Meet the Frugalwoods: The story of how Liz and Nate embarked on a journey of frugality and careful financial management in order to help them leave their mainstream life behind for a life deep in the Vermont countryside. Liz Thames is an award winning financial blogger, and founder of Frugalwoods.com, a website about financial independence and simple living.
Right from the very beginning of the book Liz is completely honest about their journey into frugality and that being frugal that will not suit everyone, nor is it relevant to everyone:
“While it is true that Nate and I are average people, and we’ve never…had investment banker salaries or been the beneficiaries of inheritance or trust funds, I am keenly aware that we are also extraordinarily privileged…it’s easy when talking about one’s personal journey…to extrapolate and make the assumption that if only everyone did as we did, then they to would experience success. But that’s not the case.”
The first half of the book details their journey through college, their first jobs, and the realisation that they wanted something more out of their lives than the ‘rat-race’ was offering them. The second half explores how they managed to achieve that dream – modern day homesteaders in rural Vermont.
The book was a real mixed bag for me. I felt a real detachment from the experiences that Liz and Nate had in relation to the realities of my own life, and I guess some of that has to do with my upbringing: I was brought up in a relatively poor household, I’ve always loved second hand and have always been careful with my money. Money has never been a motivation for me and I’ve never felt trapped in a high paid job – mainly because I have actively turned my back on them, despite offers. Some of it also has to do with the stage of life that I’m at – Liz was in her 30’s when she started her journey into frugality, no children and was already on the property ladder; I’m now in my late 40’s, have two teenage children and have only just bought my first house. That’s not to say that there isn’t stuff to be inspired by, especially if you’re younger, don’t currently have any children, both you and your partner have half-decent paid jobs, are already on the property ladder, and you are both committed to a life of frugality now in order to reap the benefits in the future.
What I did enjoy were some of the insights that Liz had, especially that frugality goes deeper than just saving money; it’s about changing the way you live – from a life that society wants you to live, to the one you want to live: it’s not about giving anything up, it’s actually about gaining everything back. Meet The Frugalwoods raises the obvious point (once it’s pointed out!) that too often what we buy is down to what we think we should be buying, or is a purchase to make us feel better about ourselves – whether that’s clothes, makeup, or the expensive cheese from the deli down the road that we bought a couple of times as a treat and is now normalised as part of the weekly shop that we must have.
So, while the book wasn’t what I expected, it has made me look at what I own in a completely different way, and has already made me question why it is I buy what I buy. That said, if you are new to the idea of living a more simple life and to achieving financial independence, then this book is probably a great starting point.
Meet the Frugalwoods: Elizabeth Willard Thames, Harper Collins, 14 Feb 2018, 288 pages.