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Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living Hardcover – March 6, 2018
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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.
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First, when they said “[the Frugalwoods had] determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day,” that’s not really true by traditional standards. Mr. Frugalwoods is a successful software engineer, and Mrs. Frugalwoods is a now-published writer! Had the wording been something along the lines of “determined to achieve their homestead dreams and escape the corporate rat race,” it would have been a more understandable and relatable explanation of their situation. Financial independence doesn’t mean you need to retire, and in fact the freedom may open more doors to do even more work that you are passionate about. That’s what the book’s focus really is. When you wake up every day knowing today will be a good day, and when you are no longer living for the weekends or riding the endless consumer merry-go-round, that’s the secret to real and lasting happiness.
Second, there wasn’t much in the way of actionable advice in the story. Instead, it really was a memoir about their journey and how Mrs. Frugalwoods came to understand that there’s so much more to life than perfection and fulfilling society’s expectations. She walked us through her career, her successes and her failures, and her family life. The advice in the book was sporadic and short, and all things she has obviously mentioned before on her blog (and you’d have to read the blog for actual details to the methods). That was fine with me, because I would have been extremely disappointed had the book simply been recycled blog posts. I feel like I now know Liz personally, and I can better appreciate their trek from city life to the woods. Her stories were thought-provoking, her writing was witty and captivating, and I’m grateful that she shared her journey and her perspectives.
Huge kudos to Mrs. Frugalwoods (in both her book and through her website) for always encouraging everyone to solve problems with DIY and brain power instead of money, focus on the value of time, cut waste in both areas, and use money as a tool and a means rather than an end. Life and financial independence are both about more than just money. Sitting on a pile of money and stuff won’t provide lasting fulfillment. It’s all about how you manage your resources, how you spend your days, and how you give back to the rest of the world.
I didn't give it five stars (even though the writing style deserves it) simply because it is a little unclear about how, mathematically, the Frugalwoods managed to embrace extreme frugality and achieve their goals in less than three years. I totally get, and embrace, the general philosophy and firmly believe it can help most folks who would be inclined to read this book (following the blog has transformed my attitude and significantly helped my finances). But again, mathematically speaking, less than three years seems very fast. Perhaps Ms. Thames didn't want to get so personal as to detail income for privacy reasons, but it is, after all, a financial memoir.
Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recognized my own perfectionist, Type-A personality in Ms. Thames (lots of laughing out loud--especially at the Second Marshmallow experiment discussion since my husband and I have regularly repeated for years that we are "waiting for our marshmallows" when we delay gratification). I recommend the book, thank Ms. Thames for putting herself and her philosophy out there for public criticism, and encouraging all of us to think deeply about what kind of life we want to lead and how to start getting there.
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
Liz's honesty throughout the book about her privilege is refreshing. She never once claims, "We did this on our own.Read more