It’s very telling of the type of society we live in that the author of this comprehensive new book had to preface her work with a bunch of caveats under the title ‘The Legal Stuff’, asserting her right to take no responsibility for the ‘failure’ of any of her money-saving tips.
It’s ‘very telling’ in that we now live in a society that is so money-driven, anyone keen to offer help or advice to others has to back themselves with disclaimers and public liability insurance so thick, it almost suffocates their well-meaning intent.
In short, Esta Hammond is covering her behind. And this is no surprise considering the inherent and very clever way the author thinks and feels about money… and how to keep that slippery stuff in your clutches for longer.
Save It: Easy Ways to Save Money may open with a little (and sadly necessary) legal jargon, but that’s where the unrelatable stuff ends. Following closely behind is Hammond’s warm introduction revealing her nickname – ‘Moneybags’ – a cheeky nom de plume bestowed by a colleague that the author is actually proud of (and rightly so).
Having come from a financially challenged background, Hammond had always been good with money, and even spent time as a Lender with one of Australia’s biggest banks. It wasn’t until a large investment risk went sour, however, that the author found herself in an extremely precarious and devastating financial position.
Refusing to succumb to a life of accumulating debt, she decided to self-impose an extreme money-makeover that not only shifted her cash flow in a very positive direction, an entirely new mindset ensued. Once she was back in the black, Hammond discovered she no longer felt the desire to spend money needlessly, she no longer cared about what anyone else was spending their money on and whenever she now needs to buy something, the cash is there, waiting in the bank, giving her a financial freedom and peace-of-mind many Australians strive for.
Save It opens at probably the most logical startpoint – Dollars and Sense – a chapter which includes budgets and financial goals, banks, credit cards, home loans, insurance and tax. Upon reading the contents of this chapter, I started hyperventillating, yet when I reluctantly began reading the chapter’s content, the throat-gripping titles seemed to melt away into clear, simple and even compelling reading. The information is concise, to the point, written in layspeak and, most importantly – totally do-able. Yes, even by me – a reader whose financial clarity and comprehension is rivalled by my six-year-old.
With succint morsels interspersed with top tips and even helpful warnings, wading through this comprehensive material is a pleasure. There is absolutely no reason to fear becoming bogged down in an overwhelming morass of monetary muck when reading this book. The information is snippety quick but rich with substance, making it instantly rewarding. And eye-opening. For example – the author believes we must allow ourselves some kind of spending money every week, to use however we want. Even if it’s a paltry five dollars, the psychological impact that has on our financial freedom is empowering.
She also believes in pinpointing ‘money leaks’, tracking spending to become aware of your economic patterns (you might just be horrified), making spending lists, and regularly clocking in to the bank account to develop a clear picture of where you are and where you are heading.
Some of Hammond’s tips may seem a little obvious to anyone who’s manage to graduate from the weekly pocketmoney handout but sometimes it’s the obvious we need to rely on – and be reminded of – the most. Things like skipping the ‘bargain’ sales, offering yourself a cooling-off period before you commit to a large purchase, and training yourself to overcome that shopper’s-high feeling of instant gratification. But she also offers a surprisingly rich balance of new and clever thoughts to ponder (and act upon instantly!) that will no doubt bring a renewed feeling of personal financial power.
Under banking (my least favourite subject), the author provides very realistic tips on how to avoid fees and charges. Does your mortgage provider, for example, waive your other account-keeping fees (many do)? Are you eligible to receive an exemption on your bank fees? Can you print your statements online to save paying the cost of paper copies sent in the mail?
In chapter two – Home Sweet Home – Hammond continues her cost-busting campaign with tips and examples (like her own shopping lists and budget planners) that will make life far more cost effective. Food and groceries are not only covered – the topic is broken down into morsels like shopping, specials and discounts, cooking and recipes – even how to make your own pasta, iceblocks, yoghurt. The ideas seem endless. She even provides detailed ideas on fresh produce and how to keep it fresher longer (smear eggs in petroleum jelly, people!). For a generation who unscrupulously wastes food (and subsequently hard-earned cash), this is timely advice indeed.
This chapter continues with fascinating ideas on inexpensive (and eco-friendly) cleaning products and blindingly blatant (yet chronically ignored) ideas such as my personal favourite – leaving shoes at the door. Hey presto! no more filthy floors and carpets and thusly costly cleaning requirements. Also included is a section on caring for appliances, pets and even pest control.
Another wonderful part in this chapter is a stack of tips on home maintenance and repairs that will save you a small fortune. Don’t buy decking oil. Make your own with linseed oil and mineral turpentine, instead (I’m doing this next weekend). There are even very realistic ideas on decorating and revamping your house and plenty of encouragement to D.I.Y. Green thumbs will love the section on gardening and growing your own food. Yes, it can even be done in an apartment window box.
In the Family and Friends chapter, Save It offers fabulous approaches to cost-cutting. Revel in cheap ways to entertain the kids, thoughtful gift ideas that won’t cripple your account and how to get through special occasions like Christmas and weddings whilst simultaneously remaining financially unscathed.
The Getting Around and Staying in Touch chapter helps us navigate the incredibly costly world of automobiles, telephones and the internet. The Lifestyle chapter eases our woes on the beauty, fitness, health, clothing and holidays front, and the final chapter, and probably the most important of all – Saving Money While Saving the Planet – shows us how we can harness electricity, water and recycling (the author is a big believer in recycling and swapping) to work for both mother earth and our hip pocket, instead of flinging it around as though it stems from a magically unlimited supply (as is the case with my children and their inability to turn off the lights in our house).
This book is not about becoming a skinflint pennypincher who washes in their own toilet water or offers a recycled toaster to the happy couple. It’s about becoming realistic, accountable and more eco-conscious. This, above all, is the message here. Lovely side bonus, then, that the direct result of this shift in financial consciousness means more money in the bank and less financial stress and strain.
More than just a cost-cutting, money-building book, I found Save It a book that can help us return to a simpler time. A time of deeper connection with family, friends and community… and with the self. The more simply we live our lives, the less negative impact we will have on our environment, and the more positive impact we will have on our health, hearts and souls. Oh – and our wallet.
Save It – Easy Ways to Save Money is published by Palmer Higgs Books, A$24.95. The book is available directly from the publisher here.