I recently read a book that opened up a whole new world to me. As I was looking over the newly released books at my local library a book caught my eye. A book called Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living I am an avid reader or book worm as my family lovingly calls me but books about money or finance have never been my favorite reading material. Most personal finance books I have read have usually felt complicated or very practical and therefore uninspiring. There are many books out there focused on the ‘how to’ but what I enjoyed about this book is that it was written as a memoir and speaks more about the why and how our values shape our behavior.
I learned through the book that the author, Liz Thames aka Mrs. Frugalwoods, writes a popular personal blog. The book however, was my first encounter with the author and this could be why I enjoyed it more than others as I was reading it from the perspective of a newbie. Early in the book Liz sounds like a frivolous person who needs to accomplish a check list of things she believes to to achieve in order to be “successful”. As she continues to check things off her list, i.e. degrees, good paying job, house, etc. she realizes her and her husband are only getting more stressed and miserable. Hiking becomes an escape from the material pressures and lifestyle creep they have inflicted upon themselves. They quickly realize the woods or nature is where they are truly happy and a quest for simple frugal life begins. They set a goal to save, become financially independent and move to a homestead in woods of rural Vermont. Their dream ignited them to shift from extreme consumerism to extreme frugality. I was able to connect to Liz on a personal level and can better appreciate their trek from city life to the woods. Her stories were thought-provoking and I enjoyed her reading about her journey and perspective.
Some have critized the Frugalwoods about not being forthright with their finances. They say that Liz and Nate did not actually become financially independent because of their frugality, but rather because they have made top dollar in their non-profit careers, apparently over 200k per year. This of course is not an average middle class salary, so point taken. I agree that they did not achieve financial inexpedience solely through extreme frugality but the through high salaries, having no debt and therefore being able to save a ton of money as their priorities shifted. I can see how some may feel like they were mislead as they try to achieve a similar goals but their income levels are such that no matter how frugal the same rate of savings cannot be replicated.
Although I recognize the above to be true, I still found the book interesting and encouraging nonetheless. Life is not all about money but more about how you manage your resources, how you spend your days, and how you give back to the rest of the world. It made the topic of personal finance personal again, encouraging me to reflect on my own relationship with money and the ability to change our own families financial picture.
It also opened up a whole new community to me of interesting personal finance bloggers and podcasters. As I have been drawn to minimalism and the bibles advice on keeping your eye simple, I overall enjoyed reading this book.