Hard Core Poor- A Book on Extreme Thrift by Kelly Sangree- A Book Review

Have you ever met someone, and thought to yourself that the two of you are kindred souls, that you just get each other completely? I have a good friend, Kelly Sangree, and even though we've never met in person, we are very close, since we seem to simply understand how the other one ticks.
Kelly says, though, that she "had a leg up on me", that she knew we'd be good friends, even before we spoke for the first time. She's been a loyal blog reader "since long before you were even gluten free", she says... That means roughly 4 or 5 years, minimum, she's been reading my blog...
Kelly's got three kids, homeschools one and sends another one to school, has a few gluten free members of her household, and is natural minded, super thrifty, DIY, creative gal, who likes to problem solve to figure out innovative solutions for various money related queries... She also manages without a car most of the time, bike riding her super cool cargo bike...
When I need someone to problem solve with, to ask input on for tough dilemmas, Kelly is the one I often turn to, because she has a great head on her shoulders, and I know her advice will usually be spot on.
So when I heard that Kelly wrote a book on frugality, entitled Hard Core Poor- A Book on Extreme Thrift , I immediately asked her if I could do a book review, because, knowing her, I knew I'd love her book.

I wasn't wrong.

I have ADD or something similar. Unless a book is a gripping novel, sucking me in, I usually have a hard time getting through books, because something always comes up and distracts me from the book, no matter how much I like the book or the information covered within. (I usually have, at any given time, at least 10 books that I'm in the middle of...) This tends to be especially true with non fiction books...

Kelly's book, though, captivated me in the way only great novels usually can. I've read many finance related books in the past, many that I loved (including The Complete Tightwad Gazette, The Total Money Makeover, etc...) but none spoke to me as much as the book "Hard Core Poor".
As I read the book, the Kelly I know and love shined through- her wisdom, insight, creativity, and humor, all those things about her that I appreciate (and the reasons I'm proud to call her a friend), come through clearly in the book, making it a real pleasure to read.

You know how they say that a lot of those frugal books and blogs out there are woefully short of actual, practical ideas to help you save money- they usually just say "stop buying those lattes and you'll have extra cash" or focus entirely on couponing, so there isn't much of tangible use that you get out of the book?

Kelly's book has a lot of practical, down to earth ideas that will actually be more useful to you than just "stop buying lattes" or "use coupons".

 photo kelly_zps884c291c.png
Kelly with two of her kids, on her super awesome cargo bike
 Now don't get me wrong. This book isn't for everyone. Because it's not just basic thrift- its "hard core thrift", filled with ideas of how to slash your expenses even once you're already "very frugal". If you're the type to be annoyed at little details of how to save money, saying "my time is worth more than that", this isn't the book for you. But since you're reading my blog, I assume you share mine and Kelly's mindset- that living within your means is a very important goal, however much or little your income is- and that you do what you gotta do to save that cash and don't dismiss "little things" because you know every dollar adds up.
But don't worry- Kelly doesn't glorify poverty, the way you might assume from the title. She's just stating that as a fact of life, some people are poor, are very strapped for cash, and the book is filled with ideas of how to cut your bills even further, while not sacrificing quality of life (too much); at the same time, she gives ideas of how to increase your income as well.
I got a nice surprise, when 3/4 of the way through the book, I see Kelly talking about me and my blog- that made me feel all warm and giddy inside.

If you liked the book the Tightwad's Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn, you'll love Hard Core Poor. If I had to compare the two, the biggest things that Kelly has over the Tightwad's Gazette is that Kelly's is organized by subject, covering everything from housing to diapering to cooking to lowering utilities bills to free/cheap software to frugal education to clothes shopping to money making, while Amy's book is just randomly thrown together, newsletter style, but not organized by subject. Additionally, Kelly's book has information that's more updated to today's internet age, while the Tightwad's Gazette is from an era where money related things connected to the internet weren't widely available like they are today.

You might think that someone like myself, already super frugal/"hard core poor"/whatever you want to call someone like ourselves, living on a very minimal budget wouldn't have much to learn from Kelly's book, that I'd just be nodding my head along with it, saying "Yup, I already do that". And while I was nodding my head along with much of it, there were so many things in the book that I had no idea about, and had never even considered. Since reading the book, I have much more new information at my disposal, some that I've already been putting to use.

Here's some highlights from the book- some things in it I especially loved:

Kelly has a chart in her book with a price comparison for utilities costs using various cooking implements, including crock pots, electric stoves, electric ovens, gas ovens, etc... which has prompted me to do some serious number crunching and figuring out what is the cheapest cooking method locally- I'll be doing a post about that soon.

Kelly talks a lot about the benefits of decluttering, and how decluttering betters your life, giving you more emotional headspace, especially when you live in a small home. I've been inspired since reading the book to declutter a lot, and even more is planned- something especially important when you're living in a tiny home like mine. My husband, Mike, is constantly telling me to thank Kelly for her inspiration!

Hard Core Poor has ideas about cheap housing solutions, either long term, or temporary- to prevent homelessness, or as temporary housing while fixing a cheap "fixer upper house", including RV/camper/ and even army surplus tent living.

Have you considered using a wood burning stove but the cost of the outlay on the stove turned you off? There's info in that book about how to turn your fireplace into a wood burning stove, so the heat radiates outward instead of upward and out the chimney.

There are lots of ideas for free homeschooling curriculum, many of them free online ones- I plan on checking them out! (Even though we're relaxed homeschoolers, I get ideas from curriculum.) She even has information about how to take free AP courses online!

Kelly crunched the numbers for colleges today, figuring out exactly how many hours you'd have to work at a minimum wage job to pay for credits at cheap, local colleges, compared to how many hours you'd need to work to pay your way through school 20 years ago. The numbers aren't pretty, so Kelly has information about how to lower your post high school education costs, including information on how to get full scholarships to trade schools, CLEP tests, and information about colleges with free tuition.

There is so much more good stuff in that book, and the cost is not bad at all.

If you like my blog, and like ideas how to save money, I really, really recommend you buy Kelly's book- Hard Core Poor- available both in e-book form for only $3.99 e-book form for $3.99 and in paperback form for only $7.11. Yes, I know for someone hard core poor, even 4 or 7 dollars is hard to spend, but I can pretty much guarantee that this book will help you save more than that, so its a worthwhile investment.

Kelly also recently started a new blog, BooksBikesandBudgeting.blogspot.com, which I'm sure you'll also love.

Kelly self published her book very cheaply- I will be speaking to her about how to do that, because I'm interested in self publishing a book or two (or five) one day, especially if it doesn't cost a lot, so I plan on asking Kelly to write a guest post on how to self publish frugally.

P.S. I just want to clarify that I am not getting paid for this post- my only compensation was a free review copy of the book. I'm sharing this information because I think this is a book that every single reader of mine should get their hands on- its that good. And I would say the same exact thing, even if I weren't friends with Kelly.

Do you consider yourself to be spendy? Frugal? Lightly frugal? Medium frugal, or "hard core thrifty"? What has been your favorite finance related book you've read that has inspired you the most and given you the most ideas?
Does this look like a book you'd enjoy?
If you've read the book- what was your favorite part of the book?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Thanks don't like the title but will read. Don't like the word poor. Just because you don't have alot of money in my mind doesn't make you poor. Poverty is a state of mind in which even people with alot of money can be poor.

    1. I hear that. I think she was going for the play on words/the sound. But yea, I definitely agree that poor is a state of mind, which you can have whether with a large income or small.

    2. Hi, I'm the writer! Yes, I know the word "poor" is a loaded one, but the phrase is one that I've carried with me since those broke days - it always made me chuckle when I said it. It's rhythmic, sounds *almost* naughty, and implies that even if you're flat broke, you're still tough!

  2. I don't have ADD, but I have the same issue when it comes to books. I jump back and forth with them. Sometimes I will read voraciously, and at other times I'm just not in the mood.

    I've been very frugal, and not so much in my life. I strive for balance and putting my money where it gives me the most enjoyment/payoff. For instance I buy a gluten free bread that is expensive, but my daughter and I really enjoy it so it's worth it.

  3. Many public libraries take suggestions on what new books to buy. You could read the book for free, and it would be available for others in your area who are in a similar financial place/mindset.

    1. Thank you, that's a good suggestion - I'll see if my local libraries would like a copy or two.

  4. I love the Tightwad's Gazette as it not theory based, but gives actual advice on saving money. There is a book that I recently read, "Your Money Or Your Life", but Joe Dominguez that has really inspired me lately. I actually had a breakdown and bawled my eyes out reading the first chapter. It was eye-opening. It's more a financial book, but really about making a life. I just read it about a month ago and I'm ready to reread it again.

  5. Does she mention having a successful career (or marrying someone who does) and not having so many kids?

    1. I'm not sure I understand your question... or if you're just trying to make a point via criticizing people for their life's choices. Can you elaborate?

    2. Hi anonymous! No, I don't believe in scolding or shaming people, I believe in meeting them where they are. It's not very helpful to say to someone "you shouldn't have had so many kids" when the parents would do without literally anything to make sure their kids are well cared for. And while a better job would help, sometimes you just have to work with what you have. So, no - those are not tips in my book. (Nor is marrying well - the book "The Rules" would cover that better.)

  6. Thanks for suggesting this book! I read it over the past few days and it was an easy read, lots of resources. Some of the tips I knew but unlike some of the other books I've read, I found things I didn't know! I love when that happens. Great book. Thanks!

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