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Hot (broke) Messes by Nancy Trejos

Hot (broke) Messes by Nancy Trejos [3] is part memoir and part personal finance advice book written by a personal finance writer and staff editor at The Washington Post. The book follows her journey from a young college student, already in debt, to getting onto financial track years later. Along the way she shares stories and advice aimed at helping others get their financial lives back on track.

There are two big lessons to take away from her story, one that I think is echoes throughout every strata of American life.

Hot Broke Mess

First, we, as human beings, don’t fully comprehend the severity of our destructive lifestyles until they hit us in the face. Through this personal finance blog, I’ve talked to several people who have gone through exactly what Trejos as gone through, “hitting rock bottom.” For her, it was having to go to her parents for a loan to make rent and other debts. For others, it’s rejection for a car loan or mortgage because their existing balances are too high.

Second, the key to success in anything is incremental change. For Trejos, it started with the lavish lifestyle of others at Georgetown and continued in the images of pop culture. For others, it might be seeing flashy cars on the road or the latest advertisements. You can’t go from wanting to keep up with the Joneses to being frugal and trying to save money at every turn, the two compete and you will probably give in to the one that’s more fun. Staying at home and watching a movie on TV costs less than going out on the town with your friends, but which one are you going to do?

So Trejos shares what she has learned over the years to help balance the two. As a young professional, socializing with friends is probably one of your largest expenses. She talked several people into recording how much they spent going out over the course of two weeks and the results were staggering. It was part of the work hard, play hard mentality… except playing hard cost a lot more than what working hard was bringing in. Rather than cut away the fun, she recommends you cut back. Go to matinĂ©e movies rather than an evening, only go to nice restaurants on special occasions (so they remain special), entertain at home, etc. All good ideas that don’t cut out fun entirely, just cut back on some of the costs.

While the book seems to be directed at women, with its hot pink cover, I see it as a “soft” personal finance book any unguided young professional would benefit from reading. It’s heavy on stories and examples, which can help the reader relate to Trejos, but definitely offers up a soft entry into personal finance concepts everyone should know.


This contest is now over and the winners have been notified.

The publisher has agreed to giveaway three copies of the book to lucky Bargaineering.com readers! Simply leave a comment with your worst or best shopping story (you decide what defines a shopping story!) and we’ll pick the three most entertaining responses on Wednesday, April 7th, at noon. The only other rules are that shipping cannot be to PO Boxes and must be to US or Canada. Void where prohibited.