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THE FRUGALISTA FILES by Natalie P. McNeal: Book 24 of 2011 [BOOK WEEK]

Coming upon this book was a bit weird for me. Usually, non-fiction books have to work really hard to make it onto my TBR list, but just when I committed to my self-proclaimed YEAR OF THE BUDGET, so many book bloggers started talking about this THE FRUGALISTA FILES by Natalie P. McNeal. Here my thoughts:

What’s It About: McNeal, a journalist and single party girl living in Miami decides to tackle her debt and blog about it along the way.

What Makes It Different: It’s half-memoir, half-self-improvement, and all-interesting.

What I Loved: As someone who reads financial books for fun, who has said out loud “I wish there was a tax-free investment vehicle for [this]” on more than one occasion, and who has made a habit of watching the Suze Orman show when alone in hotel rooms (why it’s alway on when I’m alone in a hotel room? — I dunno!), this book is what finally made me just admit that I am a ridiculous money nerd.

I love reading about other people’s money situations. When I read a finance book, I always want more anecdotes. When I read a book-book, I always want to hear more about the character’s financial situation. Anyway, this is all to say, that reading the financial memoir of the woman who (literally) trademarked the word “frugalista” was kind of right up my alley. Also, I loved all the financial tips and only wish I’d had them when I was single and fabulous (as opposed to married and happily frugal). And I loved all the spending conflicts that came up once she decided to go hardcore frugal.

What I Didn’t Like: As a romance junkie, I wanted her to date way more than she did during her frugal year. As a writer, I felt the narrative lost steam toward the end and became more of a report than story. I wanted to learn more about how living frugally made McNeal grow as an individual — but perhaps both the romance and the personal growth will be great topics for FRUGALISTA 2?

Writing Lessons Learned

Give your blog-turned-book plot points. McNeal has a lot of great plot points to work with, including the death of a friend (which creates a spending conflict), the death of newspapers (which creates even more spending conflict), and a sudden rise in popularity — how exactly do you stay popular without spending money? Oh, McNeal will show you.

Make your memoir practical AND inspirational. I love that this memoir will not only inspire single women to live more frugally, but also shows them how to do so through example. So many authors say “I did it and so can you!”, but few do as good of a job of actually showing you how they cut their spending step-by-step.

Write like you speak. One of the things that makes McNeal’s memoir a super-easy read is that the writing is light and breezy as opposed to heavy and dense like a lot of finance books. If you’re a fun person and really want people to have fun reading your memoir, put as much of your own voice as possible into the writing. There’s nothing better than feeling like your talking to a girlfriend when you’re reading  a non-fiction book.

To Whom Would I Recommend this Book? McNeal made this one easy for me: All the single ladies!