Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Livingby Elizabeth Willard Thames
Published on March 6th 2018
The deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.
In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each dayâ€”as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekendsâ€”they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.
In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, itâ€™s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They donâ€™t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our cultureâ€™s promise that we can buy our way to "the good life." Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums.
Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasnâ€™t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. 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 money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.
Debt-free living is a topic that is very important to me so I jumped at the chance to review this book from TLC Book Tours.Â (Free book – Look at me being frugal!)
This is a memoir of a couple who used frugality to save enough to retire to the country in their 30s. They have a blog called frugalwoods.com.Â I hadn’t ever heard of this before so I went into this book with no preconceived notions about what their story was.
I appreciated the fact that the book starts with a discussion of privilege versus systemic causes of poverty in the United States.Â She realizes that just by being born to married, educated white parents in the suburbs of the Midwest that she got a leg up towards being able to be debt-free in her 30s.Â She points out that her frugality is elective instead of a requirement to be able to afford her rent.Â
I wish this was more of a how-to book. It doesn’t really explain how they became debt-free.Â She says things like she saved $2000 of the $10,000 she was given as an AmeriCorp stipend.Â She was living in Brooklyn with roommates but how did she manage to do that?Â I want charts and spreadsheets.Â She talks later about merging living expenses by moving in with her fiance and living below their means by not trying to keep up with the standard of living of their peers.Â She says that even before they really committed to saving a lot of money in order to retire early, they were saving 40-50% of their take home pay not including 401K and mortgage principal.Â This is where I started to feel pretty inadequate reading this book.Â We’re debt-free but we are not even close to that kind of savings.Â (I know the problem.Â I eat out too much.Â If I cooked every meal at home, I’d be golden. I need to make myself a challenge or something.)
I feel like reader’s reactions to this book will be influenced by where they are on their financial journey.Â I can see her story of giving up $120 hair cuts seeming flippant to someone who is struggling to buy groceries.Â At the same time, I can see it being inspirational to people who have the ability to start saving money.Â I could also see it being frustrating and making people feel like they haven’t been doing enough to secure their financial future.Â I’d be interested to see how people respond to the message.