Ten Books That Changed My Life #10: Your Money or Your Life

Your Money or Your LifeYour Money or Your Life
Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
Changed my life in April 2006

Right after my financial meltdown (if you haven’t read about the road to my financial armageddon, you should – it’s pretty interesting), I realized that I didn’t know anything at all about personal finance, so I basically went to the bookstore and the library and checked out a pile of books: The Millionaire Next Door, Smart Couples Finish Rich, The Total Money Makeover, and so on.

I kept reading and reading and reading and nothing really clicked. I read about frugality, about investments, about how to reduce and eliminate debt, and so on, but the part that never really clicked for me is how all of these pieces really affected my life. I could see how eliminating debt was helpful and I could see that over a long period of time I could build up some money if I did these things. But what I couldn’t see is this as an element of my life, how my money fit into the big picture of things. I was still seeing money as an opponent rather than as a tool.

This book changed all of that. I read through it three times back to back to back, the third time with a notebook in hand scribbling down notes all over the place. This book actually kick-started the mental transition from someone drowning in debt and a slave to their paycheck into the reasonably frugal person I am today, nearly debt-free, and more importantly free from the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

What’s it about?

I reviewed this book in detail a few months ago. Instead of rehashing what I wrote then, I’ll just quote the summary of the review:

Your Money or Your Life is a bit unusual in terms of personal finance books that you’ll typically find at your local bookstore. For starters, the book has very little concrete information about increasing your wealth. In a section that typically is loaded with books about becoming a millionaire, this is an unusual approach.

So what does Your Money or Your Life offer instead? Rather than focusing on being rich, the book instead looks deeply at finding the central values in one’s life and realigning your life and money to follow these values. The idea here is that most people’s money problems are actually connected to a lack of fundamental direction in their life: they work just to earn money, not because it’s what they love doing.

The book uses a number of rather unorthodox methods for exposing this truth in your life. Much of the book is spent defining values and placing them in real financial perspective, going so far as to often conclude that you should quit your job. In terms of a get rich quick scheme, this is anathema, but it is also quite enlightening.

The book’s real purpose is to reframe your relationship with money, not to reframe your management with money. If this seems kind of “New Age-y,” that’s because it is. The book makes no qualms about stating that for many people, working a full workweek is not the best way to live life, and that one should seek the best way to live their own life, not live the life others expect or demand.

The book has lots of anecdotes – but it has a lot of detail, too. This is a fairly long book, as personal finance books go, but it provides a lot of food for thought even if you don’t buy in to the overall plan.

How did Your Money or Your Life shape the person I became?

I stopped believing that money controlled my life. I used to lay awake at night worrying about money. Reading this book didn’t automatically end that, but it showed me that my idea of the money I had available and the money I was making was completely wrong. Once I made that adjustment, suddenly it was as if a cold grip released itself from me.

Even more, I started believing that my life controlled my money. I began to see my life without the weight of debt and the need to chase a paycheck because I actually understood the path to get there. Without this revelation, I would never have started The Simple Dollar and I would have never had the courage to start really chasing my dream of becoming a writer. If that’s not a life changer, I don’t know what is.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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