After a few years of watching a recession put millions out of work, if not their homes, across the globe, many have turned to books on moneysaving to see how they can get the most bang out of their buck.
The problem with these kinds of books is that many of them are too general, provide advice that isn’t really advice as a great deal of it is just common sense and the biggest clincher, the majority of them are American and provide advice that only applies in the States. Add to that the fact that Crees living on-reserve often don’t have access to the many resources that are available in urban areas and reap the benefits of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and what do you get? Another book collecting dust on the bookshelf.
Take the new release 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget by the Writers of Wise Bread (yes, a blog) for example. While the book has 10,001 suggestions, how many of them are actually worth paying $19.95 to read? Of the 20 writers who contributed to this book, only one of them has an academic background in finance while the rest have enjoyed some success online or with their own personal finances (that there is no proof of). You have to ask yourself, are these really the people you would go to for advice about your money problems?
Wouldn’t that be like getting stock tips off Martha Stewart’s website or going to Charlie Sheen’s twitter page for advice on… well, anything?
Broken into two parts the book’s first half is on living frugally and the second on personal finance.
Taking a closer look at the first half, the book features chapters on: food & drink, travel, health & beauty, fun & entertainment, green living and education & self-improvement.
Diving right into it, the first chapter is all about “Simple Tips for Buying Great Affordable Wine”. Moving on, they list a bunch of other suggestions for crap that tastes so-so that you can hide in other things in your house, such as salad dressing or sangria but that is pretty straightforward, isn’t it?
Next up, they look at solutions to ease yourself from dining out expensively to eating in by brightening up your meals with fancy but cheap ingredients, such as Greek yoghurt, romaine, red leaf and other “fancy” lettuces or a ball of whole milk mozzarella. Sure, these things are available in Quebec but just how much would you have to spend on gas to get to them?
The book also features a myriad of lifestyle suggestions to save money, such as not washing your hair twice with shampoo like the bottle says (because everyone does that), going natural instead of buying hair dye and buying organic only products (because they abound up north too).
There are cheap dating alternatives too, like hitting happy hour instead of dinner and a movie, sharing a foot-long sub with your date and going camping (which is almost an alarming suggestion for a first date with a stranger).
The sections on bargain hunting, education and other tips in this publication are also of little relevance to anyone in the Cree communities. For one, as there are no thrift stores up north (to my knowledge), nor are there numerous grocery stores to chose from or buffets to take the family to fill up on the cheap.
The Agreement guarantees free education for Crees so that whole section is out the window and this book’s personal finance section has mostly to do with American banking, taxation in the US and other common knowledge kernels of wisdom, such as why it is a bad idea to hide money in a tampon box.
The book does have some passable advice on saving money, such as living greener (reusing, reducing and recycling items), snuggling up to others for warmth to save on heating and tie-dying your old or stained t-shirts to make them wearable once more…(if you are into the hippie look).
But, more so than anything, one major lesson that can be taken or reapplied from this reading experience is that old Latin adage: caveat emptor or buyer beware.
There are a lot of individuals out there, particularly on the Internet, claiming to be financial experts or expert money-savers who have a lot to say, but each individual’s situation is different and often their advice may not be relevant (like buying fresh because it is cheaper… elsewhere). A lot of it is about common sense and when that doesn’t work, read the finer print to know what you are getting into.
If you are looking for financial advice, do your research and find someone in the know who has a background in that field, is trusted by those you know and has a good reputation.
When it comes to this book as a Band-Aid solution for being broke, be careful as over half of it doesn’t apply to Canadians and even more so to Crees and the rest of it is pretty logical. I mean, did you really need a book to tell you to use less toilet paper?