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Three (book reviews, that is)

If you follow me on instagram (I’m thefrugalgirl, naturally), you know that last week, I spent a rare day on the couch. I had some sort of bug and was run-down, stuffed-up, and achy.

So, I read straight through two books and finished up a third.

the frugal girl's reads

Effortless Savings

Effortless Savings is a new book by Richard Syrup, owner of the site by the same name.   When I got an email offering to send me a copy, I said yes because some pretty awesome frugal people, like the Economides family, gave it rave reviews.

effortless savings book

Frugality books often don’t have a lot of new stuff to offer me, but this book had some great ideas I hadn’t thought of before.

And since his focus is on effortless savings, none of his tips involve super labor-intensive things that will save you a few pennies (no, “Use one ply of toilet paper!” tips in here.)

So far, his book inspired me to do two things:

1) Order the Entertainment book for our area.

It’s not the beginning of the year, sure, but that means the book is heavily discounted now.   I’ll let you guys know how useful I find it once I have a chance to give it a whirl.

2) Revisit our VOIP service.

I have a really low cellphone bill, to be sure, but our VOIP service with Vonage is a little on the expensive side and so I’m going to explore some of the options that are out there.

Who Should Read This?

Anyone who is a little pressed for time and wants some fresh money-saving advice.

Coupon Crazy

I’d never heard of Mary Potter Kenyon before, but apparently, she’s been a coupon/refund queen for ages (long before the advent of Extreme Couponing!)

coupon crazy book

This book does have one chapter at the end with tips about couponing, but mostly it’s thoroughly researched history of couponing and refunding, which I found super interesting.

And she also talks about the darker side of couponing, chronicling the many instances of fraud and deceptive use that have gone on throughout the years.   I thought most of the fraud had occurred with the advent of the internet, but there were some pretty lucrative schemes going on back in the day too!

In the heady days of doubled $1 coupons (early 2000’s for me), I got into the couponing scene, so the history behind all of this is really interesting to me.

As you all know, I’ve soured a bit on coupons, especially the extreme use of them, and interestingly enough, so has Kenyon.

(My coupon usage dropped dramatically once I found Aldi.   I can buy food at rock bottom prices, with no need to track sales or clip coupons.   And I can get great prices on produce and other fresh foods, something my couponing never could accomplish.)

After the sudden death of her husband, Kenyon started to look at her couponing in a new light, and realized that some of what she’d been chasing was the “high” of a bargain or a free item, even if she didn’t actually need what she was buying.

She does still use coupons, but just not to the extent that she used to, and she’s very realistic about the limits of couponing. Most people really cannot do what the extreme couponers do, especially if they’re going to be ethical about it.

Who Should Read This?

If you want a how-to on couponing, this isn’t for you, but if you love learning about the “backstage” side of bargains, sales, and couponing, you’d like this book.


After reading an online essay by the author, I put this book on hold at my library.

essentialism book review

Simplicity and minimalism are inherently appealing to me, and so I’m always up for an inspiring read on this topic.

Basically, this book talks about how the vast majority of things in life are non-essential and only a few are truly essential.   So, by cutting the non-essentials and focusing on the essentials, we can focus on one or two things and make great progress on those rather than making a millimeter of progress in a million different directions.

McKeown does a lot of business consulting, and many of his examples were based in the workplace.   So, if you work at a company or are in charge at a company, you’ll probably find this book to be really helpful.

I live a slightly different life, though.

I homeschool my four kids, write and manage my blog, do some freelance writing, manage my household, and also hold a part-time position at church in the music ministry.

And in addition to that, I want to maintain relationships with God, my family and my church family, love my neighbors, facilitate friendships for my kids, and take care of my body by sleeping, eating properly, and exercising.

So, I’m a little unsure of what he’d tell me to do.   I mean, I see some ways of simplifying my life (I could outsource a little more), but its not like I march off to the office for eight hours a day to do a single job.   By its very nature, my life is kind of fragmented.

I don’t do one job, I do many different jobs.

I suppose maybe he’d tell me to look at each job individually and figure out what I could do to cut out the non-essentials in each job

(Don’t spend time doing technical stuff for the blog, but hire someone else to do it, for example.)

I’d really love to see a book like this written for people who live lives like mine. If you know of one, let me know!

I did appreciate many of the principles that he shared, though.   For instance, I like the concept of editing your life like you edit your closet, his tips for saying no are great, and I completely agree with him that sleep should be a high priority.

Who Should Read This?

People (especially those in a traditional office-type work environment) who are feeling pressed for time and finding it difficult to say no to things that aren’t important will find this book to be helpful.   Less traditionally-employed people won’t get quite as much out of it, but I still think it’s worth a read because it will at least get you thinking about editing your life.


Joshua’s 52 Project post: Jagged (it’s toothpicks!)

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Kristin @ Payment Free Life

Tuesday 22nd of July 2014

We switched to Ooma about 14 months ago. The device is about $130 on Amazon but the phone service is about $4 per month (the line taxes in your state). We were paying over $30 with Vonage so the device paid for itself in less than 5 months. I love having a $4 phone bill and the clarity is better than Vonage. We are thrilled with the service.


Tuesday 22nd of July 2014

Good to know-thank you!


Tuesday 22nd of July 2014

Kristen, I have a great recommendation for you regarding the book written for people who live lives like you. It's called "With Lives Like Mine..." by The Frugal Girl. I think it's still in the early concepting phases but it sounds VERY promising! ;-)


Tuesday 22nd of July 2014

Ok, I scanned your comment and for a second I was like, "Ooh! I should go check at the library."

I'm a little slow on the uptake. =P


Tuesday 22nd of July 2014

I was a Vonage customer for a LONG time - and when I moved, I ended up with voip in my bundle from my cable company, so I called to cancel.

Vonage offered me ALL kinds of deals to stick with them, and 2 years later, I get an envelope a month from them, wanting me back - *definitely* call to see what they can do for you!


Monday 21st of July 2014

OMG Kristen, I spent some time yesterday looking at other VOIP services. We been happy with Vonage for a while, but I am not thrilled with the prices. I am investigating PhonePower further after the preliminary research yesterday. I don't love the annual prepay of about $150 (after taxes and fees), but that's only 5 months of Vonage. I figure that means that across a year I will save about $20 per month. I'd love to hear about your findings or someone else's experience with other VOIP service. My first plan of action will be to contact Vonage to see if they will match the price of another company.


Monday 21st of July 2014

I'd thought about something like Ooma or Magic Jack, but they do all have their upsides and downsides. I've never heard of Phone Power-I'll have to check into that.


Monday 21st of July 2014

I'm always so jealous of your library! They almost never have the books I want to read that aren't completely mainstream and if I do want to have a loaned library book from a different library its a 2.50 fee to have it "researched" and sent to my library! The effortless savings book sounds awesome!


Monday 21st of July 2014

That would be frustrating! Our library sometimes doesn't have things, but you can get them from other libraries via an interlibrary loan, and it's no charge for that.

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