Livin’ la vida frugal

Book Review: ‘10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget’

Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Inman News
Book Review
Title: “10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget
Authors: WiseBread.com contributors
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009; 352 pages; $10.17 on amazon.com

If you’re a personal finance information junkie, you’re very likely already familiar with Wise Bread, one of the Web’s top consumer tips sites in the arena of money matters (its logo is a piggybank, which might spark your memory).

And if you’re not familiar with the blog, or you don’t consider yourself a money-tips junkie but you do like to save money when you can, you should get familiar with it, quick-like.

Wise Bread is published by a group of bloggers around the mission of providing “readers with folksy and relatable advice on how to manage and spend their money.”

And they’re serious — I got hooked on this site when it gave a tip for legally and legitimately scoring unlimited free movie rentals — indefinitely — that saved my family 20 bucks, plus, a month on our instant gratification trips to the movie store, with virtually zero effort. (I won’t give the tip here — if you want to know, go check out the site!)

The Wise Bread bloggers’ book, “10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget,” delivers on the same promise as the website’s mission — big-time — just in a different format!

And it is super-usable. First off, the book literally indoctrinates the reader with a much-needed message for today’s recession-pinched household budgets: Being smart with your money, managing your money and saving your money does not equate to scrimping on life.

The book is opened up with the authors’ declaration to this effect: “We believe the key to financial wellness isn’t a ramen-eating, vacation-skipping, fun-deprived life.”

This is a message that runs completely counter to the unsustainable (for many) and un-fun (for all) “Don’t buy that!” model espoused by some financial gurus.

To facilitate its “live large while spending little” message, Wise Bread eschews the budget tips we’ve all heard a million times for strategies that fall into the category they call “financial ingenuity” — creative, doable do’s and don’ts that are rendered highly feasible by the fact that they are largely tools to be used in the course of purchases and decisions we all make on a daily basis anyway.

That is, the book doesn’t ask you to go way out of your way to find ways to save; rather, it equips you with questions to ask, label items to look for and details to give when you’re buying wine at the store or the restaurant to get a great wine at a great price (as well as several uses for inexpensive wine — in case you prefer to buy cheap, not-necessarily-great wine for your home kitchen).

Accordingly, the book focuses on providing lots of lists with money-saving and good-living advice that falls into two large buckets: frugal living and personal finance.

The frugal living section includes tips around food, entertainment, health and education/self-improvement, while the personal finance piece tackles topics including planning and budgeting, credit cards and debt, investing, housing, and making money in your career or business.

The section on frugal living is actually the most entertaining and usable compendium of tips I may ever have read — the list topics are so fully relatable that it actually reads like the best list of tips in your favorite magazine, to the 100th power. You can skim/read it straight through, and then still keep it handy for reference.

Examples include “7 Ways to Brown-Bag it With Style”; “10 Ways to Create a Gourmet Kitchen on a Shoestring”, “10 Ways to Fake it Till You Make It” (how to look stylish, especially in business contexts, on a very low budget), and “10 Frugal Ways to Care for Your Allergies” — universal issues, usable tips.

My favorite? “8 Endurance Principles for Staying the Frugal Course” — in two pages, this list troubleshot and solved some of the most critical glitches I’ve encountered in my own forays into frugality — seven of which I’d never seen covered in another book. (And, as you might imagine, I read a lot of finance books.)

Amazing.

The last half of the book, which is devoted to personal finance, is slightly less sexy in subject matter, but not in the universality or usability of the advice it provides. The tips in this section include super-simple, yet sound, budget principles (including a no-tears guide for sticking to one!), easy ways to find cash to give to charity, and even “9 Signs It’s Time to Fire Your Financial Planner.”

With its whole-life focus, “10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget” is as much about living well as it is about saving money. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to live the good life while being smart about their personal finances.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of “The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook” and “Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions.” Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

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