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Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living Hardcover – March 6, 2018
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From the Back Cover
The deeply personal story of why award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced extreme frugality in order to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life and retire to a homestead in the woods at age thirty-two
In 2014, Liz Thames and her husband, Nate, were conventional young urban professionals working nine-to-five jobs. But the rat race had worn them down, and they dreamed of becoming modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save as much money as they could.
In less than three years, Liz and Nate reached their goal. Today they are financially independent and living out their dream with their young daughters on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of Vermont. In this rural setting, they’ve discovered the deep joy of pursuing their passions, the fulfillment of a vibrant community, and a sense of peace they never expected.
Their frugal methods, as described by Liz Thames in this book, aren’t born of deprivation and hardship, but rather of a conscious decision to joyfully live far below one’s means. Thames believes frugality isn’t about what you’re giving up, but about what you stand to gain through the freedom of a financially secure lifestyle.
Through embracing wholesale frugality, Tha-mes discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stem from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to “the good life.” She unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever more.
Meet the Frugalwoods is the inspiring story of how Liz and Nate realized that the main-stream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence. While not everyone wants to live in the woods or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and our money, and to lead more meaningful, fulfilling lives. By following Thames’ advice, you too can live your best life.
About the Author
Elizabeth Willard Thames is the personal finance blogger behind the award-winning Frugalwoods.com. At thirty-two she abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced extreme frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life and retire to a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of Vermont with her husband and young daughter. Started in April 2014, Frugalwoods is a respected voice in the personal finance, early retirement, and lifestyle blogging sector and empowers readers to take charge of their finances and create fulfilling lives. Thames holds BAs in political science and creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MA in public administration from American University. Prior to following her calling as a writer and homesteader, she worked for ten years in the nonprofit sector as a fund-raiser and communications manager.
Top customer reviews
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3/22 update: Lowered the overall rating from 3-stars to 1-star because in the intervening two weeks, FW has reportedly been deleting even the most tepid questions about incomes/finances from their newer blog posts and have not addressed readers' questions in other forums that they are known to frequent. I understand that the scrutiny that comes with being a public figure isn't always pleasant, but it's disheartening to see that they would rather obfuscate/dodge questions than engage in good-faith with the community that has supported their success for years.
In the blog posts and now book, Mrs. Frugalwoods stated they don’t have “investment banker salaries” and are “average”. Now I find out that they make greater than 200,000 a year. It breaks my heart that she is so out of touch that she feels this is an “average “ salary and I now I understand why even with cutting everything to the bone, that we haven’t been able to save like they do. We actually ARE “average” having an income of around 55,000.
Kudos to the Frugalwoods for their wonderful income, but it is misleading to say your income is “average”. I much prefer the blog to the book, feel duped and wish I hadn’t beaten myself up for not being able to save like the Frugalwoods.
I am a newcomer to the blog. I figured this book would be a good way to get a fuller picture of how this family got where it did. But I was sorely disappointed.
First, the author is a bit dishonest in this idea that if you just cut our extraneous costs, like haircuts and eating out once a week, you can attain a high level of "financial freedom." What she gives lip service to, but doesn't seem to acknowledge the true importance of, is how critical the family's lack of debt and high salaries are to their success. In this day and age, I honestly don't know how two people manage to go to college and stay completely debt free without some significant assistance from their families or other resources. Additionally, if you can afford "$285 boots" and $40 of "artisanal cheese" EVERY WEEK, you are not trying to get along on measly non-profit sector wages. You are on the wealthy end of the spectrum. I did not research Nate's salary as others apparently did, but one income alone in the $200K range puts these folks way ahead. Given that their blog and the book seem geared towards "regular folks," it felt to me like she was trying to hide or minimize this aspect of their success. Similarly, she completely ignores the value of having health insurance coverage or the impact the costs of health insurance has on choices people are able to make about their financial path.
This leads to my second major issue -- the author just seems totally out of touch with the reality many other "middle class" people face. I am a well-educated professional who hailed from the northeast and gets my news from NPR. But it drives me crazy when privileged people wax on about how privileged they are. If she just did it once, in the intro, I would have been good with it. But she brings it up again and again, sometimes using almost the exact language. It felt insincere, honestly. Or, maybe she has rich-person guilt, which leads her to make charitable donations (also mentioned multiple times) but I didn't get the sense that she actually understands what it means to be poor or even truly middle class. As others have noted, the voice of this book is much different from the blog and made me like her less.
Finally, the writing itself was a slog. Even though the book was only about 200 pages, it could have been cut by about 1/3 and still be too long. Lots of repetition about the evils of consumer culture, the value of her privilege, etc. I found myself skimming most chapters just to get through it. She uses fancy words and sentences three times longer than they need to be to get the point across.
On a positive note, I find the family's decision to live below their means and exit the consumer culture as much as possible to be refreshing and interesting. I was hoping for more insight on how they achieved their goals. If she had focused on their frugality and living that lifestyle, that would have been great. Or focused on finding alternative means to achieve your work/life goals -- also great. But conflating these two topics just didn't work for me.
Their financial situation is unclear on so many levels. They did not "retire" in the financial sense of the word. They retired as in withdrew from the city to rural Vermont. I understand that retirement can be defined differently in the FIRE community, but not everyone is aware of this.
From the blog, I got the impression that the Frugalwoods were previously working "average" jobs in Boston, earning modest non-profit salaries. Not so, at least in the case of Mr. Frugalwoods. A 200,000+ salary is not average.
I started reading the book, but ended up returning it.
Most recent customer reviews
I've enjoyed Liz and Nate's blog from the beginning but always sensed something...Read more