Elizabeth Willard Thames (aka Frugalwoods) is a financial independence blogger I follow from time to time. She is an excellent writer and her blog discusses the benefits of simple living on the path to financial independence. The Frugalwoods have had success with high incomes, a profitable rental property, as well as a popular online blog. Their financial success has allowed them to purchase a homestead in Vermont, where the young couple work from home and raise their 2 children. Towards the end of 2017, Mrs. Thames wrote a book titled Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living. This book has been on my reading list for a while and is the second book I’ve finished reading in 2020.
Meet the Frugalwoods is a memoir of the choices Mrs. Thames and her husband took along their journey towards financial independence. The book reads very much like a short story rather than an educational textbook. The writing is deeply personal with wonderful storytelling. It feels like Mrs. Thames wrote this book to help get her family and friends to understand her mindset on the choices she’s made on her own journey. The book aims to get people to rethink their whole lifestyle by sharing how frugal living can help you live a dream life.
Right at the beginning of the book, Mrs. Thames acknowledges her privileges - which include coming from families in stable marriages, having parents that helped pay for college, and having access to higher levels of education. She acknowledges that her and her husband have had high paying careers and that being frugal may not be enough to reach financial independence at a young age for everyone. Being frugal can help almost anyone live a better though.
Mrs. Thames makes an excellent case for how proud one should be of living a life of “luxurious frugality”. Mrs. Thames emphasizes that frugality is not about giving things up, but about gaining freedom. A big theme of her life is to rely on herself and her husband to solve problems on their own, without spending more money. By insourcing things such as cutting each other’s hair and home remodeling, Mrs. Thames and her husband strengthen their relationship with communication and collaboration. Frugality is good for the environment, as it involves reducing waste and reusing products.
Frugalwoods on being frugal:
“The key (to frugality) is to identify less expensive options that’ll yield the same or a similar end result. Thus, you end up not feeling deprived, you save a boatload of money, and you are motivated to find even more opportunities for dramatic changes and the resulting savings. Once you begin down the road of frugalizing, it’s nearly impossible to stop. It becomes a game, a competition, and an invigorating challenge. You get to win at your own life.”
“Once you eliminate an expense, you’ve eliminated it forever. It’s not just about saving an amount for one year, but saving that amount every year for the rest of your life.”
There are haters out there that complain about how much income Mr. and Mrs. Thames have made with their careers and continue to make. But there is no doubt that the Frugalwoods are genuinely frugal. Mrs. Thames wears no makeup – as she puts it: “no painted nails, blush, powder, concealer, mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner, or lipstick.” Mrs. Thames stopped buying clothing for over 3 years. She stopped going to get haircuts at the salon. The Frugalwoods only go out to eat one meal a month.
Frugalwoods on financial independence:
“I view financial independence as the point at which you no longer have to earn money in order in live. In other words, your assets are such that you can live off of them without the influx of a monthly paycheck. If you want to work you can, but you don’t have to in order to pay your bills and feed your family. You are freed from the need to earn money; ergo, you are financially independent.”
“A very basic definition of financial independence is as follows: when a sustainable level of withdrawals from your assets is more than your ongoing expenses.”
“There are actually only three variables in the financial independence equation: income, expenses, and time. The less you spend, the more you save, the faster you save it, the less money you need overall. Considered in this context, frugality is a compounding proposition and one of the fastest ways to reach financial independence. A high salary alone is meaningless if you don’t save any of it. The more distance you can put between your earnings and your expenses, the faster you’ll reach any financial goal you set.”
Frugalwoods on savoring infrequent events:
“We’ve discovered that the rarity of something’s occurrence serves to enhance its enjoyment. Just like eating to excess or drinking to excess, spending to excess delivers no lasting fulfillment.”
“When Nate and I go out to dinner, an infrequent event, we savor each bite. We thoroughly enjoy ourselves and we appreciate the uniqueness of the experience. Frugality turned us into people who feel profound gratitude for everything we have, as opposed to the people we used to be, constantly scraping and grasping for more.”
Frugalwoods is a very skilled and gifted writer. My only complaint about Meet the Frugalwoods is Mrs. Thames’ excessive use of complex vocabulary, which I found to be a bit distracting. She fills her book with many beautiful vocabulary words that I’ve never used in my entire life; words that one would ever expect to use in daily conversation. I hate to say it, but this use of vocabulary took away some of my enjoyment of the book and comes across a bit arrogant, which doesn’t really seem to be the feeling I get from reading her blog.
Here are some of the words I had to look up in the dictionary as I read Meet the Frugalwoods: ennui, gauche, suavity, elephantine, en plein air, acquiesce, canapés, doyenne, demure, mete, aggrandizement, goaded, diatribe, profligate, ramrod, kismet, apocryphal, yeoman, erstwhile, girded, rankled, haranguing, Rumspringa, tchotchkes, ersatz, vacuousness, ernstwhile, anathema, prodigious, bucolic, sleeting, dowager, ensconced, agrarian, corybantic, amalgamation, meting, mercurial, and bulwarks. If you’re not an English major, you’ll want to have a dictionary nearby. I do not recommend the audiobook version of Meet the Frugalwoods.
Meet the Frugalwoods is a fun story of self-discovery, emotional growth and financial independence. You can buy it on Amazon here or simply check it out at your local library, which is the frugal way to read this book.
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