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A Year of Doing What You’re Supposed to Do

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I enjoy these books where someone “does something.” Even when they do it for a specified period of time, which occasionally makes it seem more like just a way to get a book deal as opposed to actually exploring something important in their life. I like the work of AJ Jacobs, I enjoyed Pete Jordan’s book about dishwashing across America, and so forth. I understand the allure of the genre.

But sometimes, these books make no sense to me.

On Monday, Publishers Weekly reported that Algonquin has acquired Hodding Carter’s new book, A Year of Living Within Our Means. “After 10 years of profligate spending fueled by real estate flips, refinancing and credit card debt, the author will write about living on what he actually earns,” the report states. “In order to do so, he and his family of six will mine cost-saving techniques from the Great Depression and the first cookbook in America, and stay within their budget, whether that means growing their own food or bartering for things they need.”

So let’s get this straight… you’re writing a book about something millions of people do every single freaking day? And getting paid for getting your life in order?

Admittedly, many people in this country are not responsible financially and they abuse credit and get in over their heads. That’s not the case for me because I’m able to spend my afternoons swimming in the sea of gold coins, like Scrooge McDuck, that I have stored up in the Slushpile vault. But for many people, handling their cash flow is a problem. And given our nation’s poor economic conditions, life is only going to get harder for many people regardless of their financial habits.

But many others do manage to stay within their means. Using credit responsibly, delaying big purchases, not even bothering to keep up with the Joneses, those are a course of daily life for millions of people. So what’s the big deal here?

Maybe Carter’s book will reveal some truly innovative techniques, beyond simply saving crumpled balls of used aluminum foil in a drawer like grandma used to do. So maybe when the book comes out, we’ll all learn a thing or two. But at this point, this is exactly the kind of deal that makes me say, “Huh?”

Maybe I’ll write a book about going a year without smoking cigarettes. Or, I’ll write a book of A Year of Not Drunk Driving. Or, I’ll mine old school texts about following the law and then write 12 Months of Not Getting Arrested.