When I started working after college in 1993, I was thrilled to get a job and make more than minimum wage. However, that $5.65 an hour didn’t stretch as far as it might, and I started to learn the hard lessons of personal finance all over again.
My parents shared their financial experience with me, of course, and some of their lessons did rub off, but it took experience to really make those lessons really stick.
Experience is a good – but sometimes brutal – teacher, so thank goodness for the gentle education of three books I’ve come to cherish over the years. These books helped me expand my outlook of money and understand that saving money is a lifestyle that needs to be embraced. For me, saving money started as many deliberate choices that finally evolved into habits.
A happy thought for those who want to purchase these books: they can be found for bargain prices on websites such as www.half.com and for free at your public library.
“Wealth on a Minimal Wage” by James Steamer. My favorite advice in this book includes a discussion of educating and including your entire family in the pursuit of saving money.
Happily, a long plane trip allowed my husband and I to read this book together. I credit this book, and especially the chapter – Achieving Wealth as a Family – with encouraging my husband and I to get over our reluctance to discuss money with each other. The list of questions in this chapter served to open our discussion and avoid personal attacks that would have stymied us.
It seems it is now time to refer back to this same chapter for guidance to help our children learn to manage money. They are old enough to start understanding an allowance and be able to open their own savings accounts.
“Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine. It seems all of us have already taken a page out of this book by necessity during this economic downturn. However, when I first read this book, it was a revolutionary idea. Not buy anything for an entire year? How could that be possible, I thought? How could one survive without the entertainment of shopping?
Although the author didn’t take a complete spending fast – she and her partner did buy items they deemed “necessary” – I really liked this book because she delved into the attitudes of friends and associates during their not-buy-it year. She and her partner found different ways to entertain themselves and found their lives richer for it.
Understandably, many people were initially leery of their decision, something I had discovered as well when my family settled down and began saving money. We were making choices to avoid spending money and not following our friends into buying bigger homes and new cars, but our friends were doing the opposite. Today, we are happy with those past decisions. We are grateful for our smaller mortgage and glad that we can save the car payment money for another day.
I also appreciated the discussion of what the author and her partner decided were “necessities.” I re-read that section when my husband needed to discuss that very topic earlier this year when job loss discussions were looming. We actually made a list what we had to keep spending money on: mortgage, water, food, etc., and what we could cut out in an emergency: driving one of the vehicles, cancel the cell phones, cutting back on investments, halve the garbage pickup, etc.
“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I first laid eyes on this book when our friend and neighbor said, “You have to read this.” I was leery because of the flashy design and flashier writing style, but our friend is extraordinarily money smart and in the process of building a rental empire in our town. Thankfully, another long plane trip allowed my husband and I the time to read it cover to cover.
I have to say it was a real eye-opener. This book discusses the concept of assets versus liability, especially the idea that what you may consider an asset may not be.
A car, for instance, isn’t really an asset according to the author, because of the costs to run and maintain the car costs money, and the value of a car diminishes over its lifetime.
In contrast, a house is considered an asset. It usually gains value during the time you own it, and the money you put into it, such as updating the kitchen, can actually increase the value of your house.
However, this last book is a perfect example of how economics can turn on its head. Some of today’s houses are actually worth less than what they were cost to buy thanks to a number of different factors. It may not seem that some houses are such great assets right now. Nevertheless, this book illustrates that it is wise to sort through your family’s financial obligations because you may discover there are items that are costing you more than they are worth.
Of course, these are just a few highlights of each of these books. There is a lot more good stuff in each. But, as with any advice book, make sure your healthy scrutiny is intact when you read. What works for one person, may not be feasible for your family.