Smith Wallis & Scott September 2018


A Look Inside Simple Living

At 32, Elizabeth Willard Thames walked away from her career and urban life, and she and her husband, as well as their young girls, moved to a homestead in rural Vermont. What made them do it? As Willard Thames accounts in her blog, “Frugalwoods,” two years prior to embarking on this adventure, the couple had an epiphany: They weren’t satisfied with their lives and sought a more meaningful experience. So they set out with a plan to save, save, save, putting money away — up to 80 percent of their earnings — so they could follow their dreams. Today, Willard Thames does some freelance writing, and her husband does IT work remotely, but the couple spends much of their time outdoors, cultivating a life based on their own values and learning the art of homesteading. How did they save early on, and how do they make living simply not only a reality, but an enjoyable one at that? 1. Make everything from scratch. Early on, the Thames’ committed to buying food in bulk and making everything from scratch, including bread. Today, they continue that pursuit and take it one step further by growing their own food. They have mature apple and plum trees, garden beds, and a barn with animals, all of which help them be self-sufficient and save money. 2. Categorize expenses and eliminate non-necessities. This starts with reviewing last month’s spending. Willard Thames recommends Personal Capital, a free finance tracking app, as a tool. But

there are many methods out there, including spreadsheets. Try different methods to find out what works for you.

Willard Thames recommends splitting up your expenses into two categories: fixed mandatory expenses (expenses that are fairly stable, like rent and mortgage) and discretionary expenses (everything else). She then challenges you to figure out which discretionary expenses you can eliminate entirely and to rethink what you spend money on. “For example, if you’re panicking over how to get your favorite cable shows without paying for cable: what if you simply gave up watching those shows? What would happen? What could you do with your time instead?” Thames suggests. 3. Find cheaper — or free — replacements. Willard Thames recognizes that saying goodbye to your favorite TV show, yoga class, or whatever activity or good you love but costs money can be hard. Enter the “art of substitution.” Instead of saying goodbye altogether to something you enjoy, find a cheaper or free version. Is your favorite coffee shop costing you $50 a week? What if you found a way to make a similar coffee drink at home for less? What if you check out movies or books from the library? Find new ways to enjoy your favorite things. As Willard Thames writes, “We don’t eliminate the things we love most; rather, we do them for less.”



Panzanella, a Tuscan favorite, is a salad that features hearty chunks of bread instead of leafy greens as its base. What could be better for a late-summer cookout?


1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 small loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)

1 cucumber, sliced into rounds

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

20 basil leaves, chopped

2 large tomatoes, cubed

Salt, to taste

2 red bell peppers, seeded and cubed



your favorite vinaigrette and mix again. 3. Serve immediately or let sit 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.


Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add bread and 1 teaspoon

salt, and toss often for 10 minutes or until toasted. 2. In a large bowl, mix vegetables and herbs. Toss in bread and

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