5 Tips From "Playbook For Tough Times" That'll Help You Live Your Best Life

By Chrissa Hardy on 28 November 2016 51 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Cheryl, the winner of a copy of Donna Freedman's book, "Playbook for Tough Times!"

When you're stuck in a financial rut, it can be difficult to summon the strength to pull yourself out. And it often requires way more than just strength. You need a plan, you need willpower, you need guidance, and you need the right tools. All of those things can be found in Donna Freedman's new book, Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul.

Freedman doesn't just offer incredible advice, she shares her personal struggles. She understands what it's like to scrape by as a young single mom. She has had to find creative and frugal ways to shop for groceries on a very limited budget. She also knows what it's like to have a bank account emptied by a lengthy divorce — and while caring for a special-needs child and attending college later in life. Freedman doesn't sugarcoat her financial tips because she knows there's nothing sweet about being broke. Her book reads like a conversation with your savvy best friend — she understands you, and she wants to help you. Here are some of her best tips for weathering any financial storm.

1. Don't Take It Personally

It's easy to look at your money woes and fixate on where it all went wrong, or at what point you screwed everything up. But if you obsess over what you specifically did wrong, you end up living inside that dark cloud of self-blame instead of seeking a solution. Freedman knows this cycle of negativity all too well.

"During my own difficult times I'd sometimes wonder, Why me? Ultimately I realized the answer: Why not me? Stuff happens. Life happens. It's not personal. So I worked to fix what I could and made my peace with the rest of it. No, life isn't fair. But unless your fairy godmother drops off a winning Powerball ticket, you have to play the hand you were dealt," Freedman writes.

2. Stay Frugal When Flush to Reach Financial Goals

It's no longer 2008, and we're inching our way out of the aftermath of the Great Recession. Back then, frugality meant survival, so there was no other way to live. Now that the economy is becoming more stable, people are starting to spend more, and save less. But living frugally doesn't need to be an emergency-only money strategy. The frugal lifestyle can help you reach your financial goals.

Whether you're striving for an early retirement, paying off all your debt in the next few years, starting a family, or taking a much-needed vacation — as long as you make a conscious effort to save as often as possible, you'll be able to achieve the goals you want.

3. Understand That Frugality Is Fabulous

Freedman's mantra, "Save where you can so you can spend where you want," is exactly what the world needs. You don't have to settle for eating ramen noodles for every meal for the rest of your life, but you also shouldn't overspend on everyday essentials that you can get for free or very cheap.

Having the money to splurge occasionally, while also knowing how to get by when times get tough is a skill set that will make you financially invincible. And whenever the frugal life seems overwhelmingly tough to master, think about this bit of wisdom from Freedman:

"Ultimately I wanted more than rice and beans, thrift-store clothing, and part-time jobs that didn't pay well. But I was well aware that having those things made me luckier than a whole lot of people in this world. A rich life is not necessarily determined by the number of dollar signs in it."

4. Find All the Freebies

Why pay for something when you can get it for free? When a big chunk of your spending is entertainment-based — going to the movies, visiting museums, or embracing your bookworm side — Freedman shows you how to do all of that fun stuff for zero dollars.

She also provides brilliant methods for slashing health expenses that can add up quickly, and lists foundations that provide free or reduced-price mammograms, dental work (including orthodontics), utility assistance, and eye exams and glasses. After all, there ain't no shame in the freebie game.

5. Embrace the Financial Fire Drill

The best tip, by far, is implementing what Freedman calls a "financial fire drill." It's essentially a budget makeover that focuses on cutting down the number of bills you need to pay, and shifting into a smarter way to use your available funds. She breaks it down into three simple steps:

  • On paper, build a baseline budget — which is the absolute minimum you need to survive.
  • Pretend that your household lost some or all of its income.
     
  • Subtract the baseline from the income that remains (including unemployment, if that's an option). If the answer is a negative number, time to take another look at those wants and needs.

Doing this when your finances are stable gives you a head start into a better life, and also protects you from a major financial setback should tough times arise.

Feeling motivated yet? For more of Freedman's honest brilliance, check out her blog, or pick up your copy of Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul, on sale today!

Editor's Note: Donna has donated one paperback, Kindle or PDF copy to be given away to a Wise Bread reader. Leave a comment below for your chance to win. U.S. residents only, comment must be left before December 31, 11:59 am Pacific Time. Winner will be announced first week of January.

In addition, Wise Bread has negotiated a short-term discount for the PDF version of the book: Go to this link and enter WISEBREAD in the "discount code" box and receive 'Playbook' for just $5. The code will be good through December 31.

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Guest's picture
Lisa Kreutter

I'd love to win a copy so I can work on paying down my nearly $2,000 credit card debt on a low salary.

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Lisa

I would love to win a copy!

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lynda e

would love to win a great Christmas present for me

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Steven

I'd like to win the book.

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C.

would love to win a copy , great to read and refer back to and great info to share.

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Olivia

I've been following Donna Freedman for some time and love her outlook and ability to problem solve. There are many of us who find her advice priceless. Thanks for the book offer. Whoever wins will benefit.

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Carol

I would love to win a copy!

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Guest

Great advice! We should all learn to live on a lesser level.

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Delana

Free is fabulous! Also fabulous: Living large below means, saving, and helping others! Thank you kindly, Delana

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MelodyJ

This book sounds like it has good advice.

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vicki

I would be thrilled to receive your Playbook to further help me in frugal living. i have pretty much lived my life being frugal and penny wise as a single mother raising two children. even after the children left the nest, i still maintained a debt free life as much as possible. now being retired as of 2014 and on a fixed income, i am raising a grandchild and back in the same scenario as i was years ago. your book would be beneficial for me as to financially taking care of grandchild on fixed income and still be able to provide a good life for a six year old. thank you

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Guest

The discount code WISEBREAD was rejected when I entered it at the link that took me to the e-junkie website.

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Donna

Author here: Please try the code again, all one word, all upper-case. I just checked to make sure that it's still working and it seems to be okay.

Sorry about the hassle. If you like, you can e-mail me directly at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com and I'll work with you to get this resolved.

Thanks for your interest,
Donna Freedman

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Pattie

I would love to win a copy of your book

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maureen g

I would love to win one of her copies! I've been reading her tips for years!

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GuestRobin

I read Donna's blog, and would love a copy of her book. Keep thinking on getting a copy, but winning one would be wonderful.

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Marie

I'd love to win a copy of Donna's book.

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Catseye

I'm a longtime Donna Freedman fan and would love a copy her book.

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Guest

I'm a huge fan of Donna Freedman! Thanks for the opportunity to win her book.

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Juliannac

I'd love to win a copy of this book! Thanks

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SKB

I would love to win this book.

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joyce

Sounds like a great book.

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Cakester

I love Donna freedman's advice, and would love to win a copy of her book!

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Cakester

I love Donna freedman's advice, and would love to win a copy of her book!

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Sharon Williams

I've been a fan of Donna's writing for several years. She has a way of giving great advice in a very down to earth & positive way. I've been meaning to get her new book, but have been pinching pennies so hard it isn't in the budget yet. I look forward to reading it soon though. She's awesome!

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J.

I've been following Donna Freedman for several years and would love a reference of her advice.

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Denise

I would love to own this book. Thank you for the giveaway!

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Guest

Donna, you are so fab. Yes, I don't always want to always wear thrift shop clothes or eat rice and beans (though there are so many variations, I'm keeping busy.
Toot Toot! LOL)But having frugal splurges and freebies are part of a fun game. Live in the moment, with the Serenity Prayer is my way. Thank you!

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simka johnson

Donna, you are so fab. I'd LOVE to win a copy!
Live in the moment, with the Serenity Prayer is my way.
Thank you!

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Gina

Good tips! Would love the read the book to learn more.

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Judy

This is a fabulous idea and if I win I will give it to both my young adult children to read and learn from.

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Kim

funny where God leads us when we are searching for answers. Praying for a copy, thank you for the chance. :)

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Deanna K.

Would love to win the book!

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Gkathyuest

I would love to win a copy of Donna's new book. Thank you for doing this!

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Michelle D.

It sounds like a great read. Thanks for the chance

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Kathy Bird

Nothing like firsthand experience with financial ups and downs to make a good teacher! I'd love to see more from this author...I'm a senior citizen and I thought I knew all the tricks, but she's given me some new ideas!

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Kelli

I would love to win this! Sounds like a great read that will help me in my quest to get my financial life in order.

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Donna D

I would love to win a copy of this book!

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Kristi

I must read this book!

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Kristin J

Would love to win and read this book.

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June in Ohio

Would like to have the book to read, and then share with some of the younger ones who are having a hard time with money.

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Pam ricks

Looks great thanks for the chance

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lynda e

I WOULD LIKE TO WIN

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Marcie

Count me in! It would be awesome to have some new fresh tips then some of the typical saving suggestions!

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Karen Wilson

Would like to win this book. I know that it could help me.

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Samuel L Robinson

I would like to win the book!!!

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simka johnson

Financial Firedrill. That was key for me. I am a longtime reader of Donna's; Hope I win!!!

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Denise

I would love to win this book. Thank you for the giveaway!

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Deb Coy

Husband retiring end of January, need to get in frugal mode and stretch our dollars even further. Love Donna!

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Beverly

This would make for happy holidays

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Cheryl

I am so glad that this book exists. Strong women like Donna show us that being a single mom doesn't have to be a handicap. There is a way to take control of your life again.

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Guest

The book sounds great!

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Xenia

Hi! I would love to win this book from Donna. I follow her for year and she always offers a great piece of advice.