Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Review: America's Cheapest Family

Well I guess now is no better time than to review another "live on the cheap" type book. These economic times would make even investor's with ice water in their veins cringe. I can't for the life of me remember where I picked up the recommendation on this next book. I may have just been surfing Amazon.com and came across it. I ordered it awhile back and read it in the last couple weeks, it is called America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams. The book was written by Steve and Annette Economides...yep that is their last name ironically enough, and the book is about their family and their lifestyle.

They actually have a website and a newsletter called "The Home Econimiser".

Here is a brief description of their family from their own website "Steve and Annette Economides (Econo mee dis) have raised five kids, paid off their first home in 9 years on an average income of just $35,000, pay cash for their cars and don’t use a credit card . . . ever. They have cashed in on the American dream in a very un-American way — with no debt."

I think that salary of 35k should grab your attention...yes...paid off house AND five kids.

I love these types of books and I will tell you why...many of the suggestions are just crazy, just plain crazy...no two ways about it...BUT there are always some really good tips to be gleaned from these books. I have picked up a few here and there and now I have a pretty good idea of how to save myself some bucks in most situations. I still refuse to dumpster dive for food, no way, no how (I will for other items if I can use them). Now the Economides do not suggest dumpster diving for food and most of their tips are good, like I said though there are always a few that I draw the line at in every one of these live cheap type books.

Chapter 1 America's Cheapest Family - This is the introduction to the frugal lifestyle and how to get the most out of the suggestions in the book. Please understand being frugal is a lifestyle...there is no other way to put it.

Chapter 2 Groceries: Savings By The Bagful - There are some good suggestions on how to shop in this chapter. There is info on sensible approach to coupons, how to stock up on deals, what to buy and more specifically what not to buy.

Chapter 3 Budgeting: The Cornerstone Of Family Finances - Most people scream, cry and stamp their feet when you mention budgets. It doesn't have to be excessive but you will NEVER get ahead if you don't know where you money is going in the first place. Putting money aside for certain things or events helps you build wealth and more importantly be prepared. Saving $20 a week for a car may not seem like a lot but over the course of a few years it adds up to paying cash for a decent vehicle.

Chapter 4 Cars: Cutting Car Costs - Speaking of cars...never buy new but you already knew that I am sure.

Chapter 5 Housing: Home Sweet Home - Here is where the question gets answered...how the heck did you pay off your mortgage early making just 35k a year. One tip: pay 1 extra mortgage payment a year, 13 instead of 12 and you can shave 7 years off a 30 year mortgage.

Chapter 6 Utilities: Shut The Door, Turn Out The Lights! - Assorted tips on how to save the most money possible on this typical money blackhole.

Chapter 7 Debt: The American Dream Turns Into A Nightmare - Credit cards are evil if you haven't already gotten the memo. There are some nice strategies on debt repayment. The bottom line is while in debt pare spending down to a bare minimum.

Chapter 8 Medical: Keeping Your Body Healthy and Your Wallet Happy - There are some good tips here, mostly trying to help you staying healthy and avoiding having to use insurance in the first place. There is a nice discussion on medical discount plans, generics, mail in pharmacies and even Canada pops up in the conversation.

Chapter 9 Clothing: Looking Better, Spending Less - Shop at flea markets, thrift stores and garage sales and you will find designer clothes with the tags still on them, trust me. I am a huge believer in this...I once found a brand new pair of New Balance running shoes in a thrift store for $3 - that is a deal my friends.

Chapter 10 Entertainment & Recreation: Finding Fun For Free - Heck I have done entire posts on this. Try starting with your local library...duh!

Chapter 11 Vacations: Getting Away Without Debt - There are some good tips in here on saving while still being able to take a vacation. I am not so crazy about some of them but others are quite valid and I would try them myself if the opportunity presented itself.

Chapter 12 Kids And Money: Teaching Kids About Money - This is where we fail as a country. Every student in high school should be taught how to reconcile a checking account and prepare and stick to a simple budget. Instead we give them a credit card and say go ahead mortgage your future on that new Xbox 360. This is a real shame...but all is not lost parents can pick up the slack where our educational system has failed us.

Chapter 13 Savings & Investments: It's More Than Money In The Bank - This chapter basically covers investing for your future and building an emergency fund to protect your "present".

Chapter 14 Attitudes: Thinking Differently Can Change Everything - It is all in the attitude and outlook you have on life...ain't it always.

Chapter 15 The Final Payoff - Well the final payoff is in the eye of the beholder...are you going to feel deprived or relish in the stress free life that frugality brings? The choice is yours...

All in all I did enjoy the book and feel like I now know Steve and Annette in some weird way. The book is a good one to pick up some tips and encouragement from. The Economides seemed to have lived a full and enjoyable life and don't appear to feel deprived in any way. Good for them! Check out America's Cheapest Family for yourself and let me know what you think.

...that is all.

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