Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: America's Cheapest Family

I know this may come as a huge shook to you, dear reader, but I happen to always be on the lookout for a book with new ideas on how to live more frugally. In my various searches on Amazon and PaperBackSwap for book suggestions, I came across this one, America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve and Annette Economides. I had to wait a little while on the hold list at my library to get it, but I finally got it a couple weeks ago.

Being completely honest, I have to say I didn't really learn all that much from this book. Nothing against it or anything, but a lot of the book's content was a review for me. That said, there's nothing wrong with a good review now and then. There many times when I was reading that I would think, "Oh yeah, I forgot about doing that..." or "I should be better about doing that..."

I had my notebook that I write random things in at my side and I wrote a bunch of notes of things that served as useful reminders, along with things I wanted to share on this blog. Here's a few:
  • Reduce the number of grocery shopping trips. If you go a few times a week, start going weekly. If you go weekly, try going one every two weeks. You could even work your way up to going only once a month like they do (they explain how in the book). This was a fairly new idea to me - I didn't really think the frequency of shopping trips made that much of a difference. I'm going to give bi-weekly grocery shopping a go. I'll let you know the results of that experiment in the future...
  • Consider getting a separate freezer. The more I think about it, I'm definitely leaning toward getting one because it would be nice to stock up on good sales (like when turkeys go on sale later this month...) and to freeze produce from my garden. Plus, my freezer in my kitchen is getting really full. In fact, just a minute ago, I heard my husband shout because he got nailed by a rock-hard package of frozen chicken when when he opened the freezer. What can I say? It's a delicate balance in there.
  • Using a price book. I need to be better about that and update mine.
  • The book had lots of ways to save on utilities: using ceiling and portable fans, putting a special blanket on your water heater, low-flow shower heads, vacuuming refrigerator coils annually (never done that), using a clothesline, landscaping to shade the house, etc. Lots of good ideas, mostly common sense.
  • I really liked the section in the medical chapter that focused on preventing disease. Like Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
  • There were lots of fun ideas for entertainment, recreation, and vacation. Like stay-cations - I always thought the idea of taking a vacation at home sounded kind of lame, but they actually helped me open my mind to the idea.
There were other things that I didn't write down that may be useful to others or be new information to someone. There's definitely more than what I listed. I also skipped the section on how to get out of debt just because we're following Dave Ramsey's plan already. One complaint: I had a hard time with the clothing section because I just can't get myself to buy our clothes at thrift stores. This is something I really should get over - I know a bunch of well-dressed people who almost exclusively buy their clothes second-hand (if you're one of those people, let me know. I may have you be a guest writer on here). Even then, this book made a really good case for doing that, much better than The Tightwad Gazette did for me.

This is a really great starting point for anyone wanting to live more frugally but doesn't know where to start. The book is laid out very well and is extremely readable. It only took me a few hours here and there to get through it. One thing I really liked about it is that at the end of every chapter, they give three different ways to apply the principles in the chapter based on how gung-ho you want to get. Kind of like those old aerobics videos from the 80's (this link, by the way, is a gem. My mom used to workout to this program in the morning. I would sit and admire - no, envy - the brunette's awesome ponytail) where they show the different levels of intensity - you can do low, medium, or high effort. Like with the cheesy workout video, doing even the low effort is better than doing nothing. Go, borrow the book from the library, and I promise you'll find something - even just one thing - that will make it worth your while.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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