Reader Case Study: Living in Lakewood, Longing for More Space and Time

Eve and her husband Gordon live in Lakewood, Colorado–a suburb of Denver–along with their two young sons and one guppy fish. Eve works part-time as a marketer and Gordon works full-time as an engineer. Four years ago they began working towards financial independence and an early semi-retirement. They’d like to have more time to spend with their sons and in the outdoors! Eve and Gordon are now debating selling their home and buying something cheaper in order to be mortgage-free, but this would likely necessitate a move that would force Gordon to leave his job and Eve to ramp up to full-time work. All options are on the table at present and Eve would like our help debating the pros and cons of the different scenarios she and Gordon have devised. Let’s dive in to help Eve and Gordon map out their next steps!

What’s a Reader Case Study?

Case Studies address financial and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods send in requesting advice. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, dear reader) read through their situation and provide advice, encouragement, insight and feedback in the comment section.

For an example, check out the last case study. Case Studies are updated by participants (at the end of the post) several months after the Case is featured. Visit this page for links to all updated Case Studies.

The Goal Of Reader Case Studies

Reader Case Studies intend to highlight a diverse range of financial situations, ages, ethnicities, locations, goals, careers, incomes, family compositions and more!

The Case Study series began in 2016 and, to date, there’ve been 64 Case Studies. I’ve featured folks with annual incomes ranging from $17k to $200k+ and net worths ranging from -$300k to $2.9M+.

I’ve featured single, married, partnered, divorced, child-filled and child-free households. I’ve featured gay, straight and trans people. I’ve featured men, women and non-binary folks. I’ve had cat people and dog people. I’ve featured folks from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland and France.

I’ve featured people with PhDs and people with high school diplomas. I’ve featured people in their early 20’s and people in their late 60’s. I’ve featured folks who live on farms and folks who live in New York City.

The goal is diversity and only YOU can help me achieve that by emailing me your story! If you haven’t seen your circumstances reflected in a Case Study, I encourage you to apply to be a Case Study participant by emailing mrs@frugalwoods.com.

Reader Case Study Guidelines

I probably don’t need to say the following because you folks 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 condemn.

There’s no room for rudeness here–the goal is to create a supportive environment where we all acknowledge that we’re human, we’re flawed, but we choose to be here together, workshopping our money and our lives with positive, proactive suggestions and ideas.

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. I am not a financial advisor and I am not your financial advisor.

With that I’ll let Eve, today’s Case Study subject, take it from here!

Eve’s Story

Eve, Gordon and their two sons

Hi Frugalwoods, I’m Eve! I’m 37 years old and live in Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, with my husband Gordon who is 42 years old. We just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and our two boys are six and four. We may be one of the only families on our block without a cat or dog, but we do love our guppy fish dearly! I’m a native of Colorado and my husband moved to Colorado from Chicago because he was spending all his vacations in the Colorado mountains. So, why not live in the place he loves?!

Eve and Gordon’s Careers

My husband works full-time from home as an engineer in the oil and gas industry. While that leads to some flexibility for us, he needs to stay within a one and a half hour radius of the Denver area. Prior to having our children, I was working full-time in marketing but left after our first son was born.

I was super fortunate to have my employer approach me a year after I left to ask if I’d consider working part-time. I’ve worked part-time remotely since 2015. In 2020, I increased my hours from 10 hours a week to 20 hours a week. With this change, we now send our boys to a nanny’s house three days a week while I’m working. The cost of the nanny is $300 a week. Once they’re both in school, we’ll only have nanny costs during the summer months.

What feels most pressing right now? What brings you to submit a Case Study?

We started our journey to financial independence a little over four years ago. Originally it was my husband’s idea and I was hesitant, but as I started reading more about it, I quickly got on board. Initially, we wanted to reach semi-retirement/financial independence by the time my husband turns 48 in 2027.

However, we recently revamped our plans and would like to reach semi-retirement/financial independence as quickly as possible. The driving force behind this goal is to be able to spend as much time as possible with our boys before they graduate high school… or until they no longer want to hang out with us as much (but that will never happen, right??!!).

We know we still have a lot of work to do to bring our annual cost-of-living down. We’ve come a long way but could still use improvement. We have been using Mint and Personal Capital for the past three years to track our expenses, budgets, and investments. In order to reach financial independence and move on to new endeavors at our current spending levels, the Personal Capital Retirement Planner says we need to have between $1.3-$1.8M in investments. In the last 5 years, we’ve doubled our net worth.

I should specify that we’re not looking to fully retire early. I love my job and have no plans to leave if everything stays consistent. I get paid well, work for an amazing people-centric company, and have flexibility. My husband looks forward to the day when he doesn’t have to sit in front of his computer Monday-Friday. He’d like to do something he’s more passionate about, ideally something that has a lasting benefit to our community and in other people’s lives.

We hope this Case Study will help us better evaluate our options, face realities we might be overlooking, and provide a road map of how to get from where we are now to where we want to be.

What’s the best part of your current lifestyle/routine?

Eve and sons on a hike

Family is everything to us. It’s what motivates us to work toward financial independence. Our boys are the happiest when they are outside playing in nature. It calms them, us, and the mountains are the perfect backdrop for our family adventures.

We intentionally work hard to keep our schedule and calendar open so we can slow down and enjoy a simpler lifestyle. On the weekends and in our free time, we take advantage of living in Colorado and love to hike, mountain bike, camp, fish, paddle board, etc.

When we bought our home nearly ten years ago, one of its major perks was highway access to quickly get to the mountains. However, many other people have also discovered Colorado’s beauty. With the population increasing, it is more and more challenging to get to the mountains as often, easily, and quickly as we would like.

We also love to travel both domestically and internationally (we haven’t traveled outside the US with our boys yet, but would love to at some point!) My husband is always learning new things and is an incredibly gifted craftsman and mechanic. I am always planning and designing… remodels, gardens, flowerpots, etc.

Almost all my family lives in Colorado and we spend a fair amount of time together. All of my husband’s family lives in Indiana and we try to visit them in the summer and at Christmastime. We typically fly to Indiana, but we did our first road trip there this summer.

What’s the worst part of your current lifestyle/routine?

Honestly, we are happy with our current lifestyle/routine and find ourselves extremely blessed! While many struggled during the pandemic, our family thrived.

The pandemic suited my introverted personality perfectly. Something I do struggle with: our extremely extroverted neighbors. They are lovely and very kind, but their energy and constant need to do things together exhausts me, gives me anxiety, and often stresses me out. I would love to have a little more space–aka land–in between us and our neighbors. Conversely, our boys like having so many neighborhood friends to play with.

A New House?

Gotta stay close to these mountains!

We’re considering selling our home in Lakewood and using the equity to purchase a different home in order to eliminate our mortgage and live on a larger lot. We bought this house for $332,925 in 2012, refinanced it in 2020 and its current estimated value is $790k. However, despite this, we wouldn’t be able to afford a decent home in Colorado that meets our “wants” (more on those below).

So, we’re looking at homes along the Rocky Mountain Range corridor, which includes the mountainous areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and New Mexico. We love our mountains! But this would mean my husband would have to quit his job since he’s required by his current employer to live in the Denver area. I can continue on with my current employer in any geographic location.

Wants for a new house:

  • Under $450K
  • 1-2+ acres, garage with workshop, 3+bedrooms, in the mountains, on a treed lot, not a major fixer-upper
  • 1 hour drive to Costco/Home Depot, ability to bike to town, outdoor space, good community, 1-2 hours to an airport
  • In an area with less traffic and a smaller population, access to trails/water for hiking, biking, fishing, SUP, skiing, camping, etc.

Where Eve and Gordon Want to be in 10 years:

  • Finances: We’d like to be financially independent with the option to explore new endeavors and create more space for family time.
  • Lifestyle: We want the opportunity to make as many memories as possible with our sons. We want more time for hobbies, family time, extended family time, and adventures.
    • We have the desire to raise active/nature-loving boys in an area that truly values family time and a slower pace of life.
    • We want our boys to have a quality public education.
    • After our sons leave the house and graduate high school, my husband and I want more time to do our hobbies, volunteer, and go on adventures. We have a dream of moving to a smaller mountain town and owning more land. This would put us in the heart of where we’re happiest.
  • Career: My husband craves job fulfillment. Ideally, Gordon would be able to leave his engineering job and find something he is passionate about and has flexible or part-time hours. I intend to remain with my current part-time, work-from-home job.

Eve and Gordon’s Finances

Income

Item Amount Notes
Gordon’s Income $4,250 Gordon’s net salary, minus the following deductions: health and dental insurance, 401k contributions ($19,500/year), H.S.A ($7,200/year), and taxes.
Eve’s Income $2,415 Eve’s net salary, minus the following deductions: 401k contributions($14,300/year) and taxes.
Gifts $200 We receive a super generous check every year at Christmas, along with money on birthdays, etc.
Monthly subtotal: $6,865
Annual total: $82,380

Mortgage Details

Item Outstanding loan balance Interest Rate Loan Period and Terms Equity Purchase price and year
Mortgage on primary residence $265,000 2.93% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage $525,000 Purchased in 2012 for $332,925; refinanced in 2020; current estimated value is $790k

Debts: $0

Assets

Item Amount Notes Interest/type of securities held Name of bank/brokerage
401Ks (Gordon and Eve) $760,000 Both or our employees offer a decent match program. We both max out the match and are currently contributing the max dollar amount allowed per year by the IRS. Varies – Growth Allocation, International Bonds 1.3%
US Bonds 13.4%
International Stocks 16.5%
US Stocks 59.9%
Alternatives 6.1%Mixture of VTSAX and similar
Principle and Fidelity
Savings Account $153,000 We sold our investment property in 2020. After capital gains taxes were taken out, we have $153,000 in profit left over. 0.40% Capitol One
529s (for both kids) $18,350 We plan on having our kids pay for for some of their college. We put $200 a month into these accounts. Collegeivest
 H.S.A. $17,000 Health savings account Payflex
Roth IRA $12,500 We are maxing out our yearly allowed contribution. We put in $1,000 per month. Varies – Growth Allocation, International Bonds 1.3%
US Bonds 13.4%
International Stocks 16.5%
US Stocks 59.9%
Alternatives 6.1%Mixture of VTSAX and similar
Etrade Vanguard
Taxable Brokerage Account $12,000 Varies – Growth Allocation, International Bonds 1.3%
US Bonds 13.4%
International Stocks 16.5%
US Stocks 59.9%
Alternatives 6.1%Mixture of VTSAX and similar
Vanguard
Checking Account $8,000 US Bank
IRA $3,000 Vanguard
Total: $983,850

Vehicles

Vehicle make, model, year Valued at Mileage Paid off?
Subaru Outback 2013 $12,000 67,000 yes
Toyota 4Runner 2004 $9,000 107,000 yes
Total: $21,000

Expenses

Item Amount Notes
Mortgage $1,586 Includes taxes and insurance
Groceries $1,169 This is one of our largest spending categories. Between my husband and boys, they have food intolerances to gluten, dairy, egg, and corn. It limits us and all the alternatives that are safe are super expensive.

We have decided to take the approach of, “if one cannot eat it, we all don’t eat it.” This makes meals easier and limits the possibility of cross-contaminating foods.

I cook nearly everything from scratch; so I welcome and need breaks (date nights when we order food in).

Babysitter & Daycare $716 During the pandemic, we homeschooled our sons and this category includes the cost of homeschool supplies.

Three days a week they go to our nanny’s house while I work. This is one area that will be significantly reduced and/or eliminated in the next year and a half once both boys are in public school Monday through Friday.

Prior to 2020, we spent $100 per month in babysitter costs for our dates nights. This is abnormally high given the pandemic year.

Travel $290 We visit my husband’s family in Indiana at least once a year, sometimes twice. We also save and allocate money for a larger vacation that we take every other year. This expense is off-set by our travel rewards.
Shopping $265 This is a big catch-all category: Clothing, Hobbies, Sporting Goods, Home Décor
Utilities: electricity, gas, water $247
Preschool tuition $221 Our younger son will attend preschool three times a week starting in the fall.
Tree trimming $158 We have six large trees on our lot that require biannual trimmings. We stagger the tree trims to help spread out the cost. Each tree is typically $1,100 each time.
Gifts/Birthdays $139 For birthday gifts, we tend to do experiences over material items. This often includes a weekend away in the mountains or a stay at a fun hotel with a big pool for the boys, such as the Gaylord.
Auto Insurance $112 Through Travelers
Alcohol $106 Prior to becoming gluten intolerant, we loved craft beer. Now, we drink wine and whiskey. Oh, and it was a pandemic. So there is that.
Amusement $103 We like to stay active. This category includes splash parks, swimming days, park passes, music class, etc.
Restaurants for date nights! $101 Date Nights, because every married couple needs them…especially parents of littles!
Furnishings $100 We purchased furniture for my home office as well as furniture for our boys’ homeschooling space. This is an expense that will not occur in future years.
Doctor $94 This is a little higher than usual. We had an emergency visit to the hospital for stitches and allergy testing. We have accident-prone boys and anticipate we will continue to have expenses related to emergencies (ie: x-rays, stitches, excessive nose bleeds, etc.) Kids!
Christmas Gifts $84 We have a very large family with high expectations for Christmas presents. We have scaled this down tremendously over the years.
Household Supplies and Subscriptions $80 Ring subscription, Costco membership, laundry detergents, dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc.
Mobile Phone $76 This cost includes a monthly payment for a newer phone. We are on a family plan with my husband’s brother and sister-n-law.
Fast Food $72 Our boys are able to eat at Chipotle. We order food at least twice a month to give me a break from cooking.
Home Improvement $70 We live in an older home that is in constant need of repairs.
Gas & Fuel $67 We currently live in an area that allows us to stay close to home for all our activities. We do not have to travel very far unless we are visiting family an hour away or going up to the mountains.
Allowances $65 My husband and I set aside money to use as we wish. I typically spend my allowance on coffees, an occasional pedicure, and clothing. My husband mostly spends his on electronics.
Internet $60 We both work from home and require a fast internet connection. We recently switched to fiber optic.
Personal Care Supplies $58 I used to get my hair cut at a salon and decided this year to let my husband cut it instead. It used to cost $90 every three months. The rest of the category includes costs for sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face lotion, body lotion, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.
Pharmacy $55 This includes vitamins, some prescription medications, and lot and lots of bandaids.
Charity $46 This only included monetary donations made to organizations we support.
Kids Clothes $31 We receive a lot of hand-me-down clothes from cousins, but still need to supplement. I purchase all their clothes from either Old Navy, Target, or consignment shops.
Health & Fitness $24 My husband and I share a subscription to Peloton.  I also have a subscription to a pilates program, which I will not be renewing this Fall.
Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ $22 This is our form of weeknight and weekend entertainment once our kids are in bed.
Car Service & Parts $18 Japanese cars are awesome and don’t require much maintenance.
Monthly subtotal: $6,233
Annual total: $74,796 This was much higher than normal due to the additional childcare expenses of the pandemic.

Credit Card Strategy*

Card Name Rewards Type? Bank/card company
Capital One Venture Rewards Travel Capital One
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Credit Card Travel Chase
Discover Gas Discover

*These credit card links are affiliate links

Eve’s Questions For You:

  1. What are we missing? How can we reach semi-retirement/financial independence more quickly?
  2. Or, do we stay the course we were on and revert to our original plan to reach semi-retirement/financial independence in 2027?
  3. Per our desire to sell our house and move:
    1. Do we semi-retire now and then, once the boys are in college, begin working more? We honestly don’t love this idea.
    2. Do I increase my hours to 32 hours per week so that I’m eligible for health and dental insurance for our family and gross $86K so that my husband can semi-retire now and find a new job wherever we settle down?
    3. While 32 hours would still be considered part-time, it would give me less time with my kids. However, in a year or so, both boys will be in elementary school—thus giving me more free time to work when they are at school.
  4. We sold an investment property in 2020. How should we invest the money we profited from this sale? We currently have it in cash and have slowly started to reinvest it in our Roth IRA and taxable accounts.

Liz Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

Eve and Gordon are in great shape! They’ve set themselves up to have options about their next steps, which is the ultimate goal of financial freedom. Let’s dive into their questions!

Eve’s Question #1:

  1. What are we missing? How can we reach semi-retirement/financial independence more quickly?

Eve and Gordon enjoying a sunset

This is all about two factors: income and spending. The more money you earn, the more money you can save. The less money you spend, the more money you save. If you come at this from both sides–earning more and spending less–you will achieve financial independence faster. We sometimes forget this basic equation when we’re thinking about the nuance and complexity of our lives. It can be helpful to strip away everything that impacts these two variables–income and expenses–and remember that it is really is this simple. Of course the nuance and complexity is what makes our lives rich and wonderful, but it also tends to overcomplicate the math.

Thus, the rudimentary answer here is to earn more and spend less. While this doesn’t acknowledge the realities of Eve and Gordon’s life, it is a useful guidepost to remember as we dig into this answer.

One of the big challenges I see is that Eve and Gordon are trying to tackle both ends of the equation at the same time. They want to move to a cheaper house and potentially change/alter jobs.  It’s possible to do both at once, but I don’t usually recommend it. One major life change at a time is usually best as it allows you to focus your energies on the sole priority at hand.

I think it’s important for Eve and Gordon to remember that there’s nothing on fire here–they’re not in a precarious financial position, no one has lost their job and they don’t have to move ASAP. I like their plan to move and I think it makes a ton of sense, but it’s also not a pants-on-fire situation. Eve and Gordon have the luxury of taking their time to make this decision.

A few questions I have for them:

  1. Why does Gordon need to remain within the 1.5 hour radius of Denver? How often is he expected to be in the office? Is this something that he’s ever discussed with his employer? If Eve and Gordon move to another home in Colorado, everything would remain the same from a tax perspective and so I wonder if his employer would truly care? Worth having the conversation, if he hasn’t already.
  2. Has Gordon begun job searching for other remote positions in his field? Are there comparable employers with less restrictive geographic requirements?
  3. Does Eve want to ramp up to 32+ hours once both kids are in school full-time (which I gather will be in fall 2022)? Is her employer flexible enough that she could decrease these hours during the summer months and on school vacations? Would it be a possibility to, for example, work 50 hours a week some weeks to then offset weeks “off”? Eve’s employer demonstrated a great deal of flexibility in the past and it’s obvious they highly value Eve as an employee, so I’m curious about how Eve might be able to fit in more hours, but still retain time with her kids while they’re at home.

Commence the Super Serious House Hunt

I think one of the first orders of business is for Eve and Gordon to begin a serious house hunt. They’ve already narrowed down the geographic area to the Rocky Mountain Corridor, but that encompasses five different states with very different cultures, costs of living and climates: Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and New Mexico.

I LOVE that they have a specific list of needs/wants for this house–it’s clear they’ve thought a lot about what they value in a home and what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to gain. Time to put this list to the test!

1) Start with Researching Public Schools

On the water!

Since Eve and Gordon have two kids and stated that quality public education is important to them, they’ll want to focus a lot of their research on school options. Schools ended up impacting my own rural house hunt more than just about any other factor. Schools and school districts can be alarmingly different in different areas and it’s important to remember that a house might be cheaper because it’s in a low-rated school district. In some ways, this element may end up being the lynchpin for why Eve and Gordon choose one area over another.

Some rural school factors to consider:

  1. Total number of students in the district, spending per pupil, total number of schools in the district.
  2. Are grades routinely combined?
  3. How many students are in the high school graduating class each year?
  4. How is the school rated by the state?
  5. How is the school funded?

I suggest starting with school research because it’s possible this will completely disqualify some regions/towns. It’s also possible it won’t, but better to know this at the outset before falling in love with a property only to learn that the school district isn’t going to work for your family.

2) Examine Commute Times

Since commuting distances rank high on Eve and Gordon’s list of priorities, I recommend they use a mapping service to determine driving radius times. A few of the destinations that were important to us when we did this search: schools, doctors, dentists, grocery stores, culture (art, ballet, music), restaurants, airports, and major cities.

Eve and Gordon’s sons fishing

I want to dig in on a few of Eve and Gordon’s priorities:

  • What do they mean by biking to “town”? How big a town are we talking?
  • How important is it to be within an hour of a Costco?

With rural and semi-rural living, the closer you are to a “big” town, the more expensive the land. There’s a reason why I live on 66 acres in the middle of nowhere. Any closer to a big city and my property would be totally unaffordable (for me, anyway).

However, since Eve and Gordon are looking for a relatively small lot (1-2 acres), I imagine they’ll be able to find something closer to a town. But again, “town,” is a relative term when you’re rural and Eve and Gordon should make a list of the things they hope this town will have.

This dovetails with how important privacy is to Eve and Gordon. Eve mentioned that they’d like more distance from neighbors, which may be another crucial determining factor. This ended up being of supreme importance to us and we passed on a number of perfectly fine houses that were sited too close to the neighbors. Even on large acreage lots, sometimes the neighboring houses are quite close together with the acreage extending out back.

3) Compare Costs by State

Since Eve and Gordon are considering five different states, I have to imagine we’re talking about a fairly significant variation in things like:

  • Home prices (the obvious)
  • Property tax
  • Income tax
  • Sales tax
  • Health Insurance:
    • If Eve and Gordon pursue their plan of both working part-time, they’ll need to sign-up for healthcare on the exchange. Since this varies by state (yay, federalism), they should take a look at what the ACA (Affordable Care Act) options are in each state. Some states are quite generous with subsidies and coverage while others, not so much…
  • Longterm Climatological Trajectory:
    • Water availability
    • Wildfire defensibility

4) Visit!

Eve overlooking a vineyard

Once Eve and Gordon exhaust these three research avenues, I’m guessing they’ll have a more narrowly defined search area. I suggest they then spend the next year (or so) visiting each of their prospective new towns and, if possible, spend an entire weekend there. Since they’ll be moving to a place they’ve never lived before, they’ll want to spend as much time in the town and surrounding area as possible.

5) Test Drive the Commute

Once they visit their prospective regions and narrow down the list even further, it’s time to look at actual houses and test the commute times. Do the drive to school at 7:30am. Drive to the grocery store. Visit the doctor’s office. This gives you a real time analysis of road conditions (what will it be like in the winter?), the overall ethos and feel of the area (what’s it like at night? in the middle of the day?), and crucially, the actual drive time.

I love telling the story of the time Mr. FW and I thought about buying a house in the Boston suburbs. We looked at like 10 houses, were in love with the school district, ate at the little “downtown” suburban cafe–totally in love with it! Then, we did the test commute. We’d determined that in this suburban scenario, I would drive my from my office to Mr. FW’s to pick him up. And so, at 5:00pm on a weekday, we drove from my office to his office and then began the drive out to the cute little ranch house we liked. After 45 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we pulled a U-turn and never considered moving to the suburbs again. All that to say, it is super enlightening to test out commutes on the days and at the times you’ll be driving them.

6) Wait to Buy

Home prices in most (all?) parts of the country are straight up BANANAS right now. Houses are expensive and inventory is limited. While it’s a great time to sell a house, this is a problem if you have to buy another house to live in. If it were me, I’d wait to buy until the market (hopefully) cools down a bit. On the other hand, if Eve and Gordon could, say, live with a family member for a year or two, this could potentially be a killer time to sell their current home.

Eve’s Question #3:

1) Do we semi-retire now and then, once the boys are in college, begin working more? We honestly don’t love this idea. 

Gorgeous

I agree with Eve, this seems weird and doesn’t feel tenable. It would be contingent upon Eve and Gordon both re-entering the workforce at the same time and at higher salaries (inflation, etc) then they’re currently at. Sounds risky to me.

2) Do I increase my hours to 32 hours per week so that I’m eligible for health and dental insurance for our family and gross $86K so that my husband can semi-retire now and find a new job wherever we settle down?

Per my notes above, I encourage Eve to explore the possibility of working more hours once both kids are in school full-time next year. However, it feels risky to have Gordon quit his job at the same time as they move. That’s too many major changes at once for my taste.

My opinion: If Gordon has to get a new job in order for them to move, have him get this job BEFORE they make the move. That way, he can settle into his new role, make sure it’s a fit and feel comfortable with his workload before the family embarks on a move. This, of course, assumes his new job is remote as it sounds like that’s his preference and an industry standard (correct me if I’m wrong on that!). Changing jobs is stressful. Moving is stressful. Both entail a lot of upheaval, long hours and uncertainty. Do one at a time.

Eve’s Question #4: We sold an investment property in 2020. How should we invest the money we profited from this sale? We currently have it in cash and have slowly started to reinvest it in our Roth IRA and taxable accounts.

Eve and kiddo on the beach

This is an easy one: do nothing with this money right now. Since Eve and Gordon are within a few years of several major changes, I suggest they keep this money liquid. Moving is expensive, changing jobs can be expensive. Both are unpredictable and when you’re doing something unpredictable, you want to have extra money in the bank.

Once the move and the job change settle out, Eve and Gordon should continue to follow their model of investing this money into their low-fee, total market index fund taxable investments. But for the time being, I’d count myself lucky to have that much cash on hand.

Expenses

I want to spend a minute on Eve and Gordon’s expenses since expenses are the crucial other end of the financial independence equation. I am NOT an advocate of cutting every last expense and making yourself miserable. However, it’s important to analyze your spending to determine if it will allow you to meet your goals and if it’s in alignment with your values. Since Eve and Gordon want to get to financial independence faster, an easy way to do that is to cut their expenses. Yes, it’s good to also earn more, but the thing you can start doing right now is reduce your spending. You don’t have to wait to get a raise or a new job, you can start spending less immediately.

I want to be crystal clear that there is nothing “wrong” with Eve and Gordon’s spending.

They spend less than they earn and are investing for their retirement. The only reason I’m reviewing their spending is their stated desire to reach financial independence (FI) faster. If Eve and Gordon decide that their #1 goal is to reach FI as fast as possible, they’ll want to eliminate every single discretionary expense. But that may not be their #1 goal and so I encourage them to calibrate their expenses accordingly. I’ll send Eve this spreadsheet so that they can adjust the totals in each category as fits their priorities and values.

Expense Overview

Item Amount Notes Liz’s Ideas Possible New Amount
Mortgage $1,586 Includes taxes and insurance Fixed expense, no change $1,586
Groceries $1,169 This is one of our largest spending categories. Between my husband and boys, they have food intolerances to gluten, dairy, egg, and corn. It limits us and all the alternatives that are safe are super expensive.

We have decided to take the approach of “if one cannot eat it, we all don’t eat it.” This makes meals easier and limits the possibility of cross-contaminating foods. I cook nearly everything from scratch; so I welcome and need breaks (date nights when we order food in).

I don’t have experience dealing with these food intolerances and allergies, so I can’t speak to this dollar amount. If there are any readers with these allergies who can offer advice, please do so! $1,169
Babysitter & Daycare $716 During the pandemic, we homeschooled our sons and this category includes the cost of homeschool supplies.

Three days a week they go to our nanny’s house while I work. This is one area that will be significantly reduced and/or eliminated in the next year and a half once both boys are in public school Monday through Friday.

Prior to 2020, we spent $100 per month in babysitter costs for our dates nights. This abnormally high given the pandemic year.

If this decreases to the pre-pandemic amount of $100/month, they’ll be saving $616 per month! $100
Travel $290 We visit my husband’s family in Indiana at least once a year, sometimes twice. We also save and allocate money for a larger vacation that we take every other year. This expense is off-set by our travel rewards. Eve noted that this is offset by their travel rewards, which is great! I’m curious what the actual dollar amount is after these rewards kick in? $290
Shopping $265 This is a big catch-all category: Clothing, Hobbies, Sporting Goods, Home Décor Could this be reduced? Depending on how discretionary these items are, seems to me there might be an opportunity to save more. Let’s shave $100 off for the purposes of this exercise. $165
Utilities: electricity, gas, water $247 Fixed expense, no change $247
Preschool tuition $221 Our younger son will attend preschool three times a week starting in the fall. Fixed expense, no change $221
Tree trimming $158 We have six large trees on our lot that require biannual trimmings. We stagger the tree trims to help spread out the cost. Each tree is typically $1,100 each time. I question this as I’m hard pressed to think of a tree that needs to be trimmed this often? I’m wondering if they could get a second opinion on the necessity of bi-annual tree trimming? $0
Gifts/Birthdays $139 For birthday gifts, we tend to do experiences over material items. This often includes a weekend away in the mountains or a stay at a fun hotel with a big pool for the boys, such as the Gaylord. There are 4 similar categories that I’m curious about. Could any of these be combined or reduced?

Gifts/Birthdays
Amusement
Shopping
+ Christmas Gifts
= $591 total ($7,092 per year)

$100
Auto Insurance $112 Through Travelers Fixed expense, no change $112
Alcohol $106 Prior to becoming gluten intolerant, we loved craft beer. Now, we drink wine and whiskey. Oh, and it was a pandemic. So there is that. Could be reduced if desired. $0
Amusement $103 We like to stay active. This category includes splash parks, swimming days, park passes, music class, etc. See note above under “Gifts/Birthdays” $0
Restaurants for date nights! $101 Date Nights, because every married couple needs them…especially parents of littles! Amen $101
Furnishings $100 We purchased furniture for my home office as well as furniture for our boys’ homeschooling space. This is an expense that will not occur in future years. Sounds like a one-time expense, so I’ll drop it to zero $0
Doctor $94 This is a little higher than usual. We had an emergency visit to the hospital for stitches and allergy testing. We have accident-prone boys and anticipate we will continue to have expenses related to emergencies (ie: x-rays, stitches, excessive nose bleeds, etc.) Kids! Kids indeed! I feel you. $94
Christmas Gifts $84 We have a very large family with high expectations for Christmas presents. We have scaled this down tremendously over the years. See note above under “Gifts/Birthdays” $50
Household Supplies and Subscriptions $80 Ring subscription, Costco membership, laundry detergents, dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc. Sounds very reasonable for a family of four. $80
Mobile Phone $76 This cost includes a monthly payment for a newer phone. We are on a family plan with my husband’s brother and sister-n-law. I suggest Eve and Gordon switch to an MVNO ASAP! I’d pay off the phone and make the change.

Here’s one of my articles explaining MVNOS:
How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill with an MVNO: I Pay $12 a Month

$25
Fast Food $72 Our boys are able to eat at Chipotle. We order food at least twice a month to give me a break from cooking. Could be reduced if desired, although I 100% get the need for a break. If we had a Chipotle in our town, I would do this too. $0
Home Improvement $70 We live in an older home that is in constant need of repairs. $70
Gas & Fuel $67 We currently live in an area that allows us to stay close to home for all our activities. We do not have to travel very far unless we are visiting family an hour away or going up to the mountains. This is awesomely low! $67
Allowances $65 My husband and I set aside money to use as we wish. I typically spend my allowance on coffees, an occasional pedicure, and clothing. My husband mostly spends his on electronics. Could be reduced if desired. $0
Internet $60 We both work from home and require a fast internet connection. We recently switched to fiber optic. Fixed expense, no change $60
Personal Care Supplies $58 I used to get my hair cut at a salon and decided this year to let my husband cut it instead. It used to cost $90 every three months. The rest of the category includes costs for sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face lotion, body lotion, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Could be reduced if desired. $0
Pharmacy $55 This includes vitamins, some prescription medications, and lot and lots of bandaids. $55
Charity $46 This only included monetary donations made to organizations we support. $46
Kids Clothes $31 We receive a lot of hand-me-down clothes from cousins, but still need to supplements. I purchase all their clothes from either Old Navy, Target, or consignment shops. This is awesomely low! $31
Health & Fitness $24 My husband and I share a subscription to Peloton.  I also have a subscription to a pilates program, which I will not be renewing this Fall. Could be reduced if desired. $0
Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ $22 This is our form of weeknight and weekend entertainment once our kids are in bed. Could be reduced if desired. $0
Car Service & Parts $18 Japanese cars are awesome and don’t require much maintenance. $18
Monthly subtotal: $6,233 Monthly subtotal: $4,686
Annual total: $74,796 Annual total: $56,232

Potential new annual savings: $18,564

The goal of this spreadsheet is to identify the categories where Eve and Gordon could potentially reduce their spending. Again, I’m not saying they should or should not do these things, but this is an illumination of one of their options for getting to FI faster.

Summary:

  1. Change one thing in life at a time. Don’t move and change jobs all at once. Do it in stages to stagger these massive life events.
  2. Gordon should begin to:
    1. Search for a new location independent job AND/OR
    2. Have a serious conversation with his current employer about the geographic mandates of his position
  3. Begin a Super Serious House Hunt following the above suggestions and criteria
  4. Eve should talk with her employer about the possibility of ramping up her hours while the kids are in school and the potential for decreasing those hours when the kids are home
  5. Hold onto the cash from the rental sale until these major life changes (moving, changing jobs) have settled out
  6. Analyze expenses to determine what can be reduced/eliminated in order to get to financial independence faster
  7. Update us on what you decide :)!

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Eve? We’ll 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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126 Responses

  1. Jennifer Bruneau says:

    For Gordon – I’m also an engineer, and now of a variety I didn’t know existed – a Parks engineer! Yes, that’s a thing! I’m with a local government in MD, but… NPS is hiring! I would love to apply if I was a citizen but I’m still waiting… Anyhow, if this might be the sort of job you are interested in/qualified for, definitely check it out!!

    • Eve says:

      Great suggestion for an avenue for Gordon to explore; that would be right up his alley! Thanks!

    • Anon Lawyer says:

      This is what I was going to say – not that specific item, but why not have Gordon look for jobs that will be flexible and meaningful now rather than waiting for technical FI? I bet with some looking he could find something that isn’t SO much different than what he’s making now that’s, say, 30 hours a week and then reduce further as he goes along.

      • Eve says:

        Hi Anon, I think we were wanted to wait until FI to ensure that we already had met our FI investment goal. But the more we are reading all of your suggestions and responses, it is becoming more clear that what you suggested is possible now.

  2. Jenn says:

    I really like how specific your wish list was for your next place. And it seems like your reasons for making a change make sense. I felt that you were feeling some urgency about making the move… perhaps due to taking advantage of the current high home prices on the sale of your home. I agree with Frugalwoods that it will be best to go a bit more slowly and deliberately. My only comment is about your desire to maximize family time. I wholeheartedly agree and have had jobs similar to yours throughout my kids growing up years. That said, as they age, they quickly start to have schedules of their own (school, activities, friends). If you have some flexibility in your schedule you will enjoy lots of wonderful time together as they age but your years of full-time they are with you are so limited. It sounds like you are all mostly very happy now. Personally, I wouldn’t make any changes for a few years…. Perhaps reassess when they are both a few years older. In the meantime, keep socking the $ away and exploring potential new neighborhoods. Good luck!

    • Eve says:

      Thanks Jenn, it is so true that the time we have with them while they are young is fleeting. Perhaps that is where our urgency comes from as well. We have started to already see the small changes that take up time and space in our oldest son’s schedule and social life. It is a strange experience to transition from mom and dad being the only source of fun to friends being an additional source of fun.

    • Kate says:

      This was my thought, too. I would hesitate to work more when they are this age to buy more time later, when the kids might be busier/ less interested in hanging out.

  3. Emily says:

    I have food allergies as well and I just have to bite the bullet knowing that having food I can eat matters. I applaud you for your home cooking! I eat a lot of trader Joe’s pre-prepped things for when I need a break.

    • Eve says:

      I need to look into Trader Joe’s pre-prepper meals. Switching things up from time to time could definitely help when I am feeling uninspired and in a rut of cooking the same meals. Thanks!

  4. Ash says:

    I will be reading the comments very curiously for tips for frugal shopping with multiple food allergies. We also have a policy of making sure all food in the house can be eaten by all family members. I shop for 3 adults, 2 kids, and the occasional dinner visitors (I say occasional but this is at least once a week as we live walking distance from multiple family members). In my head the “ideal” would be $200 a week but it’s never doable for more than a couple weeks at a time. I am trying to accept that we are actually a $300/week family and stick to that…

    • Eve says:

      I hear and feel for you, Ash. It is sooo challenging at times. There have been so many times that I have sat down trying to evaluate how we can cut costs in the grocery category. Costco definitely helps and is a reason we have it on our needs list for the next home. It is hard to know if there are any specific tips I may have. What allergies do you and your family have? That being said, I am also here for the tips! 🙂

    • Alex says:

      There is a food editor from Delish called June and she makes budget eats videos. One she did gluten free. I don’t know your allergy situation, but she may be worth watching. You can go on youtube and do a search for June delish and see what comes up. She did a Thanksgiving meal for 4 people for $25.00.

  5. James W Day says:

    I’m actually impressed with this couple’s household finance management- and Liz’s suggestions make saving up to 18k doable.
    1) Gordon- there are so many remote opportunities for engineers without staying within a “zone”. I have been remote for 7+ years …pre pandemic! One disappointment was the selling of a RE investment property- these are great for passive income with minimal work, Perhaps a STR in lieu of a LTR?
    2) Sadly at one time CO was “the” place to be but so many folks have moved there now. We have at least 5 friends who have relocated there. To each his own though, personally I need an ocean nearby! Perhaps there is still more wide open spaces out West ..WY? ID?

    • Eve says:

      Thanks James. Selling our rental property was certainly a hard decision. Unfortunately, STR was not a possibility. We did a lot of research for the area and found that in order to remain competitive and continue to make a decent amount each month, we would need to make some major upgrades to the property. While some of the upgrades would have been nominal, collectively, we were looking at a fairly significant expenditure. I know investment properties are a great source of passive income, it was a really hard decision.

      Colorado is very popular and for good reason. It would be extremely difficult to leave, but we are definitely open to exploring all our options.

  6. Seppie says:

    I actually have a bit of a different take – things will probably feel significantly different when your kids are in school, and it sounds like they may be more extroverted than you are. Rather than thinking about working more when they are in college, I would consider semi-retiring/ moving to your dream place then. There are advantages to sending kids to school in a larger district and having friends close by. (I have taught in two-room schoolhouse and also in a large district.) There are true advantages to rural schools, but the friend pool is limited and often unchanging and so are things like AP and honors classes, as well as special ed support/pt/ot/speech therapy, etc.) Your gas and time costs will go up considerably if every social activity requires a drive, even if that drive is a chill backroads one. I also wish we had more space from neighbors, but the hassle on the flip side may make them seem like a minor inconvenience (and our four kids always refused to play with the neighbors – which sounds like it is not true for you!) If I were you, I’d stay put and maximize time spent in nature after school and on the weekends. Is it possible for your husband to work 4 long days at Jo’s current job, giving you three full days together as a family? Or could he work more of a split shift, working while kids are in bed so he can take longer breaks to be with them during the day?

    • Cyndi says:

      I agree with this… to me I didn’t see a lot of motivation for the move in this case study. Sounds like they have the life they want right now! Eve may want more space from her neighbours, but when the kids are just a year or two older, she can send them off to play with the neighbours while she stays home and enjoys her solitude.

      On another note, I am really glad that Mrs Frugalwoods added this qualifier for a new home: “Longterm Climatological Trajectory” – so true. This summer has seen unprecedented droughts, wildfires, flooding, etc… and these will all get worse in our changing climate. Given that they have young kids, all the more reason to give this factor serious thought!

      • Eve says:

        Longterm Climatologial Trajectory–this is something that my husband and I have talked about a lot. It would be devastating to buy some land and then have a wildfire. You definitely have a security bubble from some of this in a traditional neighborhood.

    • Eve says:

      I can see where you are coming from, Seppie. Friend pools are important–especially if it means that the difference between being able to find kids with similar interests and morals versus not. We are currently in an excellent school district and with a great neighborhood school. I really appreciate Frugalwoods focus on finding a school district that offers all the options you listed as well.

      Fortunately, my husband has more flexibility than most. I love that he is able to have lunch with us every day (a little different now that they are in school). Every week, we make it a priority to each have some self-care time. On my self-care days, he will end work early and take the boys on an adventure. While a consistent 4-day work week may not be feasible, he is able to spilt off a little early on Fridays so we can start our weekends early.

      Thanks for all the things to take into consideration!

      • Ann says:

        I have lived in neighborhoods where kids can wander outside and find someone to play with, and I’ve lived in neighborhoods where play is by appointment b/c the houses in town are so widely spaced. Random play with random, close-by kids is way better. My kids loved the close neighborhoods far more than the spread-out ones.

        • Fran says:

          We raised our kids in a neighborhood where every house is on approx. one acre just outside a small town and I agree with Ann. No neighborhood kids ever “happened by” to play and any playdates were pre-arranged with parents driving one child to the other’s house, even if both kids live in the same neighborhood. Your child can’t really just walk out your door and see if anyone else is playing outside because you can only see a few houses. There are no neighborhood hangouts (soda shop, etc.) that kids can walk to. You have to drive the kids to any activities, school or otherwise, and in our case that was at least a 20 minute round trip. A number of families have moved to town from our neighborhood because of the distance from kids’ activities.

          Also, in a rural area or small town, there are fewer friends to choose from for the kids and yourself. Many of the people you meet may be connected in some way to each other but not to you. They may mostly have the same occupation, especially in an agricultural community, have the same religious denomination, or have all grown up together in the community. Rural people tend to be conservative, not only politically but fiscally, and often the low taxes they prize mean few community amenities. There also may be fewer extracurriculars for the kids and less in the way of support for those outside the norm whether they be the traditional “special needs” or the gifted/talented types. On the flip side, if your child is talented in athletics, music or drama, they might be first string, soloist, or lead actor since there’s less competition (in school and community organizations). Also, they can usually participate in a number of activities rather than specializing in one or two.

    • Erica says:

      Yes! to the tiny school thing. There are pros and cons. We ended up moving to a bigger district partly because of those cons. The old school had 200 kids total – K to 12. My girls were 2 of 9 in their class. The kids they didn’t get along with were always there. They had friends, thank goodness. But they could never get a break from the couple that annoyed them. The classes were bare bones for junior high and high school. The electives were music and art. Compared to the district we are in now, it’s just sad what those kids are missing. I see school age as a time to explore interests and try new things. You can’t always do that in a tiny school. Oh and don’t forget sports. In our old school, the kids would all beg their friends to join a sport just so they could have it at all. That lack of passion does not lead to championship teams or to scholarships for the kids who are passionate about it.

  7. Amy says:

    I have a couple takeaways reading this. First, my family of four lives in Conifer, CO, in the foothills about 25 minutes from Lakewood, CO. Our house sits on an acre and we have more privacy then the typical neighborhood setting, but still have great schools and are located near numerous trails, plus we have grocery stores, doctors offices, etc. close by. There would be a possibility to do an even swap in home value as home here run anywhere from $500k to $850K. So maybe there is an opportunity to relocate within the Denver metro area and still retain that good paying engineering job.
    Second, I’m looking at the potential drawdown strategy of their current assets, and they are heavily invested in pre-tax accounts. Do either of them have the opportunity to invest in ROTH 401K’s? Their current investments in the regular 401K’s are still going to be needed to be counted as taxable income and taxed some day, which can also affect ACA Healthcare subsidy qualification, so I would feel more comfortable having the retirement assets split more evenly between pre-tax, post-tax, and brokerage accounts. Our family has also done periodic ROTH conversions to start moving our 401k money to ROTH IRA’s to prepare for our FI life, so we don’t have such a large tax burden after we pull the trigger.
    Great job on your journey and excited to hear where you end up!!

    • KP says:

      I wondered why they only have ~12K in their Roths as well if they’ve been maxing them out. Maybe they meant they just maxed out for one year? We’re also in CO… Littleton, so right near you, Amy, and the adjoining town to Lakewood. 🙂 While we love it hear, I get Eve’s interest in having a bit more space. We LOVE our neighborhood and community and are in a very special area in Littleton, but we’d love to have <5 acres in like Evergreen. Unfortunately, at this time, hubby still has to go into the office so we're staying put. I've been remote for years so the goal is for him to find something remote as well. However, our community has some unique perks that will make it hard to leave, though some become less important once we retire in 4 years and can avoid the crowds by doing our athletic endeavors when most should be working. I'd be all on board w/Eve selling their home now IF they didn't have to buy something elsewhere. Real estate is nutters right now and I can't imagine having to bid up by a ton to *win* that house. Hopefully things settle down a bit, but of course, that means they won't get as much for their home either. I just don't see the masses moving out to our lovely state decreasing soon…

    • Eve says:

      We love Conifer! I actually have a Zillow alert set up for the area. Home prices are definitely the sticking point. Do you know of any friends that will be moving in the future that we could just work directly with to avoid the ruthless “bidding wars” going on right now? 😉

      Great points about the drawdown strategy. We intend to use the ROTH conversion you mentioned. Right now we are working towards allocating more funds into the taxable accounts.

      • Eve says:

        Hi KP, there was an error on our Roths IRA on our end. We actually have $54K in it right now. Good catch!

        It sounds like we are in really similar situations and an excellent point about being able to get out and enjoy the mountains better during the week rather than on the weekends. Real estate is absolute bananas in Colorado (probably anywhere desirable). Our realtor said that we would need to be prepared to go $70-80 thousand over asking, have enough cash to bridge the gap in the appraisal, waive inspections, etc. etc…..super intimidating!

        • KathyE says:

          We live in Coal Creek Canyon at 9000 feet which is 40 minutes from Boulder, 30 minutes from Golden and about an hour from Denver. There are properties west of us in Black Hawk that are more affordable. Not talking about in the casino towns but near Golden Gate Canyon State Park with access to Highway 119 and 6. Check it out !

    • Amy K says:

      I agree with Amy – why not something on more land but till within an hour and a half of Denver? I don’t know the schools, but east of DEnver looks pretty wide open, e.g. this quirky number:
      https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/4970-County-Road-L-Wiggins-CO-80654/194095923_zpid/

  8. KatieM says:

    One thing you might consider when picking a new location to live is what that will mean for family/vacation time. It sounds like you have a large, close-knit family nearby, so you may want to choose a home that’s within easy driving (or a cheap flight) distance away. We live several states away from most of our family, and visit at least twice a year. Not only does this mean much of our vacation time is spent visiting family, it’s a fairly large expense between travel and hotels for four people. (It also means we don’t have any doting relatives nearby who are eager to provide free childcare for date nights, etc.) You’re already traveling to visit one side of the family, so you probably have a decent sense of what it might cost to double that.

    Oh, and I understand the pain of tree trimming–if they’re on a property line and fast growing, they really can require a ton of maintenance.

    • Eve says:

      Such a great thing to consider. We love that most of one side of our family is in Colorado. You are absolutely correct, travel expenses would likely double if we moved from the area because we would visit family regularly.

      Trees are so complicated. We have a love-hate relationship with them. One of the reasons we fell in love with our current home was all of the mature trees and the shade that they provide. What we didn’t consider was all the time and money would be dropped into these trees. All of the trees are 50+ years old and have areas that die back. For the safety of us, our neighbors, and our homes we have to ensure they are healthy and the dead trimmed out. Also…So. Many. Leaves. Fall clean-up is a commitment!

  9. Ginzu says:

    The implementation of just 2/3 of the recommended budget reductions in spending may yield ~1000/month, a great continuation of building passive income streams later into FI. Eve and Gordon shared close range plans, 3 to 5 years, in enough detail to work out a concrete plan. Now, apply the same for the stated plan of FI. Passive income streams for the gap years between RE and the 59.5 (Roth and IRA) buckets of income. It is a comfort to have a few more buckets to fill up during the career years that will produce a recurring income (taxable dividends first, then dividends taken as cash post 59.5 from the retirement accounts. Syndicated real estate opportunities keep you in the real estate game, net worth is on the cusp of qualified investor status. The next buckets of SSA and SWR are standard fare to start looking into the long term sustainable monies.

    Possible to drop to one car? Very personal decision, yet a hard look into making it work can be worth it.

    Thank you for the read.

    • Eve says:

      Hi Ginzu! These are all great things to think about. Our learning curve has been super steep. We just got aggressive in investing and now we need to step back and ensure we are putting it in all the right buckets.

      We thought about dropping down to one car. After looking into the insurance savings and the money we would receive from a car sale, we didn’t feel like it would offset the pros of having two cars when we need them…especially as our sons are getting older and the possibility of needing to go in opposite directions may arise more frequently.

  10. I am from another generation. I have four children each older than this couple. I worked every day of my life from age 14 to 67 when I retired. I put the children through college, my wife was a stay at home mom. We lived in the same 90 year old house for 45 years.

    We waited to have our extra fun until we retired 11 years ago in part traveling to 44 countries and spending summers at our vacating home and renting a house for a month in Florida each winter.

    I know all that may seem strange to many younger people, including in this case study, but there are millions of people like me. From my perspective many of these case studies seem to want the “have it all” life. Is that practical, what if everyone followed that path in their 40s or 50s?

    Has this couple given thought to what life may be like in their 60s and beyond?

    I’ll make a couple of observations from my ancient perspective. The 529 and charity contributions seem too low. The savings account balance is too high and the brokerage account too low. Putting most of you eggs in qualified retirement plans limits your flexibility. I would also find ways to increase your Roth savings, possible using conversions after rolling over a portion of the 401k to an IRA.

    • Jean says:

      I agree with be happy with what you have for now. 7 years is not that long. You will both still be young and at your savings rate you will have a much better cushion under you. Pick up the extra hours to earn 82000 which will help you get there even faster. So many things can happen in the next 7 years. I read a post from Darrow Kirkpatrick and his co-writer. A young couple early retired only to have the husband be diagnosed with glioblastoma and died within months. Have you given any thought to this type of scenario? You just have to know that one spouse will be able to survive financially if the other one dies or becomes ill and has to stop working. I even wonder if the frugalwoods thought about this in their lives. I am sure they have. I am sure Mrs F could hire in help if needed but would lose her husbands income and insurance if a tragedy like this couple happened to them. Please always consider the what if and be sure you can make it on your own with your two boys whether it is the husband or the wife.

    • Eve says:

      It is wonderful that you and your wife have had the opportunity to travel so much since retiring! This is very similar to the approach that my parents took in raising us and retiring and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

      I want to be able to experience our extra fun times with our kids. I can see how it may appear that we want the have it all life, but if we can pull it off, why wouldn’t we?

      My husband and I have spent a lot of time thinking about what we want our life to be like when we are in our 60s and beyond. Everything points back to family and time for our hobbies. We are excited for that period in our life as well.

      Great financial suggestions! We still have a lot to learn. As far as our charity contributions, we currently leverage our employer’s dollar-for-dollar matches and intend to donate whatever we end up having at the end of our lives to charities rather than give the money to our children.

      • Laura Lee says:

        Get it Eve! & Co. I see nothing wrong with wanting it all if you have the ambition and the reality check to prioritize what you want. Time with the kiddos and your health tops everything. The pandemic has put some things in the spotlight and with your work situations I think you know you are in the right direction. You guys are fine and you’re doing great! I think sometimes we all want to do all the things right and want to double check to see if any T’s need crossing or I’s need dotting. All good. It sounds like you really prioritize family time and the outdoors. Luckily those are free 🙂

  11. LC says:

    Check out your local buy nothing group for free kids clothes, we use red pocket for cell phone service on Verizon and pay $15/month and we are up in Fort Collins so would love an update on where you end up as our goals are similar and we have two young children!!!

    • Eve says:

      Great suggestion! I joined our local buy-nothing group. We are definitely going to explore a different cell phone option and will keep you all posted on where we end up.

  12. Christine Washington says:

    You mentioned that “Conversely, our boys like having so many neighborhood friends to play with.” I wonder if sticking it out for a little while in your current place would also allow the boys to have some ‘walk to’ friends to play with. More rural places sometimes end up with the parents having to may formal playdates for the kids.

    • Eve says:

      This is definitely something we need to consider more heavily; there are serious perks of living in a traditional neighborhood setting.

  13. Katharine says:

    This case study really resonated because my family recently did this! We decided we wanted more space and more time with our kids, and found our dream homestead in Vermont, near family and friends. I agree with everything Liz is saying, but for our purposes, we revolved our research around Zillow and what was available. So we’d find a property we liked, then do all the research of the area- schools, environment, towns (and restaurants/ stores/ etc.) and reasonable healthcare options. We were doing this pre-pandemic with the thought it would be a summer house/ rental and like you had a checklist of the things we wanted on the property/ nearby. It’s just a matter of educating yourself to the area, especially if you’re not from there, and it takes time. Gradually you will realize, OK, anything in a radius of this, or anything in a radius of that, and that will help you narrow down your searches. Google earth is great- you can just literally zoom through all the towns checking them out, plus you can see anything less than ideal nearby from the satellite pix. We had pinpointed a few towns that way, so a year or so later, when the perfect property popped up in one of the areas I had researched earlier for other properties, we were ready to take advantage of the opportunity. In our case, due to the pandemic and working remotely, we were able to convince our employers that we could continue working (which has its hiccups as our “perfect property” is still waiting for the promised fiber internet) but we have work-arounds, and we’re glad we made the leap. One thing to think about is that until the kids are about in 3rd grade, they don’t have very serious friendships. Once we decided we were moving, rather than just summering, we set ourselves a deadline of moving before the kids were in Middle School to make the transition easier for them. We asked them recently if they missed their old life and their take on the situation was that they loved it here and were extremely happy we moved in spite of the fact they loved our previous neighborhood and biking with friends. One piece of luck (though we had seen play equipment on Google earth in our spying (lol), and when we visited prior to buying) was that though our property is extremely private, there are kids across the street who are similar ages, so we got our own little neighborhood in the country. Now we have 3-4 neighbor kids running wild on our property with our 2!

    • Eve says:

      Wow, I love that you are paving the path and showing others how you accomplished this! Thank you for your insights and tips. I think Vermont is where it’s at! So many people love it! I only wish it was closer to family. It is wonderful you found a property that gives you the best of both worlds–space and neighbor friends! Well done!!

      You bring up an excellent point. Some of our urgency comes from our children’s ages. If we move, we would also want to do it before they entered middle school. A move after that would be tough.

  14. LL says:

    A quick comment on a potential job search for Gordon: CO recently enacted a law that requires “equal pay for equal work” and requires that an employer notify current employees about promotional opportunities and provide information on compensation and benefits. One of the unintended consequences of this law is that some major companies have blacklisted CO residents from applying for remote jobs because they view the cost to comply with the law as too high. It’s possible the law will be changed or companies will opt to comply instead of eliminating CO residents from the search, but if you’re job hunting in the near future from CO and looking for remote work, you should be aware of this added challenge.

    • Eve says:

      Thanks for the heads up, LL! I had recently read an article about this but didn’t make the connection on how this could affect us directly.

    • Lindsay says:

      Definitely keep this in mind. I just completed a remote job search (successfully!) and noticed a lot of “no-Colorado” restrictions I’d never seen before, and was asked to confirm my state of residence in most interviews.

      We recently moved to SW New Mexico (Silver City), which would check many of your boxes, except we’re 2-3 hours from Costco, Home Depot, and airports. We just bought a house matching all your other parameters for well under $400K. We rented “temporarily” in the area during the pandemic WFH period and fell in love with the totally uncrowded, amazing year-round outdoor access. Best of luck with your search!

      • Eve says:

        Congratulations on successfully finding a remote job! That is so interesting about the new law; it’s actually quite unfortunate.

        I had never heard of Silver City. It looks pretty far south! Do you know anything about the quality of the school system?

  15. Stacie says:

    Two things that come to mind in this case. IF you decide to move, a lot of rural areas do not have as fast of internet as you have now. Some requires require a specific speed for work from home positions. This could impact Eve’s job should they move so find out the exact internet speed of a new location and your employer requirements before making the move.

    Your grocery bill is really high no doubt due to the specialty food items required for allergies. Could you change groceries stores to see if somewhere else has better prices (Whole Foods vs Aldi)? Could you menu plan and get build a menu around the protein and meats on sale to help with this item? I know many gluten free items never go on sale, so those are hard to change, but maybe eat less pasta, breads and specialty items and concentrate on meat, fruit and veggies on sale.

    • Elaina Barbaree says:

      Colorado doesn’t have Aldi. Which breaks my family’s hearts since they were introduced to it while visiting me in North Carolina. Sprouts is there and seems a tad cheaper but the end of it all is that food sensitivities add up to a lot; both in cost and prep time. Still…I’d start to check out mail order for bulk items from the manufacturer. Good possibility that taking an initial hit upfront would add to weekly savings as time goes on. Over 20 years ago, I had friends that ordered foods directly from grain mills since the husband has celiac disease. Saved them a ton of money but they had to invest in the storage (which in Colorado is easier due to the semi-arid climate).

    • Eve says:

      With our food intolerances, I shop at several stores every week and am a meal planner down to the snacks that my boys will eat each day. I echo Elaina…I wish we had an Aldi in Colorado too! I have heard about so many people that are able to cut costs by shopping there.

      I really like the suggestions of buying bulk that are coming in. That is not something that I have explored, but need to.

      High-speed internet needs to be added to our list of must-haves. 🙂

      • Lyna says:

        Meal planning is essential to getting the food budget down. I would suggest looking into bulk cooking (cook one big recipe, eat 3-4 meals) and freezer meals. That and use your slow cooker! Please explore–https://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2005/11/gluten-free-stuff.html. Stephanie O’Day cooks for 2 gluten sensitive kids so ALL of her recipes are gluten-free. (And waaay more variety than stew and pot roast!) It’s OK to prep, freeze, then put the frozen meal into the slow cooker. Start it in the morning, have hot ready-to-eat food by suppertime.

        • Eve says:

          Thanks Lyna, I will check out the website. To be honest, I have never really gotten into crockpot cooking. There are a couple of recipes that we really like from Danielle Walker, but haven’t been too successful otherwise. I have found that I can usually whip something up quicker in the evening–but I really haven’t put a ton of effort into finding recipes that are quick, healthy, and fresh. Great suggestion for bulk cooking too!

          • Cathy says:

            Eve, my family of four has multiple anaphylactic food allergies as well as other sensitivities. My kids are 19 and 23 (both still at home–thanks pandemic!) and I’ve been cooking for allergies for the past 18 years. My 19-year-old is anaphylactic to dairy, tree nuts, wheat and all the gluten-containing grains and few that are GF (including oats). His allergies are so severe he’s never been able to eat at a restaurant, so I envy your Chipotle nights. I completely understand how expensive specialty foods can be, but I think your grocery bill is really high. I’m in Utah and it doesn’t seem our grocery prices are much different. While I would have loved to have had an “if not everyone can eat it, then we don’t eat it” plan, that wasn’t practical. At one point, my older kid could eat what the younger one was allergic to and vice versa. So my house rules are that we only eat GF pasta at home, and all my baking is safe for the younger one (who, thankfully outgrew an egg allergy) which means safe for everyone. That means I bake GF/DF and never any nuts. We buy Bob’s Red Mill flours (four different ones to make our own GF blend). Sprouts and Natural Grocers always have better prices than any other stores or the Bob’s website. We are only able to eat rice pasta and Tinkyada runs $3.50-$4.25/package. Allergy-friendly chocolate chips are over $5/bag unless on sale. We’ve spent $45 this month just on milk and soymilk. Like you, I cook from scratch every day, and all the baked goods (including bread, pizza crust, desserts) are from scratch. Many things are big batches so I can freeze some for future meals. Many things are designed to have leftovers or to create a base (pasta, rice, etc) for multiple meals. I happened to tally our grocery bill today and we’re on track to spend $600 or maybe $650 this month. That’s about average for us and includes some non-food items. It doesn’t include alcohol or wine because we have to buy that at the state liquor store. We don’t have Aldi either, but I usually do one big shop at Trader Joe’s each month and supplement with Natural Grocers and a local market. One thing to look at is whether or not you’re buying specialty convenience or pre-made foods. That can add up quickly. My best suggestion is to do a big review of what you’re buying and where. If you don’t keep a price book, it can be eye-opening. For what it’s worth, I’m terrible at meal planning, but have several go-to recipes.

  16. Sarah Bialek says:

    My husband and I recently relocated from Golden to Durango. We have daughters 7 and 9 with similar goals of spending time with them before they realize we are super nerdy. This was a plan 7 years in the making. Housing was an issue. We like you had a lot of equity in our Front Range home and it has only gone up since we sold; however so has housing here. We also looked at Missoula and Bozman. Housing in these places are also in the rise. Consider:
    1. Your equity: 790K – 265K = 525K with 20% down on a 450K = 90K with 435K remaining to invest in FI low cost index funds. With interest rates so low it makes sense to pay 2-3% on a mortgage loan and invest money in an index fund for an average 8% return.
    2. Your Savings: I realize the advice above is to keep your 150K liquid. I wonder if you have considered diversifying this cash into categories: a) 1 year of expense liquid 75K, b) moving expenses ? c) 12K to max out Roth IRA contributions for this tax year and d) remaining to invest in low cost index fund for FI.
    3. Location: From which activities does your family derive the most joy? Like your husband moving to the place he loves, could you move to the place where you incur no expenses in doing the things you love?
    4. Costco: I also thought I need to live near one; however we live around so many farms and ranches that I can buy meat and produce in bulk for less than our Costco bill. As you cook most things from scratch, consider the trade offs in moving to a smaller place with less access to big retail but more access to grass fed meats, beyond organic farm produce, and a coop that can order in bulk for you the things you can’t purchase locally.

    Our move was largely facilitated by unlocking our equity in a rental and our last home and getting this money into index funds.

    • Eve says:

      Hi Sarah! We also initially looked at Missoula and Bozeman. I think both of those towns have and are still exploding as well. Congratulations on making your move! Durango is a beautiful area!

      Thanks for adding in your points to consider. We had always had the goal of being mortgage-free, but your points bring in an additional layer to consider. The best thing about all of our favorite activities is that they are free (aside from the equipment needed).

      It is encouraging to hear that you can “get by” without having a Costco. We currently save so much by shopping there that it has never been a consideration to not be near one.

      • Lindsay says:

        We used to be a Costco family, but since moving to a rural area, we’ve switched to the local Super Walmart. Surprisingly, our grocery costs have gone down about 10%, and we don’t have to pay for the membership. Walmart has also seriously upped its game when it comes to dairy- and gluten-free products, at least in our area. There are a few specialty products we still order online in bulk, but we’re mostly able to shop at Walmart or Albertsons.

      • Sarah says:

        Due to necessity during the pandemic, we switched to using Costco.com only. The online store doesn’t have everything (especially light on food options), but they have most of the household items on the website. It’s still financially worth it to have the membership.

  17. Cara says:

    I feel your pain about proximity to the neighbors- we moved to Europe from the US and it feels like everyone lives on top of each other here. I have tried to create more seclusion with landscaping (big planters, planting a tall hedge) and window treatments, to mitigate the fishbowl feeling. It sounds like you want the amenities of a town without the townsfolk. But I would question if an acre or two somewhere else will give you the “space” you seek. You might have to claim your space (including your personal space) wherever you are. If you do go house hunting, I’d maybe encourage you to keep an open mind about fixer-uppers. If you live in your dream house long enough, you’ll be dealing with major work or obsolescent systems eventually anyway. (
    You don’t define “major”- maybe you should?) Good luck.

    • Eve says:

      Good point, Cara. We didn’t major work in the case study. While we wouldn’t shy away from a house if it needed a lot of work and met all our other needs…I house that needs updated mechanical, plumbing, electrical, bathrooms, kitchen, etc. would mean that we would be spending all our free time on fixing up the house rather than spending that time with our boys. The house wouldn’t need to be perfect by any means (paint can do wonders, right?). But, it’s the time investment right at the purchase point that we keep getting hung up on.

  18. Shaun says:

    As the primary cook for our family of 5 (all 12 years+) and who have 9 food intolerances amongst us, your grocery budget is something to applaud at. A few things I have found to reduce our expenses is primarily to buy in bulk (Costco, directly from Bob’s Red Mill, Amazon pantry) and I make all our own bread (gluten free/egg free/dairy free bread is SO expensive). Also there’s a national co-op called Azure Standard that has some truly unbeatable prices for large amounts of food my family can tolerate (you pick up once a month from a local drop, which can be a little wonky…) But with those changes, I can typically keep our monthly grocery budget to $1000 or less a month for 5 people who all eat heartily. Which is still eye watering, but saving those $200-300 a month add up fast.
    And just a side note, when you have multiple food intolerances and find a place you can all eat it (Chipotle for the win for us too!), cherish the ability to eat out.
    Just a few thoughts I had, which you may already know.

    • Eve says:

      Shaun, I feel for you. Nine intolerances, that is A LOT. I need to look into purchasing directly from Bob’s Red Mill; 80% of our flours and starches are from them. I would love to know which recipe you use for bread. The bread we like best from the store typically costs around $8 a loaf (I just found it on sale at Whole Foods for 50% and bought all that they had! Woot Woot). But it is outrageously expensive and I would definitely consider making our own. I wish there was a bread machine that could do gluten free/egg free/dairy free bread well!

      It looks like there is an Azure Standard drop within a mile of our house! Thank you for this tip! I have never heard of them before!

      Thank goodness for Chipotle, right!? 🙂

      • Clancy says:

        Azure is the best! No food allergies here, but I can attest to their amazing prices and selection! Bonus that your drop is so close to you! Also, they are HQ’d in a small rural Oregon town (we are newish Oregonians!)!

      • Cathy says:

        Eve, definitely bake your own bread! The GF flour blend we make up has one bag each of Bob’s brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca flour/starch, and potato STARCH. (I would love to make one that’s healthier, but allergies.) Anyway, our bread has GF flour, salt, potato flour, yeast, honey, and water. If there is a GF bread you guys really like, contact the manufacturer and see if you can buy direct from them. I don’t know if Whole Foods still does it, but they used to offer a case discount if you purchased a full case. This applied to both stock on hand and (easier) special orders. Depending on the flours you buy, buying direct from Bob’s Red Mill is not necessarily the least expensive option.

  19. ColoradoFIRE says:

    It sounds like this is an exciting time for you and your family, and congratulations for being in such fantastic financial shape. That doesn’t happen by accident and you should be proud of the accomplishment. A few thoughts on your situation:
    – We lived for years in Boulder and Gillian counties in Colorado and raised our son there. You might consider a Front Range mountain town like Nederland (great community, amazing elementary school), the Sugarloaf area above Boulder (Boulder schools are fantastic) or an area like Coal Creek Canyon, where you can have mountain living and relatively easy access to Denver. Look for neighborhoods with no or minimal HOA fees.
    – As you assess your expenses, separate out the catch-all categories more finely. For instance, recreation is combined with household purchases like home decorating in the “shopping” category. From what you said in the intro, outdoor activities are very important to you. Make recreation its own category, and divide up the remaining items in the shopping category to more easily see what is spent where and identify areas where you are happy to trim.
    – Speaking of trimming, ouch! Moving away from a house that requires you to spend almost $1900/year in tree trimming would be great.
    – I personally wouldn’t move too far from family. As long as those are good relationships, they’re a source of support for you, are grounding for children, and mean that you won’t have to spend all of your vacation time on distant family visits.
    – To decrease holiday gift expenses, assign every family member one other family member’s name. This would limit your family’s gifts to 4 per side of the family. Or agree to give gifts only to children.
    – You mentioned moving to Wyoming and New Mexico. We retired early to northern New Mexico (Santa Fe) and find it friendly, much slower-paced, and with much quieter trails and open spaces than in Boulder County. Los Alamos National Lab is expanding and will have a new site in Santa Fe. We found that housing there costs much less than in Boulder County. One downside to New Mexico is that goods and services are taxed, so you will be paying your car mechanic, plumber, etc. sales tax. The rate varies from just over 5% to just under 9%, and really adds up.
    – Lastly, the method of looking at your entire portfolio that is outlined in the book “The Aspirational Investor” really helped me understand how much we should have in cash/ cash-like investments, vs. stocks and other things (real estate, etc.) and how our entire portfolio would survive a hard market downturn. Worth its weight in gold!

    Best wishes!

    • Eve says:

      Thank you ColoradoFire!

      I haven’t even opened up the search to the Boulder/Gilpin areas. I have heard that property prices and taxes are outrageous. I would probably love living in the area though. Sante Fe is a beautiful area to retire in (albeit the goods and services taxes)! Congratulations!

      A great suggestion to get more intentionally with our catch-all categories. Savings are always hidden in the weeds. Those dang trees. 🙂 We love them and hate them.

      I also really like your Christmas present suggestions. It would likely be a hard topic to bring up with one side of the family, but probably worth it.

      We have added your book suggestion to our library list!

      • ColoradoFIRE says:

        The mountain towns in Boulder and Gilpin county should be much more affordable than Boulder itself. Some areas of Gilpin County are in the Boulder Valley school district, which is nice. I should have been clearer about Los Alamos National Labs – could be a place to watch for jobs for your husband, as they are really expanding. And another clarification about the taxes – it’s the tax on services that is different between Colorado (nonexistent) and New Mexico (5+ to almost 9%). Income tax is also a bit higher in New Mexico. Good luck!!!

        • KathyE says:

          Gilpin County has very low property taxes, Jefferson County in the middle, and Boulder County taxes are relatively high. We live near the intersection of Gilpin, Jefferson and Boulder counties in Coal Creek Canyon. Check it out !

  20. Amanda says:

    Why not use the liquid cash to pay down your current mortgage to get you closer to mortgage free? Any reason you refi’ed to another 30 year? You could be sitting pretty where you are right now.

    • Eve says:

      We considered it but felt that financially it would be better to get the profit from our investment property sale working for us rather than sinking it into our current home.

  21. Shannon says:

    I worry quite a bit about the tree trimming budget and the desire to move to a place with more acreage and woods. Speaking as someone living on 17 acres of woods, there is a lot of tree work to do, much of it more expensive than trimming limbs (hanging trees, trees falling on the driveway, even one on our house that fortunately didn’t break anything) . Have you given any thought to maintaining those woods? A lot of counties/DNRs offer classes on chainsaw safety and tree maintenance that would probably be good for one of you to take. Then you can maintain those trees yourselves, save the money now, and practice for a future bigger property.

    Also as a fellow introvert who does live semi ruralky, it’s much harder to interact with people and takes more effort on your part. That probably seems great to you now, but I’ve found it hard to get the motivation to expend that effort and no interactions with neighbors is not good either. I agree it’s a balancing act but as an introvert, I think it’s easier to let my extroverted neighbors take the lead on social interactions

    I would also second Azure if you can find a drop nearby (which I’m guessing you can in the Denver area) . I’ve found prices tend to be better than Costco for most specialty foods (as a fellow engineer, I have a cost comparison spreadsheet for where to buy our 50 most common grocery items- maybe something to consider to help with that budget.) We don’t have food allergies but do eat almost all organic and as local as possible for about $600 per month for a family of 4 and a half (the half is a breastfeeding baby) and Azure is a big reason why

    • Eve says:

      Thanks Shannon, that is a good idea to look into tree maintenance classes. In our current home, it would really be dependent on how much it would cost to rent a large boom truck, wood chipper, and dumpster to haul away all the wood chips afterward. All of our trees are at least 50 feet tall. However, if we have land it would most likely have pine trees which may be a little easier to maintain.

      Great points to consider about being an introvert in a rural setting. I wonder though if through our children’s schools, activities, church, etc. If I would still have enough exposure to others but still have my little haven to retreat to when wanted and/or needed.

      Why am I only now learning about Azure? It seems amazing and they appear to have a great selection! I geek out on spreadsheets. I think there will definitely be a grocery cost comparison sheet in my future. I have a lot of it in my head, but it would be good to get it on-screen and analyze it.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        As an introvert who lives super rurally, I can say that–for me personally–it is amazing. I can be alone anytime I want, I don’t have to chat or wave at people when I’m hiking, there’s no expectation that I must socialize every time I step outside of my house and I have quiet. I LOVE THIS. That being said, I’ve also built the closest friendships I’ve had since college (which was a long time ago now 😉 )! I have intentional social time every week and plenty of opportunities to meet new people. Eve–you hit the nail on the head: kid’s activities, church, community events… I have four such things on the calendar for this week alone! I love the balance of being in solitude and being social. In the city, I felt like I was always “on” because there were always, always other people around. That being said, it’s certainly not for everyone!

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Oh! I should add that one of the important factors enabling all of our social/community time is the fact that we’re a 5 minute drive from our town center, a 10 minute drive to my kids’ elementary school and a 20 minute drive to our church. None of these are located in a “big town,” but they facilitate the friendships and community we love and rely on. That’s one of the reasons why I suggested prioritizing schools and driving distances. While we’re 45 minutes from the grocery store, that’s not an issue because we only need to go there once a week or once every two weeks.

          • Eve says:

            Yes! I read about all of the community events that your family is involved in and the close-knit group of friends that you have all created and think that it is totally doable to do this in a smaller community. And you totally nailed it. I would love it if I was able to go outside in the front and not have the expectation of saying hi and talking with every person that walks by. 🙂

    • Linda says:

      yes this! I also found the “move to rural”/ “tree trimming , leaf clean up” comments in opposition to each other.
      Great advice on changing jobs first and then refocusing on if a move is still needed.
      I also add that my plans and ideas changed based on how my children changed. My dreams and hobbies weren’t theirs – and so the school, hobbies, life in imagined , has altered to encompass their personalities, ways of being, learning, interests etc. We are in a suburb with lots of amenities and that has been great. For me, I didn’t want a car life for my children. And I love being able to walk to stores, library, school, public pool, friends, etc with them. We still have access to nature with walks and mountain bike area in our neighbourhood as well as bird sanctuary but it is very different to living in the “country”.

  22. Sara says:

    I’m a CO native momma with two teen boys. I too work PT 20 hours from home.
    I understand the desire to cash in on the equity of your home and get out to a less expensive place. We talk about it often, but more than likely we’ll never do it and I’m not so sure you should, either. Eve, your family is here. If you have a close knit family, you’ll still be traveling to see them. Move to Wyoming- to see your family, you’ll be in I-25 going south with everyone and their mother? New Mexico? Same thing, only going north with everyone and their mother. I get the desire to be in nature more without having to fight everyone for a spot on the highway. I think you could find some land farther out in Parker or out east in Aurora, but then you’ll be that much farther from the mountains (TRAFFIC!). It might be best to stay where you are for the time being.
    I also would caution you on increasing your hours when your kids start school. In THEORY you will have more time on your hands b/c they are in school, but reality is often far from that. You’ll have one kid get the stomach bug and have to stay home only to give it to the other one and then you and before you know it, you haven’t worked much at all that week. So the next week you think you’ll make up for it and get a lot done, only there is a school play in the middle of the day or field day or a Halloween party or something else you want to attend. My kids are in high school and I still work PT so I can have the TIME to keep myself sane and still be involved in their lives and activities.

    • Eve says:

      Another native! 🙂 I really appreciate your candidness and advice–especially since you are ahead of me in the child-raising realm. I get the sense that we have very similar and relatable priorities when it comes to our families. There will never really be enough time, will there? And traffic. I detest traffic. My anxiety levels skyrocket the moment we get back in town–there are parts of I-25 and I-70 that I completely avoid now if I can.

    • AW says:

      I was going to say the same as Sara about increasing hours when kids go to school. Mine are 7 and 11. The 11 year old does dance 4 days per week and it’s at around 4pm so it’s difficult to get her there with full time hours. I stayed home for a few years and started back full time in March. I have had no luck finding anything part time. I am making full time hours work because my husband and I are both remote and my mom helps one day a week, but it’s kind of stressful trying to ferry kids to activities around meetings and other workload. I am not sure how it will work if/when my husband and I are required to go back to the office. It is doable if you want to work more hours or if you need to, but if the priority is to be available for kids, I would stick with the 20 hours, that schedule would be my dream!

  23. Eve says:

    I also wanted to answer @Frugalwoods questions that she has for us:

    Gordon has not had a conversation with his employer about working somewhere other than Denver. Pre covid, he would often meet with vendors and have some in-person meetings. While his company embraced the work-from-home during the pandemic, they quickly returned to the office. He is an exception to the others. Not many others work from home on a regular basis. Due to the nature of the company, moving to another state would not be favorable. We say an hour and a half to Denver so he could still travel for vendor meetings when needed.

    He has occasionally looked at other job opportunities but has not been able to find one that is remote and pays as well.

    I don’t necessarily “want” to increase my workload, but if it means that we can reach our goals more quickly then I think it needs to be on the table for discussion. While my employer has been super accommodating to my schedule. Unfortunately, the work I do is consistent. They would need to hire someone else to capture that workload. So I feel like they would not be open to the possibility of working more hours during the school year and less during times when the boys are off. It is worth the conversation if it comes to that though.

  24. Jessica says:

    I would look into the idea of Coast FI (the fioneers have good info on their site) – this is the concept that you have enough saved already that it will grow into the amount you will need to retire, so you now only have to earn enough to cover your expenses (no more saving for retirement). From my calculations, you’re already there! Even without reducing expenses. Therefore I would suggest exploring what options you might have for permanently reducing your husband’s hours starting in the next couple years. This accomplishes your goal of spending more time with your kids while they’re young, and doesn’t require you to ramp up hours later- just to keep working on your part time schedules for longer (my rough calculations indicate you would be fully FI in around 14 years even if you never add to your retirement accounts again! Age 56 and 51 is not too shabby, and seems well timed with your kids graduating high school.) The biggest challenge as you noted would be health insurance, but if you can figure that out, you are all set on the rest! Just another option to consider 🙂

    • Eve says:

      This was a new idea that I had never heard of. My husband had but had not thought about it in terms of him starting to work part-time now. So much of our incomes currently go into our investments. It would certainly solve our desire to spend more time with our kids now. Thanks for throwing out another option for us to consider!

    • Jean says:

      Just remember, I believe it was in the 70’s. Not sure. The stock market went nowhere for years. Young people will not have lived through that time. You may hit your coastal FI number but if it gains nothing in 8 or 10 years it will make a big difference in your outcome. Hopefully we will not see that again but if interest rates rise substantially, it will happen, hopefully to a lesser degree.

  25. Terre Tulsiak Tulsiak says:

    I hope you don’t have Gordon leave his job before deciding where you will end up (and hope his employers don’t subscribe to Frugalwoods, lol) because health insurance is one of the main expenses and headaches you will encounter.
    I’m not a tax expert but I think there are rules about reinvesting your capital gains from income property- how to structure it, time constraints, etc.
    My biggest piece of advice is for you to spend quality AND quantity time with kids,now because it really does go by extremely quickly, but also invest in yourself, by working at fulfilling job to show your kids that work/life balance is the key to happiness.
    And grow some of your own food. Cheaper and healthier, and not as difficult as you think.

  26. Jennifer says:

    My 3 yo has multiple food allergies: peanut, egg, and dairy. I’m lucky if I can stick to $250/week for groceries (not including monthly Costco trips). I try to get certain things from different stores—but only if I know I’ll be near one of the stores and can easily schedule a pick-up. Otherwise, the drive isn’t worth the savings. For instance, our Target sells vegan cheese more cheaply than our main grocer (Hy-Vee), but Hy-Vee often has Ripple milk (pea milk) on sale. I recommend price shopping and keeping a spreadsheet so you know where different items are cheapest.

    • Rebecca says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      Be careful with the pea milk for your peanut allergic child. Pea, garbanzo beans, and lentils are all related to peanuts. Some children who are allergic to peanut can react to the other items too. My child does.

  27. Audrey says:

    During the pandemic I came to the realization that I could spend the time that we were locked down focusing on executing my retirement plan, so I order my tiny home shell and built out the interior of the home in July 2020 before all of the prices went up. I finished it in December and had a tenant in the home by 2/1/21. I am clearing about $500 a month in additional retirement income for that asset to grow in value. I also moved my daughter into an apt with a roommate so that if I decide to retire at 59 and 1/2 next March I would be able to rent out my NYC apt for $3000 a month and I will be able to let the tenant income pay off the mortgage balance on that apt. I would caution people who think retiring during the years that their kids are young is going to maximize their potential. The highest asset building years are usually after your kids are finished with college and before you retire, so between 50-65 is when you will be able to accumulate the most, it also allows you to significantly pay off your mortgage. What they are trying to do will require a significant amount of cost cutting and maybe even doing things like home schooling or public school instead of paying for preschool. Really think about cutting back and teaching your kids frugality if you are hell bent on reaching these goals, as it will require and immense amount of discipline.

    • Eve says:

      Thanks for the recommendations, Audrey. Congratulations on building out your tiny home and your upcoming retirement!

      We choose to homeschool our boys last year due to the pandemic. It was a great experience. Never in a million years would I have ever thought I would be the one to teach my son to read. That being said, I was very excited for them to go back to school this fall. Next year (fall 2022), both of our sons will be in elementary school and we will no longer have school expenses. We will still need some kind of coverage during their summer breaks though. All good things to think about, thanks again!

  28. Rebecca says:

    I’m actually a bit surprised with the grocery amount. We too deal with lots of allergies – dairy, egg, soy, peanut (includes pea, lentil, garbanzo), tree nut (includes all other nuts and seeds except hemp and flax), corn syrup (this is a behavioral allergy), gluten (a new one for my husband). Plus we have 6 kids still living and eating here full time. Another child living here who eats about half his meals here. And 2 more (one of those married) who stop by about 1-2x a month and eat with us. We spend about $1200 (it’s a bit variable but hasn’t gone over $1500 for 8 full time, 1 part time and 3 occasional eaters).
    Some ideas:
    consider NOT doing everyone can eat every food. Some are not worth it – like peanut allergies that can cause anaphylaxis and we don’t allow any peanut in our house at all. Or celiac where they have to avoid any exposure to gluten at all. But others are easy to avoid cross contamination – like adding a sprinkling of cheese at the table or one eating corn tortillas while the others eat flour. This can reduce your cost significantly.
    If you still decide to cook so all can eat everything, consider changing your meal plans to just avoid those expensive food allergy substitutes. For dinner, we now base our meals on meat/potato/veg. So pork loin/baked potato/asparagus or whole chicken/mashed potato/green beans, or roast with potato/carrots/onions, etc. That avoids all the common allergy foods. You can also use lettuce leaves in place of bread for sandwich wraps. Or roll up meat without bread. Or make ants on a log with celery, pb or other nut butter and raisins. Use rice or potatoes as your main grains instead of expensive gluten free grains.
    Teach your children to like cheap foods -this is a big one!!! Beans are super cheap and easy as is rice. Many bean/rice recipes out there. Homemade hummus with veggies for lunch is an easy one (we use a recipe of navy beans, olive oil, garlic and other spices). Arroz con leche for breakfast.
    Learn cheaper substitutions. Water can frequently be substituted for milk. When we bake anything calling for milk, I use half hemp milk with half water. You can also use 2T of water for an egg or use 1 tsp of baking soda with 1 T of vinegar for the egg. Use broth in place of milk whenever possible like in mashed potatoes. Make a white sauce with oil, tapioca starch and broth to use in place of cream soup for casseroles, scalloped potatoes, etc.
    You won’t be able to get your grocery bill down to rock bottom like those with no food allergies can but you should be able to reduce it! Hope those ideas help.

    • Eve says:

      Thanks for all the suggestions, Rebecca. For all our meals, we also have a protein, veggies, fresh fruit, and occasionally a starch. Dinners are typically the easiest. Our biggest expenditures come from school lunches and snacks. This year, I feel like I have been getting a better handle on it, especially the snacks. One snack will have a baked good (gluten, dairy, egg, corn, and tree nut-free) and fruit, and the second snack will be a veggie and a bar (made good, that’s it, this kid saves lives, etc). I love cooking and experimenting with new foods and flavors. It is a great idea to search for alternatives that are cheaper. I recently got the Kids Eat in Color cookbook and it has helped to come up with more ideas other than our standard sandwich and rolled ham with crackers and follow your heart cheese for their lunches.

      Right now by boys do not like potatoes or beans. Definitely need to work on that. They will however take out some cilantro lime rice! 🙂

      • Cathy says:

        Have you seen The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal? She has awesome baked good recipes. We use rice milk as a dairy alternative, which is what she calls for in her book.

  29. JD says:

    My only advice is patience. This is a good market to sell, but a horrible market in which to buy a house. Things may change more than you realize as the kids start school, and both of you have good jobs, so my counsel is to wait a bit. As far as the neighbors, I’ve lived in the country for most of my life – neighbors, even distant ones, can be a problem anywhere, trust me.

    Try looking for alternatives to ordering food in, like having frozen foods ready in the freezer for those “can’t stand to cook” days. I follow the AIP diet (no nightshades, no grains, no dairy, no nuts…) and it gets expensive to shop, but I never order out — there’s nothing I can get from a restaurant around here that doesn’t have a proscribed food in it. A freezer meal keeps me from getting so tired of cooking.

    • Eve says:

      It really is a horrible market to buy a house right now. And very true, the grass isn’t always greener.

      Can I ask what kind of freezer meals you like that fit your AIP diet? This is an area in the grocery stores that I have not really even looked into at the grocery store because I figured that they would all be a no-go.

      • JD says:

        I actually order my freezer meals online from Paleo On the Go or I freeze extra meals I make on the weekend, but there are other options out there. ShopAIP might have some things for you to check out, Butcher Box has clean meats, and Real Plans has a whole section of AIP recipes – you’d have to cook them, but they have them thought up and written up for you already, and you could make some ahead and freeze them.
        I go to the website of Autoimmune Wellness with Mickey Trescott, NTP, and Angie Alt, Certified Health Coach, as a resource for ideas, as well as The Paleo Mom website, with Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD (Medical Biophysics.) Even if one doesn’t have an autoimmune condition, there is a lot of help there for those with food sensitivities and allergies.
        I have no financial ties or connection, other than being a regular consumer, with any of these I’ve listed. Good luck!

  30. Tonya says:

    Hi from Denver! Home prices here are bananas, aren’t they?

    I love this case study and think you are doing an awesome job saving, balancing life, and getting outdoors with your people.

    Since you have so much family here, I’d consider northern NM. There is lovely land to be had and it’s really just about 5 hours to drive to the metro area. Lots of mountains and beautiful outdoors to explore in the Santa Fe area. My friends have a place in a small town outside Santa Fe and they have land and it’s just an hour from ABQ.

    I wonder too about Monument/Palmer Lake. It seems beautiful there, smaller town vibe, and I wonder if the homes are more affordable?

    Anyway, I loved reading your case study. Keep the alcohol in the budget, in my opinion. God knows we need it right now!

    • Eve says:

      Hi “neighbor”! Yes, home prices are complete bananas right now. Thank you for your kind words. There have been quite a few recommendations to explore northern New Mexico. Palmer Lake/Monument is expensive, but could also be a good option and we would be a stone’s throw away from my parents who are in Palmer Lake. Maybe more free sitter opportunities! 🙂

      Oh yes, alcohol will stay in the budget. While I love Frugalwoods, I did laugh out loud when I read that line. 🙂

      • Tonya says:

        I also laughed out loud at that suggestion. I wish you good luck in this process. It sounds like you guys have a lot of clarity about more family time and that’s a good start.

  31. ABQ mom says:

    I live in Albuquerque, NM. The housing market is exploding here too but it completely possible to purchase a few acre lot in the city. Most of there are what we call the “Valley” along the Rio Grande. Some are estates but not all if you dig around. There’s also a town north of Albuquerque called Corrales which is more pricey but has restaurants, some stores, good schools. School in Albuquerque are highly variable so need to look around but not all of APS is bad.

    We are a gluten free, vegetarian household so I understand your difficulties. Brown rice has been my savior. Even my kids like it better the white at this point because it’s so much chewier and flavorful. I make it most weeks and use it to bulk our saucy vegetable dinners and then on a busy day coming home from work, I just make fried rice. I make the fried rice with random veggies and eggs but could be done with meat scraps as well. It takes like 20 minutes.

  32. Amy Scott says:

    Life will change drastically when your kids are in school! They will be in lots of activities and living close to school is huge! Our backyard backed into our elementary playground and we walked to school. Then they walked to middle and high. They could do everything they wanted to do because transportación was not an issue. And, the playground was like a park. We went hiking on weekends nearby and kept a simple life without carpool lines and bussing! It was idyllic.
    My sister is on 25 acres and drives 45 minutes to school. Her kids can’t do much because of the distance! They are never home to enjoy their acreage, either because of the long commute.
    I think finding a happy medium/balance is key. I think also remembering that school will be of primary concern and the epicenter of your lives soon is important.
    Just my two cents worth as a new empty nester. I think you all are doing great!

    • Eve says:

      Thank you, Amy. I may be in denial of just how much our lives will revolve around school and extracurricular activities. Definitely like your advice on finding the happy medium.

      Spending a lot of time in a car does not sound pleasant. I commuted for one of my first jobs. One day, I calculated how long I had spent in my car, how many miles I had driven, and how much money I had spent on gas in the three years working there. After that moment, I started job searching and found a job much closer to home. Totally not worth it. 🙂

      • Amy Scott says:

        I don’t think you’re in denial and I admire your focus on your family goals. So many people don’t articulate what they want. We have noticed that our yard is more peaceful and quiet than my sister’s acreage. She has tractors, dirt bikes, and other farm equipment and it is loud! Your situation would be different but this is just an observation.
        I couldn’t do a long commute, either. I think it is so stressful. I drove 30 minutes for 6 years and since then I have an 8 minute walk.
        There are pros and cons but you will know what’s right for your family. Happy weekend!

  33. Becca says:

    Hi fellow Lakewood family! We are in Lakewood also with a 2/4 year old and have had the same thoughts. Currently we are staying put since I am leaving my job due to the stress from being a health care provider. We considered moving to the midwest even leaving our family behind in Colorado to cut out a mortgage + heavy pollution days but are not ready to make the move without more research. A couple of thoughts. We are in the middle of a pandemic and moving outside of an urban area may change some of the attitudes about vaccination and keeping kiddos safe since this seems to be a huge issue even traveling 30 miles in any direction from Denver. Just a thought not going to add anything else to possibly upset anyone hopefully this is short term issue. Second, you could try to tap into your home equity in other ways ie airbnb or even growing your own garden to cut down on your grocery bill. We live on a third of an acre and produce most of our veggies for the year about about a 1/3 of our fruit. Third, I understand wanting to spend time with your littles when they are little. I am actually reducing my hours so I can do this right now and reduced our expenditures this year to make sure we can do this comfortably. Four, I totally understand the ability to want to bike/run instead of drive. It is incredibly time efficient/environmentally friendly/budget friendly and I would never move anywhere that wasn’t bike friendly. This will be hard to find in many communities but would also be nonnegotiable for us. Good luck!

  34. Suzanne says:

    First I want to tell you how impressed I am with the amount of money you are saving each year! Absolutely awesome! Thank you for sharing your detailed financial story with us.
    I do have a few comments/questions.
    First, you say someone in your family can’t eat eggs – does that mean all eggs or only chicken eggs? My family members together also have many food intolerances so it can be difficult to cook for family gatherings. My niece Lily (lives just south of you in Littleton) can’t eat chicken or chicken eggs, but duck eggs are fine. And ducks lay year round unlike chickens. So maybe you could buy duck eggs (yes, they are more expensive than chicken eggs, but oh so lovely to have eggs when you bake!), or even have a few ducks yourself. If your family members can eat duck eggs, check out Aqua Duck Farms if you’d rather buy them than produce your own.
    Second, kids love the country when they are small. I grew up in rural Douglas County just south of Denver when that county only had one high school. Loved it until I turned 15. Then it was super hard to be so isolated. My brothers and sisters and I were counting the months until we left home. So you may find that your kids may be a reason to move BACK to town when they get older. Which you won’t do if you like living remotely because it’s only a few years for them and a lot of years for you, and moving is expensive. Which leads to third, you won’t be young forever.
    My husband and I lived in Fourmile Canyon west of Boulder for over twenty years. When we had the big fire almost ten years ago, many older people showed up to the meetings to help rebuild our community – except most of them no longer lived in the mountains! They had lived there when they were younger. And indeed, when my husband hit his sixties and I hit my fifties, we also moved into town, in our case west Denver. Medical care, short driving distances (eyesight gets worse as you age, and so do reflexes, so Steven doesn’t want to be on highways any more), closeness to family members, they all go up in importance as you age.
    Which leads to Where You Live and Where You Recreate. The biggest problem I see in your fairly awesome lives is flexible time off. Enjoy living in Lakewood, and work on gaining flexibility to get away to recreate. DEFINITELY investigate different jobs for your husband. If the two of you could take off in the middle of the week that would be wonderful! As one reader mentioned, you are on track to coast to financial independence. All you are missing if I’m reading this correctly is more time to get away with your kids. And if that means homeschooling for a few years, that’s gives you great flexibility. My sister did it with her oldest child and it worked beautifully when her daughter was young (again, as kids hit middle school, they want to be with their peers). This Labor Day weekend I joined my family for a picnic at land my parents bought in the mountains when I was seven years old, and again I thought how glad I was that they hadn’t pulled off building a house there and plunking us kids in the middle of nowhere with a half mile uphill mountain walk from the school bus drop spot. Living outside of Castle Rock (much smaller almost 40 years ago with only one stop light) was bad enough for a teenager, but at least the activity bus went to our neighborhood so I could do sports and theater and still have a ride somewhat close to home.
    Regarding the trees, the amount you are spending to trim them seems high to me. I manage a lot of rental properties and do a lot of tree trimming/removal each year. Check prices; I use Alpine Tree Trimming (Vincent). Also consider removing 1-3 trees over the next few years and planting new trees in their place. Having all your trees be the same age means losing them within a few years of each other and ending up with no trees. If you are doing this much trimming then these are either junk trees (Siberian elms?) or trees that are struggling at the end of their lifespan. Either way you might want to slowly replace them. I’d suggest perhaps a catalpa (grows 4 feet per year but is strong unlike a silver maple tree, though it does drop seed pods after gorgeous June blooms) or a burr oak (slower growing, but oh so beautiful when mature, acorns not too bad to have).
    And fourth, consider the entire arc of your life as you make plans. When my nephew said he wanted to retire at 40, I counseled against it. Too many sacrifices required to do that, I told him. And the number one sacrifice would be missing time with your small children. So I think you are wise to prioritize them now as long as you realize that in not so many years your darling and much beloved children will launch, leaving you and your husband a lot of freedom (it may take a while to get used to it) to redesign your lives again.
    You have a lot of options, and thankfully you have plenty of time to consider them carefully. Best wishes to you all!

    • Eve says:

      Wow, thank you for all your kind comments and all the good advice! I love your last paragraph and your term “entire arc of life.” This whole case study has given us many things to think about that we have not fully vetted out.

      The perspective from your childhood/teenage years are really insightful and definitely makes me question the motive to move and if our boys would benefit from it long term. In the short term, you are right, I do think they would really love it. More the reason to find a location that is large enough to have amenities that cater to all ages, if we did decide to move.

      An interesting thing that you mentioned was that your parents bought land in the mountains. We have thought about that as well. Not to build a house (I explored the expenses to build in the mountains and it was eye-opening), but to just have a little patch that we could call our own, camp on when we wanted, etc. Do you find that you and your family use your parent’s land often?

      Our neighbor raised ducks and we were so excited to try them and see if they would work out for my husband and youngest son. I must say they were so good, but my son still had issues with them. My husband’s reaction to chicken eggs is so bad, that he was not willing to try.We were so hopeful. Thanks for the suggestion!

      I am definitely going to give Alpine a call. I have seen them around our neighborhood. We have been using Arborscape. We tried a low-cost company once and they did a horrible job. We have two very large cottonwoods, two locust, a linden, a blazing maple (this one we planted 4 years ago), and an ash (we get this one treated for ash bores and cross our fingers it is staying healthy so far…it is a beautiful tree that has all of our ropes swings in it). The cottonwoods will be the first to go. Thank you for the suggestions on tree species to replace them with!

      Thanks again!

  35. Jennifer says:

    We deal with tons of food allergies and sensitivities as well, so I get the grocery budget! I also do all of our cooking form scratch, so I understand the need for Chipotle a time or two a month. One thing that also works for us is some frozen meals from Trader Joes. They have foods with far less junk in them and we can easily see what fits in our needs as far as allergies. I stash a few things in the deep freeze for nights I am too tired to cook. Cheaper than Chipotle! So maybe that is another option for you. Also, check out Vitacost and Azure Standard (if they have a drop near you) for GF flours and nuts. I find them usually far cheaper than GF stuff in stores, if GF is an issue for you. Good luck with your plans!

  36. Eve says:

    Hi Becca! It has been incredible how many people have commented that either live super close to us or at least in Colorado. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting it. Congratulations on finding a way to spend more time with your kiddos! That is excellent!

    First, thank you for all that you have done as a healthcare provider during this pandemic! You all are saints! We are pro-vaccine….for sure.

    We also, for a very brief moment considered moving to the mid-west. But we just can’t. Everything we love to do involves the mountains.

    Great suggestion on growing a bigger garden. We have one, but everything that we plant in it is meant for our boys to just go and have a little snack. Tonight, however, they contributed to dinner and made a basil and mouse melon salad. 🙂 How many square feet do you dedicate to garden space? Do you also grow fruit-bearing trees?

  37. Suzanne says:

    Second reply, I forgot to mention this:

    If you move to a remote area, consider who responds when you dial 911. 15 years ago, if you lived in Fourmile Canyon west of Boulder, it would have been me! A property manager. Yes, I trained with the volunteer fire department monthly and took extra medical classes, but my training was minimal compared to what a city responder would have. When you are healthy this doesn’t seem important, but emergencies do happen. And with more people buying second or third homes in rural places, volunteer fire departments end up with few full time residents to volunteer. So check out emergency services wherever you think of moving – how is it funded? are there any full time paid staff or only volunteers who may not be there when you need them (think work hours when most of them have gone off to jobs)? How many ambulances are available (when I left the Fourmile Fire Department there was 1, only 1!, ambulance serving all of unincorporated Boulder County – which means if it was in the eastern part of the county it effectively wasn’t available in western Boulder County). Something to consider (never occurred to my husband when he moved from Boston to the Colorado mountains; he didn’t even know he had to pump his septic tank out occasionally until he married me, a Colorado rural native). It’s different in the country!

    • Eve says:

      It sounds like your husband had a lot to learn when he moved here. 🙂

      That is something that I would have never would have thought about looking into. Thank you!

  38. Anne says:

    You guys are doing so well financially! I know it seems tempting to change everything up, but why not try shifting some of the aspects you dislike about your lives where you are, and then see if that changes how you feel about moving? It doesn’t seem like either of you has a strong desire to be fully retired at this stage of life, so if you decrease some of your expenses could your husband switch to a part time job (or part time at his current job) that has more meaning and flexibility for him? It seems doable even without moving. Once your kids are in school you may feel less need to be retired vs having a bit more flexibility.

    It could be well worth it to have a landscape designer come give recommendations (or even a written plan) for increasing privacy in your yard and how to manage the trees. In my hometown you could get that done for less than $200 and they would also advise on what will grow well in your soil conditions. I imagine there could be a way to add fencing and/or planting to your backyard so that it feels more secluded and even if still visible to the neighbours, at least closes it off in a way that makes it clear that it is private space they shouldn’t just stroll into.

    Food allergies are tough. I have a close friend who had celiac’s disease as well as severe allergies to all dairy and eggs. She focused on creating meals around the foods she could eat: meats, vegetables, fruits, certain grains like rice. She eventually went to a holistic nutritionist to test her allergies and did an elimination diet that made her restrictions and allergic reactions much less severe. It might be worth a try, at least when your kids are older. If you lean into ethnic food from cultures that don’t tend to use the prohibited ingredients that can also help naturally eliminate the allergens without relying as heavily on expensive specialised allergen-free food, while also providing more variety. Mexican dishes that have rice- instead of corn-based starch would be a good choice, as well as most Indian and East Asian food – they tend to rely on rice or rice noodles, and coconut milk instead of dairy. You would likely have to get a few specialty sauces (for example, soy sauce triggers gluten allergies), but vast majority of the ingredients would be naturally allergen-free at standard prices.

    • Eve says:

      Thank you for your encouraging words and advice, Anne!

      My husband and I just started discussing today whether it would be possible for him to work part-time in his current job. Like someone else had mentioned, we would need to figure out our healthcare insurance options, but it sounds doable–of course, his employer may think differently.

      Fortunately, our backyard is a little haven for us. Our big trees help with our privacy, but that is a great idea for our front yard.

      Food allergies and intolerances are really hard, my husband recently did the Everly test because we felt like there was something we were missing. Brazillian nuts! He was eating a trail mix with Brazillian nuts almost daily. He started eliminating them and presto! Great suggestion to learn more Indian and East Asian recipes!

  39. Erica says:

    Sounds like you have a wonderful family and life and plans! If you need more cooking inspiration, I highly recommend Minimalist Baker for gluten-, egg-, and dairy- free meal ideas (and I haven’t seen a lot of corn on there either). Some of her recipes are more complicated but a lot are easy and good payoff in terms of quantity and taste with inexpensive ingredients and not a lot of work –like her recipe for curried lentils: https://minimalistbaker.com/coconut-curried-golden-lentils-20-minutes/ Also I know your husband is working more hours than you so it might make sense for the division of labor for you to be cooking more, but could he be in charge of meals on weekends or even just 1-2 meals per week, to give you a break in addition to the occasional Chipotle outing? As someone who loved to be the household cook, I am really sick of it after so many pandemic meals, and understand needing breaks 🙂

    • Eve says:

      Thank you Erica! Minimalist Baker is definitely my go-to for all baked goods. She is incredible! But I haven’t really explored many of her main dishes other than eggplant parmesan and falafel–both excellent if you haven’t tried yet. 🙂 I will try her curried lentils! Luckily my husband is an excellent griller, I definitely have him help in that arena.

      I think the pandemic really did give me cooking fatigue as well. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we are inching closer and closer to have this pandemic come to a close.

  40. Hannah says:

    I loved reading your case study! We’re practically neighbors (in Wheat Ridge), also with 2 small children, and the recurring “how do we best leverage our equity to support the lifestyle we want question.” We’ve decided it’s by priortizing having flexible schedules and investing in our home. My husband changed his position this year and we’re delaying starting school (aka, homeschooling) for a while. We are able to do so much without traffic being an issue at all. And most days we’re outside exploring different nature areas or playing in the ever-expanding garden for hours and hours and hours (we’ve planted lots of fruit trees too). I know this option doesn’t feel teneble to most people, but it can be surprisingly workable and most mindsets aroud homeschooling are outdated (mine were!). Flexibility definitely means we get to love where we live and recreate as we want to. (It’s also possible to homeschool small children and still work part-time.) It’s also nothing like crisis-schooling, which I think is what most people exprienced last year.

    I noticed that you mentioned anxiety a couple times in reference to traffic and to neighbors. As someone who’s done a ton of work around this myself I would also really suggest examining that more closely before adding major changes/adding major stressors. Both those things can be legit annoying, but rural living definitely can have it’s share of stressors in the form of everyone knowing everyone’s business, political/religious views being very different and conflict causing, and spending SO much time driving, etc. The driving is pretty, but can be annoying. I grew up rurally and due to the massive driving times everywhere we actually didn’t get as much family time once I was in high school. Any activity or friend event meant at least an hour, if not two total commute time. If you are bikable to a town this would not be true, but then it may not really be that rural either. I’ve noticed those are houses that can be quite close together. And in the Rocky Mountain corridor most super small towns have dirt roads immediately outside of them- still commutable, but I think it’s often more like 10 miles each way on dirt- which I actually consider bikeable, but maybe not everyone does. (Westcliffe, CO is like this. So gorgeous, actually super bikeable because of all the wagon paths for the Omish, but super conservative, and most houses are really exposed.- also a short growing season, which is something to think about if gardening is important to you.)

    You’ve already gotten good tree advice. It’s definitely something to look at (and maybe take the cottonwoods down). You can have a certified arborist come to give advice too. We only go with that vs any tree cutting company.

    • Eve says:

      Hi neighbor! We probably are really close. We are in Applewood. 🙂

      Homeschooling is something that I would consider doing again. Last year, we did it because the pandemic and never really had intentions of continuing beyond one year. That being said, I am already missing the flexibility that homeschool provides. At the elementary age, we would work for 1-2 hours a day and then be done, and we covered almost two years of material in just one year. I am cautiously optimistic that public school will work out this year, but if they start getting pulled out of school for quarantines, we are prepared to homeschool again and find a co-op for additional elective-type classes and then we may not look back. 🙂

      Thanks for your advice and input on rural living. All great things to think about.

      Which certified arborist would you recommend in the area. That is the main reason we picked Arborscape so many years ago. They were more interested in helping us grow healthy trees. The cottonwoods will definitely be the first to go. But they are beautiful and provide us so much shade. It will be a sad (and expensive!) day.

    • Kristin says:

      Oooh, have to second the rural living stressors. We moved from a big, busy city on a busy street to a place with more space. While I don’t miss having my house cased/street noise/and overdoses happening on the sidewalk in front of my house, I was surprised to still have neighbor issues in the small town that we moved to. Rumors, gossip, arguing about 3 inches of property line were all par for course. And dogs! My son and and three other neighbors had been bitten by loose dogs. I ended up preferring the city living! We moved to a bigger city but took all of those lessons with us and ended up getting a great space in a neighborhood that’s more our speed. It just took some tinkering to figure out what our real problems were.

  41. Erin says:

    Hi Eve,
    We live in Evergreen with our 4yo and LOVE it. One rural-CO lifestyle difference I haven’t seen mentioned–for wildlife reasons, it is not safe for small children to play alone outside here. Your family clearly enjoys being outside *together* so this may not be an issue. 🙂

  42. Laura says:

    One thing that may help on the job/town search is to seek areas with a University with an engineering program. Typically, smaller companies will pop up nearby. For example, Utah State is in Logan, UT, and Idaho State is in Pocatello, Idaho. These are both pretty small towns but the universities are pretty large and there are more likely to be engineering opportunities in the area. I’m sure there’s other similar situations in the greater Rockies region.

  43. Kristin says:

    I’ll speak to the grocery budget since we have similar allergies. I live in a coastal HCOL area, and am a big believer in supporting our local foodshed. Allergies + food ethics + west coast = astronomical food spending. The best I can get it down to is between $800-900 for my active family of 4. Dried bean and lentil soups are awesome, we get a local farm’s CSA box for our most of our produce 6 months of the year, we grow high cost things in our garden (herbs, greens, berries, tomatoes, etc.). We rarely eat meat, but when we do we get our shellfish, beef, and fish from local producers. I’m always on the hunt for low cost recipes (Here’s a SNAP cookbook: https://www.leannebrown.com/cookbooks/). But it’s just really hard. Hopefully these suggestions help, but this is mostly commiseration.

  44. Vicki Lyon Prin says:

    Just a few words about Idaho. The school funding is near the lowest in the nation. Vaccination rates are hovering around 50%. High speed internet only in the larger cities. Home prices are going through the ceiling. We live on an acre (downsized from 5 acres) and my husband still jokes about “the ache in acre” (mowing, irrigating, tree trimming). I grew up in Boulder and met my husband in Grand Junction at Mesa. Have you looked into the Western Slope? Sounds like you are in a pretty good neighborhood now and just need to figure out a way to adapt to the neighbors being so close. I still miss that about being in the country but have made my backyard my retreat. and it’s great not having to drive so much. Good Luck!

  45. Kate says:

    One question came to me – are you both equally introverted? My husband is much more an extrovert but at this point I have no qualms with sending him and my kid to hang out with neighbors while I clean the house alone or something. If it’s the neighbors’ expectations that stress you out, can you just say no more often?

  46. CKW says:

    This is just a drop in the bucket but sometimes the little savings are the sweetest. For Chipotle, are you a member of their rewards program? Have the app? Drop by on Halloween dressed up for their free food? Get your free bday treats? Buy gift cards if you find them discounted (Costco maybe)? Lots of ways to get free food if you’re determined and I think free food tastes better 😉 Definitely second adding more Asian/Indian dishes to your repertoire, as many of them naturally meet your dietary restrictions and are easy and cheap to make in large batches. Curries, lentils, fried rice, stir-fries, rice-based or soba noodles, etc.

    We have little kids about the same age as yours and in this first year of school we are already seeing a huge difference in how our home and together time will be spent in the future. Driving to school, especially separate schools, it a total pain that is repeated twice every weekday! So don’t forget to think about how the kids would get to/from school in a more rural area (bus service, etc.), compared to where you live now. It makes total sense that you want to capitalize on these early years where they want to spend time with us, so ramping up at work for you doesn’t make a lot of sense just to reach FI sooner. If your husband can cut back a little at work, some companies still offer full benefits up to a certain number of part-time hours. So you could possibly retain benefits at 4 or more hours less of work a week and use that time for fun/relaxation. Same thing with a new job for either of you – you might not need a full-time new job, just one with enough hours to retain benefits.

    Sounds like you are in a super solid position, have some wonderful plans, and lots of fun decisions to make. Best of luck.

  47. Carri says:

    I don’t have any suggestions, I just think you are doing so amazingly well! Keep up the good work and enjoy life!

  48. CaseyR says:

    I know I’m a bit late to this conversation, but having lived in Denver with a husband who worked on the corporate side of the oil and gas industry for many years, I just wanted to say that Gordon’s salary seems quite low to me (even considering all of the deductions). I know that many oil and gas companies keep regular wages on the low end and rely on bonuses, premium health insurance plans, etc. to counter balance that lower annual salary, but even with that I’d consider looking into requesting a salary increase at his next annual performance review – a sizeable one given his age and experience.

    Obviously, if you are considering having him go part time, it would be difficult to negotiate a salary bump, but if you decide to hold off on that he should absolutely be looking into Glassdoor, or ideally see if he can talk to any colleagues he trusts about their salaries. My husband was very aggressive in all of his salary negotiations, something that shocked me as a non-confrontational person, but he really knew his value and could back up his salary requests with evidence – any nearly always got them! If your husband is more like me and doesn’t like confrontation, he may be leaving a LOT of money on the table.

    If he thinks he has hit the ceiling at his current company, moving to a new company is the best way to negotiate a SIGNIFICANT salary bump. Perhaps this is a great time to look into other companies with better remote work policies, too! I think you’ve got a lot of great options on the table, I just didn’t want you to overlook this possibility!

  49. Bonnie says:

    I’d like to recommend Budget bytes.com as a resource for affordable recipes that are very easy to modify… We are vegan and while most of the recipes on this site are not, a vast majority of the recipes on this site are easily modifiable to specific dietary needs. And others are just a jumping off point that give me ideas for new meals. Rice and beans are great basics and if not beans fans, your kids might like them in, say a taco flavored rice with some beans, then adjust the ratio as time goes on. Black bean soup is inexpensive and freezes great, veg chili with several bean types and tortilla soup with pinto beans freeze well, too. I freeze a ziplock type bag with soup laid flat, then just stack them and thaw in a pan (first time I didn’t, that bag leaked as it was thawing and my dog stood at the counter and licked up the drips until I figured out what was going on…sheesh) and I wash/reuse the bag with the next soup. Some kids aren’t fans of a pile of beans, and I’m sure you’ve tried a lot of options, but in soups they seem to go down easy. 😉 Good luck! We got to FI this year and I can confirm saving where we felt it was key was worth it. Little frugal things now are a way of life, and hopefully saving a small bit of the planet, too.

  50. Katy says:

    We split our time between Mammoth Lakes, California and New Zealand. We’re in NZ at the moment and live about 10 minutes out of town on a large property. While the views and space are nice… I don’t like it at all. Our kids are 8 and 5 and we are **constantly** driving in and out of town for school, library, sports, dance class, birthday parties, other social gatherings, groceries, doctor’s appointments, etc. I am so, so, so sick of it.

    I’m envious of your boys having a gaggle of kids in the neighborhood to play with, since that is exactly what I want for our kids. We miss out on all of the spontaneous play that their friends get living in town. And then it just puts more pressure on us to organize play dates. More time, more driving. I understand that you would like more space/privacy, but it seems your boys would thrive staying in their current neighborhood, at least for their younger years.

    Good luck!

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