Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Frugalista Files - Natalie McNeal

Summary: Natalie McNeal opened her bills in January 2008 to find that she was a staggering five figures—$20,000!—in debt. Young, hip and gainfully (if Dilbert-ly) employed, Natalie loved her lifestyle of regular mani/pedis, daily takeout and nights on the town, but clearly something had to give.

And so The Frugalista Files was born. Through her blog, Natalie confessed her spending habits to the world—and it turns out she wasn't the only one having trouble balancing the budget! From the drastic "no-buy" month that kicked it all off to the career gamble that threatened to put her deeper in the hole, The Frugalista Files shares Natalie's personal and professional transformation from cubicle rat to take-charge career girl.

It is possible to get ahead without giving up on the fabulous life. This is personal finance in peep-toe pumps—the empowering true story of one woman's personal and professional transformation and your ultimate guide to living the Frugalista lifestyle, too.
Summary from book, cover photo from, book received free for review

My Review: As Natalie McNeal finds herself more than $20,000 in debt she knows she must make a change. The debt is wearing on her yet she desires to continue her fashionable, socially-active lifestyle. With the new year she pledges to get herself debt-free while maintaining her current way of life. It all begins with a month long spending freeze which Natalie documents on a blog through her work at the Miami Herald.

Natalie's goal is commendable and the idea behind the story is intriguing. This book starts out witty, with plenty of humorous moments at the author's expense. Natalie's desire to live extravagantly on a limited income is easy to relate to. I was enthusiastic about the book as I began reading. I couldn't wait to learn all her fantastic frugal secrets.

However by the mid-way point this story begins to ramble and becomes a bit whiny. It develops into merely the recounting of the author's day-to-day life...what she is going to eat, what she will wear, what party will she attend and where she will park once she arrives. What started out as a charming writing style quickly becomes annoying as the author over uses "LOL" and "SOOOO" and "heehee" followed by little happy faces. Suddenly instead of reading one woman's flight for financial freedom this book takes on the feel of a teenager's diary. In other words, it gets annoying and rather dull.

If you are looking for frugal living tips you will not find anything innovative inside these pages. Everything Natalie does you probably do as well, or have at least thought of (i.e. going without manicures, styling your own hair, eating out less). This novel ends up feeling like just another way to make some more money off a simple idea.  While there is very little substance in this book, I have to admit her journey out of debt is motivating. If you long to be a frugalista start by saving the money you could spend on this book and checking out her website instead at

My Rating: 2 Stars

To sum it up: A good idea but is poorly executed, lacks substance and is recounted in an immature narrative. If you already know that prescription strength ibuprofen (800 mg) is the equivalent to four over-the-counter pills look elsewhere for money advice.


Lori Johnston said...

I reviewed this book fairly recently myself, Heather, and it appears we are on the same page with it (no pun intended). Great review.

Heather said...

Thanks Lori, it's always nice to find someone who feels likewise. I enjoyed your review as well.


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