Promoting Alvin Hall

Promoting Alvin Hall

Behind the Stacks header Nathan Rowe

From a marketing perspective, there are two kinds of events at Fayetteville Public Library. There are the sure-things that we know how to market with ease: puppet shows, special KUAF broadcasts, LeVar Burton. Then there are the events like “Straight Talk from Financial Educator Alvin Hall.”

Some background: Alvin Hall grew up in poverty in rural Florida. Hall worked hard and attended Yale University, eventually landing a job with a Wall Street training company. Here, his knack for simplifying complex financial topics led him to a highly successful career in broadcast and print in which he provided his concise financial know-how to a general audience.

It’s a great rags-to-riches story, and I’ve seen enough videos to know his talk will be an excellent program. However, it’s one thing to tell you that a man is a great educator with a great story and quite another to convince you to come and hear him speak at the library on a Sunday afternoon.

your money your life bookjacket 2Also, no one — our library staff included — knows who Alvin Hall is. That makes promoting him difficult. He is ubiquitous with financial segments on TV and radio, but you’ll likely only recognize him as such if you live in Britain. I thought I might be able to play Hall up as a contributor to NPR, but I wasn’t sure how to downplay the fact that the show he contributed to — Tell Me More — no longer airs following a particularly acrimonious cancellation. At this point, my ace in the hole is an amusing video of Hall trying to broadcast amidst a flock of ostriches, which — needless to say — proves I have nothing.

However, in trying to find an angle, I came across Alvin’s advice, all of it marked by its simplicity and its practicality. He doesn’t promise miracles, and he sets easy tasks for better money management: identify expenses in the past year you could eliminate, set a weekly budget, come up with goals for spending more wisely. Hall explains that simple steps like these can lead to tremendous savings.

So I thought I might follow Alvin’s advice and look at my own expenses from the past year. In looking at what I spent last year after eliminating costs for necessities — and I define necessities quite liberally as money spent for rent, utilities, grocery trips, car maintenance, and clothing for work — I discovered the following extraneous expenses: more than $2500 for restaurants, $850 for coffee, and $500 for books and DVDs,even though I work at a public library.

Together, that’s nearly $4000 of savings, and that’s with the liberal assumption outlined above. If I were to dig in further — for instance, if I were to identify the things I bought on grocery trips I didn’t need — I have no doubt that the amount would exceed $5000.

Of course, let’s assume I don’t want to give up going to restaurants or buying books. Let’s also assume I can’t give up coffee and remain a productive employee. If I have to choose between these regular indulgences and saving money, I’m going to choose the indulgences.

However, Hall addresses our inability to cut unnecessary expenses entirely, explaining that spending habits are closely tied with our emotions and dreams. Hall explains that balancing the numbers and the emotions behind those numbers is key to better spending habits and that most of us struggle to maintain this balance.

So, as Hall suggests, I can’t cut unnecessary purchases entirely. However, I can probably cut the amount of money I spend by making smarter choices — by eating more meals at home, by making coffee at home, by using my public library. Even if I still indulge occasionally, it’s reasonable to assume I could cut back a little and recoup about $2,000 of those unnecessary expenses. In trying to promote Alvin Hall, I’ve discovered that I personally can benefit greatly from his message.

Ultimately, while Hall is a great financial educator, there is little I can say about him that might convince you to come and hear him speak at the library on a Sunday afternoon.

However, in following his most basic advice, I found I could have saved at least $2,000 last year if I had thought more about my spending. And it took me under an hour to figure that out.

And it’s thinking about what that savings could be for you that might convince you to come.

Categories: Commentary