I’ve never owned a pair of Jimmy Choos. I only spent $24 on avocado toast last year. And yet so many personal finance books say these are the things preventing me from becoming a millionaire.
I don’t know about you, but I’d appreciate some realistic advice for managing my money ― and from someone I can relate to.
Fortunately, among the sea of mediocre books about money, there are a few gems. Here are nine personal finance books you won’t be able to put down.
1. Dear Debt: A Story About Breaking Up With Debt by Melanie Lockert (2016)
Melanie Lockert founded the blog Dear Debt in 2013 to chronicle her journey of paying off $81,000 in debt and hold herself accountable. With a mix of humor and sometimes heartbreaking honesty about what it’s like to live with burdensome debt, she tapped into a community of people who were longing for someone to acknowledge the emotional side of debt and speak openly about its impact on mental health.
Dear Debt was adapted into a book in 2016, and those qualities that made the blog so successful were definitely not lost. The book is as relatable as it is helpful, chock full of actionable advice that anyone struggling to pay off debt can use.
Melanie’s book is incredible. Not only is it well written, but it provides wonderful insight into getting out of debt. You can really feel that passion and drive that she has as it shows up on every page. I have read many finance books and they usually say the same thing, but this one provides such an incredible story and timely and relevant resources. If you are interested in getting out of debt, side hustling, or just learning more about personal finance, I would definitely check this book out. This book will not disappoint. ―Dane
2. Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford by Kristin Wong (2018)
If you love the quick-witted insider’s perspective behind lifestyle site Lifehacker, you should be a big fan of Kristin Wong. As a longtime columnist for Lifehacker’s Two Cents blog and contributor to major publications such as The New York Times and Glamour, Wong is basically your cool, clever BFF who seems to know it all but never acts like it.
In Get Money, Wong presents a gamified version of Personal Finance 101 and also weaves in her own personal experiences with money along the way.
As a young woman, this book was the first finance-related book that I actually enjoyed. I was so happy to see a book about money written by a young woman of color after reading a few by old white men. This book seemed geared towards young, early- to mid-career individuals. I’ve been a student for all but the last 3 years of my life, so this book was a perfect way for me to learn more about HOW to save and invest, but also a way for me to reflect on the WHY. It really forced me to think about the kinds of things I enjoyed spending money on and practical tips on living a balanced life that allows for savings and “treat yo’ self” moments. I highly recommend and will be purchasing copies for recent college graduate friends and family! ―Erika
3. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders (2018)
Cait Flanders is a Canadian blogger and podcaster who focuses on living with less. Stuck in a cycle of consumerism, Flanders decided to embark on a shopping ban during which she only spent money on living essentials. The Year of Less chronicles the first 12 months of her new lifestyle. And as you might have guessed, Flanders found that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some major bumps ― and life lessons ― along the way.
More of a memoir than a traditional how-to guide, The Year of Less will make you re-examine your life and how you might be using spending as a crutch.
Cait’s book is like reading a letter of advice from your best pen pal. She doesn’t overload you with big words, fancy data, or long chapters, but rather speaks to the reader as if the two of you were sharing a cup of coffee. Her advice is practical and her emotion is raw. I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciated her sharing the vulnerabilities and struggles of her challenge, but also of her personal life. Her journey in finding her true self is inspiring, and her ability to lay the framework for others to follow is motivating.
I would recommend Cait’s book to a few people: 1) people who feel overwhelmed and unfulfilled with their day to day life, 2) people who need a simple, but effective means of cutting their unnecessary spending habits, 3) people who are exploring what it means to live a [minimal] and more meaningful life. ―Emily Jackson
4. End Financial Stress Now: Immediate Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Financial Outlook by Emily Guy Birken (2017)
A recent study found that money is the top stressor among Americans, more so than work and relationships. And financial stress has only been increasing over time. Whether it’s paying off debt or saving for retirement, some financial worry has likely kept you up at night.
Emily Guy Birken, a personal finance writer and author of several books, tackles the reasons why money matters are often so stressful and provides straightforward, practical advice for improving your financial outlook ― without increasing your income.
I’m not the sort of person who picks up personal finance books, but this one came into my life at the perfect moment. It was a fast and engaging read that inspired me to think more deeply about my money beliefs and the psychology behind my own spending and saving habits. The “Budgeting With Your Psychology in Mind” chapter was particularly helpful, and the “Finding Your Breathing Room” chapter saved me nearly $2,400/year in just a few hours’ time. I think this book would be useful even if you don’t stress about money but suspect you could be making better financial decisions. ―Nicole E.
5. Clocking Out Early: The Ultimate Guide to Early Retirement by Cody Boorman and Georgi Boorman (2018)
Cody and Georgi Boorman, the husband-wife duo behind Clocking Out Early, don’t plan to spend the better part of their lives working for a living. They’re part of the FIRE movement, which refers to those who aim to be financially independent and retire early.
This book provides an easy-to-understand road map for saving big now in order to live off passive income in the near future. But even if you don’t plan to squirrel away most of your income and retire by 35, there are plenty of nuggets you can take away to improve your financial life in general.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a serious wake-up call that made me start re-evaluating every purchase I was making. One of the key takeaways for me from the book was that every purchase you make has an opportunity cost ― and you can think of that opportunity cost in terms of how long you need to work to pay for that purchase. It makes those small day-to-day purchases I was making less worth it in the long run. This book is FULL of practical, detailed ways in which we can reduce expenses and instead of feeling restricted, I’ve felt motivated to cut out more and more unnecessary spending because I can see how that adds up to so much more benefit long term. No, that Starbucks coffee is not worth an extra month of working before being able to afford to retire. I’ve read other books that mention the same idea of reducing expenses and saving for retirement, but this book was a fresh take on the reasons why you should want to pay closer attention to what you’re spending, and gives specific steps and resources to help you do that. I would recommend everyone read this ― your future self will thank you. ―Christopher
5. Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry (2017)
The title of this book alone likely resonates with so many people. As a generation that reached adulthood around the time of the Great Recession, burdened by unprecedented levels of college debt, millennials are all too familiar with being broke.
Erin Lowry’s Broke Millennial, based on her blog of the same name, is an all-in-one guide to adulting for 20- and 30-somethings who don’t know where to start. But it isn’t written by an out-of-touch financial guru who’s decades older than her audience. Lowry writes for her peers, commiserating with her readers along the way.
First of all, I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate that this was written by a fellow Millennial and not someone constantly bashing us for a myriad of reasons. I hear it constantly, especially in my career field, so this book felt like a breath of fresh air. I also enjoyed the judgment free aspect of this book. I don’t feel I’ve been especially Money wise up to the point, and this book can serve as a guide I can pick up now and again in the future. This book clicked with me in a way others haven’t. The moment that most got my attention arrived early in the book that discussed how much you should have saved for retirement by age 35. It’s $100k. I don’t have anywhere near that amount and 35 is coming up soon. That fact alone has made me COMPLETELY changed my mindset on money and I am definitely better off because of this book. Saving is definitely my new priority in life. ―J. Zavala
7. You Are A Badass At Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero (2017)
Jen Sincero, author of the You Are a Badass book series, isn’t your typical self-help writer. You won’t find inspirational quotes or cliched advice. What you will find is a whole lotta real talk (and a few swear words), delivered with her signature humor and wit.
You Are a Badass at Making Money examines the ways you prevent yourself from achieving financial success. It’s not the most scientific approach to money management, but it might cause you to critically examine your relationship with money. At the very least, it’ll make you laugh.
Jen Sincero’s writing style and voice is honestly the first of many self-help/money books that really cuts through the BS and makes crystal clear sense to me. I read a chapter a day with my morning coffee, and felt it gave me more energy and vigor than the caffeine itself. Her exercises were practical and confidence building, and there was no difficulty in understanding how to reach my financial goals. I’ve read her first book many times, as well as the audible narration being on constant play in my car, and would recommend this just the same, if not more. I plan on downloading the Audible version of this one as well. ―Milda
8. You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think by Wes Moss (2014)
If the FIRE approach to saving for retirement is a bit too aggressive for you, you’ll appreciate Wes Moss’ take on saving for your golden years.
As a financial planner and host of the live call-in radio show Money Matters, Moss has the know-how to guide everyday readers toward a successful retirement. But he doesn’t just spit out the same, tired advice anyone who knows how to Google can find. Moss centers his guidance around the idea that retirement should ultimately be about your happiness, no matter what it looks like financially.
As my husband and I approach retirement faster than I expected, I wanted to do all I can to be prepared. I know all of the regular themes of retirement savings, but this book approaches retirement in a different way. The author isn’t just telling you what to do, but laying out a way to think about retirement different than most. He instead focuses on a retirement that is happiest, not just an amount of savings required or what type of IRA to have. This book will help me to set up a path not just to retirement but to living a life that I find enjoyable during my last years! ―Carissa Hogan
9. The One Week Budget: Learn to Create Your Money Management System in 7 Days or Less! by Tiffany Aliche (2011)
Simply the idea of creating a budget can seem so daunting that sticking to one might feel impossible. But hey, if I can stick to the Keto diet for seven whole days, surely you can follow this book’s one-week budgeting system.
Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche is a fiery, fun personality wrapped up in serious financial knowledge. And even though the title of her best-seller might sound a little gimmicky, I can assure you there’s just as much substance as sass to it. With simple steps, personal stories and a bunch of helpful worksheets, you might actually look forward to budgeting after reading this book.
I need to read again but I found it light, educational and very entertaining. Where most topics like this tend to drag or become dull as you continue to turn the page, I found myself wanting to educate myself more. She uses personal experiences and you can relate to someone who has had an issue with money or making a bad investment. I am excited to clear up my debt instead of dreading making the necessary steps to become financially free. I always avoid uncomfortable financial situations that I get myself into. The Budgetnista has me stepping up to the plate and accepting my role that put me in a financial crunch. I have already started working on my budget and I have made ... phone calls to collection agencies and set up a weekly payment plan. I loved reading this book. I intend to read it again and really follow it step by step. ―Debi Brown
10. Bonus: Feminist Financial Handbook: A Modern Woman’s Guide to a Wealthy Life by Brynne Conroy (coming Oct. 15)
This book by Brynne Conroy, the creator of personal finance blog Femme Frugality, isn’t out yet. But I had to add it to the list because I can’t wait to read it. Conroy wrote it precisely because so much personal finance advice, especially that geared toward women, is painfully condescending and out-of-touch.
The Feminist Financial Handbook promises to deliver motivation, resources and stories from women of diverse backgrounds who achieved financial success in the face of obstacles that disproportionately affect their gender.
Emily Guy Birken wrote the forward for this book. Here’s what she had to say about it:
You can always find books geared toward helping women to improve their financial lives. Some are condescending mansplanations of finance, couched as an important help to us little ladies and our emotional lady-brains. Some offer pink-jacketed rah-rah enthusiasm claiming to help the modern woman have it all! Some are deep dives into the real financial difficulties and challenges facing specific groups of women. But none of them look at finance from an intersectional feminist perspective―until now.
In every chapter, Brynne offers both actionable steps and hope for individual women who want to make their lives and their finances better. She offers suggestions for how to fight the unfair system while also working within the system. That means everyone who reads this book will put it down knowing ways to work for both a better world as a whole and a better life as an individual.