community

The Benefits of Building a Frugal (Real Life) Community

I zipped open our tent to the brisk Sierra morning air, careful not to wake our neighbors in the tent just inches away, friends of friends who were along for the trip. I sat down to read until others awoke, and slowly they did. As one after another camping haired person or couple emerged and began to gather for breakfast, signals of deeply ingrained frugality appeared. A mason jar of coffee brewed at home. A stack of washable cloth napkins in place of disposable paper towels. A bulk container of rice in place of expensive and heavily packaged camping food. Though everyone seemed to have everything they needed to camp comfortably, no one’s gear was brand new or unnecessarily expensive. And as the day unfolded, and the next day after that, it became clear that none of these people cared one whit about how much anyone earned, only about time together and time in the outdoors.

We were invited on this trip by friends we’d made not long before, right after we moved to Tahoe. It was generous of them to invite us — this couple they barely knew — along on a group camping trip to Yosemite National Park, but I’ll always be glad they did. We’d just moved from LA, which we’d loved, but where expectations around spending money were just different. Most of our friends were interested, as we were, in trying new restaurants, and so meeting up usually meant a meal, often a deeply unfrugal meal. We moved to Tahoe with visions of making it the place we’d early retire to, though at the time that felt much farther off than the six years it ended up being, and hoped that we’d be less tempted to spend money away from new restaurants opening constantly and friends who’d rather go out than stay home. And we just happened to fall right into an existing frugal friend group right off the bat. It was incredible luck.

In the years since then, we’ve had more inexpensive camping trips, endless free days at the beach (Tahoe has beaches!), dozens of hikes and bike rides and climbing outings, and as many ski days with friends as we could fit in, all costing no money beyond gas to the trailhead or the season pass we’d already paid for.

We were lucky to find frugal friends easily when we moved to Tahoe, but the benefits of having a money-conscious (and eco-minded) friend group go beyond simply doing cheaper activities.

Let’s talk about why it can be so helpful to your savings progress and to the long-term sustainability of your early retirement to build a frugal community in real life.

The benefits of building a frugal real life community // early retirement, financial independence

We love this online community like crazy. I say a kneejerk yes to invitations to join FI meetups before I even think through whether traveling actually makes sense. But there are limits to what an online community can do for any of us. It can provide lots of inspiration and support, sure, but it won’t dictate how much a day with friends will cost us or give us primo access to secondhand goods.

Fortunately, it’s easier now than ever to build your own frugal community. Let’s talk first about the benefits, and second about how you can build or strengthen your own social group of financially like-minded people.

The Benefits of Building a Real-Life Frugal Community

I remember not long ago, when I was talking about our use it up challenge on Twitter, a friend said something along the lines of, “Oh man, I don’t want to buy anything, but I really need a shovel for this landscaping project I’m doing.” My response, “Could you borrow one?”

You’d think by his response that I’d just revealed the secret to cold fusion (not really), but it struck me that what would have been a natural impulse only a generation ago is now so far from many of our thought processes. It’s one of many reasons why we all have so many things we use only once in a while.

We’ve been trained to buy things we could borrow, to buy new when we could take hand-me-downs and to go along with the cost of an activity just because someone else planned it. But all of those habits can quickly be unlearned with a social circle that shares your money values.

Here are some of the ways a frugal social circle can help you reach your goals:

Lower Cost Social Time and Activities — Like our Yosemite camping trip, or like the countless game nights we’ve hosted at our house in the years since, it’s so possible to spend time with friends for free or for very little cost, if you have friends who are into that. It could also mean, for parents with young kids, for example, stopping the birthday party madness with no-gift parties, or introducing to your family the concept of a no-spend Christmas. When you surround yourself with people who value time together over money, it’s amazing how many things you can find to do without spending much.

Access to Things You Can Borrow — Like that shovel story, there are so many things we can likely borrow from others, as well as things we own that we could lend out to get more usefulness out of them, but it’s impossible to borrow those things if we don’t have people we can borrow from. For things like lawn tools, it might be natural to ask a neighbor, but for everything else, it’s great to have a group of friends you can ask if you only need something one time or once in a while rather than having to buy it.

Access to Secondhand Goods — Whether you’re a parent seeking clothes for an ever-growing child or a child-free person who occasionally wants to freshen up your wardrobe, having a social circle in which you can trade goods can save massive money. Some of my women friends regular do unwanted clothing swaps, and many of our parent friends trade kids’ clothes back and forth among each other as one kid grows out of things and another kid grows into them. But of course the possibilities are endless here and aren’t limited to clothes.

More Specific Moral Support — While the other benefits have been more directly about spending, a huge benefit of having a real-life community who supports your money values is the ability to draw moral support from them that’s specific to your situation. Online communities can provide wonderful general support, but only someone who knows you in real life can really know some of the things you might be wrestling with. Like how hard it is to pass up some incredible local event in favor of saving. Or how much you’d like to earn side hustle income, but how hard you’re already working in your 9-5 job. People who know you and can see you in your real context can provide support that online friends can’t.

More Confidence In Your Plan — This one is hard to quantify, but hugely powerful. If you know that you’ll always be able to find what you need from within your community, and you believe that no one is pushing you to spend money you’d rather not spend, you walk around with so much more confidence in your life vision and financial plan than if you don’t have that certainty. This sounds less grounded than the other benefits, but it’s perhaps the most important. Many people don’t have the benefit of a community that can support them in their financial goals, and they face a steeper climb perhaps along with more self-doubt. If you can build a social circle around you that supports your goals and shares your views on spending, you have an enormous advantage in life.

How to Build a Real-Life Frugal Community

And now the hows. I’m a huge believer that there are frugal people all around us, but oftentimes it’s not cool to reveal yourself as frugal, and thus many of them don’t talk about it. So some of this is simply about trying to find those people who are already lurking in your life, while some of it is about meeting new people.

Join Buy Nothing Groups — Facebook has a buy nothing group in nearly every town, and many neighborhood Facebook groups have a section devoted to trading or selling secondhand goods. Join them! You might find great stuff that way, but you also might find people you’d actually like to hang out with.

Look for Thematically-Appropriate Meetups — Whether it’s through meetup.com or a more local source, there are groups all over the place focused on both sides of the money equation, either wealth building or frugal living. Check them out and see if you meet any kindred spirits there. I may not necessarily have a lot in common with lots of wealth builder types, but there are usually a few “get rich by saving” folks among them.

Look for Cheap Hobby Meetups — Similarly, look for meetups around inexpensive hobbies or travel. Outdoorsy hobbies tend to be magnets for this, though be selective. A kite-boarding or speed flying meetup is going to tend to attract folks willing to spend much more on their hobby, and therefore might not connect you to your people. But a backpacking, hiking or cross-country skiing group will likely have quite a few frugally minded folks present. And in those meetups especially, you very well might find existing social circles that you can drop right into instead of trying to build a group from scratch, like we did with many of our friends when we moved here.

Talk About Your Goals with Existing Friends — Money is such a taboo subject that it seems weird or even sad somehow to talk about not wanting to spend a ton of money. (Maybe we think others will assume we’re down on our luck if we signal a change in habits or if we show habits different from theirs?) But do it anyway! Not in a “You’ll never believe what a great deal I got on new gizmo X!” kind of way (that’s really just spending masquerading as saving), but showing ways you’ve chosen not to spend at all, or signaling other ways you’re cost-conscious. Maybe it’s even going so far as to talk about your big financial independence goals, but it doesn’t have to be. What you’re doing when you talk more about money and goals is you’re giving others permission to reveal their secret frugal side to you, or for those not already in a frugal headspace, you’re giving them permission to learn about it and decide that maybe they too want to join the team. Don’t assume that someone can’t become frugal just because they aren’t already there — we are the prime example of people who made the switch virtually overnight after we saw what was possible, and I suspect many of you are similar.

Send Signals Through Your Actions — Beyond your immediate friend circles, you can still draw out the secretly frugal folks through more subtle actions. If you host a birthday party for a child, consider sharing a SoKind registry full of gifts of experience and wanted secondhand items, or ask for no gifts at all in the name of saving everyone money. And say why you’re making that request, so you give people the opening to tell you that they share your perspective. If you’re chatting it up with someone at the dog park, maybe throw out there some of the ways that you’ve cut out pet expenses that a lot of people believe are mandatory. I would throw out all kinds of this stuff while chatting with people on planes when I was traveling a ton for work, and I actually made a real friend doing it! If nothing else, think of it as doing your part to spread the word about how freeing it is to save money instead of spending it. And maybe you’ll get a social benefit out of it, too.

Make the Invitation! — Of course meeting all these like-minded people does very little for you if you don’t actively pursue a friendship with them. So be bold and invite people you meet for a hike, or to come over for game night, or to join your book club. Remember, we all need more friends and stronger circles to stay healthy and happy in the long run, so you’re doing everyone a favor when you speak up and make the invitation.

Your Turn!

Please add to this list! What else can folks do to meet and build friendships with like-minded frugal people? What other benefits have you gotten from surrounding yourself with folks who view money as you do? Or if you have struggled with this in your own life, throw your questions out so the community here can share their advice. Let’s chat in the comments!

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65 replies »

  1. Totally agree with all of this!! :) We’ve got a few frugal friends and it’s always fun hanging out with them. He has a high paying job right now but wants to quit within the next five years and then open a small software consulting company. Most people I’d think ‘eh they SAY that, but are they really going to?’ but not him. He and his wife have set themselves up extremely well, live a very frugal but enjoyable life, and invest like crazy. They’re the couple most like us and it means hanging out with them is super fun and super cheap. They’re the type who would rather come over with a few six packs and bottles of wine to hang out over going to the bar. We love it!

    • How old is your friend? My idea of a good time with friends is like yours and with thousands of days ahead in your life those should be lots of fun. But if his goal is to have millions and never use it but what he really wants is to break free of the 9 to 5 so he can do his own thing then I wouldn’t call that FIRE I would call that freedom to pursue less work

      • I think you were (understandably!) super impacted by how your father handled his money in retirement, but I wouldn’t assume that others are so tight-fisted with their resources. I haven’t found that to be true in talking to several hundred early retirees at this point. The ones who can’t let go are those who keep working, but the ones who pull the plug do just fine. :-)

    • Ha — I suspect that’s how some people (who don’t know us very well) viewed our early retirement plan! “Sure they say that, but…” ;-) So glad you have friends who are on the same page as you guys!

  2. Tanja

    Thanks for the perspective, I agree that learning how to spend your retirement days and find joy in what you do should not require a 10 million dollar nest egg and that most days are relatively inexpensive days like those you have outlined here

    However I have seen the NEED to be frugal consume people to the point they deny themselves experiences and joy they could easily afford. I have friends who have millions in the bank who won’t go out unless there is a discount, a coupon or cheap eats. Their frugality on their journey to FI acts now as a constraint on enjoying the very destination they wanted to achieve

    You have seen me say here that FI shouldn’t be about having enough to shelter in place the rest of your life on the walking dead but to have the pure freedom to not work and to do anything you want

    While it’s not for everyone, travel to see the worlds ancient wonders or just to experience other cultures a state or a continent away should be accessible when you are truly FI – even if you only do something big once. If you look at a 20,000 trip as something you could NEVER take but would if you had more money then you aren’t FI. If you don’t want those things and wouldn’t go if you had the money then you are FI. It is about choice but I read a lot about FI and its driven by frugality (your theme today) and I think that aspect turns many peoples non working years into a self fulfilling prophecy of trying to never spend

    I have used my parents as an example before and I will use them again here. My father passed in January of 17 after battling cancer the last 3 years of what was his 14 year retirement. They were multi millionaires after 40 years of hard work but you would never have known it from the simple ways they lived each day. When they wanted to travel they did but my father would complain about the cost and it was always a cloud over what they were doing because it was such an ingrained habit. Because you never know when your time is up there were places they didn’t get to. It always bothered my mom that when they could have easily spent money they didn’t

    My dad passed with more money than he had at retirement and my mom decided that she would go and do some of those things. This week she is in the Galapagos and last week Manchu Picchu. Sounds extravagant ($6,000 or so for 14 days). She asked me if she could afford it. I told her yes she could (knowing her finances) and that she had enough money to go 500 more times and never be broke. Once wasn’t going to harm her finances

    So yes saving money is a great goal so you don’t have to work but it should be a tool that when you want to you can use it

    • I think we’re talking about two different things. ;-) My focus in this post is about finding a social circle that supports you in your goals, and for many folks pursuing FI that means finding friends who are similarly frugal. You’re talking about people who take frugality way too far, and I 100% agree with you that that’s tragic, to be only slightly hyperbolic. Seeing people deprive themselves when they could afford to live out their dreams is terrible. But I don’t think that’s what the bulk of frugal people do, and while a few FIers do go with the shelter in place type of lifestyle, nearly all the early retired folks I know are out there living their dreams and taking the trips they want to be taking. So rest assured we’re not talking about extreme frugality here. ;-)

  3. I like your camping example. A few years ago, my longtime friends that I grew up with decided to do a car camping night. Now I’m really the only “super-outdoorsy” person in my group of life-long friends, even though some of them do like to car camp. Well my friend Brian didn’t have a tent for this trip, so instead of asking to borrow one (I have 5 for various specific purposes), he went out and bought a $300 Sierra Designs tent – that to this day he’s used once!

    If he didn’t want to ask to borrow one of mine he could have at least gone to Target and gotten one of those cheaper Coleman tents for $50 that aren’t super high quality but are fine for most car camping.

    I think he bought the “pro-level” tent with the hope that it would spur him on to do more camping, because maybe he wants to. But alas he hasn’t even gone a second time. And that nice tent sits in his garage, unused.

    • What ist “car camping”? I first thought it meant sleeping out in a camper van/ car but realised that made no sense if tents were involved…..

      • Car camping is when you drive to a campground and sleep in a tent next to your car. ;-) It’s as opposed to hike-in camping or backpacking when you have to carry everything on your back and thus take much less gear with you. Car camping can be quite luxurious because you can bring the most comfortable gear with you!

    • WHAAAAAAAAAT. It is CRAZY how so many of us have forgotten that borrowing is a legit option for things, especially things we aren’t going to use all the time. !!!!!

      And this is totally a different thing, but it reminds me of people who aren’t runners who get a high energy dog in hopes that it will somehow force them to run every day. Uh, no. That’s not how it works (and it’s unfair to the dog!).

      It also reminds me, of course, of this post and all the people we see around here in pro level gear out to do a pretty basic hike. I can’t imagine dropping that kind of money to dabble! https://ournextlife.com/2016/10/12/cachet-vs-value/

  4. I remember back in the late 90s, I was broke, like most of my co-workers, and I suggested that we start doing “poverty parties.” Rather than going out, we would take turns hosting a pizza, beer, and cards night. To my shock, my co-workers loved the idea. And for a short while (6 months or so), our poverty parties were a rollicking success. But sadly the lure of consumerism won out and we all reverted back to our un-frugal ways. Sigh. You’re an inspiration, Tanja. Thanks for showing us that frugality is not the enemy of a rich life. Cheers.

  5. Tanja,
    Very much appreciate this post as I struggle with this a great deal. I think location can be a hurdle. As you noted, being in LA was not as conducive to being the right friend group as being in Tahoe. We are located in a very pricey suburb on the east coast, and have kids. We live with the reality of the kids birthday parties at extravagant locations, and people talk about their second homes like it’s perfectly normal to own them.

    I don’t forsee us moving because our kids’ schooling is paramount. Juggling working full time and raising kids means I have less time to find the frugal people I desperately hope are here somewhere. I find that these constraints mean the FI number itself is much larger–because we have to buy all this stuff instead of being able to lean on a community to borrow or swap (I also have never managed to get to a thrift or consignment store–their hours are not conducive, so on-line consignment has become my preferred option).

    I say all of this not to complain, but to note that we have put ourselves in a box of our own choosing. I am glad to hear there is another way. I hope I can build some of the community where we are, but for those who don’t yet have kids, location really matters. I always thought the suburbs were the place to raise kids. Now I find that I’d rather be in the city or the country, as both seem better for community and frugality.

    • Preach! We are in an expensive part of Chicago for the neighborhood school (our son isn’t even 2), so yes put ourselves in a box of our own choosing just like you mentioned. Thus, our FI number is also overly inflated and it’s hard to come to terms that we will likely be in HCOL area for the next 20 years out of (possibly unfounded) angst about education for littles.

      The birthday parties haven’t ramped up yet for us, but I am dreading it.

      • Just throwing it out there, but I went to an unremarkable school in a thoroughly unremarkable place, and still ended up with a full ride to a great school. ;-) And Mark went to a very good public school but was a total B student, went to a middle-of-the-road regional university and got a great job doing meaningful work for super good money. :-) Not saying that to criticize your decision, because I feel pretty sure if we had a kid we’d spend top dollar to get them into the best school district anywhere, but just to suggest that if you’re miserable in the box of your choosing and the expenses that come with that, there are other options. ;-) But as always, you have to do what feels right to you!

    • Lucky Girl and Kate, know what you mean! We live on the East Coast in a county so out of whack, there’s a sitcom about it on TV right now.

      We see it as an opportunity to model values-based living. We’re not as frugal as many members of the FIRE community (appreciate what Phil wrote so much!), but we feel very free to live an authentic life well below our means as we pursue our long-term goals.

      For example, building community by entertaining non-family in one’s home is uncommon here, particularly if your home is small and imperfect. We do it nearly every week, and we find folks thrive on it. Our Hobbit-sized kitchen makes people feel comfy, and cooking in means we can host at a lower cost (even if it’s Trader Joe’s or Costco) than the insane prices restaurants here charge. I’ve even learned to let go my need for spotless countertops, since I’ve realized folks are just as happy when they’re covered with snacks :)

      And… we’ve found more frugality than one would expect on the surface. But, Lucky Girl, you are right – it takes time and effort, things that are in short supply when you work and have kids. Best wishes to you both as you figure out the balance that works for you in this season of life.

      • I love that you press ahead with your frugal living in spite of the community standards around you, and I’m not surprised people love it! I do think there’s something elemental and soul-feeding about dining at someone’s home, and so we should all be bold in inviting people over, home imperfections and all!

    • I can completely relate to what you’re talking about, even if we don’t have kids. Both in LA and in DC, the culture was much more spending-focused, and housing in areas with decent schools (or near metro) was a fortune. So I’m completely sympathetic, and I understand that not everyone can or wants to move somewhere less expensive. Though where we live is not technically less expensive, we’re thankful that at least part of the population has a less “coastal elite” vision of what makes sense to spend. I’m still sure there are people around you who prefer to spend as you do, but I don’t pretend that it’s an easy task for you all to find each other. Wishing you lots of good luck!

  6. Yay, I was so hoping for a post on frugal friends! This is a major challenge in our house. We’ve been on an intentional FI path for a few years now, but have maintained our same circle of friends from college and early in our careers. Salaries have increased as well as spending – and not like “I bought a new purse” but like “I bought a new Volvo and hired a private chef”. Weekend get-togethers start with brunch out with the kids, or happy hours with hired babysitters and swanky cocktails. I secretly hoped it would all slow down with the arrival of new babies, but alas. Now we stick out like sore thumbs when we ride bikes to get places, clean/fix our own house, or invite people for morning meetups at the beach.

    I’ve gotten so fed up that I’m researching places to move where there might be more like-minded people because we’ve been striking out in Chicago (plus it’s March – always itchy to leave the Midwest this time of year :) ).

    • Glad I could deliver! ;-) Have you tried talking to your friends about WHY you guys make so many cost-conscious choices? If you haven’t, I think it’s worthwhile to do so. Not in a way that makes them feel judged for their choices, but that lets them in on the magical secret that you’ve discovered. ;-) I found it especially persuasive when I talked about it in terms of happiness and free time. “You know we used to spend on all that stuff, too, but we realized we could keep doing that or we could be done working forever in less than a decade. And just realizing that has made us happier.” Totally possible you’ve had that chat, and if so, kudos! But as someone who used to spend more extravagantly, I always try to give those big spenders the opportunity to come around before writing them off. ;-) And while I for sure understand your temptation to leave the midwest (I grew up in WI — I get it!), I bet you could find more like-minded friends in Chicago if you made it your job to find them. Good luck either way!

  7. You’ve really nailed down the reasons why we moved across the country to a place that would have a larger mindset of people that we could make that community. I found that your environment does control to some extent that community you can find and build. That being said you have given some good ideas for people that may find themselves in an ocean of people that flaunt money and excess. Personally I find it even easier to be frugal as a mountaineer and backpacker as our community has a tendency to be very frugal….membership has it’s advantages lol

    • It’s funny how you and we have lived in both extremes — the small outdoorsy places and the big cities with lots of wealth flaunting. But the reality is that most people in most places are just normal and in-between. ;-) And even then I think it can be tough to find the other frugal folks, but it helps to know where to look!

  8. I get asked the question all the time “don’t you get homesick” as we travel the glove after retirement and one of the reason why we haven’t gotten homesick is all the awesome FI/frugal friends we’ve met all over the world. Love this community and all the supportive people!

    • I’m so curious — do you think you’d have found them if you didn’t blog yourself? I’m intrigued by what is replicable by non-bloggers vs. what bloggers get the benefits from. :-)

  9. some of my favorite times in life were in my mid 20’s when none of our group had much money but we managed a lot of great times. then we all got better jobs and inflated things quite a bit. it’s nice to see that it’s come full circle and how we all appreciate spending time just hanging out and having a drink and chatting it up, especially when you don’t get to see your old friends as often as you like due to obligations and distance.

    • That’s one of those things that I wish everyone would remember! Like everyone reminisces about college, but it doesn’t occur to anyone that part of what made it great was fewer obligations and that enjoyment was of simpler things. It’s good you remember this! ;-)

  10. Unfortunately, my group of friends has dwindled as many have moved away. The remaining ones are frugal in the “I got a great deal” way.

    Another way to borrow tools you may only need once is a tool library. My city has a few. You pay an annual membership and then have access to things like circular saws, planers, buffers, etc. Great for one-time projects.

    • +1 to the tool library! And we’ve lived in a few places with bike libraries, too, where you could take your bike in and fix it with the tools there.

      Definitely feel your pain on frugal friends moving away. I know that’s something a lot of us have faced, but given that we’ll all have to branch out and make new friends in early retirement, think of it as good practice. ;-)

  11. Another one that we happened upon on accident – buy in an older, established neighborhood of smaller homes. Many of our neighbors have been in their homes for 20 or 30 years or more, and they are naturally a frugal bunch because they never “traded up” as their families and incomes grew. It’s fostered a community with even the newer residents like us (coming up on 7 years!) where everyone shares tools and extra food and generally acts like a real neighborhood.

    • I’m in agreement with Angela on this one. Most of the folks in our neighborhood are quite content not to move out to the burbs into McMansions. Sadly, the McMansions are invading Minneapolis at a steady clip, with tear-down, rebuilds. I hope that doesn’t mean suburb-minded yokels taking over anytime soon…

      • I’m convinced that most people truly are normal, especially if you look beneath the surface, so I bet even if folks who want bigger houses move in in large numbers, I bet a lot of them will still be interested in hanging out and chatting, which is free. ;-)

    • Yes! Great tip! Just moving into a more working class neighborhood will often accomplish this, too. If there are non-fancy cars in the driveways, it’s a good clue that folks there might be more frugal by nature. ;-)

  12. Single women in their 40s make great frugal friends. Unfortunately many are frugal out of necessity because women-friendly creative and “helping” jobs pay poorly. But that’s a topic for another day…

    Would never trade our monthly Sunday potluck dinners (casual – think comfy clothes, improvised seating, simple stews, store bought dessert, lots of wine) for a night out at a nice restaurant. And not just because I’d have to wear real pants.

    • So true! And lol to wearing real pants. ;-) I’m so glad you have your frugal social circle, even if many of your friends are frugal out of necessity. How great that you all have each other!

  13. We are fortunate to have a large, fairly frugal friend group. Though everyone has their different things they’re willing to spend on and we’re known for our “pretend to be poor” habits, amongst our community there is A LOT of borrowing of goods, exchanging hand-me-downs for kids clothes, gear, and maternity clothes, and lots of potlucks, dinners in, or outings at the most affordable local places. And best of all, we get to vacation with friends who also camp. So glad we have this, it would be hard to build a network of this size from zero!

    • I’m sure I’m one of many reading this and feeling some pangs of jealousy. ;-) But that’s so great that you guys have that! I’m sure it’s good for everyone’s finances, and you’re also setting a great example for a whole bunch of kids. Kudos to all of you!

  14. This is something we have to think about. I feel I don’t fit in well with the natural circles in our area.

    We live near a large Navy base. My wife is active duty, but she’s a pharmacist who commutes to an office far away from the base. It’s not like I (a civilian) am likely to best buddies with that potential circle. We go to some functions, but it’s usually just our family doing its own thing. I think that happens for a lot of families though because people are moving to and from the base fairly frequently.

    Another way that us older people (40+) make new friends is by meeting the parents of children that go to school together. With the active duty discount we are able to send our kids to a very expensive school at a reasonable price. The crowd there is probably closer to your LA crowd, except that they compare the size of their yachts. Not everyone is super rich, but I think they’ll spend close to a half million on each of their children’s education… before college.

    We could join some meet-ups, but it’s tough to do a lot of socialization unless you are bringing the preschoolers with you. That limits the activities a bit too. Hopefully as they get into sports and other extra-curriculars we’ll connect with some different people.

    • I definitely get the obstacles you’ve got, but I wonder if you’ve spent time looking at Meetup options. I’ve seen groups around here at all times of day, so I feel sure you’d have some options while the kids are at school, or at other blocks of time that might work. But if not, I think you’re right that you’ll have more options in a few years!

  15. First of all, I LOVE how you set the scene at the beginning of the blog post. I just took a storytelling class last week and that was one of the things I learned. I was hooked. I tend to avoid using the word frugal because so many people think it means cheap AF. And I don’t believe I’m that so I’ve been using life hacking as my go to term. It sounds disruptive and sexy doesn’t it? For me, I think having kids makes it easy to avoid going out to eat. Our family LOVES having meals with other families (with or without kids) and hang out time. The kids play and entertain themselves, my partner does most of the more complicated cooking, the other family tends to bring the beverages though we don’t always partake, and I handle salad and dessert. We spread the cost out between folks, the kids enjoy themselves and don’t have to hold back any of their energy and sometimes we can sneak in a game of euchre or dominoes or whatever. We socialize a lot with our neighbors but also sometimes folks who have to drive but there isn’t a parking issue here, and even though my family may cook for 8-10 people, we still don’t spend what we would spend going out to eat and oftentimes there are leftovers (the littles don’t eat that much).

    As mentioned in comments, I live in a neighborhood of older smaller homes and whether it’s because our community is cool and inviting or our houses are small or the weather is amazing, folks get out and talk to each other and many times these get togethers are impromptu.

    When we hit up Mammoth, we tend to do a picnic in the parking lot for lunch and invite whatever ski buddies who are also there to join us. I’m not so hard core anymore that I take a pocket sandwich or Lara Bar and never stop. I enjoy getting off my legs for an hour or so. We spread our stuff on a picnic blanket and get lots of positive comments from folks walking by and since we didn’t each pay $15-$20 for lunch, don’t eat too much. :) I know heading to Mammoth sounds the farthest away from frugal as you can be but when you have passes, wear your gear until it wears out, stay at hotels using points and eat lunch in the parking lot, it’s not as pricey as folks think to ski and ride.

    I’m in a buy nothing group and been giving stuff away these days but I figure when it’s time and I need something, I’ll be able to locate it. We have a neighborhood FB page and folks tend to share tools, roof boxes (we have the roof box and lend it out a few times a year – I’m secretly hoping someone will want to use it a bunch and store it in their garage and then we can use it when we need which is on a rare occasion now), or give away excess fruit and vegetables from their garden – there is currently a glut of citrus in the hood but folks pick it and put it out for folks to grab. I’ve been on a kombucha making kick and I was able to get a bunch of used glass kombucha bottles from neighbors and so didn’t have to go out and buy and drink some store bought stuff for the bottles or buy new glass bottles. I think part of it involves changing our mentalities a little bit and not being afraid to ask to borrow stuff. Since our community has that ethos, it makes it a lot easier to ask and also receive.

    My camping gear is lame and been pieced together and half was given to me but it’s good enough for our purposes (car camping)…. oh, Madras Lentils are great camping food from Costco… bring along some rice and boom, you are good to go. I’ll shut up now! Cheers.

    • I love that you took a writing class! And that’s awesome that you have a great neighborhood social circle that likes to hang out regularly. You know I’m going to focus mostly on the skiing part. ;-) I apparently lost touch with how much it costs to ski for a day and was recently shocked to find that $150 is normal at most resorts now. Like, WTF?!?! When we moved here six years ago, Alpine Meadows cost $68 every day except holidays. Now it’s $149 almost every day, and MORE on holidays! That’s worse inflation than health care and higher education! But at the same time, the pass price has stayed about the same, and maybe even gotten a little cheaper. It’s totally an example, along with your lunch in the parking lot, of how you can spend so much less money by planning ahead and focusing on something, instead of just paying the going rate. I guess the resorts have decided that they are only interested in catering to people for whom price is no issue at all, which makes me super sad. But we also pay nothing close to that, so it’s a strange disconnect.

      • Get this – last Sunday – June Mountain’s window price was $119. I thought my eyes were deceiving me. June. Freaking. Mountain. I’ll love my $599 Ikon pass and $149 pass for my little next year. Less than the cost of one California Pass from last year even when we bought it in the spring. It was actually a verbal storytelling class but could apply to writing as well. :) But I noticed that you did something I learned about…

  16. This is the exact reason I love hanging out with the North Stars/Minnesota FI group here in town. I know that the conversation will not be consumer based, but rather on truly getting to know one another and cheer each other on for what we are doing in our lives. Hooray for FI meet-up’s! :)

  17. Great post and very insightful! It’s great being able to talk to like-minded people about money and not have them judging you by the car you drive or the clothes you wear etc.

  18. Love this post! We plan to retire (in about five years) back to our home state – Yay for Californians! However, right now we’re in the DC metro area and find it a very “keeping up with the Joneses” alpha – type place. We find it hard to connect with folks that don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on all the things. However, there are a ton of free things to do here that we enjoy – museums, camping, hiking, biking, etc. We keep ourselves busy doing things we love, but I’m going to try some of your suggestions to see if there are some like-minded folks here – we can’t be the only ones?! As an introvert I have a tight inner circle with loose connections on the fringes, but I plan to focus some energy on strengthening some bonds in our community. Great article.

    • I know DC well, so I get it! But I guarantee there are frugal, grounded people to be found. I have to imagine the Meetup community is strong there, and that there are tons of group outings to the museums or various free performances. That’s where I’d start!

    • DC expat here. I know exactly what you mean. Our kids hadn’t gotten old enough to give us the luxury of free time before we moved away, but I’d always imagined activities focused on the latest or greatest [insert thing here], done at home, would be fun. For example, check out the latest trendy cookbook from the library and have everyone cook a different recipe from it for a casual dinner club. Or have a clothing/jewelry swap with your most stylish friends. Or book club, etc. You get to keep current and have fun, and it could open the door to more frugal activities down the road.

  19. One of my favorite things about living in DC is how many free and amazing events there are available. Embassy Week is great people watching. The Smithsonians change their exhibits often enough that you have not seen everything they have to offer yet.

    For me, as part of handling the breakup, I’ve looked into more specifically queer events. Not to date. Just to meet more folks and see new parts of the city. It’s been great. I pay $5 for a dance lesson and get to giggle for the next three hours. A person I’ve met there has invited me to a dance party she is throwing at her newly acquired home. I’ll just need to show up.

    Libraries and colleges also often have really wonderful free events. A great place to meet folks with your interests without spending anything.

  20. You’ve basically described our family’s wishlist for having moved someplace a little quieter, a little slower than the big city! I’m curious about your thoughts on a couple of things. First, do you find that some of the age barriers break down if everyone is more focused on the social aspects of hanging out rather than appearances and hanging out with the right crowd at the right places? We have a lot of older folks in our small town and they tend to have the most free time. Second, you and Mark have an incredible amount of career-related skills. Even though you’re not at your jobs anymore, have you found those skills useful in building parts of your community beyond the social aspects? I’m thinking along the lines of board service that you’ve mentioned Mark does, or organizing community efforts, etc.

    • I think age barriers DEFINITELY break down if you move outside of the usual constraints like work, or parents of other kids, etc. Our friends are of all ages at this point, which we love. And yes! We are both presidents of boards of local nonprofits, and we do a bunch of other volunteering that uses our skills, as well as just a little bit of side hustling still. I definitely know our skills are going to be of use for a lot of years!

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