Now that the excesses of the season are over, we could all do with a little help to get our finances back on track. I caught up with Cath Armstrong to get some expert tips. Cath is the founder of the Cheapskates Club, the c0-author of Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing, and her latest book, Saving Money is Easy, is a month by month guide to getting your finances healthy and happy.
Cath took the time out to answer a few questions on writing the book, why she wrote it the way she did and whether she manages to get past bookstores with her wallet still in her pocket…
Thank you! I want Saving Money is Easy to remind readers that it’s not the one big thing we do that saves us big bucks, but rather the combined effort of the many, many little things we do regularly that really save money.
Breaking saving down to a list of month-by-month ideas of what to save when makes it easy and painless to save, so I wrote the book as a month-by-month list. Readers don’t have to think about it, they can start saving whenever they pick up the book.
The book includes tips and tricks from your Cheapskates Club. Who is the normal “Cheapskate” and how do they feel about being included in your book?
You know, there is no “normal” Cheapskate. Everyone is at a different place in their journey to a debt-free life, and we all have different goals to achieve to reach the end of the journey. The one thing we all have in common though is that we all prefer to give up the stuff that’s not important to us so we can have the things that are. We may be Cheapskates, but we definitely are not cheap.
You can pick Cheapskates in a crowded shopping centre – they are the shoppers with the huge grins on their faces as they go through the checkouts.
Cheapskaters love to spread the word, there’s quite a movement out there, building momentum. Whether it’s on the Cheapskates Club website, having a tip published in our newsletter or being included in Saving Money is Easy, they want everyone to be debt free, cashed up and laughing like they are.
You wrote your last book with a co-author. How did you find the experience of writing this one by yourself?
I had some interesting and occasionally quite heated brain-storming sessions with myself during the planning stages. Really though, it was easier than I thought it would be. I have amazing back-up and support from my husband and three children who didn’t complain too much when dinner didn’t appear or the washing wasn’t done. And a great friend I could call on when I was stuck or needed to be sure an idea made sense to someone other than me. Or to pick the kids up from school if I was on a writing roll.
You’re clearly very passionate about what you write about! What advice would you give someone thinking of writing a “how-to” on something they love?
Find a friend to pick the kids up from school when you’re on a writing roll! Remember to write for a complete beginner – detail, detail, detail in a step-by-step fashion. Read and re-read what you’ve written.
When you love something so much it is habit in your life, it can be hard to write for those who don’t love it quite as much as you do. And of course when you are close to something and have been doing it forever, you need to make sure you don’t skip details. You do things automatically and can often skip vital steps because you do them on auto pilot.
Own up – do you find it difficult to stick to the budget when you walk into a bookshop? What’s the book you have enjoyed most this year?
I love, love, love books which naturally spills over to bookshops. And I have the online bookshops bookmarked on my laptop. They even have their own bookmark folder so I can find them really quickly! I visit at least two bookshops a week and online bookstores just about every day. It’s rare that I leave without at least one book.
Are you sure you want me to choose just one? That’s a really hard question, there are so many.
Right now it has to be From Here to There by Jon Faine. I so admire the fact that he spent six months travelling overland from Australia to Paris with his son in a 4WD and managed to keep his sense of humour.
And A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life by Juanita Phillips, 5 Minute Microwave Bottling (Isabel Webb), the All New Square Foot Gardening (Mel Bartholomew), The Backyard Homestead (Carleen Madigan), Radical Homemakers (Shannon Hayes), and From my Kitchen to Yours, A Year in a Bottle, Out of the Bottle and Slow Cooker all of which are by Sally Wise.
Can you tell I’m on a bit of a self-sufficiency move at the moment?
Finally, with everyone’s cash low after Christmas, what’s the best shopping advice you can give?
Stick to your list! Do not deviate from that list for one single thing. If it’s not on the list it doesn’t get bought. Treat shopping like army manoeuvres if you have to – get in; get the things on the list and GET OUT!