Best Books for Improving Personal Finances – Reviews Page

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This Personal Finance Reviews Page contains a growing list of our favorite Personal Finance Books!

Learning how to improve how you manage your household finances is a great goal for anyone. We’ve been budgeting our money since day one of our marriage and have accomplished some pretty amazing financial feats on a below-average income. This is a list of many of our favorite and most informative household finance books. We hope they enrich your life and your bank account.

The Millionaire Next Door By Thomas Stanley and William Danko

We constantly encourage people to pick up a copy of The Millionaire Next Door. It’s a fabulous “must read” for everyone. Authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko produced this book as a result of a 20-year research study of people with net worths in excess 1 million dollars (excluding their homes).

If you want to build wealth, you’ve got to learn the mindset, habits, and language of the wealthy.

The Author’s Findings

The author’s findings are enlightening and reveal much about our misconceptions of the wealthy in our society. Their information is easy to digest as they intersperse stories with their research data.

We won’t give away all of their best findings here, but some of the more amazing things are: most millionaires didn’t get rich from one quick, shrewd business deal. Most don’t flaunt their wealth and the smart ones don’t indulge their kids. Their kids are encouraged to achieve their own success through the pursuit of higher education and hard work. As far as inheritances go, many simply don’t leave wealth to their children when they are young but delay it until they are much older (in their 40’s).

This book inspired us even more, to make sure that we are passing down to our kids the habits of industry and savings. The average millionaire saves 15% of what they earn. We encourage our kids to save 20%, give 10% and live on the remaining 70%. You may not have a net worth that is close to a million dollars, but there is so much good and applicable information in this book, that you will find it extremely helpful and motivating.

Living Rich by Spending Smart By Greg Karp

Greg Karp is an award-winning, nationally published newspaper columnist. In Living Rich by Spending Smart, he shows that earning more money isn’t the solution to most financial dilemmas — but that spending smarter is! He discusses evaluating your life insurance; owning cars; analyzing phone, internet and cable TV bills and usage; options to wasting money on overpriced bottled water; extended warranties; timeshares; smoking; playing lotteries and much more. T

his book talks about lots of very practical ways to save money — but doesn’t really address how to develop a budgeting system. He does provide a good amount of research to support his assertions of how most people waste money. His writing style is not condemning and is easy to read.

The 1-2-3 Money Plan By Greg Karp

Greg Karp is a money master and is so right when he says that how we spend our money is more important than how much we earn. In The 1-2-3 Money Planhe doles out black belt strategies for saving.

This book is divided into 3 sections where he presents ideas for “Spending Smart Today,” “Spending Smart Yesterday” and “Spending Smart Tomorrow.

He goes in depth and shares specific savings ideas that can add up to a small fortune over time. Things like:


– Stocking up when things are on sale will save you about 20% on your groceries – adding up to almost $7000 per year for the average family.
– Eat out less often and cook at home more often.
– Buy store brands – they’re made by the name brand manufacturer anyway.


– Raise your deductibles and keep money in the bank to cover it.
– Avoid identity theft insurance and just be careful about sharing your personal information.


– Cut your landline.
– Research your cell phone, internet, and TV services. Play the competition game and see how much you can save.

You can take these tips to the bank and start building savings today!

Debt Free Living by Larry Burkett


Debt Free Living is an excellent resource for anyone struggling with the debt monster. The subtitle is “How to get out of debt and stay out.” Larry shares many true-life stories (names changed) that will bring encouragement to the weary. All the accounts have successful endings, but not without a few pitfalls.

Various topics include Repercussions of bankruptcy; Summary of Federal Codes pertaining to credit reports, debt collection agencies, credit agencies, and bankruptcy. Other scenarios deal with young married couples just out of college; Medical issues with young children; Business deals that have gone bad; Spouses working together to solve their financial dilemmas. This book is an easy read. It is written from a Christian perspective and is very practical in its approach and non-offensive to those who hold to different values.

Note: This book was revised in 2010 and is endorsed by Dave Ramsey! You’ll be encouraged and motivated to live Debt Free!

Consumer Reports Magazine By Consumer Union

Consumer Reports Magazine is a very valuable resource we consult before making any major purchase. From cars to ceiling fans, we found their rating system to be on target and comprehensive. They pride themselves on being unbiased.

Unlike other magazines who are funded either through advertising or are actually published by a particular manufacturer, Consumer Reports is funded by subscriptions and private donations from individuals and foundations. They purchase every product tested. They also don’t allow their name to be used by advertisers as an endorsement of quality.

We keep copies of the last five years issues in the house for reference. It is extremely helpful to be able to look back at their annual new car edition from previous years when purchasing a used car. Annually, subscribers are surveyed regarding their experiences for specific products. The results of the survey become the satisfaction ratings that are published in the magazine and Annual Buyers Guides.

What topics they cover

They cover a gamut of other issues also, including health, finance, some investment information, and product recalls. As a result of their recall column, we’ve received free replacements for two products.

In the back of each issue is a 12-month index of topics. Their Annual Buyers Guides provide summarized information on most of their evaluations. Most every library has copies of Consumer Reports in their periodical section.

On the negative side is their coverage of natural medicine, i.e. diet, vitamins, and herbs. In the past they have, for the most part, categorized them as ineffective, however recently it appears that they are more positively investigating and reporting on them.

Here’s a link to many of the topical books they published. 

The Tightwad Gazette – Volumes 1, 2 and 3 By Amy Dacyczyn

Through the Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyczyn brought dignity to being thrifty. She was the pioneer in frugal publishing when she started writing the newsletter in the early 1990’s. These books are excellent resources for coming up with ideas to stretch pennies around the home. She covers saving money on groceries, gifts, holidays, birthdays, furniture, cars, clothing, babies, utilities, travel, toiletries, toys, and weddings. Other articles cover topics such as organizing skills, numerous reader tips and lots of recipes.

Her writing style is very objective and has humor injected to keep the reader’s interest. The books are a compilation of several years of her writing in the Tightwad Gazette newsletter. The newsletters are organized by seasons, so unless you read it all the way through, you may have trouble finding certain categories of information. There is an index in the back of the book that does make finding particular items easier. If you live in the city or suburbs, you may have a difficult time relating to her country style living.

Overall, Amy and Jim Dacyczyn set a great example of working together as a team to accomplish the goals of living within their means and raising a large family.

The whole series—You can find these books individually:

Volume 1,  Volume 2,  Volume 3

But by far, the best deal is to buy them as a compilation
The Complete Tightwad Gazette

Watch these videos featuring Amy. The first is from 1992 and the second is from 2009. She’s still the queen of frugal.

Your Money or Your Life By Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

Your Money or Your Life is an excellent book for examining how you view money and the kind of power it holds in our daily lives. Although it was written in 1992, it is a timeless resource to have on your personal finance bookshelf. Dominguez and Robin walk you through nine steps to achieve financial independence.

They help you evaluate assets, where you spend your money, how to minimize spending, how to maximize your income, where to invest your money for a fair return with very low risk and how to choose priorities for your life. It also includes such ideas as volunteer vacations where you spend your time benefiting a community in exchange for room and board. Another suggestion is to get exercise around the house as you do chores, rather than spending money on a health club membership.

Beyond The Grave By Gerald Condon and Jeffrey Condon

While the title Beyond the Grave may sound a little creepy, we promise you that it is anything but that. It is a must-read for every frugal family. The authors deal with every aspect of how to thoughtfully and carefully leave an inheritance to your children when you die, including such touchy subjects as how to deal with kids who are financially irresponsible; what to do about kids with addictions; planning fairly when you have kids from multiple marriages; and how to distribute your family business.

They also make suggestions about what you should do if you have no children or if you have the mindset that your estate is just too small to be concerned about, “We just have our house, yes, it’s paid-off, but that’s about it.” Another section that was a real eye-opener was when they discussed what to do if you trust your kid, but not their spouse — how do you distribute your wealth to ensure your child gets it but not the “schnook” they married.

A Disabled Child and an Inheritance

And if you have a disabled child who will need care after you’re gone, they make several suggestions to ensure continued physical care for your child and protection of their portion of the inheritance. They had a chapter devoted to dividing your possessions — this was one topic which we think they could have gone into more detail. Does anyone know of a book out there that covers this topic?

The Condon’s advice may rattle your common sense and family assumptions about inheritances, but we can see the wisdom behind much of their advice. Read this book, digest it for a few weeks, then read it again, before making any final decisions. If you are living and breathing, this book is essential to making sure that your nest-egg is used to help and not hinder your children and your children’s children. A big thank-you to Steve’s Aunt Alice for sending it to us – what a terrific book!

Rites of Passage – Executive Job-Changing By John Lucht

Rites of Passage – Executive Job Changing was written by John Lucht who is an executive recruiter. He shares an insiders view of the way many companies perform executive searches. If you are in search of an upper management position, this book is a must-read.

Lucht defines: the different type of recruiters you’ll run into – Contingency and Retainer – and how to deal with each; the value of building an ongoing relationship with a few competent recruiters; networking effectively; the kind of resume you should write and how to format it; how to deal with email submissions of resumes.

One of his key points is that in upper echelon job hunting, longer copy sells – short resumes work for people looking for their first job, but if you’re an accomplished executive, you’ll have some interesting statistics to support you. Sharing this information presents your qualifications in their best light possible.

Other information includes: how to research a company; who to contact within a target company and how to get their contact information; how to get everything you’ve agreed to in writing.

Rites of Passage is expensive, but the information is incredibly valuable and could help you land a great high-paying a great job. It’s worth the investment.

Who Moved My Cheese By Spencer Johnson, M.D./ Ken Blanchard

Who Moved My Cheese is another of the parable-type Blanchard books, easy to read and incredibly practical.

Two mice named Sniff and Scurry and two little people named Hem and Haw live in a maze where the only food they have is cheese. They have come to believe that their little corner of the maze is “home” and they’ve hung pictures and moved in furniture. The cheese that they have come to enjoy has become their “entitlement”. One day they notice a change in the quantity and quality of the cheese. Eventually, the cheese all but disappears. The lesson lies in how these four beings respond. Some hem and haw, others realize that change is inevitable, so they strap on their running shoes and get out into the maze to sniff and scurry to find more cheese.

The maze represents the organization you work in or the family or community in which you live. “Cheese” is a metaphor for the things you want out of life. It’s a motivation story to build awareness of attitudes of complacency that can creep into your life. We found this book to be particularly helpful at a time when Steve was thinking it was time to make a job change.

Your Finances in Changing Times By Larry Burkett

Your Finances in Changing Times by Larry Burkett

Your Finances in Changing Times was the book that got us started on our journey to living on a budget in 1981. It is easy to understand and covers the basics of what an economy is and how to put together a family budget that works.

We have taken Larry’s suggestions and modified them over the years to better fit our family. Stewardship is a major emphasis of this book. What we have and what we earn aren’t just for us to consume. This book was written many years ago and presents some ideas that go beyond finances from a very conservative Christian perspective.

We had the privilege of meeting and talking with Larry on two different occasions and came away blessed and encouraged. Larry’s writings have had such a profound impact on our lives that we dedicated our first book to his memory.

Larry has written a number of other books (fiction and non-fiction). You can see them here

How to Go to College Almost for Free By Ben Kaplan

How to Go To College Almost for Free is an awesome motivational and informative book. Ben Kaplan is the Scholarship Coach. He has walked where many would like to walk, the halls of Harvard. But he did it for free.

After personally winning over $90,000 worth of scholarship money, he shares what he learned from his experience — he even shares examples of his scholarship applications. His writing is energetic and extremely practical. He debunks numerous myths about scholarships, helps you formulate a game plan that works and even gives practical advice on how parents can assist their college-bound kids. At the end of each chapter, he summarizes his key points into a workable action plan. Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be fully equipped to hit the scholarship trail.

This book has been revised several times.

Ben has also authored a second more detailed book listing dozens of more scholarships. Check out The Scholarship Scouting Report.

Bridal Bargains By Denise and Alan Fields

Bridal Bargains is one of the handiest reference manuals every written. It will help you create a fantastic wedding for much less than you ever expected. The authors present an unending list of creative ways to design the big event you’ve always dreamed of, even utilizing sometimes unorthodox means to achieve that end. Recently updated with current information, they regularly refer the reader to great websites (reviewing the site’s strengths and weaknesses) to find their bargains.

And they challenge common perceptions. Like do you really need a limo or will a trolley suffice? If you do want a real limo, try renting one from a funeral home, now that’s a place we would never have considered! They also share numerous ways to save on catering, the cake, reception halls, photographers, music, invitations, wedding gowns (how about ordering one from China for as little as $50?) and flowers. Bridal Bargains proves to the world that when you say “I do,” it doesn’t have to mean that you’re also saying “I owe!”

The College Blue Book

There are five titles in The College Blue Book series. This giant volume is a great resource for searching out the multitude of mostly private sources for financial aid.

It is organized in nine broad subject areas including area studies, environmental studies, humanities, life sciences, medical sciences, minorities, physical sciences, social sciences, and technology. Each award is accompanied by the type of award, contact information, eligibility requirements and application information. In total it lists over 2500 financial aid possibilities. It’s a great starting point and definitely worth the time to browse through. Be sure to specifically look for this title.

We didn’t buy the book but spent a few hours at the library going through it taking copious notes. Another good source for scholarship information is and it’s free!

Confessions of a Scholarship Winner By Kristina Ellis

We just finished reading Confessions of a Scholarship Winner! Wow. This girl is a go-getter. Her father died when she was seven years old. Being raised by a single mom, Kristina realized that there simply wasn’t money available for her to go to college. Instead of giving up, she decided to hunt it down and in the process discovered many tips and tricks that helped her win $500,000 in scholarships.

She was motivated to get through college without borrowing a dime. She attended Vanderbilt University where she graduated with dual majors in human and organizational development, and business planning and entrepreneurship.

In the book, she outlines how to: prepare for finding scholarships; understand college financing; create a formula for your own success; tell your story succinctly; fill out applications properly; find your voice and let it resonate with scholarship committees. She doesn’t only present theory, but lots of super practical things that she did to rake in the money.

The bottom line is that going to college really doesn’t have to leave you and your family struggling with debt for decades to come. Get a copy of Confessions of a Scholarship Winner and start stockpiling college cash now!

Mystery Shopping Made Simple

Mystery Shopping Made Simple is a great book for those who are organized and want to work from home.

Of course, the job required you wear nice clothes and have a reliable vehicle.

Our daughter, Becky, tried this by was bothered by the detailed paperwork that her shops required. There was also a lot of follow up needed to actually receive the money she earned (from certain companies).

Being a Mystery Shopper can be a viable option for those who love to shop to not only earn income but also receiving valuable household items.

30 Days to a Simpler Life

30 Days to a Simpler Life is an excellent resource for step-by-step ideas on getting organized and eliminating “stuff” from our lives. It is a pretty radical book that will challenge ones thinking and help to break the bonds of attachment for accumulating more things. The authors walk through all areas of household living including bathrooms, clothes, bedrooms, kitchens, offices, garden sheds and garages.

They present very practical and achievable ideas. For example, one of their suggestions is to avoid the use of table lamps which clutter flat surfaces. They prefer ceiling fan lights or floor lamps — so do we. They also recommend minimizing what we purchase, “if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.” This is a good idea. We disagree with a few of their philosophies. One is, “If you don’t use it, throw it out.” We prefer to sell it or donate it.

The other is their implication that children complicate life and you should consider not having them. 30 Days to a Simpler Life is a good reminder of what is truly important. This book makes many references to various New Age concepts including Feng Shui, yoga and meditation. So if this is not your thing, just ignore it or skip over it.

Living a Beautiful Life on Less by Danielle Wagasky

Living a Beautiful Life on Less is written by a mommy blogger and frugal living blogger. Danielle now has 4 kids and writes about everyday life. Her book topics include: budgeting; Grocery Savings; Getting out of debt; Having a great wardrobe and dressing nicely; celebrating family nights; eating out thriftily; Having a clean and Organized home; and Staying calm in the midst of life’s chaos.

You will be inspired by her down to earth writing. Danielle comes from a different faith perspective than we do, but there is still much to absorb from her book. You will only be inspired by reading this. Danielle is the publisher of and is also active on Instagram.

If you have a favorite Personal Finance Book that isn’t listed, please mention it in the comment section below and we’ll consider it for this page.

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3 thoughts on “Best Books for Improving Personal Finances – Reviews Page

  1. Mea Cicansky

    Excellent and valuable article Steve & Annette! I’ve worked at a financial planning firm for nearly 25 years now. “The Millionaire Next Door” has always been like our “Bible” and we have purchased many copies over the years to hand out to clients. Many of the other books you mention look really interesting as well and I plan to check a number of them out at my local library!

    Saskatchewan, Canada

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