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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review: How to Live on Less by Gill Govier

I must start by admitting that I know How to Live on Less very well, as a few months ago I was hired by the publishers to copy edit it.

As a freelance writer/editor, I get to work on all sorts of books, some more interesting than others, but this one definitely fell into the 'very interesting' category.

The full title of Gill's book is How to Live on Less - A Guide to Everyday Budgeting and Self-sufficiency. As she says in her introduction:

How to Live on Less is about taking a new and exciting look at financing our everyday life and the ways in which we can achieve the same, or similar, for less. Just because we want to economise doesn't mean resorting to penny-pinching or drastically reducing our quality of life in order to afford what we want. It's about understanding our spending patterns, learning new habits and taking advantage of a range of smarter, cheaper ways of sourcing, acquiring and using those products we want or desire.

How to Live on Less is definitely not just for the Tom and Barbara Goods of this world (characters in the classic BBC sitcom The Good Life). It's for anyone who wants to save money, become more self-sufficient, and reduce their environmental impact on the planet.

How to Live on Less is divided into five chapters. The Introduction is quite short and explains the philosophy behind the book and how it is structured. Chapter One - A Toolkit of Techniques for Living on Less - offers a wide range of tips and advice on budgeting and saving money, including smart use of credit cards, charity shops, the Internet, and so on.

Chaper Two looks at ways to save on Energy, Water and Fuel. This is where the book becomes impressively detailed. You will learn not only how to save money on these commodities, but how (if you wish) you can achieve self sufficiency, e.g. by generating your own electricity. Gill has included detailed calculations showing the likely cost of these strategies, and the time it will take to break even on them.

Chapter Three is titled Home and Leisure. This looks at ways of saving money on everything from travel and fitness to clothes, books and music. There is also a section on self sufficiency around the home, looking at how you can use natural products to replace shop-bought ones (natural cleaning products and cosmetics, for example).

Chapter Four - Food, Drink and a Few Bits More - is the longest in the book. It focuses on growing your own food, with lots of advice on stocking your garden, natural pest control, composting, and so forth. The chapter also covers keeping animals - bees, chickens, pigs, etc. - with examples drawn from Gill's own experiences and those of her livestock-keeping friends. There is also a selection of food and drink recipes for using produce from your garden. I particularly recommend the courgette (zucchini) pie!

How to Live on Less is written with a UK audience in mind, although much of the advice would be relevant world-wide. Obviously, though, specific information, e.g. about government grants available for installing solar panels, would not apply outside these shores.

Overall, however, if you want to beat the Credit Crunch and enjoy the many other benefits of a more self-sufficient lifestyle, I highly recommend this well-researched, informative and entertaining book.
  • For more information about How to Live on Less, click through any of the links in this review to visit the book's page on

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Blogger Victoria said...

Hi Nick,

I liked your review of How to Live on Less very much.

It is interesting that a book on the subject has been published on this subject, as my family and I have been trying to do the same thing in a creative way.

A few months ago food prices rocketed (in the Caribbean) and we started a garden, changed our food shopping list and the positive result is that we eat healthier food and feel better (i.e.) no more junk food and sugarery stuff.

However my guilt remains as I still have a car, we talk about making a solar panel car and outboard for our dinghy...!

Around us, we see more people driving more SUV's and Hummers everyday, and we notice that no so many people care about the planet.

For me this is a number one priority that figures into many areas of my life. And I am so glad to see you talking about it, thanks!
Victoria Pope

7:47 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Victoria. Of course, it is really Gill who deserves all the credit, for writing about this subject and bringing it to a wider audience.

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Live Large said...

I've given up heaps of stuff I really didn't need to live my dream. Flash cards, fancy clothes and fine food are a thing of the past but I'm happier now than I've ever been. I recommend it to anyone:) Thanks for the post.

12:33 PM  

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