Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few decades, you’ve no doubt absorbed society’s message that you can buy your way to a happier life. From the minute we wake up until our eyes close at bedtime, we’re bombarded with splashy ads and commercials promising us the world—for a price, of course.
Elizabeth and Nate Thames were an archetypical couple of our consumerist world. In 2014, this pair of professionals was holding down high-powered jobs, living in the city and pulling in big bucks. The world was theirs for the taking.
But one day, they decided they’d had enough of that lifestyle. They were sick of wishing away their workdays and desperately counting down until the weekends. They wanted to start living genuinely and enjoying each day to the fullest.
Together, they hatched a plan: They’d sock away as much money as possible to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. They called themselves “the Frugalwoods,” and as soon as they put their plan into action, starting by saving more than 70 percent of their income, Elizabeth began documenting their progress on the couple’s popular blog. In less than three years, the Thameses had achieved their goal and reached financial independence at the age of 32. They are now living on a 66-acre homestead in Vermont, together with their little girl.
In her book, Meet the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth retells the eye-opening story of how her financially comfortable family disengaged from the race of keeping up with the Joneses and drastically scaled back their spending to live their dream life. The book is a compelling read that will make spenders of any level stop and think about the choices and financial habits that direct their lives.
You don’t need to be harboring a secret dream of quitting your day job and moving to the woods to enjoy this book. Most of us can stand to cut back on our consumerism for living with a bit more frugality. Meet the Frugalwoods encourages readers to examine their possessions and physical comforts, as well as to determine which of those add genuine joy and value to their lives. Only things that are truly valuable to you are worth holding onto. As Elizabeth says, the process of cutting back and bowing out of society’s peer pressure is enormously liberating.
Thousands of readers have found Meet the Frugalwoods to be an inspiring and motivational tale, but many others find it to be preachy and condescending. A widely-voiced complaint is that the couple is still pulling in a handsome salary and cannot comprehend what it means to truly struggle. Nate works from home and earns over $200K a year, while Elizabeth authors their personal finance blog. While it’s admirable that they were able to pull out of the spending trap and now wear second-hand clothing, knowing they have a huge financial cushion to fall back on greatly diminishes their “sacrifice.”
However, lots of readers find it truly inspiring that a couple who can afford to live large has managed to untangle themselves from the web of consumerism that ensnares most of society.
You may not want to live as frugally as the Thames family, but by reading their story and incorporating some of its lessons into your own life, you, too, can learn to lead a simpler and more meaningful life.
Do you think it is possible to be truly happy and fulfilled while living a life of excessive consumerism? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.