ZERO-WASTE LIVING. Kondo cleaning. FIRE, or financial independence-retire early. Whatever your feelings are about these three movements, frugality is at their core, with the focus on minimizing possessions and living simply.
To these, you might want to add another, “possum living,” which has been hailed as a manifesto for living cheaply. Possum Living is the title of a book written in 1978 by a free-thinking, resourceful young woman who went by the pen name Dolly Freed. The book’s subtitle: How to Live Well Without a Job and (Almost) No Money.
Possum living is about dropping out of the rat race to live simply, growing food in your garden, living off the land and sometimes earning a little money from odd jobs. The author also offers a host of creative ideas for leading a laid-back lifestyle without a steady income. Freed talks about her love of growing tomatoes, her father’s love of fishing, and the chickens and rabbits they kept. Ultimately, the book is about living life on your own terms and saving money.
Decades later, there’s been renewed interest in the book and it’s been brought back into print. It was re-released in 2019, with an update from the author. I had always wondered what had happened to Freed, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that she went to college, became a NASA aerospace engineer, married, had two children and now has a big garden. And she doesn’t make moonshine anymore.
A frugal lifestyle can be fulfilling. In fact, it can make you happier than living large. Spending excessively has serious consequences. Today, the cost of carrying a credit-card balance is at its highest level in 40 years. Making $90,000 a year but spending $100,000? You may never be able to retire.
One of the richest people in America is a paragon of frugality. Warren Buffett still lives in the same relatively modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he bought in 1958—no millionaire’s mansion for him. He buys his breakfast at McDonald’s, which he then washes down with a Coke that he pours himself.
I’m not advocating for breakfast at McDonald’s—but here is a man who could have a sumptuous breakfast at the toniest restaurant in town, yet he prefers his humble breakfast at a fast-food chain. It’s said he enjoys eating at Dairy Queen, too.
Although Possum Living was an engaging, fun read, and may be doable for an 18-year-old, it’s a little too arduous for those of us in our senior years. Still, we should all strive for a simple lifestyle that we can afford and that’s sustainable over the long haul. Part possum, perhaps?