By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor & Publisher
Be Inkandescent Magazine
In today’s cash-strapped economic climate, everyone wants to find ways to save money. That’s why Leah Ingram’s 2010 book, “Suddenly Frugal: How to live happier & healthier for less,” is an affordable buy that pays off.
The back story
“I’m a big believer in karma and fate,” says author Leah Ingram.
Her fate, explains the journalist and author of several other lifestyle books, came soon after she convinced her husband to sell their very nice house and buy a new, nicer one — just before the real estate boom went bust.
“I’m not shy about telling people why we decided to start living frugally back in 2007,” Ingram shares. “We had gotten in over our heads with debt and then bought more house than we could afford.”
Her karma, Ingram says, comes from growing up with a frugal mom.
“Had I not been raised by a frugal mother [Judy Watson Ingram], I never would have even considered dedicating my recent writing life to all things frugal,” the author explains. “Of course, when I was growing up, I didn’t know what to call my mother’s shrewd habits — weird, perhaps? But as I grew older and wiser and recognized the wisdom in her money-saving ways, I came to appreciate the thriftiness she taught me.”
The four myths of frugality
In the introduction to her book, Ingram debunks the four misconceptions of what it means to live a frugal life.
Myth 1: Frugal people never have any fun. “If you enjoy paying a ridiculous cover charge at a dance club and drinking $100 bottles of champagne, well, then, yeah, you’re not going to have much fun living frugally at home,” Ingram concedes. “But even with cutting back on your expenses, you can still see first-rate movies, read New York Times best-selling books, and stay abreast of the latest celebrity gossip with your favorite magazines.”
Myth 2: Living frugally means eating like a pauper. Although rice and ramen noodles may be part of your new diet, “The trick to making [eating well] work on a frugal budget is getting into the habit of meal planning,” Ingram insists, “and planning based on what’s on sale at the supermarket.”
Myth 3: If I’m frugal, I’ll never shop again. “When you’re frugal, you can still shop,” she says. “But you’re going to have to shop for the total value of something versus the short-term price.”
Myth 4: My kids are going to hate me if I ask them to be frugal. “Guess what? Your kids are going to complain no matter what you do,” she writes. The solution: Make living frugally a family affair.
What you’ll learn
In the 14 chapters of the book, Ingram maps out a plan for how to shift your routines in small, simple ways that will ultimately pay off.
The book includes plenty of money-saving tips, and at the end of each chapter she totals up the possible savings.
For instance, in Chapter 1, “Rebooting Your Daily Routines,” Ingram writes:
“When you adopt a frugal lifestyle, start by re-examining your daily routines to make sure you don’t spend any more money than is necessary to get the job done — whatever the job may be.” Then she goes on to outline ideas for spending less money while cleaning house, doing laundry, and cooking meals.
Follow her advice, and she says you can save $4,000 a year on clothing, groceries, and school supplies. If readers implement all of Ingram’s money-saving tips, she claims they could save as much as $25,000 a year.
In Chapter 10 she offers money-saving ideas for growing a great garden.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned from my Yankee-raised mother, it’s this: just because you’re living frugally doesn’t mean that you can’t have great landscaping or a nice-looking yard,” Ingram notes.
She offers tips on what you can plant that requires the least amount of effort and investment, free ways to water your garden (dehumidifier water, leftovers from water bottles are great options), and how to keep deer away.
One of my favorite tips in the section is her ideas on how to grow your own food — she notes that according to a 2009 National Gardening Association survey, as many as 7 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs, or berries. Check out page 166 for details.
Suddenly Frugal Seal of Approval
Each chapter is also peppered with “Suddenly Frugal Seal of Approval” products and services to help readers embrace frugal living.
Ranging from making carbonated drinks with SodaStream (www.sodaclubusa.com) to shopping at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore store (www.habitat.org/env/restores/aspx.), the tips are often as fun as they are frugal.
In fact, flip to pages 227 to 232 for a complete list of all those money-saving ideas. This alone justifies the expense of the $12.95 book.
For more information, visit Ingram’s blog SuddenlyFrugal.wordpress.com.
About Leah Ingram
Leah Ingram is a lifestyle and frugal-living expert, and the author of the new book “Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier & Healthier for Less” (Adams Media, 2010).
She has appeared on “The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” “Good Morning America,” CNBC’s “Market Wrap,” “Business Week TV,” “ABC News Now,” and “Good Day New York,” among other programs. She has also been a spokesperson for many national brands, including Bank of America, T-Mobile, and Starbucks.
Recently, her byline has appeared in the pages of All You, Continental, Executive Travel and Parenting. She has written 13 books, including “Gifts Anytime! How to Find the Perfect Present for Any Occasion” and “The Everything Etiquette Book: A Modern Day Guide to Good Manners.”
Ingram lives near Trenton, N.J., with her husband and two daughters.