Rarely do I read a nonfiction book and wish the author would write more. Not necessarily more about the topic, just MORE because they are such an entertaining writer. This book is definitely one of them.
Detroit News Finance Editor, and creator of the Funny Money blog, Brian O’Connor uses wit and self-deprecating humor to turn a book about personal finance into a fun read. And not just basic personal finance, but “how to survive when times get really tough” budgeting.
“The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese” started as a proposal from O’Connor to the editors at the Detroit News. In 2009, as the economy in Michigan was tanking, O’Connor proposed a series of weekly articles on how to save $100 a week, and he offered to use his own family budget as the source for the story.
Budgeting is not a new concept, but O’Connor approached it with humor and honesty. He started where every budget program does, by taking a serious look at how his family actually spent money. I’m not sure he was really shocked at where their money was going, but to lay it out for all of the world to see had to be a bit nerve-wracking. He broke their budget for the former year down into categories and focused on the 10 that cost them the most each month, intent on saving $100 in each category. He took on a new category each week, and at the end of the week wrote about his successes or failures in his newspaper column, which he turned into this book.
In the book he also approaches each category on three levels – based on the three types of people he thought might need or want a book on budgeting: 1) “People who need to free up cash” so that they can increase their savings in case something bad happens, 2) “People who are having a hard time making ends meet” from pay check to pay check and 3) People who are “pinching pennies so hard that Lincoln is getting a headache.”
Seeing how O’Connor tackled each category in his own family’s budget, especially the challenges he encountered, turned what could have been a painfully dry subjects into a pretty fun read full of good information.