The Next Chapter

Brian Francis tried to save money by following advice from these 3 personal finance books

The Next Chapter columnist and author of the novel Natural Order reviews three books on money matters.
Brian found several items in his home that he was sure Shelagh would like, including an authentic Tim Hortons pie plate.

There is no recipe, diet or beauty tip Brian Francis won't try — and he takes pictures to prove it. As the Role Up Your Sleeves columnist, he has recently done a deep dive into the world of numeracy and financial responsibility.

Francis, author of the novel Fruit, a runner-up on Canada Reads 2009, joined Shelagh Rogers to talk about what he's learned from reading three books about money. This interview originally aired on Jan. 1, 2018.

Money Rules: Rule Your Money, Or Your Money Will Rule You by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is the former host of Till Debt Do Us Part and has written for The Globe and Mail. (HarperCollins Canada)

Brian says: "Gail Vaz-Oxlade serves up the tough love. In her book, she offers 261 rules that everyone should adhere to. For example, rule 19 asks you to 'keep track of what you are spending by writing everything down'. As part of my journalist approach, I did do that and found out a couple a things. First, I don't spend that much in the course of a day. Second, it's a pain to write down everything you spend. Rather than bring out the wallet and the notepad, I just walk away from it. In that sense, writing everything down acts as a deterrent to spending — it's a way of holding yourself accountable. Gail's advice does make a lot of sense. I would recommend her book because it's a good way for you to question your spending"

The Cheapskate's Handbook by Mifflin Lowe

Mifflin Lowe infuses his money-saving tips with humour in The Cheapskate's Handbook. (Familius)

Brian says: "Mifflin Low is an author and singer-songwriter whose books have sold over 300,000 copies in four languages. I would call The Cheapskate's Handbook the 'penny pincher's bible.' If you're looking to save a dollar or two, this might be the way to go. He covers a wide range of topics from fashion to building good neighbourly relations that ensure you have a lifetime of borrowing from your neighbours." 

$3 Low-calorie Meals: Delicious, Low-cost Dishes That Won't Add to Your Waistline by Ellen Brown

Food writer Ellen Brown provides an array of options in her food guide $3 Low-Calorie Meals. (Lyons Press)

Brian says: "All of us grapple with grocery shopping and our grocery bills. I was looking for a way to spend less on our food, but at the same time make it relatively healthy. Brown insists that going cheap doesn't have to mean eating cheaper processed food; you just have to be smart about it. Brown was the founding food editor of USA Today in the early 1980s and has a few grocery tips which I thought were interesting. She recommends deciding what you are going to eat for the week before you go grocery shopping. Overall, I thought her recipes sounded pretty good — even though you would think that for three dollars a meal you would be dealing with some pretty cheap stuff." 

Brian Francis's comments have been edited and condensed.