Meet The Frugalwoods – Review

About a week after Meet The Frugalwoods was released, I made two realisations:

  1. There was an audiobook available on Amazon.
  2. I had never started my free Audible trial.

Which, all combined, led me to a frugal alternative to lending it at my local library. Being Norwegian, our libraries has a limited selection of English books.

Of course, I unsubscribed as soon as I finished reading the book. Subscription services always make me cautious lest I forget them for a little too long and get charged.

Do you like audiobooks/podcasts, and haven’t started your Audible trial? Why not give it a go if you’re curious about the book? Just remember to add a reminder in your calendar about unsubscribing again before the free trial month is up.

Side thought – Maybe I should try to translate/get it translated. It is cute enough that I would recommend it to friends, but I know at least a handful of them might be more inclined to read it if it came in their native tongue.

General synopsis

The story begins after Liz graduates from college. It portrays the frustration at having done “everything right” up until now in terms of life and school, but as many of us realise, a relevant, meaningful job did not magically materialise itself.

Beginning with a temp job agency position, the next step up is an AmeriCorps placement with a small stipend, barely enough to live on. The contrast described between living in a poor part of New York city while fundraising for the mega rich was staggering and unreal. We saw a great deal of wealth in London, but I never had to work directly with it.

After a year of good “resume fodder” Liz gets more conventional jobs and returns to get a Master’s degree while working full-time. A prospect I would not entertain if I had any sort of personal life, which being married, she absolutely does.

Planting a dream

The description and frustration related to cubicle life does not pain a pretty picture of a life dedicated to working for 40+ years for someone else. It is a notion I can relate to without question. Feeling forced to work for someone else without autonomy in your daily schedule feels like a cage, even in the best of jobs, especially knowing there are alternatives available.

Their timid beginnings into a different life starts with a hike. A simple hike on a Saturday afternoon, which sparked a passion to make room for nature and hiking, no matter the schedule.

Realising nature was where they wanted to be, Nate (Liz’s husband) launched a plan for how they could save lots of money and live in the woods instead of in the city. With a bit of talking and discussing, Liz came on board. Some time after that, the blog Frugalwoods was born.

Months became years, and their staggering savings rate continued to give them more power and momentum. They viewed houses, researched homesteads and generally enjoyed a kick-ass frugal lifestyle of used things and insourcing. After a few homesteads they thought were going to be “it”, they finally found the place they now call home.

All while having their first born, of course.

What did I think?

I will admit, it was shorter than I expected, being read to me at a leisurely five hours and change. Then again, I am used to epic fantasy novels which can take anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to read, even as a fast reader. I will admit my expectations are probably a bit askew.

In general, I liked it. It is not a rehash of the blog, but contains the same actionable tips and attentive detail to privilege and the oppression of institutionalised poverty. They know they are luckier than most, which is something I thoroughly appreciate.

It also has a nice way of going full circle by talking about privilege both at the beginning and end of the book.

Pay it forward

It is cute.

But of course, I would think that, seeing as how the Frugalwoods are living my dream as well as their own.

It is the kind of feelgood, off the beaten path book that I want to buy, perhaps even several copies of, and then lend out to the world in a lending train where each person inscribes the margins and then lends it on to a new person, friend or stranger.

I figure if it inspires me, it might have the potential to inspire other people as well. And if we are really lucky, perhaps we can slow down some of the rampant consumerist madness that is wrecking havoc on our planet.

Mr. Frugalwoods

There are very clear similarities between Nate and a personal friend of mine. So much so that I find myself wishing there existed a similar book written from his perspective, a research-driven geek and self-acclaimed mountain man/engineer/self-sustained enthusiast.

I think that sort of story could have the potential to appeal to another demographic, further expanding the reach and inspiration potential of joyful frugality.

Finishing thoughts

There are some actionable tips in this book. But that is not the main purpose. The story accounts for their own personal journey and thought process in a way that is both relatable and inspirational. They do not gloss over hurdles they met on the way and do not try to pass themselves off as perfect.

The more frugal weirdos, the merrier. And this is a low-barrier-of-entry type of book that has the potential of leaving you with the idea that another life is possible.

If you want it. If you have the courage to chase it.

Have you read it yet? What did you think?

14 Comments on “Meet The Frugalwoods – Review

  1. Thanks for the review! This is another book on my list I want to read. Just got through ‘A year of Less’ by Cait Flanders. Is that one you’ve read?

  2. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely on my list for this year! I didn’t realize it was that short (but then again, most of my audiobooks are in the length you mention ?)

  3. Thanks for the review. Now that their names are out there more, a lot of people were able to locate Mr. FWs salary. Apparently he made over 200k????! Not sure if that is correct, but it kind of takes away from their allure knowing their “non profit” salaries were really substantial. It feels like their blog is smokes and mirrors now. I enjoy JP at The Money Habit, because she doesn’t beat around the bush with her high salary. Do they discuss hard numbers, and are they more open about how truly lucky/rich they are?

    • The book talks about expenses, but not specific net worth or income. They are very aware of their privilege and open and close the book with this topic.

      I do not think this should be a reason to shame or diminish their efforts and frugal habits, especially since they are not anonymous in a world where hackers and ID-thieves are draining bank accounts.

      I know for my own part, whether I earn $10k per year or $100k would not impact my expenses overmuch at this point. Having my face and first name on the blog, there is always the risk that friends or family could identify me. Knowing that certain relatives suffer from credit card debt and poor spending habits, it would be an unnecessary invitation to bad blood and uncomfortable situations if I posted my net worth online and the wrong people found it.

      Just like when the bitcoin FOMO was at its peak a few months ago: “someone else is growing rich faster than you – this is not a crime.” Especially since so many who are interested in personal finance are leagues ahead of many financially illiterate people.

  4. There is a general Frugalwoods theme of wanting to share and create, but at the same time struggling with how far to go. In the early days of the Frugalwoods blog, no full faces were shown (ex. there is a birthday picture with an edit to cover Mrs. Frugalwoods’ face with a cartoon cupcake), and also no real names were given in the beginning either, that came later.
    It jumps out that the incomes of case studies of the blog are given, but that is the only place. I Googled a bit and Nate Thames works for a Democratic non-profit fundraising engine called ActBlue – I get it could be politically sensitive to be blogging about income in this context, even if the information is public. What I feel about the blog is read for ideas and enjoyment, but at the same time knowing not many readers will be able to achieve the same percentage of income savings, or if FI is a goal, to get there as quick.
    It may, or may not, have been easier for Elizabeth Willard Thames to describe herself as a stay-at-home mom who is also an author/blogger, or as a freelance writer, but she has chosen not to do that and it is thought-provoking to see reactions to that now that the book is making her, and the blog, more well known.

    Thanks for the reflections on the book.

    • I think we all struggle with how far to go when it comes to sharing. I know for myself that I am not comfortable sharing my bank statements.

      I am not sure what to think about people jumping so hard and fast on their income. I think their points on frugality are still valid, even if someone on a different income might spend more time getting there. Perhaps they feared it would alienate them from their core readers, and steal attention from their core joy of the blog?

      I don’t know. All I know is that words have power. And how we use those words to describe ourselves can have a huge impact on how we see the world.

      Thank you for your comment.

  5. Yes, I do agree about the core joy, and admire the delight in frugal things. I think it is good too to maybe frame things differently than people are used to and that the Frugalwoods blog does that. Having income doesn’t make someone not able to present a point of view, I agree. I still enjoy reading. I hope there is another Frugal dog sometime in future for the cute pics. Best wishes to you and thank you for your positive ideas. I appreciate your very positive outlook.

  6. I’ve been reluctant to read the Frugalwoods book because I fully expected at least a partial regurgitation of blog posts. I enjoy the blog, but find it a bit repetitive sometimes. But using a free trial of Audible is a great idea! I doubt my local library will be stocking the book so I might follow your lead by doing this….

    • I did not find it to be a complete regurgitation. There were parts you will recognise, of course. My biggest surprise was that it was shorter than expected.

      Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

      • Def not a complete regurgitation. We learned how they got engaged, and what it’s like to ride a stinky bus from NY to Boston.

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