Living Well Spending Less Review
Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup is essentially twelve tips on how to live “The Good Life.” Soukup, who is a blogger turned author, begins be redefining what “The Good Life” is, biblicaly speaking. She shares her own story about how redefining what a good life was transformed her worldview, which she thinks that it can for you, too.
I had high hopes for this book. The reviews (not that I read them in detail) have seemed positive, and I like the idea of simplifying life. My husband and I have been donating boxes of “stuff” left and right, plus trying not to accumulate any more possessions that aren’t food. Watching my entire family exchange gifts at Christmas was funny because it was all coffee, beer, and candy. I kid you not.
Soukup uses the introduction to beat the dead horse of jealousy created by social media. There is plenty of praise on the internet for her transparency in the book, as she admits to falling into the trap of becoming envious of other people who share photos of their fabulous vacations on Instagram. But like we all already know, people only post flattering things. I’m not including a picture of me in my sweatpants typing this review, obviously.
All twelve “secrets” appear to be derived from her own experiences and then broken down into practical steps to help you achieve the goals or tips. I say “appear” because I couldn’t finish this book. I managed to skim through the first 50% of the book, but I just wasn’t interested enough to finish.
Soukup relies heavily on scripture and famous quotations to fill the pages. While I appreciate that she has drawn inspiration from the Bible and wise people to create her secrets, I just don’t have a fondness for inspirational quotations. It probably goes back to my freshman year of college when my randomly selected roommate plastered doodles of inspirational quotations all over our dorm room, so I put up a poster of Jack Bauer in retaliation.
Her secrets are practical, if you share her worldview. As a newly married, chronically ill, 26 year old with no plans to have children or a career anymore, the book is not very applicable to my life situation. Having to leave my job, redefine my own life goals, and having my financial resources already pillaged, it was kind of salt in the wound to read about her dropping out of law school because it didn’t make her as happy as she thought it would.
She writes about out of control budgets, while making sure to mention that her husband insisted that they paid for their home renovations in cash, so she didn’t do into debt. She mentions her two year hospitalization at McLean Psychiatric Hospital, which put her law school dreams on hold. What she doesn’t mention is that the hospital, famous for treating Sylvia Plath, James Taylor, and Ray Charles, as well as Susanna Kaysen, whose memoir about her stay was turned into a major film, Girl, Interrupted, costs 51% more per day than the average psychiatric hospital. Soukup writes about the power of creating habits, but when she shares about how her simple habits were broken during a vacation, it isn’t just any vacation, it’s “a trip of a lifetime.” It was a 29 day cross country trip that she had been talking about with her husband for a long time. How many people can take of 29 days of work? Every anecdote in the book is quick lesson for readers in the art of humblebragging. There is nothing average about Soukop, her life, or her circumstances. It is like someone quoting scripture about taking care of widows and orphans at the beginning of a book, but then writing about how to show hospitality through a perfectly decorated house with a picturesque view and serving guests exotic dishes. If you want to talk about your perfect house and the fancy foods that you enjoy cooking, do it. Don’t disguise it under the guise of showing the love of Christ.
She advises you to find your sweet spot and what inspires you, but I know what those are for me–they are just not physically possible. Again, she writes about setting long term goals with practical steps on achieving them. However, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow, so… you get the point.
I was also annoyed at her drawing on on so many “inspirational” stories about well known and famous people who came from humble beginnings, worked hard, and achieved great things. One, we all already know those stories. They’re, well, famous. Two, those stories were just filler to make what could have been a self published eBook into a “real book.”
Soukup speaks from both sides of her mouth, so to speak, in the book. On one hand, she tells readers to pray for God to change their desires, yet she relies heavily on stories about friends or famous people who are “self-made.” They were either inspired by the brevity of life to work hard and pay their way through school, so they could make more money. Or they wrote lists of goals and worked hard to achieve and surpass them. Does Soukup want us to live a more simple life of contentment by praying for a contented heart or buckle up and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps? It is confusing.
Maybe this book is aimed at women, specifically mothers, who have it all and don’t want to feel guilty about it. She takes the readers on a little guilt trip with a list of all the things we have that most people don’t, like water to drink, a place to sleep, and the ability to read. But then her tips are about creating a cleaning schedule for your family, so you can organize all of the stuff that you aren’t even supposed to want anymore.
The next time I need a big dose of hypocrisy, I will make sure to finish this book.
Disclosure: Netgalley provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest Living Well Spending Less review.
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