Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Review: Money Hacks by Lisa Rowan

Ah: finance. It can be the bane of our existence. 

Books of financial tips can be extremely useful. I was quite pleased to see that my digital library service had a new book called "Money Hacks: 275+ Ways to Decrease Spending, Increase Savings, and Make Your Money Work for You!", a brand, spanking new book by Lisa Rowan, and available for loan. Just released in September, I thought that during Covid-19 was an ideal time to think about being prudent. 

It was a quiet, rainy Sunday, and I settled in for a good read. Ah. Only to be disappointed in Hack 1, Avoid the Spending Trap!, with the promise that "you can strategize how to pull back. Think about breakfast the night before to avoid the morning rush. Send your friend a Venmo request for their share of the bill while you’re still sitting at the diner. Set an alarm on your phone so you don’t order 'just one more drink' after happy hour has ended. Head to the store after work—when you have less time to browse" (Rowan, 2020). I have none of these habits. If I am having dinner with someone we will have sorted out beforehand who is paying, and we pay at the register. I only shop when I need something. I don't eat breakfast, but have snacks already in my backpack. I definitely don't do happy hour before I drive home (in fact, I don't drive if I have even one drink). Oops, already feeling like I am the wrong demographic.

Hack 4 suggests using calendar entries to pay bills on time. Why make payments manually? Doesn't Lisa know about bank authorities and automatic payments? Hack 6 suggests that we use Kristin Wong's 10/10 rule, which is that if we want to buy something that is over $10, we wait ten minutes. If we still want it then, we buy it (Rowan, 2020). OK: I usually wait somewhere between a fortnight and six months before buying. Yep, Definitely the wrong demographic.

The coffee hack (7) that Lisa suggests feels Starbucks-oriented, carrying large denomination notes (10) unusual, using a store discount app unworkable (11), following brands (12) unlikely, and free shipping (14) impossible down here in the Antipodes. Membership clubs (19)... ah, we don't really have those unless you are a Farmlands member - which is totally the wrong demographic! What is 'overdraft protection' (30)? Who uses Venmo (33)? A little American-centric then. Adding on streaming services and subscriptions? Not possible in my universe.

Some were impossible in a cashless society: living cash-only (36). Some were silly: start a new hobby (39) - how will you fund the kit?! If you already have the kit, then it is not a new hobby... is it?

This was not going well. I persevered. Some hacks were good: when we go grocery shopping, don't use a trolley, only purchase what we can carry (16). Keep a notebook and list what you spend as you spend it (17), which might work... if we are disciplined enough to later review our spending. The Dan Ariely-inspired 'anti-goal' idea of having a set amount to spend on entertainment was good: that if we blow out on one line in that category, we sacrifice another (32). Set up a holiday account (34). Have a no-spend month (35). An impulsive supermarket shopper may benefit from getting groceries delivered to avoid rash purchases (43). 

One entry was really telling, about framing a positive narrative (25): it appears that saying "I can’t afford that" is not something that Lisa thinks we can say. Perhaps she hasn't been to Uni: we all got very good at saying that we were discretionarily skint, and I have never lost that habit. Ah well. It now doesn't surprise me that the USA is the world's largest consumer of electricity, oil and consumer goods (OurWorldInData, 2020). If this book got a publishing contract, many Americans would appear to have appalling finance habits. 

If you are one of the 7.5 billion who do not live in America, skip this book. If you live in the Antipodes, DEFINITELY skip the book, and join the Simple Savings website instead ( 

  • Rowan, L. (2020). Money Hacks: 275+ Ways to Decrease Spending, Increase Savings, and Make Your Money Work for You! Adams Media
  • OurWorldInData (2020). Energy use per person, 1965+.

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