America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams

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Product Description

Do you have too much month at the end of your money? Is your credit card screaming for relief? Are you tired of robbing Peter to pay Paul . . . whoever they are?

Meet Steve and Annette Economides. They’ve been called cheapskates, thriftaholics, and tightwads, but in these tough economic times, Steve and Annette have managed to feed their family of seven on just $350 per month, pay off their first house in nine years and purchase a second, larger home, buy cars with cash, take wonderful vacations, and put money in savings. Without degrees in finance or six-figure salaries, Steve and Annette have created a comfortable, debt-free life for themselves and their children. In America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money, they show you how they did it- and how you can do it too.

Steve and Annette share many down-to-earth principles and the simple spending plan that they have used since 1982. They have taught this economizing lifestyle to thousands of people worldwide through seminars and their newsletter, and they include lots of real-life stories to make you feel as if you’re having your own private coaching session. Not only will you find solutions to your financial dilemmas, you’ll also discover a whole new way of life.

You don’t need to be a CPA or a math wizard to learn their revolutionary system, which will teach you:

- hundreds of ways to save money on everyday household expenses, including groceries, clothing, and health care
- how to save in advance for major purchases such as homes, cars, and vacations
- how to stop living paycheck to paycheck
- how to eliminate debt . . . forever!

America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money puts meeting your financial goals- and living well at the same time- in reach for every family.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Spend Less Money by Skipping This Book!
    Came across this book in the "New Books" section of my library. Thought it might be an interesting read. I found it mildly interesting at best. Honestly, there wasn't a lot of new information to me, and I'm not even the type of person that usually reads "how to spend less" books. But some of their ideas just made me go "Uh, duh." Such as: (and I'm just flipping through the pages) *Stock up on sale items! *Look for a multi-car discount on auto insurance! *Put the (credit) cards away! * Avoid items that need dry cleaning! *Borrow or rent a movie or two!
    Maybe I am more savings-savvy than many people (and I'd never claim to be!), but these are things my family already does and always has. I do appreciate the straightforward, non-cutesy way the book was written, but I'm glad that I didn't buy this book outright....more info
  • Pretty amazing story- inspiring
    Their name (Economides) makes me wonder if this whole thing was made up, but if it wasn't, it's very inspirational and I could see how it could be done. They made an average of $35,000 a year, supported a family of 7 (5 kids), bought a house, and never had non-mortgage debt. Pretty darn impressive! What it took- what they called economizing- is a lot of discipline. All the techniques are pretty straightforward. If you're interested in a little more creative money-making/saving methods, try Morse's, "How to Take Advantage of the People Who Are Trying to take advantage of you." What a title... This book was really good though....more info
  • Practical ideas for frugal living
    I loved this book! I read it cover to cover and have implememted great money saving techniques into my lifestyle. I feel I am already somewhat frugal, but this book gave me great ways to teach my children and to have an even more detailed budget. I ahve implemented some of the tips to save on groceries and am so pleased! I not only am saving money but also valuable time! I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for practical money saving tips already put to the test!...more info
  • This Book Delivers What Is Promised
    I read this book a while ago when I took an interest in personal finance. It includes lots and lots of helpful tips like describing how to freeze food (wrap bagged bread inside a grocery bag to prevent freezer burn) and describing how they and their friends have saved money in the past.
    I don't know the source, but there is a triangle concerning goods. The three sides are price, quality, and time and you can't have all of them. You have to sacrifice quality if you want a better price in the same amount of time. The book emphasizes planning ahead and looking around. This book, like other books on the same topic, encourages creative thinking. Rather than going straight to a retail store to buy a new entertainment center, check yard sales, craigslist, etc. because people give those away all the time when they move. This can be applied to most purchases. A little preparation and brainstorming goes a long way. The Economides family really gets this across in their book....more info
  • Very Imformative I Learned Alot!
    This book was Awesome, I learned so much from it! I have several other books about "living cheap" and I would have to say this one beats them all! There are some things I just wont change how I live but others I never even thought of to change. Most other books like it all say the same type of things this one has different and new ideas. Well worth the price of the book. I especially liked the groceries chapter and have since made some changes with that and I have already seen a difference in the money we are saving. I really see how very important it is to get out of debt....more info
  • I have wasted my time and monery on this one
    I truly wish I had not bothered. all you really need is the TightWad Gazette...that's it....more info
  • The budget that set us free
    I read this book when my family was spiraling into financial doom. We were spending $250-350 MORE than we were earning--per month. We were looking into selling our home and only car because we couldn't afford our lifestyle. And we were totally sinking in debt.

    Then I read AMERICA'S CHEAPEST FAMILY and decided to try the budget outlined in the book. It took me many hours of work at first to figure out all our expenses & debts, but it was so exciting when it started to come together. My husband and I were elated because we finally knew what was wrong with our finances. Before we put everything on paper using their worksheet, we couldn't pinpoint exactly why & how we had lost control. Once we finished listing our costs, our overspending was clear and we knew we could change it.

    We've been doing this budget for 5 months now. We're now spending less than we earn. We have money set aside ahead of time for all our bills, even the big ones like car insurance. And I no longer have to pay with the payment plans--I pay the entire bill at once. We've got a now-thriving savings account too. We even pay a little extra for our mortgage each month. And we've also got money set aside for Christmas & birthdays, so we can splurge and have no credit card debt.

    The one thing we do differently from the Economides' is that I pay all of our bills automatically (and free) online. It's way easier than checkbooks and you save on stamps and grief.

    Utilizing their budget system saved our family. We still own our home and car and I am so grateful. Our son can still play in our yard, which means everything to me. I could see how this budget could be too much for some people... however I actually enjoy the time I spend on it. Seriously, it's all good news now! It's also our plan for the future.

    This budget set us free. I never thought I'd ever say that, because you always hear how budgets restrict you, but for us it's the opposite. Now we have financial freedom.

    ...more info
  • america's cheapest family
    It was very good reading.....simple and concise and full of good ideas...more info
  • NOT the cheapest family
    The whole idea that this family is the cheapest is pure bull. My family spends less than they do, and we do not economize or do without anything. How do we do it? Simple - we have one child not five. They put their money into having children instead of buying things, but they buy just as much as a smaller family that does not economize. Their lifestyle is worse for the environment and creates even more consumption because their children will continue consuming after they are gone....more info
  • America's cheapest family
    The book came in very good mint condition, and on a timely manner. I would definetly do business again with this seller.

    Thanks so much!!!...more info
  • Excellent book for anyone looking to save money!
    I was a bit skeptical at first, but then found this book to offer not only general guidance on how to save money, but also specific steps you can take immediately.

    I would say the most beneficial information to me has been the budgeting worksheets which are included in the book - using these, I have been able to start saving for things I want and have found that I'm not stressed out at the end of the month when bills are due.

    This book is in a logical order and isn't dry reading at all; it's full of personal examples and real-life situations. Overall: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
    ...more info
  • True, honest, authentic financial advice.
    I found Steve and Annette Economides, the authors of this book, America's Cheapest Family, to be honest, trustworthy and completely sincere in their advice. This is not a quick get-rich scheme. This is not a book to only make it's author's rich. This is a true, honest, truthful, hands-on approach to successful money management here in the United States of America. Unless Americans wake up to the fact that they are destroying their lives, the lives of their children, their country and everyone's future by drowning in unnecessary debt, the USA is doomed. The Economides have proved ALL the financial experts wrong! We can have a great life here in America, without consumer debt, without high mortgages, without big screen TV's, expensive vacations, big cars and all the other trappings advertisers have shoved down the American throat. This book should be required reading in every freshman high school class in America. The American dream, as we were led to believe is dead. The Economides, and their 7 children are the new living American Dream: own their own house outright, no consumer debt, living in reality and within their means, eating healthy, honest, decent, respectful, authentic people.
    I thank them for this wonderful book. I hope they will continue their journey and quest to help other fellow Americans manage their money and live an honest, realistic life.
    God bless Steve and Annette Economides. They have changed my life....more info
  • Practical book on family finance
    The Economides family has been living the lifestyle they espouse, which makes their book even more practical and down-to-earth. The writing style is easy to read, and they includes many concrete examples of how to cut costs in many areas such as clothing, groceries, vacations, etc. I found their budget idea the most practical one I've seen. ...more info
  • Be prepared to save real money using these tips!
    What takes courage, commitment, creativity, idealism, faith, and the help of others? And isn't homeschooling? Choosing to live a frugal lifestyle, especially during the good economic times.
    The biggest negative about this book - use it and you'll soon realize that not everyone cares to be smart about how they spend their money. It could be an elderly parent on a fixed income who says, "I'm not /that/ desperate," when you tell them how to save $20 a month on their AOL bill. A sibling who thinks coupon clipping is only for lonely housewives who need something to do while watching soap operas between loads of laundry. Or maybe a good friend who swears their current method for teaching their children responsible money habits works perfectly fine, but admits they rarely remember to actually use it with their kids. When faced with these people, its best to avoid asking for the $240 per year in AOL savings, fast food coupons, and money their kids may very well waste themselves "forgetting" to pay their own bills, as they learned from mom and dad forgetting to pay them during their childhoods.
    Don't panic - this is not an all or nothing book that will force you to live on ramon and peanut butter just to pay off bills as early as possible. Every helpful chapter ends with three options: Timid Mouse for those wishing to start slowly, Wise Owl for those ready to make more of a commitment to frugality, and Amazing Ant for those eager to stop wasting their money needlessly and wanting to change now. Nor do you have to read this as a start to finish system with each chapter requiring you've read and implemented the previous chapters. Instead, you can start where you wish to dive in and bounce around as your interests and needs dictate.
    Our family has enjoyed many benefits already from the tips given to the reader by Steve and Annette Economides. Yes, that is their real last name. The day after my copy arrived, it paid for itself in a single grocery tip regarding lunchmeat. We used the money we saved the first month on medical expenses to buy new bedroom furniture. Think clipping coupons is a waste of time for just a few pennies? We didn't change our eating habits or purchases a bit, yet with coupon savings, we financed not one but two vacations to San Diego, complete with annual passes to Sea World, the Wild Animal Park, and the Zoo for the whole family.
    Throughout the book, the Economides' children chime in with their thoughts on the ideas and, more importantly, their implementation is a real homeschooling household. With that in mind, here is what our son thinks of our new lifestyle.
    I like the kid's paycheck. I get money for doing stuff like cleaning animal cages, feeding the cats, and even exercise. It's helping me save up to buy a used X-Box.

    Living a frugal lifestyle isn't about depriving yourself, it's about keeping as much of your money in your hands as possible. This book is full of tips to help you do just that as painlessly as possible.
    ...more info
  • Good solid advice
    I really liked this book. I did look at the other reviews before purchasing. I liked this book because it sort-of told a story but at the same time giving solid advice. How-to books bore me and this one kept my attention and was worth the read. I've implemented some of their advice and it works good for the common folk with kids. It is a whole different way of thinking and it pays off!...more info
  • Americas Cheapest Family
    Not worth the money, When we have to live like this family to exhist in this country,I will move someware else. This family goes beyond cheap. Very boaring read....more info
  • Good value!
    I like this book. It's enjoyable, has clear information, is easy to read, and offers good advice.

    However, anyone with a frugal mind has probably already thought of most of the advice in this book, or read it somewhere else. If you're thinking frugally, you already know that buying a used car is a good idea. If you're thinking frugally, you already know that stocking up on food when it is on sale is a good idea.

    To a new personal finance reader -- you should buy this book. It is good.

    To an experienced finance reader -- you might want to buy this one anyway. It's worth the asking price, and you may learn a few things....more info
  • A good investment
    I thought this book was worth the money. It had some very good money saving tips that I never even thought of....more info
  • America's Cheapest Family Book
    Great book full of awesome tips on how to get on track with your money. The Economides have never had debt because they've "always" been smart, but their redeeming quality is that they've reached out to help others. They've done a good job showing how to set up a plan and stick to it, but simply making minor adjustments....more info
  • Outstanding
    This book was quite helpful for our family of six and our quest spend more efficiently. ...more info
  • Question
    My family lives within its budget, which isin't always easy considering our priorities. We very much value eating foods that are locally grown, organic, and primarily "food". That is, we do most of our cooking from scratch. Before buying this book I'd be interested in knowing how much of the "cheapness" comes from buying highly processed foods? If buying cheaply means buying at Wal-Mart and essentially supporting the consumer gluttony of our country I'm not interested. If their solutions are more creative and globally concious than just saving money I'd like to see what we can learn from them. ...more info
  • This is the book I've been looking for, for 20 years
    I have always kind-of known how much money we spent (usually everything we make), and have always wanted to put us on a budget, and have tried many times over the years. I have read many books on the subject, and this one makes it clear and enabled me to put us on a budget that we can stick to. It has already changed our lives. I am fired up to start saving money and get out of debt and have already shared this book with several people....more info
  • Nothing new here.....
    I didn't get anything from this book that I couldn't of got for free off the internet. No great tips and nothing new learned so be frugal and pass on this one. ...more info
  • nothing, new here!
    Just, plain things you already know like.
    cut back on extras on your phone bill.
    use your cell after 9:00pm. calls are free.
    buy for a month.
    I think the tightwad gazette.
    would save you more.
    and miserly moms and you can afford to stay home.

    ...more info
  • Great for large families, not so much for small ones.
    This book is filled with information on how the authors keep their costs down despite having a large family. However, many things they suggest don't translate so well for smaller families. For example, they recommend instead of buying pre-packaged deli meat, to buy a "chub" of meat, and have it sliced at the deli counter. I believe they say it costs around $6 for 3 pounds, and, if stored correctly, lasts about a week. I can buy a package of deli meat for $3.50, and it lasts a week since only one person in our household eats it. Plus I get a reusable container along with it.

    Other things they suggest seem like far too much work for me, like having monthly all-day shopping trips, where they run around the store with walkie-talkies to find the best deals. I'd be concerned that if I tried that, I'd be asked to leave.

    I'm not saying anything bad about them, or anyone else who has that many children, just that what works well for them doesn't work so well for my family of two....more info
  • Practical Easy Read
    Great book. I went through it cover to cover in a couple of hours. You don't need to be a math genius to figure out how to implement the budgeting ideas into your life. ...more info
  • Interesting book
    I have not finished the book yet but I like the easy reading in this book. It is easy to understand with good tips. I am sure I will find many more good tips as I finish it. I am glad I bought this one. ...more info
  • Our Faovite Book of All Time!
    We absolutley love this book. Worth reading over and over. It was great to see that there is hope to live cheaper and still be able to live a "normal" life. Recommended for anyone, with any amount of money. Great to teach your children as well. Fantastic Read!...more info
  • just what i needed
    only 4 out of 5 stars cuz i'm not done reading it yet (so who knows!) but i found out i do a lot of smart things already, but was able to gain some GREAT information also, very easy read does not make saving $ complicated, it did have most of what i was hoping for so far (such as grocery stuff). would recommend!...more info
  • Wanna be cheapee
    This is a great book and has set a new example for our family. I'm still working on implementing the ideas in our life. I highly recommend this book for all families. We are a home schooling family. I work part time and my husband is currently laid off but doing side work. We own both of our vehicles, shop at consignment and yard sales, buy groceries on sale and with coupons. We don't have any credit cards. We get by....more info
  • Practical and great!
    This book is loaded with experiences and practical ways to be good stewards of our money and time. It's organized in a way that's great as a reference tool. And they have lots of references you can go to for further assistance. They have and promote a great family bond. I appreciate the love and care that went into this book by the husband, wife AND kids. :-) I loved it!...more info
    I was excited to receive this book because I had seen this family on Ophrah (which I rarely watch)...I was impressed and immediately went to work to find this book (at the cheapest price I could!!)...The minute I received it, I scanned it and then read it from one end to the other, however, I did skip a couple of sections to come back to later. It gave me some great ideas and guidelines for saving money in all areas of my life, and in this economy today, each idea I got was a money saver! I loved the book. I could not use ALL their ideas, but it guided me in the right direction. If someone wants to save money, this is the book to read!!...more info
  • Some good tips & tricks
    A quick read with some good tips and tricks, but not a whole lot of new information about how to save money. Some of the ideas seemed a little over the top to me like going on vacation, taking a crock pot along and heating up spaghettio's! ...more info
  • The only book you need to read is the Tighwad Gazette
    I thought this book would bring some new ideas based on the positive reviews. However, after reading it I don't think I learned anything new. The chapter on budgeting was interesting, but I really learned most of my frugal tricks from Amy Dacyczyn's "The Complete Tightwad Gazette." It does not read as easily as "America's Cheapest Family," because it is in newsletter form. But, it has a ton more information than this book has to offer. I do admit that you have to have more patience reading the Tightwad Gazette, because you can't simply flip to the chapter you're most interested in. But it is, hands down, much more informative than America's Cheapest Family.

    Don't waste you're money on this book - just buy The Tightwad Gazette (or better yet, get it from the library) - it'll tell you everything you need to know!...more info
  • It works!
    If Steve and Annette Economides are to be praised for but one thing, it's that they are quick to acknowledge that what's right for them may not be for you. They don't preach or lecture; rather, they insist that you tailor their strategies to fit your priorities and personal preferences. This philosophy separates "America's Cheapest Family" from many other books on the personal finance shelf. It seems to me their outlines and strategies can be useful to any size family, because they are so adaptable.

    I must disagree, however, with their notion that many people can do without a computer. So many of us now pay our bills online, use the computer as an electronic newspaper, bank, post office and reference desk. Plus, using the computer to print coupons, compare prices or buy household goods in bulk saves gas, stamps, time and money. I think the average person can save MORE money by owning a computer than not. If, of course, the computer itself is fully paid for.

    Shortly after purchasing this book I followed two suggestions: set up a budget (took half an hour) and set up a Rainy Day account at the bank (took 15 minutes). I always thought myself frugal -- there's no car payment, all our clothes come from thrift stores, (but you would never know it), and we cook from scratch and make most of our own car and household repairs. I didn't see how we could save any more money than we already were. But we are. Little did I realize we could wrap up each month with a surplus. But we are. Not much, but a surplus nonetheless. (I followed the Economides's "windfall" suggestion: all the "found" money goes into the rainy day account, that is, the small checks you get for refunds, reimbursements, rebates and tips, etc. You get more of this kind of money than you realize.) And, if I adhere to their advice, I will be able to say I am debt-free in 15 months, not four years.

    Many of the tips and strategies in the book are for families with children. I can't speak to the efficacy and practicality of those, but upon skimming that information I came away thinking their five children have pretty darn good lives. It doesn't appear that they stood out at school by looking like they were wearing castoffs or eating homemade gruel in the cafeteria every day.

    As another reader said, you can recoup the price of the book on one trip to the grocery store. My family is not as big as theirs and our income much smaller, but I learned how much money I was wasting on 4-5 trips to the grocery store every week.

    This one worked for me. It was painless, and adopting the strategies does, as Steve and Annette suggest, become a game after a while. It's always fun to save money, and there is a richer, fuller life to be lead under those mountains of debt and those heaps of dusty and unused possessions....more info
  • You really can save
    As soon as I got this book I began reading the money saving ideas.. Our family already is practicing many of these concepts, but I did definately get some new ideas on ways to save.
    This is good information for anyone at any age....more info
  • Helpful Ideas for Saving Money
    As a huge Tightwad Gazette fan, I'm so glad that Steve and Annette Economides have taken up the frugal torch so to speak. Yes, I agree this book contains less information, mainly due to its size, than the TG volumes but the ideas therein are still very helpful. I learned a lot of new ways I can save money yet provide for my family very well. The Economideses also have a newsletter that you can subscribe to (via their website) that contains more tips, ideas (theirs and other readers), recipes, etc. I hope these lovely people keep on writing as I think they have a wonderful message to share. I gave this book four stars as I would have liked them to include recipes in the chapter on Groceries. The chapter on Attitude is excellent and in my opinion, worth the cost of the book alone.
    ...more info
  • Good Basic Frugal Advice
    Steve and Annette Economides have written an informative and entertaining primer on how to live frugally even with children. Those new to living frugally will find this book a good basic primer. Long time penny pinchers will only learn one or two new things, but should enjoy the read.

    The book is full of tips and hints, and personal examples from the authors of how they incorporate those ideas into their everyday life. Each chapter has a short quote from one of the authors' five children, discussing the topic at hand from the perpective of a child in the family.

    There is an extensive chapter on allowances for children, and the chapter on travel and vacation savings includes the story of a long trip the family took and examples how they used those same ideas to save money.

    The combination of hints, tips and tricks along with personal examples and stories makes this book easy to read and its principles easy to understand and implement.

    There is some new information in this book, but not a lot. It would be more beneficial to those who are starting out on their frugal joutney. Still, it was fun to read, and I did learn a couple of new ideas to try....more info
  • Excellent Advice!
    If I only had this book 20 years ago! I am finding it ever so helpful for getting us back on track with our finances. I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling to make every penny stretch....more info
  • Wonderful Book!
    I think was a wonderful book on how to raise a family without putting out great gobs of cash. This family has it going on!! Many great ideas that are practical and do-able not just fluff that no one can accomplish. These people understand how to save a dollar and do it without feeling deprived. I would highly recommend this book to anyone trying to save money and or trying to get out of debt with a family.
    ...more info
  • America's Cheapest Family
    This book not only teaches you about how to budget but gives you great idea's on how to save the money to help you with your budget. Even if you walk away with one of there ideas you save money Thanks great ideas
    Tina...more info
  • Very solid introduction to realistic frugal living
    I have a soft spot for books on frugality, so when I spotted America's Cheapest Family on the shelf at my local bookstore, I had to read it. In a nutshell, it's a lifestyle guide to frugal living, one that I was happy to see come out because there simply aren't that many strong books on frugality.

    Right off the bat, the entire purpose of the book is laid bare, as it gives you three principles for getting you right on the money:

    Avoid debt like the plague. Debt means that you take your hard earned money and just hand it to someone else in exchange for nothing but instant gratification. Rather than using credit to buy things, you should save up the cash and let the interest work in your favor, not in the favor of some banker willing to lend you money - and take back even more money.

    Live below your means. This book believes strongly in the concept of the written budget, something I'm not wholly sold on. However, I do agree that you should spend less than you take in every month, and the greater the difference between the two numbers, the better off you'll be in the long run.

    Embrace the thrifty lifestyle. The authors pitch living thrifty as being like a game, one in which savings in time and in money are the prize. Every time you can do something that saves you money or time, you're winning, even if it seems like a pain to get started. I agree: that kind of attitude will win some serious rewards over the long run.

    Let's dig in deeper.

    In each chapter, I'm picking out a "best" tip. This isn't the most money-saving item in the chapter, but the one that stood out to me as being quite interesting.

    Chapter 1: America's Cheapest Family
    The first chapter is basically just an introduction to the book and to the general idea of frugality and how it fits into the overall scheme of personal finance. Some of my readers eschew the concept of frugality for various reasons, mostly because it's not fun and it doesn't get you "rich." Well, if you're interested in getting rich rather than getting your finances healthy first, this book probably isn't for you. As for the "not fun" part, I agree with the authors that it can be quite fun if you turn it into a game where you win if you figure out ways to save a bit of time or a bit of money, and all of those little wins add up to some serious cash over time.

    Best tip in the chapter: If you actually buy a book to learn from it, don't be afraid to mark the thing up, take notes, etc. I generally find that if a book is good enough for me to want to do this, it's a keeper, one that I'll probably return to several times in the future, and it becomes more valuable for me if I do that. This book has huge outer margins so that you can scribble notes all over the place, something I actually did in places.

    Chapter 2: Groceries - Savings by the Bagful
    The real frugal advice begins in chapter two. An average family of four in America spends $8,513 a year on groceries, about $709 a month, or $177 a person. If that same family could knock out 20% of their food bill, they could bank $1,702 a year.

    It turns out that the biggest money gobbler in the grocery store is impulse buying - things that people buy that they didn't plan for when they walked in the door. Their biggest tips for reducing that are to reduce the number of trips you take to the store to as little as once a month (they recommend starting off with just weekly visits), careful meal planning so that you know what ingredients you need, the development of a shopping list from that meal plan, selecting coupons that match the shopping list, and making and utilizing leftovers for future meals. As for us, we actually use Excel for our meal planning and ingredient listing, but we often end up assembling our actual grocery list by using Remember the Milk.

    Best tip in the chapter: Buy bread at a bread outlet store and stock up big when it's cheap (even freezing excess loaves). I wish we had a good bread outlet nearby; we have one, but every time I visit they're either basically empty or their prices are almost the same as the grocery store, so it's not worth the time.

    Chapter 3: Budgeting - The Cornerstone of Family Finances
    I basically believe that religiously following someone else's budget plan is a sure way to failure, and I basically advocate that when people start out on the road to financial recovery that they not create a budget for a while, but instead look at ways to reduce spending and also record every single dime they spend for a while. Thus, when I read the title of this chapter, I expected to disagree with much of the content. Interestingly, the authors actually agreed with my philosophy for the most part - they don't present a ready-made budget for people to follow, but instead guide people towards how to create your own budget. It's very straightforward, but it's a good "how-to" for budgeting if you've never built one for yourself before.

    Best tip in the chapter: If you make "guesses" to estimate how much you spend on a category in a given month, it's usually way off. I know this was true for us - we overestimated our food spending, but vastly underestimated our entertainment spending. It became clear very quickly where we needed to trim some fat.

    Chapter 4: Cars - Cutting Car Costs
    It boils down to this: buy a late model used car, pay cash if at all possible, and never lease. Basically, the general philosophy is that you keep driving a car until you can write a check for the next one, then sell off the old car (don't trade it in). This method basically ensures that you'll maximize your dollars with a car and you'll always have flexibility and options. For me, I have no personal qualms with driving my current vehicle into oblivion, and until then I'm parking some cash away to pay for the next one.

    Best tip in the chapter: If you're trying to sell your own car, park it on a busy street corner with a "For Sale" sign in the window and contact information. It'll sell quickly. Just make sure it won't get towed.

    Chapter 5: Housing - Home Sweet Home
    The first part of this chapter deals briefly with the home purchasing process, but the meat of this chapter is written directly for homeowners, juggling property taxes, home improvements, and the like. Their general advice is to pay off a home as quickly as possible, something I find myself agreeing with more and more as our home purchase draws closer. Owning a home and no longer having monthly housing payments makes life a lot easier and gives you a lot of flexibility.

    Best tip in the chapter: If you're looking at getting central air installed, the best time to bid is in the late fall, when business is really slow for air conditioning dealers. You can often get an amazing deal because it's so out of season.

    Chapter 6: Utilities - Shut the Door, Turn Out the Lights
    The Department of Energy reports that the average American home spends 6%-12% of their gross income on utilities. That's a lot of cash; even a 10% reduction in utility usage could save you 1% of your annual gross income. The chapter is split up into several subsections, each focusing on a particular utility: electricity, telephone, water, and so on. Most of them are great tips, but a few are kind of quirky: one family has a programmable thermostat that basically just turns on their central air at 5 AM and runs it nonstop until 9 AM, which is when the utility company raises the rates for the day to the higher daytime usage rates. At 9 AM, it goes off until the next day at 5 AM. During the day, they leave ceiling fans on to keep things as cool as possible, then in the evenings they cool off with a cold swimming pool or a cold shower. That's one way to save energy!

    Best tip in the chapter: Trick your toilet into saving more water by tossing a filled water bottle in the tank. My parents did this with a 32 ounce soda bottle. If you have a house with a lot of toilet users in it, this can save a substantial amount of water (multiple tanks worth over a day) and it becomes noticeable on the water bill.

    Chapter 7: Debt - The American Dream Turns Into a Nightmare
    This chapter features a nine step plan for escaping the debt monster. Here they are, in order:
    1. Acknowledge the problem
    2. Make your list and check it twice
    3. Cut spending to a bare minimum (this is the tricky one, I think)
    4. Put the cards away
    5. Get more money (by selling stuff around the house you don't need)
    6. Earn more (ask for a raise)
    7. The battle plan (like the debt snowball)
    8. Communicate with creditors
    9. The big payoff (plan a big celebration when you finish it)

    Best tip in the chapter: If someone suggests paying for something by borrowing, just say no and wait. There is nothing in life worth going into debt for outside of education and a home. If you're going into debt for anything else, you're choosing to drown.

    Chapter 8: Medical - Keeping Your Body Healthy and Your Wallet Happy
    This chapter focuses on multiple ways to cut down on medical bills: good insurance (or at least knowing clearly what your insurance covers), prescription tricks, and preventative tips. I found the preventative tips to be the most interesting, but that doesn't mean they pass for solid medical advice or that you won't get sick. Mostly, it's things like drinking plenty of water, keeping clean, and getting some regular exercise.

    Best tip in the chapter: Ask your doctor for larger supplies at a time than just one month of a maintenance prescription; that way, you pay only one co-pay per period. I actually did this recently for a maintenance medication I take and my doctor wrote me one for six months at a shot rather than a month (probably because I've been taking it since I was two days old and he figured I wasn't going to be stupid about it). This saved some decent money - but now I have a monster bottle on my dresser.

    Chapter 9: Clothing - Looking Better, Spending Less
    I really enjoyed this chapter - it offered a ton of tips for cutting down on clothing spending, from using thrift shops to avoiding items that need dry cleaning. They basically agree with my clothing philosophy: classic, basic styles that mix and match well, so you don't need too many items to have a very diverse-seeming wardrobe. By the end of the chapter, I was ready to head out to Frenchy's.

    Best tip in the chapter: If you have kids and see an amazing deal on shoes that they won't wear for years, buy them. When I was a kid, my folks did this once, buying a pair of Nikes that were no longer being made in 1982. I started wearing them in 1992; they had a ton of retro panache and they cost my parents two dollars more than a decade earlier.

    Chapter 10: Entertainment & Recreation - Finding Fun for Free
    This chapter is all about leveraging the free and cheap entertainment that's all around you. The best starting point in your community is contacting town hall and asking for a community calendar, but this chapter is loaded with tons and tons of general ideas, like going on a hike, visiting the library, or doing some volunteer work. The thing that always amazes me about these lists is that they all seem like such common sense, yet so often I won't even think of them when I think about entertainment.

    Best tip in the chapter: Buy an entertainment book at the start of summer. At that point, they're practically giving them away, but the coupons are all still good and you can do all sorts of stuff cheap during the summer, especially if you have kids who are now out of school for the summer.

    Chapter 11: Vacations - Getting Away Without Debt Regret
    According to the American Express Leisure Travel Index, the average American family will spend $2,962 on their summer vacation, including airfare, lodging, and other expenses. That's a lot of dough, and one that doesn't have to be nearly that big (unless you're splurging on international travel). The most obvious way to save that cash is by vacationing at home (by doing a large project instead of traveling) or near home (camping in a state or national park near you). If you're going on a bigger trip, don't just rely on what's in the guides: call ahead and make sure things match up with what you read - and also ask about any discounts you can get.

    Best tip in the chapter: If you're on a long road trip and want to stop for snacks, hit a grocery store instead of a gas station. My parents used to do this when we were on road trip vacations. Not only can you select a lot better treats, it's a lot cheaper, too.

    Chapter 12: Kids and Money - Teaching Kids About Money Isn't Kid Stuff
    This chapter basically boils down to giving your children clear and specific responsibilities and only giving them an allowance if they meet those specific responsibilities. They put some additional detail into the plan, but it basically just boils down to that. Basically, it comes down to having them earn an allowance rather than just getting one, but you should also give them opportunities to earn more for doing more.

    Best tip in the chapter: Don't just give your kids a full allowance. Do some "withholdings" from it that go into long-term savings and so forth. This is something that would have made a lot of sense to me as a child if my parents had done it.

    Chapter 13: Savings and Investments - It's More Than Just Money in the Bank
    Thankfully, this chapter is almost entirely devoted to one vital concept: start an emergency fund now, not later. This basically means that you should open up a savings account and start putting at least a small percentage of your paycheck in there right off the top, so that when emergencies happen, you're not caught in a sticky financial situation where you have to dig yourself into more debt to take care of it.

    Best tip in the chapter: "Life is more than the money you have in the bank, the cars you drive, and the houses you own. When you come to your last days, your investment portfolio won't matter nearly as much as the relationships into which you've invested your time." That pretty much nails it when it comes to money.

    Chapter 14: Attitudes - Thinking Differently Can Change Everything
    This chapter basically focuses on the frugal attitude, that the little things often make all the difference. I have a friend who is an investment banker and makes almost twice the salary I do. I spent most of a day with him and I was almost appalled at how much money he spent without thinking about it. I took some mental notes, added them up, and multiplied them by 365, and you know what I discovered? After all the lattes and sodas and thrice-weekly massages and exorbitant text messaging costs, he's burning almost $25K a year on day-to-day unnecessary junk. That means that at the end of the day (and also considering where we each live), I'm doing substantially better than him. The point of the story? Frugality isn't a bunch of little actions that are boring, it's a life-affirming philosophy.

    Best tip in the chapter: Don't throw something out unless you've really used it all you can. If you truly don't want it, get some value out of it by selling it or donating it for a tax break. Otherwise, you're just wasting money for no reason.

    Chapter 15: The Final Payoff
    The book ends with some compelling arguments about how frugality is good for non-financial reasons: it saves time, improves relationships, sets a good example for children, helps build the economy, and is good for the environment. It's a good way to finish off this interesting book.

    Best tip in the chapter: When people aren't thrifty, they overspend, default on their payments, and go broke. In 2005, bankruptcies cost the American public at least $200 billion. Where did that money come from? Higher payments on everything, especially loans and home mortgages. If significantly fewer people went bankrupt, lenders would be more willing to compete and drive prices lower. Thus, your thriftiness actually helps everybody with lower prices - indirectly, of course.

    Buy or Don't Buy?

    I picked this book up and reviewed it because, well, there simply aren't very many good books out there specifically focusing on frugal topics. In fact, only one other comes to mind, and I've been planning on reviewing that one during this 52 Books series since the beginning.

    This is definitely a "starter's guide to frugality." Once you've been doing things frugally for a while, many of the tips within will seem somewhat automatic. The reason is that frugality is a mindset, and once you've really understood and applied that mindset, most of these ideas are almost automatic.

    That being said, if the idea of living more frugally appeals to you but you are having difficulty getting started, this book is for you. Almost all of the ideas are simple, most are really effective, and taken as a whole they subtly shift your mind to a frugal mindset, which will reveal many, many more ideas as you move through life.

    On the other hand, if frugality seems like a waste to you or you're already living really cheap, this book isn't going to do much at all for you. This book targets those people in the middle who are open to the idea but don't really know how to start and need a bit of a push to get going. If you're not interested, this book will seem silly; if you've already got a sweat-stained copy of The Tightwad Gazette, this book will seem overly simple.

    I found it to be an interesting read and I can respect that it would have been a real eye-opener a year or so ago when I was first committing myself to living more frugally....more info
  • Good for Newbies
    Didn't really glean any advice for myself, but it was a quick interesting read and I think it would be helpful to inspire frugality in those who are just learning the skill....more info
  • It's worth reading
    I'm a pretty good cheapskate myself so some of these ideas were not new to me. However, even though some of their ideas were so draconian I would never personally do them, it was interesting to read and I got a few ideas from them. I checked the book out of the library instead of buying it, proving another way to be frugal....more info
  • Great resource for those willing to plan ahead
    This is a book I'd recommend to select readers, and which I'm happy I read. It seems to combine some basic financial advice with the general idea of consuming less, and consuming more mindfully while we're at it. The first substantive chapter is probably my favorite, all about grocery shopping. It drills down to some very specific tips for grocery shopping, but the main theme sort of screamed out at me: The more trips you make to the store, the more you spend, and specifically - the more you spend on impulse buys. Plan ahead. Make fewer trips to the store. When you're there, stick with the list! Many of the chapters were about things that I feel didn't really speak to me - buying used cars, planning inexpensive vacations, finding inexpensive medical insurance. Although I have no children yet, I really enjoyed one of the ending chapters about having children earn their weekly allowance and teaching them how to budget and save. I think that chapter's great, actually, and I hope I remember this book when I do have kids! I think the domestically-minded will enjoy this book - anyone living on one parent's income, any families (with or without kids) with an eye to living more frugally. People who are horrified by concepts of planning ahead probably won't do too much with the book's advice. ...more info


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