Book Review: Hot (Broke) Messes - How to Have Your Latte and Drink it Too
Nancy Trejos is a personal finance writer for the Washington Post. While she was advising readers on financial problems, she was actually so broke that she had to ask her hardworking immigrant parents for money. Hot (Broke) Messes is Trejos's confession of all her personal finance mistakes, and how she Finally learned to manage her money.
If you want a detailed how-to guide to living well on a budget, this book is not it. But the author does give a great narrative of the big financial mistakes she made and gives some basic tips on managing one's finances. One of her biggest financial mistakes was to buy a home with her fiance with her mother's gift of a downpayment. Later she had to sell the home at a loss after she broke up with the man. This portion of the book is actually something I have seen happen over and over again to young adults with immigrant parents. In the immigrant community many parents push their adult children to buy a home because it means owning a part of America, and many of them fork over hefty downpayments out of love. Unfortunately, many of these children are just not ready for homeownership, and the parents' hard earned money is wasted. Trejos writes that she felt horrible for losing her mom's money, but she could not afford the mortgage on her own after her fiance left her. A significant lesson she learned from this trial is to not tie her financial wellbeing to another person.
Another one of Trejos's mistakes is to buy a new car just because she thought it was cute. She bought the car with a loan and it was immediately underwater. When she wanted to get rid of it she couldn't sell it for the balance of the loan. This is a good reminder that buying a new car with a loan is a horrible deal because as soon as the car is driven off the lot the loan is basically underwater. It was a little funny to read that she started to take the bus, but still had to keep the car.
There were several portions of the book where the author wrote about emotional spending. She spent money to recover from her breakups, and just to make herself feel a bit happier. She finally hit bottom when she had to call her parents to ask for money even though she made more than $80,000 a year as a writer for Washington Post. Eventually she realized that her way of life is not sustainable and found herself a financially planner and worked out a budget. Towards the end of the book Trejos writes a diary of her financial "hits" and "messes." I thought this portion was quite funny because many of her "hits" were summaries of how she did not have to spend money for food and booze because her friends and family paid for her.
There are a few pages of concrete tips on saving money in this book, but they were very brief. I think the main value in this book is that it is a story many young adults can relate to, and perhaps by reading this book many young people can avoid the mistakes Trejos made. Although the book sports a hot pink cover and is targeted towards young women, I think many young men could learn a few things from the author's experience. If you enjoy stories of personal finance trials and errors, then this a great light read. However, if you want real tips on how to "have your latte and drink it too", then you should definitely check out Wise Bread's 10001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget!
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book and this post contains affiliate links.