Get to Know the Frugal Pack

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Hi readers! I’m Mrs. Kiwi and I write the bulk of the content here! To welcome you all into the frugal pack, I wanted to share a little more about our pack.

Get to know the frugal pack
Hi, I’m Mara!

Both my hubby and I are environmental engineers, millennials, and lovers of all things frugal! Our pack (two humans, two dogs) has cut our spending by almost $15,000 since discovering the wonderful world of financial independence, early retirement (FIRE).

If you are looking to take control of your finances, consume less, and simplify your life for 2018, you’ve come to the right place! Thanks for joining us on our journey towards financial independence through simple living.

I’ve answered some FAQs (well, that may be a stretch of the word frequently) so you can get to know us better! I’d love to learn your story too! Let’s use the comments to talk! Or find me on twitter, and let’s chat!

How did we discover FIRE? Why did we want to get our money in order?

One of my college friends introduced me to FIRE a few years after graduation. First, I was looking just for investing tips since I had some extra money after paying off debt and buying our home. I was immediately sold on the concept and have been tracking my spending, cutting unnecessary activities, and increasing my income since.

Related: Our FIRE Story

What’s your one piece of advice for people new on the FIRE journey?

I’d definitely advise people to learn from the greats! There is so much information out there. But realize that each path is different. At first financial freedom is all consuming, but it alone will not bring you joy. Start living as many hours of your day as you’d like to once you reach freedom. This may mean extending the time to reach FIRE. We’ve spent the first three years of our journey hyper focused, which is now giving us options to slow down our savings.

Related: Stop Being Miserable Financial Independence Options

What are some of your biggest financial mistakes?

Get to know the frugal pack
Hi! I’m Keweenaw (the other non-anonymous face of Kiwi And Keweenaw)

I have made so many mistakes! I’ve had the overdraft and late payment fees (call your bank though they’ll normally waive the fee if it’s your first) for just forgetting or not tracking well enough! We also abandoned our free/cheap rental to buy a house of our own. But that may pay off well for us, since the housing market has grown greatly since.

The slam dunk financial fail was that when we started saving for retirement I opened a Roth IRA. I didn’t know how/where to do that. Coming out of the recession, I found a lot of scary advice on the internet and decided to just get bank CDs that earned ~2%. I had to wait five years to roll those over to Vanguard, during that time the stock market of course grew like crazy! But, at least I saved some money and have learned now! Better to learn while in grad school than with large sums of money!

I also didn’t have an emergency fund for a few years, figuring I was better off sending all of my money to my 401k and IRA. Well, that caused a lot of stress.

Related: Is an Emergency Fund Necessary with a High Savings Rate?

Why read my blog? There’s so many out there?

My blog dives into lots of actionable advice that shows how we have cut our annual spending by $15,000 over 3 years. I’ll help you reduce your carbon footprint and overcome your fear of diving into dumpsters! (I never said I wasn’t cheap.) I also focus on finding happiness and reducing stresses since the goal of FIRE is to live the life you desire.

Related: My Favorite Personal Finance Blogs

Fab Five Posts from 2017

What do you love most about pursuing financial freedom?

I love the options that pursuing FI presents! We have not clearly defined anything about our future (contrary to most FIRE bloggers out there). Mr. Kiwi suffers from chronic pain, which makes planning for the future stressful for him/us. But having options and getting to a place where neither of us needs to earn an income will help our health and happiness.

In fact, pursing FIRE enabled Mr. Kiwi to take a 60% pay cut and go back to school! Instead of growing our income, we are focused now on not touching our investments and letting compound interest do the work. As long as we make enough money to support our annual spending we should be FI in ten years. Even without adding any money to our retirement accounts.

If you had all the money, where would you live and what would you be doing with your life?

Get to know the frugal pack
The Great Lakes are pretty great

We would probably still spend most of the year in Michigan, since we are near our families. We would also spend time mentoring college students and traveling with them (hey, we do that now) to improve people’s access to clean water and sanitation. We’d use our time and resources towards our a passion for protecting the environment, reducing consumption, and improving others’ quality of life. Finally, I’d be working harder to try to grow more of our own food.

Hmm, our life would look pretty similar to how it does now, minus the fact that I’m still sitting in a cubicle (or car or in a field/barn/manure pit working) 40 hours/week.

Related: How to Find Happiness by Ignoring the Joneses and Focusing on the Namaste

What kind of car, if any, do you drive?

We drive a Chevy Cobalt and HHR more than we’d care to admit.

Related: The Cost of Driving – Gas

Monthly Mustachian Fail – Car Ownership

What’s your preferred method of investing? Stock market or real estate?

Stock market all day! I love homes and home improvement, but nothing beats the hands off nature of index funds. Honestly, we just follow the Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins. Check out his book from your library or read it on his blog (but the book format is organized a bit better)!

Do you prefer dogs or cats?

All four members of our pack prefer dogs 🙂 Some may not have a great track record with cats.

Related: Cost of Pet Ownership

Where is the best place you have ever traveled? Got any travel saving tips?

College planning don't forget time abroad
Your path may take you here, breakfast on the rooftop deck in Zanzibar!

I’ve been to East Africa three times and highly recommend it! The slower culture helped to calm my type A tendencies. I definitely prefer slow travel to the frequent short travel I do now. When you spend time in a place it is easier to live like the locals, which inevitably leads to saving money. Always negotiate hotel room costs internationally, eat local food, and talk to fellow travelers.

What is your favorite job you have ever had?

I worked for a local ice cream shop with four of my best friends right before college! It hardly felt like work since we were hanging out and getting paid! That makes hustling for a living a little more desirable now.

Related: Optimize Your Career Path – Public Service vs Private Sector


What do you focus on more, reducing spending or increasing earnings? Why?

Grocery Shopping tips to save moneyI totally prefer to reduce spending! Embracing frugality will challenge you to be creative with your time and resources. We have so much more fun with friends and each other by finding free activities. Who wouldn’t want to go to a physics lecture on their honeymoon?

We track our spending using Personal Capital (seriously, sign up now if you haven’t) and report it all back to you readers monthly! I also help readers one on one develop plans to reduce their spending and speed up their path to financial independence!

Related: Route to FIRE – Reduce Your Spending Roundup

Do you own  your home or rent?

We own our 1900 square foot ranch home. It’s awesome since we have a great garden and back up to trails/woods. But sometimes I wish we were renters and didn’t have the stresses of homeownership.

Related: Frugal Home Improvements You Can DIY

What is your target savings rate & retirement age?

We have saved between 70-80% of our income annually since finding FIRE. If we stay on our current path we’d retire in three years, at the ripe old age of 32 and 33. But FIRE is a moving target and in 2018 we plan to cut our income significantly. Happiness is worth more than money (at least to us). The goal is to be fully FI by 40.

Related: Our FIRE Date

How do you envision your life in early retirement?

I think we’ll still be working at least in a part time capacity! We hope to add a few members to the pack at some point, so I imagine that we’ll be quite busy with that. Our time will be spent conducting lots of science experiments, art projects, time with friends, and traveling to find the best brewery in the world. Any recommendations?


Well there you have it! Thanks for getting to know us a little better! I’d love to learn your story too! Let’s use the comments to talk! Or find me on twitter, and let’s chat!

What’s your money story? Do you have a favorite frugal trick? Any other questions you’d like to ask me?

7 comments on “Get to Know the Frugal Pack”

  1. Love this about me post! It’s great to “get to know” other bloggers and their purpose out there. I like your defined aspirations and what you hope to do before reaching part-time or full-time retirement. I’ll give you the nod of self-respect on the home ownership thing. Some days we wish we were renting too! But, it paid off for us in our first house. It was a fixer upper so we put a lot of effort into it. And we sold it for almost 100K more than what we bought it at. It was so nice seeing that in our bank account we didn’t want to buy another home! But we did. Hopefully with the same time and effort we will have a similar return. I daydream of tiny home living somewhere warmer! Your breakfast in Zanzibar looks good!

    1. Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Defined Sight! The food in Zanzibar was really good!

  2. Reply

    We live on Lake Michigan too! Small world.

  3. I love that you two are pretty much living the life you’d have if money was no object. I think it’s so important to find happiness now instead of just waiting for some elusive date in the future.

    1. Reply

      Thanks! Yes, this past year we’ve grown a lot and worked to build the life we want. Obviously it’s not perfect, but there’s no sense in delaying our happiness until our bank accounts are ready for early retirement!

  4. Heyo! Nice to hear some more details. Didn’t know you were both environmental engineers (environmental science, woo!)

    I think your life sounds pretty rad. Plant based and dumpster diving? Are we frugal soulmates or something?

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Reply

      Nice! We are totally frugal soulmates!

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