The Art of Frugal Hedonism

Words by
Georgina Reid
| September 15, 2017

Imagine a life framed by sensual pleasures and simplicity. Imagine an existence free from the grind of work more buy more work more buy more. Dear readers, imagine such far-fetched scenarios no longer. Read The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb and set yourself firmly on the pathway towards emancipation.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism is a joyful, smart and highly accessible field-guide to living lighter on the earth (and the pocket) whilst having a rip-roaring good time. I started reading it on an aeroplane (not very frugal) and spent most of the flight chuckling quietly to myself. I’m not sure what my neighbours thought, but as a newly minted hedonist I decided not to give a damn and just enjoy, joyfully. The book is delightful and insightful – there’s not a scrap of holier-than-thou ‘this is how you should live’ talk to be found and it regularly reminds the reader of the plethora of beauty and wonder to be found when eyes are opened to the world.

“The truly savvy hedonist avoids blunting her capacity for pleasure against a barrage of constant stimulation,” Annie Raser-Rowland writes in the book’s introduction. “He knows that the rewards of the journey frequently trump instant gratification. She shuns that level of convenience and indulgence that insidiously erodes her mental and physical vigour. He makes non-monetised sources of pleasure his first port of call, so that he’s not trapped into shaping his life around earning. Far from being acts of martyrdom, such frugality-compatible behaviours can in fact be your best ticket to enjoying everything more on both the deeply fulfilling and sensually satisfying levels.”

I caught up with Annie to find out more about the book. “People often feel a sense of martyrdom about low consumption,” Annie tells me when I ask about the book’s up-beat tone. “It’s usually only seen as something to do to reduce your environmental impact, or to save money, or both. It’s easy to overlook how low consumption also has all these amazing secondary effects that make your life a lot better in many ways.” Rather than focusing on what people are depriving themselves of when living an intentionally low consumption life, Annie was interested in celebrating the “excellent side effects” of not buying things. “These side effects add up to a description of what is a really covetable lifestyle – one that many people are actually looking for,” she tells me.

There is a risk for some frugalists of becoming fixated on only consuming the necessary minimums, or only doing what is functional,” writes Annie. “This may be frugality but it is not Frugal Hedonism.”

The Frugal Hedonist regularly prioritises and indulges in the unnecessary! Frolicking in the ocean for hours, making leisurely love, falling asleep in the park all afternoon, or staying up until dawn to finish a gripping book. This kind of abandon is, if anything, more available to the person who is not burying themselves in a stupor of fiscally-supplied indulgences.”

Annie Raser-Rowland, frugal hedonist
Annie Raser-Rowland, frugal hedonist

Plants, of course, are very much a part of a frugally hedonistic lifestyle. “If it so happens that a dark cloud hovers stubbornly over your green thumb, there is still one genre of plants you will likely excel at growing: weeds,” Annie writes in Chapter 19, titled Get in Touch with Your Inner Hunter-Gatherer. “This needn’t be the curse it might seem, for the majority of leafy weeds are marvellous edible greens themselves.” Not only does foraging mean free food, the act of hunting and gathering has the potential to connect you more intimately to your surrounding neighbourhood and garden like no other, Annie suggests.

Gardeners are inherently thrifty creatures, according to Annie. “As people evolve as gardeners they seem to become thriftier and tend to get more observant and sensually engaged with the world.” This trajectory towards thriftiness is relation to a person’s evolution as a gardener often, according to Annie, opposes people’s evolution away from thrift as they age. “Gardeners are really lucky because gardening sets up a template for how to regard the rest of your life as a Frugal Hedonist,” Annie says.

Ranging from exploring a brief history of work – “We struggle to untether ourselves from the idea that ongoing achievement is essential for a worthwhile life. But what if it’s not?”; to noticing when you’ve got enough – “The question you might want to ask yourself next time you are about to buy something, is not ‘Will this make my life better?’ but ‘Has my life so far been bad without it?’”; to curiosity – “Indulging your curiosity…is deep hedonism. As your understandings amass, you being to sense the world around you as a dense and majestic cathedral of thrumming, interconnected functions and stories”; the book traverses an incredibly broad range of topics, 51 in fact, with thrifty gems to be found on every page.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism articulates a highly appealing philosophy of living. It’s not a book promising to ‘CHANGE YOUR LIFE!’ It’s not about big, externalised fixes and grand gestures. It’s about simple and personal tweaks that are more about perspective than anything else. “Often just changing the texture of the day can be a fix,” Annie suggests. “You may not need to move to another country or quit your job, you could just look out the window on the way to work, work one day less per week and spend less time watching TV at night. Maybe that’s all the change you need.”

The book gently nudges the reader towards new ways of seeing themselves in the world. The suggested alternatives to a high consumption lifestyle are accessible, sensible, and actually really bloody fun.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism is a down-to-earth, perfectly subversive and ridiculously joyful song of hope and love for the world. Read it.

Find out more about the book, and/or buy it, from the Frugal Hedonism WEBSITE


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