Book Review: 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

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

Updated: May 27, 2009 04:24 PM EDT
10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget is currently available nationwide. (©Skyhorse Publishing) 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget is currently available nationwide. (©Skyhorse Publishing)


By: Dan Meade
Provided by WorldNow

The people behind WiseBread.com set out to write a book that could help everyday people save money in everyday ways, and in a large part, they succeeded. They are even offering a limited time offer to help you save money just by buying the book itself from Amazon.

What's funny about 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget is that one of those ways tells you exactly why you should buy the book... or why you shouldn't. In the section "55 Ways I Saved Time and Money Planning My Wedding," Sarah Winfrey offers the follow advice:

5. Purchase a "bargain" book (but only one)
These really are helpful, particularly if you shop wisely and select one that has good information for your area and on the topics that are most important to you... Do only buy one though; they tend to be repetitive... Better yet, borrow one from a friend (or get her to give it to you - like she needs it anymore).

In this one paragraph, Winfrey captures the very essence of 10,001 Ways: it is full of sensible, easy to read tips on saving money where you can, thus allowing you to spend it where you want, all delivered in a tone and manner that makes you feel as if you are talking to a wise friend, rather than reading an advice book.

Now, not every entry in 10,001 Ways is for everyone. I personally will probably never make use of "5 Easy Steps to Making Your Own Pickles," but "15 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer" both covers ideas that I had previously come upon on my own and helped me realize where I could expand on them - I already "wash in cold water" and try to "patch early, patch often," but had not realized that if I "zip up before washing" I could prevent the zippers of my hoodies and jackets from chewing up and harming the other clothes in the drier with them.

10,001 Ways does, however, cover more than pickling and the proper way to care for your clothes. Broken down into two main sections, "Frugal Living" and "Personal Finance," 10,001 Ways offers you advice in eleven areas where money can be saved, stretched, or better used.

Find yourself spending too much at the grocery store? "5 Marketing Ploys Grocery Stores Use to Steal Your Money" will make you rethink why you spend so much on 100-calorie snacks and on items that say they give part of their profit to a cause. Looking for a better way to present yourself? "How to Sound More Confident in One Simple Step" reveals a key lesson which Andrea Dickson learned from taking a class on public speaking.

If you heed the advice of WiseBread's contributors, you will not find yourself in a "ramen-eating, vacation-skipping, fun-deprived life" but in one where you will be able to "indulge in life's pleasures - just as long as they fit into [y]our budget." Much of the first half of the book is full of entries such as "14 Tips to Have a Frugal Vacation and Still Treat Yourself" which includes:

  • Go to that special restaurant, but for lunch, not dinner
  • Beware of the free breakfast [it will often make the hotel room more expensive]
  • If you are visiting a city, don't bother renting a car
  • Avoid souvenir shops altogether

How does one save up for such as vacation, besides by making one's own pickles? Entries such as "How to Throw a Fun, Inexpensive Kid's Birthday Party" lets parents know that you don't have to hire a Mad Scientist or have all the Harry Potter disposable doo-dads that are sold in low-volume but high price packs to throw a party that both kids and parents will enjoy. In other words, save where you can so you can spend where you want.

How you actually manage those savings is, of course, one of the trickiest questions out there, and the second half of 10,001 Ways is devoted to that question.

The "Personal Finance" half of the book is understandably and necessarily denser and heavier to read - it is financial advice after all. The better entries, such "Everything You Need to Know about Personal Finance" by Trent Hamm of TheSimpleDollar.com read like a well-off older friend or relative imparting advice for you to then think about and act on. There are useful lists of tips in this half, such as "6 Horrible Financial Products You Should Avoid," but much of the advice will only set you on the path to help yourself.

"6 Steps to Eliminating Your Debt Painlessly" lays out, in both word and diagram, a method for reducing and paying off your bills, but the reader has to ultimately decide to follow the advice and perhaps change their habits and/or lifestyle. For a reader not yet ready to make potentially hard choices, much of the savings/investing/debt reduction entries will not be of much use. For those looking for guidance on how to make such choices, or how to best save for retirement, these entries are a good start down those paths.

The second half of 10,001 Ways should not be wholly overlooked by anyone looking for some honest advice on their bottom line. Entries such as "20 Tips for Getting Your Security Deposit Back" and "How to Avoid 10 Costly DIY Mistakes" can save home owners and renters time, money, and possibly even injury.

The Career and Workplace section of 10,001 Ways has some particularly good entries for getting, keeping, and (what to do if) losing a job. These cover everything from the interview, jobs NOT to take, how to manage your first tasks and mistakes, as well as warning signs that you may soon be fired.

Ultimately, 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, much like the wedding "bargain" book which Sarah Winfrey wrote about, is very good if it is what you are looking for. If you are in the market for smart everyday tips to save money and basic financial advice on managing your money, this book is for you... with one catch. The advice you are looking for may not be easy to find.

There is no Table of Contents that lists every entry in the book, only the sections are listed, and the Index is not very helpful. It is likely that you would be able to find tips or advice on a particular topic when you need it, but you may not find them easily.

The Index will often list each tip of each entry in the book individually, rather than a simple listing of every entry. For example: In the Index "pickle making" has six items listed under it, all of which are found on the same two pages, when one line entry would have sufficed. Too much space is devoted to listing every tip, making the Index overly-specific and cluttered.

Had WiseBread provided a list of, and page number for, each individual entry in the book, rather than an  Index in which "pickle making" has six items listed and "nice, being" has eleven (all on the same three pages), the casual reader would be able to access their advice more readily. Another option would have been to have an extended Table of Contents that lists every entry, rather than only sections of the book.

This may seem like a trivial criticism to some, but if readers cannot find the advice they need, they are less likely to keep using this book. Should 10,001 Ways begin to gather dust on a shelf from non-use, then it would have become just another unnecessary expense for the buyer, rather than a tool for positive life habits. That, surely, would be seen as a waste of $14.95 and would go against many of the 10,001 ways to live large that WiseBread's contributors have written about.

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