When it comes to deciding between budget crunching and saving for the future or investing and hunting for real estate on Zillow, it’s hard to know what to do. Knowing how to make your money work for you in 2021 is a tough road to navigate. There's also a lot of crappy advice on social media that promises a speedy path to huge savings.
Thankfully, there are also a ton of great books that dig into how and why you're spending your cold, hard cash. Here, we look at a few titles that can help you understand your spending habits, figure out your savings goals, and get you on the right track to hit those targets.
Being savvy about money doesn't start with a spreadsheet. It starts with your thoughts and feelings about money — most of which are probably not even conscious. For many of us, feelings about money started in childhood, based on how our parents approached money, and those feelings can impact how we save and spend today. Deepen your understanding about what money really means, shift your perspective around it, and you might find it's easier to gain control of your finances.
Based on the principles that helped develop the You Need a Budget app, its founder, Mecham, has written a book about how to get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle by prioritizing your essentials and getting a handle on your cash flow. Lest you think creating a budget means giving up all of your luxuries, don't worry: Mecham is all about making room for the expenses that make you happy, and figuring out painless ways to save. His core concepts — give every dollar a job, age your money, and more — help you feel more in control without being obsessed with saving.
This New York Times bestseller was one of the earliest books in the "financial self-help" category, and if you're a reader who's struggling with debt, this is a great book to pick up. There are no get-rich-quick schemes or ideas in here, just the time-tested methods for moving out of debt and into saving. It's no-nonsense, and while some of the language might feel a bit dated, the principles remain current.
Want to peep other people's finances while thinking about your own? Enter Refinery29's Money Diaries book, where the popular column from the website has been turned into a book that not only gives you real-world examples of how people at different income levels in different life circumstances live, but also brings in advice from financial advisors to answer all the questions millennials have about money.
Real Money Answers for Every Woman: How to Win the Money Game With or Without A Man by Patrice C. Washington
Unfortunately, it's still the case that women typically earn less than men do, even when working the exact same job. Washington opens up about her former over-spending habits, and how she adjusted them and overcame a five-figure debt. This book is designed as a Q&A, so you can skip around and find questions you wish you could ask a financial adviser. Washington's got the answer.
Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living by Elizabeth Willard Thames
Want a case study of what it looks like to save huge chunks of your income so you can focus on living the life you want to live? This book won't teach you about budgeting, but it will make you reflect on where your money is going. Frugalwoods blogger Thames writes about her journey from corporate culture to early "retirement" in the country. While early retirement may not be an option or a desire for you, this book is great for making you pause and think about how you spend your hard-earned money now, and what you could do if you saved just a bit more.
Like Ramsey's popular financial self-help book, "Rich Dad Poor Dad" was one of the first books that really entered the 'personal finance' arena in the modern world. It's now 25 years old, but the principles are timeless. In the book, Kiyosaki writes about what two men in his young life taught him about wealth — and a lack thereof. It focuses on the difference between working for money and having your money work for you. If you have kids, this book is a great reminder that how you talk about and focus on money will impact how your kids view money, so it's important to teach them the right lessons.
If you've hit this point in the list and are panicking that you'll never get to spend money again, you may want to read The Latte Factor. In this easy read, Bach and Mann share a parable about financial freedom. (And unlike other books on this list, it only takes about an hour to read!) This New York Times bestseller shares three secrets of financial freedom that will inspire you to start saving without feeling guilty about where you're at with your finances now.
OK, now the rubber is going to meet the road. If you haven't been inspired to actually start creating a budget to make the most of your paycheck, this book gives you the jumpstart you need. Over the course of three weeks, you'll gain control of spending habits, discover your personal psychology around money, and find sneaky ways to save every day.