Eek-onomy and Booo-ks

- by Patricia McLinn

I admit that title sounds more like Halloween than April, but it’s frightful out there in money land right now. Anybody here an exception and spending freely? If so, please raise your hand . . . then open your fist and let those dollars float down to the rest of us. Paper money only, please. No pennies from heaven, thank you. Who wants to get hit by copper-weighted hail?

Usually among authors, the R-word stands for rejection, but these days it also refers to the global recession. I could go on and on about how the dour economy is hurting authors, with distributors on the brink and bookstores ailing and checks from publishers even later than usual and . . . well, as I said, on and on. After a spell of that, we’d all arrive at the D-word, which stands for depression, and nobody wants that, not for the GDP or the GAC (Greater Author Community.)

For me, the antidote is action. So, I search out information on how to spend less, looking for ways to trim any budgetary fat.

Alas, those results tend to cast me right into the deep end of the D-word pool.   

– First, because I already do nearly everything that’s suggested. Making lists before grocery shopping, combining errands, turning off lights, running full loads, etc., etc. Yep, yep, yep, yep. So I read more generally on possible adjustments during the downturn, and encountered strictures on how everybody needs to deleverage their personal finances. I felt like a driver crawling along at 10 mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic who passes a sign saying “Reduce Speed Ahead: 55 mph” and knowing I’d have to speed waaaay up before I could slow down to that pace. Same with money – I’d have to go out and GET leveraged before I could deleverage.

– Second, because the one savings hint that showed up all over the place was to not buy books, especially new books. That was the No. 1 suggestion in more savings lists than I care to count. It depressed me because a.) if readers follow that advice a lot more authors trying to make a living from what they create are going to have to fold up their keyboards and pursue other endeavors, depriving me of their stories, and b.) it indicates a societal view that books and their authors are not worth supporting. (In comparison, many savings lists never suggested, say, skipping going to movies or passing up the latest killer app for the newest gizmo. Hmmm.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not urging everyone to buy books before food (but I’m right there with you if you’ve ever made that choice.) What I am saying is that how we allocate our money reflects our priorities, as individuals and as a society. When times get tough it makes each of us reassess how we spend money and time. What’s important to us.

Books are important to me. Have been all my life. Books have been a joy, a solace, a learning experience, a foundation for two careers, a window into the past, present and future, and a key to unlock the mysteries of other people’s hearts and my own soul.

I’m not going to quit buying new books. Not going to do it.

So  I decided I was looking in the wrong place for ideas on how to save money. Instead of going to these clearly non-book-loving advice-givers, I turned to fellow book-lovers. For my website contest that ended Wednesday morning, I asked the entrants to contribute a money-saving suggestion.

I would love to tell you the results are up on my website right this moment. The sad news is that computer woes have delayed the process (another reflection of priorities: books before computer parts!) But the list will go up soon, and when it does, I’ll be sure to let you know so we can all benefit from the ideas.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you about one of my saving efforts. Starting last August, I’ve aimed to cut my car’s gas consumption by half a tank a month. That’s six tanks a year. With gas at about $2 a gallon, the cost of a tank equals about five paperbacks, so that’s thirty books a year. What are my methods?

– Combine errands, of course. And I try to minimize errands, for example going to the grocery story every two weeks instead of every week.

– Coast down long hills, coast to red lights (when it’s safe – I don’t do this with trucks tail-gating me.)

– Remove stuff from the car immediately – no driving around town with 10 bags of fertilizer in the trunk (added weight cuts gas mileage.)

– Minimize AC use during city driving (on Interstates, I figure the wind drag of open windows probably offsets any mileage gain. And I’m no martyr; when it’s grisly hot I crank up the AC.)

– Keep tires inflated to the right number – air is free at most gas stations.

– Walk. Including from one shopping area to another, so I can leave the car in the parking lot . . . being sure to park close to wherever I’m going to have to load the most stuff. I don’t want to be toting forty-pound bags of dog food any distance.

– Let the tank run down to warning light level before filling it up (again, less weight means better gas mileage.) I don’t do this if I’m unsure of gas availability, say on a trip to somewhere unfamiliar.

– Stay home and read a book!

To this point, I’ve used roughly three tanks of gas less than the same period the previous year. So that’s fifteen books. Yahoo!

Would love to hear the money-saving ideas of this book-loving group! And how many books you could get with the savings.

One comments

  1. Reader ideas for saving money are now up on my website:

    http://www.patriciamclinn.com/fun_stuff.html#saving

    I’m inviting folks to send me more ideas and we’ll keep adding to the list.

    Turn the eek-conomony into books, books, books!