Achieving the Dream of Financial Independence

what does financial independence mean

UPDATE: We’re excited to share that Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods accomplished their dream of purchasing a homestead in Vermont.

In April 2014, my husband and I made the radical decision to save enough money to quit our conventional 9-to-5 existence and move to a homestead in the woods of Vermont.

This dream stems from our shared love of hiking and the outdoors. We’re happiest when we’re in nature and want the ability to do that every day. The plan is to accomplish this dream by fall 2017.

Up until that watershed decision, we’d followed a fairly standard path: we went to college, secured jobs, got married, traveled, bought a home, and adopted a dog. We were living ‘the American Dream.’

But at age 31, we came to the realization that we weren’t fulfilled by the daily grind that constituted our routine. Although we’re grateful for our jobs, we don’t want to spend every weekday in an office for the rest of our adult lives.

Living in a big city was starting to take its toll, and we felt stressed out by the hectic pace of our lives. We realized that the vast majority of our creativity and energy was funneled into our jobs–not into our own personal passions. And, we had no desire to get into the trap of lifestyle inflation whereby we’d continually upgrade our home, car, and belongings—to us, that felt empty and meaningless.

We decided to dramatically change this dynamic.

And so, we mapped out a plan to reach financial independence by age 33 and to pursue a life outside of the ordinary.

To make this aspiration possible, we first ramped our savings rate up to over 70% of our net income (which doesn’t include our 401Ks or mortgage principal).

Although that might sound extreme, we’ve actually discovered that frugality brings us great joy. We’re happier people now that we’re focused on creating meaningful lives, as opposed to buying stuff. Our philosophy toward our finances is “frugal luxury”—this entails allocating money towards what matters to us and saving money in every other area.

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While retiring to the woods of Vermont may not be your ultimate goal, I think we all want more out of life than simply consuming material goods. To that end, frugality has the potential to make unusual dreams reality. When you don’t need a lot of money in order to enjoy life, you have a lot of freedom to pursue what you’re passionate about.

By ignoring the “musts” of consumer culture, we’re able to instead focus on our true priorities—not those dictated to us by the media and advertising. Additionally, life is short and unexpected. Why not rearrange your lifestyle in order to do what fulfills you now, instead of waiting for a late and uncertain retirement?

Once my husband and I committed ourselves to this vision, we buckled down to the business of curbing our spending. In order to facilitate our unusual dream, and enable saving at such a high rate, my husband and I restructured the way we approach our finances by doing the following:

  1. Examining every budget line item. We combed through our monthly expenses to identify everything that wasn’t strictly a “need.” Although we didn’t eliminate all of these things, it was a valuable exercise. Before we could identify a planned savings rate, we had to know exactly what we were spending.
  2. Identifying priorities. Rather than adhering to a restricted budget, we spend in service of our priorities and goals. This removes the arduous process of continually counting pennies and instead allows us to live on frugal autopilot.
  3. DIY-ing. Insourcing work is a crucial factor in our savings. Avoiding the expenses associated with paying other people enables us to learn new skills and pocket cash in the process. We insource everything from haircuts to dog grooming to home repairs to cooking.

More important than the numbers or our frugal hacks is the mindset we’ve cultivated while on this journey. We’ve discovered an incredible number of auxiliary benefits associated with frugality. Beyond saving money, we’ve found that frugality also:

  • Provides options. Above all else, frugality gives us options. Since we have plenty of money saved up, emergencies that arise—such as the frozen and burst pipe we had a few weeks back—are inconvenient, but not a financial crisis. Living frugally means you have the financial freedom to take risks, quit a job, travel the world, or any number of other non-conformist pursuits. It’s as simple—and awesome—as that.
  • Reduces waste. We wear our clothes until they’re worn out. In fact, I haven’t purchased any clothing in over two years. We don’t toss food. We repair things rather than replace them. We don’t buy more than we need. The environmentally friendly element of frugality is core to our values and is another reason we love this lifestyle.
  • Fosters creativity. When you no longer take the easy way out of paying for everything, it opens you up to the whimsical possibilities of creating it yourself. From generating our own entertainment to refinishing furniture we find on the side of the road, we’re constantly innovating, which has led to a creative and rewarding lifestyle.
  • Brings peace. I find that by stepping outside of the rat race and not concerning myself with owning the latest and greatest things, I’m able to focus on what truly matters and ignore the distractions of media and advertisements. Thanks to frugality, my family and I spend a lot of time together. My husband and I collaborate on just about everything we need to accomplish, which brings us closer in our marriage.

My husband and I recently had our first child, which reinforced our goal of leaving the stress of the city and our jobs behind. By living frugally, we’re able to make this unusual transition from working traditional jobs to having the freedom to pursue our passions. Don’t let your spending prevent you from doing what you want with your life. Instead, let frugality sculpt the life you crave.

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Mrs. Frugalwoods currently resides in Massachusetts with her husband, daughter and frugal hound. She is passionate about achieving financial independence through living a simple, frugal and very fulfilled life. You can read more of her posts at Frugalwoods.

Real Rate is based on your application and third party data obtained during underwriting.

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC 042017 [OK1] and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas, 100139527.

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