Frugal Hedonism

I love my crazy life. Love that I no longer sit in a cube farm wasting hours on silly tasks. Love that our selective penny-pinching has made us financially independent. Love that on any given day, you’re likely to see strewn about the house a) jugs of fermenting wine, b) mass quantities of fresh produce, c) paper models of the Millennium Falcon, or d) ohmygodsomanytools. I wouldn’t trade it for a fridge full of Blue Apron convenience. Most of the time.

Every now and then — usually when the juice from 125 pounds of chopped tomatoes is dripping onto the floor via the back of Seamus the Wonder Dog, as he stands under the table licking up the mess from a sauce-preserving disaster — I wonder why we can’t go out for Italian like normal people.

Art of Frugal Hedonism book review by The Dew Abides

For those days, I now have “The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More” by Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb, a duo based in Australia. Raser-Rowland is a horticulturalist and artist; Grubb runs an urban permaculture design and education business. Previously, they co-wrote “The Weed Forager’s Handbook: A Guide to Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Australia.”1

Their new book, an ode to a life of non-consumerist pleasure, avoids the pitfalls of traditional self-help books. It is neither precious nor condescending, preachy nor impractical.

The premise: The authors have mastered how to live richly on one-fourth the spending of the average Australian and offer encouragement to would-be hedonists in playful but thought-provoking chapters.

These two subsist on creativity, along with appropriate amounts of whiskey and ice cream. Reminders abound of free daily delights, and the need to let yourself be amazed by them. As an added bonus, without getting bogged down in environmental doom-and-gloom, they illustrate how doing the right thing for the planet also does wonders for the pocketbook and peace of mind.

But Raser-Rowland and Grubb don’t shy away from difficulty and failure. They address head on how to separate feelings of worth from number of hours in a work week; how to find a “third place”2 to maintain social relationships when bars and restaurants aren’t in the budget; how to regain the satisfaction of problem-solving and resourcefulness.

In those sections, I recognized our own growing pains and the comical situations we’ve found ourselves in, trying to balance social obligations with our frugal principles. And how the choices we happily make and don’t see as sacrifices often make others, not us, uncomfortable. The authors’ answer is to take those folks by the hand and show them how a drink on the porch tastes better than a $10 martini in a bar.3 It’s the company that counts.

Whether you’ve been a hedonist for years or are just starting to inch away from the rat race, this book will make you want to grab life by the marsupials. Read it.

Ever since The Great Purge, we tend to give away books after reading them, but this one gets a permanent home on the shelf. Next time I’m doubting the sanity of our decision to brew six gallons of peapod wine instead of buying a case of burgundy at the bottle shop, I’ll know just where to turn for reassurance.

“The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More by Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb is available from Melliodora Publishing.

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Brad’s footnotes:

1 As a bonus, being as they’re Australian, or maybe just awesome, they use lots of diction that’s unusual (and charming) for stateside readers. They call ice chests “chilly bins,” for instance, which is clearly a superior noun. 

2 The idea of the “third place” was put forth by University of West Florida professor Ray Oldenburg in what has become a seminal book, “The Great Good Place.” UWF is my alma mater, and I had the good fortune to interview Oldenburg in 1989 for a feature on the book while pursuing my journalism degree. At the time, I thought the concept was groovy but had no idea of the importance of his work on understanding modern social behavior.

3 “If we plan on having a couple of drinks, your authors tend to shun pubs or bars in favour of these more ‘teenage’ locations,” they write. “It was fun then, and it’s fun now!”

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