397 Ways To Save Money – Squawkfox Book Review

by Mike Holman

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397 ways to save money” is a book written by Kerry K. Taylor, also known as the Squawk behind Squawkfox.com – one of my favourite blogs.  Kerry was kind enough to send me an advance copy of her book and I’m glad she did because it is a really good book.  I have to admit that I didn’t really expect to learn much because I think I have probably already read 397 thousand money saving tips in the blogosphere by now, but I was pleasantly surprised because there is a huge amount of good, useful information which would help anyone.  This book is far more than a bunch of money saving tips thrown together to make a quick buck book – it really should have been called “397 ways to live your life better (and save $$ in the process)”.  There was a lot of thought and analysis that went into this book.

I’ll be publishing a world-exclusive interview with Kerry very soon so watch out for that.

The format of the book

The book is basically in a reference format – the 397 tips are all standalone paragraphs ranging from about 100 words to a couple of pages for longer topics.  It is organized into larger topics such as home ownership, renting, various rooms of the house ie kitchen, bathroom and all the tips in each section relate to the section topic.

Each tip has its own analysis summary so you can get an idea of how much you might save by doing the tip.  Keeping your car tires properly inflated for example had an estimated saving of 2% of your gas costs.

I found it very well organized - Kerry put the “larger” ticket topics such as houses, cars first and followed by various other topics (such as gardening) that while important – probably are not going to impact your finances as much as houses and cars.

Who would benefit from this book?

I really think everyone would benefit from this book.  It is very rare that I want to keep a review book for my own library but I’m definitely keeping this one.  The sections on home maintenance (which I rarely do) and cleaning (again, I rarely do) are worthwhile on their own.

This book is a great reference – I would suggest that if you end up with a copy that you read the whole thing to see what is there and learn a few things.  Because of the wide variety of topics it’s very unlikely that any one person could try to do all 397 tips at one time but it’s far more likely that if they keep the book around they can refer to it when they need some new money saving ideas or if there is a change in their life such as a new house, new baby etc.  It would also make a great gift.

Americans can read it too!  There are some Canadian references but 99% of the book is universal.  It’s only available from Amazon.ca but they ship to the U.S.

How do I buy this book?

Order online from Amazon.ca – they will ship to the United States as well.  The book is $10.94 Cdn which is about $9 bucks US.

What I liked about the book

Here are some tips and things that I thought were notable:

  • Brown bag lunches.  It goes against the personal finance blogger’s code of conduct to talk about saving money without mentioning at least once how much money you can save by making your own lunch.  What I liked about her brown bag lunch saving analysis is that she assumes a cost ($2.50) for the homemade lunch.  Almost all of the various articles I’ve read on this topic completely ignore that cost which makes the analysis useless.
  • Funny.  If you’ve read Squawkfox’s blog for any length of time then you know she’s a pretty funny gal and sharp with her puns.  In a section which was referring to not needing a fancy computer mouse and keyboard, she included the following statement:  Pass on the cheesy features and get a mouse and keyboard that won’t trap you into paying more.”
  • Limit kids activities.   She suggests limiting kids extra-curricular activites to 1 per season – I think this will be hard to do, but I completely agree.
  • Online discount coupon codes.  This is something I only recently became aware of – if you are buying items online then it’s very easy to look for a coupon code.
  • Monthly house maintenance checklist – I really suck at this stuff so I’m using this one.
  • Funny part II.  She suggests cutting down on alcohol and has the following line – “Drinking two fewer bottles (of wine) a month or leaving a few bottles of beer on the wall can save you a lot“.
  • Planned-Overs.  This word refers to meals where you make enough food for at least one subsequent meal.  I don’t think Kerry invented this term but I’ve never heard it before and thought it was a good one!
  • Bed in a box.  In the section on living room furniture, Kerry warns against fold-out couches because they are too expensive and heavy.  She makes the great suggestion (which I’m going to look into) of buying an inflatable bed-in-a-box.  You can store them out of the way and bring it out when guests are staying over.
  • Reading magazines at the library.  My wife and I have been pretty dedicated users of the Toronto library system over the last few years and it is a big money saver.  What I didn’t realize is that you can read magazines there as well – I’ll have to check that out.
  • Gas saving tip – drive less.  Of all the various gas-saving tips I’ve read about, just driving less to save gas is the biggest one by far.  As Kerry puts it – “A Prius on the road will burn more gas than a Hummer sitting in the driveway“.
  • Plant expensive vegetables.  This tip applies if you are into vegetable gardening – try to plant stuff that costs more at the grocery store.  Makes sense to me.
  • Mowing the lawn – use a manual push mower.  This is something that I really believe in and even wrote a post about – Mow the lawn and get in shape.
  • Home made weed killer.  I’m definitely trying this one.

What I didn’t like

There wasn’t anything in the book that I didn’t like however there were a couple of tips that I wouldn’t do.

One tip that I don’t totally agree with was the one that suggested buying kids clothes at the end of the season (for the following season) was a good way to save money.  In theory yes – in reality it’s very difficult to know how much the kid is going to grow over a 6-12 month period.  Just because the kid is 2 feet tall at 12 months doesn’t mean they will grow another 2 feet in their second year. :)

Another tip I won’t do (although it might be valid) – there is no way that we would give up our diaper genie.  Just no way!!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mr. Cheap

You’re a much nicer reviewer than I am :-). I guess that’s why you got sent the review copy and not me (I’m gearing up to use a gift certificate from my last birthday to buy it from Amazon).

I was originally concerned that it’d be a long list of money saving tips (which, as you say, are plentiful on the Internet). Glad to hear there’s more to it than that (and that it’s chock full of Foxy fun).

2 Riscario Insider

Nicely reviewed. Books that offer hundreds of tips are a turnoff — quantity over quality. Kerry’s book looks like a pleasant exception :)

Besides reading magazines in the library, you can access content online through the library too (newspapers, magazines, ebooks, MP3s etc). At least that is the case in Toronto.

3 Mike

Mr. Cheap – you are welcome to borrow my copy.

Riscario – are you saying you can read the actual magazines and newspapers online through the library??

4 Jordan

I throw my vote behind Squawk, buying kids clothes at the end of the season is a great tip and you should really give it a try (or more realistically your wife). My wife tells me she finds name brand clothes clothes marked 80% off. For young kids (we have toddlers) their growth is pretty predictable, you can buy so much more for the same amount that you can be wrong on a few of the sizes and still be far ahead of retail and normal sale prices.

I just have to convince my wife to take the next step and sell the used clothes the kids have outgrown which are virtually perfect on Craigslist to save even more.

5 Praveen

We got a diaper genie as a gift at the baby shower, but we returned it and used the money for something else.

We would store plastic bags from the grocery store under the bathroom sink. We would then put the used diaper into one of the bags, take it to the garage, and throw it into the dumpster (and keep the lid down).

6 guinness416

Mike – for mp3s search with “emusic” as the format. For publications click the “magazines” tab on the TPL homepage, try Vanity Fair as they suggest to see how it works. The cool feature is that it will find articles in other publications on the same subject (eg “bonuses”) through tags. I don’t find it all that useful so far, but I haven’t searched for obscure magazines. I should try some Irish ones. They have a lot of academic publications too (search “ejournals”).

7 Riscario Insider

Using your library card, you can access oodles of magazines and newspapers going back years. This is better for finding a specific article using keywords than reading the whole publication. When you find something you like, you can email the article to yourself.

Want more money-saving tips? Next month’s Consumer Reports has an article: How to squeeze a nickel. Here’s the full colour PDF: http://bit.ly/CRnickel (for patrons of the Toronto Public Library).

Since we pay for the library, we might as well use it :)

8 guinness416

For Mike & Riscario: http://tplfans.wordpress.com/

I want to check out the bookmobile!

9 Mike

Ahh the bookmobile – that’s cool!

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