In case you were wondering, Lauren Greutman is not just some stay-at-home mom with frugal living tips and tricks. She’s a real American, started-from-the-bottom-now-she’s-here success story; a Christian woman with a shopping addiction who successfully got herself and her family out of over $40,000 worth of debt. I know this because she makes sure to reiterate it every few pages in her new book, The Recovering Spender.
Greutman’s been on shows like Fox & Friends and Rachel Ray, she’s been profiled by websites like Oprah.com, and she uses almost every social media platform in existence. Apparently she even has over 70,000 subscribers on her website’s email list. So you can be sure she knows what she’s talking about. Although you won’t find any evidence of financial planner or financial advisor credentials.
The Recovering Spender is both a self-help book for those who struggle with a shopping addiction, and a self-indulgent confessional for Greutman. Her book is divided into two parts, the first being 100 pages of her very marketable but very disorganized back story that could have been chopped down to around 25 pages without losing anything important. The second part is a 12-step addiction recovery program that will solve your spending problems, get you out of debt, and make you a happy person. Or at least she tries very hard to convince us that it will.
Don’t get me wrong. Greutman’s advice isn’t entirely inadequate or discreditable. But you have to know which bits to take.
If you can sift through the questionable references to sources like Dictionary.com and to books by other financial gurus (I’m always skeptical of those marketed as “gurus” of anything, but maybe that’s just me…), as well as the biased results from surveying endeavours on her own website, you might spot a few legitimate articles and studies that help to back up her recommendations.
If you can get past her tiresome habit of repeating the same experience, the same memory, and the same point over and over again every few chapters, you might find that Greutman’s story has the potential to be honest and engaging.
If you can see past the typos, grammar and syntax errors, and the overall structural mess of the book itself that a good editor would have fixed, you might be able to appreciate the personable tone that makes it more attractive than a personal finance textbook.
If you can overlook the numerous deliberate and sickeningly grateful testimonials from people whose lives have apparently been forever changed by Greutman’s infinite couponing and budgeting wisdom, you might find a few logical and useful techniques to help with your money management.
And if you try really hard, you might be able to ignore the shameless self-promotion and allusions to her undisputed success as a financial guru and find the tidbits of genuine, sound advice.
Hidden amongst the sketchier claims of expertise on the subject matter, there are a few intelligent tips from a person who has been there and done that. Greutman knows from experience how to budget, how to resist the temptation of credit cards, and how to discuss finances in a relationship. The book’s intent is for readers to find her story relatable, and although it’s clearly targeted to women with families, anyone who can identify with the money problems she discusses can benefit from her nudges to admit you may have a problem.
As she puts it, “You may not become a nationally known money expert like [her], but you can become a money expert for yourself and family.” (Provided you can make it through the book, commit yourself to learning how to manage your money, and then seek out a certified financial planner or advisor of course.) Lauren Greutman may be a successful online business woman capable of convincing millions to take her advice, but her writing leaves something to be desired. I recommend taking this book with a grain (or a handful) of salt.
Anna is an aspiring editor and writer with a background in accounting. She actually finds personal finance and the issue of financial literacy very interesting. She grew up on a hobby farm south of Ottawa and enjoys animals, reading, and the weird and wonderful world of the internet.