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Hunt’s help for spendthrifts leads to frenzied lifestyle

ATLANTA (BP)–Mary Hunt inadvertently launched a frenzied lifestyle in 1992 when she began publishing a newsletter for spendthrifts called “Cheapskate Monthly.”
Five years, eight books, more than 10 national television appearances and a big sigh later, Hunt’s popularity doesn’t seem to be waning. Luckily, she has the personality and the wherewithal to sustain the constant press attention.
“The media has been wonderful to me,” said Hunt, whose Broadman & Holman book, “The Financially Confident Woman,” picked up a Gold Medallion award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association during the Christian Booksellers Association meeting in Atlanta July 14-17. Her second Broadman & Holman book, “Tiptionary,” is due out in September.
Hunt, whose genuineness matches her perkiness, said she believes her catapult to success is the work of God. She acknowledges she had no talent for writing when she began penning her now-12-page newsletter with a circulation of 225,000.
She believes the reason her newsletter and books have become popular is because so many Americans are struggling with debt.
“People don’t know there are others who are in financial trouble because they won’t talk about it. It’s more comfortable to talk about sex than about money.”
In fact, Hunt was considering writing her newsletter under a pen name — Maggie Payless — until she decided what readers needed was honesty and straight talk from someone who had been there.
Hunt said she believes people get into such financial trouble because they feel “entitled” to material goods — even if they don’t have money to pay for them.
“We have come to believe the credit card industry that has told us we are entitled to have things now and that we can pay them back later. Did you know that 78 percent of the people who have credit cards carry a balance?”
Hunt continues to send messages to the public about freeing themselves from financial debt — even though she admits she could use a breather. In addition to her newsletter, she has several books in the works.
Her soon-to-be released B&H book, “Tiptionary,” offers readers about 2,300 “tips for living well while living within your means.”
For example, did you know you could cut an X in an old tennis ball and put it on the head of a hammer to make a rubber mallet?
Or that you could soften hard paint brushes by putting them in hot vinegar for a few minutes, wash them in soap and warm water and then set them out to dry?
Did you know you can anchor a screw in a plaster wall by making a hole with a nail in the plaster, plugging the hole with fine steel wool, then inserting the screw?
Hunt’s trouble with money started in college when she got her first checkbook and began writing checks without sufficient money in her account. After she married, she discovered gasoline credit cards.
“I learned then I could have free gasoline whenever I wanted. That card worked a lot better than my checking account.”
Later she found “two credit cards were much better than one. I could go into a department store and whip that credit card out without my husband ever knowing. I figured it was OK to have it today and pay for it tomorrow.”
Eventually, Hunt bottomed out financially and spiritually. She said just couldn’t go on spending money unnecessarily.
“I was being disobedient to the Lord, and I was living a phony baloney lifestyle. I promised God I would do anything to pay back the money,” said Hunt, who was raised the daughter of a Baptist preacher.
Beginning in 1982, she and her husband, Harold, spent the next decade paying back $100,000, both by working in and owning their own commercial real estate company.
“After we had been working on getting out of debt for 10 years, I wanted to do another business. I wanted to do something that would cost no money because I wasn’t willing to go into debt.”
Hunt finally settled on writing a subscription newsletter.
“I didn’t even know what it was going to be about. I started planning it before I had my subject matter. I thought about quilting because I’m interested in that.”
Eventually, Hunt decided others with financial problems might like to hear how she and her husband escaped them. And “Cheapskate Monthly” was born.
“I’m not a reader or a writer. Hey, I majored in music in college, but I’m someone who got into terrible trouble, and decided to be honest about it through a newsletter.”
The budget-tightening tips for Hunt’s newest book, “Tiptionary,” are a compilation of her ideas and those of her newsletter readers. The book can be purchased at Baptist Book Stores or by calling 1-800-458-2772. Those wishing to subscribe to Cheapskate Monthly ($18 per year) should write the Subscription Department at P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723-8135. (E-mail: [email protected] and Internet web site: http://www.cheapsk8.com.)

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey