Twenty-something New York television producer Karyn Bosnak has a problem. She, like so many of us, decides to live beyond her means and finds herself immersed in credit card debt. What differentiates Karyn from others is not only that she has become debt-free, but that she accomplished this feat through “cyber-begging” -- the process of creating an Internet home page and asking web users to donate to her “cause". The escalation of Karyn’s credit card bills and the manner in which she was able to eliminate it is chronicled in Save Karyn: One Shopaholic’s Journey to Debt and Back, Bosnak’s first book as well as the name of the website that threw her into the national spotlight and the center of controversy.
As a young woman moving to New York City, Karyn finds herself drawn to upscale department stores and the city’s finest restaurants. She develops a desire to live in a well-furnished apartment and, of course, expects to be perfectly groomed. Her material aspirations come at a high cost, materializing into a credit card debt in excess of $20,000. Although Karyn seems to recognize she cannot afford such luxuries, she seems unable (and, more likely, unwilling) to control her exorbitant spending habits.
Frustrated by the more traditional methods of financial planning, Karyn seeks an alternative way to get out of her predicament. Taking solace in the fact that her debt is not as overwhelming once divided into manageable components, an idea is born. She ponders that if 20,000 people would agree to donate one dollar to her, the debt would be eradicated absent any true sacrifice from anyone. This theory marks the beginning of savekaryn.com, Karyn’s journey to a debt-free existence, and a national debate about excessive spending and the appropriateness of relying on the kindness of strangers to finance one’s extravagant lifestyle.
As Karyn set up her website, she never envisioned it would elicit such strong reactions in number (her website received thousands of hits) or in geography (she received responses from around the globe). E-mail messages to her site, many of which are clever, humorous and included in her book, range from heartfelt support and encouragement to lukewarm curiosity to calculated hostility to utter disgust. Some people supported her creativity by sending small (and sometimes substantial) financial contributions, while others merely offered personal attacks on Karyn’s character. Others sent coupons, practical gifts (such as a water filter to eliminate Karyn’s need to purchase bottled water), and other cost-saving tips.
There is no question that Karyn’s story is an interesting one, and the number of people who have attempted to emulate her fundraising activities (seeking donations for everything from student loans to fertility treatments to a cat named Buster) further illustrates the appeal of her story. The problem with this book, however, is that Bosnak does not begin to tell it until page 300 of 441. As interesting as the story is, it simply is not worth wading through three hundred pages of boring material about a young woman who spends money she does not have on things she does not need.
Today Karyn is debt-free, a published author, and has sold the movie rights to her story. Interesting? Yes. Worth the $13.95 to purchase this book? Unlikely, particularly if you have a hefty credit card debt of your own.