Monday, January 26, 2015

Bloom where you're planted

It's difficult to stay on a budget when every day we are bombarded with images of glamorous celebrities who are living fabulous lives.  We are encouraged to spend, spend, spend if we ever want to be as beautiful, happy and fulfilled as the celebrities would have us believe they are.  The author of Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life, Ruth Soukup, spent many years trying to buy happiness, only to realize that this behavior merely increased her desire for more useless objects.  She finally decided to embrace the things that are important in life while at the same time appreciating what she has and living a good life.

The book is divided into two sections (the Living Well and Spending Less of the title) and each chapter is designated as a "secret."  Some of the secrets include "Less Stuff Equals More Joy" and "Saving is a State of Mind."  Each chapter ends with a challenge designed to review the "secret" and to give the reader exercises to reinforce the message.  The author also uses Biblical teachings to illustrate her ideas.

The first half of the book is all about appreciating the gifts you already have, especially the non-material ones. The reader is also encouraged to use whatever personal talents he or she may have instead of wasting time and energy envying the talents of others.  I especially liked her advice to avoid books/TV shows/magazines/people who make you feel inferior and drive the need to spend your way to happiness.  The second half of the book gives plenty of ideas on how to curb your spending so that you can get control of your finances.  Her advice includes ways to reduce spending (illustrated by her own experiences with a "radical" 30 day spending freeze), how to establish a budget, and recipes for cleaning products using things you probably already have around the house.

I enjoyed reading this book because of the down-to-earth, chatty style of the author. Ms. Soukup is also more than willing to point out her many failings and challenges as she struggles with "stuff-itis" and attempts to reign in her spending.  She also gives plenty of positive messages (from her own life) such as "it's OK to quit" and "bloom where you are."  It took a crisis in the author's own marriage before she was able to take a hard look at her life and what she was valuing to make her realize what was most important.  She started a blog with the same title of the book when, on being put on a strict budget by her husband, she turned her energies into trying to save money on food so she'd have more to spend on shoes!  While this worked for a while, eventually she sheer amount of "stuff" in her house (which never fulfilled her) made her re-think her priorities.  While most of the advice in the book is probably common sense, hearing about how someone else struggles to control her spending makes the shopaholic in all of us feel a bit better about our own most recent "lapse!"

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Living Well, Spending Less from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review

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