Friday, August 1, 2008

Book Review: Living Well On Practically Nothing

Edward H. Romney's Living Well on Practically Nothing: Revised and Updated Edition is the next review we are doing here at Be A Survivor. This manifesto on living life cheaply has been on my read list for quite some time. I never did get around to cracking it open but I felt now was the most appropriate time given the circumstances surrounding most folks these days.

Listen we all know times are tough as of late. The average family is scraping by trying to make ends meet. Mr. Romney's book is filled with great suggestions on how to live cheaply, with dignity and more importantly with some morality. Many folks will not like the things they read in this book...gambling, keeping up with the Joneses, eating out, dressing in designer clothes, buying the latest generation of computer or electronics are all severely chastised in this book. Mr. Romney has lived in several parts of the country and has held many jobs and he shares all those experiences with his readers. He is a simple man and a moral man recommending "faith is free". Many folks may be turned off by some of the religious references in the book but they did not bother me at all.

Many of Mr. Romney's suggestions and tips are quite good BUT some are a bit questionable such as references to squatting, dumpster diving and camping illegally...although he does not condone any of these activities and provides a disclaimer that "you are on your own" if you do these things, the mere fact he mentions them makes you wonder a bit.

Mr. Romney's book is dated a bit being written in 2001 with regard to the prices he mentions specifically but his logic is sound. He lays out a plan to save $37,500 in one year as well as how to live on $12,000 and live comfortably on $15,000. Some of these things will make perfect sense to some folks while others may just shake their heads. The point is the book should be a launch pad for ideas on how you can save money in your own situation.

Mr. Romney is a big fan of the Internet and has run some successful business on it as well as mail order businesses. He actually recommends buying and selling on the Internet as a way to find bargains. Of course your web surfing should be done on a used or second hand computer. I was actually happy to see a guy who seems to have been heavily influenced by the depression era (through the experiences of others) realize there are some merits in modern technology.

Ok..let's get to the nitty gritty and see how the book is broken down:

Chapter 1 - Keeping Your Self-Respect While Poor
Chapter 2 - A Day Of Cheap Living
Chapter 3 - Save Up To $37,500 A Year And Live on $12,000 A Year
Chapter 4 - Some Ways To Live On No Money At All
Chapter 5 - A New Career Or Business For You
Chapter 6 - Low-Cost Computers For Fun, Profit and Education
Chapter 7 - Whether, Where And How To Relocate
Chapter 8 - Save On Food
Chapter 9 - Save On Clothing
Chapter 10 - Save On Shelter
Chapter 11 - Mobile Shelter
Chapter 12 - Save On Utilities Or Do Without
Chapter 13 - Save On Transportation
Chapter 14 - Save On Education, Entertainment and Vacations
Chapter 15 - Protect Your Investments And Make Them Grow
Chapter 16 - Save On Health And Medical Insurance
Chapter 17 - Fix Things And Make Them Last

Mr. Romney really pushes the anti-consumer mentality on the reader. I do believe this is a good thing. I know people who insist they must upgrade their iPod every time Apple releases a new one...the old one is FINE...but they NEED the new one. My God doesn't that statement make you want to hurl? You don't even NEED and iPod at ALL! You need oxygen, food, water and shelter...that's it, everything else are incidentals. People who are open minded to changing the way they think and live their lives will learn a lot from this book. If you trade your car in every three years, live in a huge house and have to have the latest gadgets...don't even bother picking up this book because you need more than a book to come around.

Advice in this book as it pertains to food, clothing and transportation is extremely valid. Mr. Romney as you can probably guess is a fan of second hand stores and thrift shops. I will tell you this...I walked into the thrift store by us in Summerville one day...on the rack I found a BRAND NEW pair of New Balance running shoes in my size for a grand total of $3. I can tell you are a fool if you think you are "too good" to shop in these places because my friends, there are bargains to be had. Swallow your ego for cryin out loud and visit some thrift stores and garage will be astounded at what you find. Americans can be wasteful and lazy and we throw away crap people in most other countries around the world would kill to have...sweaters with the store tags still on them for example. Mr. Romney is a big fan of the second hand market and so should you be.

This book would be a good read for anyone who is interested in saving money, living a simpler life or just curious for some perspective on how to do it "differently". As I said most advice is very good, as with any book you will have to weed out a few of the turds to harvest the gems. The book is an easy read and one that you can finish in a day or two...the margins are large and very well suited for taking notes on your own situation as you read through the copy is already thoroughly dog-eared.

I recommend this book to my readers and would suggest that if you are in a financial pinch you check to see if it is available at your local library (Mr. Romney likes libraries as well). You could also pick it up on one of the used book sites on the Internet. Like I said if you read this so with an open mind and take a close look in the mirror when you finish it.

...that is all.

 Subscribe to Be A Survivor and Follow me on Twitter

Buy Be A Survivor stuff! ~ Donate to Be A Survivor! ~ Join "The Survivalists"!


  1. I liked the book as well - his take on vehicles as well was very interesting. The ownership of a smallish size motorcycle is especially appealing now. Those cheapie Chinese scooters for $1500 might be a good SHTF vehicle - not sure owning a $30,000 Harley will make much sense.

  2. I honestly think you damn this book with faint praise. The brilliance of this author hides behind the fact that he writes simply about simple (but not necessarily obvious) solutions.

  3. I bought an d read the book. VERY good for ideas when you are down and out, near down and out, homeless or soon to be homeless, living in a vehicle or like me, a low wage worker. The only criticism is that the police now will arrest you for simply trying to "live and survive".
    The best section and the most useful part is Mr Romney's in depth advice on relocating to different areas. Although written in 2001. He gave me MUCH information and I have relocated using his advice. I am genuinely happier as a result. I did make trips and used the internet extensively. But his advice on states and the ins and outs is very very useful.