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january book review: the money diet

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This is a new departure for me, I’ve an avid reader, but I haven’t really given you any book reviews yet. So for 2008, I’m planning to make the second Friday of the month, book review Friday. My first choice is a book that I read over the Christmas break, The Money Diet (apparently cheapest at play.com).

Martin Lewis (as seen on tv :) ), who writes The Money Diet, is a consumer journalist famous for his campaign for people to claim back excessive charges from banks. I read the second edition of the book and I was quite surprised by what I read.

the money diet

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before I started reading this book. Martin runs the biggest money and finance forum on the web (www.moneysavingexpert.com), and his site is a treasure trove of specific information for Brits on how to cut the cost of, well everything.

One of the advantages of the website is that it is updated regularly with the new best buys on financial products, something that I didn’t think could be replicated well in the book.

what happens in the book?

The book itself is divided into three parts. The first part introduces the ideas of saving money with and without making sacrifices and serves as a guide to Martin’s philosophy of trying to get more, for less.

The second part of the book, is devoted to pages and pages of hints and tips for saving money and essentially summarises the information available on the money saving expert site itself. Some of the tips were new to me (cheaper bulk prescriptions for example), and others are fairly standard (use a comparison website to find the cheapest gas and electricity provider).

One of the things that excels in this section is that it doesn’t assume that you have internet access, points out way to get good deals without using the web where they exist, and highlights areas where you really need to use the internet to get the best deal.

The final part of the book talks practically about debt and credit cards. It details strategies for cutting the cost of debt, getting yourself out of debt, and making money through credit cards.

is it any good?

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read, much like a good blog, the friendly personality of the author shines through and it’s certainly pitched at the average person.

There are two main areas where the book struggles though. The first is in comparison with the website, which has much of the same information on cutting costs, but with specific up to date products. However, what is useful about the book, is that you can go through and address each one in turn. It would be much easier to systematically go through your expenses and cutting them back if you had both the book, and the website to hand.

The second aspect that is less successful is actually due to the writer. Lewis states that he’s always been interested in saving money and has never carried any debt. This is great, but, essentially it means (in contrast to say Dave Ramsey) that he’s long on the mathematics and short on the psychology of debt. I think this means that the book doesn’t stand alone.

should i buy it?

This book is probably most useful to Brits, in fact, I think that it might well be only useful to Brits. In addition, if you are British, you have the internet and you want to save money on almost anything, then you should probably check out the website, rather than buying the book.

On the other hand, for a Brit already trying to get out of debt, this would be a useful source of information. And, if you just prefer to have something physical to hand to consult then it might be worth considering.

If you’ve read this book, let me know what you think in the comments.

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11 comments for “january book review: the money diet”

  1. I have got to start reading more.

    It is interesting that you talk about the numbers v the psychology of debt. I wonder which is more powerful to which people.

    I think that I personally am much more affected by the numbers . . .

    Posted by rocketc | January 11, 2008, 2:41 pm
  2. To make any plan work for someone the psychology has to work for them…even if that is a numbers based psychology!

    One of the reasons that I like the blogsphere is that is it is made up of people that have learned the hard way!

    So it feels (and is) practical advise

    Posted by RacerX | January 11, 2008, 6:26 pm
  3. I’ve read the read which was ok, however I found all the info on his website anyway.
    After my ‘lightbulb moment’ in 2005 the Money Saving Expert forums were like a lifeline, the forums have turned my life around and I totally mean that. The advice on the forums has saved me thousands over the last 2.5 years.
    I’ve cancelled PPI on a loan, saved money on utilities, reduced my grocery bill by at least 50%, learned how to use cashback sites, survey sites. I’ve learnt how to save money on everything.
    As you can tell I love that website and Martin Lewis in on the side of the consumer like no one else!

    Posted by nomorespending | January 12, 2008, 7:40 am
  4. I meant to say ‘I’ve read the book..;)

    Posted by nomorespending | January 12, 2008, 7:42 am
  5. @no more spending:
    I agree, that the site is brilliant for cutting costs on everything - it’s my normal tool when I’m readjusting my finances. The book, I think, really for when you need to have something in hard copy.

    I think, though, that pretty much all the stuff on MSE for getting out of debt is for when you’ve already really committed to doing it. It’s extremely practical help - which is great if you’ve got to that stage. You’ve got to bring your own motivation though.

    Posted by plonkee | January 12, 2008, 9:42 am
  6. Any particular reason that would lead you to the conclusion that this book is best suited for Brits? (As opposed to, say, Yanks with an interest in getting out of debt…)
    I would imagine that the general principles of debt management (or elimination) are pretty universal, even if other financial concepts, like health insurance costs and others, obviously would be disparate.
    Thanks for an interesting blog!

    Posted by Jerry | January 14, 2008, 1:02 pm
  7. @Jerry:
    The middle third of the book contains tips specific to the UK about cutting costs on many things. Although you could translate some into US information, many are peculiar to the UK, such as the way utilities are set up, or details about NHS prescription charges.

    The book is very much about debt reduction in the British context and I think there are probably better books out there for Yanks.

    Posted by plonkee | January 14, 2008, 1:22 pm
  8. Well my bank gave away copies a while back. i have not got around to read it yet!

    Posted by herbalpowerpack | January 18, 2008, 2:01 am
  9. i think the interest in personal finance should just as one taking care of family and his children. personal finance plays major role in life and has importance in both present and future time.

    Posted by high interest checking | April 1, 2009, 8:06 am

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