Spending to Save? Choosing Your Moneysaving Books

by Jane Wangersky | March 22nd, 2011 | Shopping Secrets

The late Erma Bombeck once wrote about “the absurdity of paying $12.95 for a cookbook that tells you how to save money.” Come to think of it, it’s a little strange to buy any book that tells you how to save money, isn’t it? Maybe that’s why I don’t own any books like that, though I’ve been writing on the subject for years.

When is it worth it to buy a book on saving money, instead of just getting it from the library? I’d say you should do it if you find one that has three or more ideas you haven’t already thought of yourself, AND:

  • you’re not desperate — you just want to cut back.
  • the book you want is checked out of the library and has multiple holds (lots of the moneysaving books in my local library are in this situation).
  • it contains more than one set of useful instructions too detailed to memorize. (So Erma’s $12.95 cookbook might actually qualify.) If there’s just one set of instructions you need, write them down or make a copy of the page.
  • you find a secondhand copy; just be sure the book isn’t out of date. If you buy it online, remember to figure postage into the cost.
  • you’re sure you can’t get it as an ebook.
  • you’ve read several reviews to get an idea what not to expect from it.
  • you’re not calling an 800 number you saw on TV to order it.
  • you’re sure you’re not buying the book to avoid doing anything else about saving money just yet — like maybe making a resolution not to buy non-essentials.

That said, there are a couple of moneysaving books I wouldn’t mind owning: Cheap Talk with the Frugal Friends, by Angie Zalewski and Deana Ricks, for ideas including recipes and What to Use Instead: A Handbook of Practical Substitutes, by Carol Ann Rinzler, for the times you can’t or won’t go out and buy yet another item.

Sometimes, that — not buying — is what it’s all about.

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