Meet The Frugalwoods is an interesting book. It chronicles the story of a young couple named Liz and Nate Thames and their journey from broke college kids, to finding financial success and living out their dreams on a Vermont homestead.
When I first picked up this book, I was expecting to read about how they went from working a low-paying stipend job in an expensive city to an early retirement in a rural town. I expected it to be a linear journey, providing information on how I could follow in their steps. A few chapters in, I realized this was more of a memoir - a look back at their journey, sprinkled in with some of their money saving and frugality along the path.
I found while reading it, I began to question my idea on what it meant to live comfortably. I bought a house several years ago after living in low-income housing for about 5 years. The apartment we lived in was the perfect size for my daughter and I. The “small” 850 square foot townhouse apartment provided us with enough space to be close to each other, without being on top of each other. All while giving us room to retreat to when we needed space. How much space does a preschool-aged child need? Well, that's questionable; but I was sure glad to have that 100 square feet of respite when I needed it.
The house we live in now, is slightly larger, 1100 square feet….but it provides us with so much more. There is a large yard - to play in or spend Friday nights in surrounded by friends at the fire pit. There is a spare bedroom that can host friends and family when they come to visit, or, it’s an office. Yet there are days when I long to go back to that apartment when life was a little simpler for us. We are comfortable where we are though. All of our needs are met.
But I have questioned whether the choice to buy this home was the right one. I don’t think it was a terrible idea, and have come to the conclusion that yes, indeed it was the best choice given the resources and information I had at the time. Reading about how someone made changes to their life for the better is always a great source to learn from. They are candid in informing readers how they reached each point in their life. The frugality and foresight exposed is enough to make a reader jealous of those skill sets. (I know I have some jealousy of them.) I also read through some of the frugal things they did and implemented them into my own life.
I have rarely gone to the salon to get my hair done; I’ve just never seen the point. A messy bun or a ponytail is my "go-to" look. It keeps my mid chest length mane in check. I went to a salon for my birthday once; the hairstylist looked so proud of her work and asked how I liked it. She had trimmed off the dead and split ends, gave it a little shaping, and voila! I told her it looked nice and then immediately placed it back into its usual bun. The stylist looked so defeated. It wasn’t her fault, she did a great job, but pulling my hair out of my face has been a look I have sported since 1996. I don’t see it changing much at this point.
I asked my mom if she would trim my hair, and every year for my birthday, she does. She trims a few inches off and saves me a $100 salon visit. Technically she saves me more than if I went for a trim every 6 weeks. I have in turn learned how to cut my own daughter’s hair, and I trim hers a little more frequently. This one frugal skill! Compound that over a larger sized family and the savings can be significant!
Liz shares several other frugal tips throughout the book. She shares anecdotal stories that are sometimes dry, but are also funny at times. Liz writes the book well, but as other reviews will reveal, she isn’t for everyone. Several criticisms about the book from other reviewers have said she is whiny, arrogant at times, and her sense of privilege overshadows some of the writing. Personally, I appreciate the fact that she acknowledges the privilege that they both have, and have helped them to achieve the status they currently enjoy. I found their story to be interesting and the tips implementable. Others have found it condescending and off-putting.
If you are expecting this to be a financial ‘how to’ book, you would be mistaken. There are some financial and frugal nuggets sprinkled throughout the book that can be easily implemented. What you can expect is a memoir of a family, who looked back on their life and made changes to make it more efficient, and are happier for their situation.