Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds, Why Going Bigger Isn't Going Better

Last week I finished a very good book, Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds, Why Going Bigger Isn't Going Better by Sarah Z. Wexler. I picked the book up from the library about the same time we'd observed an interesting new custom in our families. For some reason the baby boomers were opting to put their depression era parents in SUV or stretch limos to celebrate milestones. On my side of the family it was a limo to take my grandparents to a restaurant for their 70th wedding anniversary. On my husband's side it was to drive his Grandmother around town for her 90th birthday. We couldn't help but think it was a bid odd, these are the same people who can talk at length about ration cards during WWII and their in a limo....

The limo trend could have been another chapter in Wexler's book, which consists of 11 easy to read and at times jaw dropping chapters. From the McMansion Explosion to Engagement Ring Bling to This Landfill Isn't a Dump to Meet the Freegans, each chapter offered great commentary, data, and pure shock at what has become of America. Whether you are trying to find motivation to pay down debt, be frugal or decrease the number of items you discard into the trash -- read this book. My own efforts to reduce our household waste has risen dramatically after reading about America's landfills. Wexler states the average American generates 4.8 pounds of garbage a day. After reading her book, I'm aiming to be well below the average American.
That's created what scientists call the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating trash island that weighs 3.5 million tons. It was discovered in 1988, though oceanographers think it began forming in the 1950s. The mass is made up of 80 percent plastic, the final resting spot for about 2.5 percent of all plastic items made since 1950....even more troublesome is that as the plastic breaks down into smaller floating particles, it begins to resemble plankton, which means that animals like sea turtles...consume it, which may ultimately kill them -- not to mention the plastic entering the food chain.
And the information on America's love for debt resonated a bit more strongly given the challenges faced in our Nation's Capitol and State Houses. And it reinforced my desire to live a frugal life. Is my family on the verge of a new trend? Wexler quotes Farnoosh Torabi, another author, who states:
"We're at the beginning of a financial revolution. I'm hoping it will motivate people to learn the fundamentals of financial independence: set both short and long-term goals, be conscious of how much money you earn and how much money you spend, save often and regularly, and be your biggest financial advocate.
There were parts of this book, mainly the author's commentary on how hard frugality can be, that made me feel like a seasoned expert. In one passage she recounts purposely leaving behind a restaurant meal because she didn't have the energy to purchase baggies, bread, etc. to make sandwiches at home. What? Oh yeah, she lives in NYC. No disrespect, but I used to live in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Brown Bagging it there is not common place -- doing lunch is. And that is one reason why I returned to the Midwest. The concentration for frugal folks seems higher, or at least the behavior not quite so weird.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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