How to trim your living expenses. (Realistically.)Posted by Donna Freedman on Nov 1, 2013 | 150 comments
While at the Financial Blogger Conference in St. Louis, I ran into Brian J. O’Connor, personal finance editor and columnist for The Detroit News. He was in the Expo Hall, handing out copies of his book, “The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese.”
I happened to have read the book (got an advance uncorrected proof) and was thus able to provide him with potentially the strangest endorsement for the cover of the second edition: “Your book helped me get through my colonoscopy prep.”
He did blink a bit at that, but apparently being a PF writer in Detroit exposes you to all sorts of odd people.
I’d kept the galleys in the bathroom during the, uh, cleansing part of the prep, so as to get a little work done despite my frequent trips to the john. Turns out it was the right move, so to speak: The book is funny as well as well-researched and it took my mind off the current circumstances.
O’Connor’s premise is simple: As middle-class budgets get squeezed ever more tightly, how can we actually save in the face of price increases of the most basic needs?
But he did it, trimming his own family’s budget fairly ruthlessly — yet also fairly painlessly. That’s why I’m giving the book away: to inspire others to find ways to rearrange their own expenses.
The author makes it very clear that no one-size-fits-all solution exists: “Your results will — and should — vary.” Not everyone has a cable TV bill to cut, and some families have special health issues that require certain (often pricey) foods. O’Connor knows all this and in fact, had the challenge of paying for special therapy for a medical condition in his own family.
In other words, he knows that life happens. He’s not some clueless talking head saying, “Just cut one latte a day and you’ll soon be in clover!”
The book isn’t the be-all and end-all, mind you. For example, he didn’t even mention cash-back shopping or discounted gift cards, both of which can carve a little (or a lot) off everyday necessities and the occasional entertainment.
He also touts The Grocery Game (a paid service) but doesn’t mention free sale/coupon match-up sites like CouponMom.com or any of the Savings.com DealPros (who may also publicize short-term or “manager’s special” sales at specific stores in your neighborhood).
Still, it’s a welcome change from books that promise The One True Way To Savings and wind up being unrealistic or too darned onerous for your particular situation. Bonus: It reveals a secret about the role of newspapers in fighting gum disease.
So if you don’t win this week’s giveaway, look for it at your library or get a secondhand copy by clicking the above link. Both are frugal moves that O’Connor would no doubt applaud, even if they cut into his royalties.
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The deadline is 7 p.m. PST Tuesday, Nov. 5. If I don’t hear back from the winner by 7 p.m. PST Wednesday, Nov. 6, I’ll pull another name.