Review: The Frugal Duchess by Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

“A good home must be made, not bought.” – Joyce Maynard

The theme in Sharon Harvey Rosenberg’s first book, The Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money is really about missed opportunity, in particular; the dream home that got away from her. This home (referred to as the Dream House throughout) is in Miami and sold for $425,000 in the mid-1990s. After a decade of double digit appreciation, it was listed in March of 2007 for $2.6M. I suspect today, Rosenberg could snatch it up for an easy $1.9M, but that’s another story.

With the foundation in place by Chapter Three, I was eager to learn if frugality had landed her in the Dream House, so I skipped to the end just to find out. Spoiler alert: She’s still in her three-bedroom apartment but writes:

No I don’t have a house, but I’ve given my children the deed on dreams, frugal living, and hard work. And with those gifts, I can live comfortably on my balcony because I already have a dream home in South Beach.
Okay, so apparently the Frugal Duchess is no Rich Dad. And I have to admit, it was a bit of a let down as I made my way back to Chapter Three. After all, what’s the point of all this frugal living if you’re still paying rent?

But then I cooled my real-estate-owning / rental-property-buying / positive-cash-flowing jets, and settled into the next several chapters. Why? As a fellow blogger, I like Rosenberg. Plus, she’s Jewish and as we all know here in Hollywood, Jews are famously accepting of the Gays. From the start, Rosenberg has been extra supportive of our efforts at Queercents. She’s always one of the first bloggers to reply back with warm words when I send out what seems to be a monthly press release. That courtesy goes a long way in my book. The least I could do was keep reading hers. And I’m glad I did… here’s why:

Her tales of grandmothers, parents and a penny-wise Aunt Norma read more like The Secret Life of Bees than a book about frugality. Rosenberg shines in her storytelling… making this more of a money memoir and easy read. She offers an authentic voice; dishing out advice for the struggling spendthrift by revealing her gravest mistakes:

It took me awhile to stop believing that some fairy, angel or magical g-dmother would sprinkle my bank account with pixie dust or leave a stack of gold bricks under my pillow while I spent the night dreaming. I wish that I could tell you that I gave up such fantasies during my twenties. But here’s the truth: I didn’t find my brain until I was 30. In fact, if I could write off any decade in my life, I would probably write off my 20s. At 18, I should have just taken a 12-year-age deficit, refinanced my youth and then fast-forwarded to 31.
That’s when I became smarter about money.
This is also the age when she married a man ten years her junior; a tidbit that rings of How Stella Got Her Groove Back (you know, that movie they’re always playing on Lifetime with Angela Bassett)? Yes, Rosenberg is all woman; and comes full circle with useful tactics to silence her shopping gene.

Because of this, I’m not exactly her target audience. I hate to shop. Perhaps it’s because a Size 10 doesn’t necessarily feel like “retail therapy” when you’re standing in front of the dressing room mirror. But Rosenberg (a Size 0) is a shopper at her core and much of the book deals with saving money and how to avoid shopping pitfalls. So if you’re a consumer, then this book is for you!

That said, I doubt Trent at The Simple Dollar is much of a shopper either; and yet he pulled out twelve of his favorite frugal tips from the book. There are a ton of lists and guides in Rosenberg’s money memoir and you will likely find a few favorites to enhance your savings plan.
For me personally, the part of her story that I could identify with most was her early career yearning to be a six-figure-salary, on-air broadcaster:
Driven by ego and money, I tried to transform myself into an anchorwoman. I took voice lessons. I bought new clothes. I found a hair dresser who could transform my hair (frizzy tight, tight curls) into a shiny straight helmet of hair. But that made-for-TV makeover didn’t really work for me. In the world of 1980s Barbie doll anchorwomen, I was a little Bratz doll – not yet ready for prime time.
It’s that age-old idea that you have to spend money to make money. Just make sure you have the money to spend in the first place. If not, then get on Rosenberg’s band wagon. She’s saving money and I suspect she’ll be in that Dream House long before the film version of the Frugal Duchess story makes its debut on Lifetime.

Final note: Typically, I give away the books that I review over at Queercents, but this one I’m sending on to Andrea Cecile. She’s writing our Turning Shoppers into Savers series (of course, it was linked to by the Frugal Duchess. Thanks Sharon!) and I think she will really enjoy this book. Perhaps, she just might pass it on when she’s finished. Why? Well, isn’t that the frugal thing to do? Enjoy!

Image credit: The Frugal Duchess.