We work our jobs so that we can live our lives. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. Too often we end up living to work. To fulfill someone else’s dream. To make someone else wealthy. When we look back on our cubicle lifestyle at retirement, we’re filled with one thing: regret.
The Frugalwoods have found a way to circumvent the potential for regret. They’ve found a way to live for the now without letting YOLO destroy their net worth. In fact, their methods have allowed them to save up huge sums of money.
The method they’re using? Extreme frugality.
In March of 2014, Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods decided they had had enough. “We realized that all of our creative energy and our best ideas were funneled into doing work for our employers—not into endeavors that we found personally rewarding. And we had a sneaking suspicion that, if we didn’t change something, we’d wake up in 40 years having simply worked in cubicles for the bulk of our lives. We felt trapped.”
They started dreaming. They envisioned a life in the woods, living off the land. They would pursue their passions of woodworking, welding, astronomy, yoga and gardening. They initially envisioned themselves at age 65, but changed their thought process quick.
“The more we talked, the more apparent it became that we wanted to make this move sooner—much, much sooner. Our desire to live in ways that we find personally meaningful was powerful. We took a look at our finances and realized that if we embraced extreme frugality, we’d be able to make this dream a reality.”
While they have always been big savers, they started saving 70% of their net income.
How the hell did they do that? Was the ramen tasty? Did they name the cockroaches climbing up the wall day in and day out?
All fair questions, but it turns out the Frugalwoods managed to make it all work without living a life of total deprivation. While their menu did sometimes include rice and beans, it was a meal that had nutritional value that they both actually liked. Their previous savings had allowed them to buy a home in Cambridge, Massachusetts that they could someday turn into a rental.
“For us, extreme frugality is all about spending only on the things that matter most to us—and eliminating the rest,” explains Mrs. Frugalwoods. “We don’t deprive ourselves or miss out on the stuff we enjoy—rather, we focus our spending in service of our goals. In this way, we consider our lifestyle to be luxuriously frugal.”
“Our approach is to optimize our expenses such that we’re as efficient and lean as possible while still creating a life we relish. Extreme frugality has actually been liberating as it has enabled us to let go of the distractions and pressures wrought by the prevailing consumer culture and media.”
You know that house that would someday be a rental? Someday is today. In two years, the Frugalwoods saved up enough money to purchase their sprawling, 66-acre homestead in Vermont. They literally just moved in, with their five-month-old daughter in tow.
Mission accomplished. Now they can go back to spending like normal people, right?
The Frugalwoods aren’t so eager. “We’ve discovered that frugality makes us happier, less stressed, and more focused on the most important elements of our lives. The transformative power of not worrying about our finances has allowed us to focus on our marriage, our daughter, and what we want to contribute in this world. And, frugality has a ton of non-monetary benefits, too! It’s environmentally-friendly, community-building, reduces waste and consumption, gives you options, fosters creativity, and removes consumer pressures.”
They’ve accomplished a massive goal in an incredibly short period of time, but Mrs. Frugalwoods shares that they’re not immune to the same struggles everyone goes through when they set a big goal.
“I think that the middle portion of any goal is difficult,” she says. “You’re past the initial excitement, but the finish line is still in the distance. The midpoint of our progress towards our homestead was probably the most challenging time for us and forced us to really stay focused on the long term. Delayed gratification is an important thing to remember!”
Want to check out the perspective of someone who’s still in the middle? Read Claudia and Garrett’s story.
Keeping long-term goals is hard, but rewarding. Before you can reach your goal, though, you have to set it, which is exactly what Mrs. Frugalwoods recommends to others who want to do big things.
“What I’ve discovered is that once you know what you truly want to do with your life, it’s much easier to align your spending. I find that the scenario of ‘running to’ versus ‘running from’ is vastly more motivating and makes it much easier to follow a frugality regimen. After all, when the choice is 1) buy some stuff, or 2) live the life of your dreams; it becomes second nature not to spend!”