Personal finance and budgeting books review.
Last updated: 7/16/22. This post is regularly updated as I review more books! So check back for new content often.
Knowing personal finance and budgeting is vital. Because when money is squared away, you’re so much more able to do things. It’s hard to achieve your goals (or even set them) if you’re worried about making rent this month.
One of the best ways to learn is to read books. Personal finance and budgeting books abound. Some are great. Some are so-so. And some are just a waste of time.
Instead of YOU having to try them all, I’ve done the work for you. Below- sorted by order of recommendation- are all the books you need. If you have a book you recommend- or a book you heard was great and it was actually horrible- let me know! Just leave a comment at the bottom of the post.
Table of contents
- Definitely Recommended
- Recommended (Secondary)
- For Specific Situations
- Do You Have a Book to Recommend?
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Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by: Robert T. Kiyosaki is one of the first books I ever read as an adult on finance. I thought it was fabulous. Though I wasn’t sure I agreed with all of the advice. I just re-read it in preparation for writing this post. And 5 years later, it’s still good advice.
It’s one of the best books on emphasizing mindset. Which can be applied to so much more than just money.
It’s an excellent book on the mentality of those who acquire assets versus those who just get along. He also attacks a lot of the major beliefs that people have about jobs and money (and house ownership). Interesting perspective- that even if you don’t agree with- you should read.
Warning: it does not talk about getting out of debt. So if you’re already in a bad spot, this doesn’t provide some of the practical budgeting advice other books do. If you’re in a deep hole, I suggest starting with the book right below this…
How to Manage Your Money When You Don’t Have Any by: Erik Wecks is fabulous.
First of all, I LOVE the fact he hits mindset at the very beginning. He acknowledges- which a lot of finance books don’t- that things are going to have to change. You have to consistently start disciplining your spending.
Another thing I love is that he does a good job of pointing out that Western world seems to think they’re entitled to everything they want. And that we’re living better than 99% of humans in history.
“Consumer debt always makes the future worse than it could be because a chunk of your income must go to the debt service payments and interest. So eating out this month on the credit card makes eating out at all more difficult next month…In general, consumer debt should only be used for the most dire of emergencies.- Erik Wecks
Erik is also bluntly honest that for most of us, choosing not to save is just that- a choice. He says how you spend your money shows what you really value. So if you value eating out and cable more than housing, that’s a choice. And eating out and paying for cable instead of saving an extra month’s rent/mortgage is making that choice. Because emergencies happen.
He gave EXCELLENT INFORMATION on the consolidating debt industry and what a scam a lot of them are. I had NO IDEA about a bunch of this information. And that is after reading a dozen books!
Lastly, he has practical budget walk-through information. He’s an advocate of the zero-based budget. And has step-by-step instructions on how to set up a budget. How to adjust it. How to make a long-term part of your life.
One of the best personal finance and budgeting books I’ve read thus far.
DEBT Free or Die Trying by: Marcus Garrett is a great, practical book.
Despite my initial feeling this was a bit simplistic and maybe not for the average person, it actually turned out pretty good.
For example, he says “I told myself that I was going to college and when I graduated and was a big baller, I would pay off my debt in a couple of months.”. Of course, I was like “WTF is a baller?”
Despite my distaste for that line, the book was great. First of all, he’s been there. In debt. And making even more mistakes that do nothing to fix the situation.
Making the decision to get out of debt was one of the easiest things I have ever done. Actually sticking to the decision was one of the hardest things I have ever done.Marcus Garrett
He’s blunt. And I like that. He’s clear that a lot of people (himself included) were mistaking wants and needs. He’s also clear that getting one’s finances in order isn’t easy.
But he also stresses another important point- there’s no big secret to getting out of debt. He provides a ton of resources, such as links to cost of living calculators and debt calculators.
Lastly, Marcus hits something I’ve emphasized on my site before: small changes can lead to big results. He says: “I was surprised how little changes could save me thousands of dollars a year.” I have a post “Goals vs. Systems” that has a free printable to help you set up small habits that can lead to big results.
Your Money or Your Life by: Vicki Robbi & Joe Dominguez is a good book. It’s not QUITE top-tier (I’ll explain why in a minute), but has a concept that I think should be widely embraced.
One thing I don’t like is that it insists upon tracking every penny. Forever. Now, this is actually something I do. (Yes, seriously, we have a spreadsheet and everything gets input.) And I think everyone should do it for at least a couple of months. But I’m not sure it’s practical for everyone to do all the time.
The concept that needs to be widely embraced is calculating how much life energy you’re spending on items. You start by calculating your “real pay” (by accounting for all the time spent to support having a job and money spent you wouldn’t spend if it weren’t for your job).
She then has you ask “was that purchase worth my life energy?” By calculating your real pay per hour, and by tracking every penny of expense and categorizing it, you can easily determine how many hours of work went to pay for those new shoes, that dinner out, or your latest video game.
I can say from personal experience that when I started making money on my website, that $100 spent on dinner looked a lot different when I knew exactly how many days of work that was!
I would say this book is worth reading for that concept alone.
Secrets of Six-Figure Women: Surprising Strategies to Up Your Earnings and Change Your Life by: Barbara Stanny is a book I’m a bit undecided on recommending.
Because there is some fabulous advice everyone should hear in there.
There is also some bad advice. And a couple of facts that are flat-out wrong.
First of all, the very description of the book includes the idea/lie that “For every dollar that a man makes, a woman makes between 50 and 75 cents…” (Link to why this is a myth, or at least misleading.)
However, Barbara Stanny avoided the biggest mistake of many money-making books, which focus only on the winners (which is confirmation bias). She also interviewed low-income individuals. And-key point- taught them principles of their high-income peers. Though we DON’T hear any stats or final examples on whether these points helped. If we do, they’re buried among the examples of 6-figure women.
Fabulous advice includes how to deal with imposter syndrome, how we have to change, how we have to put in the work, and how to build long-term wealth. My favorite quote from the book:
They put in long hours, especially at the outset, volunteered for unsexy assignments, signed up for extra training, accepted any public speaking opportunity that came along, returned every phone call, got involved in community organizations, networked, made friends with reporters so they got quoted in the paper, stuffed envelopes. They did whatever it took whether they felt like it or not.-Barbara Stanny
For Specific Situations
The Everything Budgeting Book by Tere Stouffer.
I would suggest this book in only two circumstances:
1) You already have Amazon Prime and can read it free with Kindle Unlimited.
2) You know absolutely nothing about finances.
I guess any book that claims to cover “everything” is, by definition, going to have to only cover the very basics. As there is no way to cover information in depth. So if you’ve never heard of budgeting, this is a book to get you started. It hits multiple different areas- everything from basic budgeting to home ownership to retirement. But very shallowly.
And I wouldn’t always follow her advice. She suggests debt restructuring, but gives very little info on being careful or how it works. She even (very bad idea!) suggests using home equity to pay off debt. There are very few cases that is a good idea. Has super basic advice for dealing with various financial emergencies. But anyone with Google can get more, better information in one search.
Again, this is an excellent book for a very, very general OVERVIEW of budgeting. I wouldn’t use it to actually make a budget or financial decisions.
I was super-impressed with one point she made though. And I haven’t seen it made anywhere else (even in all of the books I’ve read).
You have two ways to free up money for your financial goals: making more or spending less. Neither one is better than the other, right? Wrong! If 22 percent of your income goes to state and federal taxes, then for every extra dollar you earn, you have only 78 cents to pay off debt or save for the future. But if you can save a dollar of your expenses, you can apply all of it to your debt or put it into savings or investments.-The Everything Budgeting Book
This book is good under a couple of circumstances:
1) If you have Amazon Prime and can read it free with Kindle Unlimited.
2) You’re motivated to dig into the principles yourself. And do a lot more research to apply those principles.
It’s a lot of good advice. But it’s a quick, easy read without a lot of detail. For example, one principle is to develop a budget and evaluate it every single month. He dedicates 3-4 pages to this. If you’ve never built a budget before, you’re going to need to do a lot more research to make a good budget that will work for your circumstances.
I hate to include this category. Because I respect anyone who has written a book. I’ve only written one (Personal Money Management) and it includes a bunch of printables to walk people through the content. So I know writing is hard.
But in the interest of saving your time and money…skip these books. There are just better ones out there.
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko is highly recommended.
Despite that, I’m sorry to say this book was a bust.
The first problem is that you’re going to spend a lot of time reading short capsule biographies. To the point you’re going to start skipping through them. Some seem almost contrived.
For example, at one point we meet a person who grew up poor. The author is trying to emphasize the lack of priorities in spending that the person learned growing up. So he describes the upbringing. And he describes that they ate way too much food. Breakfast consisted of pancakes, cereal, sausage, eggs, etc. I grew up poor. I knew poor people. Trust me, we weren’t eating that much food for breakfast.
They take a lot of pages to explain 4 basic principles:
• Use an annual budget (one that spends less than one makes)
• Know how much you spend each year on your major budget categories
• Have a defined set of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals (I have a sign-up for a free printable goal workbook below!)
• Spend time planning your financial future
That’s basically it. I’m not sure how they could have possibly given so many examples of the fact millionaires don’t often flaunt their wealth and instead live below their means.
olI’m also concerned that they’re falling into the “gorilla trap.” They picked millionaires and studied what they did. They didn’t find people who did the same things, but had different results.
The One Week Budget: Learn to Create Your Money Management System in 7 Days or Less! by The Budgetnista, Tiffany Aliche, isn’t a bad book. I simply don’t recommend it because you can find the same advice given in better ways in many, many other books.
My second issue was how unrealistic her numbers were in some places. For example, her “friend” making 39k a year was easily able to find over $800 a month to “save” in addition to $400 she was already saving.
It’s also for a very specific niche. She has to point out that a new designer purse isn’t an emergency. (But also says she does pro bono work in under-advantaged areas. I would think she could find some better examples.). Thus, I don’t feel the advice- no matter how accurate it might be in places- is going to resonate with the average person with money difficulties.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, while technically a book on finances, is more a self-help book on mindset.
Despite its popularity, I’m going to have to recommend you skip this book.
First, I don’t know if it’s because of when it was published (did they not have italic and bold back then?), but he uses ALL CAPS for emphasis. A lot.
He goes on and on about envisioning success. A lot of this is sounds too much like “you didn’t believe right/strong enough” stuff. Goes on to flat out say this auto-suggestion doesn’t work for the “majority of people “ is because they aren’t “well-mixed with emotion or feeling” and “belief”.
“Where failure is experienced, it is the individual, not the method, which has failed.” That’s an easy freaking claim to make when there is no way to prove it false?!
He then claims that you’ll receive inspiration on how to achieve that money. And you must act immediately. But anyone who has tried to build a business knows a million different ideas come to mind. You can’t pursue them all at once. Two-three chapters later he says you might have to try more than one plan.
And I realize the book title is “grow rich”…but he’s very obsessed with money.
Overall, this book expects you to envision success and it will happen. But if it doesn’t happen, clearly you’re not envisioning correctly according to him. I’ll take a good dose of effort over a dose of envisioning stuff everyday.
Do You Have a Book to Recommend?
If you’ve read personal finance or budgeting book- good or bad- let me know! I would love to add it to the list of reviewed books. Just comment below.
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