plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

January 11, 2008

january book review: the money diet

Filed under: reviews — Tags: , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

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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