No matter where you live, frugality gives you options

Frugality gives you options. I’ve long thought this and I’ve seen it come to fruition in my own life many times. I figured I couldn’t be the only one so I polled our amazing Frugalwoods Facebook group to find out exactly what options frugality has facilitated for all of you fine frugal people. Turns out? Quite a few of you had stories to share and we’ll get to them in a moment. But first, I feel the need to be a windbag pontificate.

No matter how much or how little money you make, no matter where you live, no matter your family size, no matter what your longterm goals are, no matter what your net worth is, and no matter how much you love or hate your job–frugality can deliver tremendous benefits to your life. When you have money in the bank–and aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck–you have options in how to deploy your two most precious resources: time and money.

Evening view from our porch

Conversely, when you’re in debt or spending right up to your means, you don’t have any option except to keep working–and probably harder and longer–no matter what else might happen in your life. Having a new baby and want to take extra time off? Too bad. Parent enduring a health crisis and you want to take six months off to care for them? Too bad. Just got word your friends are sailing around the world next year and invited you to join them? Too bad, you have to work.

The less money you need in order to enjoy your version of the good life and the more money you have saved up, the more freedom you have to pursue the life you want. Without the burden of debt or the incessant call of consumerism or the pressure to keep up with the standards and expectations of other people, you can craft a life that you enjoy living every single day.

But I Love My Job And Will Never Quit!!

Frugal Hound sniffs the air on a hike

Frugality isn’t necessarily about retiring early or even quitting your job at all–it’s about knowing that your financial security isn’t inextricably linked to your paycheck. If you were to unexpectedly lose your job, or need a new roof, or your dog got sick, you’d have the financial wherewithal to manage these crises without going into debt, thanks to frugality.

Financial independence isn’t about whether or not you enjoy your job–it’s about how reliant upon it you are.

And on the positive side, if you realize you want to follow a dream that’s low (or no) paying–frugality can enable that. Frugality is insuring yourself for every iteration of life–the good and the bad. Even if you think you’ll work forever and never get fired and never get sick, frugality gives you a level of financial stability that translates into life stability.

Knowing that Mr. FW and I can provide for our family’s needs irrespective of whether or not we ever earn another dollar is one of the more peace-inspiring bits of knowledge I carry with me on a daily basis. Frugality is a beautiful and continuous cycle: the less you spend, the more you save, and the more you save, the less you need to earn because the less you spend… you see where I’m going with this.

But I Don’t Even Know What My Longterm Goal Is!!

Life on a homestead was our longterm goal, but even that could change!

And that’s perfectly fine! You don’t need to have a concrete 20-year plan mapped out before embarking on a financially prudent course. Because whatever it is you decide you want to do with your life–be it teaching yoga or running a wild animal sanctuary or building apps that assist the visually impaired–having money in the bank is usually the first step.

Mr. Frugalwoods and I didn’t know what we wanted to do with our lives until we were 30 years old. But luckily, we’d been saving over half of our take-home pay for 8 years at that point, so we were in a good position to launch our dream of moving to a homestead in the woods.

Mr. FW splitting wood

If we’d instead been throwing away that money on new cars, dinners out, fancy clothes (or clothes at all), concerts, and snazzy rental apartments? I’d be writing a very different story right now and I certainly wouldn’t be early retired to a homestead on 66 acres.

Planning ahead for the future doesn’t necessitate knowing what that future’s going to be. Mr. FW and I don’t know exactly where we’ll be in the future–probably still here on our homestead–but if we were to change our minds? We’ll have the financial ability to do so.

When you spend everything you make–or save a paltry amount–you’re limiting the options you’ll have in the future. Life has this uncanny way of throwing unbelievable opportunities and challenges in our path.

While we can’t possibly be prepared for everything, one thing we absolutely can be prepared for is the knowledge that financial stability makes everything easier. No one has ever said, “gosh, if only I’d spent more money on lattes and manicures in my 20s instead of saving for retirement.” I can pretty much guarantee that.

Joyful frugality–which is what I advocate–embraces and encompasses everything that’s most important to you. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about spending only on what matters, which in turn causes you to structure a life that’s absent the hectic distractions of consumerism. When you’re living a life that brings you fulfillment and peace, your frugality is about what you’re gaining, not about what you’re giving up.

Frugality Gives Everyone Options

Babywoods in our yard last summer

Ok, enough from me. I polled the Frugalwoods Facebook group to find out exactly what options frugality has given to all of you, and I’m delighted to report that your answers were equal parts diverse and wonderful.

I couldn’t include everyone’s response here, but you can read the full rundown on Facebook.

Here’s what frugality has done for just a few Frugalwoods readers:

Ann, who has been married for 50 years, shared that she and her husband are now comfortably retired, that both of her kids graduated from college without debt, and that their primary residence–as well as two rental properties and a vacation home–are all entirely paid off. And they have a hefty investment portfolio. The best part? Their income was never more than $40K a year. The power of frugality indeed!

Naomi was able to buy a car and a trailer with cash in order to travel the country while working remotely.

Jeremy retired at 33 and has been traveling ever since!

Summertime rainbow over our yard

Glenna reports that she was able to pay cash for her children’s college educations, weddings, and used cars.

Carol says that lifelong frugality allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom to her six children and that they are all productive and independent young people now, thanks in large part to the frugal lessons of their upbringing.

Kellie has been able to pursue her dream of living abroad in different countries, while working remotely, thanks to her frugality.

Laura’s frugality enabled her to become a stay-at-home parent to her medically fragile child.

Rebecca’s husband was able to quit his corporate job and pursue his dream of becoming a luthier (specifically, he makes guitars).

Frugal Hound scopes out our neighbor’s cows

Lindsey will be transitioning from being the primary breadwinner to being a stay-at-home parent to her three kiddos.

Michelle says that thanks to her “Ninja Tightwaddery + Minimalism” she was able to raise her family on one part-time income!

Katie will be able to afford allergy shots for her severe allergies thanks to the Health Spending Account she’s been saving into.

Maria saved up enough for two down payments on two different rental properties. The properties are cash flowing, she receives great tax benefits, and the rent is paying down the principal and then some!

Christine says, “I was able to give up a job that was making me unhappy knowing we could manage on one income easily until I found another one. Working for me is a choice, not a necessity and that is a lovely place to be. Frugality gives you options, not restrictions.” Well said!

Nicki reports that, “Living frugally allowed me to take a generous company package, followed by 1.5 years off to chill and build a side gig. I’m now back at regular work, but have plans to save more, allowing for both my husband and I to be part-time self-employed in our early 40s.”

Johanna says that frugality gives her, “Freedom from worry when a car engine light comes on or any other unexpected bill comes up.”

Lizzie shared that, “My husband and I are expecting our first child in July and because we have saved so much, we can afford for me to take an extended unpaid maternity leave! My employer agreed to hold my position for an extra 2 months beyond our standard policy (for a total of 5 months).”

Julie was able to, “retire early, live in a nice house and pursue gardening, volunteering, and other things I love to do.”

Our snowy barn and snow-buried garden

Heather says that she and her family have been able to endure three layoffs in four years without stress or touching their savings.

Amy says, “I was able to quit my job a few years ago to help care for my mom after she had a stroke. Six months after her stroke, I decided to return to school to become a speech-language pathologist. I am graduating in two weeks!” Congrats, Amy!

Carolanne was able to quit her job and fulfill her lifelong ambition of going to art school. Now she paints, teaches art, works in a gallery, runs a B&B from her home, and takes care of her grandsons several days a week.

Julie was able to pay cash for her brother-in-law’s funeral after he unexpectedly died at age 30. This is a tragic circumstance, but Julie certainly eased the burden for her family through her ability to foot the bill.

Our upper field

Dana reports, “I was able to quit my stressful job, take two months completely off to relax, then do a long, thoughtful job search rather than jump into the next company that offered me a paycheck. As a result, I’m currently working in a job that’s a fantastic fit for me, and that probably pays more than the job I would have gotten if I’d been desperate for money. So I’m probably earning more now because of my previous frugality!”

Ellen says that, “instead of spending 10+ years paying off my $135,000 student loans, we did it in 5!”

Becca writes, “Living more frugally has allowed me to apprentice with a piano tuner full time. This has helped my realize that this is what I want to do as a career, which is a nice feeling.”

Fernanda was able to quit her job and now works from home part-time while watching her baby daughter.

Dayna shared that, “I think the best things about frugality are not putting the pressure on my husband to have to make a ton of money and work long hours to provide for our wants and needs. It is a simpler life. Less bills to pay, less companies to deal with, less expenses, less time spent shopping, and cooking. Basic meals, clothes, possessions, activities, clutter, stress, etc. Not a lot of time or energy running the rat race, trying to keep up with the Jones’s, and trying to impress others.”

Annemarie says, “We are now able to homeschool our two kids because I could leave my job. Our entire family is happier and more fulfilled than I thought possible.”

Mr. FW and Babywoods snowshoeing

Rhiannon was able to move to Spain for six months!

Morgan was able to quit a toxic work environment without a new job lined up (although she did find a new one pretty quickly). She says she’s “grateful that I was able to put my personal mental health and conscience above a paycheck, even without a backup plan.”

Carissa reports, “My husband and I are still in the start-up phase of our small organic farm. Even though our income is very low, living frugally has allowed us to purchase our own 40 acre farm, save for retirement, pay off my student loans early, and spend ~4-6 weeks/year traveling.”

Kristi says that frugality enables her family to live in a great school district in a high cost of living area and allowed her to work part-time in order to stay home with her 4-month-old twins.

Bonnie’s frugality allowed her to send her son to college without debt; quit her job at 39 to stay home and take care of her daughter during a major health crisis; and now, she stays home to provide full-time daycare to her granddaughters.

Beneficial At Any Level

Thank you to everyone who shared their story! From retiring early to changing careers to living in Spain to homeschooling kiddos to traveling full-time to paying for funerals, frugality yields tremendous options.

Me harvesting black raspberries from our garden last year

It’s also true that you don’t have to save 75% of your income in order to experience some of these benefits. Maybe extreme frugality is not for you. Maybe you are not interested in retiring early and investing reams of money. But, frugality can help you out wherever you are on the spectrum. Saving even 10% or 15% of your income to pay off debt, create a comfortable emergency fund, and contribute to an investment account is a wonderful way to start building longterm wealth. There’s a lot in life we can’t control, but what we spend is largely within our control. Give yourself the gift of freedom from worry over your finances.

Our consumer culture makes it so easy to fritter away money on ultimately meaningless junk that we don’t actually need. When we’re at the whims of marketers and advertisements, we’re not in control. How to use our money is being dictated to us. I prefer to dictate to my money.

Not spending takes more effort at first and it’s a conscious choice, but then after awhile, it becomes the easiest thing in the world… No more shopping, no more browsing online stores, no more worrying about what to buy next, which gives me a lot more time for doing things I actually enjoy and that make me happy: yoga, hiking, playing with my daughter, beating Mr. FW at Scrabble (he’ll win one day, I’m sure 😉 ), and drinking wine by our woodstove in the evenings.

I’m no longer beholden to how I think I should use my money–I’m immune to advertisements that tell me my hair is too long, my pants too dated, my face too makeup-less, and my car too old. It no longer matters to me because I’m in a position of power. A position of being able to say no and to instead prioritize my true needs and my true wants.

Don’t let your spending prevent you from doing what you want with your life. Rather, let frugality sculpt the life you crave.

What options has frugality provided for you?

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  1. This is exactly my thought process in pursuing FI. I don’t necessarily know what I want to do when I get there. Maybe I will want to stay at my job. Maybe I will want to write a book. Maybe I will want to become a full time political activist. Maybe I will want to be a musician. But right now I want to put myself in the best position to have the option to pursue whatever I will want.

  2. This. “Frugality isn’t necessarily about retiring early or even quitting your job at all–it’s about knowing that your financial security isn’t inextricably linked to your paycheck.” I don’t want to quit working, I just want to quit HAVING to work. Or I feel that I can at least stress about it less knowing I’d be OK if I continued or if something happened where they weren’t happy with my performance or a layoff. It’s just one layer of stress removed. I love seeing everyone’s ways that frugality helped them. It’s inspiring!

  3. I totally agree with you! Frugality has enabled me to save, prioritize, and then spend on things what maximize our happiness. Of course, there’s a lot of sacrifice in the process, but the ability to choose from various options is empowering in and of itself.

  4. This is real inspiration for a Friday! Love this article, love the wildly varying testimonies of people who are doing it, really, truly doing it and are now living according to what they genuinely want.

    I think for a lot of us, it’s the simple idea that, even though you may well truly like your job, you HAVE to do it, you MUST or risk losing everything / having too little for retirement / whatever. The fear of ”IF I LOSE MY JOB I’LL BE IN A HOMELESS SHELTER IMMEDIATELY” definitely propels a lot of people… and that same fear and worry is so often soothed by over-spending on silly things, over-eating, just trying to ”enjoy what little time I have off”.

  5. Soooo soooo true! People ask why I live the way I do and I tell them that it gives me freedom from money. I’m going through a job transition right now and we won’t see a paycheck for a month. Thanks to our current way of life, this isn’t the crisis that it would have been two years ago. Frugality gives me the freedom to pay off debt ($65k of student loans will be gone in early 2018!) and to eventually retire early. Ahhhh.

  6. Hey Mrs.F! Frugality = options and options = freedom.
    Switching our spending habits and leading a frugal lifestyle allows my family of 6 to thrive on a single income in an expensive city. We will be financially free in no more than 9 years. In the meantime our frugality means I could take a lower paying job if I wanted to, we could move anywhere we wanted to, for any reason, the list goes on and on. And none of that’s possible because of my salary, it’s possible because we spend far less than we earn.

  7. I like to think of it as “freedom to choose,” but when I think about it, that’s basically options. Frugality has allowed me to do a lot of things. Save a high percentage of my income to pursue FI. Not have to worry about “emergency” expenses because I’ve already planned for them. I could take another job and get my income cut in half but not have to change anything about how I live (savings would go down). I’m sure I could come up with many more! Great post!

  8. I was able to fly to Florida for a funeral after my cousin committed suicide last year. We didn’t have much extra money at the time but the fact that we didn’t spend much gave me the ability to be with family when it mattered most. Between 7 and 10 years from now, I’ll be able to drop to part-time at work, due to frugality (we got a late start in our careers. My husband graduated college at 34…you were retired by then lol). I’m not going to be worried about being forced out of work in my 60s like my dad. The peace of mind is priceless.

  9. Me again! Being frugal means not being owned by my possessions. Someone at work spent $40,000 on her car, and it got scratched in the parking lot one day. It totally ruined her day because she had spent so much on the car. If my $8000 Hyundai got a scratch, it’s not going to bother me much at all. The hem on my $1 Goodwill shirt unravels? Feels a lot better than my $30 Banana Republic sweater getting an immovable stain. And I can’t get annoyed that Starbucks didn’t make my drink right if I don’t go to Starbucks. So many daily annoyances are removed with frugality.

    1. YES! This is how I feel about stuff too. Not having expensive stuff means not having to worry about/care for/insure expensive stuff!

      1. This is true, when you have expensive stuff, whether you realize it or not, the tendency is to put a lot of care into it. I see it all the time.

  10. This is a fantastic post! I feel like I’m always trying to explain these amazing benefits to people, but I can’t make everyone understand….
    Frugality has allowed me to quit my job and volunteer with refugees, visit friends, and “unschool” my preschoolers. We are also able to pay extra on our house and donate to non profit organizations that are making a difference. I find this lifestyle absolutely invigorating!

  11. Frugality has let me save plenty of money for retirement and let me go on amazing vacations. Starting about three years ago there was a cruise around the Caribbean, then a week in the beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands, and coming up in June- a week in Aruba! I don’t make six figures and yet I’m still able to save a ton of money every year and travel to warm, sunny destinations whenever the feeling strikes!
    Ultimately, frugality will enable me to quit my toxic job and opt for something part-time, or maybe even full early retirement. It depends on how long I want to keep working.

  12. Ahh, great topic. I am age 40, almost 41, father of two and married. What has frugality done for me? After six years of being in the same job, and disliking it for the last year as I became over worked, it has allowed me to leisurely bring up the topic of asking to be fired, yes requesting to be fired from my job, with severance.

    Much to my delight, my boss has agreed and even today said he discussed this in concept with his boss. Now I am excited to see what they come back with as far as an initial “offer” of a package.

    My mantra is, if you’re going to go out on FIRE, go out with a bang. I think getting laid off is the ideal way to start ER. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s my dream way of starting off my ER, age 41 (soon). I may write a blog post about the whole event after all is said and done with and I am in the “clear.”

    I don’t know any other life, frugal is part of the fabric of my being. Growing up with a frugal dad and parents that grossly mismanaged their funds and lived paycheck to paycheck, I can’t imagine any other way of living.

  13. Another awesome one–frugality is the bomb! It enabled me to accept a low-paying position at our animal shelter without having to think twice. Now I spend my days as a professional dog photographer/trainer/snuggler and I couldn’t be happier! (Though I must say, this job has led to us adopting a second dog–a three-legged, heart-worm positive pup who will likely cost us a pretty penny throughout her lifetime–though in my opinion, she’s worth it one hundred times over. Also, because I now always have treats in my pockets from working with shelter dogs, our other dog has learned to fish my pants out of the hamper and chew massive, unpatchable, and rather revealing holes in the rear, so I need to purchase some new pants…. Definite frugal fails).

    1. Good for you Sarah! You are living my dream! I’m currently in a 6+ figure high stress management job which makes me thoroughly miserable (love the paycheck, hate the job). My goal is to pay off my house, have 1/2 million in retirement accounts and quit this corporate rat race in the next year – age 45 – so I can work at an animal shelter probably making $10 hour and hopefully providing medical insurance. Unfortunately our local animal shelter is a kill shelter and I’m not sure I could handle working in that environment but I have no ties to my current town and can relocate anywhere with a reasonable cost of living.

  14. Frugality also helps me with the day to day hiccups in life. In the past two weeks, I got into a fender bender, had at $300 vet bill for my sick lab and left my phone on top of my car on the way to work. The events did stress me out a bit, but the financial consequences are not stressful because we live frugally and have money in the bank to cover ourselves.

  15. I’m so glad to see people winning with money. I know first hand that frugality gives us options. My wife and I are having our first child and she will be able to quite her job as a teacher and stay home with our baby while working part time as a tutor.

    The hardest part for me though is slogging through the college debt we got ourselves into. We have been saving about 30% of our income for our baby’s entry, and afterwards will keep about 2 months of expenses as our emergency fund and start tackling the debt. But it will still take us 3 years or so to finish paying off our student loans, so that we can save for a down payment to move out of her parent’s basement…

    Sorry for the rant, just feels like sometimes, everything we do isn’t enough to progress forward. I’m glad to see these stories who are making it though.

    1. I just had to reply to your comment and say I feel you!! We have a 10 month old, student loans, and while we don’t live in my in-laws basement, we do rent a house from them that shares a driveway, so the visits are frequent 🙂 Some days it is not so fun but it’s in those moments that I have to remind myself to be thankful for their assistance- without them it would be very very hard to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, and we would have to ride out the student loan payments until their original term date.

    2. Hey Josh, there’s a guy who goes by “AREBELSPY” over on the MMM Forums. He and his wife managed to FIRE before they paid off their student loans. At the ripe old age of 29! Since then they’ve had a baby (just turned 1) and are traveling the world together. There are lots of paths to FIRE. You can do it!

    3. Just wanted to stand in solidarity with you–I also have student loans and it’s really frustrating to me to not see much progress. We just have to keep on truckin’ but it’s tough!

    4. But you will get through, you’re already way more than half way. I mean, think about it. Already you are having a child (that I am assuming was wanted and planned), so that’s a big win, one of you can walk away from a full time job in order to maximise time with the child, another huge win that simply wouldn’t even be a remote possibility for many people. The college debt is a buzzkill, I do see that, but think about it, within the next 5 years maximum, you will be rid FOREVER of those student debts, have a place of your own and in the meantime you have family near to help with your new baby, to be close for his or her start in life / to help your wife and you, and just when you might be thinking of another one or just needing more space, you will be able to get that. You’re doing amazingly well!

  16. “No one has ever said, ‘gosh, if only I’d spent more money on lattes and manicures in my 20s instead of saving for retirement.’ ” I.LOVE.THIS.

    Frugality has enabled us to own our homes outright since we were 26 (well, almost done paying this one off…8 more months), live stress-free, be there with the kids as they are growing up, pursue my passion for my Ebay business instead of my (well-paying, but passionless) engineering career, travel extensively with the kids…but I sure wish I’d spent more on Lattes in my 20’s hahahahaha!! Or not!

  17. I’m a full-time employee and a part-time graduate student. Originally, I had fears about being in my 50’s taking on more debt. However, I am doing a great job paying off my debts and will begin paying off my student loans before I graduate. I’m getting closer to my financial goals with each passing month due to frugality. My goals is to graduate nearly debt-free! A higher paying job will enable me to pour a huge amount of money into retirement savings.

  18. Loved reading this!! Because we are very frugal savers my sister and I (both retired seniors) combined our cash and bought our car together. Since neither of us has employment responsibilities, we work out the details on our volunteering schedules and it is working wonderfully well! Plus we have only one car to service, clean etc.

  19. We are working on this. My husband wants to work forever (now) but we’re tracking our expenses to try to increase our savings rate. We’re not at your rates yet but saving 25% of our income (excluding retirement and HSAs) is a great start for us.

  20. Yep, frugality is options and freedom! I don’t know what I want to do in life (I do know I don’t want to do my current job and I suspect the same will ultimately hold true for all 9-5 desk jobs) but I do know that it’ll be much easier to figure out and to achieve if I’m not beholden to a steady paycheck in order to finance all kinds of consumer goods. I also know I’ll feel much more comfortable with taking a risk if I’ve got a hefty cushion to support me, and frugality is the way I’m going to get there.

  21. LOVE this post, and what’s funny is, I was just thinking along these lines this week. People work and spend, work and spend, saving little or nothing, but they will be okay, they say, they have a good job they like, they are strong and healthy, and life’s good, so they’ll be fine, only….
    They are diagnosed with a serious illness they never saw coming.
    A parent suffers a devastating stroke and needs care and financial assistance, long term.
    The 65 year old company they work for is sold by the shareholders, and the new owners start bringing in their own people to replace the current employees, which means that good job is now gone, and that cushy company retirement planned upon is gone with it.
    They are self-employed and business is going great, until the two largest customers file bankruptcy while owing them money, and the third largest customer suffers a downturn and cancels all new projects.
    Their new child has special needs and it is impossible to find anyone good to stay with him, so someone has to quit work and stay home, plus, there are many new medical expenses.
    A tornado wipes out home, vehicles and place of employment, and suddenly there is no job but there are high insurance deductibles, plus replacing everything.
    A family member is unjustly accused of a crime and it takes a fortune in legal fees to extricate that person from the mess.
    Each one of these is a real example, (and I know the people personally), of how people living the good life suddenly found themselves in deep financial trouble. It happens — hopefully not to anyone here! — so living a life of frugality is not only about options, but about preparedness for the hurricanes of life. No one lives trouble free — live frugally, so you can live prepared!

  22. Being somewhat frugal allows me to take things as they come and not stress about them. Case in point: 2 tires had a flat and need to be replaced this week. I was able to get a ride and replace them without wondering where the money was going to come from!

  23. Being frugal with our money opened up a so many choices over the years. We were able to travel through 27 countries, pay for our house with cash, adopt 4 kids, and leave our 9-5 jobs early. Basically we got all the things most important to us. 🙂

  24. Yesterday I was in a meeting and the very real problem came up of management pressuring us to do what is “good for the company” potentially instead of what’s right. I pointed out that THIS is why I have structured our finances as I have. I can concentrate on doing the right thing at my job instead of keeping my boss (actually my boss’s boss’s boss) happy.

  25. Frugality lets me work a job in a high school office that gives me a total of 10 weeks (yup, count ’em, ten!) off a year.

    I have no debt so I don’t worry about the average salary that I receive because I still save a lot. It’s like being semi-retired, but still having paychecks and benefits. Love being a frugal weirdo!!!

  26. Why be frugal? Well it allowed me to retire 2 years early from a 38 year career in the medical profession. I finally realized I had enough money saved to meet all my financial obligations. I want to devote more time to my organic vegetable garden and my family and myself. It is great to wake up every morning and plan my day. I am, once again, in charge of my life, and I can chart it out anyway I see fit. Freedom from work is wonderful and thanks to a frugal lifestyle, I have the savings so I have no worries….That is priceless!

    1. Thank you for your post. I read these and think I waited too long or I am too far behind. I’m 54 – way past thinking about retiring in my 30’s and still not debt free without a lot saved. You reminded me that I will be just as happy when I get there!

  27. I completely agree! Frugality gives you so many options in your life and makes you feel so much more free. I have always been a pretty frugal person, but over the last few years, I really took a hard look at my expenses and cut out things that didn’t really make me happy (cable, new clothes, massages, constantly eating out). Now, I’m financially independent and not reliant on my job, so I don’t have to work if I don’t want to. This allows me so much more freedom in my life. I love being frugal because now the choices I make in my life are mine alone – not dictated by my employer, my family, or even my friends.

  28. My comment is from the other side. I was not frugal for my first half of life. So, I am writing this at lunch, from my job that I cannot leave easily, 7 people depend on my income. I want to spend more time with my family, but my ‘ options’ are limited. So, BE FRUGAL, not having options is not very fun!

    On the flip side, ‘better late than never’ is true for me. I have been frugal the last 3 years with wonderful results! I need to incorporate a ‘side-hustle’ now, and start to open my options up!

    1. you will get there because you’re on the right path. I’m sure it feels like a big hill now, but it’s a compounding win, so I bet that if you stay on this path, within 3-5 years, things will look a LOT rosier and you will have so many more options! Best of luck.

  29. A fellow frugal person here. I could probably retire before 50 years old – except for that darn health insurance question. I just finished reading THE NORDIC THEORY OF EVERYTHING (borrowed from the library) which accessibly and substantively presents how the governments of Nordic countries provide for education, healthcare, family leave, among other things – thus providing a solid foundation for “freedom” and “options” that you write about to ALL CITIZENS. Eye opening. It made me wonder what a Nordic frugal person would be motivated by. If frugality in nordic countries would have similar goals/objectives/dreams/lifestyles or would it be very different? Do you have any Nordic readers/commenters?

    1. I just read the Nordic Theory of Everything, actually. She made the correct observation that Americans are shackled to their jobs because of the insurance – that they are not free because this is hanging over them – as well as other things hanging over them like elder care costs, child care costs, education costs!

    2. One Nordic reader reports! I haven’t read the book you mention, but sounds like an interesting read – sometimes looking at one’s country/region from someone else’s point of view helps to see the daily things we take for granted from a new perspective. As for frugality, I feel that me and my closest circles are nonetheless motivated by similar things than readers in any other country: retirement (my own as well as helping my parents to have a more comfortable life – the state pensions here are small), education (we have no fees – yet – but many students need to work and having some savings makes life easier), healthcare (thanks to frugality I was able to visit a private specialist with my rare illness instead of queuing to the public clinic for months), preparing for unemployment (which is very common here these days, unfortunately) as well as lifestyle changes (in my own case moving to another European country because of work – frugality allowed me to pay huge rental deposits etc. without worrying). So while we get a lot from the state to begin with, being frugal still gives more flexibility, more freedom and more options.
      For me personally, being frugal means investing in my future happiness. Not because money would equal happiness, but I know from experience that a bad financial situation is a huge source of stress and anxiety for me – I want to avoid those feelings as much as possible!

  30. Frugality allowed us to move across the country for my husband to pursue graduate school leading to a career change. It allows me to stay at home with my kids despite the fact that our income is $30,000 under the median income in our area. It is allowing us to buy a house in a new place next year with a 15 year mortgage and a great down payment.

    Most of all, though, it has liberated me from the binds that shackled my parents for so many years and that I grew up thinking I would be bound to as well. My parents were/are T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E with money. Like “stole”-my-babysitting-money-borrowed-from-my-college-scholarship-money-two-bankruptcies terrible. Case in point: I just had to explain to my mom why it would be a bad idea to “borrow” (as in take out a loan and pay interest!?!) against money she has in savings to get a new fridge (side note: it’s not broken). I truly thought that unless you were a millionaire, this was just how life was. Thankfully my husband and I figured out pretty quickly that we just had bad examples and that we didn’t need to have high salaries to meet our financial and life goals. The psychological benefit of this shift in perspective cannot be overstated.

  31. Wonderful post! It brings to mind two things:
    1. Every time I talk with a young person about the future, I always encourage them to give themselves as many options as they can. Working part time for a plumber but want to go to school? Keep your part time job, go to school part time, end up with a degree and a trade, no debt, and a killer work ethic. Options. And seriously, who knows at 18 what they want to do with their lives? Options options options. Always options.
    2. A friend and co-worker recently asked me about my early retirement/FI plans and started her own quest for FI. She still has a little ways to go before she can quit working, but she now has impressive savings and is actively pursuing lifestyle deflation. Our company recently had a RIF and is in the process of a major reorg that has many of us wondering about whether we’ll enjoy our jobs as much. But she noted to me that she doesn’t need to worry anymore. If she hates it, she can quit and take her time to find a new job. AND, and here’s the kicker, she realized that eliminating her dependence on a paycheck has really helped her to build her non-work identity. We have another co-worker whose entire self *is* his work. If things don’t turn out in a way he likes, it’s not just his livelihood, but his entire mentality that takes a massive hit. So frugality gives you not just the options to make choices, but through those choices, to build a stronger, broader sense of self.

  32. LOVE this!!

    Frugality gave me the courage to go to my boss last fall and ask to start a trial to work remotely so I could join my boyfriend when he moved halfway across the country for work.

    It also allowed me to say “no, thanks” when HR recently said that I had to move back on site because they didn’t have internal procedures in place to cover my remote work status.

    The company is currently reviewing options on how to keep me employed with a remote work position. 😃

    I’m stress free and happy either way. There is no better way to say it, money is power! Yours or theirs, your choice.

    To Freedom!!

  33. Most of my life was lived making mistakes because I simply had not been trained better . Life is not like tv . At some point each decision is made from the consequences of earlier decisions. Life just continues to go on kind of our of control, no destination planned. I have regrouped in my old age but those earlier poor choices have had lifetime consequences. It is never to late to make changes, but, some momentum you can never make up. I strongly recommend not just living in the moment and being wasteful and indulgent. Thinking about tomorrow and making a plan is the difference between being comfortable and struggling. Teaching children early is very important.

  34. I think this post is a great reminder that I have the privilege to live frugally. As a social worker, I work with so many clients who struggle to make ends meet, many who are only able to do so with various programs that help them when they run out of food or can’t afford to heat their homes. I feel so fortunate that I can live this lifestyle and set money aside for emergencies.

    1. Well said. As I’ve written about previously, there’s a great deal of privilege in living a life of elective frugality vs. forced frugality. Thank you for adding this comment to the conversation!

  35. Interesting my two most precious resources in life are family and health.

    Time and money come maybe third and fourth in the priorities list

  36. We are Gen Xers living frugally. We’ve been able to raise a happy mega family of 10 kids on a single income in Southern California AND abroad, and teaching our kids to be frugally minded because it is freedom. Our oldest 3 are in college and doing it debt-free. There’s something wrong with today’s “normal” attitude toward money. We love you Frugalwoods!

  37. Like so many comments, I recognize my privilege. I had a lower income upbringing but college was an expectation and set me up for a middle class income with a lower income spending habit. Wear it out, use it up, wait and pay cash for everything, pay yourself first. My dear mother used the “envelope method” of budgeting raising 8 children after our father died. She could tell you to the penny what cash was in her purse at any time.

    My husband and I own our home, we are paying for college for our kid and we have no debt–we have options but due to health insurance in this country, do not have the option to stop working. I don’t feel trapped in that, it is just the way it is in this country.

  38. I started the year with your uber frugal month challenge, because I needed to! I am a pretty prudent spender to begin with, but that extra kick in the pants has really helped. I am going to be able to replace my car later this year (could do it now, but for various life reasons doesn’t make sense) and I’m on track to save for a down payment to buy a house next year. This is even though I have had several unexpected bills this year. Depending on what gets reimbursed, I’m on track to save around 30 (for sure) or 40 (ideal)% plus 403(b). Thanks frugality!

  39. Embracing frugality has helped me to live well on less after cancer decimated my health and career in my 30s. Frugality has given me back a feeling of control and i don’t have to worry that my pension will be half of what it might have been. My husband has also been able to work part time. My health forced me to early semi-retirement and whilst I would not have chosen it, I am marvelling at the many unexpected benefits of frugality, such as living more creatively and more in tune with my personal priorities. I enjoyed the uber frugal January challenge so much I’m planning to repeat it in May, and look forward to the new learning I’m sure it will bring. Life is good! Thank you frugalwoods.

  40. Here is the best thing that frugality gave me: courage. I was in a job where I was being pressured to do something that was barely legal and certainly against my moral code. I said no. The boss said she could fire me for refusing and I replied that I didn’t have to work for a living so go ahead. She didn’t and the pressuring stopped (and the barely legal thing was never instituted). If I had not had the option to walk away because I had enough saved to retire at 34, I would have been compelled to keep my mouth shut. I once watched a co-worker put up with unbelievable mistreatment (including the boss calling her fattie and actually removing snacks from the co-worker’s lunch leaving a note saying she obviously didn’t need to be eating them!!!) because her husband was dying of a brain tumor and she had to work for the money and the health insurance; he died while she was at work one afternoon. I never forgot that lesson and it has kept me frugal during times of temptation (such as buying a new vs. used car). I never want to be so desperate I put up with mistreatment because I have no choice—in a job or a relationship.

    1. Mable, your story of your colleague brought me to tears. What a horrible person (her boss) and what an awful situation. I am sending her my thoughts and hope that she is healing.

      I am in a job that I have loved for many years, but, due to structural changes in my profession, don’t love in the same way. Frugality is enabling me to entertain an early exit. Not sure if I will, but I like knowing that I could walk away if I want to. That is incredibly empowering.

  41. Layoffs were announced this week at my company, and instead of panicking, I’ve been daydreaming about how I’ll spend my newfound free time. Peace of mind is SO much better than anything I could have bought with my money. I can’t thank you enough for writing this blog; it really has changed my life.

    1. Now THAT is a wonderful way to receive news of layoffs! I am so happy that frugality has brought you such peace :). Best of luck with wherever life takes you next!

  42. Frugality has meant I can stay at home with my 2.5-year-old and work part time from home for our family business. That means a lot more to me than trying to build a career. I never enjoyed sitting down all day at an office computer, as it used to give me headaches and back pain. I’m so glad I don’t have to do that anymore!

  43. I am leaving town for three days to be with my friend at her dad’s funeral. There was a time where an unexpected trip at the end of the pay period would have been impossible, because the bank account would have been nearing zero. It is so satisfying to be able to really say, “no problem!” when my friend needs me.

  44. Beautifully stated. Frugality and financial Independence means something a bit different to everyone. However, the common theme that can be found is freedom.

  45. The most BA thing frugality has afforded me is the freedom to thru hike the AT. I didn’t work for about half of the year and this trip ultimately changed my life. It was here that I learned what little I need to be truly happy. For 4.5 months I had just the necessities to live (food, water, shelter) and I never felt the same way before. I take that lesson with me today and couldnt be more content eith everything i have. With this my wife and I are on track to be FI in 3.5 years at 33 and 31. My wife has already quit her job to start her own wedding planning company (which has actually turned out to be pretty lucrative) and she is in control of her schedule and is fulfilled in what she’s doing. The happiness she expresses on wedding days is what makes it all feel like we’re doing it right. 🙂

    1. That’s awesome you through hiked the AT!!! A longterm dream of ours, for sure. So glad you were able to make it a reality.

  46. So true!!

    When speaking to friends and family about money, frugal is consistently confused with cheap. They are so much different!! Love that you shared the comments and successes from people you polled. Security in your life without the dependency on a job creates a great life.

    After talking to someone who was laid off from a job (thankfully they were frugal), at first they were so disappointed and scared, then once they were free, they realized just how many other passions they wanted to follow. What did they do? Follow them!! They reflect on it as the best thing that could ever happen to them. If you are not frugal and prepare for moments like this, the story changes as you frantically try to pay your bills with no money coming in! Frugality is security and happiness, who doesn’t want that :D.

  47. Great article. I think we have our ups and downs with frugality. But at one point, we made $250k-$275k combined for a few years. Could we have saved more? Yes! We lived in modest houses (annual housing costs of 15k), drive our older paid off cars, paid off my $89k student loans from grad school. Because these costs were low and we kind of kept living like grad school students, we were able to save. We are now FI at age of 36-37, have 2 kids, and found our forever home (still modest). I am a SAHM. My husband will be leaving his high paying, stressful job that he doesn’t like soon (maybe by end of year) and currently side hustling into something he just LOVES that may pay significantly less (but he would do for free and he has more time off to spend with our family, unlike now). If he doesn’t love that new gig and its allure wears off in a few years? Oh well, we are FI, so he can quit and pursue something else. It’s an adventure.

    The feeling of being FI is amazing. Can’t describe. I don’t know why more people don’t do this.

  48. “Just got word your friends are sailing around the world next year and invited you to join them? Too bad, you have to work.”

    Yup, we’re there exactly. Our best friends are moving to either England, Italy, or Germany next year and invited us to move with.. And we can’t. We’ve slashed our monthly budget to pay off our debt asap and then starting saving saving saving even more! Maybe after another year or two, we’ll be able to afford to move near them. All it took was a very hot fire under our butts. 😉

  49. I’ve never been much for frugality until the last 2-3 years. Now I realize how it gives me the gift of choice. Being frugal I can send my child on an epic educational trip while paying off my car. And overall, it will help me to pay off my debt and give me freedom. Frugal it is. Conscious decision making.

  50. Mrs. Frugalwoods, this may be one of your best posts! I also read all of the comments, it’s so inspiring to see what others are doing. Thank you for creating this space!

  51. I was too sick to respond to your Facebook call, but here’s my story: Spousal Unit and I were frugal for years. Secured an early retirement for both of us, but I had always intended to earn a PhD and teach for my next career. Five years in to my PhD, I became too sick to progress. I am currently on a Medical Leave of Absence, and do not know if or when I will finish, nor whether I will ever be well enough to teach if I do complete. Although the possible loss of my dream is difficult to accept, at least we have financial security, and do not have financial stress adding to the equation. I had intended to resume working, but if that is not meant to be it won’t affect our financial future. That is a tremendous blessing, indeed.

  52. Love this post as always. You bring together the story of frugality so well and provide such an amazing insight and resources for others. I will be sharing this with others. Thank you!

  53. Frugality for us meant freedom. My husband and I were stuck in careers we weren’t in love with. We decided to make a change, come up with a plan, and cut back our spending. That choice has since allowed us to leave those jobs, pursue our dreams, travel and move all while remaining debt free. Absolutely agree with your take here in this post. Thanks for writing!

  54. I grew up in a family that was always blindsided by unexpected events. The car broke down! Layoffs at work! Unexpected accidents! While my family was frugal in some aspects, we definitely still lived above our means. Thankfully, I came across frugalwoods when I in college (I’m 23 now and just got married!), and it has totally reshaped my understanding of frugality. My husband and I live in a very expensive city, and I work in non-profit fundraising while he is a full-time graduate student (going to school for free and being paid a salary to teach undergraduate courses). We have been able to secure an emergency savings and make great progress in paying off my undergraduate student loans. Within this first year of being married, we’ve had a few financial set-backs, but we’ve been able to get through them unscathed, thanks to our emergency savings. I’m so grateful for this blog and how it has taught me to be confident in our frugality.

  55. This is a fantastic article!
    Being frugal means less wasting. In the long-term, frugality definitely pays off.
    Thanks for sharing this article.

  56. Hello Mrs. Frugalwoods!

    Frugality actually makes a person feel free in the long term.
    No money worries. Nothing. And this feels absolutely lovely!

    Thanks for sharing this innovative content piece! 🙂

    Best regards

  57. I just stumbled across you site yesterday and I am enjoying your articles tremendously, I am embarking on a new way of thanking and living and these articles are encouraging me even more. Thank you so much!

  58. Great post. You said it, it’s all about having options. Even if you don’t know where to go or what to do, money in the bank will generally help. And once you figure out a game plan you can act on it faster if you take the necessary steps to begin with. Once you are already in the mindset, it’s easy to continue that mindset even in retirement.

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