Friday, April 25

Save Karyn – Karyn Bosnak

Unfulfilled and stagnant, producer Karyn Bosnak left Chicago for the bright lights of New York, to work on a new, Judge-Judyesque program. Starting from scratch in a new city, and keeping in mind the maxim that, though you might spend a little more, quality’s worth it, she rented a great apartment, furnished it piece by piece, bought some amazing clothes and accessories, and essentials. She was earning a good salary and on track for a promotion. And in just over a year she racked up over $25,000 in credit card debt with no way to pay it back.
Save Karyn, subtitled One Shopaholic’s Journey to Debt and Back, tells how it happened, her efforts to pay the debt back, and how she came up with a revolutionary way to get help – she started a website asking strangers to donate whatever they could spare to pay down what she owed. In exchange she posted snippets from her life, including savings she’d made each day, reflections on her previous profligate lifestyle, and selected emails from a rapidly-growing online audience (about evenly split between favourable and attacking readers).
As word of mouth spread, Karyn’s site got more hits, her donations increased, and she became the focus of increasing media attention. I remember hearing about this website (which is still up – at the time, though I never visited, and that in part is what prompted me to read the book. The other part is that, after almost twenty years of my own profligate spending (and managing to rack up $10,000 in credit card debt in a year, twice), I’ve decided to start saving – watch out for a slew of finance books in the next few weeks.
Bosnak has an engaging voice – in response to the oft-answered question “why not consolidate your debt and read a finance book?” she responded that she has consolidated, and the books all made her depressed about how far behind she was (a sentiment to which I can wholly relate!). Karyn moved to New York in 2000, and September 11, and her reaction to it, therefore feature, but are not the focus of the book. The final few pages are reflection on what Bosnak learned, about debt and about the kindness of strangers. Reading Saving Karyn made me feel more comfortable about my own financial situation, impressed by her ingenuity, and warmer to the world in general. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. – Alex

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