I ordered this book with great anticipation, because I’ve been following the Frugalwoods since they still had a secret identity. There’s a small community of people on the path to financial independence who are sharing their progress through blogs, podcasts, newsletters, et cetera. Obviously not everyone can come out publicly and say, “We’re quitting our jobs soon” without suffering repercussions. Meet the Frugalwoods is not just the story of a young couple who escaped the rat race; it’s also the official debut of a pair of superheroes ripping off their masks.
The premise of a frugality book is always that anyone can do this. With enough information and enough gumption, anyone can live on little money. That makes it more or less the opposite of a book on entrepreneurship, career growth, or stock market investing. There are lots of paths to financial freedom. Elizabeth Willard Thames and her little family happened to choose the classic path of voluntary simplicity. Not to put in too many spoilers, but they saved hard, learned to DIY a lot of manual skills they hadn’t been taught in childhood, and wound up buying a house in the woods.
I’m also a frugal person - seriously, you should have seen my annotated paperback copy of the Tightwad Gazette - and it was fascinating how the Thames family had almost the exact opposite financial priorities that I do! My hubby and I are city dwellers, partly because it enables us to live car-free in a small space we don’t have to furnish or maintain. While I would never again take in used furniture, after a close friend’s brush with bedbugs, I’ve never been much on clothes, cosmetics, beauty treatments, shoes, etc. We also don’t drink alcohol. It’s probably a good thing this book exists, because it shows a path to financial independence that’s more broadly appealing than my personally idiosyncratic version.
The book tells the story of how two young people made decisions and chose their path in life, the path that led to that house in the woods. There is some excellent stuff in here about how couples negotiate and influence one another, how they juggle priorities and nudge each other’s behavior. They cut each other’s hair. A married couple working as a team can achieve financial independence much more quickly than they could separately, if only they know how to talk to each other about money without quarreling. The Thameses should consider teaching workshops about financial communication!
One strength of the book is that Thames spells out the ways that she and her husband, and their families, benefited from privilege. This is a topic I’ve never seen addressed in a personal finance book before. She also mentions that they have a special type of investment set up to enable them to make charitable contributions. I really appreciated this and took notes.
Thames managed to save $2000 of her $10,000 AmeriCorps stipend. While living in New York City. This helps to explain how the two of them were able to save 40-50% of their take-home pay; not only did they commit to frugality, they also enjoyed the benefits of avoiding debt. Meet the Frugalwoods has a lot of specific advice about how to plan and save, how to hunt for bargains, and how to assess spending patterns. The results surely support the examples. This is a path to freedom that could be within reach of anyone who wants to travel it.
Frugality opened my mind up to what I can do with my life, as opposed to what I can buy.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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