Since it’s been three and a half years since I wrote anything here, it seems like we’re overdue for an update. Thanks, Jean, for the encouragement :-)
Our family is doing well. My husband and I have worked from home for nearly two decades now, so we had no work-related changes when the pandemic began. But we did opt for fully online school for our boys last year, which meant there were four of us at home all day every day, working online. Thankfully, our boys are old enough and tech-savvy enough that they were able to manage their online school with minimal supervision from us, so we were able to keep up with our work as well.
Our boys are now back at their home schools, wearing masks all day. Our older son is vaccinated, but our younger son is still too young to get the vaccine. We were hesitant about lunchtime in the school cafeteria, since masks are off for that. So I’ve been riding my bike over to the school each day to have lunch with him outside, which is a solution that we came up with in consultation with the principal. We’ve just finished the fourth week of school, and so far, so good!
We’re still a frugal bunch around here, and it’s nice to see our investments showing the results of two decades of diligent savings and frugal living. I wish I could just pop in for a moment to have a chat with 26-year-old me, and let her know that all her efforts will absolutely pay off!
I think I did have those conversations in my head plenty of times, but I remember feeling like it was going to take forever to reach any degree of financial independence. We’re not ready to retire just yet, but we’re feeling very good about where we are, and happy with our current work/life balance. It’s also nice knowing that either of us could scale back our work at any time and we’d still be ok. That certainly wasn’t the case when I started this blog, so we’re a testament to the power of saving constantly over a long period of time.
Although frugality is no longer a necessity for us the way it once was, we’ve found that we haven’t really changed much about our lifestyle. Our hobbies continue to be things that are cheap or free (hiking, biking, disc golf, driveway basketball, dog walks/runs, etc.). I still do all of our shopping at thrift stores, and would have zero interest in buying things new. I have used ThredUP quite a bit this year; I’ve sent them several boxes of clothing, and have purchased quite a few things as well. I’ve also used Swap.com several times and have found great deals on shoes for our boys.
We still have the same $10/month cell phone plan that we’ve had since 2013. We now have an iPhone SE (1st generation), since Airvoice eventually stopped supporting our old iPhone. But we’re perfectly content to just have talk and text on an old-ish phone. We both spend our days in front of the computer for work, and when I’m not at my desk, I don’t want the internet in my life.
Our kids don’t have phone service. They have iPads and phones (mostly obtained second-hand) that they can use with wi-fi, but they don’t take their devices outside the house.
We still have the car we bought in 2011. It’s still our only car and it’s still going strong. We don’t drive much, as we tend to walk or bike anywhere in our own town, and only use the car to go elsewhere.
We’ve also been limiting our grocery shopping trips to about once every six or eight weeks. Pre-COVID, I would shop about once a month, but we scaled that back at the start of the pandemic (we had one stretch where we went 13 weeks!) and I prefer it this way.
We still do all of our cooking at home. Nothing about that changed for us when COVID began, because we never ate out anyway. But we built a greenhouse in our backyard last fall, and managed to keep a bunch of greens going throughout the winter. That was no easy feat, given that we had some days when it was -17F, and plenty of very windy days when the plastic on the greenhouse got thoroughly tested. But my husband did an excellent job of building it, and it kept us supplied with fresh greens all winter.
The garden and greenhouse make it much easier to go a long time between grocery trips, as we can fill the freezer and pantry and then rely on our garden for fresh produce. We’ve become even more creative with our garden yields as well. We eat zucchini leaves, pea leaves, and dandelion flowers. We’ve eaten dandelion greens for years, but started eating the flowers last year, and I love them!
We’ve been in our home for 12 years now, and the forest that we envisioned when we moved here has mostly come to fruition. We mostly see trees now when we look out the windows, which makes us happy.
Our boys are growing up and becoming more independent. Our older son recently repainted and re-floored his bedroom, doing a lot of the work himself. They both did chores for various people around town this summer, earning themselves a good amount of cash in the process. They’re both savvy second-hand shoppers, have accounts at Vanguard, and talk about their long-term financial goals, so we feel good about the financial skills we’ve taught them.
All in all, life is really good for us. But my heart hurts for all the pain and suffering that I see in the world, with COVID and so many other issues. I feel fortunate that my family is happy and healthy, and we’ve upped our charitable contributions over the years, as we’ve become more financially secure. We have quite a few organizations that get automatic contributions from us each month, charged directly to our credit card. We’ve found this to be the easiest way to make sure that we stay on top of our contributions — if I had to stop and think about it, we either wouldn’t get around to it or we wouldn’t contribute as much.
I hope this finds you all happy and well. Enjoy the weekend!