Read this book (finance edition): Wealthing Like Rabbits by Robert R. Brown

By September 3, 2014 Book reviews, Geeks

If you ever visit the personal finance section in your local bookstore, you’ll find a veritable sea of  books on money management aimed at beginners. I’ve read quite a few of these and many of them are good quality reads; they offer plenty of practical knowledge and some great advice. The only problem is, you have to stay awake long enough to find it. It seems to me that the people who need these guides the most, people in my generation—busy 20 and 30-somethings who are just starting out on our financial journeys—are probably the least likely people to pick them up. Let’s face it, they’re just not interesting enough to command much of our already very limited time.

So in comes my step-dad, Robert R. Brown, and his new book, Wealthing Like Rabbits. And boy does it ever prove the exception to the “boring” rule. It’s a funny, upbeat, tongue-in-cheek guide to personal finance that spells out all of the essentials of money management for Canadians without ever lapsing into snoozeville.

This book is absolutely riddled with pop culture references. It’s got everything from Star Trek to Zombies to Super Mario Brothers, all of which ensure that the book is one hell of a time to read. Let me repeat that for you. It’s a finance book that you can geek out on. Ya, needless to say that I was stoked about this project from the get-go. But these odes to geekdom aren’t just thrown in there for fun. Like a lightsaber in the hands of a Jedi Master, Robert wields them skillfully. He employs them to demonstrate to the reader the very same concepts that are so tediously introduced in most other personal finance books. Just check out the section on compound interest:

“You’re living in England during a future European Zombie Apocalypse…Every week England receives 100 new zombies. This continues for the next forty years. The good news is that England’s new zombies aren’t very hungry by the usual zombie standards…In fact, on average only six out of every one hundred zombies chow down on the British citi­zenry annually, zombamafying them into new zombies. How many zombies would be in England after the forty years?

There would be 824,627 zombies in England after the forty years…Welcome to the awesome power of compounding zombies. Technical term: Zombamafacation factor.” (p. 28)

This is just one of a whole slew of hilarious examples that Robert uses to get his point across. Every chapter is built around a theme of this sort, using entertaining examples or anecdotes to make essential points about money management (Let me just tell you now, you DON’T want to take lessons in saving from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Haha, ya… those guys suck).

The book is fun, and easy to read, and wastes no time in offering up heaps of practical advice on topics ranging from mortgages to retirement saving to debt. In two of my favorite chapters, debt is compared (unfavorably, obviously) to tobacco products, Robert’s thesis being that debt is carcinogenic to your financial health. He invites us to think about how credit cards are advertised to us today, to young people in particular, and compare this to the tobacco ads of yesteryear, such as this one:

And let’s not forget about Fred and Barney enjoying a smoke behind the house while Wilma and Betty do all the yard work . . . “Yeah Barney, Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” (p. 84)

Messed up, right? Ya. But it’s a brilliant and fitting analogy for the disgusting way that modern day lending works against you, preys on you really, that Robert carries through the chapters on debt as he describes various toxic financial products. I won’t ruin the surprise by spoiling his description of payday loans and their predatory purveyors. Sufficed to say that it’s totally gross and you should check it out (and NEVER, EVER get a payday loan).

Probably my favorite thing about the book is its focus on balance. Budgeting yes, but budgeting for the things that are important to you. Rob makes it clear that you can often get what you want (he personally advocates Starbucks), so long as you don’t want everything. And, for me, it’s this sense of balance and perspective that makes the book golden. It emphasizes comfort and peace of mind. Not only does it equip you with the tools you need to achieve these things, it asks you to think about what they really mean, today and in the future.

This is something that I truly believe everyone of my generation, of all generations, needs to hear. That our lives are not usually improved by that shiny chrome toy that sits in the garage, rusting and depreciating, that we’re not made valuable by our Jimmy Choos or our marble countertops, that our self-worth is not measured in price tags or miles traveled or square footage. We fall into this “I want” trap, because of the media, peer-pressure, whatever, thinking that we’re nothing if we don’t have all of these things that we’re “supposed” to have, that we “deserve” to have, and more, and we’re only the more miserable for it.

Robert says:

It’s not like any of this is rocket science. People with money in the bank are generally happier than those in debt. People who are content with what they have are usually happier than those tormented by what they don’t. People who enjoy a lifestyle of balanced frugality are happier than those chasing a mirage of wealth. And people who are comfortable in their own shoes, financial or otherwise, are almost certainly happier than those wearing shoes that don’t fit. (p. 162)

And I say, hell yes.



Wealthing Like Rabbits: A Unique Guide to Personal Finance was released September 1st, 2014 and is available now on the website. You should buy it! You can also follow the Wealthing like Rabbits Facebook page to find signing events near you, or follow Robert R. Brown on Twitter, @wealthingrabbit

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5 tips for planning a wedding (if you’re broke and hate wedding planning)

By August 16, 2014 Game of Thrones, Geeks, Weddings

So, for those of you that don’t know, I’m getting married. Here’s a (very representative) picture of my fiancé and I for your entertainment:


I’m thrilled about the whole thing, don’t get me wrong. My fiancé is seriously the greatest, and I’m excited to actually be married, but the wedding planning, well, it’s not really not my thing. I have a full-time job, a part-time job and a (sortof) writing career and weddings are just a crap-tonn of work, work I’m really not interested in doing. And did you know that they’re a crap-tonn of money too? I’m sure you probably did, but personally I was surprised at just HOW much. Despite all the jobs, I don’t really have the dough required.

My wedding is still some time away—it’s not until the end of April—but I have been preparing. Mostly by reading up (as I tend to do when I want to avoid actually doing things) and also booking the basic things that I need for the big day, including the venue, the officiant, the photographer, and the entertainment. I’ve learned quite a bit doing this and I’m just now trying to get my head on straight about the whole thing so for my own sanity and for anyone who might need some advice on weddings in the near future here are five things I learned about wedding planning by being a lazy and cheap to-be bride.


5. Give yourself some time.

By this I mean, start early. Venues, photographers, DJ’s, everything to do with with weddings (particularly if you want a Saturday wedding in the summer) book out early, and by early I mean at least a year ahead of time. It’s nuts. Probably many of you are busy, at least as busy, if not more so than I am, and if you’re anything like me, doing the research and booking is headache inducing. It’s just not your top priority, like ever, and so you put it off. Well, don’t.

The best thing to do is just get it all out of the way early. If you have a date or time of year in mind already, and you’re having trouble finding the folks you want, try postponing it a year. It might seem like that’s a long way away, but trust me, it’s going to creep up on you before you know it. Postponing it will let you plan things slowly over time, plus you will have the chance to save up some money. You DON’T want to be borrowing to pay for a party.


4. Use your friends.

You know useful people. We all do. Think of the friend who posts beautiful, eye-catching pictures up on their Facebook. The one who always brings the super creative snack foods to the party. The one who’s hair always looks spot on when you go out on the town. Don’t be afraid to ask those people for help. You’ll get alot of advice, online, from your venue, from friends (who are still in debt from their weddings 5 years ago) that says that you should always go for a professional. Seriously though, does anyone ever eat the wedding cake? Why not get a friend to make cupcakes?

I understand that you don’t want to impose on people but friends and colleagues are usually willing to help you out for much less than you’d pay a professional stranger. And if you are close enough to the friend, you could ask them to provide their services in lieu of a gift. Just make sure you give them a special something for their trouble.


3. Make affordability a priority.

Make it affordable. Let your vendors know that you’re on a budget. Make your own decorations or invitations. Skip the unnecessaries.  Have the wedding early in the year. My fiance and I aren’t exactly outdoorsy people, so for us having a Spring wedding is just fine because we don’t mind being inside if the weather turns bad. Alternatively, you can save a bunch by not picking a Saturday evening. Pick up a budget wedding book instead of a bride magazine (those things are toxic). And to keep yourself motivated pick up a copy of the personal finance book Wealthing Like Rabbits (shameless plug). There are thousands of ways to save money.

I’m not saying you should do everything second rate. But you should spend the money where it’s important for you. If you and your friends are really into music, a top notch DJ makes sense. If you have a green thumb, then your flowers should be impressive. For me, I’m splurging on a string quartet for the ceremony and cocktail hour because I love classical music and the traditional feel is very important to me. But that’s my one thing. Other than that it’s all homemade cupcakes and silk flowers.

Listen, that money is going to be alot more useful to you in your marriage than just laid out for one night of fun that you’re going to be too stressed out to enjoy anyway. And really, your guests are your closest family and friends. Who are you trying to impress?


2. Pick a GOOD wedding party.

This point I cannot emphasize enough. You want a wedding party that is WILLING to help you out. One that CARES about you and your wedding. One that isn’t going to make the the whole thing stressful. Invite your drama queen friends to the wedding but if you can keep the wedding party small and drama-free. And make sure that the people you do choose are interested in helping you out with planning.

I’m very lucky in this respect. I have my big sister Kathy, my little brother Chris, my best friend Crystal and my little sister Jess (my maid of honour) and not only are they all fun and easy going but they’re wicked talented. I won’t say that I’m dumping all of my wedding planning on my bridespersons, so I’ll stop that sentence right there. Kathy is a planner and a PR expert. Crystal knows more about weddings than anyone I know. Chris knows all the ways of nerddom (we have a geek theme going, more on that later). And Jess has an amazing talent with design. Between the four of them I’m pretty set.


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1. Chill out and have some freakin’ fun.

Wedding planning doesn’t have to be SRS BSNS. Yes, it can be hard work, but it can also be fun. If you and your betrothed have fun personalities, or wacky personal interests, let them shine. Make them a part of your day.

As you may know, I enjoy writing, and I wanted to take that interest and make it a part of my plan for the wedding. So one of the first things I did was write ridiculous bios for our wedding website:

Jen wasn’t always a romantic. She wasn’t even sure that she ever wanted to get married, but then she met Tomas and fell in love and here we are. Jen works in the biology department at York University where she is singlehandedly saving the bees, you know, when she’s not on Twitter. She spends her nights holed up in a small, dark room writing science fiction and horror stories to the light of a single tallow candle. She hopes the wedding will be a beautiful and entertaining affair, mostly because she prefers not to be the center of attention and having things for guests to see and do will help with that.

Tomas was a happy bachelor before he met Jen. He spent night after night sitting around in his underwear playing video games and eating Kraft Dinner. Now that he lives with Jen he’s even happier. He still sits around playing video games but these days he has a bit more variety in his diet, plus he wears pants at least half of the time. Tom makes the big bucks as a public servant, gallantly helping politicians, nurses, miscellaneous paper pushers and other government employees navigate the rigors of their computer systems. Tomas doesn’t much like wedding planning, but he has handed over his master card at all of the appropriate moments.

These are fun and not at all traditional, and I think they show our personalities pretty well. I’m sure I will also have a blast writing my vows and speeches.

The theme you choose for your wedding can really make a difference in how much fun you have putting it together. Don’t just pick something at random, or something that ‘fits the venue’. Your wedding theme should suit you and your partner. I’m a huge nerd. So is Tom. So the theme for our wedding is “Fantastical Places” and I’m planning decorations, mini games, table setting, and guest gifts that mesh with this motif (if you’re invited just pray you’re not seated at the Westeros table). And you know what? I’m having a great time. And I’ll bet that it’s going to show when the wedding rolls around.

You’re gonna get a whole bunch of advice on what you “have to” do with your wedding, what’s “traditional”, and to be sure you should let your family, their beliefs and traditions, have an influence on the wedding. But ultimately it’s up to you (particularly if you are paying for it!). If a city hall ceremony and a backyard BBQ suits you best, then go for it! The disappointed grunts you might get from friends and family probably won’t last very long.

If you fill your wedding with the things that you are passionate about, and be honest about what’s right for you and your partner, your personality, sincerity and love will shine through to everyone on the big day. And in the end it’s all about the love.

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