What do you do when having it all is just not sufficient? There is definitely a difference between being frugal and being outright cheap, and also spending everything you earn. We all know that one person (or few) in our lives who are money-conscientious, those who freeload off their friends and family, and also those who live paycheck to paycheck. What are your spending habits like?
Are you smart about your spending, or do you work hard to get by, barely hanging on? Your spending habits now will stay with you for life, as we are creatures of habit.
This is a story of the Frugalwoods, whose frugal lifestyles have allowed them to save 71% of their income, which will hopefully lead them to retirement at the age of just 33. Their new frugal lifestyle has most fulfilled their appetites for a more rewarding life than a material life where money is the answer to all. We can all take on a few pointers from their story…
Some Background on This Economical Couple:
The couple has coined the alias “The Frugalwoods,” so as not to be found out by their employers of their game plan of retirement in just a couple of years. They are both college graduates from the University of Kansas.
They must have had frugal tendencies from the beginning, as they were both able to graduate without any student loans or debts through their parents’ help, through scholarships, and through other odd campus jobs.
Both climbed the ranks in their professions and became quite successful. They proceeded to buy a nice house in Cambridge, MA with the whole nine yards but were not “fulfilled.”
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The Frugalwoods vowed to live a simpler life that involved less of what this society proclaims as fulfilling, but did just the opposite to try to lead a more rewarding life that fit their vision of fulfillment. They found that living this way has been more rewarding than a life that money could buy, because as a power couple, their income could have easily allowed them to live a very comfortable lifestyle.
Quite the contrary- their expenses for this past year were only $13,000 (excluding their mortgage)! As a pair of independent individuals, this couple does everything themselves: cooking, cleaning, fixing, and household maintenance. The Frugalwoods have found that there are many more benefits from living a frugal lifestyle than they could have ever imagined.
The Nonmonetary Benefits of a Frugal Lifestyle:
- Fosters Creativity
- Cuts Down on Waste
- Environmentally Friendly
- Builds Community
- Forces an Evaluation of Priorities
- Gives you Options
- Fosters Close Family Relationships
- Brings Peace and Simplicity to Your Life
- Finds Happiness in Fewer Consumer Choices
- You Will Never Be Bored
Of these findings, lets focus on # 1, 4, 8, & 9:
As a teacher in my past life, fostering creativity is one of the main goals as you try to reach 20+ students in your classroom. You see creativity everywhere as an elementary school teacher, but this fades rather quickly as you get into the older grades. As you grow older and more jaded with life, how many of us stop asking questions, stop asking the whys?
“Why is the sky blue?” This curiosity and naivety of life ceases, as we grow older and start to accept everything at face value. How many kids do you see on the metra or at a restaurant that are preoccupied on their ipads? They probably use them better than we do as adults: technology definitely has its benefits and learning opportunities, but real creativity is diminished the minute you play something in front of your face and your brain goes on autopilot.
The Frugalwoods learned that they had to become creative rather quickly, as spending money to fix or to buy were no longer an option. As an expecting mother, some examples of their creativity were related to nesting for the new baby.
Instead of running out to buy a new baby dresser, they worked together to refinish an old one they found on the side of the road to be thrown away. They were able to work together as a team to refinish and paint a new dresser for their baby, spending more of the time together as new parents-to-be.
Instead of buying all new baby clothes that he or she will outgrow in just weeks to months, they took on hand-me-downs from friends and family and made them look new or found other ways to make it work for them. In this way, they started to use their minds instead of money and found that they were more rewarded than ever before.
Per the Frugalwoods’ “No-Buy Project,” they’ve found that collaborating with friends and family who are supportive of their new lifestyle has fostered a community built upon trust, support, and giving back. The Frugalwoods have found that through this support system, they were able to build stronger relationships. Instead of going out and spending money insincerely, they were able to find other ways to help out their friends and family such as dog sitting, fixing furniture, cooking, and through the exchanging or bartering of items with others. This way, they were able to get others on board as well and have created a tribe of people who look out for each other by using their skills and abilities versus paying for services.
Bringing Peace & Simplicity to Your Life:
Because the Frugalwoods no longer felt the need to conform to society, they found that their lives became much simpler and stress-free. As soon as they let go of the material things and made the decision to live a frugal life, things such as the “next big success” no longer mattered. They started to strive for simplicity that involved living without buying clothes, makeup, and the other superficialities that have most people in society obsessed.
The Frugalwoods mentioned that once they started “letting go,” it gave them a peace of mind that they could not have otherwise imagined. Their story serves as an inspiration to me: as a by-product of this society, I too get caught up in the whirlwind of what life is “supposed to be like” with my classic Type A perfectionist characteristics. Live free, and be happy. Needless to say, the Frugalwoods seem to be doing something right.
Finding Happiness in Fewer Consumer Choices:
This really resonated with me due to the fact that although I usually know what I want, being a consumer in this society really makes it difficult for me to even choose a type of Ketchup at the grocery store. There are just too many choices! Don’t get me wrong: having options is a good thing. However, not when there are 30 different mayonnaise bottles from which to choose. When did consumerism become a battle of indecisiveness and such a time consuming chore?
Since the Frugalwoods no longer do any shopping, they’ve found their lives to be stress-free. Since they no longer spend time fretting over what they could’ve and should’ve bought, they can eliminate buyer’s remorse and other finance related stressors from the equation. I guess you can say in this situation, less really is more.
The Frugalwoods are a couple who had it all: a great education, great jobs and income, a great house, and the whole nine yards that most people strive to obtain in this life. What they did with having it all was to decide that they really didn’t need or want it all- they were not fulfilled with this style of living.
Their decision to simplify their lives and to save money doing the exact opposite of what society tells them to do is what began to give them happiness and true fulfillment. I believe we can all learn a thing or two from this couple as they continue their journey on a simpler and more rewarding life for themselves, and I will continue to follow their story as they get closer to reaching their goals and serve as an inspiration to many of us “by-products” of society.