Book Review: Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live BETTER

I just finished reading Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live BETTER by Clare Levison. Levison is an accomplished CPA out of Virginia with several accolades such as TV appearances and interviews, magazine articles, and talks.

In this first book, Levison attempts to present the major aspects of financial education in a sensical and “fun” way, but this strategy falls short for various reasons.
First, Levison struggles to find her target audience, weaving in and out of technical topics with more or less details that will both confound the average individual and bore the more financially savvy readers.

Each chapter is presented in a laissez-faire manner in which Levison lays out a “real world” experience in her life that allegedly contributed to her learning some financial lesson, but one which will leave the reader wondering if the three or four pages dedicated to these tales were really relevant to the material presented to begin with. The stories seemed forced at times and eventually reaching for a resemblance to the topic at hand, making for a less-than-practical read. This, in turn, prevents this book from being a valuable resource guide that a person seeking financial education would be able to refer to at each stage of gaining control of their finances. But in its attempt to do just that, it fails to portray the “hoorah” motivational speech that it is left with.

Nothing written in this book, however, lacks common sense when it comes to the author’s ultimate goal. Levison definitely knows her stuff and there are no gimmicks here. Topics covered range from controlling your spending and getting out of debt to a crash course in real estate and stock market investments. She also does a great job including valuable tips on sharing your financial strategies with your kids and making your education a part of theirs.

Levison expands on this and gives some substantial advice on how to think about selecting a college, how to support your kids’ education, and the ever-so-misunderstood student loan. She sees education for exactly what it is; a financial investment with a calculable return and measurable levels of risk. In addition to this, the author ventures in cautioning the young entrepreneur who has visions of financial independence and a cushy CEO office by painting a realistic vision of what it really means to start your own business and make it into a successful one (a chapter oddly introduced by a tale of chickens flying the coup).

My overall reception of this book is a positive one and I would recommend it to someone who enjoys reading novels first. The long narratives in each chapter will prevent anyone who’s ready to make some changes in their lives from picking it up again, but there is enough here to spark initiative and proper, honest content to guide the reader in the right path of getting a hold of their finances.

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