This year’s Book Squad Goals Reading Challenge includes the prompt to “Read a book from an author who has visited Lawrence.” If by “has visited” you mean “once lived in,” then Elizabeth Willard Thames’s Meet the Frugalwoods fulfills that challenge.
The Thameses (Liz and her husband Nate, aka the Frugalwoods) are KU grads who, after several years of the rat race on the eastern seaboard, decide that what makes them happiest is time spent in nature and that frugality will be their escape hatch from city life. They slash their budget down to the bare bones, save and invest every spare cent, and make a plan to buy land in Vermont where they can retire early--as in, at the age of 32. At their peak, they are saving a staggering 82% of their income.
The Frugalwoods are one example of the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement that probably found its nascence with the Tightwad Gazette newsletter in the 1990s, but really began to spread with the rise of the internet.
Without a doubt, the Frugalwoods’ tale is one of privilege: the confluence of factors that enable a couple to live without pain on a mere 18% of their income is hardly simple. But that doesn’t mean that their story is completely without merit for those of us without six-figure nest eggs. My takeaways? First, financial literacy is powerful. No matter what your financial circumstances are, an understanding of how money works and where your money is going is crucial to financial well-being. Second, social influence plays an important role in how many of us spend our money, and it’s worth taking the time to consider how well our spending, our goals, and values align. And third? Spending time in nature is an investment in your own well-being.
If you are looking to take control of your financial situation, the library is here for you! The Community Resource Clinic is held every 3rd Friday of the month, and can connect you to assistance that can help. We’ve got books and online resources on a variety of financial topics, from money management to investment. Also, our friends at Housing & Credit Counseling are offering free credit report and debt counseling to Douglas County residents during the month of February; for a free appointment, call 800-383-0217. And if you are looking to connect with the real green stuff--nature--we’re happy to help with that, too.
--Melissa Fisher Isaacs is the Information Services Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.