Post updated on 2-12-19.
When Elizabeth Thames released her new book Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living by Elizabeth Thames. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!
I’ve been a regular subscriber to the Frugalwoods blog for a couple of years now, and I’m always eager to learn new and excited tips in the world of frugality. I find her blog to be captivating, clever and witty, and the photos she shares relay in living color breathtaking images of their homestead in Vermont.
After reading the book, I found Mrs. Thames writing to be both eloquent and thought-provoking thanks to her well-developed vocabulary. The words flowed seamlessly as I flipped through the pages, which didn’t surprise me given how well-written her blog is.
The book itself offers few tips on frugality, but instead focuses primarily on Elizabeth Thames herself as she describes her personal journey with frugality, which began in the city and ended in the country. I would best describe the book as a personal autobiography. All in all, I found reading about her life experiences to be an enjoyable excursion.
Although it’s a solid and interesting read, I couldn’t help but feel a bit conflicted when I read some of the comments/reviews on Amazon. The reason for this sentiment is because I found myself questioning the transparency of the blog itself. You see, I’ve always assumed that the Frugalwoods were able to save a high percentage of their income as average or slightly above average earners.
For Example –
Comment (from the Amazon review section):
According to public records, Nate made $225,000 in 2014 and $271,000 in 2016 working as a non-profit executive (2015 data not available but presumably around $248,000). – A B
If this is true and Mr. Frugalwoods alleged salary is correct, and his salary is indeed $271,000, their high savings rate of 70% (as implied in their blog) would mean that they are socking away approximately $189,700 annually. This leaves about $81,300 to live on.
To put this in perspective, according to the Census-ACS for 2016, the U.S. median household income was $57,617. For Massachusetts, the median household income was $75,297.
This makes the Frugalwoods alleged salary far from average, without taking into consideration the salary Mrs. Thames may have also added to their earnings. And if any of this is true, it makes more sense on how they were able to afford a house in Cambridge, MA and a homestead in Vermont in such a short amount of time.
We find nothing wrong with high earners and Mr. FE and I strive to earn a higher income ourselves, however, if this is true, this may introduce a minor transparency issue to the story they tell.
Despite this I don’t believe that the Frugalwoods misrepresented themselves because they never revealed their income on their blog to begin with. In fact, the Frugalwoods are highly impressive because they never allowed lifestyle inflation to get in the way of their dreams, which is something many Americans struggle with on an ongoing basis.
The Amazon description of the book on Amazon’s site appears to be imply that the Frugalwoods are fully retired and living out their dream on their beautiful homestead in Vermont. I felt this was misleading because the description of the book states things like “determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day” and “today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont”. This gives the reader the impression they are both fully retired and living off of their retirement savings.
For Example –
Comment #2 (from the Amazon review section)
Wait just a minute. The promotional copy for this book clearly claims that the couple became “financially independent” and was able to “retire at age 32” to a 66-acre Vermont homestead. Good for them; sounds interesting…Tell me more. And where do I sign up? But it turns out they are both working from their Vermont home. So they are not “retired” are they? – Angry and Late
Again, if this is indeed true and Mr. Frugalwoods is still traditionally employed and Mrs. Thames works from home as a writer, they are not technically retired. He is most likely still getting financial and health benefits not afforded to the average retiree.
On the flip side, if they are both working their dream jobs you could make the argument that they are semi-retired because they no longer need to rely on the corporate world for their income. So in that sense they have achieved financial independence which is something the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) community strives for.
Still Worth The Read
I still highly recommend the book. It wouldn’t be fair to assume that the Frugalwoods misrepresented their financial or retirement situation. However, this is why transparency matters.
As for the Frugalwoods, I congratulate them both on achieving their dream of living on a homestead in Vermont, and wish Elizabeth Thames great success on the release of her new book!
Thank you for reading!
Disclaimer: This post is based on opinion only and is not an official review of the book. This is not an affiliate post and I was not asked by any party to review the book, nor was I paid for this review. My only wish is to share my own personal thoughts on what I had read. I enjoyed reading the book and I highly recommend you read it yourself!