America’s Cheapest Family – The Economides’ Provide a Primer on Frugal Living
The Economides family has gained national notoriety for living on what many would consider meager means. They have appeared on national television and in magazines to describe just how they do it. In America’s Cheapest Family, Steve presents the lessons they have learned from their own experiences and from the counseling they have provided to other couples in their church.
Finding Your Frugal Comfort Level
Each chapter is organized around one area of your financial picture, such as groceries, debt, and entertainment. After describing their family’s attitudes and actions, the Economides offer tips to apply them to your own life, categorized by your own comfort level with a frugal lifestyle:
Timid mouse: looking for small changes that will not be perceptible to others
Wise owl: willing to be known as the thrifty one in the bunch
Amazing ant: ready to make wholesale lifestyle changes that might be vastly different than the norm
The groceries chapter is particularly helpful, as the food budget for the average family is an easy place to economize. The Economides make one trip to the grocery store each month, and they spend only $350 to feed a family of seven and purchase paper and toiletry products. The entire family is involved in the shopping trip, and it takes five hours. (Some of the children have since grown up and started their own households, so these figures are from a time when the entire family lived at home.)
A Good First Book on Budgeting
The tips are easily adapted to any geographic area and needs. And they are presented in a non-judgmental way. The writing is friendly and approachable-it reads a lot like Marilu Henner’s Total Health Makeover. And because of how the book is organized, it is easy to jump around, reading the chapters that seem most useful at the time.
However, the book sometimes seems simplistic, probably because the Economides are trying to help such a broad range of people with the book. It makes a good first book for frugal living, followed up by further reading (Amy Daczczyn’s Tightwad Gazette is a good next read) and individual counseling from a trusted adviser.
This book is perfect for someone who has to make changes fast and has never before thought about economizing. Readers who have already made progress on that front might find the book too elementary. Visit the local library and look at a copy before you buy.