When I found out about The Art of Frugal Hedonism, I was intrigued because that sounds contradictory – hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure, is something typically associated with having lots of money to spend on all the greatest pleasures in life: the best food, the most exclusive wine, the softest fabric, the rarest gems, etc. But, the authors argue that there’s a sweet spot between penny-pinching and over consumption. They also maintain that it’s entirely reasonable and appropriate to ignore the typical 40+ hours a week rat race and focus on earning just enough, instead. Combining those two thoughts (having just enough money and working only as much as you need) with a healthy dose of frugal living is something they strive for. In other words, they have a roof over their heads and can feed themselves, but they don’t over indulge and they bargain for goods and services where they can.
One of the great things about this book is that they don’t tell you to drop everything and start being frugal this instant. Instead, they explore different options and explain how these options might work for you or have worked for people they know. Each chapter touches on another aspect or another option, so you get a pretty broad look at all the possible ways you can be frugal and find great, but cheap, pleasures in life, like potlucks with friends or long walks in nature.
Overall, I think that they had a lot of good ideas and great intentions. My one complaint is that I felt that they were very insular in their thought processes. While I don’t expect a book to represent all possible options, I was frustrated by a few things. For example, I felt as though they implied that frugal living was easy to start and to maintain, when in fact it may require a big shift in habits and may even require developing skills that some people would find very uncomfortable. As an introvert, I can assure you that bargaining and community building is not as easy as “just asking” – it requires at least a little bit of courage.
Another thing that I took issue with was a bit of fat shaming. I know that I can be a bit over sensitive to this because of my bad relationship with my body, but I was hurt when these seemingly nice people who seemed to embrace people for who they were and not their physical traits suddenly described seeing gym goers by saying “…the desperate pumping of blobby limbs spied through the gym window.” Based on the context, I believe it was meant as a witty remark, but the implication was negative and it nearly put me right off the book. But, I reminded myself that I can be overly sensitive and kept reading. Sadly, I was disappointed again when they made light of mental illness, implying that it was something that frugal hedonism could cure: “…have you heard about the therapy bills those ‘enviable’ types with designer lounge suites and private pilates instructors are racking p? Choose patchy purchasing for mental and fiscal health today!!”
I nearly quit again, but I resolved to finish reading it because I always try to read as much as I can when I intend to do a review. Thankfully, I didn’t find any more overtly offensive remarks. At the end of the day, I think that they were, as mentioned above, just trying to be witty. But, they were ignorant to the possibility that fat people or people who need therapy might be reading the book. While I’m disappointed by this, I don’t think that the remarks were intentionally hurtful and I believe that the book has a lot of good information in it that could help people who want to try to be a bit more frugal. Personally, I won’t be quitting my job to live the life of a frugal hedonist any time soon, but I have taken some of their ideas into consideration and I’ve referred to many of the resources they provided at the end of the book (books, online resources, etc.).
I think that this book could be very useful and interesting to a lot of people, especially people who are looking for cheap ways to have fun, new ideas for living frugally, or options that they could incorporate into their lives as they embark on long term travelling or living in a van (van living seems to be very trendy these days).
So, yes, I was a bit offended by a few things they said, but, overall, I think this is a good resource and I’m glad that I read it.