- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: Word Matters LLC; 1 edition (August 25, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0997821604
- ISBN-13: 978-0997821604
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 35 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Your Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul Paperback – August 25, 2016
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About the Author
Donna Freedman has been a college dropout, a single mom, a newspaper reporter in Chicago and Alaska, and a late-in-life university student. She has also picked tomatoes, worked on a chicken farm, managed an apartment building, inspected and packed bottles in a glass factory, babysat, cleaned houses, mystery-shopped, participated in medical studies, set type, and sold doughnuts, movie tickets, fresh Jersey produce and, when things got bad, her own blood.
During a protracted midlife divorce she went back to school and helped support a disabled adult daughter by working a handful of part-time jobs. Her survival skills so impressed an MSN Money editor that he hired her to create the Smart Spending blog and later her own column, Living With Less, plus a second blog called Frugal Nation.
Since then she has written for numerous other online publications, including Vox Media, Get Rich Slowly (staff writer), Daily Worth, Experian, Money Talks News (staff writer), GO Banking Rates, the Experian blog, Women & Co. (CitiBank), CardRatings.com and Wise Bread.
Her work has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Women's Sports Foundation, the National College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the Association for Women in Communications, the Society of American Travel Writers, the Plutus Foundation and the Alaska Press Club.
She holds forth on money and midlife at Surviving and Thriving (www.donnafreedman.com).
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This book is wonderful and has so much great information in it. My family has gone through a year of job changes and job loss, and we would have been sunk without having frugal skills. As I was reading this book and nodding my head because “yes, that’s what we did/are doing,” I realized that “tough times” are no longer an isolated event. They’re pretty much like a fifth season, like hurricane season, and it’s something one really has to prepare for. "Your Playbook for Tough Times" is a tremendous resource for both preparing for tough times and getting through them.
Enter Donna Freedman. Her new "playbook" does not have reader write-ins, the way TG did, but the author is her own expert. (You may remember her from her MSN "Surviving and Thriving" blog back in 2008). But she has a ton of 21st Century tightwad tips. The money-saving websites, frugal bloggers, cash-back shopping sites, discounted gift cards and more definitely prove that Ms. Freedman is every bit as much of a frugal zealot -- and an entertaining, informative writer -- as Mrs. Dacyczyn.
Donna Freedman has personally researched this book the hard way -- years of living on the financial edge. She knows what it's like not to be able to pay off the divorce attorney's bill (like "trying to melt a glacier with an Aim'n'Flame"); live in a cheap (read: dangerous) urban neighborhood; to stand in line for hours at social service agencies, only to be told she needs more documentation (went home without the needed groceries); to go through college with little to spare; to run a household of three while she's still in high school; and to be a single mom at 21, fishing for bus fares from the piggy bank. She knows that driving 17 miles to recycle under $3 worth of aluminum is not worth your while.
So you're up a creek, money-wise. What do you do? Avoid confusing wants with needs, writes Freedman. Your needs are food, clothing (and not from The Emporium of Shoddy Churn's collection of fashion that soon falls apart), shelter and utilities. All else are wants -- avoid them if they're not affordable. Yes, it may seem Spartan, but she says to improve your life, you'll have to make significant changes: "You can't do that if you're hungry, overdrawn at the bank, or....evicted."
Freedman's book, upbeat and informative, avoids victim shaming. Since 1996, the median net worth of working class Americans (households earning $23,300 to $40,499 annually) has plunged by more than half. It also decreased by 21 percent for all U.S. citizens. Therefore, if you believe you're still going through the Great Recession, you're probably right -- and you're certainly not alone.
Can't get a full time job that pays a living wage? Freedman explains how to substitute a "mad patchwork of part-time gigs". She'll let you in on tons of tricks to make Swagbucks, coupons, drugstore specials and My Coke Rewards pay off in spades. (Hint: look for bottle caps in recycling bins and the break room trashcan.)
Unlike some financial gurus, namely Dave Ramsey, Freedman believes credit cards are OK under certain circumstances. Don't run up a massive balance, but establish a credit score by getting a couple you promptly pay off. Otherwise, you'll later on pay much more for mortgages, insurance and vehicle loans. "Savvy consumers have to learn to work within the system," she explains. "Ignore (credit cards) at your peril."
She also gives tips on avoiding ID theft and credit card fraud (such as the time her bank called to inquire if she'd just purchased $18,000 worth of fire extinguishers in Great Britain); cooking nutritious, cheap meals (not the ramen and oatmeal diet); and to game the system for free shipping when you order online. There are also instructions on how to create your own "financial fire drills" and "goal-oriented" grocery lists.
Freedman goes in to detail about applying for governmental aid or charitable help when necessary, acknowledging it is a "body slam on your self-esteem". This is great information for folks in economic crisis for the first time, who don't understand the system.
Using Freedman's tips to shave money from the budget is crucial. She notes that folks who can save even a little bit can build an EF (emergency fund), and thus be 78% less likely to be evicted. She has housing ideas for the otherwise homeless, too.
However, all is not glum. "Frugality is not a one-way ticket to the Land of No Fun at All," she says, showing how families can score free or cheap entertainment. (Those Coke rewards again.)
"A rich life is not necessarily dictated by the number of dollar signs in it," Freedman reminds us. Indeed. Her book is a worthy companion to your dog-eared copy of Tightwad Gazette. This is just Volume 1; I can't wait to read Volume 2.
The one suggestion I would make for her follow-on book is to talk up credit unions. They provide better service and lower costs than national banks including TRULY free checking! I've not found any service provided by a bank that isn't also available at nearly all credit unions. Also many credit unions - mine included - provide CoinStar change counters in their lobbys. Use of the counter is completely free - if you are a credit union customer - without having to buy a gift certificate. Just take the printed slip to the teller and deposit or cash it.