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THE DEBT DIET: An Easy-to-Follow Plan to Shed Debt & Trim Spending
Ellie Kay
Bethany House Publishers
Christian Living/Finances
ISBN: 0764200011

If you're tired of feeling as if your finances are out of control, or need help with a specific area of money management, Ellie Kay's THE DEBT DIET: An Easy-to-Follow Plan to Shed Debt & Trim Spending offers a useful compendium of financial advice gleaned from her personal experiences, financial experts, and other resources.

Just as financial guru Dave Ramsey did in his book, THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER, Kay uses the motif of dieting and fitness to illustrate the importance of getting control of your finances. What do you do if you want to lose weight? You eat less and exercise more. "The way to get out of debt is much the same --- the only thing that really works is to spend less and save more," Kay says.

Kay joins many other financial experts who write from painful experience. When she and her husband Bob started married life, they had $40,000 in consumer debt. "We didn't realize the price we would pay for instant gratification." Through making lifestyle changes, the Kays were debt-free in two-and-a-half years. Sound appealing? Read on.

Each chapter opens with a light personal anecdote from Kay, followed by solid information, often culled from other sources (web site links are given), and quizzes. First up is a financial self-evaluation. Do you use credit card cash advances to pay for living expenses? Work overtime to meet the bills? Buy your groceries on credit? Pay the minimum due on charge cards? You might be financially overweight.

Why are your finances in a mess? Kay suggests looking at your financial heritage --- how your parents handled money. Then, she offers a quick overview of Dr. Kathleen Gurney's nine money personalities and Gail Rose Martinez's five different money styles. After making some personal assessments, Kay waxes philosophical. What is your attitude about money? What are your priorities in life? (Quizzes help you evaluate.)

Next, it's on to the plastic. Do you use credit cards to pay off other credit cards? Do you transfer balances to new cards only to run up balances again? This is a great section with lots of practical ideas and insights about the ins and outs of credit card use. Do you know you have a good chance of waiving the annual fee with your credit card company when it comes up for renewal if you have a good history with that company? Just ask. There is also a terrific list of easy things to do to lower your APR (pay $5 more than the minimum each time, don't apply for other cards, don't max out your limit).

Other chapters tackle saving, sharing your money, and knowing and nurturing your FICO score. Don't know your FICO score? You must learn about FICO, Kay says; it's the credit score that helps lenders make their credit decisions. Married women need to know that their individual FICO score is a different number from their spouse's and know how to improve it, if necessary. There are some interesting tidbits in this section, including the impact of new credit on your FICO score, knowing which loans to secure first (mortgage, car) and how your FICO score can even influence your utility costs.

Kay also has good advice to pass along about communicating with your spouse about finances without fighting, evaluating your insurance needs, finding reputable financial help, paying for college without going broke, and instilling good financial ethics in your children.

The information in THE DEBT DIET lends itself to repeated reading. Even those in good financial shape will benefit from some of the information presented. Between Kay's sound advice and her lists of resources and quoted advice from other experts, readers will come away with practical help for changing the way they handle money.

   --- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at phrelanzer@aol.com.

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