As the Broke Architect people assume that Mrs. Broke Architect and I spend most of our time pinching pennies, clipping coupons and sewing and repairing our old clothes and shoes. But, truth be told we live a pretty normal to amazing life. This is what I like to call living fabulously frugal. We own a home in a great neighborhood, we own a Mini Cooper (which is paid for) and we have a couple of credit cards with no outstanding balance on them. So, on the surface we appear to have a fairly normal lifestyle, like many of you. But secretly we are financial superheroes. Living a mild manner life while privately fighting for financial freedom and independence.
Along the way on our journey, we have developed a few lifestyle hacks. Theses hacks allow us to have a lifestyle full of contradictions. But the math behind our lifestyle all adds up. This post will outline how we use a few of these hacks to live fabulously frugal.
When we first got married we shopped at the cheapest supermarket we could find. We drove to at least two different supermarkets to compare prices and get the biggest bang for our buck. Our grocery budget was $100 a week for a family of two; for many years that number worked for us.
So, what changed? The cost of food, and a few years ago, my doctor informed me that my bad cholesterol was too high and that I needed to change my diet or one day I would need to start taking medication to control it. From that moment on Mrs. Broke Architect and I decided to eat only a responsibly-farmed and organic diet. We stopped buying processed foods and cholesterol free butter-like spreads. We totally changed our diets and the supermarket we shop at. We began shopping at Whole Foods Market.
For the first few years we shopped at Whole Foods, there were no changes to our shopping budget. But over the last few years, we have watched the cost of items at the supermarket rise. So, we have increased our grocery budget to $125 per week, which is still less than what most of our friends spend on food.
What do we get for out $125? Mrs. Broke Architect plans our meals every week, which usually means planning meals large enough to have left overs for a couple of nights a week. So, when we walk into Whole Foods Market, we are on a mission to buy only the items we need for the week. Now there are a few additional items that typically find their way into our cart, like two bottles of wine, or a cupcake or cookie for Mrs. Broke Architect. Additionally, while we are there, we make an event of it. We grab a stool at the Whole Foods bar and order a glass of hard cider, mimosa or wine and grab a bite to eat from the hot bar.
To ensure that we stay on budget, I walk around the store with a calculator tracking the item we place in our cart. Now to be honest there are times when we go over budget usually around Christmas and Thanksgiving. But when we do go over budget we typically cut back in another area of our budget.
Mrs. Broke Architect and I both love nice clothing or should I say high-quality clothing. We typically buy our clothing from places such as Brooks Brothers, Cole Haan, Off Stack 5th Avenue, Nordstrom Rack and Bloomingdales Outlet. As I said in blog Paying-Off Debt II – Our Money Organization Strategies, we only shop for clothing once or twice a year. We typically buy clothing when it is marked down to 50–75% of the retail cost. This allows us to buy high-quality clothing at deeply discounted prices.
Over the years, we have learned that buying quality clothing has lowered the amount of time and money we spend repairing or replacing clothing. When we first were married, we shopped at stores such as Burlington, Marshalls, Forever 21 and Old Navy. But many of the items we purchased from those stores became worn down after only a few washes. So, we were constantly replacing items in our wardrobe. So, by changing our shopping habits, it now appears that we have to spent a lot of money for our clothing, But in reality, we have been shopping on the same budget amount we have had for years.
Hair Dresser and Barber
Mrs. Broke Architect and I do not go to the hair dresser or the barber very often. I visit the barber maybe twice a year. Mrs. Broke Architect has not been to the hair dresser in years since 2011. A little over seven years ago we decided to change our hair to a natural style. This meant eliminating the three-figure cost, every six weeks or so, for Mrs. Broke Architect getting her hair relaxed and straightened. For me, I use to visit the barber every other week at $20 per visit.
Going natural has saved us over $1,500 every year for the last six years. That is over $9,000 we have been able to put towards debt and savings.
Mrs. Broke Architect has watched many YouTube videos to learn how to care for and style her natural hair. Our course she taught me a few tricks. Since going natural, we both receive more compliment on our natural hair styles.
Wow, saving money to be more of who I really am, who knew?
Housing is the one area where I have not capitalized on any life hacks. We have no rental property. We do not live in a multi-family unit house. We live in an expensive real estate market area. We currently own and live in a 1,200 square feet rowhouse. To me, our home is over-valued and the property taxes are too high. But because we have chosen to live here, we have had to make peace with the cost of real estate. So, I have a relatively expensive mortgage payment but I have made a few financial moves to lessen the burden of our mortgage:
- We refinanced from a 30-year mortgage to a 20-year mortgage.
- We live in a neighbor that is completely walkable, which allows us to leave our vehicle parked most of the week. The following places are within 20 walking distance from our home:
- The supermarket (Whole Foods Market)
- Our bank
- Our doctor’s office
- Our dentist’s office
- My employer
- The post office
- The subway station
- We make extra principle payments of our mortgage. Hoping to pay-off our 20-year mortgage in 10 years.
So, let’s recap the lifestyle hacks to living fabulous and frugal.
- Grocery shopping organic on a budget.
- Buying high-quality clothing for 50–75% off the retail price.
- Embracing our fabulous natural hair and saving money at the same time.
- Living walking distance of my employer
- Living in a highly walkable community
I just wanted to show you that living frugally can be fabulous. I enjoy the lifestyle we have built for ourselves. Because of our choices, we are able to do the following things that will us allow to live fabulously frugal well into the future:
- Maxing our 401K ($18,000 per year)
- Make additional mortgage principle payment (we pay an extra 42% every month on our mortgage)
Leave a comment and tell me how you are living fabulously frugal!
The Broke Architect
I have to say something about the number above. This month we have reached a major milestone. When I started this blog one of our goals was to bring our net wealth number back into a positive territory. This month we accomplished this goal. I hope those of you who are dealing with a negative net wealth number are inspired by our story to change your own financial story. Keep up the fight for financial freedom.