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Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb’s book The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More is not so much a book of “why” frugal hedonism is best, but one that describes “how” to go about it. It is a quick-read with fifty-one short chapters providing tips for how to incorporate frugal hedonism in your own life. Some chapters are only about a page long. The book is meant to “be [a] primer for a life less dependent on the comforts of consumption, and more focused on extracting maximum pleasure from the most essential parts of being human.”
The Australian writers describe an early taste of simple things that prevented them from ever being too consumption-focused. Both describe early childhoods of that feature parents moving up in lives and how much they missed the original simplicity they were born into. I get it – this is all fine. But I think sometimes Raser-Rowland and Grubb miss the mark as to why someone may “want to move up” in the first place: i.e. security (at times they seem to take for granted that it is only a keeping of the Jones’ mentality – more, more, more). Granted, that is not the main point of their book, but there is a big difference in living the “simple life” because you have to (and what that might even look like) versus because you want to.
Most of their advice is fine but repetitive. They themselves even acknowledge that they tend to repeat the idea of eating a packed lunch instead of ordering take-out. Most of their suggestions are fairly common. For example – they recommend not buying drinks out at restaurants, take care of the things you already own, have an open relationship with recipes, and figure out what you really enjoy spending money on. Other habits such as “relish” were a little too twee for me. It kind of feels like it has been done before, though not with Raser-Rowland and Grubb’s hipster whimsy. Most of the chapters could have used more description, instead of just a quickly expressed idea.
That said, there were a few interesting ideas in the book. For example, suggestion no. 11 “beware fake frugal” is one to keep in mind. They describe fake frugal as “cheap to buy, but at the expense of someone or something else.” Examples they provide are kitchen products you constantly replace (like can openers) or buying white bread instead of the better, healthier wheat bread just because it is cheaper. This is something I always have to remind myself – one-time last year, Bruno and I decided we were spending too much money on groceries, so decided to change out some of our lunches for ramen. I still think ramen is delicious, but it really is not an actual lunch. Lesson learned.
One thing I did appreciate about the book is that Raser-Rowland and Grubb provide plenty of charts and numbers. I never thought I would be the type to appreciate charts and numbers, but it is interesting to see how consumptive habits have changed over the years. In the 1950s 75% of food was made in-home, now it is something like 50% (I was actually surprised that it was still half – I expected it to be lower). Their numbers relate specifically to Australia, but I can’t imagine that it is much different here in the states. When it comes to the history and data around buying habits and happiness, these two know their stuff.
I did really struggle with the style of writing. I suspect this has less to do with the book itself then who I think it might be written for. I made a comment that this is a book with all your usual tips, but with hipster whimsy and that just is not appealing to me. It is a personal preference, but I am not sure that advising me to “relish” or “not be a snooty bum-bum” are things that I find particularly helpful, or cute. I suspect it is a taste thing, but it is not helped by the fact that for the most part there is not much substance there.
I think this book is fine for neophytes on living frugally (that is this concept is completely new to them — although, I’m not sure how many people that would actually be), but for everyone else looking to enjoy life while save some money it will be nothing they’ve never read or heard before. And if you are really frugally-minded, there is nothing in here that you would not be able to find for free on the internet.