I spent the majority of the morning engrossed in a really awesome book entitled America’s Cheapest Family. I thought it was a timely read considering all that is going on in the world right now. On a positive note for my own family it looks like hubby’s job is safe for now (or so they say) and he has gone mute about wanting to take his old job back (which required heavy travel). I am interested in using this scare as an opportunity to evaluate our budget and see where we can whittle expenses down so we can save more. Our emergency savings needs a lot more padding than it currently has. And I fully admit that hubby and I are not very responsible with money. We have very leaky wallets and we don’t do a lot of bargain shopping. Adopting a greener lifestyle has helped oodles but that is thanks to being green not being smart about money.
That said….I LOVED this book. I think all money conscious families need to read it…now. ;) It is written by a husband and wife who were dubbed the Cheapest Family in America several years ago by the talk show circuit. Their names are Steve and Annette Economides. Their last name ironically means “son of the steward” in Greek. The book shares all of the secrets to their success that allowed them to raise and homeschool 5 kids, pay off their first home in 9 years, buy cars with cash, pay for vacations in advance, save money for all possible emergencies, and feed their family for $350 a month all on a one income salary of less than 35,000 a year. They have an amazing story to tell and the advice is wonderful. The book is organized in categories like groceries, clothing, utilities, etc so that you can read it straight through or skip to sections where you need help.
The first chapter I loved was about groceries. $350 a month for a large family is incredible and one big part of their success is that they shop ONCE a month. I think we all know how expensive it is to make lots of small, frequent trips to the store to get ingredients for one or two meals or one or two missing things. Shopping like that almost always means spending more than you have to and it is basically a result of poor planning. The Economides family saved on average $1,702 per year over the average family. That is equal to a nice week long vacation for many or a slush fund for car/house repairs. Their tips on grocery savings amounts to a long chapter but basically it involves shopping once a month, doing menu planning, stocking up, shopping for sales and using coupons when they can, cooking extra portions for leftovers, and freezing quite a bit.
The advice was very good but I did find a few things that would not work for our family including the buying of lots of processed foods, the lack of more expensive whole foods being bought, and the idea of doing without FRESH fruits and veggies for the last 2 weeks or so of the month. I think families that eat lots of fresh, raw, whole foods would have a lot of adapting to do but the basic plan is a good one. I would probably feel more comfortable doing bi-monthly shopping expeditions with weekly trips to farmer’s markets for fruits and veggies.
There is a big chapter on budgets next, which is a good read. I liked the tip they had about buying gas cards to make sure you always have your gas expenditures covered. Then there is a chapter about cars…which I loved. It has lots of great tips for buying used cars and making sure you get a good car and a good deal. The section on insurance was great too. The Economides do not believe in skimping on insurance. One tip I liked was to cancel the towing benefit on your insurance and join AAA instead. That money goes a lot further with AAA.
The housing chapter had some alarming statistics about interest rates and how they would have paid $100,000 interest on their $50,000 home over a 30 year period. Their advice is to pay off the mortgage in less than 10 years if you can but ouch that is still over $25,000 you pay in interest. Sheesh, I think it might just be better to rent and then save that interest money to buy land and a nice Yurt with cash, LOL. This chapter also has advice for saving on repairs and renovations too.
The utilities chapter has lots of great advice although not too much for cold weather climates as the family lives in Arizona. Although having lived in both areas I think the utilities expenditures are pretty much the same…we just pay high energy prices at different times of the year. In AZ I had high air conditioning bills and in OH I have high heating bills. The cell phone advice was a little dated and the book was written in 2007, LOL. I am guessing that this older couple likes their land line and the kids are the ones that use cell phones. Hubby and I pretty much only use cell phones or Skype. We do have a land line but only because we couldn’t get DSL without it…I can’t even remember the number though, that is how little we use it. We hope to move soon and get cable Internet so we can get rid of our land line altogether.
There is also a big chapter about debt. Honestly I just skimmed this chapter as we don’t have debt and we don’t have credit cards but I am sure this chapter is equally good. Their chapter on medical just kind of pissed me off…not because it wasn’t good advice but because of the way our health care and insurance is in this country. I am having a hard time not being really pissy with Republican friends right now because the biggest issue we are voting on in a couple weeks for me is health care. I think only one candidate wants to fix health care and the other has plans so stupid I am getting hot just thinking about it. Better change the subject…anyway I have had insurance my whole adult life and I still racked up over $100,000 in EXTRA charges in a ten year period, so while this book’s advice is good in theory I see some problems because the insurance people are criminals and no amount of “personal responsibility” (inert GOP talking head) will change that. If taking personal responsibility means paying 4-500 hundred dollars a month for coverage and then having to pay 100 grand out of pocket and then calling it health care…well what more can I say? The advice on staying healthy was good though and personally I think that is the only/best option for many these days.
The chapter on clothing was fabulous with lots of great ideas for clothing your whole family for cheap as was the chapter on FREE entertainment. Entertainment is a BIG expenditure here so I need that advice. The vacation info was really practical and kind of amazed me that some families do go into debt to have vacations. I am not smart with money I totally admit that, but even I would never do that. The last chapters were about raising money conscious kids and about emergencies….lots of great info. I HIGHLY recommend this book! AND you can get it new for only $10.36 on Amazon or used for around $7.
Thursday, October 23rd, 2008