Author Topic: What's up with the Frugalwoods?  (Read 141301 times)

rothwem

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #150 on: March 15, 2018, 12:02:52 PM »


I don't feel I'm being relentlessly negative. I rather dryly, and rationally explained why I feel that the way they've pitched their story (and further, the way the media has picked it up and run with it) is disingenuous. It's just how I feel. And I think I did a perfectly adequate job of explaining that while being mostly polite.

I was met with an awful lot of responses in the vein of,

"Why do you hate the Frugalwoods so much? So they can't buy a woodsplitter now!?! Gosh!!"

This is what I mean by pithy comments and talking past people. It would have been really easy for me, to at any point, respond in kind with something like,

"Why are you guys rushing to the front of the line to be offended just because not everyone finds your favorite blog compelling?" It would have been a lazy and inaccurate depiction of what I was responding to. It also would have been needlessly combative. But it would have been par for the course.

It's pretty shitty discourse, but the alternative has been for me to patiently re-litigate my point every time, only to have third parties come in and decide the volume = vitriol.

I don't know man. I tried.

I'm with you, and I 100% agree.  I think I may have been the first person in the thread with a negative comment though, so my support is probably not going to change anyone's opinion.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #151 on: March 15, 2018, 12:33:53 PM »
I'm with you, and I 100% agree.  I think I may have been the first person in the thread with a negative comment though, so my support is probably not going to change anyone's opinion.

Thank you! It's nice to know that I'm not (completely) crazy!

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #152 on: March 15, 2018, 12:59:37 PM »
As with most problems I face in life, it turns out that someone has already done a better job of solving it publicly on the Internet. Here is an Amazon review that says pretty much everything I've been trying to say, much better.

Quote
Let's talk about the fact that Liz and Nate did not actually become financially independent because of their frugality, but rather because they have made top dollar in their non-profit careers. According to public records, Nate made $225,000 in 2014 working as a non-profit executive. It's admirable that they were able to live intentionally and not experience the kind of lavish lifestyle inflation that many of their high-income peers experience (the reality is that many high-income folks DO live beyond their means). But the idea that Liz/Nate are "average" or "middle-class" because they don't make as much as investment bankers, as they contend in their article in the Guardian, is preposterous on its face. In an ideal world, frugal bloggers/gurus would be forthcoming about their finances and the actual reasons they've been successful, even if these reasons can't be distilled into a single, highly-marketable theme such as "extreme frugality."

It's a three star review. It acknowledges that they've done an admirable job accomplishing what they have. But it drives home the point high income talk was eschewed in favor of frugality because frugality is infinitely more marketable.

I haven't personally verified the income figure, but I'm very familiar with non-profits. If they work for non-profits and make even livable salaries, they're going to be on the form 990. They're not bad people, but I'm pretty comfortable in upgrading my rhetoric at this point. Going to great lengths to describe yourself as "not exceptional", "not rich", "average", and "never (having) investment banker salaries" when you're knocking at the door of a 1% income is downright dishonest.

That's the way salesmanship goes. But salespeople don't get to escape harsh rhetoric, and nether should bloggers.

Thanks to everyone for engaging with me on this.


Vertical Mode

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #153 on: March 15, 2018, 02:38:24 PM »
As with most problems I face in life, it turns out that someone has already done a better job of solving it publicly on the Internet. Here is an Amazon review that says pretty much everything I've been trying to say, much better.

Quote
Let's talk about the fact that Liz and Nate did not actually become financially independent because of their frugality, but rather because they have made top dollar in their non-profit careers. According to public records, Nate made $225,000 in 2014 working as a non-profit executive. It's admirable that they were able to live intentionally and not experience the kind of lavish lifestyle inflation that many of their high-income peers experience (the reality is that many high-income folks DO live beyond their means). But the idea that Liz/Nate are "average" or "middle-class" because they don't make as much as investment bankers, as they contend in their article in the Guardian, is preposterous on its face. In an ideal world, frugal bloggers/gurus would be forthcoming about their finances and the actual reasons they've been successful, even if these reasons can't be distilled into a single, highly-marketable theme such as "extreme frugality."

It's a three star review. It acknowledges that they've done an admirable job accomplishing what they have. But it drives home the point high income talk was eschewed in favor of frugality because frugality is infinitely more marketable.

I haven't personally verified the income figure, but I'm very familiar with non-profits. If they work for non-profits and make even livable salaries, they're going to be on the form 990. They're not bad people, but I'm pretty comfortable in upgrading my rhetoric at this point. Going to great lengths to describe yourself as "not exceptional", "not rich", "average", and "never (having) investment banker salaries" when you're knocking at the door of a 1% income is downright dishonest.

That's the way salesmanship goes. But salespeople don't get to escape harsh rhetoric, and nether should bloggers.

Thanks to everyone for engaging with me on this.

Metro-Boston (as in, including Cambridge and the surrounding suburbs that really make up "Boston") salaries tend to be much higher than the national average, across a lot of sectors. You're absolutely correct that $225k is not an "average" salary by any means, and certainly helped dramatically hasten the FW's journey to FIRE. Perhaps their idea of "average" is warped by the fact that in Cambridge they were surrounded by other high-earners, and as such did not feel like outliers. Such salary figures are not unheard of out here.

I guess maybe I don't feel misled by the way it's all presented because I always kind of suspected the numbers were in that range. I think I understand the issue you take with it; for my part, I like their message and enjoy their blog anyway. I think we can all agree that saving 71% of your income is admirable, no matter what the numerator and denominator are.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2018, 03:00:13 PM by Vertical Mode »

I'm a red panda

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #154 on: March 15, 2018, 02:49:10 PM »
When did they pay off the cambridge mortgage? I thought they had a mortgage on both properties still?

Vertical Mode

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #155 on: March 15, 2018, 02:59:18 PM »
When did they pay off the cambridge mortgage? I thought they had a mortgage on both properties still?

Reading the latest they've published on this, it appears you're right, they do still carry a mortgage on it. I must've been thinking they had done so because they had converted it into a serious cash-flowing rental property. I stand corrected and will revise that part of my post.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #156 on: March 15, 2018, 03:07:09 PM »
Metro-Boston (as in, including Cambridge and the surrounding suburbs that really make up "Boston") salaries tend to be much higher than the national average, across a lot of sectors. You're absolutely correct that $225k is not an "average" salary by any means, and certainly helped dramatically hasten the FW's journey to FIRE. Perhaps their idea of "average" is warped by the fact that in Cambridge they were surrounded by other high-earners, and as such did not feel like outliers. Such salary figures are not unheard of out here.

Certainly possible. They may just not grasp how much money that really is. Since they're personal finance bloggers though, I rather doubt it.

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #157 on: March 15, 2018, 04:00:33 PM »
Hmmm, volume of words, number of posts, level of vitriol about something that has zero effect on your quality of life. What's the point of being so relentlessly negative? Agreed, you were not the only one, but holy crap, why do you care so much?

No idea what that last bolded sentence means.

I don't feel I'm being relentlessly negative. I rather dryly, and rationally explained why I feel that the way they've pitched their story (and further, the way the media has picked it up and run with it) is disingenuous. It's just how I feel. And I think I did a perfectly adequate job of explaining that while being mostly polite.

I was met with an awful lot of responses in the vein of,

"Why do you hate the Frugalwoods so much? So they can't buy a woodsplitter now!?! Gosh!!"

This is what I mean by pithy comments and talking past people. It would have been really easy for me, to at any point, respond in kind with something like,

"Why are you guys rushing to the front of the line to be offended just because not everyone finds your favorite blog compelling?" It would have been a lazy and inaccurate depiction of what I was responding to. It also would have been needlessly combative. But it would have been par for the course.

It's pretty shitty discourse, but the alternative has been for me to patiently re-litigate my point every time, only to have third parties come in and decide the volume = vitriol.

I don't know man. I tried.
Why would you think it's my (or anyone's) "favorite blog"? We're here, aren't we?

If you got a lot of responses questioning your comments, that says a lot. And stoics don't cotton much to "I tried."

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #158 on: March 15, 2018, 04:42:36 PM »
I knew they were high earners, but I didn't realize it was that high. I imagined like a combined 150k. I don't recall them calling themselves middle class, but even if they do, who knows what it even means. Everyone thinks they are middle class.

Saving 70% is admirable, but less so when you are still spending more than the median income.


Eric

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #159 on: March 15, 2018, 04:59:03 PM »
Yeah, it is easy to be "frugal" when you have that much cash to work with.

Not sure I see the connection.  Hopefully you're not under the impression that income drives spending.

They were very frugal for many years.  The fact that they earned large salaries and still spent very little should be viewed as an example of success, not failure.  This type of criticism is pretty ridiculous for people on this site. 

big_owl

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #160 on: March 15, 2018, 05:06:45 PM »
Ok I've been reading their blog more and more and I retract my earlier statement.  I'm not going so far as to call them outright frauds, but if anything, I've learned that the definition of "homestead" is pretty loose.  I see a really nice house on 70 acres, what looks like a really large out building, a so-so garden (certainly not enough to grow the majority of their food), a clown sized front lawn, chainsaw, log splitter, FRONT END LOADING TRACTOR with snow blowing equipment, aux oil backup heat.  Christ, I don't have a log splitter, I have a battery powered chainsaw and a battery powered mower...and I have electric backup heat.  I think I might actually use fewer fossil fuels than they do.  And I don't even have a kid so I'm sure I use far less resources.  I actually think I might be homesteading in the DC exurbs!  I don't have the prerequisite hipster beard so maybe I'm not quite there yet though.  It also isn't clear to me yet whether they're actually retired or not.  Maybe I'll change my tune again as I continue to read, but for now I'm leaning toward "what's so special about them?".

Eric

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #161 on: March 15, 2018, 05:37:53 PM »
Yeah, it is easy to be "frugal" when you have that much cash to work with.

Not sure I see the connection.  Hopefully you're not under the impression that income drives spending.

They were very frugal for many years.  The fact that they earned large salaries and still spent very little should be viewed as an example of success, not failure.  This type of criticism is pretty ridiculous for people on this site.
Its not so much that income drives spending and more that income drives savings. And the larger the income the larger the savings potential. So a median income earning who saves $25k and lives on $25k a year isn't going to be able to live like the FW do and also become FIRE in a few years. Where as the FWs may have been frugal and also lived on $25k and saved $300k or more each year so that they could live the life they now do, have the expensive homestead, the house in Cambridge, and the wood splitter. Everyone might be washing out the used Baggies and line drying their clothes but doing those things probably had very little impact on The FWs FIRE success.

So they're just like MMM in that respect.  The idea that not spending money had little impact is patently false.  That's the part that allowed them to save and invest most of their money.  Do none of you actually read or understand the blog attached to this forum?

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #162 on: March 15, 2018, 05:41:07 PM »
The tractor came with the property sale. So when they show their mortgage, it's in there.  I think they would have had a hard time explaining that as a separate purchase, no matter how handy it is.

big_owl

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #163 on: March 15, 2018, 06:07:05 PM »
Not sure everyone here is aware, but they make their own seltzer water, and that means that every cup of seltzer is only a few pennies.

In the context of this thread the above statement might be the funniest thing I've ever read on this board.   It's sort of a cross between a non sequiter and an insider pro tip.   It's put a big smile on my face.   

Eric

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #164 on: March 15, 2018, 06:17:28 PM »
Yeah, it is easy to be "frugal" when you have that much cash to work with.

Not sure I see the connection.  Hopefully you're not under the impression that income drives spending.

They were very frugal for many years.  The fact that they earned large salaries and still spent very little should be viewed as an example of success, not failure.  This type of criticism is pretty ridiculous for people on this site.
Its not so much that income drives spending and more that income drives savings. And the larger the income the larger the savings potential. So a median income earning who saves $25k and lives on $25k a year isn't going to be able to live like the FW do and also become FIRE in a few years. Where as the FWs may have been frugal and also lived on $25k and saved $300k or more each year so that they could live the life they now do, have the expensive homestead, the house in Cambridge, and the wood splitter. Everyone might be washing out the used Baggies and line drying their clothes but doing those things probably had very little impact on The FWs FIRE success.

So they're just like MMM in that respect.  The idea that not spending money had little impact is patently false.  That's the part that allowed them to save and invest most of their money.  Do none of you actually read or understand the blog attached to this forum?

I didn't say not spending money was the key to their success. I said being extremely frugal (as they've said in their blog) was not the key to their success. Obviously the definition of "frugal" is going to be much different from person to person. Are you frugal if you earn $400k a year and only live on $200k? Are you frugal if you earn $30k a year and only live on $15k?  Which will allow you to get to FIRE faster and live your expensive dream life?

Yes, their frugality was the key to their success.  Their income was also the key to their success.  Shall I provide an obvious example for you too?  Which is better?  Earning $300,000 and spending $299,000 or earning $300,000 and spending $30,000? 

The fact that they earned a good income and spent very little is an amazingly good thing.  This is exactly what MMM did.  Whenever someone comes on here to criticize MMM in this manner, we have 1000 fighters stepping up to defend him.  The fact that they're being criticized for doing that on this forum is the height of hypocrisy.  Frankly, I expected better from most of you.

fuzzy math

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #165 on: March 15, 2018, 06:23:14 PM »
I enjoyed their blog for a while when I first found it. Never found her to be overly preachy or lengthy. There was some serious cross referencing to other posts (every other word linked) which seemed to just rehash all the old topics.

That guardian article some people mentioned was pretty bad. Very over written (like the a "give a kid a thesaurus" in English class assignment). Perhaps she was nervous about writing on a national stage, or perhaps they wanted different things from her. It did not read smoothly and did come off sanctimonious.
I did find her to be really pleasant and down to earth on the podcast I listened to. I agree she comes off better in a more relaxed conversational atmosphere.

3rded (4thed ? 5thed?) about the beard. There's a whole lotta "I don't give a fuck" going on there.


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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #166 on: March 15, 2018, 06:46:52 PM »
Firstly, I'd say good for them for being frugal, making a plan, and reaching their goals.

@Eric MMM was up front about his high salary and the need for one. I was turned off when she wrote the post about their non-profit salaries and how they "haven’t done anything all that unusual," while failing to mention their unusually (for the sector and the country) high salaries. I felt she was being opaque, if not purposefully misleading about the income part of the equation.

This is probably going to be unpopular, but I'm tired of the PF blogger bootstrapper myth. In that same post, FW talks about her rise from SNAP benefits (after graduating college with no debt, while participating in AmeriCorps) to FI, saying: "the most imperative element is that we’ve both worked hard and gone above and beyond in our positions."
Many people work hard and go above and beyond in their positions, but they will never have access to similar networks, jobs, incomes, raises, and promotions. These types of comments make it easy to believe that we're special and that other people don't reach comparable wealth levels due to some fault of their own.

Hey, guess what? The FWs were lucky. Most of us on this forum are lucky. We have way more than our fair share of global wealth, and we don't deserve it any more than anyone else.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #167 on: March 15, 2018, 08:07:26 PM »
Why would you think it's my (or anyone's) "favorite blog"? We're here, aren't we?

I don't, and I wouldn't. Saying so would be lazy and inaccurate. Some might even say, needlessly combative.

chasesfish

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #168 on: March 15, 2018, 08:25:04 PM »
I'm surprised at all the hatred on here...

Some of the old-timers like me remember Liz lurking around on the MMM forums either before she had the blog or right when she started.   Her, Mr. Frugalwoods, and a hound in a small Boston apartment.   She was always nice and encouraging while reminding people they DO have a choice of what to spend.   I miss seeing her and RootofGood around ever since their blogs got big


Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #169 on: March 15, 2018, 08:25:38 PM »
Why would you think it's my (or anyone's) "favorite blog"? We're here, aren't we?

I don't, and I wouldn't. Saying so would be lazy and inaccurate. Some might even say, needlessly combative.
Well, the words came straight outta your comment above and it was a lighthearted attempt to point out that of course, MMM is everyone's favorite blog, obviously.

But, this isn't a hill worth dying on, so I'll happily concede. Game, set, match to mathlete.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #170 on: March 15, 2018, 08:57:40 PM »
I'm surprised at all the hatred on here...

Some of the old-timers like me remember Liz lurking around on the MMM forums either before she had the blog or right when she started.   Her, Mr. Frugalwoods, and a hound in a small Boston apartment.   She was always nice and encouraging while reminding people they DO have a choice of what to spend.   I miss seeing her and RootofGood around ever since their blogs got big

I must sound like a broken record at this point, but it's not hatred. At least not from me, and I don't very much that it's hatred from any of the other folks around here either. Check out this quote:

Quote
My husband, Nate, and I are not exceptional people. We’re not rich or famous or geniuses or even particularly good-looking (although we have our moments). We’re just some average, middle-class kids from the midwest who decided we wanted something more out of life than what our consumer culture sells us.
 
While it’s true that Nate and I are average people, and we’ve never won the lottery or had investment banker salaries or been the beneficiaries of inheritances or trust funds, I’m keenly aware that we are also extraordinarily privileged.

Imagine writing that while having a one percenter income. It's dishonest. The word choice is very careful. There is a nod to privilege there at the end, but it's very transparent to me what they're doing. Emphasize the frugality and not the income. Because frugality is marketable when you're selling dreams. Extremely high incomes are not.

I don't care how many posts someone has on this forum. I know it makes it hard for some people to be objective when it comes to other members of their own community, but clearly I don't have that particular hang-up.

It's personally no skin off my nose. I'm not doing as well as MMM or FW, but I'm not yet 30 and my girlfriend and I have more than 2x the median US household income. The MMM or FW brand of life will probably work out very well for us. But there are real people who are affected by such dishonesty. Check out these Amazon reviews. These aren't just haters. Many of them are fans of the blog.

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From the blog, I got the impression that the Frugalwoods were previously working "average" jobs in Boston, earning modest non-profit salaries. Not so, at least in the case of Mr. Frugalwoods. A 200,000+ salary is not average.

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I had no idea they made that kind of money. From the blog, I just figured average was $50-60,000. Thanks for that eye opening comment.

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I have been following the Frugalwoods blog for 3 years and I have always enjoyed it. I really wanted to love the book.

The online persona is entirely different from what I read. I feel like the account we have been given through Frugalwoods is a sham.

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Hard to take financial advice from someone who selectively feeds the audience only pieces of information. The tone of the narrative is —- we get by on very little. The missing piece is —- we are a high earning couple with substantial resources and savings.

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the Frugalwoods also obfuscate the income side of reaching financial independence.

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This book is disingenuous by not revealing this couple's financial details.


redbird

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #171 on: March 15, 2018, 10:22:03 PM »
I've never had a problem with the Frugalwoods personally. I never read their blog much, even though I hear them mentioned here a lot, because they are simply irrelevant to me. They talk about babies and homesteading a lot... at least, every time I take a look at their blog that seems to be the focus. I have no interest in a homesteading in a rural area life and I don't have children. Even when they talk about finances, it felt too generic and not helpful enough for situations like mine. I mean, when I found MMM, I didn't even need MMM's help. I was already frugal and almost-Mustachian. He just 1) gave me the courage to try investing and 2) taught me ways to be more frugal/badass, which eventually lead to FI and then RE. His articles still give me ah-ha moments sometimes. Frugalwoods have never taught me anything in the times I've looked at their articles because it feels more beginner to mid-level assistance with finances. Even before we found MMM, my family was at the expert level.

I didn't know much about the Frugalwoods' financial situation before reading the discussion here. I didn't know they had made that much money when they were still working. The amount Mr. Frugalwoods made in his non-profit exec job alone, ignoring whatever his wife made, was WAY more money than DH and I ever made combined when we were still working, and we retired at similar ages as they did. So it's definitely possible to get the kind of life they have without the high income they had and at a similar age that they did. But it also requires being lucky, and it requires being frugal and financially smart pretty much as soon as you become an adult - if not sooner. It's so easy to not have one or more of those things in your life because of the way society/the world works.

I guess the whole point of this post is I just have never gotten the appeal of them because they are pretty far off from my life. MMM I get, him being an engineer with an engineering-type mind, and the fact that he doesn't pull punches to try to make you feel good. He preaches truth. But you know what? That's why we can have lots of financial bloggers out there. Some will resonate with you and give you those ah-ha inspiration moments. Others you will not care about and won't read much about them.

chasesfish

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #172 on: March 16, 2018, 05:57:45 AM »
@spartana @lhamo

Ah - I got it now.  Crazy frugality is definitely a game to them, not something that really got them to their version of Financial Independence.  I picked up on the fact Mrs. FW is still working remote, which allows the freedom.   They also hit the housing lottery based on the time they bought in Cambridge, which isn't unlike some other bloggers from this once in a lifetime housing crash.  I'm happy for them.

The only thing I struggle with a little is the "age-marketing".  Its kind of like any of these sub-33 early retirement stories, there's always a catch.  Wildly low personal spending hurdle to start, hitting the generational lottery with real estate, or knowingly relying on work remote stuff.  This isn't internet retirement police stuff or disparaging their work, but the generational real estate lottery winners just got there a few years earlier than someone could in 99% of the time in the real estate market.

I'm about to turn 36, have had a professional income since 3 months after my 21st birthday, and enjoyed a high individual/household income since 2009.   I was three years too early in real estate and lost $100,000 and it took until 34 to be at a "lean FI" number.


Warlord1986

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #173 on: March 16, 2018, 06:33:57 AM »

Hmmm, volume of words, number of posts, level of vitriol about something that has zero effect on your quality of life. What's the point of being so relentlessly negative? Agreed, you were not the only one, but holy crap, why do you care so much?


He's not being relentlessly negative. He's pointing out why the FWs are full of it. He's using logic to do so, and he's being very polite about it. You seem to take his disenchantment with them very personally. Why is that?

The thing about $225k salary and that sickening article about LGBT overcoming hetero-privilege make me want to go for take-out coffee and fast food.

Nobody is knocking them for being frugal. People are knocking them because they said they were middle-class who got where they did by being frugal. They lied, they have capitalized on that lie, and people are calling them out of their shit. 

Nancy

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #174 on: March 16, 2018, 07:41:41 AM »
@Warlord1986 there is nothing sickening about that article. Good on Mrs. FW for shining a light on heterosexual privilege!

Warlord1986

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #175 on: March 16, 2018, 08:13:46 AM »
@Warlord1986 there is nothing sickening about that article. Good on Mrs. FW for shining a light on heterosexual privilege!

I'm pretty sure that the only people qualified to tell the LGBT squad that they overcome heterosexual privilege....are LGBT individuals.

Also:

Quote
Having overcome her “Rumspringa of spending,” Thames urges those in queer community driven to live a lifestyle that meets a certain expectation to be honest about whether that’s providing them true happiness. “Ask,” she says, “are these things delivering the benefits that I hoped they would? Is my life transformatively better because of my spending, or am I just looking for the next thing to buy?”

Later:

Thames believes that “anywhere along the frugality continuum you can derive benefit from being more financially secure and financially stable.”

She didn't 'shine a light' on anything. She just shilled her product using her usual self-important blather. Only this time she used the LGBT community.

Warlord1986

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #176 on: March 16, 2018, 08:18:55 AM »

That's certainly one way to look at it.  I read the article too, and my initial reaction was: Oh look, they've added some new angle about heterosexual privilege in order to get spotlighted on a financial advice blog curated for the LGBT community. My reaction was that it was more a cynical proclamation to get entree to that niche audience -- not some courageous political statement that happened organically. 

Maybe that's what he meant by "sickening"?  Because that would indeed be sickening.


I'm a woman, and yeah. That's what I meant. Poor choice of words.

jdroth

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #177 on: March 16, 2018, 12:20:17 PM »
JD Roth is friendly with them and he also finds the lack of transparency about their income to be odd:

https://www.getrichslowly.org/frugalwoods-review/

Yikes, the next FinCon is gonna be awkward.

Haha. I hope not! I think Liz is awesome. I like her story. But I cannot in good conscience review her book without noting what I consider a glaring hole in her story. I would have called out any other author, so it would by hypocritical to not call out a colleague.

The narrative "we were frugal for fifteen months so we could then buy 66 acres in Vermont" doesn't hold up. It doesn't work like that. And while I think Liz and Nate have admirably acknowledged that their story comes from a place of privilege, they're doing a tremendous disservice to readers by obfuscating the income factor. They didn't achieve financial independence by being frugal. They did it by boosting income.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with having a high income. What I think is wrong is pretending that others can do what they did without the income portion of the equation. As I said in my review, it's like giving a recipe for bread without mentioning you need yeast.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2018, 12:23:01 PM by jdroth »

mm1970

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #178 on: March 16, 2018, 01:20:56 PM »
JD Roth is friendly with them and he also finds the lack of transparency about their income to be odd:

https://www.getrichslowly.org/frugalwoods-review/

Yikes, the next FinCon is gonna be awkward.

Haha. I hope not! I think Liz is awesome. I like her story. But I cannot in good conscience review her book without noting what I consider a glaring hole in her story. I would have called out any other author, so it would by hypocritical to not call out a colleague.

The narrative "we were frugal for fifteen months so we could then buy 66 acres in Vermont" doesn't hold up. It doesn't work like that. And while I think Liz and Nate have admirably acknowledged that their story comes from a place of privilege, they're doing a tremendous disservice to readers by obfuscating the income factor. They didn't achieve financial independence by being frugal. They did it by boosting income.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with having a high income. What I think is wrong is pretending that others can do what they did without the income portion of the equation. As I said in my review, it's like giving a recipe for bread without mentioning you need yeast.
I guess I don't remember (and too lazy to look) if they even discuss income?  Because at their ages, it's not uncommon to have your income increase exponentially as you gain new experience, job hop, get promotions.  That would make for an interesting addition to their blog, if it's not already there.

I mean, I'm frugal.  So is the spouse.  We've got bucks.  But don't miss the truth.  20 years ago my spouse was in grad school making $12k a year and I was making $50k a year as an engineer.  We were in our mid to late 20's.  That was pretty close to the median income of the time.  Now our family income is 5x that.  So...we haven't dealt with much lifestyle inflation (well, except mortgage and kids, which are big, I grant you that).  It's easier to be frugal when you are over $200k, even in a HCOL area (which we are).

On the other hand, some people will ignore good advice if people aren't "suffering" enough.  You know I never talk about $$ with my brother because he doesn't want to hear frugal tips because we make so much money.  But he didn't want to hear it 20 years ago either when we were making the same $$.  Good advice is good advice, even if the writer isn't suffering.  "Try and do that on $40k" is a hell of a defense mechanism.

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #179 on: March 16, 2018, 02:23:16 PM »

That's certainly one way to look at it.  I read the article too, and my initial reaction was: Oh look, they've added some new angle about heterosexual privilege in order to get spotlighted on a financial advice blog curated for the LGBT community. My reaction was that it was more a cynical proclamation to get entree to that niche audience -- not some courageous political statement that happened organically. 

Maybe that's what he meant by "sickening"?  Because that would indeed be sickening.


I'm a woman, and yeah. That's what I meant. Poor choice of words.

Thanks for the clarification. I thought you were sickened by either the LGBTQ community or the idea that some people are privileged (some people deny both).

gettingtoyes

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #180 on: March 18, 2018, 04:28:25 PM »
I posted the following on JD's blog review of their book:

I love reading the Frugalwoods blog, but I have become a little disillusioned...

I reserved a copy of the book at the library and started reading through the Amazon reviews. Someone pointed out a link to Actblue's IRS filings and Nate (whose actual first name apparently is James) made $225,000 in 2014, the year that they decided to be more frugal (link from amazon review: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/455097038 )

I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with them making a great income (including Liz's income from when she worked full time for a w-2, I bet their income was around $300k). But I feel a little cheated when she talks about her anxiety over things like being able to stay home with her child and how she could make up for her lost income.

That's so disingenuous. Anyone making the kind of money their husband does can stay at home with their child with absolutely no difficulty. Even on half of that income!

I also have no problem whatsoever with them sourcing out used items. It's awesome for the planet. But now what I object to is her description of things like getting her stroller-

"As we pulled into the thrift store parking lot, I spied my dream stroller sitting out front. Resplendent with 20 inch wheels, there it sat. I leapt out of the car and rushed over to claim it."

I am all for sourcing out used things, but when you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, maybe one shouldn't be so anxious to get the used item that someone else making a lot less money than you might need.

In summary, I think it's awesome that they make great money and it's awesome that they are frugal and help others to be frugal. But the tone of the blog makes it sound like their frugality was the key to their success, when really it was only a small part of the equation.  She does talk about privilege, it's true, but not enough in the right way. From her blog, I would have guessed they made around $150k or so. Not approaching $300k

eta: Full disclosure, I will probably make around $210k this year (about a third of it is overtime that won't happen next year, but still a high base income around $130k). One of my siblings makes around $50k. Even if she led a hardcore frugal lifestyle, she won't be nearly as well off as I would be given the income I make. I could put her entire salary of $50k in the bank without much trouble. She cannot do that. If I was to tell her that she could, it would be dishonest. I think that this is what rankles me more, the misleading...saving 93% of your income is a lot easier (as they reported in 2014 including their retirement) if you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2018, 05:05:12 PM by gettingtoyes »

nick663

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #181 on: March 18, 2018, 08:17:02 PM »
Yeah, it is easy to be "frugal" when you have that much cash to work with.

Not sure I see the connection.  Hopefully you're not under the impression that income drives spending.

They were very frugal for many years.  The fact that they earned large salaries and still spent very little should be viewed as an example of success, not failure.  This type of criticism is pretty ridiculous for people on this site.
On the podcast I listened to a couple weeks ago they talked about having an 82% savings rate which sounds very impressive.  The problem is if you are making 300k and 82% savings rate still leaves you with more than the median US household income to spend.  I'm oversimplifying by not including tax impacts but yeah, seems like a gaping hole in the story to not mention your 1% income as a major contributing factor.

Adram

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #182 on: March 19, 2018, 06:47:00 AM »
I like their story, and i like their move to the woods lifestyle.

But I can't stand it when a blog becomes more about the money than about telling the bloggers story.

I never had that feeling with the frugalwoods until they moved to the country and she quit her job. I don't remember them being FI until she needed the blog to make money and it made the story sound better. Since he kept his job and just worked remotely, why does she need to push the blog and book so hard if they are FI?

Still, i like her writing, and the extract from the book that i read was pretty decent. She has talent.

Just the stuff about privilege drives me nuts. It's so pat, like oh they are asking if poorer people can do what we did, this is the bit where i trot out how grateful and aware of my privilege I am, and not even answer the actual question. Telling everyone how woke you are makes it almost like you actually care.

big_owl

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #183 on: March 19, 2018, 04:01:56 PM »
I like their story, and i like their move to the woods lifestyle.

But I can't stand it when a blog becomes more about the money than about telling the bloggers story.

I never had that feeling with the frugalwoods until they moved to the country and she quit her job. I don't remember them being FI until she needed the blog to make money and it made the story sound better. Since he kept his job and just worked remotely, why does she need to push the blog and book so hard if they are FI?

Still, i like her writing, and the extract from the book that i read was pretty decent. She has talent.

Just the stuff about privilege drives me nuts. It's so pat, like oh they are asking if poorer people can do what we did, this is the bit where i trot out how grateful and aware of my privilege I am, and not even answer the actual question. Telling everyone how woke you are makes it almost like you actually care.

So is he still actually working?

Lichen

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #184 on: March 19, 2018, 05:31:28 PM »
I use the general you throughout, I'm not trying to single out anyone in particular. I also hesitate to post, since I have a gut feeling I might get my head chewed off by some. I just want to voice my take on it from the other end of the income spectrum.

I think the privilege posts are made in response to the mass amount of FIRE types that honestly DO NOT recognize their privilege. The ones that tell low income earners to simply earn more, or live on less, or not be poor. Even this enlightened forum has quite a few that would benefit from reflecting upon their own privilege (as opposed to gloating over it). To those like myself with a little less privilege than all the six figure earners in the PF forum/blog world, I can shy away from high earners and their advice because so many really don't see their privilege and judge those with a smaller income as being inept, less intelligent, and lazy (or a combination of the three). By government standards my family is at the poverty line, but we are so much more privileged than many in this country.

I respect FW for harping on their privilege and recognizing it, because trust me, very few really do in the PF world or world at large. My kids will hopefully begin their adult life with a similar level of privilege, because their broke ass parents have worked hard to give them the opportunities to be in the upper echelons of society/earnings. And damn straight we make sure they are mindful of that privilege.

Also, from a low earner's perspective (full disclosure: read the blog, not the book), FW has always been honest that their income was high and that allowed them to achieve what they did quickly, but that their tactics could be used on a smaller scale by lower earners. And you know what, I'm finding out they are right. We were always frugal-ish, but we were never focused. With focus, maybe not anything is possible, but a whole new field of possibilities really does open up -- even at the poverty line.

That's the real FW message, you know. Frugality + Focus = Options

Llewellyn2006

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #185 on: March 19, 2018, 05:42:12 PM »
I received an email update about the latest post this morning so went and skimmed through it. It turned out to be one of the expenses reports that i don't pay a lot of attention to generally. Down the bottom was a comment asking why Mrs Frugalwoods doesn't show the income side of the equation - possibly inspired by the recent comments after her podcast? I just went back to see if there were any other comments and that particular question is gone. Maybe the uncomfortable questions are being censored?

While I like her frugal principles I do find the refusal to disclose the income side of things does reduce her credibility. As others have said it's a lot easier to be frugal and FI when you're earning several times the median income..............and the writing is a bit over the top sometimes.

Lichen

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #186 on: March 19, 2018, 06:01:02 PM »
How incredibly crass to ask someone what their income is, and I don't care if they are in the public eye as a PF blogger. Knowing their income will do nothing to help anyone, it is just for the looky-loos and judgy-joes to gossip over. The over-sharing culture of social media and the Kardashians has made too many people step over the line when it comes to basic etiquette.

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #187 on: March 19, 2018, 08:17:58 PM »
Okay, okay, apparently I have more to say. I posted something to this effect over on GRS, but I'm going to draw in a deep breath and dive in again here. You know how people who lose a lot of weight can have trouble seeing themselves as anything but fat? Or the classic case of parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and can't spend money even though they have plenty, due to all their years of stretching a dolla 'til it hollas?

The Frugalwoods didn't start out with much. I believe at one time they even qualified for food stamps, as they were called back then. They worked hard, saved their pennies, then their dollars, and dreamed big dreams. In time, they were successful and their dreams came true.

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THAT?

Who the hell are we that we can't be happy for their success? Sure, they may be earning the big bucks now, but it wasn't always that way. They did it. We may nitpick over small points, but they are living their dream. Look at how much MMM apparently makes from his blog! Who cares? He just keeps on doing his thing. It doesn't invalidate his experience (or theirs) one bit.

There's a great line by Barry Switzer. "Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple." I would argue that the FW's get what this means and they are grateful for all the opportunities they have been given. This takes absolutely nothing away from what they've accomplished. They do understand that their stars aligned in such a way that their dreams came true and they are grateful for it.

Finally, who cares if he still works and she writes? If he's really pulling down that kind of coin and feels like he's making a difference in the world, while working from home, hooray for them!

/End rant.

Chaplin

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #188 on: March 19, 2018, 08:34:00 PM »
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THAT?

Yes. If you can live on $20-$30K, that's what's relevant, not how much you make. If you make $100K that level of spending implies X years to FI and if you make $300K it implies Y years to FI, but for everyone making >$30K, advice on living on $20-30K could be beneficial. If you learned to live frugally while your income was low, it's sustaining that spending as your income increases (or just stays the same) that will help you be financially successful. Whether it takes 15 months or 15 years to achieve your goals isn't the issue, it's whether you're on a path to achieve them or not.

seattlecyclone

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #189 on: March 19, 2018, 11:35:02 PM »
I've been following their blog on my RSS reader for a while. They seem like interesting people, with a similar financial trajectory to my own family, and kids about the same age as ours as well. Their preference for rural living is about the opposite to my own, which in some ways makes it more interesting, rather than less, to read about their lifestyle. That said, I can rarely make it all the way through one of their blog posts. Something about the writing style just doesn't quite agree with me.

rothwem

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #190 on: March 20, 2018, 08:10:46 AM »
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THAT?



They do understand that their stars aligned in such a way that their dreams came true and they are grateful for it.

So, if they truly acknowledge that is the case, why would their story be exceptional at all?  If I inherited 100 million dollars from a rich uncle, would I be qualified to write a book on how to be financially independent?  Sure, it might make a good story,  but I doubt anyone would be impressed with my financial prowess. 

Tuskalusa

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #191 on: March 20, 2018, 08:43:18 AM »
I think the people who discount the power of Frugalwoods journey are missing the key part of the story. They started from typical lifestyles and cut their expenses way back. They didn’t start from any kind of windfall, other than stable employment. As best I can tell, they started from jobs similar to the ones that many on this blog hold.

They did exactly what is described here. They set a goal, super-aggressively saved, and got there. Then they reaped the benefits of setting goals and curbing lifestyle inflation. It doesn’t surprise me that they have seen their incomes rise. In their case, it seems to be a natural progression.

I don’t really understand why the Frugalwoods are the subject of such ire on this thread. Their book explains their journey, and it’s pretty similar to the success stories here.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #192 on: March 20, 2018, 09:07:16 AM »
I'm very happy for the Frugalwoods.

Being happy for someone and still not wanting to cosign their dishonesty are not mutually exclusive.

I'm a red panda

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #193 on: March 20, 2018, 09:13:34 AM »

So, if they truly acknowledge that is the case, why would their story be exceptional at all?  If I inherited 100 million dollars from a rich uncle, would I be qualified to write a book on how to be financially independent?  Sure, it might make a good story,  but I doubt anyone would be impressed with my financial prowess.

Did they do that though? I though their book was more of a memoir than a how-to.  I didn't read it though. $5 on kindle is my max.

leftcoastenvy

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #194 on: March 20, 2018, 09:18:06 AM »
I don't really have a problem with Frugalwoods, but I was turned off when listening to her on the Mad Fientist podcast. She was saying that when there is free food for a conference or what not, she always grabs an extra sandwich and snacks so she can have free lunch or dinner later. Mad Fientist said that she did that at FinCon and then when he arrived to breakfast there was not enough food left for others. With a $225,00k+ salary, she can still be frugal without stealing food. I think she can afford buying a $5 sandwich for lunch at Fincon.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #195 on: March 20, 2018, 09:21:41 AM »
I don't really have a problem with Frugalwoods, but I was turned off when listening to her on the Mad Fientist podcast. She was saying that when there is free food for a conference or what not, she always grabs an extra sandwich and snacks so she can have free lunch or dinner later. Mad Fientist said that she did that at FinCon and then when he arrived to breakfast there was not enough food left for others. With a $225,00k+ salary, she can still be frugal without stealing food. I think she can afford buying a $5 sandwich for lunch at Fincon.

I actually thought that story was pretty funny. I wouldn't rake her over the coals too hard for that one though. I'm sure that whatever they give to charity has more than made up for that on a cosmic scale.

FireHiker

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #196 on: March 20, 2018, 09:42:54 AM »
I'm reading her book right now. I started it last night and I'm 26% through it now. I did check it out for free from my library because I do try to be frugal too (although I fall far, far short of their frugality). I am really enjoying her book because I feel like we are very similar personality-wise. She had a much more stable and sheltered upbringing than I did, but a lot of the same perfectionist, borderline neurotic, traits are similar so I find I can relate well to her story even though mine is different. The entire introduction was a giant disclaimer about privilege. I am at the point where they're getting ready to move to DC for grad school.

Yes, @iowajes, it is definitely a memoir and not a how-to. If you can find the book at your library (mine has the ebook on overdrive), it's so far a pretty quick read. I am enjoying it.

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #197 on: March 20, 2018, 09:56:13 AM »
I received an email update about the latest post this morning so went and skimmed through it. It turned out to be one of the expenses reports that i don't pay a lot of attention to generally. Down the bottom was a comment asking why Mrs Frugalwoods doesn't show the income side of the equation - possibly inspired by the recent comments after her podcast? I just went back to see if there were any other comments and that particular question is gone. Maybe the uncomfortable questions are being censored?

While I like her frugal principles I do find the refusal to disclose the income side of things does reduce her credibility. As others have said it's a lot easier to be frugal and FI when you're earning several times the median income..............and the writing is a bit over the top sometimes.

But it's NOT easier to be frugal when you earn more.  It's also not harder.  It's exactly the same, since income has no bearing on spending.  This is a basic tenet of FIRE.  I'm frankly shocked at how many people seem to not understand this.

Eric

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #198 on: March 20, 2018, 10:01:01 AM »
They do understand that their stars aligned in such a way that their dreams came true and they are grateful for it.

So, if they truly acknowledge that is the case, why would their story be exceptional at all?  If I inherited 100 million dollars from a rich uncle, would I be qualified to write a book on how to be financially independent?  Sure, it might make a good story,  but I doubt anyone would be impressed with my financial prowess.

No one is impressed with your reasoning skills either if you think working hard and advancing your career is the same as an inheritance. 

Dicey

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #199 on: March 20, 2018, 10:03:36 AM »
I don't really have a problem with Frugalwoods, but I was turned off when listening to her on the Mad Fientist podcast. She was saying that when there is free food for a conference or what not, she always grabs an extra sandwich and snacks so she can have free lunch or dinner later. Mad Fientist said that she did that at FinCon and then when he arrived to breakfast there was not enough food left for others. With a $225,00k+ salary, she can still be frugal without stealing food. I think she can afford buying a $5 sandwich for lunch at Fincon.
Ha! You could also say that for what they charge to attend FinCon the organizers could have provided more food. If one skinny pregnant woman took a little extra food and there wasn't enough left "for others", the problem was not of her making.

IIRC, Amy Dacyczyn, of Tightwad Gazette fame, was crucified for taking an extra muffin from a hotel breakfast (to eat later) when she was being interviewed on a talk show in NYC.

I can appreciate that both of these women actually ate the food. I have a bigger problem with people who fill their plates and don't eat what they've helped themselves to.

And mathlete: "dishonest"? You have such a gift for hyperbole!