More Truth about the Frugalwoods!

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/mar/08/how-to-retire-early-frugal-spending?CMP=fb_gu

I just thought I’d add this recent Guardian article on The Frugalwoods for your amusement. Obviously you can read the article, but I think the comments are hilarious and really call out the truth behind the lies! Here’s a selection of my favourites and it’s nice to see I’m not the only one thinking this way:

“Reading the comments has saved me from reading the article. Thank you one and all”.

watching them chop vegetables for forty-five minutes just to cook you up a stir-fry

“If this marks your level of skill/ability with home cooking skills don’t give up the day job. Oh you did”.

“Such a small, modest house they have too! I think the book should be called the The Smugwoods: Our transformational journey from city work slaves to rural phoneys who live very far away from everyone, only because we are so annoying”.

“I’m staggered by the fact that you think that living frugally in this way is exceptional. Having to make many of the ‘savings’ you describe in this article is just normal life for many people – and many are worse off than that…”

“I’m too frugalized to buy this ridiculous book”.

“And according to the article it only took them three years. 2014: decided to be frugal. 2018: Retired (!), own 66 acres and a house, book published”.

“Dear Liz (frugalized your name), Will you accept my well thumbed copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities in exchange for Meet the Frugalwoods?”

“Food, our mortgage, gas for the car, electricity, an internet connection, toilet paper. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 2018”.

 

Advertisements

Upcycling a Child’s Table to Make a Board Game Table

We’re big board game fans in this house and we regularly have friends over for ‘Games Night’. We’re all feeling our age and finding it a bit hard going to sit on the floor for hours. Our dining room table is quite small, as there’s just the two of us normally and it gets used for food on these nights. So we’d been keeping an eye out in all the usual places for a suitable ‘games table’. My idea had been that we would acquire one of those retro card tables from the 1950s or earlier, which have a felt top and often fold out. However, as they’re mostly designed for Bridge – they tend to be quite small. All of the ones we saw were also in poor condition or had very high asking prices! We also looked in charity shops for some kind of gate leg table, but as minimalists – it would be a big decision to bring another large item of furniture into the house. They also require chairs and we really wanted something more like a coffee table height, so people could either remain in armchairs (or sit on the floor – more on an answer to that later).

I spotted this child’s play table in a charity shop locally and knew instantly it was a great find. I described it to my other half, but he was unconvinced (mostly because I’d shown him so many unsuitable items on eBay! lol) They were also asking £25 for it, which seemed quite steep to us. Still, he dutifully agreed to come and look at that weekend.Well guess what – the shop was closed! We then got tied up with well, life and totally forgot to go back until we were passing about a week later. Helpfully the table was still there and they’d reduced all furniture to half price, to try and clear some space in the shop. We expressed an interest in the table and asked if we would pull it out, to fully check the condition of it. The manager said we could have it for a tenner! (She obviously wanted rid of it).

It turns out that this little beauty is made of solid wood and retails for about £150 when new. You can also be lucky enough to pick up second-hand ones on eBay for around a tenner too, if you look at the right time. The legs come right off, so we can fold it down and tuck it out of sight, when not needed. The top was a little scratched and we didn’t love the green colour. So we decided to send it a little upmarket, with its own blue felt top which has the added advantage of stopping the board games from sliding all over the place. You can see in the photos above, that we are part way through our little renovation/ upcycling job. The felt cost under £3 from my local fabric shop and we already had the all purpose glue at home, from other craft projects.

My other half announced that some bean bag cushions would mean we could all sit comfortably, at the right height. You could easily pay £15-£25 each for these in the shops and I have an abundance of leftover material from other projects. So I picked out some that matched our lounge curtains, some heavyweight corduroy that I picked up in a charity shop for a song and another piece leftover from some bedroom curtains. I purchased 6 zips, at a cost of 64p each and 2 bags of beans at £6.50 each. Perhaps I will do a tutorial soon, but for now here is a picture of 2 of the cushions I have made. They take a couple of hours each, but the savings are evident.

IMG_4274

And lo, we are the proud owners of a custom games set-up, all for the princely sum of £20. Can’t be bad eh?

The Truth about Frugalwoods and other US ‘Financial Independence’ Blogs

If you are like me, you read a number of financial independence blogs for inspiration. I admit to reading the occasional bit of Frugalwoods or Mr Money Mustache. However, the more I have read the more I have pondered whether these US blogs can bear any relevance to UK readers hoping to achieve financial independence? Today, I hope to uncover more of the truth about this for my UK readers. This is as much to put my mind at rest, as yours.

Frugalwoods say that they own a large detached homestead with land in excess of 20 acres The only equivalent I could see here in the UK is buying a VERY large country property or ex-farm, with a lot of land. I’ll plump for the farm option, as they state they have outbuildings (from their photos it is a very large barn, the size of 2-3 massive houses here in the UK), as well as woods and more. From their photos, I would estimate the main residence to be twice the size of a large UK house, although that is not unusual by US-standards. Actually here is their run down:

Frugalwoods Homestead Specs:

  • 66 acres of primarily wooded land in central Vermont, 35 minutes from Hanover, New Hampshire (where Dartmouth College and every attribute of the ‘big city’ are located)
  • A 4 bed, 2.5 bath, 2,300 square foot house, built in 1991, with two woodstoves
  • An 1,800 square foot barn/shop with a woodstove
  • One pond
  • Many streams
  • Countless apple trees, several plum trees, and a forest of sugar maples
  • Two acres of cleared “yard” with extensive garden beds

They paid $389,000 for their homestead which equates to £300,000. So now you start to see how these US financial independence blogs are laughable here in the UK. I mean, no-one but a multi-millionaire would own a piece of property that large over here! And you’d be lucky to get a normal 3-bedroom, semi-detached house where I live, on a tiny plot of land. I doubt that would even buy you a studio flat in London. They would have put around £97,000 down as a deposit.

They also have a rental property in a US City, which they paid $466,500 for and that equates to approx £360,000. They only put a £50,000 deposit down on it. So, now we’re looking at that owning around £660,000 of property but none of it is full paid for. They have 30-year mortgages (the norm is 25 years here in the UK). They are in their mid-thirties, so they’re looking at carrying that debt until they are 75. I wouldn’t want that noose around my neck until well into retirement!

You can read the reality is then that they worked solidly from University to their mid-thirties to be able to put £147,000 cash on houses. I’m not knocking that, but I expect most people in the UK would be able to sock that away as a deposit too, if they had the luxury of a well-paid job. 20 years of  2 people working full-time and saving 65% of their income, means they were only saving £7,350 a year. That’s as little as £3,675 per person. Undoubtedly achievable here, if not more- it’s just that you would never be able to buy a home or retire on that here!

The truth is that both of these properties still belong to the bank and they’re only a few years into the mortgages on each. If anything happened to prevent them from keeping up payments, they could lose both in a very short period. For example, if they couldn’t get tenants for their city house – one wonders if they would be able to cover the mortgage? They also only keep around 6 months worth of liquid cash which is a very small amount. The rest of their ‘net worth’ they have ploughed into stocks and shares. Whilst it is all very nice to base your ‘net worth’ on what the current selling price of the shares is, it’s all pie in the sky really. In 10 years the value of what they have put away could halve or worse. They are basing their ‘net worth’ on a projected rate of return of 7%, but the reality again is that if anything happened to the stock market (which I think is very likely given the volatility of world markets lately) they could lose a significant proportion of their money or the whole lot! They won’t even have the properties they live in to sell because they don’t own them. I bet you would then find they have stopped blogging and had to go back to work. Probably renting somewhere and lamenting their former choices, except they wouldn’t blog about that!

In actual fact, I think they are quite dangerous examples of how to live. Unless you like an extreme level of risk. I wrote this because I don’t want UK people to compare themselves to some unrealistic ideal. Unless you are planning to move to America, then you’d better expect to be working the rest of your life to pay off a small piece of modest UK property. I don’t think anyone lives under the illusion of early retirement here anymore! The best you used to hope for was retiring at 50, but certainly not 35!!!! You are better to pay off your mortgage before making too many other investments so that at least you have something solid that you own. I think it’s safer to pay into a pension, than invest all your money into stocks and shares.