Shoppers' stop: Wisdom on sale

Confessions of a Shopaholic is teeming with sinful antics and spiked remorselessly with humour.

Namrata Dadwal | Print Edition: September 2009

As confessions go, this one is as juicy as you would want it to be. Confessions of a Shopaholic is teeming with sinful antics and spiked remorselessly with humour. But what about personal finance? Sophie Kinsella’s bouncy best-seller was definitely not intended to be a personal finance guide.

Yet, the novel addresses issues arising from reckless spending and its impact on one’s finances in a more effective way than a technical tome would. It does so by tracing the addiction of Rebecca Bloomwood, who works for Successful Saving, a financial magazine. She doesn’t practice what she preaches and blithely uses every mood or occasion as an excuse for her buying sprees. In the process, she falls into a debt hole that seems to get bigger, bill by bill. Like any addict, she is aware of the problem but believes she can get rid of it if she keeps ignoring it.

The process of her gradual descent into bankruptcy, even as she tries to redeem herself, is laced with humour—she spends $70 in making an Indian curry that should have cost $2.50; she invents outrageous excuses, ranging from glandular fever to agoraphobia, to avoid her bank manager; while applying for a job, she fudges her resume, listing her fluency in Finnish, but is left floundering when she meets the CEO of the Bank of Helsinki.

Amid the sparkling wit, Kinsella brings home, with the force of a sledge-hammer, the fact that spending beyond one’s means can lead to humiliation (when Rebecca’s accounts are frozen) or hopelessness (when she has to escape to her parents’ home and invents an imaginary stalker). It’s a wake-up call for all those who believe in the swipe-and-forget policy, and a reminder of how an innocuous activity like shopping can turn into a monster that gobbles up everything good and honourable in life.

So read this book. It’ll save you from building your own list of confessions.

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