Custom Search

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book P-review: Possum Living

****UPDATE: Re comment below that refers to another blogger talking about the book. It seems that the book was discussed on Oprah! Well. Truly it must be the zeitgeist, because I don't watch Oprah nor do I read the blogger. I saw the book mentioned on Amazon, under "People who are interested in X book, might also be interested in Possum Living." Isn't it strange? Harmonic convergence.


I love reading books about frugality, not so much because I learn many frugal tips (since I know many already), but because I sometimes need a bit of affirmation from the universe. I have exhausted all the books in my local library on the topic. I just requested Possum Living, which is a reprint of a book published around 30 years ago, written by "Dolly Freed" (took me a while to realize that is a pseudonym).

Why a p-review? I don't know. Perhaps because I read a bit on-line. Also, it sometimes takes a while for the library to order the books I request, especially in the present budget crisis.

The gist is that Dolly and her Dad lived on a biggish piece of rural property 40 miles from Philadelphia. She was (illegally) removed from school and spent her teen years in the library, eventually becoming a NASA engineer. They lived a life of fishing, gardening, swapping, napping, and so on. They lived on around $1400/year.

Now many of us can't be possums. We are locked into high property taxes and other "necessary" expenses. Dolly and her Dad lived a version of extreme frugality. But her point was that she and her Dad looked perfectly middle-class.


Dolly shows that IT CAN BE DONE. How about if you don't want to be a possum? What about a semi-possum life? I think that would be available to many of us.

I started thinking about fun family activities. How about possum weekend? That could consist of eating the food in your pantry, cooking up some soup, going for a walk, whatever. How I wish my children were little; we could have had a lot of fun.

Many of my fave bloggers are already living a semi- or occasional possum life. I wrote about Simple in France a few days ago. And Revanche, a city girl, newly re-employed after a lay-off, and with heavy family responsibilities (financial and emotional), shows that even in expensive California, you can practice frugality by making chicken soup.

Have you read Possum Living? Are you ever a possum?

14 comments:

靜宸 said...

Good health is above wealth.健康重於財富,要保重自己哦! ....................................................

Boywilli said...

Nope, Possum Living isn't one I've encountered yet. Sounds very like How to Live without a Salary by ? Short? Long? Sorry, don't recall. I like frugality books as well, for much the same reasons, though I find that after leaving work most of my friends seem to think similarly to my way of thinking, so I've not read as many. I spent some time trying to decide what possum was! I've still no idea what p-review means...

I'm procrastinating on going to the supermarket and the green market isn't available for a few more days. The fridge is virtually empty bar a few lonely celery ribs and a yellow pepper. However, there are tins in the cupboard and frozen peas and blackberries in the freezer. I'm aiming to buy only what we need to get through emptying the cupboard and the freezer, ie replace what is used up (and in season, of course). Does this make me a possum?

BTW possums are noted for their grumpy disposition. They also have a relatively high natural immunity to rabies. I worked a possum bite many years ago and learned that from the folks at CDC...

Frugal Scholar said...

@靜宸 : No argument with that.

@Boywilli--Oh, I'll have to look for that book. I think I read it a while back. PREVIEW instead of REVIEW--since I haven't read it yet. In lit theory, one would write (P)Review. Send me your pantry/freezer contents, and I'll try to think of something for you to cook.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff said...

I just read Frugal Confession's review of this book and was put off like she was.

Simple is good, but poverty is probably not. I also thought the idea of being stuck with a dead-beat dad would have driven me nuts.

If I had to live on almost nothing, I'd do it through communal living...at least I'd get to socialize while having to grow my own food...lol.

The Grouch said...

Sounds like Jed Clampett style living. I don't know too many folks that live this kind of subsistence lifestyle today, but I've heard plenty of stories from my elders about the Great Depression where they lived like this, literally ate possum.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Budgeting Fun: See Update above. I don't watch Oprah, nor do I read that blog. It must be harmonic convergence or something. Thanks for the info--checked out the blog. I wasn't planning on adopting that lifestyle any time soon--I just like to know that it CAN BE DONE.

@Grouch--Funny, because Jed Clampett was a millionaire--perhaps the millionaire next door?

The Grouch said...

Jed Clampett before discovering oil and moving to Beverly Hills.

Duchesse said...

Haven't read, but living with this level of constraint is not very appealing. I would like to see a current National Ballet performance; the cheapest ticket is $80, and there are no discounted or free shows. So I will pay as a special treat. A lot of the best things in life are free but some very marvelous things are not.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff said...

Oh, I didn't think you saw any other posts about it. I was just mentioning it since that's where I formed my opinion.

The blog world is like that...I seem to write about the same articles as Free Money Finance all the time. I'd like it on record that all my stuff is written 3-4 weeks in advance usually so I'm not really ripping him off...we just seem to see the same articles all the time. :-)

Case in point, I have an article scheduled for 5/10 that he just posted about yesterday (performance reviews)...I've had my post written for more than a month but I kept moving it back...now I feel silly. Ah, blogging...

Revanche said...

Well I'm flattered you think I'm possum living. I don't in the least mind being as possum as I can because I don't need that much, and whatever I can save to spare will go to helping others.

Less than 15 years ago, my very own cousins were living in that kind of poverty in the homeland. We have so many relatives that though my parents did all that they could, it almost seemed like it made no difference.
It did, but it seemed like a drop in the bucket.

I had elderly great-uncles or aunties, half blind, living alone in shacks with dirt floors and my grandma would have to make sure that someone brought them a pot of rice for a couple days' worth of meals. They would stretch it as best they could, with whatever other food they could eke out with maybe some assistance from their kids.

It was heartbreaking poverty, so frankly no matter how hard I may feel like I have it, I know it's basically nothing compared to the experiences of others in my family.

Donna said...

I read that book when it first came out! In fact, it helped me get ready to move to Philadelphia with my young daughter. Although I was put off by some of it -- especially the part about how to threaten and terrorize people when things didn't go your way, including poisoning their dogs -- it also reminded me that yes, I could probably make it on my own.
I could, and did. We were possum, I suppose: Lived mostly off bean soup, did all our laundry (including diapers) by hand, barely scraped by.
Things did improve. But when they went south again, I was able to cope -- and, ironically, to support myself. I was hired to write the Smart Spending blog for MSN Money and now write the "Living With Less" column.
"Who better to do it than someone who's been there?" was my editor's explanation.
I've thought about the book off and on, especially since so many frugality books have been published since. Again, I can't recommend it wholeheartedly. But the lifestyle seemed to work for them.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Grouch--I know! I was being difficult.

@Duchesse--I just like knowing it is possible. And, if funds are short, adopting possum-mode for a few days will enable you to buy your tickets to the ballet.

@Budgeting--It IS weird...

@Revanche--Modified possum-living, in the city.

@Donna--Well, of course, I haven't read the book. I think the author probably exaggerated a lot, as befits her 18 y.o self. And thanks for commenting. I feel that you are a frugal celebrity.

simple in France said...

Sounds like a great read. I'm always inspired by stories of people living on extremely low budgets--whether or not I feel like replicating their specific lifestyle, it's nice to remember that we have options. And that many things we consider 'needs' are really just wants.

Like Revanche--I think that our current living situation is so far removed from the abject poverty in which many (normal) people live, we've got nothing to complain about. I'd be proud to call myself a 'possum' if indeed my lifestyle was that extreme.

Frugal Scholar said...

@simple--exactly--I find such stories inspirational. "Proud to be a Possum"--a new slogan???