A personal finance blog is a great resource, but sometimes you need a deep dive. If you need to go deep, these are the 10 best personal finance books.
We Cover A Lot
Here at Frugal For Less, we cover a lot of personal finance topics, getting out of debt, making extra money, saving money, budgeting and lots more. But a blog contains articles, and a single article can’t cover every aspect of a particular topic. Articles can’t be tens of thousands of words in length so even an excellent one can only go so far.
When you need a lot of information on a specific subject, you need a book instead of an article. But there are thousands upon thousands of personal finance books out there to choose from. While I never think money spent on a book is money wasted, you don’t have an endless supply of it to spend on books, so we wanted to show you some of the best available that cover a variety of personal finance topics.
And we always want to make sure our readers have all of the resources they need to improve any aspect of their financial lives, so we put together this list of the 10 best personal finance books for you!
You’re in Debt
If you’re struggling with debt, you’re certainly not alone. Some 80.9% of Baby Boomers, 79.9% of Generation Xers, and 81.5% of Millenials are in debt be it from a mortgage, credit cards, student loans, medical or auto debt or a toxic mix of some or all of those, the vast majority of us are in the same sinking boat.
When faced with debt it can be hard to figure out the best way to get out of it, but if you have a detailed how-to guide, it will seem less overwhelming. You can consider these books your “how to get out of debt bible.” They will also teach you how to avoid going into debt in the future.
I’ll confess that I’m not Dave Ramsey’s biggest fan. I think his investing advice is terrible, but when it comes to getting out of debt, the guy has a great system. It’s worked for millions of people because well, it works. If you follow the first three of his seven Baby Steps as outlined in Total Money Makeover, you will get out of debt.
The Baby Steps are:
- Save $1,000
- Pay Off Debt (using the snowball method)
- Save a 3 to 6-Month Emergency Fund
- Save for College
- Pay Off Your House
You can read the book yourself and decide how you feel about the advice that makes up the remaining steps. If debt is your main concern, then you can stop following his advice once you’ve saved the 3 to 6-month emergency fund. The book takes you through each step in minute detail. It will tell you exactly how to go about completing each step.
The book also goes into detail about the psychology of debt, owning up to how bad the situation is, why you got into it and how you can change the way you think about money, so you never fall into the debt trap again. This is important. If you don’t understand why you do something you are in danger of continuing to do it.
Dave Ramsey isn’t some guru who learned what he knows from a book or college. He has been in the same situation anyone who picks up his book is in. He was in debt, and he used the information that he turned into this book to get out of it.
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox explains how she got into $70,000 worth of credit card debt, arguably the worst kind of debt to be in, and how she paid it off in just three years.
The book offers readers a very detailed plan of action they can employ right away to start climbing out of their financial hole including advice on how to handle debt collectors, pay off past due debt, getting interest rates on debts reduced, and how to find and use extra money to accelerate the process.
The author also explains how to change your lifestyle, so you never fall back into the debt trap again. Like Dave Ramsey, Lynette isn’t telling you to do anything she hasn’t done herself. Paying off $70,000 of credit card debt in three years is an extraordinary achievement, so she knows what she’s writing about. It’s not easy to admit such a big mistake even after you’ve fixed it. If you feel ashamed about your own debt, you will find a real kinship with this writer.
You Need Budgeting Help
Budgeting is the foundation healthy personal finances are built on. Everyone rich or poor needs a budget. It shows us how we spend our money and allows us to see where we’re spending too much. Budgeting can seem complicated and time-consuming, but these books will teach you to budget in a way that is neither.
Jesse Mecham and his budgeting system, affectionately known as YNAB, has an almost cult following and for a good reason. It’s clean and simple, consisting of just four easy rules:
- Every dollar has a job whether it’s paying a bill, buying food, or going into a retirement savings account.
- Embrace your true expenses by looking ahead and building big, less frequent expenses into your monthly budget, so they don’t sneak up on you.
- Roll with the punches. A budget is never static, unexpected expenses will come up, and you’ll often go over budget in one category or another. That’s okay; your budget can always be adjusted.
- Age your money means to increase the amount of time between earning money and spending it.
YNAB is not the most automated budgeting system out there; users engage with their money on a daily basis rather than a monthly basis. There is a reason for this. When you are dealing with your money and your budget daily, you become more mindful of your spending, and you can spot potential problems before they become actual problems.
This method of budgeting is also unusual in that it makes allowances for the mistakes we all make. If you feel like one screw up and your whole budget is shot, you’re more likely just to give up and scrap the whole thing. YNAB lets you deal with your mistakes and move on.
If you’ve tried other budgeting systems in the past in an effort to stop living paycheck to paycheck, YNAB is the system that can finally help you do it once and for all. The YNAB program is not free like Mint or several other budgeting systems but I believe the cost is well worth it.
4. The Minimalist Budget: A Practical Guide On How To Save Money, Spend Less And Live More With A Minimalist Lifestyle
If you’re interested in minimalism and want a slightly philosophical approach to budgeting, Simeon Lindstrom’s book will appeal to you.
The book explores the emotions of spending so you can understand why you spend the way you do and with that understanding, make better decisions with your money that are not temporary or short-term but will last throughout your life. If this sounds a little too “woo-woo,” don’t worry. The author provides solid ways to put the principles you learn into actionable steps.
The kind of minimalism championed in this book is not about having less than you need, rather it’s about learning exactly how much you need and not exceeding that amount. This allows you to budget your money so that all of your needs are adequately met without wasting money on more than you need.
You Want To Save Money
I love reading books about ways to save money. There is just something fun and satisfying to me about reading all of the inventive ways people have learned to save money. Most of the books about saving money have a lot of overlap and include tips nearly almost all of us already know (even if we don’t always do them!) like turning down the thermostat in the winter, buying meat in bulk when it’s on sale and freezing it, etc but every book of this type I’ve read have offered tons of ways to save money that I’d never read or heard anywhere else.
Well, there really isn’t a better method of saving money than by not spending any is there? How do you do that though? In her book, Ruth Soukup will show you how to do just that for a period of 31 days.
The book will teach you to do things like eliminate “convenience” spending, spending money to have someone do something for you that you could do for yourself like cleaning the house, how to eat up all of the food already in your house before buying more, how to entertain yourself and your family for free and even how to make money during your 31 days of no spending by doing things like selling things you no longer need or use.
The 31 day no spend period is meant to be a sort of “re-set” for your spending habits. By not spending any unnecessary money, you realize just how much of your spending really is unnecessary.
If your New Year’s Resolution is to save money, ask for this book for Christmas and start your own no spend challenge on January 1.
Two former neighbors, Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee, challenged themselves to cut their monthly spending in half and they both managed to do it. The book is chock full of ways to cut expenses on everything from household cleaning supplies to groceries to pet products.
A big chunk of the book is devoted to cutting your grocery budget which is helpful because it’s a significant expense for most of us and we often spend way more than is necessary. The book offers action plans at the end of each chapter that will help you achieve significant savings on the subject of each chapter.
You Need A Comprehensive Guide
There are so many individual pieces to personal finance, budgeting, saving, investing, and within each individual piece are even more pieces. If you need advice in all (or most) areas of personal finance, you don’t have time to read an entire book on each subject; you need a one-stop shop kind of book. That’s what these books will provide.
Beth Kobliner has written this book for Millenials, but much of the advice will apply to people of any age making any amount of money who don’t know a lot about personal finance.
The book will show you how to pay off debt, save and invest your money, boost your credit score, and lower your bills. It also explains things like what various kinds of investments are, explains taxes, and how health insurance works. This book is a broad overview of many aspects of personal finance. If you want to dive deeper into a particular topic, the author provides a list of books she recommends.
Personal finance can seem confusing and intimidating, and that often stops people from learning things that could help them. If that sounds like you, Tim Mauer’s book will really speak to you. He explains what might seem like a complicated subject in such a straightforward, no-nonsense way that even those still in the 1+1=2 stage of personal finance learning will find easy to understand.
Maurer will walk you through concepts including budgeting, paying off debt, investing, and retirement planning. The book gives practical, actionable advice that everyone will be able to understand and relate to.
You Want To Start Investing
If you want to become wealthy or even just retire one day, you have to invest your money. But of all the personal finance aspects, investing is probably the most intimidating. It even seems like it has a language all its own, a language you don’t speak, mutual funds, robo-advisors, 401ks, IRAs, portfolios, diversification. Ugh! No wonder so many people refuse to do anything more with their money but stick it in a savings account.
But there is hope! These books will teach you the basics of investing so you can get started immediately. Because the longer you wait to start investing, the more money you’re leaving on the table.
Burton Malkiel has written a very approachable book on investing. One of my favorite aspects of his book is that he recommends index funds rather than choosing and buying individual stocks.
You don’t need to know much to invest and make money with an index fund, but you have to know a lot to successfully pick individual stocks. Being a personal finance writer is my profession, and even I don’t do it.
Not many people are good at it and the ones who are, are privy to much more information than the average person and spend much more time researching stocks than the average person has to (or would want to) spend.
Malkiel gets down to brass tacks without being boring which is no mean feat. He will show you how the stock market works and explain the best way for us ordinary investors to invest for our retirement.
John Bogle founded Vanguard and has long been a champion of low-risk investing. This book is written by three members of the Boglehead team, Taylor Larimore, Michael LeBoeuf, and Mel Lindauer. The book gives you the investing basics and then breaks down the various types of investments.
The principles of the book will show you how to lower your risk with a properly diversified portfolio, explain why you need to invest early and regularly, how to pay less in taxes (legally!), and how to ignore all of the noise coming from Wall Stree that causes us to make poor investing decisions.
If You Don’t Know It…
There is a book out there that can teach it to you. Personal finance isn’t exactly the sexiest subject, but it is one of the most important.
So while you probably won’t devour these books the way you devour that summer blockbuster while laying on the beach, chances are pretty good that if you read some of these 10 best personal finance books, you’ll learn what you need to know to conquer every aspect of your money!