First off a big thank you to Liz from the Frugalwoods for taking time out of her busy schedule to share a little about her life and deal with my crazy Interview of Sorts questions, I hope you all enjoy it.
Hah! You’ve got us pretty well pegged: “hippy” (though we prefer hipster) and “a little extreme” definitely describe Mr. Frugalwoods and me. We admit we’re unique in our hobbies and predilections, but we’re kind of all about not conforming to what society “thinks” we should do. Lifestyle inflation holds no interest for us and neither does consumer debt. Living a simple, hilarious life is where it’s at for the Frugalwoods.
Yes, in fact, we are! Again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Mr. FW and I have both worked hard in our professional careers for the past 8 years and saved an exorbitant amount of our dual incomes in the process. We weren’t always sure what we wanted out of life, but we knew we didn’t want to be trapped in offices for the next 30 years.
We made the decision in early 2014 to enact Operation Rural Homestead–in 3 years (or less) we’ll quit our city jobs, rent out our current city home, and decamp to a 20+ acre homestead in rural southern Vermont. We’ll be about 33 at the time of our early retirement. We plan to hike everyday in our own woods, run an Airbnb yurt/cabin operation, continue writing Frugalwoods, and have the time and space to explore our myriad (and admittedly unusual hobbies), which include, but are not limited to: woodworking, astronomy, welding, yoga, writing, baking, home improvement projects, and more.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I feel extremely fortunate that we both attended The University of Kansas for undergrad, which is a well-respected, yet quite inexpensive, state school. Tuition was extremely reasonable for the duration of our four years and we were able to cover it with scholarships, assistance from our parents (thank you, mom and dad!), and jobs.
Mr. Frugalwoods worked as the assistant photographer at the university art museum (his job was to help photograph the entire museum collection for publication online). And I was employed at the campus writing center as a writing consultant (I helped fellow students edit, revise, and write papers). Additionally, we both worked jobs during the summers–sometimes several jobs at once. We both graduated debt-free and we credit this as one of the most instrumental aspects of our financial success today (the most important aspect being that we married a frugal person with the same financial goals and outlook!).
For my master’s degree, I worked full-time at the university in exchange for free tuition. We still had to pay tax on the cost of my MA, but it was vastly cheaper than the actual sticker price. Hence, I made it through graduate school without any debt either.
I completely agree with you–since we have no debt (other than our mortgage) and two incomes, we should be saving a lot! We’re pretty pleased with our 65%-85% savings rate and are looking forward to calculating the rate for 2014 on the whole since it varies month to month. Our biggest expense BY FAR is our mortgage, taxes, and insurance on our current home. While this is a whopping expense every month, we’re actually happy about it because this home will become our cash-flowing rental property once we’re out living on our homestead (which we plan to purchase in cash). Rental prices in Cambridge, MA (where our home is located) are high and increase nearly every year. At current calculations, we could rent our house out for nearly double our monthly mortgage payments. We like those numbers!
Aside from our mortgage, our expenses run circa $900-$1,500 per month, which is a very sustainable amount for us. We’ve frugalized and optimized every area of our lives–from our $0.10 breakfasts to Mr. FW’s bike commuting to Frugal Hound’s hound-care. We buy very few things and when we do buy, you can bet it’s used!
Frugal Hound, paws down. Greyhounds are ridiculously fast runners. We actually don’t allow her to run at the dog park anymore because she hip-checked a beagle one time (the beagle was fine and it was hilarious). But, it made us realize that she is competitive when she runs! Frugal Hound is in it to win it… although most of the time “winning it” means snoozing on her heated doggie bed…
Where do I even begin? I think what differentiates us is our absolute, and shared, commitment to our long-term goal of living on a rural homestead. Frugality is honest-to-Frugal Hound, not a struggle for us at all. Since we know what we want out of life, it’s really quite easy for us to make decisions on a daily basis that will bring our goal closer to fruition.
A common thread through all of Frugalwoods is our reliance on one another and the strength of our marriage. We feel incredibly fortunate to share the same outlook on life and I cannot tell you how important it is to get on the same financial page as your partner. We wrote an exposé of our happy frugal marriage and the backstory on how we aligned our relationship, goals, and finances. Built on trust, communication, equality, and love, our partnership has flourished under frugality–we focus on each other, our goals, creating a life of meaning, and not on material goods or expensive distractions.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: When you’re working towards a defined goal, frugality ceases to be about what you’re giving up and becomes about what you’re going to gain.
We want to live a meaningful life of purpose and intention and not work for anyone else. Self-direct our days and find fulfillment in all of our endeavors. Our plan is to pool our efforts and work as the true partnership that we are. And for that, we’re willing to be some extreme frugal weirdos.
Well, I suppose never say never, but, we actually ran our numbers again last night and realized we could retire now if we needed or wanted to. If we both bizarrely lost our jobs tomorrow and decided not to find new ones, we could pack up and move ASAP. We have the assets to buy a homestead in cash right now. We’d just need to make up some of the lost income with a few side hustles while on the homestead (such as freelance writing, freelance software development, Airbnb on the farm, etc). We plan to pursue side hustles to some extent anyway because they’re things we enjoy doing, but if we retired now, we’d just need to make a tad more income from them than we will in about 3 years.
We do plan and hope to have children, so they’re certainly not an impediment to the plan. How we hope to raise our future kids is actually a key aspect of the homestead plan. We want them to have the freedom to explore nature on their own, the rigor of rural chores, and the small-town closeness that rural communities foster. People pay a ton of money to raise kiddos in the city and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, you can guess that we don’t plan to spend a ton of money on our future frugal babies.
I’d say Frugalwoods has exceeded our wildest expectations at this point in time. We started it as an opportunity to document our progress towards financial independence and our unconventional trajectory of urban hipsters to modern homesteaders and, it’s been a ton of fun. I am deeply grateful for the amazing community we’ve become part of through Frugalwoods and it has truly become my favorite thing to do.
I’ve always been a writer and Frugalwoods is the most fulfilling outlet I’ve ever had. Shannon from Financially Blonde had us on her podcast not long ago and I shared that Mrs. Frugalwoods is the most natural articulation of who I am as a person. I definitely intend for Frugalwoods to be around in 3 years, in 10 years, and beyond. Again, who knows what life will bring us, but, I hope to share our journey to the homestead and then regale you with tales of our life out on the farm.
I can indeed. Not my favorite pose, I’ll be honest. But, I do love my free yoga. I actually recently took on a second shift at my yoga studio in order to get an additional class per week. So, now I take the studio trash out on Monday evenings (and go to a free hot yoga class) and then I work a shift at the front desk on Wednesday nights and take another free yoga class. I’m in free yoga heaven over there. It’s probably the only thing I’ll miss when we’re on the homestead! But, doing yoga by myself in the woods sounds pretty good too.
Definitely no gigantic car or gadget purchases from us! 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Frugalwoods. We’re kicking off a Homestead Plans series in December, which will continue on into 2015. Unsurprisingly, we have a lot to say about homestead planning :). I really appreciate you interviewing us and I hope your readers had fun!
We write a blend of how-to posts (on everything from refinishing kitchen cabinets to winter biking to how not to waste food) coupled with philosophical ponderings on the dangers of our consumer-driven society to hilarious interviews with other people’s pets, which are written by our greyhound, Frugal Hound. Please feel free to come check us out at www.frugalwoods.com.