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Originally published Monday, May 14, 2012 at 5:01 AM

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Book review

'All the Money in the World': gaining inspiration in getting and spending

Laura Vanderkam's new book, "All the Money in the World," is a welcome primer in how to find meaning in how you spend your money.

The Washington Post

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'All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending'

by Laura Vanderkam

Portfolio, 248 pp., $26.95

Forget saving for college, cutting coupons and even bulking up your 401(k). Laura Vanderkam's new book, "All the Money in the World," examines money from a unique perspective: What if money can buy happiness? "We often assume we can't afford X, Y or Z, or that only rich people experience certain things and we'll never be rich," she writes. "We assume certain expenditures are absolutely necessary, even though much of humanity survives without them. And so we live with a constrained mental picture of our lives."

Vanderkam's compelling book is not a lesson in greed or shallowness; rather, she asks you to consider ignoring what society says you ought to buy or own and instead make choices according to your actual needs and desires. You like your morning latte? Buy it guilt-free knowing that you're forgoing that designer sweater. You want to head to Paraguay for two weeks with your family? Do it knowing that you picked up extra work to pay for it. You like donating your money? Find a fun cause that speaks directly to you.

Her main suggestion is to think creatively about your money, and therefore your life, and Vanderkam interviews dozens of people who are doing just that, from those who raise chickens in their backyards, to prospective parents contemplating the cost of children. The result is a book that will quell readers' anxieties about money and inspire them to stop seeing money's limitations and start seeing its potential, no matter what their tax bracket.

Moira E. McLaughlin can be reached at mclaughlinm@washpost.com.

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