ACCORDING TO ELLEN: Call it a publicity stunt, if you will. But Oprah's offer to let fans download Suze Orman's Book, "Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny," netted 1.1 million takers -- and gave book publishers a persuasive test case to show that there's synergy between what they sell and the benefits of marketing via the Internet. Margo and I talk about the Orman offer on our latest radio program, to be found in the archives at WMNF.org, for two reasons -- first, we're fans of Orman and her call for financial prudence (Pay off those credit cards! Dump the geek who wants you to support him!); and second, once again Oprah finds the issue of the day: It's time for America get its fiscal house in order.
How the heck to do this? Well, I'm no economist, but I know how to read. Besides Orman's how-tos, there are plenty of books out there that can help you understand how we the people and you the consumer got into the mess we're in. Right now Margo and I are working this angle for our soon-to-be published book, "BETWEEN THE COVERS: The Book Babes' Guide to a Woman's Reading Pleasures." And rest assured, even if John Kenneth Galbraith doesn't sound like your kind of reading, Econ 101 isn't the only way to get a handle on the spending whirligig we've all been riding.
Example One: The Shopping Gene. Almost every woman has one, doesn't she? Partly because, for most of us, that's our job -- whether it's going to Costco for more toilet paper (I got a great sweater there on my last trip!), heading for the local nursery (time to fertilize!) or thinking about that perfect spring outfit (bell bottoms? Been there, done that)...
So, make a budget, sure, but also take a gander at the bigger forces that have made us a bunch of shopping fools. Check out Paco Underhill's "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping," or Thomas Hine's "The Total Package: The Secret History and Hidden Meanings of Boxes, Bottles, Cans, and Other Persuasive Containers," or Winifred Gallagher's "It's in the Bag: What Purses Reveal and Conceal." Scope out books about lifestyle changes that show how bigger trends have invaded our personal space, such as Sara Bongiorni's "A Year Without 'Made in China': One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy." Individual change is good, but working together to understand why is even better.