Holly, her husband George, and their two young children live a very frugal life on George’s salary as an assistant coach of a college sports team. They dream of reaching financial independence and are wondering whether it’s possible for them and what they’d need to change about their lives in order to achieve it.

Case Studies are financial (and life) dilemmas that a reader of Frugalwoods sends to me requesting that Frugalwoods nation weigh in. Then, Frugalwoods nation (that’s you!), reads through their situation and provides advice, encouragement, insight, and feedback in the comments section. For an example, check out last month’s case study.

Case Studies are updated by participants (at the end of the post) several months after the Case is featured. You all requested an easier way to track Case Study updates and I have heard your pleas :)! I’ve created this page, which lists and links to all of the updated Case Studies.

I probably don’t need to say the following because you all are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but, please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not to condemn.

And a disclaimer that I am not a trained financial professional and I encourage people not to make serious financial decisions based solely on what one person on the internet advises. I encourage everyone to do their own research to determine the best course of action for their finances.

With that I’ll let Holly, this month’s Case Study subject, take it from here!

Holly’s Story

George and their son

Hi, Frugalwoods nation! I’m Holly, I’m 31 and I live in a small college town in Virginia with my husband George, who is also 31. We’ve been happily married for seven years and have two children, a four-year-old son and a nine-month-old daughter. We are very happily debt-free!

The big question we have is whether or not we can retire in ten years.

George and I are in a good place with our lives, our kids, and our money, but we don’t have a clear roadmap of what to do next. I’m hoping that this Case Study will serve as a helpful therapy session. I want to articulate where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.

I would like for us to reach financial independence in order to spend more time together as a family. I think I’m more motivated about this goal than my husband because he currently loves his job!

However, he travels a lot for work and I envision him becoming more motivated once our children are older and he starts to miss their activities/sporting events/concerts/etc due to his travel schedule.


We enjoy taking walks around our community, going to the library, taking road trips to visit our families, and “trash-picking.” We live in a college town and are constantly finding like-new furniture and other items on the side of the road that we then sell. Our families are always in disbelief about how we make money from selling “trash.”

Our happiest moments are when we’re together either taking walks at a beautiful park nearby or watching movies at home. My husband is out of town so often that it really makes the “normal” things seem extra special just because we’re together.


George + baby enjoying the park

George works as the assistant coach for a college sports team at a large private university and he loves his job. I’m currently staying home with our kids and have had so many different entry-level positions over the years: substitute teaching, high school sports coaching, waitressing, retail sales, emergency room transcription, customer service call center representative, and most recently, a student advisor at a university.

I currently have several small side hustles that help bring in some income. I manage our credit cards carefully (always paying them off in full every month) to leverage cash back points and bonuses, which nets us a bit of money every month. I also re-sell furniture we find on the side of the road. And, I rent out a room in our apartment on Airbnb occasionally, which can be pretty lucrative since we live in a college town. I recently rented out our whole apartment for $600 for graduation weekend!

Before our second baby was born, I worked while sending our first child to daycare. However, we realized I wasn’t earning enough to justify the expense of daycare and weekend babysitters (needed due to my husband being out of town a lot on weekends). With my current degree (a BS in Health Promotions), I haven’t been able to secure anything above an entry level position in which I made around $27,000 a year.

I’ve been struggling with purpose lately as I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost five years now. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be with my kids all the time, but I also feel like I should be contributing to the world in some other way but haven’t a clue where to start. I’m trying to figure out if I should go back to school for a different degree that would bring in a higher income. Looking back, I regret not making my education/career a priority before having multiple kiddos.

Holly’s Master’s Degree

I was pursuing a Master’s degree in Accounting because I can get a degree for nearly free since my husband works at a university. I put this on hold when my daughter was born nine months ago and I’m not sure I want to continue unless it’s necessary for me to get a higher paying job to enable our early retirement goal. It would take me three to four years to complete this master’s degree.
A few years ago, when we lived closer to family, I completed two semesters towards becoming a dental hygienist, but my husband received a job offer out of state and we chose to move.

So, I have these two partially completed degrees and no great desire to work in either of these fields. However, I would like to be able to earn more than I did in my previous entry-level positions.

The Big Downside: George’s Work Travel

Although George enjoys his job, we all really dislike the amount of traveling he has to do for work. I’ve found that I get extremely lonely during those periods and will often take spontaneous 8-hour road trips to see our families just so that I’m not home alone with our two kids. This is going to become a problem once our children are in school full-time. I would love to hear some ideas targeted for an introvert/social phobia person on how to get more connected in my community.

Housing Conundrum

Holly + kiddo on the playground

In order to save money, we’ve had a roommate for the past several years, which has greatly reduced our living expenses. However, our roommate decided to move out after our second child was born nine months ago. George and I have agreed that having a roommate isn’t feasible any longer, given our two young children.

Unfortunately, losing our roommate means we’re going to have to move.

Our rent is increasing to $915 and, without a roommate, this is too expensive. This is tough for us because we really love the community in our apartment complex and have lots of friends here. It’s actually the first time I’ve made friends with other parents of small children and I hate to move.

In order to try and stay in this apartment complex, we considered moving into a one-bedroom. Unfortunately, the management company said they wouldn’t allow four people to live in a one-bedroom, which is too bad because we’ve become “accidental minimalists” in our pursuit of financial freedom.

We’ve found a two-bedroom townhouse in another part of town that we could move into on June 1st. The pros are that the rent is $755 per month and it’s walking distance to both my husband’s job and my son’s school. This might allow us to get rid of one of our cars. George currently has a 20-minute driving commute, so this would be a welcome change.

The downside is that the previous tenants had cats who did a number on the carpeting, and it’s currently quite smelly. We haven’t been able to get a clear answer from the landlord about whether or not they’ll be cleaning or replacing the carpeting prior to us moving in. Worst case scenario is that they don’t clean the carpets and we lose our deposit ($755) and move elsewhere. Our back up plan is to rent an apartment that’s farther away for $760, but in this scenario we wouldn’t be able to get rid of a car as it’s not within walking distance of work and school.

Where Holly and George Want To Be in Ten Years:

  • Finances: We’d like to have the option to “retire” early.
    • Even though we might both choose to work, we’d like to have the financial freedom not to work. My husband’s job requires him to travel multiple days at a time during the school year and, as our children get older and have more activities going on, we foresee this travel schedule becoming a huge issue.
  • Career: Ideally, George would like to become a head coach so that he has more flexibility with his schedule.
    • This would require our family to move at least once but possibly several times as he works his way up.
  • Lifestyle: We have a dream of someday retiring to a warm beach town where our children would want to vacation and bring our grandkids to visit (theoretical at this point as we have a 4-year-old and 9-month-old 🙂 ).
    • We have grown accustomed to our “simple” lifestyle and are fairly content. The only area we may want to spend more in the future is traveling for at least a brief period, but we are homebodies at heart.

Holly and George’s Financials


Item Amount Notes
George’s net income $3,493 George’s net salary, minus $150 for taxes, $190.16 for health and dental, and 403b contributions.
Tax refund $333 We receive an approximately $4,000 tax refund every year.
George’s work bonus $291 George receives a bonus equal to one month’s salary almost every year.
Birthday and Christmas cash gifts from family $100 We have generous parents who give us cash for our birthdays and Christmas each year.
George’s cell phone reimbursement $83 George’s work cell phone stipend is paid quarterly and my cell phone is covered under my parents’ plan.
Holly’s net income $50 These are rewards/cash back from managing our credit card strategy carefully.
Sales via consignment, LetGo, Craigslist, and eBay $50 We sell/consign our children’s clothing, toys, and our own clothing that no longer fit or that we don’t wear anymore. We also sell furniture we find for free on the side of the road.
Monthly subtotal: $4,400
Annual total: $52,800

Monthly Expenses

Item Amount Notes
Rent $685 This amount was low because we’ve had a roommate for the past two years. We’re moving to a two-bedroom townhouse in June because the rent on our current apartment is increasing to $915 and we no longer think it’s feasible to have a roommate now that we have two kids :).

Our new rent will be $755/month.

Groceries and household supplies $360 We shop almost exclusively at Aldi’s. For us, it’s much cheaper than going to multiple stores (Costco, Walmart, Kroger). Plus, Aldi’s has almost all of the household items we need (including laundry detergent, baby food, diapers, paper goods, etc).
Car Maintenance $250 This was a hard category to pinpoint. We bought a new transmission ($2,300) and spent $500 on new tires last year but typically it’s only about $40 on oil changes every three months for both cars as well as state-required property tax on vehicles. But it’s always something… either the brakes, windshield wipers, a TRANSMISSION!
Utilities: Electricity $115
Fuel for cars $100 This fluctuates greatly because I tend to take a lot of road trips to visit family when George is traveling for work.
Restaurants $75
Car Insurance $36 Insurance for both cars through Geico. We carry the minimum state required insurance.
Internet $30 Our apartment has the option of using their cable internet, but I think this price is reasonable compared to other service providers I’ve researched.
George’s Life Insurance $30 30-year policy through AGI $400,000
Holly’s Life Insurance $30 30-year policy through AGI $400,000
Clothes $25
Birthday Gifts $20
Christmas Gifts $20
Car Property Tax $19
Turbo Tax $7 I do our taxes every year with Turbotax or H&R Block
Monthly Subtotal: $1,802
Annual Total: $21,624


Item Amount Notes
George’s 403b $39,003 His employer matches at 5%
George’s Roth IRA $34,272
Holly’s Brokerage Account $29,579 All of our investments excluding the 403b are through Vanguard
Holly’s Roth IRA $24,313
George’s Brokerage $17,220
Holly’s IRA $14,694
Holly’s Checking $6,985 I use this account to deposit cash/checks
George’s IRA $6,246
George’s Savings $5,528 We pay our monthly bills from this account and it doubles as our emergency fund
George’s Checking $3,957 We also pay our monthly bills from this account and it also doubles as our emergency fund
HSA $2,440 We use this to pay our annual $3,000 deductible if needed
529 college savings accounts for our kids $2,282
Total: $186,519


Vehicle make, model, year Valued at Notes
2015 Nissan Versa Hatchback with 78,000 miles $5,000 Purchased used with cash from a HERTZ used car dealership
2004 Ford Explorer with 150,000 miles $1,500 Purchased used with cash for $5,000 in 2015
Total: $6,500

Debts: $0

Holly’s Questions For You:

  1. Is it possible for us to reach financial freedom in 10 years if we continue as we have been? Should we focus on increasing our income or is our current savings rate enough for now? I can return to work once our youngest is in school (in four years) and so we’ll be able to increase our savings rate at that point.
  2. Should I go back to school for a different degree that would bring in a higher income?
    • An extreme plan we’ve considered is for George to quit his job and for us to move closer to family and live off of our savings for two years while I go back to school full-time and George works part time. This would be tough on George, however, as he really enjoys his current job and it would be hard for him to get hired again in his field as it’s very competitive.
  3. Should we get rid of our second car or would that not make much of a difference without us increasing our income?
  4. Does anyone have advice on staying sane and frugal with a traveling spouse (and two young children)? My spending always increases when George is out of town and I’d love to find better ways to cope with his frequent absences.

Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

Alright people, I was NOT kidding with the title today. Holly and George are epic frugal mavens. They are more frugal than I have ever been and I am in awe. The fact that they had a roommate for so many years–as a married couple and then with their kids–is commendable. Amazing, Unheard of. That’s a whole new level of frugal and, in looking at their assets, it has clearly paid off. Big congrats to Holly and George! They are living proof of just how much you can save if you are super serious about it. Super duper serious.

They’re In Fantastic Shape!

In reading through Holly’s write-up, and in our correspondence over email, I got the sense that Holly feels like she and George should be doing more, saving more, and be in a better financial position. And I have to say, they are in fabulous shape from a financial perspective! I’d be hard pressed to find other folks with a similar income level who have the assets that Holly and George do. That being said, I think I do understand where Holly is coming from and I want to dig deeply today to try and root out the root of her concerns. I’ll address each of Holly’s questions in turn. Let’s begin at the very beginning:

Question #1: Is it possible for us to reach financial freedom in 10 years if we continue as we have been?

George + kiddo

So it kinda depends on what Holly means by “financial freedom.” There are different ways to articulate this and, as I’ve learned over the years, it means something different to everyone. If Holly is interested in true financial independence, which means neither she nor George would ever have to work for money again, we can do the math on that.

However, Holly might be more interested in the ability for her and/or George to work part-time, flexible, or otherwise reduced schedules (similar to what Mr. FW and I do). It sounds like the major issue right now is the amount of travel George has to do for work. If he were able to find a more flexible job that doesn’t involve travel–let’s say coaching part-time at a high school–that might be a solution they can reach much sooner than full-on financial independence.

But let’s stick with the full-on financial independence scenario for a beat here. Holly and George already have the first element of this equation on lock: low spending. The lower your spending, the less money you need in order to declare yourself financially independent. After all, your financial independence is calibrated on how much money you spend every year.

“Financial independence” is widely interpreted as meaning that a person has enough in assets to cover their expenses for the rest of their life, such that they don’t need to work for compensation. People who are financially independent may choose to continue working because they find their work fulfilling (this is the category that Mr. Frugalwoods and I fall into). “Early retired” is a subset of financial independence that refers to folks who are financially independent (see preceding definition) and who have quit their jobs and no longer earn money, but instead live off of a safe withdrawal rate from their assets/investments (this is not what Mr. FW and I do at present). There are a million different ways to construct a financially independent/early retired (abbreviated as FIRE) lifestyle and there’s no one right way to do it.

FIRE is calculated based upon two primary factors: your spending and your assets. The basic question is: Do you have enough in assets that a safe withdrawal rate will cover your expenses in perpetuity? There are different schools of thought on what constitutes a safe withdrawal rate and it boils down to your personal financial philosophy and your tolerance for risk

Holly and George’s FIRE number:

  • Current annual spending: $21,624

Let’s assume a 3.8% safe withdrawal rate, which is a bit more conservative than the 4% put forth in the academic Trinity Study, but I like to use this rate for people looking at retiring before age 50. With a 3.8% safe withdrawal rate, the math is: $21,624/.038 = $569,052.63.

According to this calculation, Holly and George would need $569,052.63 in assets in order to become financially independent. With that amount, they’d be able to spin 3.8% off their assets every year equal to their current annual spending of $21,624.

  • Goal assets: $569,052
  • Current assets: $186,519
  • Difference: $382,533
  • Amount needed to save every year for the next ten years: $38,253.30
  • Current annual savings (net income of $52,800 – spending of $21,624) = $31,176
  • Amount by which to increase annual savings in order to achieve goal in ten years: $7,077.30

What is not accounted for here is inflation, fluctuations in the stock market, increases in their investment portfolio, and changes in their annual spending. All of these things are likely to happen, which is one of the many reasons why I’m an advocate for overshooting your FIRE number and saving more than you think you’ll need. I cannot advise Holly and George specifically on what their FIRE number is because it’s dependent upon a slew of factors–such as their personal risk tolerance–which I cannot account for. However, this math provides the broadest of strokes for Holly and George to work from.

Disclaimer: before making such a consequential decision as retiring early, anyone–including Holly and George–should research from multiple sources, run their own numbers, and determine a rate of withdrawal that’s tenable for them. For more on the theories behind withdrawal rates, I recommend the following series from Early Retirement Now: The Ultimate Guide to Safe Withdrawal Rates.


Holly + baby

Holly and George are ROCKING the savings side of things, so I don’t have much advice to offer in this arena. But, for the sake of the Case Study, we’ll review their spending. In every single Case Study, I like to point out that what you choose to save or not save is a very personal decision.

Cutting every last expense is NOT the right answer for everyone and I am NOT an advocate for making yourself miserable in the process of achieving financial stability. I AM an advocate for values-based, goal-oriented spending. I think it’s important to assess whether all of your expenses bring you fulfillment and a good return on your investment.

I think it’s also important to question if your savings rate will allow you to achieve your long-term goals. But what you spend on? That’s a very personal choice and one you have to make for yourself. My job is to point out areas where you might be able to save, but only you can decide if that savings is right for you. If you’re struggling with where to save more and how to map out a longterm financial plan, I encourage you to take my free 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge.

Ok, with that said, let’s take a look at potential savings for Holly and George:

  • Uh, nothing?
  • Ok I’m grasping at straws here because their spending is already so low, BUT, if I take a really cut-throat approach to their spending, here are the discretionary categories that could be cut (although, full disclosure, I spend more in ALL of these categories–except for clothing–and likely wouldn’t cut them myself). BUT if Holly and George are gunning to get to FI faster, here ya go:
    • Fuel: $100/month on gas is kinda high. If George and their son can both walk to work/school from their new town house, then I’d expect to see a pretty substantial drop-off in this category. Let’s cut this in half for the purposes of this exercise and say $50.
    • Restaurants: $75/month. This is discretionary and could be eliminated.
    • Clothes: $25/month. This is discretionary and could be eliminated by sourcing all hand-me-downs for their kids and going on a clothes-buying-ban for the adults.
    • Birthday gifts: $20/month. This is discretionary and could be eliminated by going the route of handmade gifts.
    • Christmas gifts: $20/month. Ditto the above.

Total potential savings: $190 per month ($2,280 per year).

That amount is not going to make or break Holly and George, but, it’s the simple math they can employ if they desire to reduce their spending further. But again, these people are already MORE frugal than me, so I’m giving advice that I myself don’t follow! So take that with a few grains of the expensive sea salt I buy.

As noted above in their FIRE calculation, they need to increase their annual savings by $7,077.30 in order to reach FI in ten years. Saving this additional $2,280 per year would mean they’d need to make up the difference by earning an extra $4,797.30 per year, which brings us to…

Question #2: Should I go back to school for a different degree that would bring in a higher income?

I reviewed their expenses before tackling this question because I wanted to highlight that Holly and George will indeed need to increase their income in order to reach financial independence in ten years. At a certain point, you cannot frugalize any further–you have to focus on the other end of the equation and increase your income.

However, while I calculated a per-year savings rate, they could also maintain their current savings rate for several years and then have a greater increase in later years, such as after their youngest child goes to kindergarten.

I rarely give absolute advice, but I do have a concrete response to this part of Holly’s question:

An extreme plan we’ve considered is for George to quit his job and for us to move closer to family and live off of our savings for two years while I go back to school full-time and George works part time. This would be tough on George, however, as he really enjoys his current job and it would be hard for him to get hired again in his field as it’s very competitive.

My advice here is: no. Nope, nope, nope. And furthermore, nope.

George + son

Why? At present, George is earning a great income and is on an upward career trajectory. It does not make sense to halt his career, potentially thwarting his earning power forever, in order to spend money on school. I intuit that Holly would like to go back to work, and I think that is 100% possible and 100% a great idea.

I do not, however, think that having George quit makes any sense. At this point, if they want to reach financial independence, they need to manage George’s career carefully. He needs to be on the lookout for more lucrative coaching positions and head coach positions at other universities. They need to be willing to relocate their family in pursuit of these jobs. The most lucrative option–and fastest route to FI–might be for George to pursue a head coaching opportunity.

This goes back to the question: what is their ultimate goal?

If their ultimate goal is to achieve a state of financial independence that enables them NOT to work, then they need to adhere to the above math and continue increasing George’s salary. Conversely, if their ultimate goal is to achieve better work/life balance and eliminate George’s work travel, then George needs to look for a different job, likely in a slightly different field (such as high school coaching or similar) and likely with lower pay. These are essentially two completely different goals and Holly and George need to sit down and discern which is more important to them.

There is no “right” answer here, just a question of which is more important to them: absolute financial independence in ten years OR a more balanced work/life balance in the short term.

Obviously, even with a decrease in working hours and salaries, Holly and George could still achieve financial independence, it’ll just push their time horizon out longer than ten years, which might be totally fine for them. I also encourage Holly and George to outline a plan for what they want to do once they reach financial independence. I personally reached financial independence, quit my full-time job, and decided that what I love to do is write and so I wrote a book! What I’ve learned through many, many, many late night conversations with fellow FIRE friends is that we all think it’s crucial to retire to something, not just from something.

Then there’s the question at hand, which is Holly’s career.

Should Holly Finish her MA in Accounting or her Dental Hygienist Certification?

Holly has two partially completed degree programs: a master’s in accounting and a dental hygienist certification. It doesn’t sound like she has a particular affinity or great passion for either of these career paths, which is 100% fine. There are many different reasons to work: one reason is for deep fulfillment and another is, quite frankly, to earn money. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Since I think Holly’s goal is the latter–to earn money–my advice is geared toward that end goal. If Holly actually has a deep-seated desire to be an accountant, regardless of the pay or career possibilities, then this becomes a very different conversation.

If Holly’s end goal is to earn more in order to reach financial independence faster, then I vote dental hygienist for the following reasons:

  • The program is only two years long, versus the three or four years Holly noted for the MA in accounting
  • There’s a very clear career path versus a much more nebulous path with an MA in accounting
  • Dental hygienists are in demand and can work just about anywhere versus much less certainty with an MA in accounting
  • Work hours are often flexible and the pay is good versus, again, much less certainty with an MA in accounting
  • Dental hygiene is a very portable career and I imagine Holly could find work wherever George’s career takes the family. This is not to say she couldn’t accomplish that with an MA in accounting, but it seems a lot less straightforward.

But what about the free MA?

Christmas at Holly and George’s house!

Holly mentioned that since George works at the university, she’s eligible for free tuition on her MA in accounting. The hitch, however, if that she would still owe taxes on this degree. An undergraduate degree would, in fact, be totally free, but a graduate degree is counted as taxable income.

And since George works for a private university, I imagine the tuition is not cheap. How do I know this? Because I worked full-time at a private university (American University in DC) in order to earn my Master’s degree for free–well, almost for free because I paid approximately $13,500 in taxes over the two years it took me to earn my degree. Still a deal and still much, much, much cheaper than paying tuition (which for my MA would’ve been around $64,000), but still not 100% free.

I do not know how much dental hygienist school costs, but since it’s a shorter time frame, it very well might be a wash as compared with the taxes on an MA. Worth doing the math. However, even if the MA is cheaper, I still prefer dental hygiene for the job security, earning power, and portability.

How Much Could Holly Earn?

I did a quick google search on dental hygienists and found this helpful information on what the position entails per the American Dental Association. According to US News & World Report, dental hygienists “made a median salary of $74,070 in 2017. The best-paid 25 percent made $88,820 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $61,230.” Not too shabby! In fact, quite great! I also found this salary chart, which reports that dental hygienists in Virginia made, on average, around $72,425 in 2019.

I am, obviously, not a dental hygienist, but I’m willing to bet there are some Frugalwoods readers out there who are and so… please chime in and help Holly out!!!!!!

Question #3: Should we get rid of our second car or would that not make much of a difference without us increasing our income?

Without crunching a single number, I’m pretty sure this would be negligible. Holly and George did the right thing with both of their cars:

They bought them used and paid for them in full.

That’s pretty much the alpha and the omega of how not to screw up car buying. Holly and George nailed it. This means they don’t have monthly car payments, they’re not suffering the steep depreciation of new cars, and they avoided the opportunity cost of overpaying on a new car. Since both of their cars are older, not worth all that much money, and not very expensive to insure, I don’t think selling a car would make all that much of a difference to their bottom line.

However, if they move to the townhouse that’s walking distance to George’s work, then when one of their cars bites the dust, they might choose to not fix it or replace it. That could be the juncture at which they really save a bundle. Even a used car costs money and so if they don’t replace the car that bites it first, that could be the easiest way to accrue savings.

Read more on why buying used cars is genius here.

Question #4: Does anyone have advice on staying sane and frugal with a traveling spouse (and two young children)?

Kiddo on a mission

Oh this is a good one. I hope we get some excellent advice in the comments section because I too struggle with this. My husband doesn’t travel anywhere near the amount that George does, but I have a hard time every time he does! And he feels the same when I travel (most recently I was in NYC for four days and he held down the home front with both kids with aplomb).

It’s not easy to shift from having two parents at home to one parent and it puts a major burden on the parent at home. That being said, it sounds like travel is the reality for Holly and George right now given his career path. Again, as I mentioned above, it’s certainly worth it for Holly and George to discuss whether the ultimate goal is financial independence or the elimination of work-related travel.

In the meantime, here are the things I do when Mr. FW is out of town that help ease the pain:

  • Make plans with friends! Lots of plans! I make playdate plans with friends during the day, which helps alleviate some of the pressure of parenting alone and also ensures I see another adult. I then make phone date plans with my friends for the evenings after the kids are in bed. It’s a chance for me to catch up with old friends and gives me something to look forward to at the end of a difficult day. Mr. FW is less likely to make plans when I’m away, but I certainly prefer to, so to each their own
  • Plan special food! Mr. FW and I both like to do this when the other parent is absent. Since our kids are super young, “special food” is not really all that special, it’s just simple, yummy stuff that we don’t normally eat for dinner, such as:
    • Boxed mac-n-cheese
    • Peanut butter sandwiches
    • Whole wheat pasta with store-bought tomato sauce
    • Like I said, not really all that exciting, unless you are a three-year-old and a one-year old, in which case this is very jazzy food.
    • Bonus is that this is all cheap and can be made at home, but doesn’t need to be made from scratch (most of the time we cook everything from scratch, but not when we’re solo parenting)
  • Stick to the routine! We like to stick to our daily routine as much as possible even though having one parent absent throws things off quite a bit. Maintaining consistency keeps the kids in line and helps the day flow more smoothly.
  • Let things slide! I do not get as much done when Mr. FW is out of town and he does not get as much done when I am out of town. Things are not always cleaned up and things are not always done. That is ok. We are, for the record, still recovering from my trip to NYC last week…

Visiting Family: Airbnb Opportunity?

Holly noted that she often travels to visit family when George is out of town and that she’s worried these trips are costing a lot of money. Here’s an idea: could she Airbnb their apartment while she’s gone? This could be a phenomenal way to leverage George’s absences and negate the cost of gas for the drive. I know Holly has rented out their apartment on Airbnb before, so I’m wondering if she has considered this. I’m guessing that they know George’s travel dates ahead of time (since I assume they operate on game/tournament schedules) and so, I wonder if it would be feasible for her to open up the apartment on Airbnb for his specific travel dates.

Alternately, I wonder if Holly could invite family to come stay with her for some of the dates that George is gone? Again, especially if she has his schedule for the school year ahead of time, maybe she could brainstorm with family on when they could come to her and when she could go to them.

Making Friends

Holly also noted that she would like some advice on making friends and I think that could be a wonderful way for her to feel less alone when George is out of town. I am heavily reliant on my local network of friends and neighbors and wouldn’t be able to survive without them–whether Mr. FW is traveling or not!

Since I’ve moved a lot (but am NEVER moving again… hah!), here are the ways that I’ve made friends in new places:

  • Find the free baby playgroups. There are tons of free baby groups happening in just about every town in America. Check out your local libraries, museums, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and churches to see where the groups are in your area. There are likely sing-a-longs, story hours, parent support groups, and more–all free! Start attending and introduce yourself to other parents. Thankfully, kids make this easy because they have no problem crawling up to other kids and licking them. So, ya know, that tends to break the ice.
  • Find your local online parents’ groups. Most of my online parent groups are run through Facebook and they’re an excellent resource for hand-me-downs, local events, local playgroups, and friendships.
  • Volunteer. I do all of my volunteer work from home right now (because kids), but it still plugs me into my community and introduces me to lots of people.
  • Join a religious institution or community group. If religion is your thing, consider joining a religious institution that has an active congregation. I’ve made lots of friends through my church and it gives me both spiritual nurture and community engagement. Plus, we’re up early with our kids on Sundays anyway, so we might as well take them to church ;).
  • Randomly introduce yourself to other parents with kids. This is my go-to move and I’ve met some of my closest friends this way. I’ve also gotten a few strange looks. But for the most part, if you are out and about with your kids and you see me out and about with my kids, I am going to be very happy to chat with you. And my baby is probably going to try and lick your baby. Just sayin.

Renting: The Right Move

George selling off some of their great trash finds

Holly didn’t ask about this, but I have to highlight the fact that she and George made an EXCELLENT choice to rent as opposed to buy a home. Since it seems likely they’ll move frequently in pursuit of a head coaching position for George, it could be financially catastrophic for them to own a home.

The fact that they’ve been paying super low rent all these years means they’ve been able to save a downright impressive amount of money. If they’d sunk a ton into buying a home, their financial independence horizon would be much further out, if not impossible.

If Holly and George want to buy a home once they’re no longer moving for jobs, I’ll offer the advice that it’s tough to qualify for a mortgage without a W2 job. It would most likely behoove Holly and George to get a mortgage before they both quit their jobs, if–and only if–they want to buy a home. There’s no need to own a home in order to be financially independent and plenty of FIRE folks choose to be lifelong renters.

Should They Move?

Holly noted that their rent is increasing to $915 and, as a result, they plan to move to a townhouse where the rent is $755. This is a slam dunk financially, but I get the sense that it might not be a good decision for Holly’s well being, which is of great importance. Holly noted that they hate to leave their current apartment complex because she has lots of friends with young children there.

On one hand, the townhouse is cheaper and is walking distance to George’s job and their son’s school, which could reduce their commuting time and costs. On the other hand, Holly mentioned that the townhouse’s carpets are disgusting and that they’re not sure if the landlord will clean them.

Holly and George are not in a dire financial position. In fact, they’ve put themselves in an excellent financial position thanks to their years of committed frugality. In light of this, they can make a decision that’s not entirely based on what’s cheapest. Yes, $915 is more expensive than what they’ve been paying, but it’s not untenable for them. They’re currently paying $685 in rent, so this would be a $230 increase in their monthly spending, which as we noted above, is quite low.

Current spending of $1,802 + rent increase of $230 = new monthly spending of $2,032 ($24,384 per year)

Current monthly income of $4,400 – $2,032 (projected new monthly spending with rent increase) = $2,368 in monthly savings

$2,368 monthly savings / $4,400 monthly income = a whopping  53.8% % savings rate, which is PHENOMENAL

They can swing this financially. Yes, it’s going to require adjustments to the financial independence math I outlined above, but it is tenable for them and won’t put them in any sort of financial danger.

At the end of the day, the reason for frugality is to allow us to make choices that aren’t based solely on money. Financial freedom is the ability to do things we want to do, not things we must do. If it were me, I probably wouldn’t move because I can’t put a price on living near friends in a home that I enjoy.

Asset Allocation and Money Management 101

In addition to the expense review, I’ve started doing an overall asset allocation review in every Reader Case Study. Below are the basic money management steps I advise just about everyone to follow. I’ve made notes of where Holly and George are on each step and, spoiler alert, they’re crushing it.

  1. Track your expenses religiously. Know exactly what you’re spending every month. If you’re not tracking your spending, you can sign-up for the free service Personal Capital, which is what I use and recommend for expense tracking (affiliate link).
    • Holly and George are already doing this. Hooray! If you’d like to know more about how Personal Capital works, check out my full review.
  2. Pay off high interest debt. List all of your debts in a spreadsheet and sort by interest rate. Prioritize paying them off in order of highest interest rate first.
    • Holly and George don’t have any debt. Hooray!
  3. Build an emergency fund. An emergency fund should be kept in an easily-accessible bank account, such as a checking or savings account, NOT in investments, retirement funds, or cars/houses/expensive china. An emergency fund is money you can access immediately in an emergency. I recommend saving three to six months’ worth of expenses (meaning three to six months worth of what you spend every month, which is why it’s important to do #1: track your expenses).
    • Holly and George have a combined $16,470 in cash savings (meaning in a savings or checking account). At their current rate of spending, $1,802 per month, this would cover them for nine months, which is a tad overboard. They might consider funneling more of this cash into their brokerage accounts.
  4. Contribute to retirement accounts. Especially if your employer matches your contributions, putting money into a 401k or 403b is a no-brainer. Here’s more on why: 401ks Are Your Friend: Demystifying Personal Finance Part 3.
    • Holly and George are rocking this out! George contributes to his employer-sponsored 403b and they both have IRAs and Roth IRAs. Way to go!!!!
  5. Start investing! Investing in the stock market is how you grow your wealth. Without this crucial step, you won’t reap the advantages of compounding interest and you’re unlikely to build your net worth in a meaningful way. I personally invest in low-fee total market index funds through the brokerage of Fidelity. Vanguard offers a similar product. You can do this yourself (it’s just like any other form of online banking) and there are more details here: For the Love of Frugal Hound, Manage Your Money Yourself! (by following The Simple Path to Wealth).
    • Holly and George are spot on with this! Since Holly didn’t note exactly which securities they hold through Vanguard, she should double check to make sure they are invested in low-fee total market index funds.
  6. Explore other options for investing in order to achieve diversification. After completing steps 1-5, you should continue investing in your low-fee index funds (and rebalancing them) on a regular basis (I recommend automating this process) and you can also start to look around for diversification options. This might include, for example, real estate. Mr. FW and I rent out our home in Cambridge, MA for a profit. Renting a property can be a fabulous financial decision and it can also be an absolutely abysmal one. It depends on many factors, including the rate of return you’d receive. For more on renting out properties, I recommend the site BiggerPockets, which discusses real estate investing.
    • Holly and George aren’t quite here yet, and so they might consider more diversification in the future. That decision will really depend on what they decide to do regarding financial independence.
  7. Analyze your income. Concurrent with all of this should be an analysis of your net income (that means the dollar amount you bring home every month, minus taxes and any other withholdings). In some cases, the best route to financial stability will be to increase your income while also lowering your expenses. Income is the crucial second piece to this equation and, the more you make, the more you can save. That’s a solid math fact.
    • Holly and George are well aware of this piece of the puzzle.

Savings Accounts Side Note

One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to keep it in a high-interest savings account. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources because your money is sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:

  • Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
  • Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 just by having your money in a high-interest account.

And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person. Be the person who earns money while sleeping. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.

Separate Accounts

I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite as many separate accounts as Holly and George have. This is not a criticism, but an observation. I’m wondering why they have so many duplicate accounts (two brokerage accounts, several checking accounts, several savings accounts). They may very well wish to keep their finances separate, which is totally fine, but if they’re not consciously choosing to have separate finances, I suggest they combine all of their duplicate accounts for the sake of simplicity. In order to see how much they hold in each category, I made a few spreadsheets for clarity:

Rundown of Assets Sorted By Type Of Account:

Account Amount Type Of Account
529 college savings accounts for our kids $2,282 529
Holly’s Checking $6,985 Cash
George’s Savings $5,528 Cash
George’s Checking $3,957 Cash
HAS (health savings account) $2,440 HSA
George’s 403b $39,003 Retirement
George’s Roth IRA $34,272 Retirement
Holly’s Roth IRA $24,313 Retirement
Holly’s IRA $14,694 Retirement
George’s IRA $6,246 Retirement
Holly’s Brokerage Account $29,579 Taxable Investments
George’s Brokerage Account $17,220 Taxable Investments
Total: $186,519

Rundown Of Total Asset Amounts by Account Type:

Account Amount Type Of Account
George’s Retirement $79,521 Total sum of George’s 403b, Roth IRA, and IRA
Taxable Investments $46,799 Combination of Holly’s and George’s Brokerage Accounts
Holly’s Retirement $39,007 Total sum of Holly’s Roth IRA and IRA
Total Cash $16,470 Combination of all savings and checking accounts
HSA (health savings account) $2,440 HSA
529 college savings accounts for our kids $2,282 529
Total: $186,519

Credit Card Strategy

Holly is doing a fantastic job managing their credit card strategy. She is paying off their credit card bills in full every single month (which is a must do) and, she is earning cash back rewards on her cards. This is the way to roll! I too manage my credit cards in order to take advantage of cash back strategies and you can read more about my approach here.

Summary Advice:

Holly and George are in an extraordinarily superb position. I am deeply impressed with their frugality and their commitment to building a stable financial future for their family. I hope they are proud of the work they’ve done and take comfort in the wise decisions they’ve made. Here’s my summary advice for their next steps:

  1. Decide whether or not you want to move.
    • Run the numbers and contemplate.
    • Remember that the reason you’ve been saving money all this time is to allow yourself to make some choices that are NOT based on money.
    • Your happiness is important and, in fact, it’s priceless (How’s that for cheesy? But I am being serious here, Holly!).
  2. Determine your longterm goal.
    • Is it to achieve financial independence in 10 years? If so, what do you want to do after achieving FI?
    • Or is the goal to find a career for George that doesn’t involve travel?
  3. Based on the results of your goal-setting session:
    • Determine where George could go to advance his career and increase his salary in order to reach FI faster
    • Or, determine what career George could transition to that wouldn’t involve as much travel
  4. Figure out where and when Holly can complete her dental hygiene certification, assuming that’s what she wants to pursue.
  5. Decide if you’d like to further frugalize and save on the expenses I outlined above.
  6. Combine your identical bank accounts unless you’re consciously keeping your money separate.
  7. Consider funneling more of your cash into your brokerage accounts since your emergency fund is quite large.
  8. Brainstorm ideas to improve Holly’s time home alone with the kids while George is traveling.

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Holly? She and I will both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!

Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (mrs@frugalwoods.com) your brief story and we’ll talk.

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  1. Frequently home alone in an apartment with two small children for days is NO JOKE from a mental health standpoint. I homeschool a 6 and 4 year old, my husband takes several multiday trips a year plus one or two evenings per week (nothing like the level of travel you’re talking about), and I’m not a very social person either. It’ll make you crazy. Two things have helped me greatly: we have an AWESOME homeschool group here, full of women who want to talk about goats all day like I do (and then text one last goat question after 3 hours at the park talking about goats). We do between 1 and 4 activities a week with these folks, and my children get tons of quality best friend time with kids of all ages, hours and hours longer than they would have in school. For nonsocial people, skipping the shallow relationships and seeking another mom or two who cares about what you care about is the only way to go. She might be hard to find and befriend, but it’s like looking for a spouse: seek a good fit, don’t waste your time on every potential opportunity. Two: absences are HELL with littles, but they get a lot easier when the smallest one ages up. Mrs. Frugalwood’s suggestions are great. Dad’s weekly night out is mac and cheese night, which preserves his blood sugar (because he’s not here) and gets me extra cooperation at dinner. If you have to bust the routine a little or spend extra to keep your sanity, well it’s much cheaper than inpatient psychiatric care. When you’re alone with littles, it’s easy to feel like life is intolerable and you NEED to quit jobs/move states/change everything, but the problems would just come with you, and the only thing to do is wait it out and thoroughly enjoy the parts that don’t suck.

    1. AMEN! Fellow homeschool mom here, and guess what? If you’re staying at home with a four year old and you’re teaching that kiddo some stuff and making sure they’re a good human than you’re a homeschool mom too. Go ahead and join all the homeschool groups. I’ve been living in my city for 6 months after a major cross-country move for my husband’s job. I’ve met tons of wonderful moms through homeschool groups and events.

      My husband travels for work very infrequently. I can assure you that your reaction to your husband being out of town is totally normal. Solidarity!!!

    2. What Kara said.
      I’m a sahm to 3, and we stay in our high cost of living area for my mental health. I have a strong network here- I broke my ankle a month ago, and every night friends have brought us dinner. We cut other corners because our neighborhood is so valuable to us.

      A friend’s mom literally had a nervous breakdown after moving to the suburbs with her littles 50 years ago. She did what she thought she was supposed to do, but the cost was so high; she’s still fragile decades later.

      Besides handing my cell phone number out like candy, the best way I met other moms was through my local gym. It had a free daycare, so the other sahms exploited it. I noticed which kids my toddler loved, and I in turn became good friends with their moms.
      Also, once your kid starts school you get instant acquaintances with the other parents in the same classroom.
      Good luck, mama! Small kids are exhausting, and they’re more than a full time job.

      1. Hi Alia, I love that idea of gym friends with children. I have heard that our local YMCA has free childcare while you work out and if we do end up moving to a townhouse instead of our apartment that has a gym this could be a great way to keep working out and have activities/playtime for my kids!
        Thank you!

    3. Kara, I’m not a mom yet, but can I sit around and talk about goats with you too?
      Even though I’m not a mom, I feel your pain. I work with kids all day and sometimes just feel the need to have an adult conversation. However, I’m introverted and don’t like people lol. The struggle is real!

      1. You are invited! All goat people welcome!! But actually you’ll have to excuse me because right now I have to go milk, then feed baby goats, then drive 5 hours to buy new goats. Not kidding.

    4. Hello Kara, Holly here- than you so much. I am cry/laughing through reading this..you are so dead on. We are going on day six of my husband being gone and just last night after my son wouldn’t eat his dinner I put the kids in the bath and sat down next to them and just cried like a baby and text my Mom asking her if we could come put a tiny house on her property lol. So safe to say, spending a little more here and there on self care may save us loads in the long run 🙂 I can quickly go to extreme all or nothing thinking when my mental state isn’t at it’s best. I love yours and Liz’s suggestions to do special dinners while spouse is out of town. Nights are honestly the hardest since everybody is already tired. I also loved your suggestions to to make a few friends that have similar interests already. I have gone to free babygarten classes at our library and have often left feeling lonelier after participating in the shallow conversations there-which I will readily admit is my own fault but maybe would be easier if it was a group of peeps with similar interests instead of starting at ground zero.Thank you so much for your helpful feedback and encouragement! -Holly

      1. Not your fault at all! Talking to strangers totally triggers that flight or fight thing for less social people, which is hugely stressful. And that all or nothing thinking is also a sign of serious stress or panic. Sometimes it has helped me to carefully notice it, and say to myself, “ok, major mental stress, no big decisions now, time to do whatever is easiest at the moment, like have cheese and apples and crackers for the next 3 meals.” My parents lived in Alaska until last fall, and we live in North Carolina, and I have to say, raising babies without grandma is a thing humans are just not equipped to do. There’s good reasons the child death statistics are so bad in this country- so many people without support is an absolute disaster, and it really is no joke. If the worst that’s happening so far is you’re crying by the tub, well that’s wild success, and I am applauding you!!

        1. Thank you Kara, you have some very helpful and wise words to share. I’m happy to report that since getting so much feedback I think I’ve seen some patterns -particularly that it’s possible I’ve used frugalness as an excuse to stay away from putting myself out there a bit and am making a conscious effort to change that. Went to babygarten twice now! First time was not great but second time was more enjoyable and a woman even asked if I was going to be back next time!! lol (it’s the little things) I have also filled out the YMCA application and am going to join so I will no longer have an excuse to not exercise/be around people when my spouse is away or at home 🙂
          ..and Alaska!- that’s not even impromptu road trip driving distance :/ glad they are closer now…family, or friends that are like family really are such a huge blessing. It does seem like more and more people move away from family for work opportunities and it’s easy to not realize how important it is to have some type of social support system wherever you go.

      2. Mom of a 4 yo here who can’t imagine being a SAHM because by Sunday night I’m dying to get out of the house … the best advice I ever heard was from an old school pediatrician. “Your only obligation is to get the child and food together 3 times a day.” They’ll eat when they’re hungry! (Unless of course your child has sensory or medical issues that you didn’t mention.) Seriously it sounds like you are doing great and deserve a break.

      3. Is it possible for you to live closer to relatives so you are happier when your husband is working away?

  2. Make local friends online. Join local mom’s groups online and then gather your courage and go to one of their get-togethers. Facebook, Nextdoor, etc are all godsends to those of us who are introverted and have social phobia.

  3. I am a Single Mom by Choice (SMC), so it has always been just me and my two boys (now teens). When they were young I made it point to invite friends over, especially on the weekends. I have learned that its you want company, you have to take charge and simply ask people to join you for lunch or dinner, even if you are not a social person! I often invited single friends over for dinner and they enjoyed reading to my boys before bed- giving me a nice break from the nightly routine. As your kids get older there will be more and more activities in their lives, which means that there will be groups of people that you begin to see over and over. Try to find someone you connect with and simply invite them over or invite them to go for a walk, meet at a playground, go to a children’s museum – whatever it is you like to do with your kids!

    1. Hey Monica, I’m so happy you responded…whenever I am finding myself having a pity party I think of a single Mom from my son’s class that has 3 children and does everything on her own and I realize I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. I agree that I need to make more of an effort to invite people over, I have casually said that we should get together with other mom’s but I need to just start following through. Once I did it a few times I’m sure it wouldn’t seem like such a big deal as I’ve made it to be in my mind 🙂
      Thank you!-Holly

      1. Hey Holly, I don’t know if you’re still following this, but I’ll add my 2c here just in case. If you’re inviting people over don’t forget these things: (1) every parent will understand if your house looks like children live there & out-number adults if your husband is away, & most will appreciate moving straight into being real and not having to put up a front. If they criticise your housekeeping you don’t want to hang out with them anyway. (2) having people over doesn’t have to be a lot of added work. Share it out, be willing to ask people to bring something. (3) hanging out with other families is awesome because the kids sometimes entertain each other. Sometimes they fight, but the more used they get to each other the easier it gets.

        It isn’t easy having a travelling spouse, It really throws out the routine. Having a different routine that suited me for those evenings is what worked for me. It took time to develop, but because it was often (even though not regular) we would just click into ‘Dad’s away routine’. I was more relaxed about things like cleaning & TV & sometimes we had ‘sleepovers’ where we all slept in the same room as a fun thing. These may not be the same choices you make, but the main point is to be gentle on yourself.

        1. Thank you Mel! I have been trying out several of the suggestions (joined the Y) and so far everything has been going well. George actually just got a job offer at a large Division I school so we are busy planing our move to a new state! I am already planning to make a stronger effort from the start this time to get connected to our new community.

          1. Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting! I hope you submit an update so we can see how things have changed for you!

    2. Hey Monica, I’m so happy you responded…whenever I am finding myself having a pity party I think of a single Mom from my son’s class that has 3 children and does everything on her own and I realize I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. I agree that I need to make more of an effort to invite people over, I have casually said that we should get together with other mom’s but I need to just start following through. Once I did it a few times I’m sure it wouldn’t seem like such a big deal as I’ve made it to be in my mind 🙂
      Thank you!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, Holly! It’s amazing that you manage to keep your expenses so low. I don’t think you have a saving problem. You’re doing your best with frugality.

    I think both you and Georgia can work on the income side of the equation. As Mrs. Frugalwoods mentioned, George can try applying for a new position that pays better with less travel elsewhere. I know he travels a lot, but in his free time, maybe he can learn a new skill to pick up a side hustle or switch careers if he desires too.

    I know it’s hectic with two kids. But on your down time when the kids are asleep, you might want to learn a new skill that doesn’t require a degree. There are lots of them out there. A quick Google search will return lots of results you can consult. It will also help you feel less lonely when Georgia is not at home.

    Best of luck!

    1. Lynda.com
      Check with your library – they have free membership to Lynda and other wonderful learning management systems

  5. Holly, I believe you are ROCKING it and I commend you for keeping such a tight rein on your spending! You go, girl!
    You MUST get out and meet more people. Everyone is not going to be a BFF, and that’s OK. You’re looking for other young moms to talk to, share child care with, and generally hang out with, not necessarily future guardians for your children! (Sorry for the snark.) Many local libraries have story time, and that would be a good way for you to get out of the house and for the kids to meet other kiddos. How about your house of worship? Even if you aren’t a regular attendee, many offer a “Mom’s Day Out” or something similar. Even one get-together a week will do wonders for you.
    Now as to your career: My cousin has been a dental hygienist for ages, and she’s been able to set her own schedule. It was a godsend when her kids were young. Now that the kids are grown, she can work as much or as little as she wants. The job pays very well, and she has a great boss and wonderful coworkers. In fact, most jobs in the allied health fields pay decently and can be flexible. In view of this, plus the shorter time line for earning a certificate, I’d go for the dental hygienist rather than the MA in Accounting.
    Now — pretend I’m your favorite aunt: I got the feeling, reading through your case study, that you skew to the perfectionist end of the spectrum. Don’t feel bad — I’m a recovering perfectionist, too. So I want you to do some real thoughtful self-study. A career should be satisfying, but it doesn’t need to be ideal. I’ve had 3 or 4 careers in my 63 years on this planet, and they all had their good points and their bad points. Personally, I could dig a ditch for a living provided I was working with good people.
    Discover what appeals to you about each job (dental hygienist or accounting), bearing in mind that money isn’t everything. Remember too, that you don’t have to choose between these two jobs! Perhaps a different job in the allied health fields would be more up your alley. Or perhaps you’d rather earn your MA in Fine Arts or something. I would say, DO NOT go back to school until you are clearer in your own mind what you want to do.
    Sorry this ran so long, but I have a daughter named Holly, too, and this is the advice I would give her. Whatever you decide, know that we are all cheering you on.

    1. Thank you (Aunt) Kate! Yes, I would agree with you that I am skewed to being a bit obsessive/perfectionistic about things which I try to remind myself is probably the reason that we have been able to be so frugal but it is also probably the reason I don’t have many friends/career. Quite a few jobs I’ve had, have ended pretty quickly when I got too obsessed with the fact that they weren’t a “perfect” fit. That is encouraging to hear about your cousin who is a dental hygienist- especially about her schedule. That was one of the main things that originally drew me into that field. The closest dental hygienist school from here is 45 minutes away but I have a feeling we may be in for another move in the next year or two so I will definitely look into this if so.
      Thank you so much for your feedback and encouragement! -Holly

  6. I read this part of the article and started crying: I’ve been struggling with purpose lately as I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost five years now. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be with my kids all the time, but I also feel like I should be contributing to the world in some other way but haven’t a clue where to start. I’m trying to figure out if I should go back to school for a different degree that would bring in a higher income. Looking back, I regret not making my education/career a priority before having multiple kiddos.

    I read no further. I am at my desk, own my own CPA firm, have 3 children college age. I had worked a little part-time & mostly full-time and over/over-time during the past 23 years of raising our children. PLEASE do not feel like you are missing out. I had just sent an email to a colleague prior to reading your email of how overtired & overwhelmed I am and that I am desperately trying to find a balance of work/life so I can FINALLY enjoy my family this summer as I realize life is whipping by me. The other day in the shower it came to me that I should have stayed home with my kids (I love being a mom) and gone to college when they headed off to college…or maybe when they hit high school started college as part-time. The world changes so quickly and so many many different types of jobs/careers out there. I heard it over the past 23 years: slow down, enjoy your kids, they will not be home forever.

    Find some time for you away from the kids so you feel adult and have connection. But if you enjoy being mom at home I would highly suggest putting any job out of home on hold until kids as at school (mothers hours only).

    That is my 2 cents from a mom who truly feels she has missed out on too much while trying to do the career thing. Yes, there are benefits to the career but truly when all is said and done….it was just money and stuff. I would have rather stayed home. And I know that to be true as I said it along the way but just kept in the career track and tried to do it all. Think carefully of what you truly want and need out of life. Being the mom in your children’s life is the ultimate purpose – they will need you even more as they hit middle & high school ages. My kids and family are all great —- I am not – I miss what I could have had and it is hitting me now that that part of my life is no longer an option.

    1. Hi Kandi,
      Just 2c worth from a stranger…
      Don’t underestimate the value of the example you set, as a working mom. You say your kids and family are all great, and I’m sure that is in no small part thanks to you! You say you are not, I truly hope you find peace. Maybe start by being kind to yourself, and acknowledging the great job you did.

      1. Thanks for your words of wisdom. I am finding peace….just one of those days thinking about work/life. I am making a concerted effort on ‘family & friends first’ these days and it feels really good. On setting an example: I am now trying to put more emphasis on family/connection with my kids any chance I can throw it in there. I tell them how I am making changes and why. So hopefully any ‘mistakes’ I have made they can steer clear:) Older and wiser….

    2. Hello Kandi, Thank you so much for your encouragement and for sharing where you are at It is easy to get focused in on the “financial” sides of things but you are right on when you said that in the end it is all just money and stuff. Most of my motivation for wanting an income/career comes down to me wanting to hit financial freedom sooner so my husband can also have the ability to be around while our children are still children. If we didn’t have kids, I don’t think we would care too much about being this frugal.
      It sounds like you are great as well as your family Kandi, I’m sure your children have grown up having a great example of a hard working Mother which is HUGE. Thank you and I am sure I will come back to read these comments for encouragement in the future 🙂 -Holly

    3. Hi Kandi, thank you so much for your post. It is so sweet to hear you talk about your family and hear your words of encouragement. I come from a family where both of my parents worked a ton growing up since they had their own business and I was always very proud of my parents because I could see how hardworking they were. They did miss quite a few events/would forget to pick me up from school at times but I will forever be thankful that they were able to pay for my college and give me a great starting point in life that many just don’t get. I am sure your kids feel/will feel the same. Hopefully you will have lots of times with them in their adult years now:) I will keep your advice in mind to enjoy all the years I get with my kids while they are young!
      Thank you so much!

    4. Kandi,

      I am in a very similar place as you and I have similar feelings. I am a CFO with three kids ages 19 to 26. I know many professional working moms who wish they had spent more time with their children when they were younger. However I can’t think of any of my friends who were SAHMs who regret that they stayed home with their kids.

      1. Dipping my foot into the culture wars for a moment but I find it interesting that no father ever says they wish they had spent more time with the kids when they were younger (i.e. work career).

        Anyways beyond that my only comment is to peruse more income. 10 years of hard graft and you’re free for the rest of your life.

        1. Thank you Rob from Germany! That is a very interesting observation 🙂 My own Dad will now admit that he has some guilt about the amount he worked when his children were young but he doesn’t seem to dwell on that for very long or very often. Maybe it has more to do with the way men are applauded for working. I remember right after I chose to quit my full time job a well intentioned family member said good for you, this will be so much better for your family. I almost felt like they were telling me I was hurting my family by choosing to work-I wonder if they would have said the same thing if my spouse had been the one to stay home.
          Thank you for commenting!

  7. Not what you asked but I just want to comment on the following, which I hear a lot from other SAHMs: “However, we realized I wasn’t earning enough to justify the expense of daycare and weekend babysitters” No, childcare is an expense for both parents, and unfortunately this kind of rationalization often leads lower-paid women to quit their jobs and thus lower their earning potential for the foreseeable future. I really wish we had better, more inexpensive options for childcare in the U.S., but for now, I encourage you to think of childcare payments as an investment in your careers, as it sounds like you both want to be out of the house right now.

    No advice on the savings as you spend so little! If George were to find a job with less travel, hopefully that will free you up to finish the classes that you need and then you will be able to bring in more money to make up for any pay differentials.

    1. Thank you so much for saying this! It was exactly my thought when I read this line, too. I’ve never heard of a male partner having to justify his continued working career when he makes the same salary as a female partner. If you want to be a SAHM, then find a way to make it happen, but daycare is a joint expense, not just a woman’s because moms traditionally stayed home.

    2. I would agree with Marina on this bit, especially once your oldest is in school. I don’t know how it is in your area, but often there are other SAHM who do in-home daycare to supplement their income–many times because they may be moms who don’t even have a college degree that is often required for so many entry-level jobs. Sometimes what they charge can be significantly less than what regular daycare charges (in my Philly burb area, I’ve seen $100-$150 a week for one child in day care in such situations–generally another kid is about 50-75% more). Obviously, it requires knowing the person, but if you come across a mom who does this whom you trust, it’s a good option for child care.

      So long as your daycare costs are not MORE than the cost of your salary, it can be hurting your own career chances by not working. If you can get into a dental assistant program now like what is recommended, then go for it. But if there is no program close enough to continue that career, perhaps working at the university or any other office job in the area, even if for only $14/hr, may end up helping you get a better job down the road (especially if you do end up relocating to a different university). When women leave the work force, they are not only losing an income–they are leaving years of salary increases and job potential. When that’s done by the woman’s decision, I commend that. But it’s always worth remembering that.

      The other option, of course, is trying to get a remote work job. There are endless options in that regard, so long as you have high-speed internet, although anything on the phone (like a customer service agent) would require privacy from needy children. SAHM Facebook groups or local mom groups in your area might be good places for recommendations for such work.

      1. I agree with a lot of what you said, but I’d be leery of using the mom groups to look for work. A lot of them try to direct people to sign up for MLMs, which are terrible financially. Holly is already savvy so she probably knows this, but I see a lot of predatory behavior in them. It’s tough because the attitude that a woman should stay home/her salary isn’t worth the day care expense leads a lot of mothers to stay home but wanting to contribute financially. The MLMs prey on that desire.

    3. Thank you Marina! There is a great documentary on Netflix called “Explained: Why women are paid less” where it discusses in great detail how there is a such a thing as a “motherhood penalty”. If i had trained for a career (like Nursing) and started and then quit when I started having children I would agree with you but that wan’t really my scenario. I graduated with a general degree in Health Promotions and wasn’t able to find a position in my field so I just settled into entry level positions early on. I should have gone back to school then like so many of my classmates did but instead I started having children.
      I think it’s also important to point out that when I was saying we couldn’t justify the expense of childcare-we also meant we couldn’t justify the emotional expense that childcare was taking on our family. I think it would have been manageable if my husband didn’t travel for work but because he travels so much I was constantly asking my employer for special hours in order to pick up my son before daycare closed or scrambling to find a sitter on the random weekends I would have to work. Ultimately I chose to quit and decided if I was going to work again I needed to go back to school to get a more professional job with a better schedule/and better pay.
      Thank you!

    4. Marina–I take your point, and if both partners WANT to be working, and both partners make approximately the same wage, then I agree with you completely. However, for a couple to look at childcare needs and then decide that having two income-earners actually costs them more money or zeroes out the finances, then it’s perfectly reasonable for one partner to be an at-home parent. When my husband and I looked at our finances more closely, I realized I was working 60+ hours a week and only making $6 per month. That was not a typo. SIX DOLLARS PER MONTH after we had paid for a nanny. Since I wanted to be home anyway and saw out-of-home work as a sacrifice, the decision to HS/SAHM was a no-brainer for us. Obviously, it’s not the right decision for everyone. But it’s not an unreasonable choice for folks who have thought it through carefully.

  8. I stayed home with my 3 kids for 10 years and worried so much about saving every $5 etc. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about it. They’re in school now, I’m older, and found a part time flexible job and am a great employee for my boss bc of all the transferable skills I developed at home. Multitasking, budgeting, communication, organization of home and schedules, writing, and on and on. It feels at the time like you have to do everything at once, but I just want to encourage you that you ARE growing as a person while you spend time with your kids and if you pay attention, you’ll realize you are growing professionally too, even without extra degrees. Also, I wish I had thought about nannying part time. It takes a couple weeks to adjust to the extra person around, but once you do, you just go about your life and make money doing it.

    1. Hey Katherine, Thank you..I have thought about the nannying in the past. I have hesitated from doing that because you lose the ability to just jump in the car and go out of town when someone else is depending on your daily for childcare but as my children get older this could be an option worth exploring. I could even look into jobs at our local preschools where I could work part time and my youngest could go with me.
      Thank you!

      1. Hi there, not sure if others have mentioned it, but I recently saw some comments from a FB Group for teaching English online as a side hustle. I think it’s around $10/30 min session and you get to control how many sessions you teach. So it’s highly flexible. That specific program requires a bachelor degree but could be in any field. Just throwing the idea out there.

  9. This couple is doing a fabulous job of saving for a rainy day. I remember the days when my kids were little and I was home alone most days and weekends with two small children. Keep visiting family and have them visit you as well. Do not think of the gas money as an expense, think of it as self care. School for the children will bring lots of activity, interaction, and purpose. It really alleviated my depression.

    One thing that stuck out to me was that there was a $4000 refund from IRS. If that is a one time thing, it is fine, but if not change your W-4 to increase your take home pay. You are making an interest free loan to the government. The extra take home pay could be invested in your Vanguard depending on their purchasing rules or ease the burden of higher rent.

    Overall, great job!

    1. Thank you Teresa, I am definitely going to check on our tax deduction allocations. We do not pay in $4,000 worth of taxes every year but there is room for us to get less taxes taken out for sure.
      I agree that there will be more going on once both kids start school. I will also start working then so that will change things.
      Thank you so much for your advice!

  10. One career I would suggest looking into is nursing. Several years ago my husband got cancer and was unable to keep the lucrative career he had once had. He was able to work from home for a few years and then we realized through several events that he would need to stop doing that. We were in a scramble. I had worked in Christian schools and preschools mainly to cover our children’s tuition. We made the decision for me to go to school to get my associates degree in nursing. It was a really tough two years because the ADN programs are so fast-paced. However, after I had been an RN for one year I was able to work PRN (as needed) for $37.95 an hour. With your husbands’ benefits in his job, you would be able to work a few days a week and make a very good income. I have to carry our health benefits, so I work in an M-F 8-4:30 RN Pediatric Case Management position. It is such a wonderful and flexible career.

    1. Hello Amy, thanks for the suggestion! It sounds like you did a wonderful job taking care of your family! I have thought about Nursing before because I have taken most of the pre-requisite courses like Anatomy and Physiology for my Health Promotion degree and again for the Dental Hygiene program I was in…When we first moved for my husband’s current job I applied and didn’t get in to the local Nursing school but I could try for a community school which may be less competitive.If you don’t mind me asking, how old were you when you went back to school?
      Thank you, Holly

      1. Holly, my husband went back to school at 38 to get his RN degree. He already had a BA and a Masters in history , but he had to pretty much start from scratch on the science and math prerequisites.

        He used a community college program to get his RN over the BSN program at the local university for several reasons. The RN degree was a two year program compared to four years for a BSN. The community college cost was less than half as much per year as the local university. Nurses are in such demand that all places (in our state) happily hire both RNs and BSNs. The initial pay differential between an RN and BSN degrees in our location is only $0.25 per hour and that difference is pretty much lost by the second year.

        He went back to school because local career options and pay were limited for his original education/skill set. He also got bored after a couple of years at any job, and with an RN there is a huge variety of jobs such that when he gets bored with a particular type of practice, he can find something else easily and without needing to go back to school. Also, and this part may be particularly relevant to your situation, the nursing job has been a great fit for us as a family because of the flexibility it provides. My job (and I’m the much more career driven of the two of us) is in a crunch time, requiring long hours, travel, and plenty of stress. There’s also the possibility of relocation at any time. We have two young children and even though we have an excellent daycare and a great elementary school, having two full-time working parents isn’t going to work for us for while my job is in a crazy phase. As an RN, it was very easy for my husband to shift to part-time work and he has the ability to go back to full-time (or pick up extra shifts) whenever we are ready.

        One additional comment, since this was a lesson learned for us, is to pay careful attention to how the particular RN program you are applying for chooses whom to admit. My husband had to apply twice to get in because the number of spots are limited and at least locally they use a very rigid scoring strategy for admissions. In his case, a six week CNA course, that was a suggested but not required prerequisite, ended up being necessary to have a high enough number of points to be admitted.

        Best of wishes to you and your family.

      2. Holly, don’t discount going to an LPN program first and then bridging to an RN later if you want. LPN programs are about a year and it is much easier to get into a bridge program than a traditional RN program (This is the route I choose d/t the Army sending me through LPN school). I found a job right away as an LPN and was able to work when I went back to school, as did all of my classmates. Just food for thought if you do decide nursing is your cup of tea, and as others have stated there is ALWAYS a shortage wherever you go and you always have the option of working as much or as little as you like.

  11. Can Holly get part time work (or work from home) in accounting? She has a Bachelors and a strong interest in math from this case study. I have my MSA and work as a CPA so I am very biased. I work remotely now and could move my job anywhere with minimal impact on my salary. However, I like accounting enough to make it work (I doubt many people are super passionate about it but I digress).

    The MSA does not do a lot but there are lots of lucrative accounting jobs out there. She could also get part time work during the tax busy season. She just needs to prove that her current coursework in accounting is valuable to a local firm. She does not need the full MSA to get a job in accounting, specifically tax. She could also find a fully remote position which would help with traveling.

    1. I too think this would be a valuable skill/job. In my part of the world, we usually call it bookkeeping, but perhaps you could get a part-time job working from home. Sometimes you need the intellectual stimulation.
      I am struck by how often you have started and apparently quit jobs. And then now want to move from a place you really like. I’d stay where you are and try to make up the difference somehow, if you really like apartment. Sometimes, too, consistency in jobs, etc., works out better in long run than darting from thing to thing. Of course I was lucky in that I found a career I was passionate about and kept to it.
      Good luck! You really have a good head on your shoulders.

  12. Holly, you’re doing great. I was where you are at one point — I left a career in my mid 30s to stay home with my kids for 10 years, by our choice. Loved that time with them, wouldn’t change it. But for a good chunk of that time my husband worked nights. It can be soul-grinding, those early years, when you are alone or tag-teaming. I had to push myself to get out and meet people but it’s worth it. Don’t worry about finding a BFF..I made “situational” friends through library reading hour, church, toddler programs at the nature preserve and in the neighborhood. Some became good friends but all helped fill the long days and widen my horizons. So: 10 years out of the full time workforce and how did I fare? I am typing this from my desk at a great FT job in my second career, earning more than I did in my 20s and 30s. The key was I kept my hand in something almost the entire time I was a SAHM. I’m a writer and editor so I did occasional freelance news/feature stories at first, enough to have something to talk about when I got together with former colleagues. As the kids got into elementary school I did more, much of it not “fulfilling” but enough to pay for groceries and a little travel and to allow us to deduct expenses. At the end it was maybe 20-25 hours a week, a platform that allowed me to hunt for FT work. Your experience will undoubtedly be different but the big thing I want to share is don’t focus too much on finding work that is your “passion.” Priorities really change as you get older. It’s great to have health insurance and a steady good paycheck and work with nice people—I do not need my job to give me an identity or fulfillment because my family and our life together and my faith do all that. Right now I’m just focused on saving for the kids’ college and enjoying our time together before they leave the nest. I am very lucky/blessed that I loved my first career, that we could scrape by while I pulled out of that to be full time with our children, that I could hustle some work during that time, and that I could get a good job when the kids hit late elementary/middle school and their activities and our savings needs meant two FT jobs would be a big help. I am not my career and I appreciate the flexibility I have here (like your dental hygienist possibility sounds like it might offer). For what it’s worth!

    1. PS you may already do all of this so ignore it if so or if it’s not your thing… But what made my stay at home time really enjoyable was leaning into it and bringing a lot of my own interests into our daily activities. When the kids were toddlers I would get a craft ready during their nap so we would do something together at the table when they woke up. We tried lots of different art forms. We made handmade paper bowls from recycled paper, we did block printing, I hung some old curtains on the clothesline and they and the neighbor kids splattered them with paint with buckets of paint and flyswatters dipped in the paint. It was so much fun. One summer we collected a ton of bottle caps out of recycling and made a bottle cap mosaic on a piece of old board I found in the garage. We got real artist’s clay and made pots and tried to fire them in the fireplace. (Pro tip: don’t do this. They exploded.) We would read a book and then make a meal out of that book — like blueberries for Sal and something with blueberries. Or the little gingerbread man and then gingerbread men we decorated. We read a picture book about sculpture and then went for a walk in our city’s downtown looking at public sculpture. I will say many of these things my kids don’t remember because they were pretty young. But I have to believe they enriched them in a way that is past remembering… And I certainly enjoyed the time. I made little treasure hunts in the yard with doodads hidden in various places. I got rid of the sand in the sandbox and filled it with pebbles for a new sensory experience and they had a ball with that. We set up our tent in the yard for a week or two and it became the reading club. I was trying to teach one of my kids lower case letters so for a while after lunch we would make a giant letter and decorate it with things that started with that sound. Like the letter H and we punched holes in it with a hole punch. We hung these around their rooms at the top of the wall. As they got older and were into dress up and play like that, I welcomed other people‘s kids coming over for an afternoon play date because it engage the kids and gave me some mental downtime. It seem like we rolled out and less sugar cookies and homemade noodles and what not. We made with prints. We did a lot of nature study at home with journals and drawings and we would go on a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood looking for nature things to bring home. I had a ball they seem to like it and it just filled the days with interest and gave us new things to talk about it dinner. Just some ideas.

      1. FYI Annie I took notes from your response and added your activities to my boards on Pinterest. You are seriously creative. Makes me think you should be running a preschool

  13. I’d be skeptical of a landlord who didn’t use the previous tenant’s security deposit to help make the unit tenable, but if you otherwise think the place is perfect for you, maybe, just maybe consider offering to split the cost of the cleaning with your landlord?

    1. I agree with Elise. My husband manages a 12 unit apartment building for low to mid-income earners and he would never rent out a unit that has pet damage. Cat urine, in particular, is EXTREMELY difficult to get out of flooring. Even if you replace the carpet it has likely soaked into the subfloor and you will smell it. To me, it is a red flag and I would hesitate to work with this landlord.

      1. What they said! I remember seeing an apartment which had a badly cracked window, asked the landlord, “When will you fix that?” He said, “When it needs it.” I knew before I saw the black painted bedroom I was NOT renting there!
        If you are legally obliged to follow through on the cat-carpet apartment, and if the landlord does not replace or properly clean the flooring, you may have to have it cleaned yourselves. That’s one reason for savings, your health and sanity.
        Ideally, if the carpet still stinks when they expect you to move-in, you would be able to tell them, “No!”

  14. Holly and George are amazing savers! Mrs. Frugralwoods gave solid advice so I don’t have much to add. I’m an older Mom who has 4 kids who are almost independent (youngest has 2 more years of college) and my husband would love to retire. The biggest impediment is the high cost of health insurance. If he quits his job we will need to buy health insurance. I’ve been told it could be anywhere from $1500 to $2000 per month. I’m wondering how you would account for that while crunching the numbers.

  15. Hi Holly! I just wanted to affirm that Airbnb could be a great option to keep your current apartment, where you have a social network of other parents and friends. I don’t think that the value of such a network can be overstated. We also live in a college town, and rent out a single room in our house on Airbnb. Last year we started in May and made about $3,500 and now that we have so many 5 star reviews we are getting booked pretty consistently. If you turn off instant book you can more closely monitor who is staying, and even rent out the room to only people you have handpicked when your husband is out of town. This might also help with the loneliness. Of course, renting out the whole apartment while you are gone is a great idea too! We rented a whole house Airbnb one time and the host just goes and visits family whenever someone books the whole place. Best of luck to you and your family, you are doing great!

    1. Thank you AKing, we just tried the Airbnb this past weekend for the first time over graduation since my husband was already out of town and I used hotel points and went to a hotel an hour away with the kids. I definitely could do this more which could help make up some of the housing costs. After reading everyone’s comments about the pet carpets and reading more negative reviews on google about the landlords/management company I’m starting to see it’s not the only option. Thank you-it sounds like you have a great side hustle!

  16. Dental hygenist is loads more flexible than accounting. You can work full-time, part-time, sporadically (backup/replacement hygenist) at different seasons in your life in addition to being able to find a job in pretty much any city you might need to move to. I watched my cousin do this across 25 years and it’s worked out extremely well for her wanting to work some, but also for accommodating the different seasons of her life. In addition to this- her skill is highly useful and she’s able to volunteer one day a month cleaning teeth at a local senior citizen community. My other cousin is an accountant and his work is higher earning, but the daily work expectations are more stressful, it requires more consistent hours, and it is much harder of a field to get in and out of if you need to take some time off for family.

    If there is an area of study Holly is confident in… part-time teaching/tutoring/instructing has gotten some of my mom friends through periods in their lives when they wanted to stay home with their kids, but didn’t completely want to give up intellectual exercise/contributions to their community. (Every mom is different- no shame expressed at anyone who does or doesn’t need an outlet to be content and emotionally/mentally healthy.)

    Lastly, I worry about Holly’s moving to a new home if she’s really worried about losing friends. If the new place puts her close to downtown and a local library, I have faith she can find new mom groups and/or hobby and interest based groups. But if it doesn’t put her near community resources, I worry if the small savings is worth her mental health.
    I’m no expert, just a regular woman who has spent 7 years crafting her own version of frugal- they seem to be doing awesome in the low spending and savings category… it seems their efforts, if any, need to be focused on increasing income in the long run. Props to Holly and her family for doing such a good job at spending wisely and saving!

  17. Hi from Virginia Beach!

    My husband is military so he’s gone for months at a time… 10 months was the longest so far.

    I also spend more $ when he’s gone because it’s super boring raising a kid alone in a town with no family/friends. (We move)

    If it’s all available- Join a gym with childcare. Yes it will cost $ but it will save your sanity and you will meet people. Go to parks. Talk to the other parents even if you’re shy. Exchange phone numbers for meetups. Go to library kid events. Have relatives visit YOU. I’m still working on all this, too. Basically being a SAHM alone is hard and boring and lonely. Do the best you can. I often hear it’ll she’ll be grown before I know it.

    Good luck!

  18. Kandi’s comment resonates.
    It sounds hackneyed but it’s TRUE: you cannot make a better use of your time than to invest in the lives of your children and if that means putting your career pursuits on pause to raise them you will not regret it. There ARE sacrifices and you may need to play career catch-up at some point but when you see your kids turn into contributing, well-adjusted, loving humans with whom you have a relationship, you know you’ve made the right choice.

    1. PS no judgement at all toward working moms. And it’s not binary either – you can ease into work in a variety of ways as your family life flexes.

  19. I have a few friends who are dental hygienists. They are both moms who mention they love the work simply because they get to leave work at work- the lack of stress is important when you’re a mom who has a spouse that travels. Both have worked part-time at one point in their careers and one is currently working only as a temp hygienist who fills in for others while they are on vacation. From that standpoint, I vote to complete that schooling so you have those options as your kids get older.

  20. I think George should definitely keep working and striving for a head coach position. They say George loves his job. There aren’t a ton of people who can say that so he should stick with it. Life is easier when you love your job.
    Holly, this may not seem like it now but your kids are going to be in school before you know it. Hang in there.
    Is there another parent you can swap babysitting with to get a couple hours by yourself when George is gone?

    1. This is exactly what I was thinking Holly, wow what a wonderful gift that he loves his job and career so much! Don’t try to take it away from him. And I suspect that any head coaching job for a university or sports team will involve just as much travel. Not that many people really love their work, no job is a perfect fit as someone mentioned above. The other thought that hit me reading this is that you live on so little right now, don’t use that amount for your FI number. Sounds like your family is going to grow, having more money in the budget is going to make life a little easier, allow you to travel to family more easily, do things with the kids etc.

  21. Greetings from another Holly! But I’m “old”, single, and childless, so my comments may or may not apply — take what is useful and discard the rest! Is it feasible to be FI in 10 years? Do you plan to help your kids go to college, if they wish? If yes, then no. One of the greatest perks of working for a private university is that, usually, your kids can attend tuition free. This is an enormous benefit, well worth preserving by your husband continuing to work (for some university) for the next 22 years!! When I read the story of your family, I see a family in terrific financial shape and a mom who isn’t happy. Please don’t take this as a criticism — I know you love your husband and children — but you are thinking that if you had more money you would be happier because your husband would be home more, but your happiness cannot depend on your husband. None of us know what the future holds and money is never a sure friend. Holly, I truly urge you to work with a counselor for a while. Whatever it costs, it will be worth it. The happier you are, the less you will worry about money. Also, take advantage of the career services at the university to explore what fields of employment might actually be fun for you. Then you can proceed to follow that path when both kids are in school. You are doing great; you don’t need to do anything else but relax and enjoy the goodness of your life. Peace and blessings to you all.

  22. One thing you didn’t mention, if they’re really getting a $4,000 tax refund every year, they should adjust their withholdings. Bring that money home right away instead of giving the government a tax-free $333/month loan.

  23. I’m on the other side of this situation now, working full-time at age 54 in a career I LOVE with an empty nest and a hubby who works from home. But for over a decade I was a SAHM with a traveling spouse and three little kids at home. It’s not for the faint of heart! For me, church and La Leche League support groups were absolutely essential for supply of like-minded friends and people to do stuff with. Lots of SAHMs are also frugal so it was a great source of people who wanted to hang out and do free stuff.

    My advice, such as it is, goes back to something I heard from my grandma “The years fly by, but the days last forever.” It’s so true. There IS an end to the grind of little-kid parenting. And having them all in school was truly joyful for me (I wasn’t that mom crying on the playground when the baby went to kindergarten…I was whooping and hollering with joy and freedom!). Having an empty nest is also absolutely fantastic! People kept asking me if I was sad when my youngest left for college and I felt social pressure to suppress my actual glee and instead say something like “It’s really hard” when inside I was tap-dancing! (BTW I love my girls dearly and I knew they’d do so well independently, which they have).

    Take care of you. Get out every single time you can. Any babysitting is good babysitting as long as the kids are reasonably safe. I used to hire girls from our church to come over after school for the “witching hours” of 3-5 PM when my hubby was away. I would go sit in my car in a parking lot somewhere and breathe. I would go to the library and lose myself in the grownup stacks. I would meet a friend for a walk at the park. Sometimes I stayed at home, locked myself in the bedroom, and gave myself a pedicure. Anything for relief! I found that a few hours kid-free in the afternoon a few days a week did a TON for my mental health …. bath time, dinner and bedtime were much easier when I’d had an afternoon break.

    Holly, since you live in a university town, I’m SURE you can find reasonable sitters. I know we’re being frugal here, but I also believe that a small investment in babysitting can stave off mental health crisis that would be awful AND would cost a lot.

    We also traveled with my husband whenever feasible, which was not often, but fun. I have hilarious memories of baby + toddler in a fancy downtown hotel. I brought groceries from home for cheap breakfasts and lunches, we swam in the hotel pool, and we ate out for dinner on his generous per diem (yes, we all dined at Spaghetti Warehouse for the cost of one fancy grownup meal out somewhere…I can only imagine him submitting the receipts :))

    Good luck, Holly. This will NOT last forever. You’ll have a career and way more freedom eventually. Today I look forward to the few times my husband travels, because it’s nice to be by myself in the house. I look back on the little-kid days fondly, but that’s only because I’m not being forced to relive them.

    1. I’d like to echo a bit what Martha said above. First off, Holly, you and your husband have done a tremendous job of setting priorities and saving money. At the same time, I am wondering what your real goal is in seeking FIRE. Is it not perhaps coming from a desire to live differently from how you are living now, which yes, sounds tremendously stressful and limiting (my husband and I raised two children, now young teenagers, while both working full time. I still remember the desperate exhaustion, and I can’t imagine doing it alone as a SAHM while my husband traveled frequently). I am wondering if giving yourself permission to live less frugally might give you some of the freedom you need to keep your sanity (again, I have been there!) A family vacation every few months that you can look forward to. A babysitter so that you can go to the movies one afternoon, or whatever floats your boat.

      I also live in town with a large private university with big time sports teams. I know several coaches’ wives. None of them work, and they tell me that they have to focus full time on running the home and family because of the demands on their husbands’ time–that there is no possible way they could work under the circumstances. IMHO if you want to work, you and your husband may have to meet each other half way, and he may have to dial it down in order for you to ramp it up!

      Something that you already know but that is worth mentioning here, I think, is that your husband’s job is precarious–a new head coach can come in and make a complete staff change, an NCAA scandal can hit, forcing resignations, etc. It’s happened more than once here. Again, you have done a terrific job creating a safety net to catch you should something like this happen. This might seem to support the idea of your getting a job/new career, but on the other hand, you need to be ready to move–either by choice so he can move up the ranks, or by necessity. Perhaps eventually a highly mobile, in demand career like dental hygienist does make sense.

      Best of luck to you. Take care of yourself. You’re doing great!

    2. I love your suggestions for things to do while the babysitter is there. I suggested below some activities that would require spending, but really anything that you’re doing on your own can be a relief from the daily work of raising a kid. I have had a bath while the sitter was round!

      1. I used to pay the young girl across the street to be a “mothers helper”, just to play with the kids for an hour while I’d sit in the bedroom and read a magazine. She was in middle school and didn’t have babysitting experience yet, so it was a safe way for her to get experience and a more affordable way for me to get some breathing space with 2 littles and a traveling husband. As the kids got older, as did she, she was our go to sitter for the rare evening out. 🙂

  24. You are doing a great job Holly! That is an impressive savings rate, you have no debt—amazing! You are in a much better place than we were at when my husband and I were your age with two little ones! So I worked full time from when my daughter (now 12) was born until she was 9. I absolutely love what I do, but it was hell trying to balance full time work (running my own medical practice) and having two kids (we have a son who is 5). I did it because the recession had hit and my husband took pay cut after pay cut. I have major regrets now. I WISH I could have been there more for my daughter. I now work part time and am able to be there for my kids. The time goes by sooo quickly (everyone says this and you don’t believe it until it happens). You cannot get the time back that you have lost and kids grow up so fast. You can work when they are older and in school. You can go to to school when they are older. We are all living longer and if you stay healthy, you will have time on the back end!

    I agree that finding other moms to hang with is key—the library, the gym, playgrounds, mommy groups. You guys are in great shape financially and if I had had the choice to have worked less, I would have taken that. Good luck and hang in there!! You are clearly an awesome mom and doing a great job!!

  25. I saw very little here about health care. George is obviously getting health care from work and it would probably behoove them to check out how much the University is actually paying for their insurance. My husband just retired. We knew what his job paid for our insurance ($1600.00 per month) and our share was $450.00. We have the luxury of getting Medicare but all the supplements, Part B,D, and F which cover Doctors, medications, and co-payments deductibles the donut hole etc. are going to run us $650 per month. I think if they check into what their insurance is going to cost they may change their minds about a lot of stuff. It is what kept my husband from retiring before 65. I’m not saying you can’t do it. I’m just saying you need to look at it carefully. We needed that insurance as my 24 year old daughter has ongoing medical issues and needed our help. Still does but I am now looking into getting her her own insurance. BTW Insurance before retirement age was going to cost us nearly $3000 a month and I know that is not unusual since I know people that have to pay there own.

  26. Hi Holly, I have a comment based around your vehicle. I believe your Nissan Versa could lead to further financial woes down the line. You may want to look into trading that for something more reliable, such as a Toyota, Honda (one with a timing chain and not a belt) or a Scion. You might have to get something a little older or with higher miles, but it would be worth it to avoid troubles for sure! I presume the transmission replacement was for the Nissan, as those have extremely unreliable transmissions (as well as other things). The new transmission may have issues or fail as well. Just a thought!

    1. Hi Jake, the transmission replacement was for the 2004 Explorer. I have heard that Nissans may have transmission problems as well around the 75,000 mile mark but didn’t really figure this out until after we purchased and it has been a relatively reliable car so far. We love hatchbacks…any specific Toyota hatchback or scion recommendations? Thank you!

      1. We have a Prius and we love it. It is more expensive upfront since it’s a hybrid, but we saved back via all the commuting and traveling we had done in it. The back seats fold and the trunk is very spacious, which came in very handy during the two moves we did with it and the craigslist furniture shopping. We squeezed skis and camping gear as well and there is an option for a bike rack hook up that works great. Finally, it’s been very reliable. We bought it new and have no regrets 9 years later. I think for the travel you do and the frequent moving it will be a great choice. The only downside I see is that it is not all wheel drive, which is a negative for driving in wintry conditions. A friend of mine who has had 4 Nissans strongly advised against buying them, as they had all failed her, two with transmissions. She told me it’s a great car to lease but not to buy.

        1. Oh and on the wintry conditions front–we drive our Prius year-round in snowy rural Vermont. In the winter, we put studded snow tires on and it’s good to go 98% of the time. Only in the deepest snow and iciest of icy conditions is it not viable.

  27. Thought you should know that your rent, even with the increase, is dirt cheap compared to many college towns. Stay there until your plans for the future coalesce. Your plans require a lot more thinking and soul searching than you realize. For instance, although neither make your heart sing, I agree with Liz about choosing dental hygienist over accountant. The course is much shorter, you can work a flexible schedule (always good with young children), the social aspect (working with patients) will challenge your shyness, and you’ll always be in demand no matter where you move. Salaries are good too. And if you join a babysitting coop or Meetup group of moms, you can plan the daytime clinicals around free babysitting while you can reciprocate in the evening. Also, medical hands-on skills cannot be outsourced, while accounting skills can. And then there’s tax season, when you’ll be off limits to your family for months. Longterm, by the time your husband finds a coaching job and is ready to stay in one place, your kids will be ready for school and your career will be ready to take off. Then you can sock away the money like gangbusters and eventually buy a house, an income property, or a boat and sail around the world. Please don’t let temporary loneliness for a few years limit your vision for the future. Retiring in ten years at your age will cut you off from Social Security and a future if SHTF. Also, by then your kids will be almost out on their own, thinking about college, perhaps moving to another state. And you’ll be “retired” while your husband might resent ending his career for early retirement, which can get boring pretty quickly.

  28. When my children were little, I worked at the YMCA. It got me a free membership and a place to go where my kids could go to the child watch. Sometimes, I just used it to take a shower in peace or read a book. When my kids entered school, I worked in the cafeteria in various capacities and then as an aide in a classroom. All of those jobs allowed me to be home for my kids, save on child care and still contribute to the household income. I have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League University. My former career was not family friendly so I worked those jobs until I got a job with BOCES-that’s NYS version of education for kids with disabilities as well as the career track for high school students like cosmetology. They paid for me to get my master’s to become a school librarian. That is the only reason I considered earning the degree. Now I still have a job that’s flexible for my family but it’s one that I love. It took me nine years start to finish to get my master’s with undergraduate classes I needed and life but it was worth it. This is a field that lends itself to many different incarnations so I know I can drop in and out.

  29. I can really relate to the isolation factor. When my kids were small, I was part of a babysitting coop. We used a points system (1 point for each 15 minutes and more points if you babysit more than one kid). We rotated members keeping the books and got together monthly for meetings as well as some needed adult time.

    The benefits are free babysitting, meeting more moms and dads and playmates for the kids. No money is exchanged and it may help you meet more people as well as save money.

    It really helped with the isolation of raising kids in a new town and helped an already very tight budget.

    If nothing is available in your area, maybe consider advertising or ask around?

    Best of luck. You’re doing an awesome job!

    1. What an awesome idea!! Where I live, we are also lucky enough to have preschool co-ops. The monthly price of preschool is about half of what it would typically be in our city because parents take turns helping out with different responsibilities and the preschools do not have to hire as many staff members. It is a great way to save money and to meet other parents!

  30. Hello, Holly!
    I think I recognize that you are in my town, working for my university, so much of what you write resonates with me. I spent my children’s early years at home with them, and have never regretted a moment of that time! Days drag by, but years are fleeting, it seems. My hubby traveled a LOT during those years, so I can perhaps share some perspective. While he traveled, I took the time to do things with my girls that he didn’t really enjoy. The times were special just for the three of us, and we were refreshed and excited to welcome Daddy home when he returned. You didn’t mention this option, but one thing I did for awhile only for income was in-home day care. You can earn quite a bit adding a child or two, but of course this would limit your travel, as you need to be consistently available to working parents.

    I respectfully disagree with our sage advisor on the degree plan. Since the tuition is “free” (excepting the tax burden, as Mrs. Frugalwoods has noted), I think it is extremely beneficial to get an additional degree now. That would involve a longer term of service for your hubby, of course, but could open many doors for you in the future. I propose that you look through the WHOLE CATALOG to ensure that the accounting degree is the best fit. Might there be something else you’d enjoy more? Think carefully, then make a well-reasoned choice and go for it! Review the video of last weekend’s graduation to rev up your spirit and then go for it!

    My hubby and I have rental properties, and I would NEVER rent an apartment with an animal odor. If your new landlord does not replace the carpet, do NOT move in. (Get it in writing before signing the lease contract.) My daughter had a similar situation with a large rental company, promising to replace carpet. It never happened AND THEY CHARGED HER AND HER ROOMMATE when they moved out, as if they had made the problem! Since it was a large, well-funded rental agency, there was no way two college students could afford the court battle, so they lost their deposit. Lesson learned!

    As to friendships, I suggest joining one of the many MOPS groups, or something similar. There are a host of options here, so you just need to find the one that feels right to you.

    Are you taking advantage of the reduced rate for the gym/pool complex? This can really be a stress relief!

    Please understand the value of what you are doing NOW. Your financial acumen is incredible, and you’ve saved admirably! What you are offering your children is priceless, so don’t doubt your worth, and don’t measure it in dollars.

    I pray you can find the right balance of work, savings, and lifestyle that you and your family can enjoy.

  31. From a health perspective, I would caution you against moving to the cheaper apt with cat pee carpets unless you get it in writing that the landlord will replace them prior to move-in. You nor your kids may not have allergies today, but so many people are allergic to cats and their urine on carpets where your children will be crawling and eating from (you know they will) is disgusting. Don’t do it! I’m leaving w/what was stated in the article- you’re not in a dire spot to have to move so you could potentially get creative to make up that extra rent cost and stay. Downside is not being able to get rid of a vehicle.

    I’m with the others on the need to find your circle of friends. I just moved to the Denver area and hubby and I have no friends here. Well, we know 2 couples – one from a previous job and one my brother’s friend from high school – but we haven’t seen either yet. I need to take my own advice and start meeting some people. I’m working from home and it can be isolating, much like being at home all day with little kids! I’m more of a 1:1 type person or small groups at best and it’s hard to meet people the older you get. For me, it’ll likely be my athletic endeavors and interest in the outdoors that helps me find my tribe, but I’m held up with a broken fibula at the moment. For you, you’ve got the kiddos in tow, so take advantage of other mom’s in the same situation. Surely there are women everywhere looking to celebrate and commiserate all that goes with being a SAHM.

    And yeah… getting a degree in something you don’t really want to do isn’t ideal, but it does seem to add in income from your side is a great idea. One benefit if your husband stays long-term with college coaching is your kids will get that break if they attend that school College is EXPENSIVE!!! The traveling your husband does would be hard for me as well, but it sounds like he’s looking to move on up and that should decrease. Can the family ever join on these trips? Love the Airbnb idea when you head out while he’s gone, but I hope you’re also able to either bring family to you or find what makes you happy when hubby isn’t around.

    1. Hi Kristen,
      I totally agree with all of the cat/carpet situation. I already tried to get it in writing that we could get our deposit back if the carpets still smelled and they said no which is a big red flag. You are right that it does seem to be harder to make new friends as we get older/ I have found that it helps if you find people who have also recently moved to the area (this happens here a lot because it’s such a college town). We do travel sometimes with my husband when he takes trips-due to insurance reasons we have to drive our own car which is a bummer.

      I just recently Airbnb’d our place out for graduation and we stayed in a hotel for free with points. I have always wanted to do this and would love to do this more if we move closer to the university. Right now, we would not get many renters because we are too far for students which is the biggest clientele.

  32. What about doing a little babysitting? It doesn’t have to be formalized child care but it could grow into that. Offering weekend care when George is away might fill a couple of needs.

    I honestly feel for Holly. Why is there so much pressure for moms to “contribute” when raising happy, grounded children is such an incredibly important job?

    No way would I forfeit the $755 deposit because the potential LL won’t clean the apartment of pet damage. You have significant rights as a tenant and you worked hard for that money. Flex your muscle here.

    And I completely agree with the suggestion to adjust your withholdings to eliminate the huge tax refund. You do not need that kind of enforcement in order to save mobey.

  33. Holly you guys are rocking it! You are in such a good financial position. The thing that struck me most reading your case study was that you are craving some freedom now, not in 10 years time. Having your coparent away is hard, and it feels like that is the driver behind the FIRE for you? I would look for ways to make the most of the time you have together and to make life easier for you when George is away. Personally I would NOT move from your apartment complex – stay with your community! Can you budget for some sanity savers when George is away? Plan for some babysitting, or a family movie visit, or to go see your family, or a chaotic but happy cheap meal out. It seems like you are disappointed in blowing the money when George is away but sometimes it’s better to acknowledge what we need and give ourselves permission to have it. We are social animals and we need our people.

    On the subject of careers, a friend is a dental hygienist and she works a couple of days a week on her own schedule. I think it is a great career to combine with having a young family as it is so portable and flexible.

    And Holly please, don’t go in to a rental where there’s cat urine. A friend did that, it seriously required specialist cleaners and still then honestly the smell lingered for months. You are not destitute and you do not have to live in unhygienic conditions.

  34. It seems like an accounting degree might offer a more sustainable and flexible path for someone who identifies as an introvert. Dental hygienists interact constantly with other people in the workplace, which could end up being a lot of energy spent on caretaking and interacting on top of parenting two kids. Instead of a Masters in Accounting, could Holly apply credits already taken to become a CPA, with an eye towards ultimately working for herself and choosing her own schedule and clients?

  35. I was also going to comment about staying in your current apartment. The $150/month extra per month would be a small investment in your mental health to Not have to move and go have friends nearby while your kids are young and you are often alone.

    For times when your Husband is away, try Disney movie marathons when the kids are cranky, Skype calls with family, try to meet single moms or military wives who are also going to be alone with kids on the weekend going nuts… and after the kids are in bed, forget cleaning and instead enjoy some ice cream, Netflix, and high-quality frozen food. Try to reframe your mindset of it being time to catch up with your friends and do things you don’t usually have a chance to.

    I may be reading this wrong, but it doesn’t seem like your Husband really minds the travel, and loves his job. While it’s totally reasonable for you to hate the travel (it will get a little easier to be home alone when your kids are older), it doesn’t sound like early retirement is something you guys necessarily desire, maybe that it’s more frustration with how things are right now, in what is certainly a tougher time in your family’s life.

    1. I agree. It sounds to me that you actually want to ‘retire’ to have more attention from your husband for you and kids. There is nothing wrong with that, but it might be good to acknowledge if that is what’s behind your hopes. Perhaps focus on also making friends and how eventually he might be home more.
      I wouldn’t encourage him to retire if he loves his job. Many men really need work they love. But also plan for the worst-case scenario: that his employment could suddenly change, through nobody’s fault.

      1. Hi Terri, Yes a huge motivator for early retirement is for my husband to have the opportunity to be around more. I do want to be more okay with him being gone and making friends would help with that but it’s also a hard line to walk. I remember a conversation I had with a head coach’s wife once who told me that her and her children basically just live their own lives and her husband kind of messes up their routines when he’s actually in town. This broke my heart- I know she was saying it good natured-ly and only half-joking but it was a terrifying statement to hear.

  36. I think you have the money thing nailed with the possible exception of the annual tax refund. But it sounds like you are still searching for how you want to spend your days. If I were you I would be planning for what I want to do once the kiddos are both in school and have a goal to have whatever education/training necessary complete by that time. You want something reasonably lucrative, portable, and above all something you will be happy doing. I’m not hearing that hygienist or accountant
    is really something you’re into. You don’t have to be deliriously in love with what you do but there is nothing worse than having to drag yourself to work everyday, and I speak from experience. Plus pursuing an education and later being in the workplace will be very helpful in getting you out there socially as well.

  37. You are doing an amazing job! I agree that Dental Hygienist is a much better route than MA in accounting. Unless you just love accounting. A friend os mine has been a part-time dental hygienist for many tears and makes more part time than some make full.time. and a2he loves it. And her teeth are movie star beautiful. 😀
    Its suoer flexible and transportable.

    All of the above recommendations are excellent.

    The only thing I might add is the Buy Nothing groups on Facebook have added a lot of joy, friendships and free necessities to my life. Food, pretty things, nice clothes, toys for the kids, etc. Just amazing.

    I loved cloth diapers for the lower cost and eco.friendly approach to diapers but I know not everyone is up for that. Do the math though. It might surprise you!

    Best of luck!

    My husband retired 10 years early from the education industry. We decided frugal living was better than commuteing. He still consults part.time as do I. It’s a good way to live.

    We have 2 kids age 5 so they get to see and play with their dad a lot.

  38. Hard to find much to add except congratulations. I agree they should change their withholding to receive a minimal refund. Put those funds to work sooner. Second I suggest they look to using the federal and state free tax programs instead of paying for a tax program. Apparently, several of the large tax programs are being sued for making it harder for folks to access the free tax programs. Last, given your expertise in saving and frugal living you might be able to charge a small fee to consult with others, or do it for free. It is a great way to meet like minded friends.

    1. Hi Joan, that’s interesting about the tax firms being sued- I tried going the DIY tax route a few years ago but I didn’t trust myself that it was accurate. It is also so much easier and faster to use the software that walks you through every form- especially if you have investment income and retirement accounts to report.
      I would love to offer free budgeting/finance advice. My Mom has told me before that I should work for a debt crisis hotline but I think those places might have hidden agendas attached to them.
      Thank you!

  39. We are all cheering you on, Holly!

    From someone who is not in love with her full-time job, I would say finding a job that has a flexible schedule (where you could work 2-3 days a week) would be great. I think most health care related jobs are more flexible and the dental hygienist might be the way to go. Even though I’m surrounded by people all day, my desk job can still be pretty isolating and I wish I had more free time to spend with friends and family outside of work. My husband and I don’t even have kids yet, so I can’t imagine working full time with children. The entirety of our weekdays are taken up with both working, taking care of our house, cooking healthy meals, exercising, taking care of our two pets, trying to get a full night of sleep, and other random responsibilities. I know we are lucky to both have jobs, but I am just not happy. I plan to work part time when we do have kids, because my husband likes his job a lot more and because he makes over twice as much as I do. I feel a lot more accomplishment in taking care of our home (I LOVE to cook, garden, etc. ) than I do sitting in front of my computer all day.

    On the flip side, I can see where staying at home full time is also very challenging and isolating. And I think it would be nice to be making some money. I worked as a private tutor (and still tutor one hour a week in addition to my full time work) so I plan to go back to tutoring if my full-time position can’t offer me a part-time job.

    Lastly, I don’t think people were meant to live the isolated lives we do now. I think even just having one or two really close friends can make all the difference. I realized I was trying to have our house perfectly clean every time we had company over, and it was starting to prevent me from ever having people over at all. Let yourself be vulnerable and messy and I bet people will actually love you more for it. I truly hope you find your village.

    1. Hi EJ, thank you for your comment. Your tutoring gig sounds like a great set-up for you. Your last paragraph about not inviting people over hits home for me. I have found that it’s not the cleanliness that prevents me from inviting people over but sometimes I just feel awkward for people to see how little possessions we own and what small space we live in. I know Mrs. Frugalwoods has written posts about how true friends won’t care about these things but what about when you’re trying to make new friends lol.
      Sounds like your healthy lifestyle is keeping you very busy-I hope you find some time to do the things you enjoy more soon! Cheers!

  40. My husband died when my children were one and three, so I know how hard it can be! But you will get through it. I agree with the advice stated above: join a gym with child are, join a place of worship if you are at all religious, and join preschool parent groups. When your children are school age, you can volunteer at their school, and you will befriend many parents that way. You can also browse FB meetups to see if anything appeals to you.

    I would stay in your apartment. If you want another roommate, you might be able to find a graduate or returning student. This would not only help with the rent, but might be good company for you.

    You are doing an amazing job saving!

  41. As a non-SAHM, I would also like to point out that when you work and are a mom you often wish you did stay at home! Yes I make money, but sometimes I get to the point where I don’t even care about that any more. And, it not like I have a job that I am super passionate about. I care about doing a great job at what I do and I do derive satisfaction from it, but it’s hard work and often I wish I just didn’t have to go. Ever again. And, I would probably still feel like this even I weren’t a mom! So, anyway, I guess my point is just that the grass is always greener. I’ve also realized now that I’m in my mid-forties that I’m never going to be a person who is content with how things are. I’m always striving for this and that – and it’s kind of not a choice and perhaps this is how you are – always weighing your options to make the best choices and best use of your time and money. There’s no wrong answer! I’ve also realized that the worst choice you can make is to just not make any choice at all – and this is also something you haven’t done. You are doing great and will continue to make great choices for you and your family.

    1. Hey Alison, I am definitely guilty at looking at other well fertilized lawns lol. I experienced that when I did briefly work full time and put my son in day care….after dropping him off in the morning I would just be looking at the clock all day in my cube until I could go pick him up. Pulling up to the daycare and seeing him being the only child left on the playground at 5:45 with a teacher broke my heart. My husband thought this was ironic given how much I had complained that I wanted to be working full-time. After a while of doing this, it just didn’t seem like a worthwhile trade-off. I know other people have already commented about how it isn’t fair that the woman quits her job, but my spouse would happily be a SAHD if I had a higher paying job option so I’m not sure that is a fair argument.
      And I think you may be right about the never quite being satisfied…but I don’t think this is always a bad thing as long as you stay content and thankful with your present state. It’s good to have goals to work towards and I’ve found I can get depressed a bit if I don’t have any goals I’m working towards. Thanks for your encouragement!

  42. You don’t have problems darlin’, just mountains of opportunities. Great going so far! I don’t have any comments on the changing job question as that is something only you two can decide. However, from experience, here are a couple of things you may want to consider:

    1. Any landlord worth his or her salt will ALWAYS have carpet cleaned between renters. It’s usually covered by your rental deposit. However, you cannot get rid of the smell of animal pee by cleaning a carpet. The urine goes right through to the subfloor. The carpet has to be removed and the floor where the smells are coming from has to be painted with KILZ. This solves the problem. Ran into this at my current new old house, so be aware. This landlord would probably also be a pain in the drain when it comes to any repairs. If you decide to move, scratch this miser and find another apartment with a better landlord.

    2. Liz had a fab post on a 2% payback from Fidelity. Change your accounts and reap the benefits.

    3. Why give the IRS $4,000 a year with no interest? Pay your income tax quarterly so that you end up owing them $500 or less. This is done in four equal payments and you can collect interest on the funds in the meantime. I feel that it is wise to always owe a small amount at income tax time not only for some interest earned, but to foil scammers. They are looking for folks with refunds to steal.

    4. How much are you spending on laundry detergent, etc. You can make ;your own for pennies. There are two formulas, one for dry soap
    (which I use at 1 tablespoon per load) and one for liquid soap (you make it 5 gallons at a time – too much for me as you don’t want to keep it around for much more than a year, but with your kids you will blast thru it. Lots of formulas on the internet. The big question on the difference (both dry and wet)) is do or don’t include borax. I am an “include” fan. Ditto for hand soap, stain removers, etc. etc. etc. Lots of stuff you can make yourself easily and save a couple of bucks.

    5. Utilities. Electricity is usually the most expensive. Things that use the most are a microwave, dryer, dishwasher, stove, water heater-in other words, big stuff. A toaster oven uses less electricity than your stove oven, so look for one at a garage sale, thrift store, etc. that will hold a loaf of bread (if you bake same) or a chicken. Difference is between 120 and 240. You can save $ by hand washing dishes. I know, UGH, but you asked! While a dishwasher saves water, you are paying a lot for the electricity and you generally don’t pay for water (it’s in your rent). Follow this trail to other savings on electricity. Don’t forget to keep the lights off during the day and turning them off the minute you leave a room at night. One trick you may consider is to change all the cheap light bulbs in the apartment to more frugal LEDs. Save the junk light bulbs and put them back in when you move and take your good LEDs with you.

    1. Hello Soggy Suzzi, Love the name 🙂
      and I love your suggestions, I will look into the 2% from Fidelity. We have such a high cash amount right now because we were considering buying a house but I think after Liz’s feedback I feel more confident that with our current situation, it works out better to keep renting so I should move all of our savings over to an account to get some interest I suppoe.

      Also, we spend around $4 on a 100oz bottle of detergent from Aldis..I did try several years ago making our own detergent and it actually left oil spots on our dark clothes which was weird. I remember it had borax and washing soap in the recipe.

      I should try the led lightbulbs too, especially if we end up Airbnb’ing more.
      Thank you!

      1. The 2% I mentioned was Liz’s post on refunds on credit cards. Interest from banks is nil UNLESS YOU ASK for the current rates on time deposits. The bank won’t tell you about this unless you ask. They are all in the business of making money not helping folks. I have time deposits at two different banks that are maturing at different times and interest (including reinvest of interest) is closer to 3%. Check around where you live. All banks and credit unions have the same federal insurance, and around here I can get a better deal at the small local banks than the nationals.

  43. Mrs. Frugalwoods, when you calculated the amount to add to the savings in order to take out 3.8 percent a year, did you factor in growth due to interest at all? My account has been growing something like 50,000 bucks in just 6 months, mostly through interest. Now I know that is not the same as money in the bank and could go down. But are you not factoring in interest at all?

  44. WOW you are doing so great! You have a lot of savings, good income, initiative to come up with ways to earn extra money, and energy to spend time doing things with the kids! From the description of where you live and where George works I can guess where it is, and it is a great place to raise a family. I agree with the suggestions Mrs Frugalwoods gave – if you must go back to school Dental is the way to go – they make tons of money and you can work as much or as little as you want – most dental practices will have you in for 1 to 5 days a week so you can set your hours. I don’t know if you really should retire in your early 40s, it seems awfully young and how will you be paying your medical insurance then? I didn’t see that mentioned. The suggestions for joining a playgroup like MOPS, joining a church (they have playgroups and groups for adults your age as well) – lots of good churches in your area – or if you are not religious you can join community groups – the library has great groups for kiddos and adults. When the kids are a little older they will be involved in sports, scouts, etc and you will be meeting a lot of parents your age and these friendships can develop over time – things will be very busy during those years. It’s exciting to see how you are setting yourself up for success by living frugally now. Good luck to you and your family!

  45. I think wanting to retire in ten years is going to change as you reach ten years from now. Your husband, if he stays with his chosen career path, will just be reaching the point where he is making good money and is really blossoming in his career opportunities. Many doors will be opening for him by that time and with that much experience. Also your kids will be reaching their teen years by then and expenses will go up. You will also be thinking about college funding at that point as well.

    Currently, I would focus on you and your husband building skills that will allow you more working flexibility in ten years rather than retirement. Enjoy the moment you are currently in as it will pass quickly and you will wonder where those years went. Take your kids out to playdates, park time, library story times, etc to get you and them out and meeting people. As you meet people more social opportunities will present themselves for you and your kids.

    You are currently saving over half of your income which is awesome. I would maybe adjust my goal to saving only 50% and take that extra money and invest it into yourself and/ or building family memories. Savings are important, but finding balance is vital to successfully navigating the parenting years!

    1. Thank you Laura, I love your insight on the future. It is hard to even begin to know where we will be at in 10 years as you are right that life changes so much and so quickly with young kids. I have also thought about how hard it would even be to walk away from your career after you spent so much time working your way up. I am choosing to focus on preparation that we could retire then-but that doesn’t have to mean that we for sure will if we are enjoying the work/life balance then.
      I also like your suggestions of budgeting in an amount to make some fun memories. I have found myself feeling guilty when we do randomly spend some extra money doing things we don’t normally do and I think budgeting this in and knowing that we have the money would ease this feeling greatly!
      Thanks! -Holly

  46. You guys are doing a great job! Enjoy your children while they are small, time goes so quickly. I am a dental hygienist in upstate NY and I love my job. I have been working at the same employer since I graduated 9 years ago. It is a federally qualified health center and I was reimbursed for all my college costs after signing a 2 year contract (through HERSA)! We work 4 days a week and have excellent benefits and a 403b program. I highly recommend finishing your hygiene degree. That being said, you are in the right place, I love reading the Frugalwoods blog and advise from the site…it has helped my husband and I to get on the same financial page and pay off debts (CREDIT CARDS!). Now were are enjoying saving all my husbands paychecks each month and living off mine!

    1. Hi Marissa, sounds like your experience with dental hygiene has been amazing. Would love if I could find a program that would actually pay for the dental hygiene school!
      ..and yes, I love the Frugalwoods blog and ones like it…over the years, they have been such a huge source of motivation and knowledge for my family when we are having tough times where it would be easy to just ditch the “frugal plan” and start spending our way to happiness 🙂
      I will say I have to credit a college professor for actually starting us down this path- he planted a seed in my mind in one of our health classes where he told everyone to write down IRA in our notebooks and said if I can give you one piece of advice it would be to look into those as soon as you get out of school. He said, “if I had done that when I was your age I would be sitting on a beach sipping pina coladas right now instead of staring at all of your pretty faces.” He was hilarious but I actually did go back into that notebook to look up IRA about two years after college and that is what started us down the early retirement road!
      Cheers! -Holly

  47. Holly, So impressed with your frugality and goal setting! My situation is similar, minus quite your level of frugality… I’m a SAHM too, (just one little, another soon) and my husband is an athletic director (middle + hs) who works lots and lots of late nights. But, it’s not travel and he has amazing flexibility, going into work late with holidays and summers “off” (just remote scheduling stuff and managing coaches). So this might be another career option for your husband to consider? We’re not sure how sustainable it will be when we have 2 kids with their own evening activities though. For late nights I plan on checking out some toddler activity books from the library and preparing a few little bins of new activities to pull out when the evening struggle bus arrives. Another athletic and lucrative side hustle my husband has considered is reffing for youth league tournaments weekends and summer. I think I may hear a little yearning for your own thing and identify separate from Mom and wife that maybe could be a job, or maybe could be pursuing interests and hobbies in the meantime? I’ve decided to switch careers when I go back to work in 5 years or so, and was feeling adrift a bit. So, in addition to the mom and friend things (playdates, some minimal socializing) I search out ways to fill my cup and to develop my skill set for my next thing. Throughout the day I listen to podcasts (a favorite inspiring one is Don’t Keep Your Day Job) and audiobooks (from the library app) and spend nap times on myself (painting or printmaking or eating chocolate and reading a book, yep, there are usually mounds of dishes in the sink). I exercise, clean and cook with the little, he loves it and it’s great bonding, but I have to be ok with imperfection and minor cortisol doses. I also do things I still love while he plays. To echo Mrs. Frugalwoodc’s advice on not moving, so much of frugality is the giving of options and choices to live a rich life, whether that’s spending a bit more on housing that supports a social lifestyle or moving and spending some of the savings on an activity for yourself or to do with the kids where you could meet like-minded folks. So worth it! It’s also so important for SAHMs to remember the MASSIVE value we add to our families, not just in childcare dollars, but the unreplicable quality of that care and the support we give to partners.

  48. Does anyone else have issues with comments not posting? I wrote one this morning that hasn’t posted, and every other one I have posted has taken a few hours to show up. Just wondering if this happens to anyone else!

    1. Sorry about that! They should all be showing up now! I was at our weekly (free) baby playgroup with Littlewoods all morning and not checking comments… the perils of part-time work… whoops!

      1. It’s totally fine! I was just making sure it wasn’t an issue with my computer. I’m glad you’re getting time to enjoy the baby playgroup!

        1. Hi Paula! There’s a comment from you that is posted–did you have another one? I’m not seeing it in the system. Feel free to resubmit if it’s not already live!

  49. Hi Holly,
    You’re doing so well in many areas, I have literally nothing to say…I’m flabbergasted!
    I love Mrs. Frugalwoods idea of renting your apartment out for your trips to family while your husband is out of town.
    I only have one thought: at some point, your oldest will be in preschool and/or kindergarten (if you choose public schools). EVERY SCHOOL needs daily volunteer mamas. I worked at an IB school for five years as the “school nurse” and many mothers made good friends there with each other. Long after their children parted ways for different middle schools, these ladies bonded and remained friends. I, as a staff member, also made friends with the parents and it really helped me transition from being a SAHM for 13 years to the world of a professional. My introverted nature leaned towards doing librarian work (I loved the sound of the children looking for books but I was just busy putting them away) however the school needed someone in the health office doing a lot of data entry and taking care of bumps, bruises, cuts, and puking. I ended up loving the job! It didn’t pay worth a darn, because let’s be serious…education doesn’t pay…but it was worth it to me on so many levels. Finding either a volunteer or paid position in a school where your own child is also has the benefits of still being the arms they run to when they need a hug or, in a most dire and fearful situation, knowing what the heck is happening during a crisis because you are on site too. In some schools, there is day care for your younger children while you’re in class or at least a network of mamas that will watch your own child while you go to the school for a while. Every July and August, schools start posting their positions for the fall. Take a look at the elementary schools nearby and see if something is a fit. Put all the money earned towards your goals and enjoy the company!

  50. Holly, You are AMAZING! I remember those years. It’s tough. It really gets easier. And looking back at the videos reminds me of how glad my kids were to have me there. It’s impossible to put dollar amounts on that stuff. And easy to spend whatever your make when you don’t have time to watch your spending. So many people can’t make ends meet with much higher income and you’re saving 58%!!! That’s an amazing skill and habit! I would put your mental health a high priority and value what you’re contributing to the family on so many levels. When my friend added up all the at-home mom “jobs” she covers for her family, she discovered it was equal to what her husband (an MD!) was earning. I know the years look long now, but they will go quickly. You’ll have time to pick a career. If it appeals, you could consider doing more curb hunting and/or buying and selling other items? Or what about starting a frugal families study group in your area? So many people know so much less than you. You could charge a small fee to help others sell their clutter. I’ve been hearing about people who are downsizing hiring someone to help them sort/purge. You might not see your skills if it’s coming easily to you, but a LOT of us still have TOO much clutter and it would save us money long term to purge NOW. I’d do a Google search to see what’s available in your area. Maybe trade babysitting with another mom so you could work while your husband is traveling? I’d say you have a TON of skills in this area and also some passion? And maybe also looking into more credit card deals? I’ve heard about “sharing” your credit. Have any of you tried this? https://shareyourcredit.com/credit-piggybacking-services/

  51. If you don’t like dental hygiene…don’t do it! I’m a hygienist and I love it – but coworkers who don’t want to do it are quick to burn out. It’s a lot of small talk. It’s an effort for an natural introvert like me. The wages listed above are for full time probably, but many hygienists work part time. The hourly wage changes dramatically based on location. Also licenses are by state or region so you would want to make sure you are doing a program that covers the state you want to live in, or transfers easily to another state based on your husbands job. That being said, hygiene is a well paying in demand job that does offer a flexible schedule for most of us.

    1. Good points on being a hygienist. Seems one would really need to not mind looking in some people’s mouths (for me that would be an ugh).
      But as for small talk …. I hate it when my hygienists talk to me. I can’t answer, for the most part, and I just prefer the quiet. They have a big poster on the ceiling — I wish they could change it out and give me something new to read each time!

    2. Hey Elise, I really appreciate the great info. I do think it would be a pretty good fit for me. I was very bummed when we moved right after I finally got accepted into a program in Georgia. I have talked pretty extensively with my hygienist in our new state and she gave me a lot of great info on the dental hygiene school that is about 45 minutes away from where we live currently. I think it could be a good possibility go to there once my 10 month old is around 2 and ready for preschool. It’s encouraging to hear that you think it’s an in-demand career. I will have to look into the license to see what all states a Virginia license would cover. Thank you so much!

    3. Thank you for this comment! I’ve been a Hygienist for 32 years. It is not for everyone. I was about to comment about reciprocity! Holly needs to look into what you mentioned about state to state licensure! When we moved across country years ago, it was easy enough to transfer my experience and then take the state board but it might not be that way now.
      I enjoy helping make a difference in others’ lives (I work for a periodontist and see the worst of the worst)!
      Being an introvert (which I didn’t quite know that I was for a long time), hygiene works for me! I like the one on one.
      But all in all, if I had to choose again, I’d be a Hygienist. It has afforded me the time to be with my 4 kids (I was able to take about 7 years of only subbing for friends before my 4th was born) while my husband works for a big Corp and is gone 12-14 hours per day!
      You’re done amazing Holly!

  52. If you can swing it and it sounds like you can, stay in your current place. That network of parents and kids can be a great thing. We have a handful of other kids around but no one really that is the right age for ours(there are toddlers and teens but not much in between). In order to hang out with anyone we have to drive.

    1. Hello Stephanie,
      Yes, we went to a pick your own strawberry patch tonight out in the country and on the drive there we started discussing how beautiful it was but how we have really grown accustomed to always having neighbors close. We have even grown to enjoy the sounds of our neighbors children running around above us -It’s oddly comforting 🙂
      Thank you!

  53. I agree with Mrs. FW that you’re in great shape financially! I also agree that you shouldn’t move to the new apartment or sell the second car, but I love her suggestion of Airbnb-ing your home when you’re all gone. That’ll help off-set your travel expenses and maybe even your rent if you remain in the higher priced place.

    I wanted to suggest that you try VIPKid for teaching English online, since you can earn some extra money from home. You could also try watching a child in your home maybe a few days a week. Plenty of nurses work 3 12-hour days and need limited child care and don’t want to pay for full-time day care, so maybe you could bridge that gap for someone and earn some extra income. I don’t know if you want to take that on, but I went to someone’s home and played with her kids while my mom worked short shifts or was in school when I was kid. It was great! And my mom felt safe leaving me in another woman’s home instead of day care.

    Hope this helps! Keep up the great work and good luck!!

  54. You’re so frugal and doing so well, I don’t have a lot to suggest, but do have some different perspective from being retired already. IMO, especially since your husband loves his job, it would be foolish to throw his job away when he is so young. He has so many earning years ahead. As for financial independence, to a lot of people, you would seem to be financially independent already. I say that because your husband earns enough money to allow you to stay home and raise the children and care for the home, and STILL you have reserves large enough that if he suddenly lost his job or it suddenly became intolerable for some reason, he could leave without worrying how the bills would be paid while he found another job. For your age, you ARE financially independent.
    There might be benefit in his getting a similar position for a state university. The reason I say this is that some states have teacher retirement programs to die for. My SIL was a teacher, a single lady, and when she died, we were all shocked at the size of her estate.
    I would rethink the idea of getting rid of a car. We, too, have always driven older cars and not had car payments. BUT, when you do this, repairs are a fact of life. You need backup if a car suddenly had issues when you need to get somewhere important.
    IMO, it is very important to own a home free and clear before retiring. I can’t imagine making rent or mortgage payments in retirement.
    With a disabled husband home 24/7, and his needs fragmenting my time, I would practically kill for the free time to pursue hobbies and read uninterrupted. Use your alone time to do things that you love, as much as the kids will permit.

    1. Hi Paula, thank you so much for commenting. I really enjoyed reading all of your advice. It’s interesting that you mention the state university retirement program because we just found out that coach’s at state schools do qualify for that as well. Something to keep in mind in the future!
      I loved the way you said we were already financially independent…reading all of these comments has been so affirming for us. Mrs. Frugalwoods is accurate in saying she sensed that we are feeling that we are not “doing enough”. I think this insecurity stems a lot from our” lower income level”. Knowing we don’t make a ton has helped motivate us to try to have the highest saving percentage possible because even at that, it’s not a large amount compared to someone with a higher income saving a lower percentage.
      I also agree that for most situations it would make sense to have a house paid off before retiring completely. It seems that everyone commenting is echoing that my husband shouldn’t retire early at the peak of his career in 10 years…I guess that sentiment does make sense but I think we would rather have a plan in place that would allow some freedom just in case their is a need/or want to when the time comes 🙂 I don’t think most people realize how cut throat sports coaching can be. Many head coaches lose their jobs after a few bad seasons with little to no warning so it’s always a good idea to have a security net in place!
      Thank you Paula and I hope you find some time for yourself as well 🙂 -Holly

      1. And Holly, as you know, you can always reach financial independence and keep on working. There’s no requirement to quit when you hit your FI number! But wow does it give you peace of mind and security.

  55. Hi there! I have been in your shoes for 19 years now! Your words took me back to those lonely, difficult days when my kids were little and my husband was often traveling for work, and let me tell you this: it gets so, so, so much easier when your oldest child begins elementary school. Then, while it is still a crazy juggling act, the loneliness subsides a little at a time over the years. I left my schooling unfinished to care for our oldest for two reasons: one, I felt a calling to be home with my kids at least part time; two, it made sense financially to allow my husband to commit fully to his profession and maximize his career potential. I believe that the best scenario is for you to find a flexible job (dental hygiene sounds great) that gives you interaction with others (hello, sanity!) while allowing your husband to keep his career momentum. You, your husband, and your kids will all thrive. And, in time, you won’t blink during those times of your husband’s absence as your kids get older. The other sanity-saver for me during those days were the gym–daycare for the kids, something that was for me–and hiring mother’s helpers (usually, 11 or 12-year-old girls who love to play with little ones while you are getting something done around the house or just resting).

  56. Congrats on your frugality! I have two littles at home ( I now work from home part time). Based on my experience, don’t move. It’s hard to take the rent increase, but it sounds like your apartment complex is one thing that makes your life easier and more connected. I agree with everything Ms. FW said regarding creating a community, and I’d encourage you to prioritize your happiness/sanity 🙂 Isolation is real when you’re parenting!

    1. Thank you Emily 🙂 After reading our own case-study I feel like I now have a renewed sense of gratitude and a realization of just how much I do enjoy our current living situation!-Holly

  57. Holly – I wonder what your thinking was on dental hygienist or accounting. What appealed to you ?There are lots of post here on flexibility which I understand and that will be important for the next 17-18 years. Put another way you will only be 48 when your kinds are 18. I am in the UK so don’t understand US professional qualifications. In the UK there is an Association of Accounting Technicians which teaches you accounts and bookkeeping that every business needs. You can learn remotely and the fees won’t break the bank. Is there an equivalent in the US? To me is sounds a bit strange that you need an expensive masters for accounting.

    1. Hi Sonja, the reasons I started dental hygiene (other than financial/flexibility/demand) was 1) It was fairly short (18 months) and 2) I’ve always had an odd enjoyment of cleaning-I actually clean my family’s ears for fun lol and that doesn’t gross me out so I doubt cleaning peoples mouths would bother me. I also thought it would be very satisfying to be physically assisting people for a living. The main reasons I started accounting besides it being relatively cheap was that I could do it completely online which I thought could be great with kids. I also thought that maybe I would enjoy the finance aspect of it since I enjoy managing our finances and doing our taxes every year. I also have a sister, who is a CPA and has enjoyed a high income right out of college and had a very easy time finding work when she relocated recently for her husband’s job so she had a big influence as well. I believe the US equivalent to what you are speaking about would be an Associates degree in Accounting but would not give you the qualifications to sit for the CPA exam and would not have as high an income earning potential.

  58. one of the only caveat is about taking on a job as a high school coach is that a lot of high schools expect coaches to be teachers as well (usually PE or history) so they are expected to teach all day and then coach football in the afternoon/evening

  59. You are both doing well and I agree with all the advice given about the husbands job is the bread winner and it would be silly for him to not keep heading up the career path. I have been a single Mum for 11 years and one of my best friends is someone I met at a local playgroup. I didn’t like going because my son was crawling around so I would have to follow him inside and outside the community hall so it didn’t give me a chance to talk to a lot of Mum’s. There was a core group of about 8 women who clearly knew each other for years so it felt awkward to try and stand in this group in a big hall. It wasn’t much fun however I knew I had to do it to get out of the house and for my crawling baby. As it turns out one of those ladies is one of my best friends so my advice is it just takes time from meeting people who are acquaintances to becoming friends. On the job front about wanting something for you other than feeding young children and running the household can you volunteer at a local community centre to perhaps do their newsletter or something like that help out. You will get to know others quicker and also have a sense of achievement and something that isn’t mothering. It won’t solve the money issue however it will probably give you a sense of satisfaction. Also since you have had someone renting with you as a family have you considered International Students homestay. Not sure if they do that in your city however International Students going to your husband’s university need somewhere to live. You get a set amount paid by the homestay company and you usually have to provide breakfast and dinner and they have to pay or buy their own lunch. Also you can state you want a female over 18 since you have young children and the homestay company do all the vetting etc. Usually you can do any length of period ie one month perhaps which is the first month the student would arrive from another country and then they go out and find somewhere to house share or you could do the whole year. Ring the University and find out about International Homestay or they may do normal homestay from students living away from home. This way you are not dealing with random people coming to live with you it’s done through an agency. The other thing I was thinking of which would be fantastic for you and your kids is the Community Garden. Check out your local FB or area to see if there is a community garden where you can hire a plot for the year – relatively cheap $30-$50 for the year. You can grow veggies, learn about growing veggies and meet people. The kids will love planting seeds they probably have working bees where all the families come together to do a tidy up of the place. Growing fresh veggies without chemicals is great for your family, it is fun to grow fresh food, kids love digging in the garden and being out in the fresh air and sunshine is also great for your mental state. In the UK they call them “allotments” not sure what they call them in the USA. In Australia they are “community gardens”. I think this would fill in time when your husband travels and get you all out of the house and meet like minded people. If you don’t know how to grow veggies they can help you with what seeds to plant. Being successful at growing veggies is quite simple.. grow the right seeds for the season, water, sunshine and within no time you can be harvesting fresh food. Herbs are easy and great to grow because it saves money buying them. Also lettuce tomatoes are easy to grow. I can highly recommend this as meeting a lot of your needs as it makes you feel good, the home grown chemical free veggies taste so much better than store bought and teaching the kids where food comes is very important. I can highly recommend this for you. I would jump onto this immediately.

    1. Hi Kathy, thank you for your suggestions. I love the community gardening idea and am going to check FB for a group tonight. My 4 year old is actually going through a “seed-planting” phase right now 🙂 He just planted a microwaved popcorn seed the other night and has been watering it religiously haha so it would be good for him to watch others gardening correctly 😉
      I’m also intrigued by this student home stay program and will have to look into that. Our last roommate was a graduate student who was a colleague from my brief full time working stint and before that we had a friend we went to college with who worked nights so after a year he grew tired of being woken up during the day by our son. It was ALMOST always nice having someone around though. I am going to start listing our apartment on Airbnb more for “intensive” weeks that line up with my spouse traveling. I agree that this may be a great way for me to stay busy managing that and also help out some financially. Thank you for your great input! -Holly

  60. Hi Holly,
    Way to go on the saving and frugality! I was wondering if you have thought of buying a RV or camper and traveling with your husband full time? At least while the kids are little. If you love it you could homeschool when it’s time to go to school, or settle wherever it’s convenient. If you wanted to keep your apartment you could rent it out while you are gone to make some extra income. There are so many families living this way full time and many ways to learn about the lifestyle from blogs and such. You mentioned that you are homebodies, so this way you could all be together and have a home as well. I’m a SAHM to a 7 and 3 year old and I often wish we would have gone this route instead of buying a house. I wish you happiness in whatever you choose!

  61. Can someone please explain/answer the big health insurance question? Several commenters have asked with no response. How do they pay for it now? How will they afford it if they stop working? My husband and I both work and our cost is 12k a year right now for a family of 3 and would be that much, if not more, if we were to stop working before 65 when we would qualify for Medicare. I would love to hear how this factors in to both their current financial situation and the projected plan. Why isn’t health insurance its own category in their budget?

    1. For health insurance, all of the early retired people in the US (who I know) use one of two routes: the ACA or a health sharing ministry. I am personally in the camp of preferring to use the ACA, but everyone needs to do their own research. The ACA has subsidies (depending on your circumstances) and has different costs depending on where you live, how many dependents you have, etc. I advise anyone considering early retirement to research what they’d be paying every month through the ACA. This is a calculation I’ve done for my situation (Vermont, 2 adults, 2 kids) and know what that monthly dollar amount would be. In the Case Study today, they pay their health insurance pre-tax as a deduction from George’s paycheck (there’s a mention of this next to his income in the income spreadsheet). The mercurial nature of health insurance in the US is one the reasons why I always recommend that folks overshoot their FI number prior to quitting their jobs. The blog Root of Good (early retired parents with three young kids) has several excellent posts on how to navigate signing up for the ACA: https://rootofgood.com/affordable-care-act-coverage-subsidies-pitfalls/

    2. Hi Christy, Yes we would probably end up using the ACA plans if they are still options when the time comes. We actually already tried them out a few years ago when we moved states and we worked briefly for an employer that didn’t offer health insurance. It would definitely depend on the situation though- I’ve heard of people who are very healthy that go the health sharing ministry route but I am a hypochondriac so I would probably not be comfortable with that.
      We currently have a high deductible family plan through my spouses employee where we pay $190 a month with a $3,000 annual deductible. His employer is obviously subsidizing a large portion which is a wonderful perk that not all employers offer.
      Best wishes -Holly

  62. You guys are doing great but I agree with the advice not to move. You mentioned you may relocate in a year or two, why put your family through that. The relationships you are already building are more important. And please please do not assume the cat smell will dissipate. Sometimes you need to replace the subfloor.

    Since you already have your degree, is there a post grad certificate you would be interested in rather than a full blown masters. Sounds like you are not interested in dental or accounting. Analysts are hot in demand or what about HR, or higher ed admin since you will likely always be in a college town. Good luck!

    1. Hi Heather, I just stopped reading and went and looked up certificate information. It looks like those aren’t covered under my spouse’s benefits :/ I think the one I would be most interested in would be HR/benefits coordinator. I’ve often thought I would be great at that because I am that person that explains benefits to other people because of all the research I’ve had to do for early retirement. I’m sure an associates degree in HR from our local community college wouldn’t be that expensive since I have most of the core courses completed already. I have some serious research to do!
      Thank you for your feedback! Regarding the smelly town home-Our current plan is to wait and see if it is still up for rent once those tenants move out-If it is, we’ll ask to go do a walk through and check it out and see if they changed the carpets. It would be an amazing location to use as an AIRBNB rental because it is so close to the university and I know it would be much easier renting that place out than our current home but we’ll see. I do also see everyone’s point in not moving out of our current community but some other factors that my frugal mind has been contemplating is 1. our rent is higher here because we have access to a pool and a gym. 2. If i’m wanting to start joining a gym/YMCA with a child-watch program to meet other people it may not make sense to pay the higher rent for these amenities that we’re not using. Perhaps we can find a place that has fewer amenities but is just as nice of a community feeling.
      Thank you Heather!

  63. I can completely relate to your comment about finding way to make friends so being a SAHM is less isolating. I work full-time and that has traditionally provided a. . . forced social outlet (I’m definitely an introvert). However, I recently had twins and thus took time off for FMLA. My husband doesn’t travel as much as yours does but he does have a number of late nights due to the nature of his job, so I was alone quite a bit (which was quite the experience, especially during the witching hour). Here are some things that I did to try and help:
    1. Just get out of the house. Even if it’s just for a walk with the kids. You don’t have to plan to meet anyone when you leave–I noticed a lot of my problems were just me going stir crazy cooped up in a house
    2. Could you Skype with family? I know it’s not the same as seeing them in person, but it could give you another adult to talk to without spending so much to travel. I still Skype with a number of my friends from college and would consider myself closer to some of them than most of the people I know locally even though we haven’t seen each other in years, mostly because we have similar interests.
    3. Go somewhere where there will be lots of people with little kids. The library probably has some programs (I did a series of free Infant Massage classes at mine. They also offer story time). Alternatively, maybe there’s a neighborhood block party or some sort of festival coming up. My town did a village-wide garage sale that I took my girls to. The nice thing about places with lots of people is that you don’t have to introduce yourself to others. I’ve found there’s always at least one Mrs. FW around–i.e. that mother who comes up to randomly introduce herself (especially if you have two babies). There’s a person to talk to without having to get far outside your introvert comfort zone (side note: for those of you like Mrs. FW who do introduce yourself to strangers, THANK YOU! It makes things much easier for us introverts).
    4. Join a local group or two with interests similar to yours. I’m in a Mothers of Multiples group and La Leche League. You can search “Moms groups near ” on Google and probably find a group with interests similar to yours. I’ve heard Fit4Mom is good too (and does the double duty of getting you exercising)

  64. Things I like to do with the kids when Dad is out of town:
    – picnic dinner (if it’s cold out, we eat on a blanket on the living room floor). This has yet to get old and my kids are 4 and 8.
    – we bake cookies, sometimes even on a school night, which is a big treat
    – I have a drawer of fun things that I’ve collected over time that aren’t usually available to them. (Books, fancy markers, new bubbles etc). Sometimes all it takes is something new and out of their routine to provide them with a new way to play.
    – we build forts, sometimes out of cushions, sometimes out of boxes.

  65. Just chiming in to add the dental hygienist route might give you more options than you realize. With a few years of experience, there are a lot of opportunities for dental hygienists to do utilization review, or reviewing dental records to make sure they meet insurance criteria. These jobs are often remote and flexible, and with your background in health promotion you might find opportunities for advancement. Google dental hygienist utilization review jobs to see what is out there :).

  66. This is incredible! It’s always amazing for me, a pretty non-frugal person, to see how others can save so much. I also was amazed that Holly and George took a roommate, even after kids, and that they AirBnB their apartment to make extra money. The one thing that didn’t surprise me was how much they made on “treasures” they found on the side of the road. When we lived in NH, my husband and I would find tons of treasures at the town dump, where there was a section people just left stuff in for the taking. People throw out the nicest things! We’ve made hundreds of dollars over the years by selling fixed-up electronics, kids’ toys, etc. Great job, guys, and I second Mrs. Frugalwood’s advice to become a dental hygienist. I had friends with small kids who worked part-time and it seemed to work very well for them.

    1. Hi Laurie, oh I could talk all day about our “treasures”. Some of the nicest things we’ve found so far haven’t even been sold because we’re using them (our retro kitchen table)! Our town has a very predictable “picking season” around the end of the semesters but a lot of things have been found in other apartment communities where people are constantly moving in/out and overestimate how much they can fit in their uhauls so they get desperate and start putting everything next to the dumpster. We had two neighbors that were international students last year that just put all their furniture outside of their door with a note saying “take me”. We sold their tv, a bookshelf, a desk, and some decorative items all within about a week! This is one reason I would hate to get rid of our SUV Ha!

      And the having a roommate being married with kids raised quite a few eyebrows and concerned looking expressions-One time my father in law blurted out angrily at me why can’t you guys just be normal and not have a roommate?! I honestly think he didn’t like the awkwardness of visiting us and having someone else around using the kitchen/living room but whatevs 😉 You really have to develop a thick skin if you’re going to be serious about being frugal. You also can’t expect people to understand what you’re doing because from the outside looking in it looks like you must be having financial issues because you’re doing things that aren’t the norm?

  67. My advice about making friends – especially since Holly said she hates small talk- is to try to shift her mindset. Small talk is the “warming up”/“testing the waters” of social relationships and I know it can be hard- but if you view it negatively, it will feel harder. I know when I moved to the Midwest without knowing anyone, I was frustrated at constantly having to make new connections & feeling like I was always starting over. But the thing is that people who open up to you immediately on everything deep, don’t have good boundaries. After a couple of intense starts that burnt me out bc they were asking too much of me, and after getting frustrated with friends that would get to know me and then not text or make plans for MONTHS at a time, I just embraced low expectations and focused on myself. Now, I get a lot of pleasure from talking to my neighbors, connecting lightly with my fitness group friends in person & via text, seeing some other people one on one every few months or so, and catching up on a deeper level with old friends on phone or video chat. The deeper stuff will come with trust & time, but in the meantime just think of small talk as making penny deposits in your bank of social interactions. They’re not all going to lead anywhere, but over time they can add up to real money.

    PS if you are struggling with intense feelings do isolation, anxiety, Loneliness, finding a counselor or support group can help be an outlet for those more intense feelings that new acquaintances may not be equipped to handle. I saw a counselor for a couple of years here just to have a place to vent everything every two weeks.

    1. Thank you Rachel, your story resonates well with me. I think going to a counselor could be a very healthy thing for me to invest in- I have seen one in the past and although it can be a very emotionally exhausting experience it has never not helped. I am also realizing that I put too much pressure on my spouse about his traveling and could benefit from a professionals help in learning how to accept that and get to a better place.
      Thank you so much for sharing

  68. You are doing an amazing job! Things I noticed: in my opinion I think you’re over insured in regards to Life Insurance. You should carry the term life insurance for as long as you need the other persons income/duties. So if you are realistically planning to retire in 10 years you would not need Life Insurance past 10 years. I would consider reducing to a 10 year term for both of you.
    I would also be maxing out your husband’s Roth 401(k) and then maxing out Roth IRA for both of you. After that then contribute to your taxable accounts (Non retirement).
    Considering an 8% return on your money with 3% inflation, 4% withdrawal rate, annual budget of 22K , saving 31K a year, and 186K in savings you could retire in 7 1/2 years, but you would have to crunch the numbers again as you get closer depending on the market and your investments. I think you should consider what your budget will look like after retirement and do you want to travel more because this could increase your budget and change how much you would need to have saved.
    Lastly I would look into considering buying a home to increase savings and investments. It’s worth discussing the likelihood of needing to move, how secure is the current job, and whether you decided to settle down in your area/schools. Look into real estate that has the potential to be rented in case you do move, and where the rent would cover the mortgage. If you’re nervous about being a long-distance tenant there are management companies that can assist . you have the investments for a sizable down payment and I would recommend a 15 year mortgage and possibly 10. You could then rent a room to help cover costs, Or maybe buy a two family, if you owned it for over two years you could then sell it without paying taxes, or rent it if you needed to move.

  69. Holly you’re doing great. Being a SAHM is hard. When my kids were little I joined a fancy gym that had free childcare for up to 2 hours. So every morning I went, worked out, had a lazy shower & got dressed. I made friends got fit and my kids enjoyed the fun staff & other kids. Of course occasionally I’d need to leave if kids were upset. It was well worth the money!
    I’m now divorced, so I’m doing it all alone. I went back to work full time. It was hard. My skill set way behind. My prior insurance career was well paid. But after being a SAHM it was so lame I quit after 2 years. I’m a SAHM again, I do ok on just child support. My middle school kids are doing better with me at home. I am looking for something more flexible. The Dental hygienist option sounds good. I hate to say this but I would recommend all moms be skilled in something so that if the marriage breaks down they can support themselves. I will be teaching my daughter this. Good luck

  70. It looks like your family is doing great financially! My family is in a somewhat similar situation (one full-time income, one work-at-home/stay-at-home parent), and it’s nice to see how another family with a similar income makes it work. Two thoughts for you:

    First, I think you are under-insured for your cars. When my husband and I sat down with our insurance agent, he explained to us that we need to have at least our net worth plus our annual income in liability insurance – otherwise if you are at fault in an accident and sued, the insurance company knows they will likely have to pay out the entire value of your policy whether they fight it or not, so they will not fight it and leave you on your own to pay any judgment above your insurance policy. Since your net worth is relatively high for a young couple, the state minimum is almost certainly not enough insurance for you.

    Second, You could clean the carpets in your new townhouse yourself if the landlord is not willing to. I have hired a company to do this in an apartment I was renting, and have friends who rented a carpet cleaner from a grocery store to do it themselves in an apartment they were renting.

  71. Holly, I work in collegiate athletics so I understand the strain. It sounds like a challenging time but you are so smart!! My husband struggled when we moved for my job and he was unemployed. I think if you could find a job that provided child care, you could find community, purpose and add to your income. You mentioned there is a YMCA in the area. Maybe you could work there. Your children could benefit from the youth camps or childcare programs while you work. Not to mention you’d get a free membership. If not the YMCA, maybe another business in your area would make sense. Just an idea. I feel good karma coming your way.

  72. Although I can see that Mrs. Frugalwoods is purposefully being conservative with your savings and investment projections, I think it is equally misleading to calculate savings needed per year by simply dividing an estimated goal number by years. Even if all of your assets were just in a high interest savings account earning 2% (which is maybe barely keeping up with inflation) Holly and George will nearly reach their goal number by maintaining their current savings rate. Since much of their assets are invested they should expect an average return higher than 2% and of course they are very likely to be able to increase their savings rate as George’s income increases over the next 10 years.

    None of us can see the future but it looks very likely that continuing their current savings plan and investment schedule will easily allow them a version of financial independence in 10 years (taking extended time off, or flexible/minimal working, or no work needed with continued low living expenses) without worrying about cutting expenses further or Holly feeling pressured to earn more money. If she wants to find a job for personal reasons that is totally different.

    I also agree with Katherine who mentioned getting the townhouse carpets cleaned yourself if the landlord doesn’t. It has to be cheaper than losing your deposit and it sounds like an ideal location that will allow you to walk to work and to school, and probably walking to other neighborhood services that tend to cluster around college campuses – bonus this could lead to less social isolation and more connection to the community.

  73. I have one suggestion regarding Holly’s HSA. If you are still in a high-deductible health plan, please consider using your HSA as part of your retirement strategy, instead of using it to pay your annual deductibles. The reason? The HSA is the ONLY account type that offers a three-way tax advantage: your contributions go in pre-tax, your earnings are not taxed, and there is no tax when you eventually use your HSA funds on approved healthcare expenses. According to the Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, an average retired couple age 65 in 2019 may need approximately $285,000 saved (after tax) to cover health care expenses in retirement–and by the time you are that age, the number will likely be even higher!

  74. Holly, you’re doing a commendable job! Your husband is happy and fulfilled in a career he chose and that he loves. I suspect he will not be eager to give that up in ten years. Your FIRE goal is for both of you to be able to spend more time as a family and that will likely come naturally as his career progresses and he can delegate the travel to a subordinate. You yourself are already having plenty of family time, but it sounds like you are looking forward to a time when you can return to the workforce when the cost of daycare wouldn’t consume all your earnings. In the meantime, here are the ways I helped make ends meet when our kids were really small:
    – We managed a small townhouse complex in exchange for 50% reduction in our rent.
    – I ran a daycare center in our home, full-time. No license was needed as long as I only had one or two kids in addition to mine. In general, having one or two extra kids was not extra work; it kept my kids happier and well occupied.
    – Evenings and weekends when my husband could watch the kids, I tutored English as a Second Language, SAT preparation, various other subjects.
    – When both kids were in school all day, I began substitute-teaching at their school. This gave me the option of not working if one of them was home sick, and I was always off with them in the summers. By working only at their school, I was able to arrive early to prepare for the school day and they would walk to their class before school began, then return to whatever classroom I was subbing in when the school day was over.
    – When the youngest child was 10, I returned to working full-time in a conventional job and had a very fulfilling career until I retired at 52 with a pension.
    Two other considerations for your calculations: kids become more expensive as they grow – sports, lessons, camp, just eating more, and eventually – college. And I have not seen any mention of how you’ll pay for medical, dental and vision benefits – those are an enormous expense that does not go away when you retire early. If my husband did not have benefits, we would be paying at least $1500/month for medical & dental premiums, co-pays, deductibles, etc. until we reach Medicare age.
    Best of luck to you, I think you’re doing an amazing job!

  75. Look at adjusting your tax withholding. You guys are giving the gov’t an interest free $4000 per year loan!
    Work with a tax professional to get your refund as close to $0/yr as possible. Take that difference, invest it every month, and let compound interest do its thing!

    You guys are killing it! Keep getting after it!

  76. You need some help on recovering this relatively huge apartment deposit, perhaps there’s a law school connected to your university.. Use any law student program you might qualify for. You need an advocate, even an attorney. Be hard and forceful on this issue.. Multiple cat urine smell is unacceptable and likely violates any warranty of habitability . This scuzzy landlord might well be liable to young children for any ensuing allergy, breathing issues, etc. Do not sign a lease unless it is remedied or you will have waived most of your rights to later object or withhold rent.
    As to retiring after 10 years, I guess it’s all covered by the pursuit of happiness clause…. best of luck..

  77. Holly, could you ‘rent’ out your spare room for free/ nominal contribution in exchange for babysitting? Instead of renting it out occasionally via AirBnB or having a housemate despite two small children, could you make it all about the children? You could probably find a suitable student who would love to save on accommodation in exchange for a couple of hours of childminding a week. A couple of hours of child-free hours a week might help you to finish your education/ training, start a side hustle, go on a date night with your husband when he returns from traveling, have child-free time even while George is away, in short have a life besides being a mum – and you have the spare room anyway if you don’t move (don’t move, at least not into an apartment with an already unreliable landlord). Additionally, you would have some company and an extra pair of hands while George is traveling. I’d encourage you to think about your current living and financial arrangements creatively – as long as the expectations on both sides are really clear (how many hours of childminding? does it cover rent or rent + utilities? what are the agreed times for childminding, eg every Monday or flexible depending on George’s traveling schedule etc.) such a more unconventional model might work great for your family at the moment and provide better value than the occasional side income through AirBnB.

    1. Maybe even a student who is majoring in/getting a Master’s in early childhood development? They’d probably jump at the chance to practice their techniques. Great idea, Kate! Also, some universities have on-campus childcare. Depending on availability and cost, utilizing it might be worth it if you could then focus more time on finishing a degree.

  78. I’m a CPA with a master’s in accounting (from many years back), and I just want to say that there are areas of accounting where the skills are highly portable and allow you to get a job anywhere. Most notably, either bookkeeping or tax are in high demand pretty much all over. Bookkeeping is really good for people who want to work on a part-time basis. Tax is really good for people who want to work on a seasonal basis. Both can often be done remotely. For example, the firm I work for is in MD, and we recently had a staff member move to NC, and he works remotely from there. Most accounting firms also have a number of regular seasonal hires who work only during tax season.
    If you don’t like accounting (perfectly understandable, especially if you ask me in early April), then it’s probably worth pursuing something you like more, but if you just want something that pays relatively well with opportunities for flexible schedules and portability, it may be worth keeping on in the field. You would be much more employable after getting some experience, so perhaps when your youngest is in school, it might be worth pursuing an internship with a local accounting firm. (In accounting, internships should always be paid, so you would be making some money while getting training.)
    Also, most accountants who aren’t CPAs have undergraduate degrees, so a master’s isn’t really necessary for employment. If you can transfer some of your credits to the undergrad level and get a second bachelor’s degree for free, you could potentially pursue the field without investing much more money. You’d have to check with your college, but since you already have one bachelor’s degree, you shouldn’t need to retake all the general requirements to get a second. Good luck.

    1. Hi Greg, thank you for your comment. It’s very helpful to hear from someone in the field. Curious, did you become a CPA before getting your masters degree? The reason I was going for a Masters instead of a second Bachelors was that the Masters degree actually required much less credits hours (30 hours instead of 60-not including any general education courses required). My sister, who is a CPA as well, also pointed out that I could try to get any type of bookkeeping job now just for experience and that I may not even need a degree for that- after your comment I am going to do some research on paid internships in the area. Being a college town, I’m sure there are businesses looking for part time help from accounting students.
      Thank you!

  79. Two and a half days and my comments still not visible. The discussion will obviously be over before I’m allowed to join it. I’m trying to figure out how to unjoin this right now!

  80. You are doing great! I feel like renting has put you guys ahead in a major way. Owning a home is way more expensive than just the mortgage lol! I think that if you can find a different townhome that doesn’t have cat pee smells, and is cheaper and close to work, go for it. BUT I see a huge benefit to your sanity if you stay put in your apartment, enjoy spreading out a bit(I think it’s a two bedroom which is not a ton of space for four people anyway). I think if you are going to handle two little kids, while your husband is away for work, adding a move and a new place with new to you neighbors would be a somewhat challenging. Enjoy the community you have, and stay put is what I’d do for now. That said, I think you should finish your accounting degree for the future. One day those really needy babies are going to be in school all day and you might find yourself with some time on your hands. Not sure about FIRE, but I know my disability means I’ll have to work part time or not at all. So financially we need to be ready for early retirement. If your husband is like mine, he’s going to need to work for his own sanity. Many people, get some major fulfillment from working. I also think I’d throw him out if he were home micromanaging the way I put dishes in the dishwasher or swiffer the floors.
    My husband was in consulting for over a decade and travelled every single week M-F. I was working more too, around 30 hours a week and that was crazy stressful. At least you have the pressures of work off your plate for a little while. The way I handled stress was lowering my standards for a clean home, and making simple pleasures fun for the kids. We took walks every day for an hour. We’d have a picnic in the backyard. We saw friends for a playdate once or twice a week. I shopped while my husband was home so I didn’t have to drag the kids and have them implode at Target. I joined a MOPS group and met other moms of small children. Going to the petstore or a new park was an adventure. And I turned on a lot of strawberry shortcake episodes so I could lie down for half an hour. I decluttered big time so I’d have less stuff to organize and dust. I simplified as much as I could, since my health was always so unpredictable. I think you’ve got that covered though and being a minimalist is so awesome!!! I know less is more calm in my frame of mind!!! After baby #3 we decided it was time he’d find a local job with a lot less travel. He still works at the office until 10-11 pm. So I’m still technically alone all the time during the week. It is hard, but you have to be comfortable with yourself and be confident that you are living your best life right here, right now!
    That said, I’d keep saving since you all are so good at it-and consider saving to buy a home outright(or a condo/townhome). I think that if you do want to retire, owning your home outright is going to help you in many ways. Maybe you’ll want to wait until you are both sure you are where you want to lay down roots. But at some point, sitting on so much money, I’d put some in real estate so that you have some wealth diversity. Good luck!

    1. Hi Cindy, thank you for sharing your story. I thought the “putting on the strawberry shortcake episodes so you can lie down for a half hour” was hilarious as I’ve done the same only to wake up on the couch to a toddler poking me in the face because the show went off-thank the Lord for the auto-play function on Netflix now 😉
      It sounds like you did a good job balancing work/family with such a crazy work schedule and three kids! I’m sure it was a great change up once your spouse started working locally. I think things for us will get easier as time goes by… I’m sure we are in a huge adjustment period and I just haven’t realized it since we have a 10 month old now and the last time we had a newborn my husband wasn’t traveling. It is also amazing how much I have forgotten about babies in 4 years time! I also appreciate you saying you have to be comfortable with yourself and confident that you are living your best life even while alone as I find myself getting into some negative thinking spirals while alone for a few days which doesn’t help anything or anyone.
      Someday we would love to buy a house or maybe a condo in a coastal town- we think it would be easier to lure any grand kids into visiting us if we retire to a vacationey/fun spot 🙂
      Thank you for your wisdom and encouragement! -Holly

  81. Holly, I just have to say that you are crushing it! I just felt compelled to comment because I see a lot of similarities in our lives. We are the same age with 2 kiddos, are saving for FI, and I stay home with the kids. We’ve had to move a few times over the years and with each move I’ve met great mom friends through gyms. Eventually with this last move we we’re near a YMCA and I started volunteering a couple hours a week ( they have childcare) and then when the opportunity arose I started working there. The pay isn’t fantastic, but I can put it all in a 403c and it is an amazing boost for my mental health. I get endorphins from exercise and I get to spend time meeting other grown-ups. This might be something to consider if you’re not ready to decide on a full career move path. It’s as part time as you want, it’s good for your physical and mental health, you don’t need to have a certificate to teach group exercise classes (at most at the Y you’ll take a mini-course you’ll get paid to take), the Y has (limited) free childcare for employees, and as an introvert, it’s helped me learn how to talk to people and I’ve made amazing real friends. I just thought I’d share since it’s really helped me during the young children phase where I don’t want a full team career, but I want and need some other stimulation. Best of luck, you really are doing an amazing job at life!

    1. Hi Britt, and thank you for your suggestion. What an awesome thing that you volunteered first and were able to get a paid position from there. We have a large YMCA that is only a few miles from where we live currently. A woman from our community invited me to go with her to try out a class so I will have to take her up on that now that our baby is a bit older. Thank you and have a wonderful week!

  82. I will add to the chorus of other people and commend you for the great job that you’re doing financially. I agree with the suggestions that you stay put in your current apartment. I unexpectedly became a single mom when my kids were three and five. I had no family in the area, but my neighborhood of friends in our townhouse community were an invaluable source of support. I worked on a 70% schedule in a demanding field (law). My advice on joining activities with other moms is to keep trying until it sticks. Like you, I was very shy. It was hard to put myself out there and join groups, especially since a lot of the people in the groups already seemed to be friends. I joined a local newcomers group, but could not get to play dates or other daytime activities because Of my work schedule. At times, I felt incredibly isolated.Nevertheless, I persisted and attended evening or weekend activities when I could. 20 years later, I am in a book club with some of the people that I met in the newcomers group, who are now wonderful friends. I’m really happy that put myself out there back when my kids were little. Sometimes the process just takes a while. Your comments show that you are an articulate and thoughtful person. There are people whom you may not have met yet who will be lucky to have you as a friend.

  83. Wow! I am impressed with all the ways Holly & George handle their finances! 🙂 I have a question/thought from a different perspective, b/c I am a senior citizen…IF Holly & George retire in 10 years, where will they get their family health insurance from? (I had enough years in my State pension so they offered me coverage at a low premium until I qualified for medicare) Keep up the good work, and thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Hi Barb, another person asked this question earlier so I will copy and paste Mrs. Frugalwood’s response below since she answered it much better than I could 🙂

      Mrs. Frugalwoods May 16, 2019 at 7:29 am
      For health insurance, all of the early retired people in the US (who I know) use one of two routes: the ACA or a health sharing ministry. I am personally in the camp of preferring to use the ACA, but everyone needs to do their own research. The ACA has subsidies (depending on your circumstances) and has different costs depending on where you live, how many dependents you have, etc. I advise anyone considering early retirement to research what they’d be paying every month through the ACA. This is a calculation I’ve done for my situation (Vermont, 2 adults, 2 kids) and know what that monthly dollar amount would be. In the Case Study today, they pay their health insurance pre-tax as a deduction from George’s paycheck (there’s a mention of this next to his income in the income spreadsheet). The mercurial nature of health insurance in the US is one the reasons why I always recommend that folks overshoot their FI number prior to quitting their jobs. The blog Root of Good (early retired parents with three young kids) has several excellent posts on how to navigate signing up for the ACA: https://rootofgood.com/affordable-care-act-coverage-subsidies-pitfalls/

      Thank you!

  84. First time writer, but I felt compelled to respond. I am a 45 yo male who had a life plan similar to yours. Maximize income and minimize expenses from age 25-40 so I could have the freedom to spend unlimited time with family after that. The problem I encountered was that my kids didn’t need me to raise them after they were about 12 years old. I was home for them, but they were at school then sports then homework. Consequently, I returned to the workplace part time for socialization purposes.
    To paraphrase Frugalwoods, it is imperative that you retire TO something. What are you retiring to in 10 years? You state that it is to spend more time with your family. You already spend nearly all of your time with family and it doesn’t appear that your husband shares that goal. If he did, there are plenty of better lifestyle jobs.
    If your plan to FIRE in 10 years is successful, you and your husband will have plenty of time to spend with family at precisely the time that your kids don’t need you nearly as much. Have you considered a plan for you/your husband to spend more now, work more when your kids are in high school, and work even more when your kids are out of the house? If so, you potentially could enjoy life a little more now (by staying in your current home) and you could delay your plans for school (and paying job) until the kids are in school.

    1. Hi Brennan, thank you so much for your thoughtful and honest observations. You raise some very good points and some major “holes” in our plan. When we originally started working towards FI 7 years ago we thought we would get there around age 35 but due to life and several moves/job changes early on that plan didn’t work out- hence the reason that we are trying to be more frugal/gain extra income now to reach FI ASAP.
      I agree that we need to think more about what we are going to retire to – we originally thought we would retire and “travel the world” HA!- we don’t really ever talk about doing that anymore as that’s sounding more and more exhausting 🙂 but we would love to have the flexibility to travel with our kids during their Summer breaks or take long trips over school breaks even when they are high school age. We’ve also talked about someday opening a bed and breakfast Airbnb if we lived near the coast.
      We’ve thought about taking “mini retirements” now while our kids are young but that takes a ton of courage and a lot of risks if something doesn’t work out and you end up not being able to work as much later in life. Our fears were that we may become a burden to our kids if we don’t fully prepare for our own retirement years first.
      I think your comment of my spouse not sharing the same goal of spending more time with our family is insightful. He does spend all of his extra time outside of work at home but at the same time I think he has decided it’s not worth taking a job he doesn’t enjoy to be home more. I think he gets a ton of satisfaction from doing a job that he enjoys and feels like he’s good at and I personally think he’s a more enjoyable person to be around because of this. It’s not always fun for me to be home alone with our kids which is why I am trying to come up with ways to change that mindset. This “case study” process has been very helpful and enlightening as to other options and things we haven’t considered before.
      Thank you and congrats on reaching your version of FI!

  85. The main problem of this analysis regarding the 10-year retirement plan is the failure to account for healthcare costs in the assessment of amount of money they will need to be financially independent. That is the current annual spending is reported at $21K, which does NOT include $2K/month in health insurance ACA costs. That indicates that the $569K number is not an accurate representation of what they need. Moreover, their children are quite small. Their current annual spending of 21K likely doesn’t represent what they’ll need in 10 years with a 14 & 11 yr old (turns our larger children eat substantially more than toddler/infants). Education costs etc will fluctuate with childrens ages as well (sports etc). My point is that the changing dynamics in their young family make the 10-year FIRE calculation particularly challenging. The focus of increasing income – with a balance of family life – rather than focusing on the 10-year goal seems more productive.

  86. Just a data point, I have a MSA and make substantially more than those numbers put up for dental hygienists, and I’m even at a nonprofit and likely underpaid. Not that that’s the right job for holly, but just wanted to clarify.

  87. The stay-at-home life is really tough, and I think there are days for every SAHM where we wonder about our purpose. I’ve always been super driven myself and did work outside the home full-time for the first year of my daughter’s life, but I ultimately decided that home was where I wanted to be more. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy, though! I found that with how driven I am (and from your case study, I’m sensing that you’re very driven, as well), I really need to prioritize time to work on personal projects. For me, I blog semi-regularly (and make a *very small* income from that), and I also love photography, which has also started to bring in some income over the years. We’ve also bought storage units up for auction and sold the stuff inside for profit, and I also will list stuff on eBay for profit that was found at thrift stores. All those projects or side hustles or whatever do bring in money (though blogging didn’t for a looooong time), but I found that I needed to just do them at the beginning for ME—not to worry about the money or what might eventually come out of them, but just because I enjoyed them. I know I’m a happier mom when I feel a sense of purpose on multiple levels (not just in the fulfillment of my mothering duties alone), so maybe do some exploring to feel out some hobbies and interests that you have. It might also be a great way to meet like-minded people!

    And serious kudos on how well you guys are doing. I mean, I thought we were pretty darn frugal (and our income is similar to yours), but you guys blow us out of the water!

  88. Wow, I thought I was frugal – their annual spending comes in just a little lower than mine, and I live alone! It’s not quite enough to retire in ten years, but you’re on the right track – maybe it’s OK if it takes a little longer? If not, increasing the income side would be huge. Maybe you could ramp up your ebay business my doing a little flipping? Before my main job’s salary and responsibilities increased, I was flipping things I found at thrift stores and rummage sales. The app let’s you do research on the spot, and eventually you start learning what sells and for how much. I once flipped a $3 mp3 player for $40!

    As the Commodore of Bike Fun I always endorse moving within walking/biking distance to work (The fuel savings will be more than $50 per month – it always adds up to more than you think it will, not to mention the decreased cost of a second vehicle. However, absolutely make sure they plan to clean/replace those cat pee carpets before you sign anything! In my experience a non-committal answer is usually a no.

    If you can get your masters for free, do it. For sure. Accounting pays well and are usually in demand. Even working part time in accounting would put your FIRE date below 10 years.

  89. I suggest they save more than the $569,000. While they are in good health and able to find a job easily, they should save more in case they have substantial health care costs in their later years. Assisted living is around $5,500 a month in my area. Memory care is $6,500.

    I’ve also heard of SAHMs that teach English to children in China over the internet. I can’t remember the name of the company, but people that I know who do it highly recommend it. These moms teach between 4 and 6 a.m. and then spend the rest of the day with their kids. That might be another good side hustle for this couple. Good luck!

  90. Hi Holly, You are leading an inspiring life with your values and finances aligned at such a young age! Forgive me if this is repeating an earlier comment, but I wanted to chime in and add that you might have to consider bigger kid expenses in the future. For lots of working parents, school age children are cheaper than toddlers/preschoolers because daycare is reduced or eliminated. But since you seem to have no expenses in that area, it might come as a shock when your school age kids start doing activities. We are by no means an extreme sports family, but we started my 3rd grade son in team sports at the local city rec center–the cheapest possible option for us– 2 seasons of basketball + 2 of baseball = $660/year, before shoes. 🙂 Obviously this is a want and not a need, but something to consider as you make budget projections, especially since you might have an athletic family given your husband’s job.

  91. One thing that sticks out to me is this:
    Career: Ideally, George would like to become a head coach so that he has more flexibility with his schedule.
    I work at a DI school that’s nationally recognized and that’s the furthest thing from reality there is. I work pretty closely with some in Athletics but am not part of the department.The demands on their time do nothing but increase as they move up. Road games, recruiting season, camps, you name it. Those guys are on call all the time. Even the admin staff is expected to be able to drop everything on no notice at any hour. For the head coaches and assistant coaches in the biggest sports, they are highly compensated, but the support staff and grad assistants? Not even close. Additionally, they are expected to cultivate an image that will attract and retain donors/booster money. That image is not “frugal”. You didn’t say what sport or what division he’s in, but it’s probably obvious that this applies more to big-money sports like football and basketball and less to, say, golf and swimming/diving.

    I guess he could go into compliance or some other facet of athletics administration, but even they have to go on away games from time to time, and if coaching is what he wants to do, he probably wouldn’t be happy in an admin/oversight role.

    I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but coaching at the higher levels is really tough on families because of the time commitment.

  92. Holly,
    Clearly you guys are doing an incredible job of frugality. I’m not sure I can address whether or not you can be FI in 10 years, so I’m just going to note a few things that stood out to me in your case study:
    *I didn’t count how many times you said it, but you repeatedly said George loves his job. To me, that’s priceless. Until the job is no longer fulfilling for him, I don’t think quitting should even be part of the scenario.
    *My husband traveled a lot for work, including two month-long stints working overseas and over a year-and-a-half of working out-of-state and coming home only every other weekend. That coach’s wife who made you so sad? I totally get it. When your partner is gone, you get into a groove with the kids where you’re able to make everything work, get everyone where they need to be on time, etc. When your partner comes back, you’re happy they’re home, but they kind of throw off the groove. That said, it sounds like you have a really difficult time when George travels because you feel isolated. Lots of other people have chimed in with suggestions on how to meet other people. I completely understand how hard it is to put your self out there and keep trying to make friends, especially if those friendships seem somewhat shallow. But it IS worth it to keep trying because eventually you will connect with someone, even if it’s just one person. When we moved to another state, I struck out so many times, I nearly gave up. Then I tried one more time and made one of the closest friends of my life. We met randomly in the grocery store when I noticed we were both driving the same kind of car, with out-of-state license plates (but from adjacent states where we were both from originally), and had kiddos that looked to be the same age. That was 18 years ago. That brings me to:
    *You love your current apartment community. Is it really worth it to leave this community so your husband can be 15 or 20 minutes closer to work? And if you do leave, how much time and gas will YOU spend traveling back to your community to spend time with friends? Yes, the new townhouse is lower rent than what your current one is projected to increase to, but I think more is at stake here than dollars.
    *The carpets in the projected new place are completely destroyed and smell like cat pee and the landlord isn’t falling all over himself apologizing and talking about even cleaning the carpets, let alone replacing them. I haven’t had this same landlord, but I’ve had one just like him. This is NOT worth it. When we moved out of state, my husband moved before me. He found a house for us to rent, but didn’t notice that the entire basement (where the laundry and spare room was) smelled like cat pee. When I got there, I noticed right away and called the landlord. I complained on more than one occasion. He never did anything, and then, when we moved out, he refused to give us our full security deposit back, and complained that OUR cat had caused the problem. In fact, he tried to stiff us for things we “hadn’t taken care of” that were in our contract that we were NOT supposed to do! We only got our money back when we threatened to take HIM to small claims court. One of the ways we won was to contact the local Tenants’ Rights organization (most cities and towns have these ordinances). I’d suggest you look into this to see how you can get your deposit back, and then either stay where you are, or look for a better-managed apartment complex if you do want to move.
    *You’re getting a huge tax refund every year. Why? This is the same as giving the government an interest-free loan of $4,000. You’d be better served adjusting your deductions and getting more in George’s paycheck. The increase in pay upfront would more than cover the increase in rent for your current home.
    I’m considerably older than you, and my kids are now 21 and 16 (both at home), and I can definitely say that life will throw you some curveballs you will not see coming! I’ve been a SAHM for almost 20 years now, and there are pros and cons. Both of my kids ended up having multiple food allergies; the youngest kid has so many that he’s NEVER been able to eat in a restaurant. I’ve been teaching both to cook/bake, but if I don’t cook pretty much every meal, he can’t eat. My kids also turned out to not be into group activities. Or school clubs. Or school dances. So, yes, we’ve saved on a lot of those fees for team sports and the like, but we’ve had to look to other activities for them to participate in. We could use some extra income, so I’ve been looking at types of work I’d like to do, but I need flexibility and I’ve been out of the traditional job market a long time. Both of my kids have had health issues, especially in the past couple years, where it’s been huge that I’ve been able to be there right then. If I were working full time, I wouldn’t have been able to drop everything, and be there for my kids. My recommendation would be to find some sort of part-time work you enjoy, whether work from home, or in a workplace, and do that. You’ll be contributing financially to your household, which sounds like it’s important to you, and maybe more importantly, you’ll be able to show that you’ve been working if you want to ramp that up as the kids get older. Sadly, in the US, being a stay at home parent really is a detriment to finding work in the future.
    Finally, I’d say think about what your reasons are for pursuing FI and how both you and your husband envision what your life would look like if you achieved it. It’s possible you were on the same page a few years ago, but now that he likes his job so much, his vision has changed a bit. Maybe instead of working toward NOT working, you could save toward buying a coastal vacation home now (since it sounds like the coast is where you want to be). When you’re not staying there, you could rent it out, which might be more lucrative than airbnb-ing your current home. Just a thought. But make sure it’s something you want to do, and somewhere you want to be, whether the kids visit or not!

  93. Extremely impressed with this young couple. WOW!

    I agree with all of Mrs. Frugalwoods’ recommendations. I especially concur on the choice of Dental Hygienist as the career to finish training on—it’s a high-paying, portable career (pays even better than nursing!) without a lot more schooling. You could also hype up the work you have done towards your accounting degree as an added bonus for any small dental practice that might hire you, to show you could also perhaps help with office administration/billing in addition to cleaning teeth. BONUS. Healthcare is a booming business with lots of jobs available pretty much everywhere in the USA, so you can take that career wherever George’s career takes him.

    George SHOULD NOT stop working. The flexibility is for Holly to add on an extra income onto George’s steady one, not vice-versa. I think the high-school coaching track or perhaps a park district/community-center based Athletic Director track would be alternative paths to consider outside of the university coaching track for more flexibility.

    I concur on all the suggestions for joining mommy/parent groups, but how about starting your own? Sounds like you already have some friends you could coordinate this with. As far as activities go, I suggest Craft Nights (perhaps using things already around your house), starting a community garden at your apartment complex or at a public place, or perhaps even Joint Scavenger Hunts with friends looking for things to resell! You could add craft sales/produce sales to your existing business of reselling found objects if you like, as well as socializing.

    I actually recommend not moving to the new townhouse with gross carpets if you are not sure the landlord will clean/replace it properly. You are in a good enough financial position not to need to do that. There may be other townhomes/apartments available later on which would have cleaner carpet, perhaps wait for that?

    Congrats on being so successful already!

  94. I’m not a mom, but I am an introvert who has to work on friendships. My advice is to go back to traditional community ideas, specifically the church (or other house of worship) and the library.
    Churches are wonderful places to meet other people, they are typically very family oriented, and a good one will form a solid support network during times of need (like when a spouse is away). They also often have free events for children that can be fun outings. Plus, volunteering in a specific ministry can be a great way to meet people and make friends.
    The library is also a great place. From their free children’s activities, to great resources on loan, the library can be a gold mine. Librarians make great friends and would also love to have faithful community volunteers to help out with programs, decorating, book repair and cleaning, etc. Plus, it is a great place to meet other introverts who are also often drawn to the quiet of the stacks.

    1. Thank you Sarah, we are moving again soon for work and I’m excited and determined to get involved in our next community! The library will probably be my first spot to try out 🙂
      Thank you!

      1. Hi, Holly. What happened? Sounds like your situation has changed from what was originally reported. No doubt the move will change up quite a few of the other variables? Looking forward to the update.

  95. Hey Holly, wow! your story has generated so many comments. I guess that means a whole lot of us can relate. I apologize if I’m covering anything already said above but my 3 year old is calling and I don’t have time to read through all the comments before I share a few thoughts. 😉

    First of all – you are amazing! I’m impressed with your savings and I can imagine that you and George must be a good team to be so on the same page frugally. Well done!

    Also – I can completely relate to “my spending goes up” when single parenting. Mine completely does too!

    My go to when single parenting is looking for free, fun, organized, or educational events. If someone else is doing the organizing/entertaining it takes a little pressure off of me. I live in San Francisco which is a big city but I imagine there are equivalents in most cities. I use our library calendar all the time to look for events. They have classes, crafts and music and dance performances. I also regularly check out https://sf.funcheap.com/ which lists free events happening every day. I think there are funcheap.com sites for other cities too. Also, our library has free passes to museums and other cool places and sometimes these passes cover a group of people (like 2 adults and 4 kids) that are enough that you can take another Mom and her kids and all go together on a library pass.

    On the socializing, let me just admit to my own perfectionism. We have the most wonderful neighbors with a little one the same age as mine and they are always up for getting together for dinner and let the kids play and I was always hesitating because I felt like my place was too small and not organized enough. What I have found is that whenever I let that go and just decide to have them over even with the place less than perfect everyone always has so much fun.

    One little financial thing I wanted to mention is that a $4,000 a year refund seems like an awfully generous interest free loan to give to the government. I aim to be no more or less than $1,000 in either what is refunded to me or what I owe each year. I’m not a tax professional and I’m definitely not your tax professional so always consult with whoever you use for professional advice but I would definitely consider increasing your withholdings to keep more of your money working for you, at least in a savings account earning a bit of interest. Even if you went very conservatively and increased your withholdings so that the paychecks brought home about $3,000 a year and put that into a savings account earning a 1% interest that would be an extra $30 a year you would be earning in interest. There are lots of bonus great offers out there too for opening bank accounts so maybe you could even work a bonus while you earn the extra interest.

    Keep on keeping on. You’re doing great!

    1. Hi Kelly! Thank you for the great ideas. I am going to check out the funcheap websites soon. I agree about inviting people over more. It’s easy for me to talk myself out of inviting people over for dinner because of the “perceived pressure” for everything to be perfect. We haven’t been invited over to many peoples houses either so we must not be the only ones feeling this way. I’ve noticed we instead opt for walking around our community and taking our kids to the playground so neither has to worry if their house is clean or not. I should work on having one go to meal that I feel confident making for others and start inviting friends over once a month or so.
      Also, the tax return is more of a credit- as we get back more than what we pay in each year. We actually had less than a thousand dollars taken out but because we qualify for several tax credits (child, retirement savings) and are also in a low tax bracket we still get money back somehow. #WhenItPaysToBePoor
      Thank you!

      1. Ah, that makes perfect sense. Of course, those were tax credits. Another example of you guys doing great! I love the Saver’s Tax Credit. A lot of people think they don’t qualify for it because they think of their gross income numbers instead of their Adjusted Gross Income (which is reduced when you contribute to a 401k – win win!).

  96. This may on here or covered in the past…. what do all the people that want to retire at 40 plan on doing for health insurance? Private insurance could work while young but once you hit 40-50 almost any condition can disqualify you. We recently had a short stint with COBRA. It is only available for 18 months to start. We paid over $2000 a month and it covered nothing. With no insurance a single hospital stay could completely bankrupt you.

  97. Hi Holly,
    Wow! I’m amazed you and your husband is debt free! That’s the first step toward being FIRE! And you are halfway there. And as Mrs. Frugalwoods (Liz) already gave sound answers to your questions except for the fourth question. But that question was addressed with other commenters. My understanding is that you are trying to go back to school for higher income. But that’s not the right reason for going back to school for higher degrees or learning a new trade. You will make a higher income but you may be miserable. I know lots of who had FIRE in their 40s and 50s but very small FIRE in their 30s like Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods. So yes, you and your husband can be FIRE in ten (10) years at 41 if your FIRE goal amount is $569,052.00 and you can add shortfall amount after your youngest attend school. Most of those who had FIRE under 50 normally had very high paying job that they hated and was eating them alive. Find your true talent and passion. Then money will come. Don’t learn a new trade or higher degree in hopes for higher income. Once you can dig deep inside of you and find what you are good at, go with that. You are already very frugal and there isn’t any fat to be found. If there is private daycare, you could possible work there while caring for your kids at the same time. But best thing to do is to find what you are good at and market that through eCommerce if it’s possible where you don’t have to travel to physical location. Don’t chase higher income by being miserable. Whole idea of FIRE in first place to do what you enjoy on your own term. In order to do that, you do need at least $1.2 million in investments with passive incomes if you and your husband are going to FIRE in your 40s with two kids IMHO. That’s with keeping your current frugality. Passive income is key part of FIRE.

    Therefore, going back to Question #2: Should I go back to school for a different degree that would bring in a higher income? I would say no. I’m sure you are good at something that people what. Everyone of is good at something but those who succeed sees themselves what they are good at while others chase a job they are miserable at sake of income. For example, you said you pickup someone’s trash and resell for profit. Why not have YouTube channel where you pickup others trash into cash? I would watch it. Even better than that is to utilize being in college town with what you are good at. I remember when I went to college there was a guy who would sell dorm fridge and pickup for nothing after school year. But he had big warehouse that he sells all sorts of stuff at the beginning of school year and get it back for free and the end of the school year. You may never know your niche talent may become your source of your passive income. As I’ve said, FIRE has two parts that are needed. One is investments and other is passive income. Some FIRE people use investment incomes as passive income such as dividends, muni bonds, REIT, rentals,… etc. But the best passive income is doing what you love to do and you are the best in the area. So, it’s not a job to do what you love to do and brings in the additional income.

    And in closing, I’m with Mrs. Frugalwoods on staying where you are even it means you are going to pay additional $230/mo. Best wishes to you and your husband. Looking forward to seeing the outcome to your questions in near future. From my experience, questions that you have asked, I think you already know the answers but just need some reinforcement.

  98. Wow Holly, I’m so impressed with both your savings and how you are coping in a situation that would have most of us climbing the walls (and has had)! My husband travels for work at a month at a time. It’s always hard but one time I really felt like I was loosing my mind. Didn’t feel like the Mummy I wanted to be so now when it goes away I splash out on a bit more paid childcare. It’s also getting easier as they get older (mine are 2 and 4).

    I also moved several times while on maternity leave, to Munich and then to small town Austria (and no I don’t speak German). I learnt to just put myself out there – talk to other Mum’s alone at the playground, find facebook groups, my husband even asked the kindergarten teachers for English speaking Mummy’s.

    One last thought from me – could you Air B&B your roommates room from time to time and use that to offset the rent increase? Another option would be to offer it at reduced rent or rent free to a student in exchange for some childcare – especially for times when your husband is away.

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