Starting The Thanksgiving Season With Gratitude

Babywoods is thankful I let her play with the decorative gourds...

Babywoods is thankful I let her play with the decorative gourds…

As Thanksgiving looms on the horizon–scratch that, “looms” sounds entirely too negative… as Thanksgiving blossoms (?) on the horizon, I’m reflecting on how tremendously grateful I am for the wonderful things in my life.  I am fortunate beyond measure and thankful in a profound, deep way.

Beyond my gratitude, I’m cognizant of the privilege that catapulted me to this point and mindful that not everyone in our country is so fortunate, nor so immune from hardship. I don’t have to fear for my safety because of my race, religion, citizenship status or sexual orientation, and I’m saddened that in a country as educated as ours, not everyone can say that.

I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or how I’m going heat my home or clothe my child and I’m saddened that in a country as wealthy as ours, not everyone can say that. And so, my gratitude is tempered by the knowledge that I’m uniquely lucky.

Pizza and Jesus

As a kid I remember writing out everything I was thankful for at Thanksgiving on the five fingers of paper hand turkeys. I recently found the one I made in kindergarten and I’d written: “my family, pizza, Jesus, the beach, dogs.” Not a bad list, actually. As an adult, however, although I know what I’m thankful for, I don’t sit down and write out lists. Until now, that is.

This year, I want to remind myself of everything that makes my life incredible and reflect on the fact that not everyone enjoys these same freedoms and experiences. Through my gratitude I want to acknowledge that I’m lucky and that, thanks to this luck, I have the opportunity to reach out and serve my community.

My Thanksgiving Gratitude List

Driveway leaf view

Driveway leaf view

I’m thankful that Mr. Frugalwoods and I both come from loving homes with dedicated parents who enjoy committed, longterm marriages (49 years for my parents; 36 years for my in-laws). It’s rare to have such a stable background and I know this enabled us to thrive not only as children but also as adults. I find I depend on my parents and in-laws for moral support and friendship quite a bit as an adult.

I’m thankful that our parents gave us every educational opportunity they thought we needed. Neither Mr. FW nor I went to private schools, but our parents took us to museums, read books to us, helped us with our homework, and taught us to be inquiring, intelligent citizens.

I’m thankful that Mr. FW and I graduated (hand in hand) from college in 2006, right before the great recession. Had we not, our career paths–and earnings trajectories–likely would’ve been stunted. We were fortunate to secure jobs, and not lose them, during the mass layoffs of 2008 and 2009. The everyday scare of layoffs is largely what ignited our frugality as a young couple.

I’m thankful for my health and my family’s health. To live without serious illnesses is an immense blessing. It allows us to do our own manual labor, avoid costly healthcare, and enjoy life. Of all our advantages, health is preeminent.

Our Thanksgiving feast a few years ago

Our Thanksgiving feast a few years ago

I’m thankful that my family–immediate, extended, and in-law–loves each other. We don’t have major divisions or feuds and we can, for the most part, all get along during Christmas dinner.

I’m thankful for my in-laws, who I love as much as my own parents. I like to say I won the in-law lottery. Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law enrich my life and are amazing grandparents to Babywoods.

I’m thankful I’m able to work a job I enjoy from home, which brings me fulfillment, an income, and the ability to care for my daughter.

I’m thankful we’re able to live in our dream home in our dream location here in the woods of Vermont. Every time I look outside at our apple trees and the woods beyond, I’m overcome with gratitude.

I’m thankful Mr. FW and I discovered frugality as a young couple, which allowed us to build a life outside of the ordinary. Financial freedom is a freedom of all kinds.

I’m thankful that I met and married Mr. FW at such a young age (24!!! sounds really young now… ). We skipped over the oft-expensive dating pinwheel of our 20s and went right to saving for our future. He’s my partner in every venture, my confidante, and my champion.

I’m thankful for our wonderful daughter, who enriches our lives, challenges us, and makes us a family. And Frugal Hound too of course :)!!!

The Role Of Privilege

Thanksgiving cranberries!

Thanksgiving cranberries!

I think Thanksgiving is the time for such reflections. There are plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to focus on self-improvement, on our challenges, to list our flaws (that takes me a long time to do… just saying); but Thanksgiving is when we reflect on all the good in our lives. And by extension, the good we can impart to others.

An aspect of my gratitude is my recognition of the privilege interwoven in my life. I feel that if I don’t recognize my privilege, and express gratitude for my life, I won’t realize just how fortunate I am. The game was rigged for Mr. Frugalwoods and me from birth. And throughout our lives, Mr. FW and I have received what amounts to a hidden hands-up.

As a parent, I rabidly (obsessively?) consume information on how to educate and engage my daughter. Something that comes up in nearly every book and article I read is the paramount importance of early (like from birth) education/stimulation and the correlation of parental education and socioeconomic status to a child’s IQ and success later in life.

This is not to say that people don’t transcend challenging childhoods to go on and achieve at incredibly high levels–they certainly do! This is simply to acknowledge that privilege was baked in for Mr. FW and me before we were even born. And thus, our particular journey to financial independence is relatively smooth. Sure, it entails moderate personal sacrifices (such as saving over 70% of our income), but these are tenable sacrifices and largely a question of personal responsibility and choice–not a question of true hardship.

The upper field in late fall

The upper field in late fall

It’s tough to acknowledge privilege because it’s much more appealing to attribute our success to our own choices and intelligence. But that doesn’t take into account the myriad factors that enabled me to make those wise choices and to achieve a high level of education. Beyond my education, which led directly to my wealth (as it were), there are less tangible, but equally vital factors working in my favor. I live in a rich country awash in opportunity, I’m white, I’m a US citizen, I’m healthy, my parents aren’t divorced, I didn’t suffer abuse as a child, I’m straight, I’m conventionally OK-looking. So many factors–many beyond my control–have lined up in service of my privilege that it’s overwhelming. It’s certainly humbling anytime I start to climb up on a soapbox (something I know I’m guilty of).

Gratitude Manifested

As I tick down this list, and look around my cozy home at a happily snoozing Frugal Hound, an exuberant Babywoods stalking innocent Frugal Hound, and Mr. FW feeding wood into our woodstove, I realize that my cup runneth over. I am humbled that you all read the words I write and profoundly thankful to be with you as we celebrate this holiday of gratitude.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

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38 Responses

  1. We are grateful for you! Loved reading this list.

  2. Caroline says:

    Love this, so true. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in SA, but it’s always sounded like such an appealing holiday, much more fun than Christmas to be honest, less focused on buying lots of presents and relentless partying, more about food, drink and fellowship!

    I’ve had many of the same privileges you and Mr FW have had, but the line in the sand is even clearer because I live in a place where literally BECAUSE of my colour and ONLY because of it, nothing else, zero, I have historically been massively advantaged. It’s mortifying to think of, and to think of the responsibility of trying in my tiny way to carefully redress that balance without slipping into woe-is-me-guilty-I’m-terrible-for-being-born guilt, because evidently I no more chose it than anyone chooses the life they are born into. But our immense privileges (and good health! You have nothing without good health above all else) are brought home to me so often. It is another privilege, to live near and among people who are examples of working very hard, not complaining, generally with great attitudes, for limited reward, and yet, being happy and enjoying all that life offers. It’s a gift to be able to do that. And it’s even more of a gift to be able to go home to my (by western standards) pleasant and normal home, with comfortable features, nothing thrillingly exciting, but decent and food in the fridge etcetera, and to know for a fact that for many living within walking distance, my home and life is one of absolute luxury and privilege. It makes me sad and also grateful, and more determined to try and do something productive to uplift rather than whine and moan about my little problems (I DO love a whine) and think hard about how full the credit side of my ledger is!

  3. Ty says:

    I’m trying to be thankful for things in my life that I don’t particularly enjoy having in my life.

  4. I agree writing down what we’re grateful for is a great practice, and one I’ve forsaken in the last few years. I’m also grateful for the many advantages I’ve received; our very supportive families; winning the lottery of life here in this country; my husband, children, and friends; and for the many answered prayers we’ve been blessed with.

  5. Donna says:

    What a great post! I appreciate your appreciation. We are grateful to live in a country where so much is available.

  6. Ohmygosh, Babywoods is so stinkin’ cute! She’s getting so big already!

    Thank you for acknowledging your privilege. I have to keep reminding myself of my privilege as well. It’s easy to assume that *everybody* has the chance to retire early and save most of their income, but that’s just not reality. I’m grateful for my good fortune, and I try to use that good fortune to stand up for people who didn’t have it as good as I did.

    Hahaha, I got married at 23 so I feel you! It seems young when you consider most of our generation is waiting until their late twenties/early thirties to get married. But sometimes when you know it’s right you just gotta go for it. 🙂

    I’m thankful for everything I have and I need to remind myself of these things every day; not just on Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for finding a wonderful partner in Mr. Picky Pincher, who puts up with me and does math for me. I’m grateful for our new home, which we were able to renovate with cash that we saved. I’m thankful for my well-paying job. I’m thankful that I have a reliable vehicle. But I’m mostly grateful for family and love, which wouldn’t have made anything else in my life possible.

    Happy early Thanksgiving, y’all. 🙂

  7. This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (well that, and shameless overeating). For me, the practice of gratitude is my most powerful antidote to dissatisfaction and overspending 🙂

  8. You always have a nice way of acknowledging the benefits we enjoy. I sound bitter when I do it in my writing.

    Lots to be grateful for, for sure.

  9. My husband and I end each day by sharing three things we’re grateful for. From the mundane to the huge, it’s made a big difference in our attitudes and it’s nice to see what the other person values.
    I’m so lucky to share many of the privileges you mentioned and also glad that I’ve found this online community. Even in tough times like this week, you all continue to inspire and motivate me to be a better person and try to make the world a little kinder.

  10. It’s awesome to practice gratitude. I think the vast majority of us financially independent folks got lucky in many ways. Maybe upbringing, location, genetics, personal connections…you name it.

    We stand on the shoulders of giants.

  11. Angela says:

    I hope this comes across in the right manner; one never knows… I love your gratitude list but I have noticed that you always write from a position of luck by association. I agree with your advantages but I believe the majority of parents live to elevate their children above themselves. We don’t need to apologize for having wonderful parents. I am one of 4 siblings. We were all raised with the same advantages and disadvantages (because no parent is ever perfect) but we all have VERY different life choices. I have one who is a single mom with 3 kids, a deadbeat dad and living on a minimum wage income. One brother who spent time in jail for drug possession and has tattoos and loves his Harley. One brother who went to a trade school,married a bookkeeper, just had their first baby and live a happy middle class life. And I am in the 1% acccording to my tax payouts. We all have to make our individual choices in life and live with the consequences of those choices sometimes. I love your blog but please be proud of your accomplishments without feeling like you have to explain your privileges every time. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to see year 2 on the Farm!

  12. Cat says:

    I think your perspective is wonderful and it is a welcome change from some of the bravado on the internet. The comment that follows in no way takes away from the graciousness with which you write and I am not a writer so please bear with me if this comes across not as intended. One thing I struggle with is the balance between saving to provide for my family’s dreams and future and charitable giving. I understand one can give one’s time, but my sister has worked for multiple non-profits (Children’s Miracle Network, Make-A-Wish Foundation) and while volunteers are wonderful and appreciated, the resource they really need is cold hard cash. You’ve noted in the past that you were able to save 70+% of your income and that puts you in a wonderful place to really help some organizations without affecting you much. Can you address how you approach charitable giving?

    Again, this is not intended to be a criticism, but it is something that those of us with privilege should really ponder. I think there are other ways that you are giving back – creating this content on the internet, using environmental resources wisely, fostering a lovely sense of community in your local geographical area, raising a future generation with values and appreciation for what they have – but the giving of money is a big question and opportunity.

  13. Happy Thanksgiving to you. Such a great holiday and, for us, always a fun get-together with family. Thank you for the great reminder of the privileges we have in life. I can go right down the list with you and check many of the same ones off. My wife and I both graduated in 2007 and got employment just in time, very lucky! I also feel very blessed in how well some of my early employment decisions have paid off, including moving a few times and going back for my grad degree. I was wishy washy on many of these, but very fortunate they turned out so great.

  14. Wait, we’re doing Thankful posts already? But I haven’t even started. Turkeys just started going on sale yesterday, and they need time to thaw and… this isn’t quite as bad as Oktoberfest beers released mid-August, but still.

    You’ve got a lot to be thankful for; thank you for sharing.

    Best,
    -PoF

  15. Ginger says:

    Thanks for this. This has been a hard week for my multicultural, red state-dwelling family. I’m thankful for your blog and all that it has taught us.

  16. Sherri says:

    This was such a welcome and timely read. I am practicing a lot of gratitude in my life as of late, as well, and want it to remain a more focused and present daily reminder for myself and my family. Privilege is a very real thing, regardless of how many hard-working folks want to argue against it. The fact still remains, that many folks work really hard doing jobs most wouldn’t agree to do, and don’t get paid much or have much to show for it. Those who start off with good odds can most certainly make bad choices along the way, and those who start with odds stacked can also turn the tides, but man…it sure helps when things are in your favor from the start. I wish more people realized this, not as a downplay to hard hard they all work, but really to more credit those who accomplish so much with more difficult odds.

  17. Matt says:

    In a time like this, we all must be grateful for the things we have and also look for opportunities to help those who are vulnerable.

    On an unrelated note: I’m a health policy nut, so I’m trying to get FIRE folks’ thoughts on post-obamacare health insurance. Have you given thought to that, or are you still in wait and see mode?

  18. FrugalFox says:

    I’ve not really ever thought about what i’m thankful for at this time of year. Not because i’m ungrateful but just because i’m from the UK. I wonder how many people are like you and show gratitude at this time of year. Personally I think they are just looking forward to spending their (the banks) money at the black Friday sales. It pains me that the UK over the past 3 years has embraced Black Friday and people are now fighting in supermarkets over big screen TV’s at rock bottom prices.
    Thanks to you Mrs Frugalwoods I will spend some time thinking about the things that make my life so great.
    Thank you.

  19. Diana says:

    Longtime reader/lurker & this post resonated with me personally, apart from being yet another insightful & enjoyable post., I tick many of the attributes you state for a privileged upbringing. However I never really thought I had that many opportunities growing up so I thank you for highlighting these to me.
    Reflection is a great way to think about all I’m grateful for. I know that I am fortunate to live in a country (UK) that allows me so many wonderful opportunities to progress in my life. So once again thank you for the wise words.

  20. megan lumpkins says:

    You never fail to amaze me. I have probably read your blog for about two (?) years…I am 20 years your senior and sometimes cannot fathom how quickly you became such a wise old soul..You have an eloquence, wit and insight that belie your (relative) youth….Happy Thanksgiving and please continue your writing…because we will continue our reading…

  21. That was lovely. And so is your family (including Frugal Hound, of course). 🙂
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Team CF says:

    It’s great once you realize your lucky, but you should then also embrace it and enjoy it. Seems your doing both, good for you!

  23. Natalie says:

    I am grateful for your blog and all that you share with me. Thank you for this post.

  24. Sandy says:

    I’m from the UK. Grew up in a very poor and troubled family. But then a very unusual set of circumstances allowed me to be whisked away to a posh school, and I have been middle-class ever since. But I never forget where I’m from. There but for the grace of god go I. Thanks for your thoughtful message.

  25. Lisa says:

    My FAVORITE post ever! Fried, you are speaking my language!😊

  26. Cynthia says:

    I wish more Americans had this level of awareness about the privileges we enjoy. This blog post will hopefully inspire others to examine and be grateful for the advantages they have enjoyed in life and may have previously taken for granted. The next question is how do we create a country where we lift each other up and everyone has equal opportunity to enjoy such abundance?

  27. Cloie B. says:

    Thank you for sharing your “blessings” … something we should do every day … Happy Thanksgiving!

  28. This year I am grateful for my friends and family. They have been an overwhelming supportive team this past year, and I couldn’t have accomplished even half of the things I’ve done without them.

  29. Anca says:

    You have been an inspiration for me in the last 2 years, on the other side of the globe. Even if the countries we leave in are so different (I leave in Romania, Dracula’s place 🙂 ), I’ve always managed to adapt your wisdom to my country/family/income realities. Due to your advices I manage to get from a 0% saving rate to a 75% saving rate in the last one year. Therefore, I am grateful, among many other wonderful things I have in my life, that one day I have stumbled upon your blog (and MMM’s) and this changed my life in so many ways!

  30. Priscilla says:

    This post resonates with me completely. Lately Ive been counting my good fortune looking towards the sky as I drive to work in the morning. I am blessed beyond measure.I started on a financial journey late (about 5 years ago) but Im working hard to get everything in order. Unlike most of my peers in their early 50’s I still have both of my parents who I talk to almost daily. I have a daughter, my health. a good government job with guaranteed pension, rental properties and an opportunity to retire soon before most. Some might call it good luck or better choices but I would be remiss to not acknowledge the deck being stacked in my favor. It saddens me that those around me struggle, having lost home and jobs. Many have no health insurance or earn a good wage. Thank you for reminding us to be grateful. Love your eloquent, funny posts and thanks for sharing your life with us. Beautiful family and hound.

  31. A great post. Thank you for sharing.
    I am grateful that I have a loving family, dear friends, healthy in my 70’s, my garden, I feel safe, I live in a semi-tropical climate, so I feel warm each day.

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