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Author: Lucy Tobin
Duration: 295 pages
Publishing House: Heron Books
"The UK economy has fallen out from the toilet and swirling around somewhere in the drains, maybe." A Tobin quote, which sums up her unsure prose on the subject of cash-strapped Britain - in reality, Tobin offers nothing into the mix - she states the obvious by stating poor living standards and I'm still waiting for the punch-line. Tobin's not intentional comedic phrase of, "Boom, boom Britain" - is an imitation of Basil Brush (a fox puppet that had his own children's TV show) - it devalues her credibility of a commentator of fiscal prose - her concepts are, daft as a brush. Considering her analogies in regards to Blighty's economy systematically include a 'toilet' - her opinion stinks of the excreta stuck on a toilet-brush - much of it recycled from ten years of web-oriented comparison sites; overall, this amounts to ten years of brushed-out 't'internet excreta.' All in malleably concise sub-headings such as; clothes, travel, food and drink, etcetera. Divided up into sections - I'm sure her Oxford English professors applaud the book criteria; not forgetting the title concept of 'Ausperity,' the word amalgamation of 'austerity' and 'prosperity' - I can almost hear her Oxonian English professors sighing in approval. Please note; the word 'English' - a world-apart from economics, recession, and finance. Tobin graduated in 2008! The same year the banking crisis was a reality - so 'Live the Life You Want for Less' book is written in the same vein as 'Finger Painting with Mother!' 'Ausperity' is divided up into five parts: 'Spending It', 'Milking It', 'Making It', 'Financial Stuff' and 'Directory.' Each part consists of sub-headlines - apart from 'Spending It' which has eight sub-headlines and 'Making It' which has one. Tobin generally spends more than she can make. She plays homage to her female book publisher who helped with the creation of the book and free meals. I read the white text at on the back of the book - it clearly states: Looking for ways to make money rather than spend it? I flip it over and start reading - Part One: 'Spending It!' - The first sentence states: "IT MIGHT SOUND WEIRD to start a money-saving book by talking about spending it - But that's the point about ausperity". Yeah, 'money-saving' and writing about 'spending it', is a contradiction - but what is worse is she assumes her readership knows of her made-up word: 'ausperity' - She moves on as if it is a valid word, she writes it as if it is a valid word. Tobin is nonsensical and obviously clueless, you can see where this is heading!
"Choose a blue coloured car because it is easier to sell" - epitomizes Tobin's mindset to 'living the life you want for less.' A Tobin fantasy world whereby vibrant colours are a win, win scenario. Apparently colour makes it easier to haggle - in fact colour will slow down a car's depreciation in value. Brown is not a good choice - let me guess, Brown represents the colour that is flushed down a toilet or drain. Tobin is for bog standard toilet humour. Use vinegar to clean your kitchen surfaces - much cheaper than branded cleaners - Er, won't the whole house smell of vinegar? Won't this make me indulge in takeaways? Resulting in spending money on petrol, to get to the chippie - for a family this expense could severely dent a twenty pound note. Tobin obviously hasn't researched 'The gustatory system' - whereby scent can stimulate a gastric response - In this case, an urge to purchase from a chippie. Buy fuel in the morning! You'll get more for your money. Tobin doesn't expand at length on this money saving concept, only states that petrol expands in heat. The idea is none valid as it is *always* cold in the UK - Idea to bin - 'To bin,' her namesake - couldn't be more appropriate.
If you gave Tobin brains she could be dangerous - she mentions a banana salesman and a four sales man when it comes to mobile phone contracts. No guessing what brands she's imitating here. She attempts to broker a deal with one of them to get the best contract deal - the Retentions department is mentioned, I again lose interest. Since 2004, mobile phone providers have no actual obligation to reward loyalty - new customers are where the commission (s) resides. 'Retention becomes obsolete', known as the maturing contract grave-yard. Tobin doesn't do the leg-work for you and ends off by stating the obvious that you can get up to 200 GBP for your old handset via going down the recycle route - herewith a huge price discrepancy, in reality a 75% reduction of the published price is a likelier fee back for a relatively new handset.
She refers back to her online 'money-making ideas' chapter that web entrepreneurs have sweetly built, especially for this book (with a title that isn't in the OED) - yeah, fill their pockets in a bid to fill your own pockets, but more importantly fill Tobin's pockets - aye, makes perfect sense. Tobin's money-making schemes wreak of Enid Blyton's 'The-Famous-Five-Themed-books' - more suited for nine year olds - for example: Sell-Your-Stuff - Rent-Your-Stuff-Out - Rent-And-Sell-Your-Stuff-Out - Rent-And-Sell-Your-Bigger-Stuff-Out - Sell-Your-Home-On-Ebay - Sell-Your-Photos - Sell-Your-Story-To-Lifestyle-Magazines - Empty-Your-Man-Draw! Again, this is where I switched-off - Tobin advocated selling your man's stuff without his permission, is sacrilege. Let me guess he won't be pleased - even if you sweetly squeeze his angry dimpled chin and softly say - "look I've got a Groupon Voucher - we can go away for 2 nights to Bude." - "When was the last time you needed that Swiss Army Knife, eh?" Tobin advocates her gender to be creative when it comes to telling your story. Contact newspapers, lifestyle magazines, they're likely to print the story - be as imaginative as you like - magazines crave for this type of copy to sell their magazines - who would've thought it, eh! My favourite was: Sell-Yourself-For-A-Fiver. This was more like it from a floozy Tobin's confession to have had quite a few male partners and knows how to break-up with men without causing an emotional massacre. A fiver to know the secret! Don't tell me - "It's me, not you!"- "We are different people, wanting different things" - "You leave the toilet seat down and toothpaste in the sink" - "My friends keep saying you look like Mick Hucknall, that's not the problem, it's just you're not as rich as him!" Tobin's odious ideas do take the biscuit - the last straw was when I read in the Sell-Yourself-For-A-Fiver part, that English to Russian translation was a viable option - How many English people do you know are fluent in Russian? 0.2 percent of the English population, maybe!
I happen to pop into my local Waterstones to learn that 'Ausperity' has sold two copies since mid January 2013. One of them was moi. As Waterstones has 288 outlets across the UK I guess Tobin's sales have amounted to 600 offline - roughly - times that by three, and that is nearly 2,000 sales offline and online. Perhaps, I'm being a little generous here; Tobin was named Business Journalist of the Year in 2011 at the prestigious Santander Media Awards. She-Sold-Herself-For-A-Fiver, obviously - To bin, not recommended.
Like going out and having lovely things but don't have the money to afford for them? As a triple dip recession looks to be on the cards, more and more of us are looking for ways to save money and bag a bargain. Lucy Tobin's book Ausperity: Live the life you want for less is a handbook for the modern scrimper. In it Lucy offers practical tips, honest advice and boundless enthusiasm for the task in hand.
Divided into obvious categories like holidays, clothing, food and drink, transport and utilities, it's easy to find advice on specific areas, so if you've identified an area of your outgoings that is in particular need of being trimmed back, you can dip into the book and find what you want quickly. I don't drive so I was pleased to be able to identify the section I didn't need, and skip through it to something more relevant to my own lifestyle needs.
Lucy, personal finance editor of the London Evening Standard, gives advice which is well balanced and sensible. The suggestion that cycling can be an alternative to using the car for many journeys is countered with a reminder that as cycling becomes more popular, so too the cost of bicycle maintenance and insurance is rising. Neither the content nor the style is 'preachy': the pros and cons are put forward and the reader is left to make the decision that is right for him or her. In the same way there's a warning about supermarket three for two or Buy One, Get One Free offers: they're great if you're going to use the products within their use by dates, but think objectively about whether it's really the bargain they're trying to persuade you it is. Shopping with others and splitting the cost is suggested as a way of making the most of the savings that can be made by bulk buying.
What I really like about Ausperity is the very contemporary take on saving money. Tobin accepts that we're modern people who want all the accoutrements of modern life but instead of suggesting that we manage without mobile phones, for example, she suggests ways in which we can make paying for them less painful. One idea is to turn down an upgrade and ask whether your mobile provider can give you a more attractive contract instead. Some of the suggestions require a bit of front so they might not appeal to shrinking violets but on the whole there's very little that can't be achieved by anyone determined to prune back their expenditure.
Tobin also promotes the use of websites such as Groupon and Living Social that offer cut price deals on anything from a weekend in a four star hotel to a cut and blow dry and it's her inclusion of such references that makes her way of spending less much more fun and way less fuddy duddy than Channel 4's 'Super Scrimpers' series which can often make those trying to save money look like complete eccentrics who don't live in the century as the rest of us. No, Tobin knows that girls want shoes and holidays and she makes sure that she's armed us with all the know-how we need to get them for less. Though not specifically written for female readers, there's nevertheless a sense that this book leans more towards the kinds of things women want to save money on than men might.
Tobin suggests registering with mystery shopping companies for jobs anonymously auditing product quality and customer services in restaurants and pubs, giving the impression that in doing so you'll get a free night out. This was the only area I felt she didn't quite give the whole picture: as a part time mystery shopper myself, I'm only too aware that many clients now only offer a set amount of compensation for a job, which often isn't enough to pay for all the items the mystery shopper is required to purchase, and the shopper to make up the rest. Tobin also fails to mention that purchase requirements are also well defined so you may well be asked to buy things you don't much care for.
I wasn't expecting to get a great deal out of Ausperity for myself and to some extent those expectations were realised. I love bagging a bargain and I'm always on the look out for ways of making an extra quid or two so I'm pretty much familiar with most of the websites that offer freebies, price comparisons, cash-back websites and special deals. The Food & Drink section did contain some excellent advice I hadn't ever considered before: my favourite was the idea of freezing wine in ice cube trays. I often use wine in a sauce or stew and have a glass with dinner but am left with half a bottle of wine that I stick in the fridge and forget about until it's undrinkable. Thawed out wine won't be that great for quaffing, but it is perfectly fine for cooking with.
For someone completely new to the idea of saving money this book is a great investment: if you know someone whose outgoings way exceed his or her income then you could do worse than point them in Lucy Tobin's direction. Seasoned scrimpers might argue that there's little here that isn't listed somewhere on Martin Lewis's Moneysaving Expert website, but the information here is more easily digested and, on a personal level, I find Lucy's style more engaging. The very best thing, though, about Ausperity is that it is refreshingly empowering; Tobin's enthusiasm for frugal living, enjoying the free things in life and the joy of getting a good deal on something you really want is infectious and inspiring.
Well researched and entirely credible Ausperity lives up to its premise that we can still have what we want but spend less getting it. Not just that, how we achieve that can in itself be fun and satisfying. This is a far cry from your granny's tips for frugality: I defy even the most dedicated penny pincher to browse this book and not come away rejuvenated and armed with new ideas.
Cover price £7.99, Amazon paperback £5.27, Kindle £5.01