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Book Review: The $1,000 Challenge

I picked up this book at FinCon 2013, the Financial Blogger’s Conference held last year in St. Louis.  The author, Brian J. O’Connor, is the Personal Finance Editor and syndicated “Funny Money” columnist at The Detroit News.  The book is the compilation of a 10-part series O’Connor wrote in 2010, wherein he opened up his personal financial situation to his readers and attempted to come up with ways to save an on-going $1,000 per month on regular, everyday expenses.

The result is a surprisingly interesting (not to mention humorous!) journey with the author into the depths of personal financial dealings – everything from babysitting expenses to transportation costs to groceries.  The author takes each section of his personal finances in turn, laying out what the current costs are, and the steps he took to make reductions in his monthly outlay.  He the takes the series a step further to recommend steps for folks in three “saving” situations: Freeing Up Cash (where you’re looking for ways to increase your savings contributions, for example), Making Ends Meet (when you are constantly coming up just a bit short each month in paying your regular expenses), and Pinching Pennies So Hard That Lincoln Gets A Headache (for folks suffering through long bouts of unemployment or underemployment and have to make drastic changes).

For each situation the author provides sound advice that can be applied to other monetary situations, with a wide array of methods for saving. It seems like this might be a dry reading, but the author has a wonderful way of dropping in little bits of humor to really keep you interested.  Of course, what would you expect from a column known as “Funny Money”?

In addition to the financial aspects of making these changes, O’Connor supplies some real-world advice to help you stay the course and make it all work for you.  Here’s a quote from the Entertainment category, where the author drives home the point that you can’t live solely on Ramen noodles for long:

Trust me. Meal planning, shopping for bargains at the grocery store, and learning to love every part of the chicken – except the McNugget! – will be much easier to bear if you go out for a good crab cake once in a while. Otherwise, you become one very crabby cake yourself.

I won’t ruin it for you by telling how it turns out, but suffice it to say that I believe virtually anyone can gain valuable insights into reducing day-to-day expenses from this book.  And who doesn’t want to save money?

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