The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More
by Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb
Hepburn, Vic, Melliodora, 2016
Book Review by Janine Banks
This is an interesting time to read this book (actually this is my second read but I think I appreciated it more this time) as the pandemic has resulted in lots of folks being laid off work or having reduced hours or still working but from home which I hear gives everyone a bit more time in their day (no traveling time for starters.) These life changes mean we are really in a position to appreciate that we can live a different lifestyle, that we don’t have to do the same thing day in, day out, week after week. We also may be learning that there are things we can live without or ways we can do things differently.
The authors have some different ideas and practices that also challenge the daily routine that we often fall into without questioning whether we always have to do things this way.
Their introduction starts with
We want you to have an excellent life. And we don’t think you should have to spend much money to do it. This book is about how.
And then they go on to explain how, with lots of very small chapters (51 chapters in a book with 226 pages including the very thorough reference section) ranging from Create Your Own Normal, to Hate Waste, to Grow Your Own Greens, to Figure Out What You Really Enjoy Ppending Money On, to Don’t Be a Snooty Bum Bum. And yes, it is also a very entertaining book.
There’s a paragraph in Indulge Your Curiosity that really resonates with me:
Indulging your curiosity isn’t only a less expensive way of getting that “Getting Feeling”, it is deep hedonism. As your understandings amass, you begin to sense the world around you as a dense and majestic cathedral of thrumming, interconnected functions and stories. Plus, you can revel whole-heartedly in these riches as you accrue them, knowing that they require no wardrobe space or loan repayments!
This book gives you a feeling of lightness and letting go like no other book I have read. I guess I’m saying it truly is inspiring, even though I feel I am at least half way to where they are. In their chapter entitled Remember the World of 1950’s Sci-Fi, they introduce the big issue of The Economy.
That heffalump is perhaps the most oft-cited reason for why we need to keep ‘creating jobs’, working them and shopping – whether or not there is work to be done or things we need to buy. The problem here is that The Economy requests the absurd: endless growth on a planet of finite resources. Yes, the Economy would suffer if we all started working less … The point is, economic activity is fatally flawed as the measure of human success and happiness in the first place, so let’s not shape our attitude to work around its needs. Let’s shape it around how much work actually needs doing to keep us supplied with a few simple comforts-i.e., the kind that seemed luxurious only seventy years ago!
There is certainly a lot of wisdom in the book. In the chapter entitled Notice When You Have Enough, they talk about how we often think of more things that might make our life easier or better and then suggest that we think about the idea for a week or so and often decide that we’re just fine without whatever we thought we needed. In fact we often forget what that first idea was and have a different idea of what we might need or want.
And then of course, in the chapter entitled People Who Need People are the Luckiest People in the World, they have a lovely section from Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher who lived from 341 to 270BC. Besides being fond of cheese, he also appreciated simple meals and said
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.
However, he regarded companionship as vital.
“Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.” Epicurus thought people should never eat alone, and should live close to a circle of friends who would nourish each other’s minds, help each other in daily life, and support each other in times of struggle.
In their chapter on Traveling Cheap, they have lots of great suggestions for really traveling in a way that delivers a lot more than the average travel bureau suggests.
The marvelous thing about frugal travel is the way that it compels you to get more intimate with wherever you visit.
I think my favourite story is in this chapter. They choose to walk one full-moon night, all night, to a semi rural train station on the edge of their city, a totally surreal adventure, and catch the first train of the day back. A wonderful adventure, only a train-fare each in expenses, and such amazing sights and experiences in the silence of a sleeping city.
This book is designed to make you think about the level of satisfaction of the average lives we lead and how we could make a few changes that make some big differences to our joy and contentment on a day to day level.