The couple forages (with permission) from fruit trees in their area, pressing their own cider and cutting up and dehydrating apples. The older son, Francis, taps trees and produces up to a gallon of syrup per year. Weasels killed off the family chickens, but they plan to buy more.

Amy cooks from scratch -- including bread, yogurt, ketchup and chutney -- and cans and freezes excess produce. "We eat fairly high on the hog (because) we can get great ingredients cheap," she says.

The way they live is the way that I (and perhaps you) grew up: Most clothes handed down through cousins and then my two older sisters; two pairs of shoes a year (bought a size too big so we'd "grow into them"); a few toys at Christmas, but never during the rest of the year; a garden that yielded many summer meals and whose surplus was frozen or canned for winter; all meals prepared from scratch and eaten at home.

Everyone I knew lived that way. That's probably why I was able to cope as a broke single mother, washing diapers on a scrubboard because I couldn't afford the quarters for the laundromat -- and again when I left my marriage and returned to college, packing the same bagel-and-apple lunch each day.

Both couples have a more modern frugal hack as well: the rewards credit card, which both use and pay off in full each month. The rewards are taken as cash, naturally, and funneled back into their budgets.

Strategy 4: Get even more creative about meeting wants.

The Kofkes are fans of their city's recreation department, whose benefits include tumbling classes for Ava and Ella, free entertainment such as magic shows, and of course the library for books and free DVDs. Tracy is about to start a two-day-a-week preschool teaching job that includes free tuition for 3-year-old Ella.

They rarely eat out, but once a week the girls spend the night with their grandmother. That's "date night" for their parents: a dollar movie rental and a sub sandwich from the grocery store.

Amy and Jack barter their skills to get music lessons for the boys. They get a lot of useful items for free thanks to word of mouth, discards left by the side of the road (the source of cabinets and a sink for their kitchen remodel) and The Freecycle Network.

They've also developed their own network of like-minded individuals interested in reducing, reusing and recycling. Almost any need can be met within the group.

"I don't like to see useful things going to waste," says Jack, 47.

Strategy 5: Stay true to your goals.

Living this way is not easy, but it is satisfying. Amy sometimes tires of spending so much time hustling for jobs (the freelancer's curse), and occasionally wishes she could travel more. Even so, she's very happy with her life.

"It's not like I want other, better things," she says. "I don't feel deprived."

In recent months, the Kofkes have had to deal with a major auto repair, the medical co-pay for Ella's tonsillectomy and a furnace breakdown on a Sunday (much more expensive than on a weekday). Money siphoned out of the emergency fund had to be put back in.

And then there's the occasional "what if?" moment, such as watching a flashy car zoom past your 9-year-old beater.

"Of course I want it," Danny says.

But to get it, he'd have to take a second job, or his wife would have to go back to work and put their younger daughter in day care. "So far, there has been no item that has been worth (the trade-off)."

Tips from the pros

This lifestyle cannot succeed without a budget: Lower earnings mean less margin for error. Start with the absolute minimum you need for food, shelter and utilities. Finding out how little you need is actually liberating, says CPA Sally Herigstad.

"You have a lot more options when you're not a slave to high living expenses," says Herigstad, the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills!" and a frequent contributor to MSN Money.

New to budgeting? The "50-30-20" plan is a useful framework. Financial management sites such as Mint and Bundle let you easily track spending.

That budget should also include irregular or unpredictable expenses (class pictures, traffic tickets). "Leave some room for that so you're not putting your income all the way down to zero," says Kimberly Palmer, the author of "Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing and Giving Back."

A few more suggestions:

Stuff happens. An emergency fund is vital. For tips on setting aside cash, see "9 sneaky tips for saving more," and "8 quick ways to slash your bills."

Planning a change? Start saving now. The Kofkes chose to start living on Danny's salary even before Tracy stopped working. The trial run proved they could do it and also yielded an emergency fund.

Think outside the mall. Brainstorm ways to meet needs for little or nothing. When relatives ask what to give the children as gifts, Tracy suggests things like ballet class. Jack and Amy visit a nearby university at the end of the school year, when students discard everything from bookcases to canned goods.

Educate yourself. Personal finance sites like MSN Money's Smart Spending blog, online urban homesteading resources and plain old library books have plenty to teach.

Look for extra income. Neither couple relies on a single paycheck. "Diversity is the name of the game if you're not going to have one big funding stream," says Amy.

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Remember what frugality gets you. "Time to spend with your child, or the freedom to start your own business," author Palmer says. "If you love your life, it's worth any $200,000-a-year job."

Save money today

Charged up: Want to get more life from your D-cell? "7 ways to make your batteries last longer" can help.

School days: Public universities can be a great deal, but you don't necessarily have to stay close to home. "10 best colleges for out-of-staters" offers some of the best education values.

Safe at home: Want to keep your family and your valuables safe? Check out "A master thief's home-security tips."

Donna Freedman is a freelance writer in Seattle. You can find more of her writing on MSN Money's Frugal Cool blog and at Surviving and Thriving (motto: "Life is short. But it's also wide.").