Author Topic: What's up with the Frugalwoods?  (Read 140803 times)

FIPurpose

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #550 on: October 23, 2019, 08:54:15 AM »
I hope they end up eventually funding one of their community's resource centers or investing in some local improvements. Frugality is only a nice trait when you don't have the money.


They talk about their Donor Advised Funds all the time and how giving back is incredibly important to them. But I really want to respond to "Frugality is only a nice trait when you don't have money." How do you stomach reading MMM then? He is the epitome of being overly frugal while still having a lot of money. Doesn't compute.

I don't know that I really like MMM's posts much anymore. I just come here for the forum now. Maybe frugality is the wrong word here? Because I can recall multiple times where MMM talks about buying pricier coffee, organic produce, low-carb dieting for health, makes regular upgrades to his home that are completely superfluous. But also MMM never suggested that he made a low income. In fact, he mentions that he could do it so quickly only because both he and his wife were both making 6 figures.

Some of the Frugalwoods' suggestions are more on the level of ERE's posts. Now I haven't read the Frugalwoods blog in years. Maybe they've changed the tone of blog since this thread began. I'll go check right now...

It's cutesy. Lots of Reader Case Study posts and a lot about the weekly happenings what they're doing with their land. Looks like she has a formula that she sticks to now. I'll check the about page..

Quote
Through the application of frugality–coupled with good incomes and judicious financial management–my husband and I have created a life that we love living every single day. It’s not a life beholden to consumerism or the drive for material perfection or the incessant clarion call for more.

I'm getting the sense that she is changing her language around this. However, even saying "good incomes" brings to mind "oh like one was a school teacher and the other was an engineer and they made like 120k combined?". Frugality around saving 5% on their grocery bill wouldn't change their outcome. Great info for people who only make 40k. Not much point beyond frugal bragging if you're making 250k. (So for both MMM and Frugalwoods, I think they need to add their time spent to money-saving activities. Sometimes that trade-off is not worth it)

MonkeyJenga

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #551 on: October 23, 2019, 09:29:00 AM »
In fact, he mentions that he could do it so quickly only because both he and his wife were both making 6 figures.

Where did you see that? This post says he got to six figures for the second half of his career, but she topped out at 70k in her last year.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/15/a-brief-history-of-the-stash-how-we-saved-from-zero-to-retirement-in-ten-years/

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #552 on: October 23, 2019, 10:21:29 AM »
Great info for people who only make 40k. Not much point beyond frugal bragging if you're making 250k.

This is the part of this discussion that I don't understand. What does their income have to do with their frugality advice?

I haven't read enough Frugalwoods to have a solid understanding of what kind of advice they offer, but good advice is good advice. If Warren Buffett told me cabbage and carrots are a good way to get your 5 servings of vegetables on a budget, he's not wrong just because the savings represent .000000001% of his net worth. (Did I use enough 0's? :)

FIPurpose

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #553 on: October 23, 2019, 10:36:05 AM »
In fact, he mentions that he could do it so quickly only because both he and his wife were both making 6 figures.

Where did you see that? This post says he got to six figures for the second half of his career, but she topped out at 70k in her last year.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/15/a-brief-history-of-the-stash-how-we-saved-from-zero-to-retirement-in-ten-years/

Ok uh forgot. I read through MMM's blog 5-6 years ago. But that makes the point stronger. MMM never made the amount of money the frugalwoods did during his working career. It's only with this blog that he really made it to multi-millionaire status. With his divorce though, I imagine that he's currently sitting around 3MM or so.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #554 on: October 23, 2019, 10:39:08 AM »
This is the part of this discussion that I don't understand. What does their income have to do with their frugality advice?

I haven't read enough Frugalwoods to have a solid understanding of what kind of advice they offer, but good advice is good advice. If Warren Buffett told me cabbage and carrots are a good way to get your 5 servings of vegetables on a budget, he's not wrong just because the savings represent .000000001% of his net worth. (Did I use enough 0's? :)

They're willfully creating a false impression that every day frugality like skipping haircuts is germane to the financial flexibility of their lifestyle. It's not. Cutting your own hair to save $20 is a survival mechanism for the poor. For middle income people, maybe it's a way to get ahead on retirement savings. For people in the upper stratosphere, it's play-pretend in order to service an image that helps sell books and ad impressions.

It's not like they murdered anyone or anything, but many people, myself include, have the opinion that this is a pretty scummy thing to do.

FIPurpose

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #555 on: October 23, 2019, 10:56:55 AM »
Great info for people who only make 40k. Not much point beyond frugal bragging if you're making 250k.

This is the part of this discussion that I don't understand. What does their income have to do with their frugality advice?

I haven't read enough Frugalwoods to have a solid understanding of what kind of advice they offer, but good advice is good advice. If Warren Buffett told me cabbage and carrots are a good way to get your 5 servings of vegetables on a budget, he's not wrong just because the savings represent .000000001% of his net worth. (Did I use enough 0's? :)

Warren doesn't eat cabbage and carrots to get his 5 vegetables a day. He can eat whatever he wants. So what would Warren know about what it's like to eat carrots and cabbage day-in and day-out? Even if Warren does do an experiment and eats only cabbage and carrots to prove that one can do it. He still has the money and knowledge that he gets to stop eating carrots and cabbage after so many days or weeks. Unless he gives away all of his money and lives the rest of his life as a pauper, he won't know what that's like. He's giving advice for a life that he has never lived.

The same, as far as I know, goes for the Frugalwoods. They make a lot of money. Their frugality is a choice that they make, not a necessity, nor, I would argue, does it meaningfully change their net worth. I assume that they also have >3MM saved and therefor could double their spending without breaking the bank. Their high net worth came from their prudence with managing a high income, not from eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast everyday or only drinking the work coffee.

It's the same reason that people who do "food stamp" challenges, say it's easy, and then go back to their regular life don't have the perspective to "know" what living on food stamps is actually like.

MMM on the other hand very openly declares that his advice is mostly for mid-to-high income earners. It's possible to do while only making 50k, but he doesn't have that experience. So he can only talk about it theoretically. The Frugalwoods, to my knowledge, do not make this distinction.

MonkeyJenga

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #556 on: October 23, 2019, 11:15:25 AM »
This is the part of this discussion that I don't understand. What does their income have to do with their frugality advice?

I haven't read enough Frugalwoods to have a solid understanding of what kind of advice they offer, but good advice is good advice. If Warren Buffett told me cabbage and carrots are a good way to get your 5 servings of vegetables on a budget, he's not wrong just because the savings represent .000000001% of his net worth. (Did I use enough 0's? :)

They're willfully creating a false impression that every day frugality like skipping haircuts is germane to the financial flexibility of their lifestyle. It's not. Cutting your own hair to save $20 is a survival mechanism for the poor. For middle income people, maybe it's a way to get ahead on retirement savings. For people in the upper stratosphere, it's play-pretend in order to service an image that helps sell books and ad impressions.

It's not like they murdered anyone or anything, but many people, myself include, have the opinion that this is a pretty scummy thing to do.

When did they start making such large combined incomes? I thought they were legitimately in need of all those cost-cutting tactics when they were going through school, and maybe first starting out in their careers. Once it's a habit, it's hard to break out of it.

I did think they were in the same league as me, income-wise, when I read the blog back in the day. They... were not.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #557 on: October 23, 2019, 11:51:10 AM »
When did they start making such large combined incomes? I thought they were legitimately in need of all those cost-cutting tactics when they were going through school, and maybe first starting out in their careers. Once it's a habit, it's hard to break out of it.

I did think they were in the same league as me, income-wise, when I read the blog back in the day. They... were not.

I'm unsure. Any research I did on them would have been well over a year ago at this point. But I'm fairly certain that they've been very high earners for the entirety of their public life.

No shame on those making lots of money. I make good money too. But I recognize that I make good money. I'm comfortably in the top 10% of all earners, and the top 1% of my fellow millennials. I would never try to imply that my earnings arc is normal or average, because that's empirically untrue.  I also like doing frugal things. I meal-prep 11/21 meals a week. I do it because it's healthier and more convenient though. And yes, a little bit because I cringe at the thought of spending $8 on lunch, like I do when I forget to bring my lunch to work, or get lazy with the prep. But that's different from implying that meal-prep is integral or even meaningful to my overall financial success.

FW seem like very lovely people, but I think they would do well (though maybe not financially) to unwind frugality from the overall narrative of their success.

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #558 on: October 23, 2019, 12:22:02 PM »
I think the message that frugality is not just for poor people or working class incomes, but everyone can do it is actually a worthwhile message.

I also think that the idea that "they make so much money that their frugal choices don't matter", while true, also miss the point a bit. 

For example, if someone said the same thing about them making environmentally friendly choices like, oh I don't know, recycling.  The same argument would be "the amount they recycle is so small that their choices don't matter".  Again, technically that's true.  So should they stop recycling? 

Some things are inherently good habits to have, IMO, regardless of income level.  I wish the Frugalwoods had focused on that as their message, it would have been pretty powerful, I feel.

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #559 on: October 23, 2019, 01:00:55 PM »
This is the part of this discussion that I don't understand. What does their income have to do with their frugality advice?

I haven't read enough Frugalwoods to have a solid understanding of what kind of advice they offer, but good advice is good advice. If Warren Buffett told me cabbage and carrots are a good way to get your 5 servings of vegetables on a budget, he's not wrong just because the savings represent .000000001% of his net worth. (Did I use enough 0's? :)

They're willfully creating a false impression that every day frugality like skipping haircuts is germane to the financial flexibility of their lifestyle. It's not. Cutting your own hair to save $20 is a survival mechanism for the poor. For middle income people, maybe it's a way to get ahead on retirement savings. For people in the upper stratosphere, it's play-pretend in order to service an image that helps sell books and ad impressions.

It's not like they murdered anyone or anything, but many people, myself include, have the opinion that this is a pretty scummy thing to do.

It sounds like you don't like being misled. I can get on board with that. For me personally, I would prefer a blogger to be completely up front about the details and I wouldn't stop reading just because they have a high income. But I also accept that admitting their income would have turned a lot of readers away, many of whom ended up learning from the blog and improving their own lives using the FW's advice. If they had turned their nose up at the blog due to the writer's income, they would have missed out on something useful. Whether it was the best choice or not, we can never know, but I think it was a defensible choice. Probably a little selfish too, but I wouldn't go so far as "scummy".

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #560 on: October 23, 2019, 01:15:46 PM »
This is the part of this discussion that I don't understand. What does their income have to do with their frugality advice?

I haven't read enough Frugalwoods to have a solid understanding of what kind of advice they offer, but good advice is good advice. If Warren Buffett told me cabbage and carrots are a good way to get your 5 servings of vegetables on a budget, he's not wrong just because the savings represent .000000001% of his net worth. (Did I use enough 0's? :)

They're willfully creating a false impression that every day frugality like skipping haircuts is germane to the financial flexibility of their lifestyle. It's not. Cutting your own hair to save $20 is a survival mechanism for the poor. For middle income people, maybe it's a way to get ahead on retirement savings. For people in the upper stratosphere, it's play-pretend in order to service an image that helps sell books and ad impressions.

It's not like they murdered anyone or anything, but many people, myself include, have the opinion that this is a pretty scummy thing to do.

As for whether or not saving $20 $60-$520/year* will help one get ahead on retirement savings, it will, to the tune of about $20. But more importantly, the message isn't "this is how we FIRE'd and you can to" it's "Here are some ways that you can have more options in life". (and again, I wasn't a reader from the beginning. They may have updated this message as time went on.)

While their more "extreme" frugality practices like home haircuts and working in exchange for yoga classes may not have been critical to their savings rate, the frugality mindset absolutely was. The norm for people who earn what they earn is to spend the majority of their income and be caught in the same trap as so many are, regardless of income. So would you acknowledge that their choice to buy used, reliable vehicles rather than a brand new car every few years contributed to their financial independence? Assuming your answer is yes, should they limit themselves to writing about the big ticket items like vehicles and housing? Are they not allowed to write about cooking with rice and beans because it represents too small of a % of their income? And if so, what is the cutoff? At what % of their income should they not give advice?

*based on the lowest and highest annual cost of haircuts for men that I personally know. At least double this for a couple.

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #561 on: October 23, 2019, 01:34:46 PM »
Great info for people who only make 40k. Not much point beyond frugal bragging if you're making 250k.

This is the part of this discussion that I don't understand. What does their income have to do with their frugality advice?

I haven't read enough Frugalwoods to have a solid understanding of what kind of advice they offer, but good advice is good advice. If Warren Buffett told me cabbage and carrots are a good way to get your 5 servings of vegetables on a budget, he's not wrong just because the savings represent .000000001% of his net worth. (Did I use enough 0's? :)

Warren doesn't eat cabbage and carrots to get his 5 vegetables a day. He can eat whatever he wants. So what would Warren know about what it's like to eat carrots and cabbage day-in and day-out? Even if Warren does do an experiment and eats only cabbage and carrots to prove that one can do it. He still has the money and knowledge that he gets to stop eating carrots and cabbage after so many days or weeks. Unless he gives away all of his money and lives the rest of his life as a pauper, he won't know what that's like. He's giving advice for a life that he has never lived.

The same, as far as I know, goes for the Frugalwoods. They make a lot of money. Their frugality is a choice that they make, not a necessity, nor, I would argue, does it meaningfully change their net worth. I assume that they also have >3MM saved and therefor could double their spending without breaking the bank. Their high net worth came from their prudence with managing a high income, not from eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast everyday or only drinking the work coffee.

It's the same reason that people who do "food stamp" challenges, say it's easy, and then go back to their regular life don't have the perspective to "know" what living on food stamps is actually like.

MMM on the other hand very openly declares that his advice is mostly for mid-to-high income earners. It's possible to do while only making 50k, but he doesn't have that experience. So he can only talk about it theoretically. The Frugalwoods, to my knowledge, do not make this distinction.

I'm afraid I don't entirely see your point.

Does someone's advice carry more weight if they've lived it? Yes, on that we agree.

Is their advice wrong because they haven't lived it? I don't think so. Is this what you're saying?

And in FW's case, they fall somewhere in between. They have lived it, as they actually do the things they recommend, but they did it with the knowledge that they didn't need to, which I'll agree makes it easier*.


*I would argue that in some circumstances necessity actually makes things easier from a motivation standpoint, but we don't need to get into that debate. I agree with your general assertion that it's not the same when you have a massive income.


It's the same reason that people who do "food stamp" challenges, say it's easy, and then go back to their regular life don't have the perspective to "know" what living on food stamps is actually like.


Sure, but this isn't what the FWs do. If they were to conduct "challenges" where they limit their spending for short amounts of time and then told everyone how easy it is to live like that full time, I would criticize them too. Have they ever done this?
« Last Edit: October 23, 2019, 01:36:38 PM by Davnasty »

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #562 on: October 23, 2019, 01:55:37 PM »
It sounds like you don't like being misled. I can get on board with that. For me personally, I would prefer a blogger to be completely up front about the details and I wouldn't stop reading just because they have a high income. But I also accept that admitting their income would have turned a lot of readers away, many of whom ended up learning from the blog and improving their own lives using the FW's advice. If they had turned their nose up at the blog due to the writer's income, they would have missed out on something useful. Whether it was the best choice or not, we can never know, but I think it was a defensible choice. Probably a little selfish too, but I wouldn't go so far as "scummy".

Personally, I don't feel misled. Because I was never a reader to begin with and I consider myself very smart and able to see things for what they are. But I do believe that they're purposefully being misleading, and I have reason to believe others, who may not be as vigilant as I am, have been misled.

Somewhere in this very long and old thread, I made a statement about how we as a society allow rich people to engage in dishonesty with impunity. The Frugalwoods shit is a small example of a very very very big problem. That explains most of my continued engagement on the topic.

I'll also openly cop to having a lower barometer for "scummy" than a lot of people probably have.

As for whether or not saving $20 $60-$520/year* will help one get ahead on retirement savings, it will, to the tune of about $20. But more importantly, the message isn't "this is how we FIRE'd and you can to" it's "Here are some ways that you can have more options in life". (and again, I wasn't a reader from the beginning. They may have updated this message as time went on.)

I disagree with the bold. They very purposefully lead with frugality and obfuscate the role that high income plays. After all, the blog is called "Frugalwoods", not "My husband's mega-high income, work from home situation-woods". The subhead is "Financial independence and simple living". The subhead of the book is the even less ambiguous, "Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living". Many podcast appearances or write-ups where headlined something like, "This couple quit their jobs and moved to the country thanks to their frugal habits." Maybe they weren't 100% in control of the messaging, but they certainly didn't go out of their way to challenge it or correct the record.

To their credit, they do pay some lip service the the importance of privilege and high incomes. But the story they tell and the image they present is, in the main, dishonest.

While their more "extreme" frugality practices like home haircuts and working in exchange for yoga classes may not have been critical to their savings rate, the frugality mindset absolutely was. The norm for people who earn what they earn is to spend the majority of their income and be caught in the same trap as so many are, regardless of income. So would you acknowledge that their choice to buy used, reliable vehicles rather than a brand new car every few years contributed to their financial independence? Assuming your answer is yes, should they limit themselves to writing about the big ticket items like vehicles and housing? Are they not allowed to write about cooking with rice and beans because it represents too small of a % of their income? And if so, what is the cutoff? At what % of their income should they not give advice?

*based on the lowest and highest annual cost of haircuts for men that I personally know. At least double this for a couple.

I have to disagree here too. This is a meme and a myth pushed by personal finance gurus meant to downplay the importance of making money.

The median household has expenditures of about 101% of their after tax take-home pay. For the highest 10% of households by earnings, it's 69%. High savings rates are a natural consequence of high incomes because most people recognize that marginal happiness gained per dollar spent falls off a cliff past a certain point.[1]

I don't want to downplay the goodness of spreading a message about spending money more purposefully, or reducing consumption, or practicing great personal finance. I love that stuff. But there's now a cottage industry around anti-consumerism, completely with tons of Amazon affiliate linking and cheery looking documentaries. The PF space is in need of some consumer watch-dogging.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/cex/tables.htm

MyAlterEgoIsTaller

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #563 on: October 23, 2019, 02:14:08 PM »
They've been pretty transparent with their numbers all along - even if they didn't do all the arithmetic for the reader. They've been posting monthly expense reports on their blog for years, and they also posted sporadically about their current savings rate.  When I started reading them ~5 years back, they were representing their current savings rate to be around 80%, and their monthly spending at that time was often >$4000 per month.  She may never have stated their combined income explicitly, but the numbers she did post always gave enough info to figure that out.
Also the monthly expense reports frequently included things for which it was noted whether or not Mr. Frugalwood's employer would reimburse - so it was clear he was still at least somewhat employed.

The affiliate links have always been annoying - especially when they did things like show off the food storage containers they found on the curb, but then post the link so you can buy yours on Amazon while adding to their nest egg.  But... that's kind of why a lot of people keep up blogs...
« Last Edit: October 23, 2019, 02:22:20 PM by MyAlterEgoIsTaller »

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #564 on: October 23, 2019, 02:27:36 PM »
While their more "extreme" frugality practices like home haircuts and working in exchange for yoga classes may not have been critical to their savings rate, the frugality mindset absolutely was. The norm for people who earn what they earn is to spend the majority of their income and be caught in the same trap as so many are, regardless of income. So would you acknowledge that their choice to buy used, reliable vehicles rather than a brand new car every few years contributed to their financial independence? Assuming your answer is yes, should they limit themselves to writing about the big ticket items like vehicles and housing? Are they not allowed to write about cooking with rice and beans because it represents too small of a % of their income? And if so, what is the cutoff? At what % of their income should they not give advice?

*based on the lowest and highest annual cost of haircuts for men that I personally know. At least double this for a couple.

I have to disagree here too. This is a meme and a myth pushed by personal finance gurus meant to downplay the importance of making money.

The median household has expenditures of about 101% of their after tax take-home pay. For the highest 10% of households by earnings, it's 69%. High savings rates are a natural consequence of high incomes because most people recognize that marginal happiness gained per dollar spent falls off a cliff past a certain point.[1]

[1] https://www.bls.gov/cex/tables.htm

I said the norm is to spend the majority of one's income and 69% is a majority. I did not say the norm is to live paycheck to paycheck which is what I think you're referring to. That meme is definitely overused, by MMM in particular.

Perhaps the word trap was misleading for some but personally if I was earning a top 10% income and only saving 30%, I would feel trapped in whatever job gave me that high income and the lifestyle it funded.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2019, 02:30:01 PM by Davnasty »

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #565 on: October 23, 2019, 02:46:36 PM »
As for whether or not saving $20 $60-$520/year* will help one get ahead on retirement savings, it will, to the tune of about $20. But more importantly, the message isn't "this is how we FIRE'd and you can to" it's "Here are some ways that you can have more options in life". (and again, I wasn't a reader from the beginning. They may have updated this message as time went on.)

I disagree with the bold. They very purposefully lead with frugality and obfuscate the role that high income plays. After all, the blog is called "Frugalwoods", not "My husband's mega-high income, work from home situation-woods". The subhead is "Financial independence and simple living". The subhead of the book is the even less ambiguous, "Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living". Many podcast appearances or write-ups where headlined something like, "This couple quit their jobs and moved to the country thanks to their frugal habits." Maybe they weren't 100% in control of the messaging, but they certainly didn't go out of their way to challenge it or correct the record.

To their credit, they do pay some lip service the the importance of privilege and high incomes. But the story they tell and the image they present is, in the main, dishonest.

I agree on your point of obfuscation and I've acknowledged it. I don't think the bolded statements in the last two comments are contradictory.

Assuming the book is primarily about their personal story, the subhead is going too far. I'm on your side with that one.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #566 on: October 23, 2019, 03:08:43 PM »
I said the norm is to spend the majority of one's income and 69% is a majority. I did not say the norm is to live paycheck to paycheck which is what I think you're referring to. That meme is definitely overused, by MMM in particular.

Perhaps the word trap was misleading for some but personally if I was earning a top 10% income and only saving 30%, I would feel trapped in whatever job gave me that high income and the lifestyle it funded.

Ah! Busted!! You're right. I clearly interpreted it as "spend a vast majority of their income." But that's not what you said. Good catch!

I think much of my point still stands though. High income earners save a lot more because it's easier to save more. I get your feeling WRT feeling "trapped". According to the MMM simple math post, 30% still means 28 years until financial independence. But if you're making that kind of money early in your career (let's say, 30), you're still on track to retire 7 years before your 65th birthday. And you live an awesome life with plenty of cushion to reduce expenses if things get shaky.   That's a pretty enviable situation to be in.

Thank you for engaging me on this. Good stuff!

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #567 on: October 24, 2019, 08:09:09 AM »
I said the norm is to spend the majority of one's income and 69% is a majority. I did not say the norm is to live paycheck to paycheck which is what I think you're referring to. That meme is definitely overused, by MMM in particular.

Perhaps the word trap was misleading for some but personally if I was earning a top 10% income and only saving 30%, I would feel trapped in whatever job gave me that high income and the lifestyle it funded.

Ah! Busted!! You're right. I clearly interpreted it as "spend a vast majority of their income." But that's not what you said. Good catch!

I think much of my point still stands though. High income earners save a lot more because it's easier to save more. I get your feeling WRT feeling "trapped". According to the MMM simple math post, 30% still means 28 years until financial independence. But if you're making that kind of money early in your career (let's say, 30), you're still on track to retire 7 years before your 65th birthday. And you live an awesome life with plenty of cushion to reduce expenses if things get shaky.   That's a pretty enviable situation to be in.

Thank you for engaging me on this. Good stuff!

Indeed, good stuff. I think what I've gathered from this conversation is that some of our disagreement is in the words we use rather than the feelings behind them. There's also a difference of opinion as to what it costs to live a comfortable life which in turn influences our framing of other aspects of frugality.

Another point that I don't think has come up yet (and this may be going a little off topic, but on page 12, I'm ok with that) is that my opinion of high earners being frugal may be different because I don't think of frugality solely as a way to increase the nest egg, but also as a way to be more resilient in other areas of life. Where as some may see little value in cutting your own hair when it increases savings rate by a small fraction of a %, I see it as one less thing for which I need to rely on someone else. No matter how much money you save, it can lose it's value or be taken away, but skills and knowledge are built in.

Perhaps a more honest name for their book would have been "Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living" but that wouldn't have the effect they were going for and wouldn't have acknowledged that the majority of their advice is aimed at saving money. How about "Achieving Independence Through Frugality and Simple Living"? I like that better but most people probably think of being "independent" as something they do as soon as they leave their parents house.

Long story short, I understand the criticism, but when I try to put myself in their shoes I'm not sure I wouldn't have made similar decisions. Couple that with the number of people who claim that reading Frugalwoods has improved their own lives, and I think I'll give them a pass.

Now that I've spent all this time talking about them, maybe I should actually go read a bit more of their blog.

OtherJen

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #568 on: October 24, 2019, 10:57:54 AM »
I said the norm is to spend the majority of one's income and 69% is a majority. I did not say the norm is to live paycheck to paycheck which is what I think you're referring to. That meme is definitely overused, by MMM in particular.

Perhaps the word trap was misleading for some but personally if I was earning a top 10% income and only saving 30%, I would feel trapped in whatever job gave me that high income and the lifestyle it funded.

Ah! Busted!! You're right. I clearly interpreted it as "spend a vast majority of their income." But that's not what you said. Good catch!

I think much of my point still stands though. High income earners save a lot more because it's easier to save more. I get your feeling WRT feeling "trapped". According to the MMM simple math post, 30% still means 28 years until financial independence. But if you're making that kind of money early in your career (let's say, 30), you're still on track to retire 7 years before your 65th birthday. And you live an awesome life with plenty of cushion to reduce expenses if things get shaky.   That's a pretty enviable situation to be in.

Thank you for engaging me on this. Good stuff!

Indeed, good stuff. I think what I've gathered from this conversation is that some of our disagreement is in the words we use rather than the feelings behind them. There's also a difference of opinion as to what it costs to live a comfortable life which in turn influences our framing of other aspects of frugality.

Another point that I don't think has come up yet (and this may be going a little off topic, but on page 12, I'm ok with that) is that my opinion of high earners being frugal may be different because I don't think of frugality solely as a way to increase the nest egg, but also as a way to be more resilient in other areas of life. Where as some may see little value in cutting your own hair when it increases savings rate by a small fraction of a %, I see it as one less thing for which I need to rely on someone else. No matter how much money you save, it can lose it's value or be taken away, but skills and knowledge are built in.

Perhaps a more honest name for their book would have been "Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living" but that wouldn't have the effect they were going for and wouldn't have acknowledged that the majority of their advice is aimed at saving money. How about "Achieving Independence Through Frugality and Simple Living"? I like that better but most people probably think of being "independent" as something they do as soon as they leave their parents house.

Long story short, I understand the criticism, but when I try to put myself in their shoes I'm not sure I wouldn't have made similar decisions. Couple that with the number of people who claim that reading Frugalwoods has improved their own lives, and I think I'll give them a pass.

Now that I've spent all this time talking about them, maybe I should actually go read a bit more of their blog.

I think more acknowledgement of the high-income component would have resolved most of the complaints. For example, in this post, they listed a lot of excellent cost-cutting ideas but never came close to mentioning the multi-6-figure household income (in that calendar year, public info revealed the husband's income to be over $200K). In this post, they noted in one section that income is a factor and rightly explained that they worked hard to climb their career ladders, but then claimed that they don't make absurdly high salaries ($200k+ is what, 4x the national median, and that was for only one person in the couple).

These omissions do seem to suggest an ignorance of the bubble in which they lived, which I do understand; I lived in my own bubble of academic science for a decade. When you're surrounded by people with very similar situations, it's easy to gloss over the differences in other people's beliefs/habits/circumstances (and this happens at all socioeconomic levels). I certainly hope it wasn't a deliberate attempt to obfuscate their true financial situation. Liz in particular seems fairly open about many topics, so I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the former.

They've posted a LOT of good information, and the blog can be quite fun. No doubt. Their story is interesting, and Liz is a good writer. Like I said earlier in this thread, I now view it the same way as I do "Martha Stewart Living" or "The Barefoot Contessa": enjoy what is useful, skip over what is not. But I do prefer people who put themselves forward as personal finance experts to be honest about their own personal finances.

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #569 on: October 24, 2019, 11:05:41 AM »
When I was trying to figure all this shit out, the internet didn't exist. Amy Dacyczyn's newsletters cum books were the bomb. So was YMOYL, but there were no online communities of the sort we enjoy today. The FW's call themselves "Frugal Weirdos", which I can totally relate to. I'm happy that their blog exists. I DGAF how much they earn now. They didn't start out that way. I used to take issue with her highfalutin, over-the-top vocabulary, but she has toned it down quite a bit of late. Enough with the FW hate already. I'm happy to cheer on their success. By golly, I'm rich now too. #Whaddyaknow?

nippycrisp

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #570 on: October 24, 2019, 11:09:01 AM »
It looks like they've gotten away from the frugality part of things as well. The one part everyone seems to agree about is that they're transparent on expenses. I like numbers more than words when it comes to assessing frugality, so I quickly picked through their spending reports over the past year to see what they presumably consider frugal.

$61,576.

I'm curious if anyone here thinks this is even remarkably frugal? Put that in perspective, assuming a 25% income tax, you're looking at a household revenue of $82K just to avoid going into debt. Another way: the pre-tax average household income in the US is $60,336, more than a thousand dollars more than they're actually spending. With 127.6 million households in the United States, there are tens of millions of homes who manage to spend less without writing small novels about it.

It seems to me more of a pinterest-pretend situation than any real commentary about achieving financial freedom or "simple living". That's fine, but this probably isn't the audience for that.

SpreadsheetMan

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #571 on: October 24, 2019, 11:34:15 AM »
Nippycrisp for the win! No, that is not frugal.

It's gameified frugality for rich people combined with an aspirational instagram "escape to rural living", there's nothing genuine about it at all.

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #572 on: October 24, 2019, 11:58:56 AM »
It looks like they've gotten away from the frugality part of things as well. The one part everyone seems to agree about is that they're transparent on expenses. I like numbers more than words when it comes to assessing frugality, so I quickly picked through their spending reports over the past year to see what they presumably consider frugal.

$61,576.

I'm curious if anyone here thinks this is even remarkably frugal? Put that in perspective, assuming a 25% income tax, you're looking at a household revenue of $82K just to avoid going into debt. Another way: the pre-tax average household income in the US is $60,336, more than a thousand dollars more than they're actually spending. With 127.6 million households in the United States, there are tens of millions of homes who manage to spend less without writing small novels about it.

It seems to me more of a pinterest-pretend situation than any real commentary about achieving financial freedom or "simple living". That's fine, but this probably isn't the audience for that.
It's kind of all relative, when you think about it.  Most of their expenses are related to mortgage and property tax.  For fun, I broke down the year by my own sorta categories using their data.

Medical   657
Clothing   735
Alcohol   777
Misc   969
Dates   1238
Travel   2942
Utilities   3493
Car   4424
Daycare   5019
Household   5329
Groceries   9556
Mort/tax   26112

Mortgage is high (+ prop tax), and they do have highish utilties related to heating oil.  Plus farm related stuff that I added into "Household".

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #573 on: October 24, 2019, 12:14:51 PM »
How can they spend that much on groceries when they grow their own food?

Somebody needs to do a case study :)

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #574 on: October 24, 2019, 12:16:46 PM »
Indeed, good stuff. I think what I've gathered from this conversation is that some of our disagreement is in the words we use rather than the feelings behind them. There's also a difference of opinion as to what it costs to live a comfortable life which in turn influences our framing of other aspects of frugality.

Another point that I don't think has come up yet (and this may be going a little off topic, but on page 12, I'm ok with that) is that my opinion of high earners being frugal may be different because I don't think of frugality solely as a way to increase the nest egg, but also as a way to be more resilient in other areas of life. Where as some may see little value in cutting your own hair when it increases savings rate by a small fraction of a %, I see it as one less thing for which I need to rely on someone else. No matter how much money you save, it can lose it's value or be taken away, but skills and knowledge are built in.

Perhaps a more honest name for their book would have been "Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living" but that wouldn't have the effect they were going for and wouldn't have acknowledged that the majority of their advice is aimed at saving money. How about "Achieving Independence Through Frugality and Simple Living"? I like that better but most people probably think of being "independent" as something they do as soon as they leave their parents house.

Long story short, I understand the criticism, but when I try to put myself in their shoes I'm not sure I wouldn't have made similar decisions. Couple that with the number of people who claim that reading Frugalwoods has improved their own lives, and I think I'll give them a pass.

Now that I've spent all this time talking about them, maybe I should actually go read a bit more of their blog.

Super agree on the bold!

If you don't let yourself get used to the luxury and convenience that money can buy, it makes navigating potentially challenging situations a whole lot easier. When you get used to a luxury, it's difficult to go back. And it's difficult to cope in situations where that luxury may not be available.

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #575 on: October 24, 2019, 01:13:41 PM »
How can they spend that much on groceries when they grow their own food?

Somebody needs to do a case study :)
That's a good question, when they do posts on super cheap beans and rice or quinoa lunches.

But really - there are a lot of ways.  When you are rural, you are less likely to shop at multiple stores to get the loss leaders.  For the record, I included their soda stream costs and their Amazon or Penzey's spices orders in their food budget AND I included their seeds for their garden.  Also: sometimes they buy local meat and local maple syrup, which are going to cost more.

To be honest, not everyone really gives a shit about keeping their grocery budget super low - you get to a point where it's "low enough" and to get it much lower takes a LOT more effort and time, and ... for me anyway ... no thanks.

SpreadsheetMan

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #576 on: October 24, 2019, 01:34:09 PM »
How can they spend that much on groceries when they grow their own food?

Somebody needs to do a case study :)
Because they live somewhere unsuitable for growing food on a non-commercial basis as far as I can see. (short growing season due to severe winter) If you wanted to be more self-sufficient you wouldn't start from there.

They do quite a few things that are interesting+fun rather than making economic sense - e.g. the whole maple syrup thing. If you were being really frugal, not faux-frugal you wouldn't consider that project due to the investment and time required.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #577 on: October 24, 2019, 02:15:13 PM »
These omissions do seem to suggest an ignorance of the bubble in which they lived, which I do understand; I lived in my own bubble of academic science for a decade. When you're surrounded by people with very similar situations, it's easy to gloss over the differences in other people's beliefs/habits/circumstances (and this happens at all socioeconomic levels). I certainly hope it wasn't a deliberate attempt to obfuscate their true financial situation. Liz in particular seems fairly open about many topics, so I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the former.

I appreciate your tendency towards charity. It's important for all of us to look for and consider the most charitable explanations for why someone says or does something.

That being said, I don't think ignorance or living in bubbles is a satisfactory explanation. I don't think you can fancy yourself a personal finance expert, and not know that a household of 20somethings comfortably having a top 5% income is incredibly remarkable. It's one thing if that's what you grew up with, but that runs contrary to claims that they're just a couple of middle class kids from the Midwest.

They're very smart people. I'm pretty confident that they know what they're doing here. Because without the obfuscation, the story reduces to the adventures of a stay at home mom and her high income husband with a flexible working situation. Still very remarkable. But not repeatable. Not relatable.

totoro

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #578 on: October 24, 2019, 02:16:51 PM »
I like them.  I think you can make a lot of money, or have a lot of money, and still be frugal and have something to say.  I don't see the discontinuity myself.  They seem quite sensible.

>Cutting your own hair to save $20 is a survival mechanism for the poor.

I cut my family members hair and we are not poor.  It is more convenient and saves money and I like the skill set.  We could afford to do all sorts of things we don't not because we are cheap but because those things are not worth the expenditure for us.  It is not about what you can afford, but about what you can do that makes sense to you for monetary or non-monetary reasons, and preserves or grows your capital.  It is a habit that is good to stick with because when you have more than you need you can spread the wealth around a bit imo.

MonkeyJenga

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #579 on: October 24, 2019, 03:07:01 PM »
I cut my own hair because it's faster, easier, and yes, cheaper than paying someone else. Get annoyed at my tangles at 1 AM? Bam, GONE. Then I don't need to research salons or get seduced into fancier options like highlighting. I did this while making six figures; I can't imagine someone saying I owe it to society to spend my time and money at a hair salon.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #580 on: October 24, 2019, 03:13:31 PM »
I think you can make a lot of money, or have a lot of money, and still be frugal and have something to say.

I fully endorse the ability of anyone to say whatever they want. But if what they say is fundamentally dishonest, I reserve the right to call it out.

Dishonesty, particularly from rich and powerful people who have a platform, damages public discourse. That's one of my pet issues. I'll fully admit that.

OtherJen

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #581 on: October 24, 2019, 03:23:36 PM »
I cut my own hair because it's faster, easier, and yes, cheaper than paying someone else. Get annoyed at my tangles at 1 AM? Bam, GONE. Then I don't need to research salons or get seduced into fancier options like highlighting. I did this while making six figures; I can't imagine someone saying I owe it to society to spend my time and money at a hair salon.

^^^This. I am picky about my hair and have a full, sometimes unpredictable schedule. It's been far easier to cut my own hair as needed. Saving $50 per cut is a bonus.

calimom

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #582 on: October 24, 2019, 09:16:28 PM »
These omissions do seem to suggest an ignorance of the bubble in which they lived, which I do understand; I lived in my own bubble of academic science for a decade. When you're surrounded by people with very similar situations, it's easy to gloss over the differences in other people's beliefs/habits/circumstances (and this happens at all socioeconomic levels). I certainly hope it wasn't a deliberate attempt to obfuscate their true financial situation. Liz in particular seems fairly open about many topics, so I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the former.

I appreciate your tendency towards charity. It's important for all of us to look for and consider the most charitable explanations for why someone says or does something.

That being said, I don't think ignorance or living in bubbles is a satisfactory explanation. I don't think you can fancy yourself a personal finance expert, and not know that a household of 20somethings comfortably having a top 5% income is incredibly remarkable. It's one thing if that's what you grew up with, but that runs contrary to claims that they're just a couple of middle class kids from the Midwest.

They're very smart people. I'm pretty confident that they know what they're doing here. Because without the obfuscation, the story reduces to the adventures of a stay at home mom and her high income husband with a flexible working situation. Still very remarkable. But not repeatable. Not relatable.

And allowing the media to report, seemingly uncorrected, during the book launch, that the FW were "retired" when one partner clearly worked at a high-income work-from-home job while the other became a SAHM  would not have been sexy in the eyes of their easy to please readers. It's great that they're living their best life, and it's admirable, but some key facts go missing in the narrative. And that any messages in the blog that question this are immediately scrubbed seems disingenuous. Why not welcome discourse?

slappy

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #583 on: October 25, 2019, 06:13:49 AM »
How can they spend that much on groceries when they grow their own food?

Somebody needs to do a case study :)
That's a good question, when they do posts on super cheap beans and rice or quinoa lunches.

But really - there are a lot of ways.  When you are rural, you are less likely to shop at multiple stores to get the loss leaders.  For the record, I included their soda stream costs and their Amazon or Penzey's spices orders in their food budget AND I included their seeds for their garden.  Also: sometimes they buy local meat and local maple syrup, which are going to cost more.

To be honest, not everyone really gives a shit about keeping their grocery budget super low - you get to a point where it's "low enough" and to get it much lower takes a LOT more effort and time, and ... for me anyway ... no thanks.

In what world is $1000 for a family of 4 a "low enough" grocery budget? Especially for a PF blogger . They don't live in the middle of nowhere. They shop at BJs, as do I. It's not Costco low, but its certainly not "mom and pop" high. And $1000 is assuming that the garden lowers those costs at least a little.


slappy

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #584 on: October 25, 2019, 06:17:19 AM »
It looks like they've gotten away from the frugality part of things as well. The one part everyone seems to agree about is that they're transparent on expenses. I like numbers more than words when it comes to assessing frugality, so I quickly picked through their spending reports over the past year to see what they presumably consider frugal.

$61,576.

I'm curious if anyone here thinks this is even remarkably frugal? Put that in perspective, assuming a 25% income tax, you're looking at a household revenue of $82K just to avoid going into debt. Another way: the pre-tax average household income in the US is $60,336, more than a thousand dollars more than they're actually spending. With 127.6 million households in the United States, there are tens of millions of homes who manage to spend less without writing small novels about it.

It seems to me more of a pinterest-pretend situation than any real commentary about achieving financial freedom or "simple living". That's fine, but this probably isn't the audience for that.
It's kind of all relative, when you think about it.  Most of their expenses are related to mortgage and property tax.  For fun, I broke down the year by my own sorta categories using their data.

Medical   657
Clothing   735
Alcohol   777
Misc   969
Dates   1238
Travel   2942
Utilities   3493
Car   4424
Daycare   5019
Household   5329
Groceries   9556
Mort/tax   26112

Mortgage is high (+ prop tax), and they do have highish utilties related to heating oil.  Plus farm related stuff that I added into "Household".

That's a whole lot of heating oil, considering they heat with wood...

My math was wrong on my post above. The groceries only total $800 a month. Which is still more than I spend for my family of five, and I don't have the garden they do. And I live in the same general area, so COL should be similar. Not that all the matters, I guess, because they are still living well below their means. Seems like they like to drink though!


big_owl

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #585 on: October 25, 2019, 09:42:43 AM »
It looks like they've gotten away from the frugality part of things as well. The one part everyone seems to agree about is that they're transparent on expenses. I like numbers more than words when it comes to assessing frugality, so I quickly picked through their spending reports over the past year to see what they presumably consider frugal.

$61,576.

I'm curious if anyone here thinks this is even remarkably frugal? Put that in perspective, assuming a 25% income tax, you're looking at a household revenue of $82K just to avoid going into debt. Another way: the pre-tax average household income in the US is $60,336, more than a thousand dollars more than they're actually spending. With 127.6 million households in the United States, there are tens of millions of homes who manage to spend less without writing small novels about it.

It seems to me more of a pinterest-pretend situation than any real commentary about achieving financial freedom or "simple living". That's fine, but this probably isn't the audience for that.
It's kind of all relative, when you think about it.  Most of their expenses are related to mortgage and property tax.  For fun, I broke down the year by my own sorta categories using their data.

Medical   657
Clothing   735
Alcohol   777
Misc   969
Dates   1238
Travel   2942
Utilities   3493
Car   4424
Daycare   5019
Household   5329
Groceries   9556
Mort/tax   26112

Mortgage is high (+ prop tax), and they do have highish utilties related to heating oil.  Plus farm related stuff that I added into "Household".

That's a whole lot of heating oil, considering they heat with wood...

My math was wrong on my post above. The groceries only total $800 a month. Which is still more than I spend for my family of five, and I don't have the garden they do. And I live in the same general area, so COL should be similar. Not that all the matters, I guess, because they are still living well below their means. Seems like they like to drink though!

Are those numbers accurate?  If true then that's over $60k in post-tax spending annually.  In which case there's absolutely nothing frugal about them.  They're just a privileged rich couple who run a folksy blog and have a garden. 

You know you're priviliged (or an alcoholic) when you have two little kids and can get by spending more on booze than you do medical care.

Just because they're living below their (apparently elevated) means doesn't mean they're frugal at all.  It just means they're rich and don't spend it all, which is how most rich people get rich anyway. 
« Last Edit: October 25, 2019, 09:45:45 AM by big_owl »

NorthernBlitz

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #586 on: October 25, 2019, 10:33:22 AM »
Are those numbers accurate?  If true then that's over $60k in post-tax spending annually.  In which case there's absolutely nothing frugal about them.  They're just a privileged rich couple who run a folksy blog and have a garden. 

You know you're priviliged (or an alcoholic) when you have two little kids and can get by spending more on booze than you do medical care.

Just because they're living below their (apparently elevated) means doesn't mean they're frugal at all. It just means they're rich and don't spend it all, which is how most rich people get rich anyway.

But isn't that the ethos of this whole community? It's certainly the example set by MMM.

Lots of middle class to upper middle class people should end up rich but don't because there are so many forces that help us mindlessly spend money and it's easy to fall prey to them.

slappy

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #587 on: October 25, 2019, 10:35:47 AM »
Are those numbers accurate?  If true then that's over $60k in post-tax spending annually.  In which case there's absolutely nothing frugal about them.  They're just a privileged rich couple who run a folksy blog and have a garden. 

You know you're priviliged (or an alcoholic) when you have two little kids and can get by spending more on booze than you do medical care.

Just because they're living below their (apparently elevated) means doesn't mean they're frugal at all. It just means they're rich and don't spend it all, which is how most rich people get rich anyway.

But isn't that the ethos of this whole community? It's certainly the example set by MMM.

Lots of middle class to upper middle class people should end up rich but don't because there are so many forces that help us mindlessly spend money and it's easy to fall prey to them.

I think in this community, its easy to forget that living below your means is not necessarily normal.

GettingClose

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #588 on: October 25, 2019, 11:11:46 AM »
If you take out mortgage and daycare, they're at about $30k/year.  That's really very good - less than two full time minimum wage jobs (depending on the state, of course).

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #589 on: October 25, 2019, 11:14:53 AM »


That's a whole lot of heating oil, considering they heat with wood...

My math was wrong on my post above. The groceries only total $800 a month. Which is still more than I spend for my family of five, and I don't have the garden they do. And I live in the same general area, so COL should be similar. Not that all the matters, I guess, because they are still living well below their means. Seems like they like to drink though!

Are those numbers accurate?  If true then that's over $60k in post-tax spending annually.  In which case there's absolutely nothing frugal about them.  They're just a privileged rich couple who run a folksy blog and have a garden. 

You know you're priviliged (or an alcoholic) when you have two little kids and can get by spending more on booze than you do medical care.

Just because they're living below their (apparently elevated) means doesn't mean they're frugal at all.  It just means they're rich and don't spend it all, which is how most rich people get rich anyway.
Do they heat entirely with wood?  My inlaws live in the northeast.  Heating oil is their single biggest utility expense annually.

I don't think that $777 is a lot annually for alcohol, if you like good beer and / or wine.  I spend about that, for a grand total of 24 bottles of wine a year.  YES, it's a lot of money.  It might not actually be a lot of alcohol.

Medical care - well, clearly they have insurance, and good stuff at that.  Honestly, our medical costs are almost nil for our family of 4.  I carry dental, vision, and medical on myself.  My husband carries medical on him and the kids.   The year that my kid had surgery?  That $20k surgery cost us $125.

The biggest expense, as I really see it - is that homestead.  Their prop taxes are almost $9000 a year, basically the same as mine (But I'm in CA.)  Keeping up a homestead like that can be expensive - tractor, equipment, chainsaws.  Someone else also mentioned the "fun" stuff like making maple syrup.  That's an expensive hobby.  Not that you CAN'T do it cheaper - but they aren't yet equipped to do it cheaper.  I have family members who own quite a lot of land too, and it takes maintenance.  Also, they have outsourced a lot of the maintenance - likely because they have little children and they can.  We didn't really start doing more ourselves again until our younger kid was 7.  Kids are exhausting, yo!

Grocery budgets depend on what you buy.  People here tend to be a bit fanatic about it, and kinda snotty sometimes.  But you look up the USDA's cost of food at home, and $800 / month for a family of 4 comes out to being exactly between the "low cost" and "moderate" plans.

OtherJen

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #590 on: October 25, 2019, 11:18:47 AM »
If you take out mortgage and daycare, they're at about $30k/year.  That's really very good - less than two full time minimum wage jobs (depending on the state, of course).

Why should those line items be deleted?

Also, my household spending is approx. $2500 per month ($30k per year), including mortgage (no daycare because no kids).

Captain FIRE

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #591 on: October 25, 2019, 11:31:18 AM »
If you take out mortgage and daycare, they're at about $30k/year.  That's really very good - less than two full time minimum wage jobs (depending on the state, of course).

Why should those line items be deleted?

Also, my household spending is approx. $2500 per month ($30k per year), including mortgage (no daycare because no kids).

I particularly wouldn't delete the daycare.  With a retired, stay at home parent, that's truly a luxury, not a necessity, as I believe Liz has mentioned before on her blog.

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #592 on: October 25, 2019, 11:34:18 AM »
If you take out mortgage and daycare, they're at about $30k/year.  That's really very good - less than two full time minimum wage jobs (depending on the state, of course).

Why should those line items be deleted?

Also, my household spending is approx. $2500 per month ($30k per year), including mortgage (no daycare because no kids).

I particularly wouldn't delete the daycare.  With a retired, stay at home parent, that's truly a luxury, not a necessity, as I believe Liz has mentioned before on her blog.
She's not exactly retired either though.  In her recent blog post, she notes the daycare cost so that she can do paid writing work.

big_owl

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #593 on: October 25, 2019, 11:45:26 AM »
Are those numbers accurate?  If true then that's over $60k in post-tax spending annually.  In which case there's absolutely nothing frugal about them.  They're just a privileged rich couple who run a folksy blog and have a garden. 

You know you're priviliged (or an alcoholic) when you have two little kids and can get by spending more on booze than you do medical care.

Just because they're living below their (apparently elevated) means doesn't mean they're frugal at all. It just means they're rich and don't spend it all, which is how most rich people get rich anyway.

But isn't that the ethos of this whole community? It's certainly the example set by MMM.

Lots of middle class to upper middle class people should end up rich but don't because there are so many forces that help us mindlessly spend money and it's easy to fall prey to them.

Their whole self-brand is literally "frugal".  But they aren't frugal, they aren't even retired for that matter.  Bezos probably spends a lower percentage of his wealth annually than do FWs...would we say he's frugal? 

big_owl

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #594 on: October 25, 2019, 11:48:47 AM »
If you take out mortgage and daycare, they're at about $30k/year.  That's really very good - less than two full time minimum wage jobs (depending on the state, of course).

LOL, you don't get to just subtract subjective  line items from expenses and claim you're frugal.  If it weren't for the $40k in vacations I took last year and my $6k/mo mortgage payment I too could call myself frugal by that standard.

FIPurpose

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #595 on: October 25, 2019, 12:06:51 PM »
I was curious how that compared to MMM. The last time he posted his annual expenses was 2016:

He owns his home, though he says that it would cost him an additional 16k or so annually though I don't think FW subtracts out the principal from their budget. MMM's property tax is about 6k less. FW's were not frugal with land. Maybe they should separate their land out into a corporation.

The rest was him spending about 30k, though that included about 7k in medical bills that year, he also includes his medical insurance costs (Another 7k) which FW does not (I assume her husband has a nice plan, or she just doesn't see it in her budget since it's pulled pre-paycheck). And a 2k home renovation.

It's not an apples to apples comparison, but FW's spend a good chunk. Include med. insurance and I assume they're spending closer to 70k

Tyson

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #596 on: October 25, 2019, 12:20:30 PM »
Are those numbers accurate?  If true then that's over $60k in post-tax spending annually.  In which case there's absolutely nothing frugal about them.  They're just a privileged rich couple who run a folksy blog and have a garden. 

You know you're priviliged (or an alcoholic) when you have two little kids and can get by spending more on booze than you do medical care.

Just because they're living below their (apparently elevated) means doesn't mean they're frugal at all. It just means they're rich and don't spend it all, which is how most rich people get rich anyway.

But isn't that the ethos of this whole community? It's certainly the example set by MMM.

Lots of middle class to upper middle class people should end up rich but don't because there are so many forces that help us mindlessly spend money and it's easy to fall prey to them.

Their whole self-brand is literally "frugal".  But they aren't frugal, they aren't even retired for that matter.  Bezos probably spends a lower percentage of his wealth annually than do FWs...would we say he's frugal?

That's a good point. 

Is frugality expressed as having a certain savings rate?  Like, is anything greater than a 50% savings rate considered frugal?  In which case, frugality will shift up or down based on income. 

Or is frugality a specific dollar spend every year (say, $30k) and anything above that is 'non-frugal'?

I am honestly asking, I am not really sure where I would draw that line. 

Captain FIRE

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #597 on: October 25, 2019, 12:43:06 PM »
If you take out mortgage and daycare, they're at about $30k/year.  That's really very good - less than two full time minimum wage jobs (depending on the state, of course).

Why should those line items be deleted?

Also, my household spending is approx. $2500 per month ($30k per year), including mortgage (no daycare because no kids).

I particularly wouldn't delete the daycare.  With a retired, stay at home parent, that's truly a luxury, not a necessity, as I believe Liz has mentioned before on her blog.
She's not exactly retired either though.  In her recent blog post, she notes the daycare cost so that she can do paid writing work.

I almost put quotes around retired because of that, but didn't want to get into the retired/not debate.  But:

Either she's retired and it's a luxury expense for the socialization/allowing her to do a paid hobby so it absolutely should be seen in the budget OR
She's not retired and the childcare cost in the budget is understandable as a necessary expense, which goes back to whether the message is quite misleading.  (And even then, she has a flexible schedule so she could if she wanted, work when her husband can watch the kids or they are sleeping, as a more frugal alternative.  Not all are lucky enough to have that option.)

I mean, when I do my projected budget for FIRE out, I take out daycare and mortgage too, because I don't plan to have those expenses in FIRE.  But, I don't look at my budget now and pretend I'm not spending that much money. 

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #598 on: October 25, 2019, 12:58:52 PM »
If you take out mortgage and daycare, they're at about $30k/year.  That's really very good - less than two full time minimum wage jobs (depending on the state, of course).

LOL, you don't get to just subtract subjective  line items from expenses and claim you're frugal.  If it weren't for the $40k in vacations I took last year and my $6k/mo mortgage payment I too could call myself frugal by that standard.
But MMM does it?

skp

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #599 on: October 25, 2019, 12:59:21 PM »
I'll give her a pass on the day care (see below). She has a lot of one time expenses that are IMO poo pooed as "not counting" because they are one time expenses.  Last one was 8 new car tires bought at one time.  Yikes, do "average" people really buy 8 tires at once.
I would space purchases like that out.
To be fair the day care expenses are only recent.  Prior to that the oldest went to preschool for partial days and not every day. I consider my self frugal but I did send my children to preschool.  I thought it was important.  However, don't remember the exact cost she was paying but I do remember it seemed like an awful lot to me for such limited hours.  Either that's what the going rate is.