Book review: The Year Of Less by Cait Flanders

The subtitle for this book is worth typing out: The Year of Less: how I stopped shopping, gave away my belongings, and discovered life is worth more than anything you can buy in a store. This has to be the longest subtitle I’ve ever seen, but it’s effective. Picking this up in a bookstore and reading that made me laugh and get the book. I like Cait’s style of writing. It’s like listening to a really smart friend explain something in away that doesn’t make me feel stupid. 

Because I’ve moved 26 times, I’m used to making tough decisions about what I can keep. I have regrets about not keeping some items, but not many. That colourful, checkered deep-pocket, wide collar, large button wool coat from the 60’s wouldn’t fit me now anyway. The essentials are still with me: the granny sweater I wore in the grunge days of the 90’s (see pic on Instagram), letters from my grandparents, the journals that I might read again (or not), and an inflatable banana that I hung in the window of every crummy hostel I stayed in on my two-month tour of Europe. My own personal raising of the flag. 

In this book, Cait shares personal stories of how she arrived at her decision to not buy anything she didn’t absolutely need, while also removing what she didn’t. I admire her courage in sharing as much as she has, and considering how popular culture has normalized binge drinking and excessive shopping for women, I suspect that many readers could relate.

I appreciate the practical advice and steps she offers, starting with tracking her expenses and income. I think most people don’t want to think about this. I remember, when I was a newly independent adult, living blissfully unaware of my financial situation until one day I had less than $5 in my account. I was so distraught I spent it on ice cream to cheer myself up. Those were not the instincts of a financial wiz.

In college, I started a cash-in-envelope system which worked quite well until I made enough money I didn’t think I needed to worry about budgeting. Ten years ago I did an audit out of curiosity and discovered that I couldn’t afford my lifestyle. That was a bummer, and explained why I couldn’t pay off my credit cards.

What changed my lifestyle was having a reason to. When I considered leaving my job to start a new career, I carefully logged every household expense. I did all the math, crunched all the numbers. With that knowledge, I was able to make a big step with less fear and more confidence.

If you want to see what it really takes to live the life you want, what are you waiting for? Help? Then you should definitely read The Year of Less. It might be the best money you spend before you stop buying books.

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