The Pursuit of Frugaltopia

Frugaltopia was born on a crisp January day in 2009, not long after the Great Recession began. I was having a lunch with Jen, my best friend from graduate school. She’s a freelance writer, and I work in publishing, so neither of us makes much money. As we were crossing Third Avenue I remarked that the best part about the recession was that my modest salary suddenly felt like riches. And Jen noted that the frugal measures her freelance income compelled her to take suddenly looked less downmarket and more…classy. We both wondered if something good might be bubbling up from the swampy horrors of the recession.

We talked about what we want from life: to spend time with people we are fascinated by, to learn or experience new things, to eat well, look good, feel healthy, and do work that is meaningful to us. Theoretically, all of these things can be enjoyed without a lot of money. But in practice, especially in New York, it’s hard to live well on a shoestring.

Nevertheless, we gave it a go: founding Frugaltopia on the idea that you can get to lifestyle nirvana without spending a fortune. Soon after our initial brainstorm, we launched the site, Leora became part of our team, and we started blogging about fabulous frugal things. Late in 2009, things started to happen that were good for our careers, but bad for our blog. Jen got a flood of freelance work. Leora got a full time job. I left a very reasonable 40 – 45 hour a week job for a demanding 50 – 60 hour a week job. None of us had time for blogging and Frugaltopia lay fallow for almost a year. During that time our lives (I should speak for myself), my life, became overwhelmed by the demands of my job, my family, the old house I was fixing up, and the general pressures of trying to live and work in New York City.

About a month ago, I started thinking about Frugaltopia again. The conversation I had with Jen in 2009 wasn’t about spending my money well, it was about spending my life well. But after two years of blogging about frugal living, I hadn’t come up with a strategy for managing resources that would keep my life in balance. This year, I’ve decided to take Frugaltopia up a notch, with a year-long commitment to a total lifestyle change. I’m going to apply frugal strategies to every aspect of my daily routine and step back periodically to figure out if they are bringing me closer to the frugal utopia that Jen and I imagined.

Stay tuned, and wish me luck!

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