collectors. Between that and marked-down end of the day vegetables at the Haymarket, we lived well! The throwaway piles were fantastic as well: I furnished our one-bedroom apartment and am still using things like the LL Bean Hudson Bay blanket that I found.
I was really surprised not to see Haymarket listed until this comment, especially the marked down stuff at the end of the day (that you have to process immediately!). We paid off 10K in DH’s student loan debt in less than a year on an income of 36,000 with a monthly rent of 1200/mo (I still remember these exact numbers after 15 years!), mainly by living off of a few dollars worth of Haymarket fruits and veggies each week, supplemented with rice and potatoes from the grocery store.
Wow, nicely done both of you! You two really frugalized it up! We don’t go to Haymarket regularly primarily because it’s just not convenient for us to get there. We’ve been before and it’s great, though! Definitely a good resource.
I am a new reader and SUPER inspired by your frugal fabness. As a Somervillian and a slow-but-picking-up-speed convert to the penny preserving game, I have been meaning to check out the Cambridge Time Trade Circle (http://timetradecircle.org), which allows individuals to “bank” hours of service (“you mow my lawn, I cut your hair” kind of thing). Have you looked into it? Time is a precious resource, of course, which is why I haven’t yet attended the orientation, but this post reminds me to give it a try. On another note, I am unabashedly hoping to score an invitation to the frugal potluck. How, oh how, can a wannabee weirdo accomplish this?
Very cool re. the Time Trade Circle–thanks for sharing! I’m a huge fan of collaborative community activities. I’d much rather help a neighbor/friend than pay for something. We haven’t had a frugal potluck in awhile, but we’ve been thinking we should host another one (we’ve just been too swamped lately to get something together). Shoot me an email though and I’ll add you to the list 🙂 (email@example.com).
Nice post! Even though I’m more of a Western-states kind of guy (from Wyoming to Texas), a lot of your tips are definitely applicable! In just the last year, I’ve gone from saving 10% of my income to almost 50%, by applying some of the cost saving measures mentioned above. And that savings rate is even factoring in buying an expensive diamond engagement ring and getting laser eye surgery this year! Looking forward to 2016!
That’s fantastic! Nicely done. Yeah, I think this stuff can definitely apply in many different regions.
Great list! Thanks for sharing your thrift store picks in Boston – I’ve been wanting to explore more thrift stores but wasn’t sure where to go. I think the free entertainment and proximity of everything (and thus reduced reliance on cars) are key to saving money in Boston. I am also a Market Basket devotee, although I just heard a segment on NPR this morning about their prices going up slightly over the past year.
I think the hardest part about living frugally in Boston is the cost of housing, and the best way I’ve found to combat that is to have roommates. I’ve lived with roommates the entire time I’ve been in Cambridge and it has saved me tons. Yes, you lose out on your own space, but to me that is more than worth the savings.
Very, very smart re. the roommates. Housing is absolutely the huge outlier to frugality, especially here in Cambridge. Good luck with the thrifting–I hope you find great stuff :)!
I love this post! I often bemoan living in the high cost living area of NYC (and we’re not even in Manhattan or hip parts of BK). But we live frugally too. As for groceries…Aldi’s has great prices and Target as well. We also go to ethnic supermarkets…very good prices for fruits and produce! Housing is tough though. Like I said, we don’t live in the “hip” parts of the city but it’s still very expensive and we live in a co-op not a house. Granted we do live near a subway stop but if we were to buy a house in our neighborhood which was a 20 min walk to the subway, it would still be over $600k (but probably more) for a single family house. School district is pretty important since we have a little one. Housing is the definitely the toughest issue. P.S: I love Boston…have a lot of family there and have gone there practically every summer.
Housing is definitely the most challenging aspect of city living–no doubt about it! And, you bring up a great point about school districts. A good public district is crucial!
Seems like you have found the best ways to live cheap in Boston. We live in a very, very rural area. There is less competition. We do go to the city once a month or so for Costco, but have found the “cheapest” and best of the local grocers. We may be able to find things cheaper in the city, but a trip is about an additional $10 in gas, so not always worth it!
Great point about the cost of gas–that’s definitely something to factor in when you’re faced with driving farther for a good deal. We go to Costco once a month as well since it’s a bit of a drive for us too. Always got to consider those gas prices :)!
When I get jealous of the cheap groceries and extensive used market you guys have, I remind myself how much I hate the cold and big cities. And realize we pay a small premium to live here in my own version of paradise.
Yeah, it’s definitely all a trade off. And, we feel the same way about eventually losing many of these benefits in order to live in our version of paradise on a homestead.
I think there may be more opportunities to be frugal in a big city due to transportation and more people having more stuff to get rid of.
Not sure if I gave you this recipe: Cumin & Garlic Roasted Garbanzo Beans
29 ounces canned garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place beans on a paper towel lined tray and pat dry to remove water from rinsing. Pick out any loose bean skins and discard. When dry, place the beans on a large baking sheet, drizzle oil over & mix to coat evenly. Place in oven and bake for 40-60 mins until golden brown, mixing periodically. When done, beans should be crunchy-not soft to the bite. Remove from oven. Combine seasonings and stir to evenly mix. Sprinkle the mix over the beans and toss. Enjoy!
Yum–that recipe sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing :). I’m a big garbanzo bean fan.
Loved this! It’s cool seeing you pursue frugality in a big city when many would use the higher cost of living as an excuse to not make the effort. I have a best friend that lives in Boston ( I live in Chicago) and I’ve absolutely loved it there whenever I’ve visited. If it weren’t for the winters worse than here, I would totally move there!
Boston winters worse than Chicago?!?! No way! Barring last winter (which was freakishly cold) our winters are not as bad as Chicago. Yes, we get the Nor’easters which blanket us with 2-3 feet of snow at a time, but that melts pretty soon and we get way more sun than Chicago.
I grew up in Michigan, dated a guy in Chicago for a while. and currently live 45 minutes northwest of Boston. Whenever I talk to my folks in Traverse City or my in-laws in Detroit I say a little prayer of thanks for how mild Massachusetts inters are.
Hahah, either way, there’s a cold winter :)!
I’ve never been to Boston, as I live 40 miles north of Atlanta, GA. Love this list though. The thrift stores here are pretty awesome for finding clothes on the cheap. There’s a consignment store close to me called Revive where I found a few skirts and some nice things to decorate the house with. They even have a second location called ReStore where the items that didn’t sell in Revive goes on a huge discount (60% off). Plus, it goes to a good cause so it’s a win win in the end.
Recently got my hubby hooked on thrift stores and garage sales. It’s a fun activity together to shop for an item we need for the house or ourselves. <3
That’s awesome you two enjoy thrifting together! It really is the way to go for just about anything you need :).
I love your blog! Just discovered it last week and have been slowly reading though. I am moderately frugal, for no other reason than to be efficient and live debt free. My husband and I are in a similar situation to you where we live in a metro area that we want to get out of one day and live closer to nature/ in a more rural area.
I have a question though and I don’t at all mean for this to sound critical, I’m just genuinely interested because it’s something I struggle with. A lot of the frugal benefits and you reap (from having bulk store options like Costco and BJs, to nice thrift stores with good clothes) are a privilege centered on the consumerism of others living in a metro area. Is that something that fits in your worldview? What’s your plan for when you start homesteading and the pickings are slimmer — or will you visit metro areas and do the same things?
Kelly, I think about this questions a lot: “a privilege centered on the consumerism of others living in a metro area.” Amy Dacyczyn, who wrote the most excellent book “The Tightwad Gazette” wrote about this. She noted that lots of people complained that her version of frugality wouldn’t work for them, because she lived rurally, in a farmhouse with a lot of land and storage possibilities. She countered that city people had other advantages that she didn’t have — naming about all of the things (minus Craigslist, which hadn’t been invented yet) that the Frugalwoods put into practice.
For me, the issue I often think about is this whole idea of living off of the consumerism of others. I don’t live in as large a city as Boston, but I do live near/work at a college where students regularly discard all sorts of stuff that I end up picking up for free. And I buy things at yard sales that other people bought but never even used. Am I just encouraging consumption second-hand?
Great questions and insights, ladies! I’m glad you brought these issues up. It’s something we think about a lot too since our lives will be radically different once we’re out on the homestead. My feelings largely align with what Miser Mom is describing from Dacyczyn’s book–I think there are ways to live frugally anywhere and that it’s largely about creatively and a desire not to spend money or consume excessively.
I also view my thrifting and roadside trash finds as keeping those products from the landfill. Unfortunately, I think most of our society will continue to consume at a high rate, despite what we frugal/recycling people feel and say. By not buying new, I think we’re helping to reuse and reduce overall consumption.
Aside from the cost of housing (and potentially transportation, depending on what your driving situation is), LA does have many great free things, being that the weather is very cooperative. I think that’s why it makes living here tough to leave. I think the one major downside of a lot of the free things in LA is that if it’s not in you general vicinity, the desire to travel outside of your bubble is pretty low because we hate traffic so much. 🙂 Luckily I’m perfectly content with the beach being in my backyard.
Ahh yes, your beach proximity is quite enviable indeed ;). You have some awesome advantages there like you said, despite the traffic and housing costs.
These are great hacks! I lived in the Washington DC area for five-ish years after college when I was in the Navy. I noticed a HUGE difference in cost of housing, based on how close to the metro you were.
For example, I lived in Ballston for awhile, and a 15 minute walk off the metro was cheaper than a couple of blocks.
My tips for that area: first, I started with shared housing in a basement.
For transit: Metro, and eventually carpooling
For food: man, I ate out almost every meal and almost never cooked. I didn’t start shopping at the commissary until 3 or 4 years into my 5 year stint (because it wasn’t close enough, how dumb is that! If you know anything about military commissaries, they are CHEAP).
For my own fair city (Santa Barbara, CA):
Food: shop around. There’s really no one store with best prices on anything. I shop at our organic CSA ($20/week – this week I got 3 lbs of tomatoes, pint of cherry tomatoes, pint of strawberries, two pints of figs, 1 avocado, green onions, green beans, two massive heads of lettuce, dill, and carrots).
I also shop at Trader Joe’s, 99c only store, Costco, and some local grocery stores. We eat a lot of produce.
Housing: this is really going to kill you. I have not much help here, except live small and get lucky. A starter home is $750k in the general area – any other town is at least 30 miles away. A condo can be had for $500-600k though. Most people rent, and the key here is when you find a good landlord who doesn’t raise rents quickly, you stay there.
Entertainment: beaches, mountains, parks, free movies outdoors, free concerts, library, zoo memberships. You can spend money entertaining yourself by taking the family bowling, or to the trampoline place, or to the kids’ gym, but why? Those are nice on occasion. Today we are going to the back to school “beach day” after school at the local beach with free parking. I’m packing our dinner. Tomorrow we are meeting friends at a different beach and then (gasp!) at a restaurant for lunch. I really try to keep ALL our restaurant meals be “group” or “friend” things, as opposed to “I don’t feel like cooking” things.
Stuff: you know, the thrift stores here are pricey. You can comb them and get good deals, but I don’t have time for that. On the other hand, there are Craigslist and FB pages for selling stuff and the free market. Example: we just got bunk beds with stairs (not a ladder) and storage in the stairs and under the bed, on FB for $340. Store price is $750. We got this about a year earlier than we’d planned, and it’s a full on the bottom, which is bigger than we’d planned.
Anyway, we are going to get rid of the twin bed we already had. The twin bed has a headboard with cubbies and drawers under the bed. We paid $100 for it (including a long-gone mattress) 6 years ago. That’s what, $17 a year? My daycare provider is getting the bed for her son (for free). Because we want to get rid of it AND because she seriously keeps us in shorts, tshirts, and shoes. Her son and my son are both small, and hers is 3 years older than mine. So his hand me downs are basically perfect.
I find that I get a lot of free kid stuff from friends and in turn, I give a lot of free stuff away.
Commuting: we could bike to work if we wanted, but don’t do it often. We do enjoy walking.
Great advice, Marcia! Thanks for sharing! I think it’s so true that you can find ways to live frugally anywhere. And, I’m loving the kiddo hand-me-downs so much!! Babywoods has all used stuff, which I think is ideal. And I’ll look forward to passing those things along when we’re done with them.
Thanks for sharing! I live in this region too and have discovered many of the tips you have (thanks for helping validate them :)), but there’s definitely new ideas and food for thought on this list. Though it takes a little more gas, I also really enjoy the occasional day trip to gorgeous coastal beaches and even to points in surrounding states when I want a change of pace – it’s nice to be centrally located to city amenities as well as all this variety.
Agreed on the day trips! That’s how we feel about hiking in the White Mountains–it certainly does use up gas, but is well worth the cost in our book. The proximity to so many interesting places here in New England is truly wonderful.
My husband and I grew up in Boston, and just moved from Philadelphia to Tampa. This is a fabulous list for Cambridge and Boston! As frugal-minded people, I am always amazed by how much there is to do in the greater Boston area. We are reeling from the loss of Market Basket and Wegmans–I started shopping at Aldi last week and have found it to be okay, when combined with Costco. As for Craigslist and thrift options, I haven’t seen too much of interest in the Tampa area. Hopefully some Tampanians can correct me! We are homesick. 🙁
We moved from Boston to Maine to St. Petersburg. It did not take us long to get back to New England
Good luck down there in Tampa.
Good luck, Alison! I hope you’re able to find some good Craigslist and thrift store options!
Oooo, Alison, I just read down the comments and looks like Cheryl, a fellow Tampa resident, can hook you up with thrift store suggestions :)! Woohoo for the Frugalwoods community!
FL isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure! We moved from MA to FL over a decade ago and never looked back. It’s a big state though, and some areas wouldn’t suit us either.
We were in Tampa last summer for a camp for the kids. It was the first week of Aug., and the apartments near the college (FSU?) were throwing out EVERYTHING. I found a real Coach purse in the trash, a color laser printer with full toner, a new sewing machine in the box, a tripod and 2 umbrella lights (all brand new!), more J.Crew and Lilly Pulitzer clothes than we could use in one lifetime, and I can’t even remember what else. We live on the other side of FL so I could only bring home what I could fit in the car. It was crazy the amount of really nice stuff that I saw just tossed out. I highly recommend the first week of august at apartments around that college in Tampa for great finds!
I also live in a college town, and our apartment turnover happens July 31-Aug 1 (with a smaller wave at the end of the spring semester). Pretty much everyone here loves to rummage through the junk heaps for fabulous finds.
Gotta love the junk heaps :)! It’s amazing what people throw out.
Best free entertainment in Boston is ushering at the various playhouses – Huntington, ART in Cambridge, New Rep in Watertown. If you volunteer to usher you get to see the show for free. It’s about 1.5 hours of work stuffing programs and showing people to their seats ahead of time. Totally worth it to save $50+ on the cost of the ticket!
Fabulous suggestion, MC! Thank you so much for sharing!
6) Transportation Choices, 7) The Joy Of Walking & 8) Hack Your Housing
Oh, these three. I did not realise the importance of these things until three years ago. I moved from my parents house (at the ripe old age of 25 – that’s a frugal hack right there as long as all parties are happy with the situation!) in a village in the middle of nowhere to the city of Edinburgh. The difference was amazing – so much choice!
I can get the (very cheap) bus, the tram or cycle. Most of the time I choose to walk as, like where you live, geographically it’s a small city. Housing I could get cheaper if I went further out but there’s a fine balance between paying cheaper rent and having to rely more on public transport. I feel I’ve got the perfect balance.
I absolutely agree that cities can be a great place for frugal living.
Nicely done, Ali! Sounds like you’ve got frugal city living down pat! Good call on living with parents too–definitely a great frugal hack 🙂
Alison – I live in the Tampa Bay area and there are a LOT of thrift stores to be had around here!! I am a frequenter of all! Hit me up via email and I can guide you if you wish – clee009ATtampabayDOTrrDOTcom
As for free local activities, of course, being on the gulf coast we have the beaches, numerous parks and bike trails, and most of the local towns have free concerts and free movie nights on the beach – due to our climate these are normally year round 🙂
I think most cities/towns have free activities – you just have to be diligent and find where they are!
Thank you for helping out, Cheryl! Love this community of frugal folks 🙂
Great guide! I’m glad you put some of your advice about living in Boston all into one big post. 🙂
Thanks! I felt like I should (finally) get it all down in one place 🙂
Well, I can’t comment on the cost of city-living, as I live rural. I think things can get expensive no matter where you live. Everything is a trade-off, and you have to try to save where you can and spend where you need to. Living rural requires more gas for a vehicle, plows for your truck for snow removal, propane for heat, unless you want to chop wood, which many people still do here. But overall, I think savings can be had anywhere, you just have to make the effort….as outlined in your post. If you want to do it, it can be done.
Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more. I think there are trade-offs with any location and that it’s possible to live frugally anywhere. I think it’s largely about being creative and committed to finding free/cheap solutions 🙂
Boston sounds fantastic. I think you can apply these frugal tips almost anywhere though. We rely on our car a lot more, but we seek out the more economical stores, there’s Goodwill’s aplenty, and Craigslist is great here too. I am envious of your September 1st area move out day!
Oh, speaking of trash, one day Mr. Crackin asked me what I would think if he went through the trash. I was pretty excited and immediately launched into a spill about dumpster diving and a documentary I had watched, and how awful it was that we are throwing this stuff away.
He listened intently while I rambled. Turns out he just wanted to locate an avocado pit out of OUR trash. Not my finer moment. Whatever. At least Mr. Crackin’ knows that I am open to the possibility….
Bahahaha, that’s pretty hilarious about the trash! What was he going to do with that avocado pit, by the way? And, I agree, I think these tips can work in many different locales.
My partner and I are considering a move to Boston within the next few years and I’ve been concerned about the cost of living there, so I was excited to find this post in my inbox this morning! Right now we live in the western part of the state, which is amazing, beautiful, progressive, and (relatively) inexpensive, but… there are very few options for work. We’re staying for my partner’s grad school/job combo, but the employment scene overall is not great. Western Mass, because it’s so saturated with colleges, has a lot of these same perks, including free piles like you wouldn’t believe, but is definitely lacking in other ways. It will be interesting to see, if/when the time comes for us to move to Boston, what the trade-offs will be and what we’ll be willing to sacrifice for things like a higher salary, more opportunities, activities, etc.
Very cool, Han! There’s certainly a trade-off with how expensive housing is here, but, there really are ways to make the rest of life pretty cheap. It’s also a very fun place to live–Cambridge is definitely our favorite of all the places we’ve lived. I hope all goes well for you and your partner with your plans and move! Best of luck 🙂
Love your blog! I’m a fellow Bostonian who has also been enjoying the free entertainment options. This summer, I finally made it to the beaches at South Boston and East Boston — accessible by T or there is free on street parking on Sundays. Also, I’ve discovered a helpful blog, Boston on a Budget, http://bostononbudget.com/ I don’t have any association with this blogger, but she has lots of roundups of free things to do in the Boston area, such as free movies, concerts, etc.
Thanks so much for sharing the tip! And, good to know about free beach parking!
City-living in general is frugal since you can avoid the car and walk to so many places. But my “frugal” tip for city-living is to live in a poor neighborhood.
Something sounds wrong about that, but I’m not putting down my little city of Cohoes. I love it here. But everyone’s number one expense in life is housing. And here, my 15-year mortgage payment is $697 a month. Prices are so cheap because of the misconceptions people have about poor, urban neighborhoods. The demand hasn’t arrived yet. And look at it this way: By living in a cheap urban neighborhood, your mortgage will be paid off faster, and your home’s value can only hold steady or go up, especially with the latent urban revitalization movement taking hold.
$697/month???!!!! Dang. That’s awesome. Ours is, uh, just a tad more 😉
I love that your posts are so universal. Your tips remind me very much of our bike riding inner city free events lifestyle here in Melbourne Australia. What is lovely is taking advantage of the free natural and cultural wonders in your own city, it’s an abundance. Walking is a lost art and I’m enjoying finding it again. What a bonus for you to wander with a companion hound!
We do love our companion hound :)! And, I agree with you that walking is a lost art–and it’s such a wonderful way to experience the world. I’m excited to hear that these approaches apply in Australia too :).
Great post on how to live frugally even in the most expensive cities in the world. Frugality is a state of mind and can be applied anywhere! I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country – Honolulu, Hawaii where the median price of a house is $700,000, a gallon of milk is $5.79, gas is $2.99 a gallon (cheaper than milk!), electricity is 3 times more expensive than on the mainland, etc, etc. So how do we live frugally in paradise? Simple – maximize what is free, like the amazing weather year round and beautiful outdoors and minimize or delete what is expensive . For exercise, we walk in the neighborhood, hike or go swimming in Waikiki (no expensive gym memberships), for fresh fruits and vegetables we shop at Farmer’s Markets, Costco is fabulous for bulk shopping i.e. rice, milk ($4.09 for a gallon – the cheapest in town) and the local supermarket called Times for all other non-bulk items. Prefer cooking simple and delicious food and love to entertain small groups of friends at home, and they always bring a dish! We go out to eat maybe once a month unless it is business related. My husband loves his wine and we stumbled upon a $3.99 bottle of wine at Whole Foods (of all places!) – and it is drinkable, I swear! We are self employed so most of the time work from home so no commuting. As for clothes/accessories shopping, I am on a buying fast for a year (have enough clothes to last me till I’m 90 as I am a reformed shopaholic) but those who love shopping, there are plenty of second hand, thrift, Goodwill or good old Craigslist. We have said “Aloha” to the cable company so for entertainment we rely on the internet – have Netflix courtesy of our daughter in NY! Books and DVDs are free from the library – my favorite hangout and there’s plenty of free entertainment in Honolulu- whether it is an Ukulele Festival or Bon Dance event in Kapiolani Park (across Waikiki Beach). All FREE! As for electricity (no heat necessary) – we don’t have air-conditioning in our house as we maximize the trade winds or use fans and if its really hot and muggy ( some days in August can be hellish), then go to the beach and hang loose. Finally, the cost of housing, yes it is EXPENSIVE – we were very fortunate to have enough land to build a small cottage that we rent out to reduce our monthly mortgage. So for $1,000 a month we live in a very quiet, nice, safe neighborhood 10 minutes to the city. Yes, it is possible to live very well and frugally in paradise – just have to be creative and embrace a simpler but very satisfying life!
Awesome!!! Love this!! Thank you so much for sharing. Sounds like you live very similarly to us. I completely agree that it’s possible to live a frugal, delightful existence anywhere. All about maximizing what you enjoy and being creative with your spending. Mahalo!
We live in Honolulu, also! Definitely love taking advantage of all the free stuff to do here. Our housing hack is to have found an inexpensive but safe neighborhood that is (relatively) far from the beach but still has a reasonable commute (Salt Lake). We bought a condo here for $365k. We’re a family of four and it’s an 850 square foot condo, so that would seem tight to a lot of people on the mainland, but we’re outside most of the time so we don’t feel the claustrophobia so much. And our food hack: Costco. So much Costco. Still working on cutting the grocery bill, though.
The best part about Hawaii is that I feel so little pressure to keep up with the Joneses (well, the Wongs, Tamashiros and Kealohas, in our case). Everybody struggles to pay the mortgage and the private school tuition, so outward displays of status are a lot less of a thing here. I wear $5 rubber slippers from Longs almost everywhere, and nobody judges me at work for wearing the same ten outfits all the time. No need to buy seasonal clothing. No need to have an expensive car. There’s a little bit of consumer culture here if you want it, but most people are into the simple things for their recreation.
The worst expense is travel to see family, because we are mainland transplants. Frequent flier miles have helped us a lot.
Love this post! It definitely is what you make of it. Similarly, the housing is pricey where we are in NJ but there are so many free things to do! One of my favorites is just to walk into town with the stroller. I love the walkability of where we live. It’s so nice!
Agreed! It’s definitely possible to live frugally anywhere. P.S. can’t wait to take walks with Babywoods in her (hand-me-down) stroller! You guys will have to come visit again so that she can follow the beans around ;)!
Yes, yes, and yes! As a fellow Cantabrigian, I whole-heartedly endorse this post. I was going to mention the Time Trade Circle (it’s not just Cambridge, but the Greater Boston area), but someone beat me to it in the comments. I’ve belonged for a couple years and love the concept, but find that, for me, it’s easier to ‘earn’ hours than ‘spend’ them as I’ve yet to find services I want or need. But your experience may differ. They did do a community swap earlier this summer, where I unloaded some stuff and got some vinyl records and other items I really wanted.
Yay for Sept. 1 moving dates. It’s like the sidewalks turn into a mini-mall. The past few days, I’ve taken books, some nice hangers, fabric for crafts, a set of coloring pencils, and a jar of buttons from the trash.
I look forward to running into you at the library, Goodwill, Market Basket or while rummaging through trash on the sidewalk.
Howdy neighbor! Thanks for the tip on the Time Trade Circle–now that I’ve heard from several of you about it, I’ll definitely have to check it out. Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying this wonderful trash season we’re having right now ;). Hope to see you around town!
I forgot to mention that a good source of inexpensive household items and office supplies (and other random stuff) is Harvard University’s Habitat for Humanity Stuff Sales. Each year donated items and items left behind in dorms are offered for sale in a giant multi-day (they re-stock each day) yard sale outside the Science Center. It’s going on now: http://www.green.harvard.edu/events/harvard-habitat-humanity-stuff-sale-3
Fabulous tip! Thank you for sharing 🙂
This is really fantastic. So many of my students could use this information. As a former Bostonian (we moved to Providence because housing is so much cheaper….although my commute is worse) I love this. So many of my students move to Boston. I am definitely setting a link to these things to spread your wisdom. I only wish I shopped at the Somerville MB to see you (we shop at the one in Attleboro). Oh and one other thing about MB. They pay their employees fantastic wages and treat them with respect. I am all about shopping at a place that is so conscious of its employees.
Agreed on how awesome it is that Market Basket is wonderful to their employees–it’s just a great company all around. Glad to hear your students can use this info :). Thanks so much for sharing it!
Options definitely help out a lot with frugality. My fairly small rural town has four grocery stores, but only one has a reasonable organic produce section, so that is where I shop. We have found that even though the closest Costco is 120 miles away it is still worthwhile for us to have a membership. We seem to end up near a Costco at least every couple of months so we just stock up on things then. Luckily I have a big pantry and a chest freezer.
Yeah, the options really do help a lot. It’ll be an interesting new journey for us when we’re living in a more rural setting :). Glad to hear the Costco stock-up works well for you. Very excited to put our new chest freezer through its paces with our bulk buying!
Thank you thank you for this all-in-one-place resource! 😀 I just bookmarked it. Hope you scored some good finds in the move out madness this weekend!
You are most welcome, glad we could help ;). Found a dresser and a bookcase for Babywoods’ room, so we’re in business!
Out of curiosity, have you considered your plans for Babywoods’ care while you work (or decide not to work)? That was our single biggest expense (other than housing) living outside of DC – we traded $317/wk daycare in DC for $160/wk daycare in Pittsburgh. I do sometimes miss the options that the large city provides, but Pittsburgh is a medium sized city and it also provides other opportunities that the big city doesn’t make easy: like cheaper theater tickets 🙂
Wonderful question and something we’ll be addressing on the blog before too long here. Fear not, we’ll share our plans ;)!
My biggest frugal win was selling my car when I moved to NYC. My commuting transportation costs are zero since I can walk to work. It does get annoying not having a vehicle when I want to visit friends and family in more rural areas, but I make do. It also helps that I live with two roommates and am able to save on rent and split utilities three ways.
Nicely done! No car and roommates are fabulous ways to make the city less expensive!
I’m a librarian in New Hampshire and again I thank you for promoting public libraries! As another person mentioned, libraries also have DVDs to lend. Plus music CDs, current magazines, and research assistance, among other things. According to their website the Cambridge Public Library also offers meeting rooms, tax assistance(!), and computer help: http://www.cambridgema.gov/cpl/Services and provides an eLibrary for those days when you just can’t make it in: http://www.cambridgema.gov/cpl/eLibrary. Most public libraries, mine included, offer some form of many of these services, and then some! The library in the next town over from me even checks out different shapes of cake pans! We lend telescopes for stargazing at my library, too. Don’t be afraid to ask your librarians! If they don’t have it, they might get it if you express interest. Libraries are certainly bigger and have more branches in cities, but most places have at least a small library with some services. If you think yours should offer more, get involved and start advocating!
Along those lines, I think I read that Cambridge (or maybe Somerville) is home to a tool lending library. You pay a small monthly fee to belong and are able to borrow different types of tools, which is great because some job require specific tools that won’t be needed again and/or are expensive.
We love the public library :)! Thank you for being a librarian! We really enjoy utilizing our library to the fullest here–it’s such a wonderful resource. And as you mentioned, for so much more than just books (although books are pretty awesome).
Love love love all these tips! I love Boston, one of my good friends lives in Cambridge because her husband teaches at MIT but you are right, it is a small town space wise and I don’t think a lot of people recognize that. I’m from the west coast and out here we are sprawled out. 🙂
Living in Phoenix is pretty reasonable because cost of living is low but I do other things to keep my costs low. I refuse to buy a parking pass even though I’d have awesome parking and just park on the street instead and walk to classes. I really tried to make sure I could have as many utilities in my rent since I knew electric would be expensive during our insane summer months ( average temp of 115-120 most days). I live in an older complex because the newer remodeled apartments in my neighborhood go for a lot more but the location was important to me. And I also try to save as much as I can on groceries by buying from a brick and motor stoke ( Target) because food can be insane!
Thanks so much! Way to go on rocking the frugal life in Phoenix!
Love your list! I agree that Market Basket’s produce is wonderful and inexpensive too in comparison to many other places. Also, I saw that you mentioned yoga classes that you get to take for free. I’ve compiled a list [http://bit.ly/1GDYEg6] of free classes in the Boston area for everyone. There are plenty around especially in the summer!
Thanks for the list of free yoga classes! That’s a great resource for sure.
Not sure if anyone mentioned Free Fun Fridays (several museums throughout the Commonwealth are free each week June/July/August) hosted by the Highland Foundation. Wonderful resource if you can get a Friday off. Christine
Good tip! Thank you!
Hello! Love your blog and love this post. As a resident of greater Boston, I constantly revert back to the excuse that we live in an expensive city which is why our spending is so high. Unfortunately where we live, we are out of reach of the T or any walkable areas, but there are plenty of low cost activities and shopping options to keep costs down (Market Basket right in town). I did want to mention that almost every public library in the Boston area offers library passes for reduced admissions to museums in Boston. You do have to reserve the passes in advance but it is a great way to save $$ on entrance fees, especially when friends or family are visiting the area. We recently went to the Aquarium and took our in-laws there, totaling 4 people. Normally at a $26 per head entrance fee, that would have cost over $100, but with the museum pass, the cost per person was only $10! so we saved over $60 in admission fees! You do have to be a resident of the town where the library is located and have a library card, but its a great way to get into almost every museum in the city for a huge discount!
I completely concur! We don’t live in a city. Our local FB groups for selling suck (mostly just people piecemeal selling clothes), tho every once in awhile I get a gem. My favorite pick ever is the $5 gorgeous credenza — a 1960s Broyhill Saga surely worth more. It was a garage sale piece we found while biking, but I had seen it on the FB group (people photograph their garage sales and post). The people even saved it until later so we could bring back our friend’s truck.
I most miss the excellent thrift store shopping. Ann Arbor, Michigan, was my haven with all the college kids and their donations. I did almost gag when you said you spent $30 on that coat (so pricey for thrifting!) until I realized that’s likely a $150+ BR coat. I have a hard time spending up to $10 on a pair of jeans, as thrift stores have been increasing their prices. A decade ago, I mostly picked up all my jeans for $3 in A2. I bought half a dozen pairs before I left and slowly wore through them. We’ve got thrift stores in our very small city, and you can find good stuff, but it takes a lot more picking through racks.
The thing I miss most is proximity to Trader Joe’s and Costco. TJ’s has my preferred cheap eco options for toiletries. We just stock up when we happen to up in the Twin Cities (~ 1 hr drive). Same for Costco — we were gifted a membership so head there every few months to get stuff.
I will say that my best tip for anyone, anywhere is to look for both college move-out AND boarding school move-out. We live at a boarding school. I will never, ever have to buy hangers or laundry baskets in my life. We get so much quality stuff. Almost anyone has some sort of dorm school within an hour of them. It is worth discovering move-out times and going to dumpster dive. We work hard here to divert stuff to donations (and for faculty to pick through), but there’s still good stuff that hits the dumpster every year.
Thank you for highlighting Boston as a place where it’s possible to make frugality happen. We lived there for almost 10 years and would have stayed if 1) we had careers that had higher earning power and 2) were more successful in finding the golden housing nugget of close enough to both our work places (a 20 minute walk max to public transpo as you said), affordable enough, and nice enough. We made it happen at first by picking a neighborhood that wasn’t too popular at the time – Savin Hill in Dorchester (5 minute walk to the T!). But my job switching resulted in a car commute that just wasn’t sustainable, especially after we procreated. I wish we had had the resources to buy when we first rented there because now it’s booming. But we’ve been able to find equal salaries in a lower cost of living area very very close to your eventual homestead. I miss the city and everything you’ve highlighted here every single day but we knew we couldn’t have a strong financial future by staying.
Honestly I grew up in MA and I didn’t know that Demoulas (what I guess they just call Market Basket now?) was a discount grocery. It was the ONLY grocery in our town. Sawdust on the floor brings back memories 🙂 We used to go to another grocery store in Salem, NH (Kealy Farms I think?) for higher-end stuff occasionally, so it makes sense that maybe Demoulas was a budget store. It’s where we did all of our regular shopping though.
We frugaled our way the heck out of MA over a decade ago, so it’s totally possible to live frugally there and make the most of the high property values when you reach FI and can get out!
I love the article. I live in Los Angeles and am looking for a similar community here. If anyone has any tips, social groups, or the like, please let me know!