Today, I’m excited to share with you a guest article from a fellow frugal writer, Mrs. Frugalwoods. She writes under a clever moniker at www.frugalwoods.com. She details her journey to financial independence and a homestead in the woods with her husband and greyhound, Frugal Hound. I asked her to share how marriage, as opposed to my singledom, could actually help you stay more frugal. Please enjoy and comment!
Marriage has turned out to be an extremely frugal endeavor for Mr. Frugalwoods and me. It wasn’t our original intention (there was no mention of “frugality” in our vows, though in retrospect I wish there had been…), but it has absolutely been our experience.
Marriage = Efficiency
Being married is like having a lifelong roommate, who you love, and with whom you can share all your stuff. Two people, one bed; it’s the ultimate exercise in efficiency! Over the six years of our marriage, we’ve discovered we can share just about everything other than toothbrushes and clothing. We have one house, one car, one dog, and one bottle of shampoo; although, come to think of it, we do have separate deodorants, which is probably for the best.
‘Til Death Do Us Spend
In addition to owning less — by virtue of sharing so many things — we also spend less. We were both pretty frugal before we got married, but our union compounded those tendencies. I’ve found that Mr. FW’s efficiency-oriented frugality has rubbed off on me and likewise, my creative money-saving schemes have influenced him. He convinced me of the merits of simplifying life and I’ve educated him on the ways of thrifting and great trash finds.
The man is now a certified expert in scoping out excellent roadside treasures — last summer he toted home an entire box of free glassware he found by the side of the road. I was so proud. We brought different frugal strengths to the table and by learning from each other, our frugality is now unstoppable.
Being partners in every sense also means that we work in tandem on all aspects of life instead of paying people to do stuff for us. I’ve discussed how we insource everything from house cleaning to Frugal Hound bathing to changing tires to home repairs to cooking and more. But since we’re in it together, the labor is distributed between us. And since we’re working side by side, the labor is actually quite pleasant.
That’s another fabulous secret of marriage: when you enjoy collaborating with your partner, even the most banal tasks become fodder for humor and pleasure. We cracked ourselves up to such a degree while at Costco last week that I thought they might kick us out of the store. What can I say, we have a good time and the canned fish section is frankly hilarious (Cod in a can? Come on, you would’ve laughed, too!).
We also insource our own entertainment. Being old, boring married folks means we love staying in on Friday nights (it’s pizza night after all!), snuggling Frugal Hound, and watching movies (until I fall asleep… circa 9pm). Our entertainment costs decreased rapidly after we got engaged and have continued to plummet. We’re big believers in going on dates — we just happen to do them cheaply. Free days at museums, hiking, walking Frugal Hound, romantic dinners at home, Costco trips apparently… we find plenty of ways to entertain ourselves for $0.
Shared Financial Outlook
More important than our practical applications of frugality (say through our $0.39 rice-and-beans lunches) is our shared financial outlook, which guides how we’ve decided to structure our lives. Mr. Frugalwoods and I feel incredibly fortunate that we found each other and evolved together into the frugal weirdos we are today.
Our united approach to money enables us to pursue our goal of quitting our jobs, reaching our version of financial independence, and moving to a homestead in the woods of Vermont in 2017 at age 33. To facilitate this, we’ve attained an aggressive 71% savings rate (not including maxing out both of our 401Ks). I can say with confidence that neither of us would’ve had the discipline or vision to achieve this by ourselves.
Without this mutual long-term ambition, we’d be adrift and untethered in our overarching aims. But having our future homestead on the horizon keeps us both on the same page and happily operating on frugal autopilot. Plus, we get to have hot finance dates during which we review our spreadsheets and whisper sweet nothings about safe withdrawal rates in early retirement. Told you it was steamy!
The Ease Of Joint Finances
Communicating openly about our finances for the duration of our relationship has fostered an environment in which we trust one another implicitly. Thanks to this trust, we’ve been able to streamline and combine our finances.
For us, having joint finances is about both efficiency and respect. It’s easier on a daily basis to dip into our communal pot for paying the mortgage, buying 6-lb cans of garbanzo beans (we have a mild obsession with homestead hummus), and ordering Frugal Hound’s toothpaste. It’s also a reflection of how much we respect and trust one another — we have no qualms about combining our resources since we know the other person approaches money with the same frugal worldview.
If one of us was dramatically more or less frugal than the other, I think we’d be in for a challenge. Communicating about financial goals, or what we’re comfortable spending, could become a tense encounter involving guilt and accusation. Mr. Frugalwoods and I aren’t identical in our beliefs, but we are aligned in the core tenets of frugal optimization, minimalism, and spending only on the things in life that matter most to us.
Financial Checks and Balances
We provide a system of financial checks and balances for each other. Talking through potential purchases helps us identify our priorities and realistically determine what we actually need and what’s merely a want. When we decided to buy an electric blanket earlier this year (yes, we live on the wild side), we discussed and researched options together, which made us both feel bought into the process.
Anytime Mr. Frugalwoods wants to buy a new beard comb/tool/kitchen implement, he talks to me about it. This type of communication doesn’t stem from distrusting each other, but rather from the respect we both have for the other person. We apply this team-purchase approach to everything from socks to our future homestead.
By engaging one another in every purchase we make, we continually create opportunities to check in with each other financially. These frequent conversations (sometimes about things as mundane as a bag of sweet potatoes) ensure that we don’t resent one another’s purchases or, more crucially, drift apart in our view of money.
When I accidentally broke Frugal Hound’s toothbrush last week (no clue what happened, I swear, the thing just snapped), instead of immediately ordering a new one on Amazon, I talked to Mr. Frugalwoods. And sure enough, he had an idea: why not try using a human toothbrush we’d gotten for free from our dentist. Guess what? It totally works in a dog mouth.
I realize this doesn’t sound like an earth-shattering discovery–after all, doggie toothbrushes are only $7.29–but, it’s a perfect reflection of how ingrained our shared spending habits are. Plus, we don’t buy much stuff, so I don’t have a whole lot of recent examples ;). It’s second nature for us to consult one another on even the smallest of purchases, which makes our conversations about the biggest ones (ahem, a homestead on 20+ acres of land) follow the same familiar, successful framework.
Marriage Made Me A Minimalist
Ok maybe not a fully fledged minimalist, but a whole lot closer than I was before. Prior to Mr. FW’s good influence on me, my life (including both possessions and brain) was cluttered. I owned too much stuff and I was stressed about way too many things. Mr. Frugalwoods, on the contrary, owned perhaps too few things (he had a mattress on the floor without even a mattress pad, people) and had too little stress. I quickly introduced him to the concepts of proper bedding and home decorating. See how helpful I was in adding to his stress levels? 🙂
Mr. FW brought me around to his way of thinking: it’s liberating not to be owned or defined by your stuff. He also helped me let go of caring so much about what other’s think. I’m still an imperfect work in progress on both of these fronts, but I can say that minimalism of both the mind and the physical space has been wonderfully freeing for me.
And as for Mr. FW’s mattress on the floor, we now have a comfortably (albeit minimally and almost entirely from Craigslist) furnished home. Mr. FW often remarks on how cozy our home is, which makes me beam with pride. Some things, like bed frames, are just worth the expense.
Frugality Is Good For Our Relationship
Parallel to the balance in simplicity that we brought to each other’s lives is the benefit that frugality has had on our relationship. By stripping away the distractions of lifestyle inflation and the endless pursuit of more stuff, more experiences, and more “needs” on the consumer carousel, we’ve been able to focus on what matters most to us. As a result, our marriage has flourished under frugality.
We’re no longer distracted by what the media or neighbors are saying we should own, do, or feel. Instead, we’re focused on what we want out of life and how we can make the world better in our own tiny way. Our homestead plan wouldn’t exist if we were still bogged down by the consumer rat race. It’s only through extreme frugality that we’ve been able to take stock of our lives and realize that we’re not fulfilled working our full-time jobs and that what we truly desire is to work side by side in nature every day.
I’m deeply grateful that frugality opened my eyes and forced me to be honest about the direction of my life. It allowed me to push aside the pointless preoccupations of image, wealth, and success and instead devote myself to my dream of building a life out in the woods with Mr. FW.
For Mr. Frugalwoods and me, our marriage is integral to our frugal worldview. Our frugality has reached new heights thanks to our combined efforts, and as a result, we’ve reaped the benefits of simplicity and focus within our relationship. To go this journey without shared goals would be tremendously difficult and would likely make our wildest dreams unobtainable. But together, we’ve been able to eliminate the noise and acknowledge what we want our lives to encompass. We’re frugal, content, and aligned in our vision of the future.
How do you communicate with your partner about money?