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Should 'Austerity Mum' have kept mum about frugality?

Wealthy blogger touched a nerve by writing about her cost-cutting measures after she and her husband purchased a multimillion-dollar home.

By Karen Datko Jan 24, 2011 7:33PM

"Austerity Mum" blogged -- until recently -- about the hardships her family faced after she and her husband bought and began remodeling a very large London house.

  • No vacation trip to the Maldives.
  • No more purses for her. However, her husband -- known only as the "Chief Spending Officer" -- has put up a fuss to keep buying handmade shirts. Prada isn't good enough.
  • He did agree to have his Berluti shoes resoled, rather than replaced.

"I even cancelled the helicopter transfer from Nice to our hotel in Ramatuelle this Friday," she wrote, according to one news report. "Then reinstated it, then cancelled again ... watch this space."

Austerity Mum has been unmasked in the British press as Lisa Unwin -- wife of Ashley Unwin, the highly paid head of PricewaterhouseCoopers' consulting business in London. Lisa Unwin, who killed the blog, defends it as tongue-in-cheek, meant to entertain and amuse. It seems the former corporate communications director and now stay-at-home mum had recently taken a creative writing course.


Not everyone thinks it's funny. 


"Rich people are having a hard time, y'all!" chirped Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky. She added:

If everything the blogs are writing about Austerity Mum is true (I haven't read it myself), she's got an utter lack of sensitivity towards millions who've lost their jobs or barely scraping by. Poking fun at one's own privilege can be humorous, but making a mockery of the truly disadvantaged while doing so is completely devoid of taste.

Harsh? Perhaps. We can't read the entire blog because it's been taken down. But here's what we have learned:

  • The home Austerity Mum said the couple are spending "squillions" on is an eight-bedroom Georgian house with a ballroom and five staircases, purchased for £3.4 million ($5.4 million) and reportedly being remodeled for another £2 million. The Telegraph has photos here.
  • Unwin began blogging in August, but it wasn't until recently that people figured out who Mum is, despite the fact that her photo appeared at the site.
  • A cached post describes the necessities that must be "ring fenced" and what can go, particularly their subscription to Wallpaper magazine. In her post, we detect a common personal-finance gripe: My spouse's spending is out of control. She wrote:
For those unfamiliar with it (you must not have an unfettered spending habit) this is a fancy looking magazine with nothing I would consider wearing in it, which just gives Chief Spending Officer more ideas about gadgets, gizmos and items of furniture that we simply can't live without. Worse still, he keeps all the back catalogues laying around for those times (rare) when he is lacking in inspiration about what to buy next. (Come to think of it the very existence of this magazine is probably the root cause of us now having too little space and therefore having to buy this blinking new house which has led directly to the austerity measures). There! It has to go.

Funny, no?


Now that her blog is gone, some other tongue-in-cheek sort has started a parody blog, beginning with the imagined firing of the Chief Spending Officer from his day job.

The British press described Unwin's blog as very popular -- "an Internet hit," said one -- so how come Miss Thrifty, who is a popular personal-finance blogger from across the pond, had never heard of Austerity Mum until the story broke? Miss Thrifty discovered that Lisa Unwin's Twitter feed, which promotes Austerity Mum posts, had exactly 26 followers (now at 63 after the media hoopla).


Miss Thrifty found the blog to be "a light-hearted read that pokes a lot of fun" at how the other half lives. She writes:

In the meantime we are expected to put up with the incredibly earnest "impoverished me" drivel from the likes of extremely well-paid journalists such as Liz Jones and Rosie Millard, in the same newspapers. I think this is one of the reasons why I am annoyed at the furious tirades against Austerity Mum: pots and kettles come to mind.

We suspect that Unwin was just having a little creative fun and underestimated the power of the Internet and the backlash of the British press. "Austerity" has very unpleasant connotations in Great Britain these days.


"It doesn't look good, does it? … I'll have to find another way to write," Unwin told a reporter.


What's your take? Was she insensitive or making a proper mockery of frugality blogs, or both?


More from MSN Money:

Jan 25, 2011 1:33PM
This is just like the Chicago law professor who was having trouble making ends meet on $250,000 a year.
Jan 25, 2011 8:06PM
This is a story about a very poor family.  The father was poor. The mother was poor. The children were poor.  Both sets of grandparents were poor.  Everyone was very poor.  The butler was poor.  The chauffer was poor.  The cook was poor.  The scullery maid was poor.  The upstairs maid was poor.  The downstairs maid was poor.  The gardener was poor.  The fishmonger was poor.  Yes, indeedy!  Everyone was very very poor. 
Jan 25, 2011 8:05PM

Perhaps her definition of 'Austerity' comes from comparing herself with billionaires... I mean, she  had to do without so many fancy things that billionaires can afford. 


It's hard to tell, since the blog is gone, but from your description, she seems spoiled, clueless, and lacking in  sensitivity and discretion.

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