Do Fish Spend Wisely?

October 3, 2020 at 4:18 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Title: Save Money and Spend Wisely During and After the Economic Crisis

Author: Dana Wise

It’s been awhile since I regularly read books sent to me by the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. It used to be my favorite past-time, and lately my number one priority has been homeschooling.

Honestly, I agreed to read this book because I’m a sucker for cute marketing and the author sent the request titled “Do Fish Spend Wisely?” with this jpeg:

I also enjoy supporting small businesses, which include the small presses within the publishing industry. This book is from a publishing house called Ready Set Agile! based out of Slovakia and I’m interested to see how they grow. I always try to support American businesses first, but that ideology does not limit me (thankfully) to supporting American businesses only. My true passion is for small businesses and the global market of today gives us an opportunity to support small businesses in other countries as well.

The author sent me the request because I used to review financial books for a consultant website and I have posted excerpts from most those reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I have an outdated degree in marketing and management and took more accounting courses in college than some accounting majors, but most of what I learned was from my parents and how they ran their household, helping run a small business for nearly a decade, and life experience. I am not the target audience.

The target audience for this book would be someone who knows next to nothing about making wise financial choices. The advice is good and valid advice, but nothing you wouldn’t find in existing financial guides. It isn’t “pandemic” specific, but definitely has decent tips for surviving any recession.

It’s short and to the point, reading more like a series of blog posts, which is typically how the general public acquires information these days, so I understand why it would be helpful that it is written this way. It would be an appropriate graduation gift for that high school senior you don’t know very well and aren’t sure what they like or need. Every eighteen year old needs to go out into the world with some handy money tips.

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Rich as a King

December 8, 2014 at 1:38 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

image003Just last month, I wrote a book review for Money-fax.com on Rich as a King. It was a personal finance and investing guide written with a whole new twist: by using tactics of a Grandmaster Chess Player.

That review, of Susan Polgar and Douglas Goldstein’s book, can be found here: http://money-fax.com/money-fax-com-book-review-rich-as-a-king/

But I didn’t want my support of their venture to end there, and I wanted to reach out to my readers here as well.  If you’re looking for an educational gift to purchase this Christmas, wanting to set some new goals and resolutions for the New Year, or just want to get started in refining your mind – look no further, Rich as a King should be in your shopping cart.

From my Money-fax.com review:

Tips like “Keep your eye on the goal of gaining the initiative and keeping it,” are easily applied to both chess and the stock market. The authors will tell you how the idea is useful in chess and explain the importance of the concept, then show you how to continue utilizing this skill when you are dealing with your money. The connections are smooth and effortless, and reading tidbits from Polgar’s chess career and upbringing makes the read enjoyable. Polgar’s experience with goal setting is incredible and my favorite anecdote from her was in regards to her homeschooling and how she learned to focus.

If nothing else, check out this cool action shot of Susan playing 10 simultaneous chess games in Switzerland.  She’s pretty amazing.

2014-11-12 20.45.31

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Pamphlet disguised as a “book”

October 28, 2014 at 1:56 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

pamphletTitle: Ultimate Money Management Guide for Kids (I have specifically NOT included the link here, because I am not promoting the purchase of this “book.”)

Author: Gregory O.

*TAKE NOTE* Length: 17 pages

It’s my fault, really.  I never noticed the page length section on the Amazon.com site.  I especially didn’t notice that ebooks state a page length equivalent in that section.  In fact, I’m so blind, I had to LOOK for it after someone told me it was there.  Somehow my eyes have always skipped over it.  Amazon places it there, clear as day.  I just never saw it.

I will never miss it again.  I will always look now.

Ultimate Money Management Guide for Kids is little more than a pamphlet, and is far from “ultimate” or a “guide.”  After all, it is only SEVENTEEN pages long.

It takes about ten to twenty minutes to read (depending on your reading rate – took me roughly 8 minutes total, a good 2 minutes of that was spent trying to figure out where the rest of the book was), and though there are five chapters, they are each short enough to be included in a brochure. The kind you see at seminars or conventions. Instead of being an ultimate guide, I’d consider it a solid introduction to themes you would like to teach.

There are few steps or how-to lists, mostly just conjecture and opinion. Good opinions, mind you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable promoting this as a personal finance or parenting guide of any kind. Instead it’s a nice conversation starter.

Free ebooks of this title were being passed around several homeschool sites a few weeks back. I consider this an appropriate way to acquire this book. But the kindle format sells on Amazon for $2.99 and I can’t help but wonder how many people have been disappointed by the lack of substance and length for their money.  Not many because the reviews on Amazon are mostly positive.  This surprises me.

In addition to it’s lack of length, there were a few editing hiccups that I urge the author to review. As a writer, I understand all too well the frequency of errant typos (my own first edition has many of them), but in a document that could be considered little more than a lengthy blog post, I’m surprised the errors slipped through.  I’m sure typos appear in my blog as well.  There might be some in this very post because I rarely go through an edit – I’m not an editor.  But I’m also not charging you to read this, so I feel in that regard I have a right to be a little lazy about punctuation placement and grammar choices.  When I start charging $2.99 for you to read my blog, I promise to edit better.  Then again, I’d never do that.

Early in the introduction of the title, the author writes, “Empowering children with good financial education will ensure that they are better prepared for life and all matter finance. It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about money.” Indeed.  But he spent little time explaining how one should do so.

Gregory O. has some great ideas and on many points I agree with him. The book as a whole would make a marvelous opening speech for a seminar on teaching parents to teach their children about money matters, but it doesn’t stand well alone. I wish O. would have developed the topic more before releasing it as a “book” for sale at $2.99. (I know, I keep repeating this information, but it just hasn’t stopped baffling me.  $2.99 for 17 pages! What?) Lower the price to 99 cents or keep it free and I have little to fuss about, because it serves as a positive starting point for parents to encourage economic intelligence in their children. It simply falls short of what else is being produced in the industry on the same topic.

I’ll take my 8 minutes back, please.

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The Skinny on Landscaping

June 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm (Education, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I wrote an article for a website that didn’t get used.  It happens sometimes, no biggie.  But this particular article is one that I did a great deal of researching before I wrote and actually talked to professionals that I know personally.  So, I want to share the blogger’s version (which means I’ve dressed it down and added my two cents where I otherwise would have held my tongue a bit).

The Skinny on Landscaping and Outdoor Projects

(DIY vs. The Contractor on the most common outdoor ventures)

Everyone loves a good do it yourself project. Pinterest and the TLC channel have made them more popular than ever. Home Depot and Lowe’s are certainly your helpful neighborhood DIY Home Project instigators and dare I mention the keeping up with the Joneses mentality amidst a major recession.

However, there are projects that are just not do it yourself friendly and with all the handy books, websites, and television channels, it’s hard to know which are for you and which warrant a good old fashioned contractor – especially when we’re dealing with our lawn and garden.

Re-Sodding Your Grass

before sod

Actual “before” photo of our front yard.

Landscaping is the most commonly chosen as a do it yourself renovation. Ironically, people hire companies to mow their lawns, weed their gardens, and trim their hedges, but when it comes to things like re-sodding their grass, more often than not, they opt to do it themselves.

Despite the process being fairly simple, though, most landscapers will encourage customers (and friends) to hire out a company. You might assume it is so they can get more business, but they are honestly advising this in your best interest. A landscaper can get grass at a discounted rate, already has the equipment on hand, and are experienced and efficient.

Tito Ortega of Ortega Lawn Care recommends calling your local landscaper for any grass project

“over a full pallet. For what someone pays for a pallet of grass, soil, and renting tools they don’t have, I charge more or less the same and all they have to do is pick up the phone. And I provide a warranty, plus informational packets on how to care for it properly.”

I had his help when I resod my own lawn after an extensive plumbing project in my front yard and can vouch for his sentiments. The process is easy, sure, but we still had to rent tools. I had to pay regular Joe Schmo prices for my grass – instead of fabulous bulk prices that businesses have access to. Over all I felt all sorts of useful, my grass is beautiful, but I didn’t really save any money by doing it myself.

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

A lot of people prune their own trees and shrubs, but Gardener Joe in Washington State of PangeaGardenscapes.com encourages tree owners to call a professional. Many do-it-yourself sites, such as http://www.diyornot.com, propose the opposite, reporting that even after you purchase the sheers and appropriate tools you’ll still save 56% on just the first pruning.

Yet, Gardener Joe has some advice concerning that:

“Many people try to keep plants small which never works. A plant is programmed to grow to a mature height. Many times people buy a plant not understanding the maturity of said plant. Also topping a tree and some shrubs are a no-no. I belong to plant amnesty and if you check out plant amnesty.org it has many examples of different plants. So in my business I offer garden coaching services. I show how to prune and why. As well as my garden class I give once a month at our local library.”

So if you arplantamnestye going to trim your own trees and shrubs, do the research and know your plant. Otherwise, spend the extra dime to call a professional who can teach you about what you have in your yard so you can help your plants live long, healthy lives for the expense you’ve already put into having them there in the first place.   Many people prematurely kill off plants that would have lasted for generations by cutting them back too far and not giving them the appropriate room to grow.   Homeowners who plan to stay in the same place for thirty plus years should be very conscientious of this issue, otherwise they’ll find themselves spending thousands more over the lifetime of the property than they would if they spent a little bit up front consulting someone.  For more tips, follow Joe’s Facebook Page.

We trim our own shrubs, but not our own trees. The danger factor isn’t worth the risk when you’re talking about limbs falling from the heavens onto things like your car or the roof of your house. Even with the shrubs, I see Gardener Joe’s point. We did some research into ours and learned how to take care of the shrubs we inherited with our house – when the old owners came by for a visit they gasped, “We could never get them to bloom like that when we were here.” According to a lot of professional landscapers and truly green thumb kind of people, many people think they are over or under watering when really they are trimming the hedges incorrectly. Save yourself the cost of new plants every few years and have a professional teach you how to do it right – whether that professional is from the pages of a book or has been hired to come out and talk to you by appointment.

Building a Fence

You may need to call a contractor for planting new grass and trimming trees, but you’re probably looking for what you can do yourself. It’s far more cost efficient for you to mow your own lawn and weed your own garden, but the other best DIY option for outdoors is to build your own fence. Everyone should get that experience in before they die and it’s definitely worth the savings on your wallet.

Most landscapers and handymen will charge you roughly 30% more than the cost of materials. That’s about the difference of an $800 fence and a $1200 fence, just to have someone else do it. Though quality work might be worth that, there’s nothing worse than looking out at a fence you paid too much for that doesn’t look quite the way you’d like.

My husband was extremely busy with work the year after Ike and the hurricane had taken down our whole side fence. We hired sP1000295omeone to take care of it because we had three dogs and needed it up sooner rather than later. We shopped around, we called the most affordable handyman, he had good reviews online. My husband still complains about that fence. We overspent and the fence boards are spaced too far apart. It drives us crazy. Last year, when a tree took down another section in the opposite corner of the lot, we built it ourselves.

The most cost efficient of fencing options is a neighbor friendly fence, where each neighbor takes on the cost of the panels that face their yard and each section alternates. I’m especially partial to these because I had one growing up. It makes the most economical and hospitable sense. Get to know your neighbors, be old-school, built it together.

No matter what your project, remember to research materials and processes, be realistic about your abilities and your time, and call around for multiple quotes. Weigh the expense up front against the lifetime expense of the plants or space in question, and plan carefully.

Of course, this is primarily a book blog, so I have to share my favorite DIY Landscaping books, which are pretty much gardening specific because I’m a gardener.

The Complete Book of Practical Gardening
Small Gardens
Square Foot Gardening by M. Bartholomew
Low Maintenance Gardening
Herbs and the Kitchen Garden by Kim Hurst

To read articles that DO get used by Money-fax.com, check out my Freelance Writer page and follow the links.

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Economic Education

February 18, 2013 at 12:35 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Finance

Lords of Finance Discussion Part One (I am writing this only 150 pages into a 508 page book.  I anticipate a series of reviews, much like how I handled Les Miserables in 2012, except over a short amount of time.  I will have the book completed no later than March 4th, 2013)

Title: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Author: Liaquat Ahamed

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: Economics/ History

Length: 508 pages

Inevitably I read something and find about ten more things I need to read.  My constant lament on this blog is why we didn’t read more source documents in school.  So is it any wonder at all that while reading Lords of Finance for the HPB Humble Book Club I discover that I absolutely must have a copy of The Economic Consequences of the Peace? Probably not. Or it shouldn’t be.

In addition to that title, I find myself longing to dive into more history books on the time period as well as full length biographies on a few of the people mentioned.  You wouldn’t expect that kind of revelation out of reading a finance book, but Ahamed has a way of turning a phrase that makes interest and exchange rates, and the people directly responsible for their flux, fascinating.

I think this would be a great title to hand to a high school student during an economics course, it would definitely make the class more interesting.  I enjoyed my economics classes in college, taught by a clever little man with a wonderful accent (Scotland? Liverpool? Not sure) and had a great sense of humor despite teaching all his courses at eight o’clock in the morning.  But what I remember of high school economics was pretty cold and void of any kind of spunk.  It was filled with boring formulas, worksheets, and a fairly heavy textbook that we read very little of.  Obviously, the formulas are handy and important, but couldn’t there have been a little more meat? A little more perspective? A little more history?

Maybe living in a recession has weighed heavily in how I view the dollar, but I would like my child to grow to understand how much the economy effects politics, social customs, humanity, and art.

Idolizing money is a concern and a problem, but seeing how money fits into our lives and the bigger picture is important.  So often we are taught that money is separate and that we should keep it that way, but the truth is money is never separate.  Our history is riddled with money driven politics, so why is our history class and our economics class separate?  Our religions are filled with instructions on what to do with our money, our philosophies rooted in our thoughts on whether to live richly or poorly and how rich and poor are defined.  I think the history of banks, the dollar, and what your views are on the matter should all be addressed while you are learning how to calculate it, not as a completely separate train of thought.

HPB Book Club Spring 13 730Ahamed’s Lords of Finance was recommended to me by a customer at Half Price Books, it was actually chosen for the Humble location’s book club by that same customer, and I am so glad I took his advice.  We will be discussing the book as a group March 4th, 2013, starting at 7:30 pm.  Additional members are welcome, so if you are interested in the book and are in the area, please join us.  Treats are provided.

So far, the book is enlightening and informative, it covers a lot of the banking information provided in the documentary Zeitgeist without the haze of conspiracy theories and blasphemy.  I imagine we will have a lot to discuss when we meet. Until then, I plan to share my own thoughts here.

Other titles in my personal Economic Library:

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations

Thorstein Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption

Craig Karmin’s The Biography of the Dollar

Thomas Stanley’s The Millionaire Next Door

Please share any titles you think should be added from a historical, philosophical, or sheer financial perspective.

Next Lords of Finance Discussion Installment

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