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Review: Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Willard Thames

Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

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 day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—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, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’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 culture’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 wasn’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.

Meet the Frugalwoods was an interesting book. The experience Elizabeth and Nate had was one that takes patience and a strong commitment to do if you are lucky to be in a situation where you are able to have that choice. I'm not familiar with her blog so this was a great opportunity to get to know her and her journey and how she was able to gain financial independence at her age. 

I guess going into the book I was thinking something else from what I took away from after I finished. I'm sure this wasn't how it was intended but there were moments of the book that I thought were a little judgmental and preachy regarding the choices they made and the perspective of certain experiences. Much I think comes from their background of being in the upper middle class and also being millennials. By no means is this a negative, just that the perspective tends to be a bit limited in terms of outside her suburban haven compared to the majority of the country. She does acknowledge her status in the world throughout the book and certain opportunities that allowed her to do what she was able to do but that deters on a certain line for me.

Yes, learning some of the things she did to reach her goal was interesting but then some of the things that had judgments attached I found a little narrow minded. Again, not a negative but a bit more exposure to a broader aspect of different socioeconomical and other cultures would've rooted her life experience points along the way. I'm basing this solely on her opinions and experiences expressed throughout the book and believe this choice of frugality would have a different connotation if this stemmed from a need to rather than a want to. The truth is, the majority of the country has to be frugal because they have to be. Not that there incomes were ever disclosed but considering what they gave up to be considered frugal ($120 haircut) I think her message would've come across more relatable if they didn't have the help that they did and had to make it on their own living paycheck to paycheck on a lower income rather than the comfortable situation they were in to be able to make that choice. 

Overall, her personal narrative was interesting to read. Regardless of any opinions, they set to reach a goal for their own personal lives using frugality to ground and center their lives to a simpler one will have positive longevity. They had the means to do it and good for them regardless of their status. If you are a fan of her blog, I encourage you to get to know her better through her latest book to understand the behind the scene journey.

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