Author Topic: What's up with the Frugalwoods?  (Read 143202 times)

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #250 on: March 21, 2018, 02:37:10 PM »
Dicey, I'm sorry that was your experience and very happy for you that you ended up happy and FIREd in spite of it.

The thing is, she has said already on her blog that their parents paid for what scholarships and limited part time work didn't cover, so why be so coy about it?  For people who seem to recognize their privilege they are being suspiciously opaque.

I am nearly 30 years out from when I started college and can tell you exactly how I paid for it:

1)  Money my mom saved from my social security survivor benefits covered most of my tuition.  I also had a tuition waiver my sophomore year for high grades

2)  Mom covered my half of the rent for the house I shared with my sister.  That was actually less than my parents had originally agreed to contribute toward college costs (dorm + room and board costs) and my sister and I got a nicer rental as a side benefit

3)  I covered the rest of my living costs from part time work.  I worked between 20-30 hours a week except for the one summer I did study abroad

4)  I was short on money to cover tuition costs my last two quarters -- for the first one, my sister gave me a loan that she then converted to a graduation present.  She helped me get a FT summer job with her software company so that I could pay the last quarter tuition (a small amount because I just had to finish writing and submit my honors thesis).  THANKS SIS!

Grad school was fully funded with fellowships and teaching positions.

It isn't that hard to remember where you got the money to pay for higher education.  You could do it, I could do it, I think most people can do it.  Even the Frugalwoods when they aren't trying to pitch a book about how the main answer to everyone's search for meaning in life is frugality. Obscuring the truth just leads to more scrutiny and more (in my opinion) justifiable criticism of how they have presented their story. 

I mean, I could start a blog all about frugality, too -- but to use that to explain how I managed to FI at 46 on a (much lower) non-profit salary while omitting the facts that:

1)  Our tax burden was extremely low in relation to our incomes thanks to the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and

2)  We lucked out big time with two strategic and timely property investments -- earning over 2x what we paid on our NYC co-op and 3x the later investment in the Beijing condo.

I saved a few hundred bucks a month commuting cross town in Beijing by bus and subway, and later by bike when my office moved closer.  We saved a few hundred more a month by limiting our meals out.    We made all kinds of choices that differed from the standard expat lifestyle that certainly helped us accumulate our stash.  But to say that I FIREd mainly because I was frugal?  That would be more fiction than fact.  We really were just extremely lucky that we had the resources to deploy into some unique and rapidly rising markets -- NY city real estate in 2000-2003, Beijing real estate in 2009-2017, and the stock market from 1999-present.

I guess it just rubs me the wrong way to see how they do clever machinations to come up with things like 71% savings rates while obscuring the real fact that there huge income on top of an already privileged middle class starting point allowed them to do that.
@lhamo, I love the way you think and you write. I hugely appreciate how kind and helpful you are to others. I love learning more of your story. All of our tales contain elements of "luck". If you hadn't saved your money and invested in real estate you would have missed the run-up that boosted your trajectory to FIRE. Capitalizing on opportunities is a classic element of every success.

Many of us are born into relative privilege, does that mean we shouldn't try our best to make something of ourselves? And if we hit on something that works, should we not be allowed to share it, because we're "privileged"? It shouldn't have to be 100% perfect as determined by 100% of the people to be useful to enough people to justify both the effort and whatever small profit is derived from said efforts.

Fuyu

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #251 on: March 21, 2018, 02:49:32 PM »
I don't care if they make $1 or $300k+ per year. One of my favorite journals is someone who said at the beginning that he don't want to share his income amount. It just feels very off because it seems like she's pushing this image that they succeeded despite having low income.


mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #252 on: March 21, 2018, 02:49:47 PM »
My parents also gave me $1k to start my life off with at 18. I was surprised and happy to receive anything. A few years later they fell on tough times and told me that it had actually been a loan, so I paid it back. Although I had some emotions surrounding the fact that they moved the goalposts on that one....it doesn't really bother me to discuss, and if I were earning money related to my financial history and someone probed for more info, I would give it.

Although I might be a robot so YMMV.
My dad gave me $1k when I graduated from HS and $1k when I graduated from college.  I just remembered that.

I would have rather he fill out FAFSA.  He refused, so that tacked on another $1800 a year I had to borrow.

Cassie

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #253 on: March 21, 2018, 05:50:13 PM »
Dicey, your story goes to show that we never really know what people are worried about or thinking. Given that your parents had 5 other kids to worry about and your Dad's forced retirement I can see why they were worried.  Glad it turned out okay.

nick663

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #254 on: March 21, 2018, 06:16:39 PM »
Going public with this information is not a good idea.
If I exposed my financial situation or FIRE goals, it would be career suicide.

I think this may have been true many years ago, but I think lots of employers get the picture at this point. People job-hop enough to where it is unrealistic to expect someone to be hired on and stay forever.
Depends on manager more than company.  My boss at my last company was a 30+ year lifer who just couldn't figure out why people weren't loyal to the company that did so much for him.

The folks at ďOur Next LifeĒ addressed this topic head-on this morning...without naming names of course!

https://ournextlife.com/2018/03/21/fire-blogger-manifesto/
I don't read FI blogs generally but I think I need to start reading that one.  Really appreciate her honesty on the subject as it seems there is no shortage of bloggers that throw out crazy savings rates while forgetting to mention the 250k+ salary.

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #255 on: March 21, 2018, 08:36:18 PM »
Funny @ lhamo, someone mentioned Amy D up thread (was it you?). I am a huge Amy D fan, and still read the big blue book annually for renewed frugal inspiration. I google her name once in a while and follow all the threads to see what she and her family are up to. The thing is, I never remember her breathing a word of how much income the newsletter brought in. She always said something like "We never earned more than X during our working years". By that yardstick, IIRC, then even the great Amy D wasn't transparent enough for modern folks. Oy.

I do appreciate that Amy D knew when she had "enough" and pulled the plug. The pressure on her to publish more must have been tremendous, but she turned her back on it so she could do what she set out to do in the first place. Good head on her shoulders, that one.

If you're wondering who the hell Amy D is, she wrote a newsletter and several books in the pre-internet Stone Ages called "The Tightwad Gazette". And then retired. Parts of the book are hilariously outdated now, but the fundamentals are still rock-solid. The "D" is for Dacyczyn. It's easier to say than spell. It's pronounced like "decision". Her books are still available and many libraries have copies or you can buy it used for a cheap price on the internet. Amy D would approve.

RootofGood

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #256 on: March 21, 2018, 08:50:51 PM »
I'm surprised at all the hatred on here...

Some of the old-timers like me remember Liz lurking around on the MMM forums either before she had the blog or right when she started.   Her, Mr. Frugalwoods, and a hound in a small Boston apartment.   She was always nice and encouraging while reminding people they DO have a choice of what to spend.   I miss seeing her and RootofGood around ever since their blogs got big

I'm still around some :)  Honestly trying to log off the computer MORE these days and MMM forums don't get much love from me.  Haven't posted in FOREVER but lurk. 

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #257 on: March 21, 2018, 08:58:49 PM »
Maybe that is another reason I have a bug in my bonnet about all of this -- Amy D was the original "I'm gonna move away from Boston and up to the NE woods and live out my frugal dreams on a tight budget with my big family" pioneer (well, even she probably had inspiration from the Nearings) but The Tightwad Gazette isn't even listed on the FW resource page.  They do reference Your Money Or Your Life, thankfully.  Still, leaving Amy D out of the picture, even if her stuff is now somewhat dated, is a bit of a sacrilege to us old-time frugalista fangirls....

I carried my copy of The Complete TWG all the way to China and back -- hey, it sells for $20 used on Amazon these days when I think I got it for around $10!  I still use her master muffin recipe regularly.  That was one of the greatest things about her stuff -- she wasn't just doing the "here's this week's coupon deals" fluffy articles.  She would spend the time and energy to figure out the formulas behind stuff to quantify the money saved versus the labor involved.  Her "Cost Per Wow" formula is still my go-to ruler for deciding whether or not to splurge on certain items or experiences.  I sometimes wonder if MMM is the secret surrogate love child of Amy D, Joe D and Vicki R....
@lhamo, this is weird, only the first paragraph is showing up until I hit reply and then the second one shows up. Is it because paragraph two contains revelations about a secret love child? Is the super secret spoiler alert turned on?

ETA: I see you just edited your post. Maybe that's the explanation for what happened. I like my guess better.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #258 on: March 22, 2018, 08:21:30 AM »

Depends on manager more than company.  My boss at my last company was a 30+ year lifer who just couldn't figure out why people weren't loyal to the company that did so much for him.


Excellent point! Sometimes, people can't see toxic company culture for what it is because they've been rewarded by it. My first job was like that. Luckily, the culture at my current job is pretty great.

NoraLenderbee

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #259 on: March 22, 2018, 10:50:04 AM »
. As others have said it's a lot easier to be frugal and FI when you're earning several times the median income..............and the writing is a bit over the top sometimes.

But it's NOT easier to be frugal when you earn more.  It's also not harder.  It's exactly the same, since income has no bearing on spending.  This is a basic tenet of FIRE.  I'm frankly shocked at how many people seem to not understand this.

It may not be easier to be frugal when you earn more, but it is a hell of a lot easier to get to FI. Income has no bearing on spending. It has an enormous bearing on saving and on how soon you reach your goals. I'm frankly shocked at how many people seem to not understand this.

Not if you're tying income to spending it doesn't. 

But why would you tie income to spending?
Quote
Your goals are just as far away no matter how much you make if you don't increase your savings rate.  There's probably an MMM post about this.  It's like some sort of shockingly simple math.

Everyone understands that making more is good.  But saving more is even better.  The statement that anyone who makes "more" has an easier time with frugality shows a complete divorce from the basics of FIRE.

Anyone who makes more has an easier time with *accumulation.* If you keep spending to (say) 40,000 per year, then the more you make, the more you save, and the faster you reach FI. A higher income makes it easier to increase your savings rate. It doesn't make frugality easier, but it makes the goal of FI easier to reach.

Saving4Fire

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #260 on: March 22, 2018, 11:20:01 AM »
I just want to say I completely agree with mathlete and he's doing a great job breaking down his criticisms in a fair and rational manner.   I do not think he's a hater at all.   Frugalwoods is not above reproach.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2018, 12:30:35 PM by PopMegaphone »

calimom

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #261 on: March 22, 2018, 11:35:50 AM »
It does seems that if someone has a blog that primarily focuses on personal finance, and posts their months spending (or the part they want people to see anyhow), that asking about income is not the most outlandish questions in the world.

If someone had a food blog with lovely pictures of say, cupcakes, and a reader wanted to know the recipe of said cupcakes, having the author say "I don't give that out! My recipes are private" makes the blog a bit less informative. That said, any blog owner is free to say whatever they wish. Their blog/their rules.

The FW blog purpose seems to be aspirational lifestyle porn: pretty nature pictures, cute babies, dogs wearing clothes, tractors and such. I think their readers see what they want to see. Nothing wrong with that, but the philosophical ramblings about consumerism and simple living don't provide much actual grit.

crispy

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #262 on: March 22, 2018, 12:22:41 PM »
I think the disconnect is between "we saved a bunch of money and retired early to live our dream life in rural Vermont" when the truth is "we make a lot of money and use it to live our dream life in rural Vermont."  One sells, the other doesn't.  Basically, they are rich people funding a dream life, not average people doing the extraordinary. Most people could "retire" if they could work from home and make a 300K per year income. I could.

That being said, I think mm1970 hit the nail on the head when she stated that they probably do see themselves as average, middle class people of their background and their peer groups. That doesn't mean it is the truth.  That also doesn't mean they are bad people...they have obviously worked hard and have reaped the rewards and that is really commendable. I think people are asking for transparency, but being complete transparent doesn't jive with the narrative they are selling. 

reader321

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #263 on: March 22, 2018, 12:27:34 PM »
I'm so conflicted about FW-- on the one hand, they've made it! And I think they have credibility as advocates of frugality, mindfulness, etc. But as many people here have pointed out, they don't really "own" their story and actually seem to spread misinformation and half-truths about their finances (e.g., that they were normal, middle-class folks working uninteresting, middle-of-the-road non-profit jobs until they were able to move to the woods). It would have been interesting to hear how they managed their careers and negotiated their job offers and salary increases and navigated tricky office politics. Instead "Frugality" is being peddled as a platitude, a solution to everything.

But like others have said, it's dishonest and self-promoting to have a personal finance blog with evasive language about being middle-class when they probably make $400-500k/yr, and then write a memoir that sells people the dream of financial independence through "simple living" instead of grappling with the discomfort of owning your own finances. But their blog/book, their decisions I suppose.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2018, 12:30:31 PM by reader321 »

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #264 on: March 22, 2018, 12:57:24 PM »
I think the disconnect is between "we saved a bunch of money and retired early to live our dream life in rural Vermont" when the truth is "we make a lot of money and use it to live our dream life in rural Vermont."  One sells, the other doesn't.  Basically, they are rich people funding a dream life, not average people doing the extraordinary. Most people could "retire" if they could work from home and make a 300K per year income. I could.

That being said, I think mm1970 hit the nail on the head when she stated that they probably do see themselves as average, middle class people of their background and their peer groups. That doesn't mean it is the truth.  That also doesn't mean they are bad people...they have obviously worked hard and have reaped the rewards and that is really commendable. I think people are asking for transparency, but being complete transparent doesn't jive with the narrative they are selling.

It's sometimes SO HARD for people to step out their bubble.  It doesn't matter the bubble!  I was having a convo with a guy at work this week who recognizes that racism exists but that "being white never got me anything, hard work did!"  I just shrugged because...I'd just got done giving stats on job callbacks based on race.  If you can't see that "hard work" and "privilege" co-exist, I can't argue with you.

FIREandMONEY

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #265 on: March 22, 2018, 01:45:33 PM »
Wow, just on page 6 of this thread, the Frugalwoods went from earning $200K per year, to $300K, then to $400-$500K.

I wish my income went up that fast!

I'm a red panda

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #266 on: March 22, 2018, 02:22:16 PM »
Wow, just on page 6 of this thread, the Frugalwoods went from earning $200K per year, to $300K, then to $400-$500K.

I wish my income went up that fast!

Well Nate alone brings in more than $200k. So that was an underestimate.

I think people thought $150-200k was their combined income. Not only his. You have to put his salary and hers, which includes all her freelance writing and the blog together.

MMM makes over $400k on his blog. Hers isn't heavily monetized, but it is definitely a six figure blog, and she has other projects too.

sui generis

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #267 on: March 22, 2018, 02:30:12 PM »
I think the disconnect is between "we saved a bunch of money and retired early to live our dream life in rural Vermont" when the truth is "we make a lot of money and use it to live our dream life in rural Vermont."  One sells, the other doesn't.  Basically, they are rich people funding a dream life, not average people doing the extraordinary. Most people could "retire" if they could work from home and make a 300K per year income. I could.

That being said, I think mm1970 hit the nail on the head when she stated that they probably do see themselves as average, middle class people of their background and their peer groups. That doesn't mean it is the truth.  That also doesn't mean they are bad people...they have obviously worked hard and have reaped the rewards and that is really commendable. I think people are asking for transparency, but being complete transparent doesn't jive with the narrative they are selling.

It's sometimes SO HARD for people to step out their bubble.  It doesn't matter the bubble!  I was having a convo with a guy at work this week who recognizes that racism exists but that "being white never got me anything, hard work did!"  I just shrugged because...I'd just got done giving stats on job callbacks based on race.  If you can't see that "hard work" and "privilege" co-exist, I can't argue with you.

Totally agree with this and give them lots of credit for what they have legit accomplished and the discussions about privilege that they DO have....while at the same time, it's hard to cut them slack on this.  I make about the same as Mr. FW, my partner maybe makes the same as Mrs. FW did (hard to tell as it appears her salary was harder to pin down) and I live in an even higher COL location than they did before moving to the woods....and there is NO WAY I would ever in my wildest dreams even attempt to tell anyone I make an average salary or that we are an about average household.  Even *within* the Bay Area, our salaries are not average.  And I'm as bubbly as anyone, spending most of my time with data scientists, other lawyers and investment bankers (unfortunately for me) and I still can't imagine the depths of obliviousness one would have to have to, in good faith, call those salaries "standard" or any other similar words they've used over the years.  Honestly, I try to remind myself I can't put myself in other people's shoes, so it may just be that, but let's just say I think it would be fascinating to explore the mind of someone who believes $300k +/- per year is "standard".  There must a lot of other very fascinating stuff in a mind like that!

It's misleading, plain and simple.

Nevertheless, I do still like the perspective of mindfulness and encouragement to frugality as a way to live one's values.  And I mean, as much as there's heated discussion on this thread, it seems like all parties can agree that no one's perfect and there can be value even where there is some serious misleading happening.  It would be nice, though, if they could make some serious attempts at cleaning up the misleading parts.

Saving4Fire

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #268 on: March 22, 2018, 02:37:38 PM »
I think the simpler, and more likely, explanation for the misleading income language is it helps sell the narrative of the blog.  Like sui generis I have a fairly high income (but lower than 225K) and I can't imagine ever using the type of language she uses.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2018, 02:49:30 PM by PopMegaphone »

birdie55

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #269 on: March 22, 2018, 03:15:57 PM »
This is an interesting discussion.  I bought her book and enjoyed it, but I had no idea his salary was so high.
I did wonder when they got another mortgage on the VT house.  Their income had to support two mortgages, or they wouldn't have gotten the loan. 

OutBy40

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #270 on: March 22, 2018, 04:18:28 PM »
I think the simpler, and more likely, explanation for the misleading income language is it helps sell the narrative of the blog.

This is exactly what I'm assuming as well. Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of the FW blog. Though I greatly admire their overall lifestyle, there's just an "I'm a highly-educated, privileged white girl" attitude in her writing that gets old after a while. While I didn't read her book (and do not plan to), I'm convinced that the editorial staff at whatever publishing house is paying her probably believes that the "early retirement" idea will sell more books and create more of a discussion (like it is here) rather than just "living frugally".

As for their income - doesn't really surprise me a bit. I think readers need to take a more critical eye of PF blogs (yes, including mine!) rather than taking what you read at face value.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2018, 04:20:07 PM by OutBy40 »

aspiringnomad

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #271 on: March 22, 2018, 05:27:29 PM »
but it is definitely a six figure blog

Really?! Is it that easy to pull in six figures with a blog?! I knew MMM was raking it in, but also knew his site traffic is crazy high (not to mention the forum traffic).

As a somewhat objective observer here, or at least someone with no opinion coming into this debate, I can honestly see why people feel misled. It seems as though they were intentionally misleading precisely because they made so much money. They probably couldn't believe how much money they made themselves (just a couple of non-profit workers after all) and probably didn't feel rich because they were so intentionally frugal. But yeah, they were income rich and they should probably acknowledge it since it's mostly a matter of public record anyway. And that income surely had a big hand in their FIRE timeline.

Saving4Fire

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #272 on: March 22, 2018, 05:29:55 PM »
I think the simpler, and more likely, explanation for the misleading income language is it helps sell the narrative of the blog.

This is exactly what I'm assuming as well. Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of the FW blog. Though I greatly admire their overall lifestyle, there's just an "I'm a highly-educated, privileged white girl" attitude in her writing that gets old after a while. While I didn't read her book (and do not plan to), I'm convinced that the editorial staff at whatever publishing house is paying her probably believes that the "early retirement" idea will sell more books and create more of a discussion (like it is here) rather than just "living frugally".

As for their income - doesn't really surprise me a bit. I think readers need to take a more critical eye of PF blogs (yes, including mine!) rather than taking what you read at face value.

I don't know, man.  I think "Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence By Making Over 300K" is pretty snappy.

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #273 on: March 22, 2018, 05:39:05 PM »
but it is definitely a six figure blog

Really?! Is it that easy to pull in six figures with a blog?! I knew MMM was raking it in, but also knew his site traffic is crazy high (not to mention the forum traffic).

As a somewhat objective observer here, or at least someone with no opinion coming into this debate, I can honestly see why people feel misled. It seems as though they were intentionally misleading precisely because they made so much money. They probably couldn't believe how much money they made themselves (just a couple of non-profit workers after all) and probably didn't feel rich because they were so intentionally frugal. But yeah, they were income rich and they should probably acknowledge it since it's mostly a matter of public record anyway. And that income surely had a big hand in their FIRE timeline.

I have a friend who pulls in six figures a month with a crafting blog. She works her ass off though. It's a full time job.

There seemed to be a sweet spot to start them. Market is saturated now.

calimom

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #274 on: March 22, 2018, 06:02:08 PM »
but it is definitely a six figure blog

Really?! Is it that easy to pull in six figures with a blog?! I knew MMM was raking it in, but also knew his site traffic is crazy high (not to mention the forum traffic).

As a somewhat objective observer here, or at least someone with no opinion coming into this debate, I can honestly see why people feel misled. It seems as though they were intentionally misleading precisely because they made so much money. They probably couldn't believe how much money they made themselves (just a couple of non-profit workers after all) and probably didn't feel rich because they were so intentionally frugal. But yeah, they were income rich and they should probably acknowledge it since it's mostly a matter of public record anyway. And that income surely had a big hand in their FIRE timeline.

I have a friend who pulls in six figures a month with a crafting blog. She works her ass off though. It's a full time job.

There seemed to be a sweet spot to start them. Market is saturated now.

Many of the comments on the FW blog appear to be from bloggers who are hoping to drive traffic to their own projects. Blogging for a living seems like selling real estate: most make little to no money, others do pretty well, and some are just crushing it.

Lance Hiruma

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #275 on: March 22, 2018, 07:14:44 PM »
WGBH, where Mrs. FW worked, is one of the largest and most successful PBS stations in the country.  In an article published in 2011, WGBH was criticized for their high salary ranges:

https://current.org/2011/03/boston-herald-reports-on-wgbh-salaries-14-employees-make-more-than-200000/


According to the 2016 PF990 for WGBH, the VP of Development (which is the department Mrs. FW worked in and seemed to be pretty senior in) earned over $291k:

https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/42104397/201701319349304690/IRS990

According to the same document, WGBH had over 195 employees in 2016 who made over $100k.  I would not be surprised if Mrs. FW's salary was at least in that range, given her position (Manager of Donor Relations and Communications -- probably one or maybe two management levels below the VP)

She was not working for a scrappy, local community development or social services non-profit.
Lhamo is such a good investigator. Truth is of paramount importance. Thank you for the info!

birdman2003

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #276 on: March 23, 2018, 08:16:24 AM »
Whew. Read through this thread. Time for a seltzer water break.

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #277 on: March 23, 2018, 08:49:14 AM »
Whew. Read through this thread. Time for a seltzer water break.
I see what you did there.

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #278 on: March 23, 2018, 08:58:50 AM »
Me too. Are we all done now?

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #279 on: March 23, 2018, 09:00:22 AM »
It does seems that if someone has a blog that primarily focuses on personal finance, and posts their months spending (or the part they want people to see anyhow), that asking about income is not the most outlandish questions in the world.

If someone had a food blog with lovely pictures of say, cupcakes, and a reader wanted to know the recipe of said cupcakes, having the author say "I don't give that out! My recipes are private" makes the blog a bit less informative. That said, any blog owner is free to say whatever they wish. Their blog/their rules.

The FW blog purpose seems to be aspirational lifestyle porn: pretty nature pictures, cute babies, dogs wearing clothes, tractors and such. I think their readers see what they want to see. Nothing wrong with that, but the philosophical ramblings about consumerism and simple living don't provide much actual grit.

Many of the comments on the FW blog appear to be from bloggers who are hoping to drive traffic to their own projects. Blogging for a living seems like selling real estate: most make little to no money, others do pretty well, and some are just crushing it.

calimom is killing it with these two posts. Superb take.

RelaxedGal

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #280 on: March 23, 2018, 10:40:38 AM »
Wow, just on page 6 of this thread, the Frugalwoods went from earning $200K per year, to $300K, then to $400-$500K.

I wish my income went up that fast!
Hahahahhahaha! 

I think people thought $150-200k was their combined income. Not only his. You have to put his salary and hers, which includes all her freelance writing and the blog together.
Yep, I got the impression from the blog that he was an average programmer (~$100,000/yr here in Boston, +- $35,000) and she was making something like $65,000.  So my guess was right in line with iowajes.

I still get value out of the "ruthless prioritization" side of the blog.  And I'm a voyeur who likes it for the pictures and the first hand experience posts.  And I'm still waiting for them to totally crash and burn out on country living after living in the city.  It seems less and less likely with each passing day and happy post but after reading the book I see that they usually do things for about 2 years before getting sick of it, so I'll keep tuning in.  For their sakes I hope they've finally found happiness.

Tyson

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #281 on: March 23, 2018, 02:07:32 PM »
Quote from: MrMoneyMustache
I find that when people earn their freedom from money constraints, they usually donít stop working. Instead they start doing their best work. Looking at many of societyís highest achievers right now, the world leaders and founders of the most productive companies, I see mostly people who have already made it. And yet are still working because it means something to them.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/04/15/great-news-early-retirement-doesnt-mean-youll-stop-working/

I was reading this today on the MMM blog and thought of this tread.  I tend to agree - becoming FI doesn't necessarily mean people stop working or even want to.  IMO the real gift of FI is that you don't have to do things "for the money" anymore, and can just do things that are important to you.  I suspect the FWs are like this. 

I'm a red panda

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #282 on: March 23, 2018, 03:03:46 PM »
Quote from: MrMoneyMustache
I find that when people earn their freedom from money constraints, they usually donít stop working. Instead they start doing their best work. Looking at many of societyís highest achievers right now, the world leaders and founders of the most productive companies, I see mostly people who have already made it. And yet are still working because it means something to them.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/04/15/great-news-early-retirement-doesnt-mean-youll-stop-working/

I was reading this today on the MMM blog and thought of this tread.  I tend to agree - becoming FI doesn't necessarily mean people stop working or even want to.  IMO the real gift of FI is that you don't have to do things "for the money" anymore, and can just do things that are important to you.  I suspect the FWs are like this.

"Retirement" by definition means ceasing to work.  It makes no sense to use it to mean anything other than that.

FI doesn't mean ceasing to work; but when people claim to be retired and aren't- why even have words? Until this recent media blast, I'd never seen the FWs claim to be retired, though MMM claims that. I don't think either is retired.  Both are FI, of course.

Tyson

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #283 on: March 23, 2018, 03:11:44 PM »
Quote from: MrMoneyMustache
I find that when people earn their freedom from money constraints, they usually donít stop working. Instead they start doing their best work. Looking at many of societyís highest achievers right now, the world leaders and founders of the most productive companies, I see mostly people who have already made it. And yet are still working because it means something to them.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/04/15/great-news-early-retirement-doesnt-mean-youll-stop-working/

I was reading this today on the MMM blog and thought of this tread.  I tend to agree - becoming FI doesn't necessarily mean people stop working or even want to.  IMO the real gift of FI is that you don't have to do things "for the money" anymore, and can just do things that are important to you.  I suspect the FWs are like this.

"Retirement" by definition means ceasing to work.  It makes no sense to use it to mean anything other than that.

FI doesn't mean ceasing to work; but when people claim to be retired and aren't- why even have words? Until this recent media blast, I'd never seen the FWs claim to be retired, though MMM claims that. I don't think either is retired.  Both are FI, of course.

I think you missed my point.  For some people, becoming FI doesn't mean you stop working.  It means you are free to do some of your best work.  So you end up making piles more money after "FI" than you did during the frugal/savings times leading up to FI. 

I do think this is what happens with some of the more successful bloggers in the FI community - they 'made it', but kept working and now have even more income/wealth than before they 'made it'.  Some people on this thread make it sound like there's some hidden conspiracy by FI bloggers to hide their income with the implication that the FI bloggers are somehow dependent upon the new revenue stream.  Which sounds like crazytown conspiracy theories to me.

I do agree though, that if you do make a ton of money or income even after FI, you should disclose it.  MMM does and I think it's a good example to follow.

sui generis

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #284 on: March 23, 2018, 03:28:07 PM »

FI doesn't mean ceasing to work; but when people claim to be retired and aren't- why even have words? Until this recent media blast, I'd never seen the FWs claim to be retired, though MMM claims that. I don't think either is retired.  Both are FI, of course.
Agreed.  Even being quite new to "the community" I see there is a lot of disdain for the "Retirement Police" that harp on this, but honestly language is utilitarian so consistency in words helps a lot.  Every time I search on "early retirement" all I get is a bunch of people working harder than ever but that just have a lot of money in the bank.  Maybe what I'm looking for - people that are actually not working and have no active income many years before traditional retirement age - is buried somewhere beneath all those results, but I can't find much of it because there's so much conflation of *actual* retirement with the idea of just having enough money that you *could* retire if you wanted.  These things are very different.

ETA: I kinda think I finally did find what I'm looking for here, though, if I find the right journals here to follow as well as the post-FIRE subforum :)

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #285 on: March 23, 2018, 04:01:40 PM »

I am all for sourcing out used things, but when you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, maybe one shouldn't be so anxious to get the used item that someone else making a lot less money than you might need.


I'm really perplexed by this comment. If I make 100k a year or more, I shouldn't thrift shop because someone making less might want the same item I do?

I'm not allowed to be 'thrifty' if I have a large income?

honeybbq

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #286 on: March 23, 2018, 04:17:00 PM »
I don't read frugalwoods and don't care one way or the other but I think a lot of high income people describe themselves as 'average' because:

- they don't have a butler/chauffeur/full time house help
- drive Hondas or other used cars
-don't live in a mcMansion
- don't fly first class jet setting around the world

I really think average == millionaire next door type in their vernacular.

I know my salary is no where near median or average but my lifestyle and spending is pretty darn mainstream.

Tyson

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #287 on: March 23, 2018, 04:55:30 PM »

FI doesn't mean ceasing to work; but when people claim to be retired and aren't- why even have words? Until this recent media blast, I'd never seen the FWs claim to be retired, though MMM claims that. I don't think either is retired.  Both are FI, of course.
Agreed.  Even being quite new to "the community" I see there is a lot of disdain for the "Retirement Police" that harp on this, but honestly language is utilitarian so consistency in words helps a lot.  Every time I search on "early retirement" all I get is a bunch of people working harder than ever but that just have a lot of money in the bank.  Maybe what I'm looking for - people that are actually not working and have no active income many years before traditional retirement age - is buried somewhere beneath all those results, but I can't find much of it because there's so much conflation of *actual* retirement with the idea of just having enough money that you *could* retire if you wanted.  These things are very different.

ETA: I kinda think I finally did find what I'm looking for here, though, if I find the right journals here to follow as well as the post-FIRE subforum :)

Post-FIRE subforum is awesome!

gettingtoyes

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #288 on: March 23, 2018, 06:44:55 PM »

I am all for sourcing out used things, but when you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, maybe one shouldn't be so anxious to get the used item that someone else making a lot less money than you might need.


I'm really perplexed by this comment. If I make 100k a year or more, I shouldn't thrift shop because someone making less might want the same item I do?

I'm not allowed to be 'thrifty' if I have a large income?

As you quote, I said I was "all for sourcing out used things." And that doesn't depend on one's income level. As I said in my post, getting used items is great for the planet and I encourage anyone of any income level to do so.

What I object to is her voicing this anxiety about being able to get the used item as fast she possibly could before anyone else could, as though her life will be upended unless she gets it. She talks about how she literally ran into to the store to grab it as fast as she could before anyone else got it as soon as she heard about it. It's one thing to go "oh I heard that the jogging stroller I wanted was at the thrift store, I should go get it" versus acting as though the world will come crashing down if one doesn't get it. Half of the post is dedicated to this anxiety about being able to get a jogging stroller...and I can't help but roll my eyes at the unnecessary drama, considering they make in excess of $200k, likely $300k per year based on the IRS tax filings.

Let me clear- I still read FW and I do enjoy the experience for the most part. It's the charade that bothers me more than anything else.

nick663

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #289 on: March 23, 2018, 08:25:08 PM »
WGBH, where Mrs. FW worked, is one of the largest and most successful PBS stations in the country.  In an article published in 2011, WGBH was criticized for their high salary ranges:

https://current.org/2011/03/boston-herald-reports-on-wgbh-salaries-14-employees-make-more-than-200000/


According to the 2016 PF990 for WGBH, the VP of Development (which is the department Mrs. FW worked in and seemed to be pretty senior in) earned over $291k:

https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/42104397/201701319349304690/IRS990

According to the same document, WGBH had over 195 employees in 2016 who made over $100k.  I would not be surprised if Mrs. FW's salary was at least in that range, given her position (Manager of Donor Relations and Communications -- probably one or maybe two management levels below the VP)

She was not working for a scrappy, local community development or social services non-profit.
Not to throw cold water on this but glassdoor has salaries in the 50-70k for various titles with "manager" in them at WGBH:
https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/WGBH-Boston-Salaries-EI_IE27056.0,4_IL.5,11_IM109.htm?filter.jobTitleFTS=manager

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #290 on: March 24, 2018, 05:57:53 AM »
WGBH, where Mrs. FW worked, is one of the largest and most successful PBS stations in the country.  In an article published in 2011, WGBH was criticized for their high salary ranges:

https://current.org/2011/03/boston-herald-reports-on-wgbh-salaries-14-employees-make-more-than-200000/


According to the 2016 PF990 for WGBH, the VP of Development (which is the department Mrs. FW worked in and seemed to be pretty senior in) earned over $291k:

https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/42104397/201701319349304690/IRS990

According to the same document, WGBH had over 195 employees in 2016 who made over $100k.  I would not be surprised if Mrs. FW's salary was at least in that range, given her position (Manager of Donor Relations and Communications -- probably one or maybe two management levels below the VP)

She was not working for a scrappy, local community development or social services non-profit.
Not to throw cold water on this but glassdoor has salaries in the 50-70k for various titles with "manager" in them at WGBH:
https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/WGBH-Boston-Salaries-EI_IE27056.0,4_IL.5,11_IM109.htm?filter.jobTitleFTS=manager

Your link includes positions far below a department manager. Based on knowledge of the area and the sector, that position would have been paid a minimum of $70K in 2016.   

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #291 on: March 24, 2018, 06:41:01 AM »
I do agree though, that if you do make a ton of money or income even after FI, you should disclose it.  MMM does and I think it's a good example to follow.
Hmmm, I must have missed that. Can you provide any links to MMM's recent actual annual income that he has personally disclosed?

Edited to clarify I am not referring to pre-FIRE income.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2018, 06:45:05 AM by Dicey »

johndoe

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #292 on: March 24, 2018, 08:44:58 AM »
Saw this without previously hearing of FW:
https://theoutline.com/post/3840/frugalwoods-frugality-millennials?zd=1&zi=c76n2354

IMO the whiny tone is pretty funny.  The author's focus on the generational (millenials "vs" boomers) aspect is also good for some laughs.

skp

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #293 on: March 24, 2018, 03:58:18 PM »
I'm always late to the game and have just started following the frugalwoods.  The blog is good. I like her down to earth personality.  I read it more for "what's new on the farm" than for financial reasons.  Kind of like watching Pioneer woman for "what's new on the ranch" instead of the recipes. 
Money wise I don't see her being all that special.  Her monthly budgets are right about on target with mine already, although I do like her cell service- going to look into that one.   I don't get the recent purchase of apple cider equipment.  That sounds more like a (expensive) hobby than something useful to me.  I have several apple trees in my yard.  I make applebutter applesauce, dried apples, and bake apple desserts Sept thru Nov.  I'm appled out by the end of the season.   None of that requires any special equipment.  I priced cider equipment and shut that idea down.  How much cider is one person going to drink anyway.  It seems to me buying apple cider equipment is more like "playing" at being frugal.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2018, 04:17:24 PM by skp »

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #294 on: March 24, 2018, 04:57:35 PM »
I'm always late to the game and have just started following the frugalwoods.  The blog is good. I like her down to earth personality.  I read it more for "what's new on the farm" than for financial reasons.  Kind of like watching Pioneer woman for "what's new on the ranch" instead of the recipes. 
Money wise I don't see her being all that special.  Her monthly budgets are right about on target with mine already, although I do like her cell service- going to look into that one.   I don't get the recent purchase of apple cider equipment.  That sounds more like a (expensive) hobby than something useful to me.  I have several apple trees in my yard.  I make applebutter applesauce, dried apples, and bake apple desserts Sept thru Nov.  I'm appled out by the end of the season.   None of that requires any special equipment.  I priced cider equipment and shut that idea down.  How much cider is one person going to drink anyway.  It seems to me buying apple cider equipment is more like "playing" at being frugal.
I suspect they have a plan involving hard cider...


I am all for sourcing out used things, but when you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, maybe one shouldn't be so anxious to get the used item that someone else making a lot less money than you might need.


I'm really perplexed by this comment. If I make 100k a year or more, I shouldn't thrift shop because someone making less might want the same item I do?

I'm not allowed to be 'thrifty' if I have a large income?

As you quote, I said I was "all for sourcing out used things." And that doesn't depend on one's income level. As I said in my post, getting used items is great for the planet and I encourage anyone of any income level to do so.

What I object to is her voicing this anxiety about being able to get the used item as fast she possibly could before anyone else could, as though her life will be upended unless she gets it. She talks about how she literally ran into to the store to grab it as fast as she could before anyone else got it as soon as she heard about it. It's one thing to go "oh I heard that the jogging stroller I wanted was at the thrift store, I should go get it" versus acting as though the world will come crashing down if one doesn't get it. Half of the post is dedicated to this anxiety about being able to get a jogging stroller...and I can't help but roll my eyes at the unnecessary drama, considering they make in excess of $200k, likely $300k per year based on the IRS tax filings.

Let me clear- I still read FW and I do enjoy the experience for the most part. It's the charade that bothers me more than anything else.

Wow! You've never seen people flip over a bargain? Seriously? Or perhaps there is an income limit above which one is not allowed to get excited? That sounds snarky, but it's not my intent. I read it like she might have been about to give up and pull the trigger on a new one (see: log splitter, cider press) so she was thrilled to find a used option. I've never shopped on Black Friday, but I hear the giddy excitement over "deals" on shit no one needs is legend. Meh, she can have this cheap thrill. A stroller is not the same as a 100" TV.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #295 on: March 25, 2018, 09:04:32 AM »
Saw this without previously hearing of FW:
https://theoutline.com/post/3840/frugalwoods-frugality-millennials?zd=1&zi=c76n2354

IMO the whiny tone is pretty funny.  The author's focus on the generational (millenials "vs" boomers) aspect is also good for some laughs.

I actually found this pretty compelling. Thanks for the link.

I don't agree with all of it, but it does make me think. No doubt, these frugal early retiree millionaire stories do a lot of good. But I have to wonder how much it reinforces negative stereotypes against young people. A wide audience sees their story and thinks, "See, these young people can do it, what's wrong with the rest of the lazy lot?" while not understanding how exceptional these people really are. And certainly not understanding the broader challenges facing today's young people, like historic home unaffordability, stagnate wages, and ballooning tuition and healthcare costs.

I place a lot of the blame on the media for this. I'm a big fan of journalism and I've become quite the vocal defender of it since 2016, but I think the PBSs, NPRs, Yahoos, and Guardians of the world get duped by bloggers into basically generating free publicity when they produce incredibly lazy and shallow puff pieces.

exit2019

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #296 on: March 25, 2018, 10:12:51 AM »
So the Frugalwoods had high incomes and aren't really retired; they are seemingly really financially independent and have found careers that they can use to give them the lives they want.  I kind of envy where they are and that they got there so young.

Maybe people are upset about the Frugalwoods because they're highlighting the obvious unpleasant truth.

Basically:

1. there are limits to what you can achieve with frugality alone
2. it is far, far easier to reach financial independence if you have higher income (or other sources of money, obviously)
3. there are vastly different grades of FIRE mostly dictated by stache size (entirely dependent on (2))
4. a lot of the community seemingly focuses ONLY on frugality and not at all on the input side of wealth building
5. the bloggers in the community cater to (4)
6. on top of all of that, the FI blogger community in general has a ton of survivorship bias baked into almost every topic (examples: a lot of the community seems to believe they'll never get sick, there is very little attention paid to the  differences between luck-of-birth-date investment cohorts, time-and-effort-intensive frugal lifestyles are probably not sustainable long term, etc.)

The Frugalwoods are coy on the input side of the equation, but so is almost everyone else.  It seems to me that almost the entire blog and podcast space is full of people who basically market around simple living as the key path to FI just like the Frugalwoods but, like the Frugalwoods, are mostly the beneficiaries of high incomes coupled with savings and many are, like the Frugalwoods, not really retired.  I only discovered this whole community a few weeks ago and that was pretty much the first thing I noticed. 

crimwell

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #297 on: March 25, 2018, 10:43:42 AM »
Going public with this information is not a good idea.
If I exposed my financial situation or FIRE goals, it would be career suicide.

Haha, I wonder what Nate's subordinates at work think? "Regular, normal salary, huh? I wish I had a regular, normal salary then, how you about you give me a raise?"

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #298 on: March 25, 2018, 12:21:55 PM »
Going public with this information is not a good idea.
If I exposed my financial situation or FIRE goals, it would be career suicide.

Haha, I wonder what Nate's subordinates at work think? "Regular, normal salary, huh? I wish I had a regular, normal salary then, how you about you give me a raise?"
Nate works from home, so not much water cooler razzing, I'd guess.

And to @exit2019, I really enjoyed your post. However, I do not believe the FW have made any claim to early retirement.

crimwell

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #299 on: March 25, 2018, 01:27:37 PM »
Ok, I read through the whole thread 😂

Wow, huge amount of inexplicably defending the frugalwoods' misrepresentation of their financial inputs. They did great, and are admirable examples. But not examples of the power of frugality when you have a normal salary. Examples of the power of mindful living when you have a fantastic top 3% salary, yes. If they presented themselves like that (see, for eg, Physician on Fire) they wouldn't get as much backlash here, although they would probably still get similar backlash from the general public.

V impressed to see @mathlete engaging so thoughtfully here. you're a better person than I, but also see https://xkcd.com/386/

 Also weird to see these expensive hobby purchases (cider press) defended as necessities. I don't even think Mrs FW would claim that purchase was somehow required by their choice to live on a spacious estate. I mean, I'd buy one too, that sounds like fun. But hard cider is a luxury, let's remember. And having a 66 acre estate is a luxury too. That's not a working farm or even a self sufficient homestead. It's just an awesome fancy house in the woods. Again, really cool place to live, but definitely not a frugal choice. Mindful choice because that's what they value, yes.

Also to be fair, the form 990s for act blue show that Nate made a relatively normal software engineer salary before 2014 (it was like $120k and $130k in 2012 and 2013, can't remember exactly since I looked it up yesterday), although probably on the high side for a nonprofit. He got a huge boost from 2014 onward, and they undoubtedly wouldn't have been able to reach their goals that quickly without that:
http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=Actblue&st=MA&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Search