Review

Save Karyn: One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back

by Karyn Bosnak



Shopaholics take heart! Help (at least in the form of comic relief)
is at hand. SAVE KARYN is the cautionary tale of a real-life Becky
Bloomwood, the endearing fictional protagonist of the popular
SHOPAHOLIC series, whose penchant for spending lands her in a
variety of sticky situations --- although in real life, unlike
fiction, it is slightly more difficult to dredge up sympathy for
someone making a six-figure salary who manages to rack up over
$25,000 in credit card debt in a year. Nonetheless, anyone who has
ever experienced the high that comes from an armload of shopping
bags will find themselves identifying with the author, Karyn
Bosnack, who seems convinced that every purchase is the key to her
salvation.

Karyn's financial downward spiral begins when she leaves her native
Chicago to accept a job as producer on a court TV show in New York
City. Once there, she finds that temptations abound in the form of
what she terms the four Bs: Bloomingdales, Barneys, Bergdorfs and
Bendels. The pressure to fit in and look good quickly takes its
toll, and Karyn soon finds herself living beyond her means. The
cost of regular manicures, hair appointments, personal training
sessions and shopping sprees begins to mount on her American
Express card. Between these payments and the $1,900-a-month rent on
her studio apartment, she must resort to cash advances, bounced
checks and an ingenious buy-and-return credit scheme to make ends
meet.

Disaster seems imminent when her show is cancelled, but she quickly
lands an even better paying position on a new daytime talk show and
her spending continues. That windfall turns out to be short-lived
when the show flounders and she is again let go, this time unable
to find work due to the terrible economy following the terrorist
attacks. Finally, she is forced to face her addiction and begins to
dig herself out: she moves into a less expensive apartment in
Brooklyn, enrolls in a debt consolidation program, and gives up her
expensive habits. Still, the $25,000 in debt she has accumulated
looms and the freelance job she finds barely makes a dent.
Inspiration strikes when she realizes that if thousands of people
donated a dollar each toward her cause, the debt could be
painlessly eradicated, and from this seed her website SaveKaryn.com
is born.

The website combines a humorous plea for donations ("Together we
can banish credit card debt from my life!") along with a
self-deprecating chronicle of her road to ruin, and includes a
weekly debt calculator and 'the daily buck,' entertaining anecdotes
about what she does to make or save a buck each day. SaveKaryn.com
is an unexpected success, generating hundreds of positive and
negative email responses and eventually catching the eye of the
media. Newspapers and radio shows from all over the world clamor to
interview her and donations flow in. Her big break comes when she
appears on the Today Show, and within the space of a few months her
debt is incredibly eliminated.

Many of us can relate to Karyn's overspending, but the vicarious
shopping thrills this book provides will likely make our own
indulgences pale in comparison. Readers will be divided on their
feelings about Karyn's solution, with some applauding her ingenuity
and others disapproving of her reliance on strangers to bail her
out. Although Karyn's sense of humor, humanness and likable nature
may redeem her to some extent, one still questions what lesson was
really learned. By allowing others to dig her out of her
frivolously acquired debt, she seems just as self-indulgent as she
was while racking up the debt in the first place. This feeling is
furthered by the fact that she spends precious little time
reflecting on the inner demons that drove her to the brink of
financial ruin.

Nonetheless, if national consumer debt statistics are any
indication of the number of people mired in oppressive credit card
debt, then this cautionary tale of fiscal irresponsibility is sure
to find a wide audience. (And the book has conveniently been
published in an inexpensive trade paperback format, making it
affordable for even the most pinched pocketbook.) If nothing else,
SAVE KARYN may inspire you to put away the plastic and forego that
daily Starbucks cup of joe, at least for a few days.

Reviewed by Joni Rendon on January 23, 2011

Save Karyn: One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back
by Karyn Bosnak

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2003
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0060558199
  • ISBN-13: 9780060558192