Updated on 09.28.07

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

Trent Hamm

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.

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  1. I’ll tell ya now that this is the book that made me rethink frugality. This is one of my favorite ever finance books and yes, you can say that it also changed my life as well. It motivated me further to save and spend wisely especially after I realized how much of my life energy went into each purchase. I credit it for strengthening my resolve to watch my wallet.

  2. Canadian says:

    Great book. The idea of making sure that your use of money reflects your values is very compatible with a strong Christian faith.

  3. Brian says:

    I thought you’d enjoy this:

    I’d been keeping my eye on paperbackswap.com (another excellent recommendation) for Your Money or Your Life and just found it. After ordering it, the site informed me that the top book ordered by those getting Your Money or Your Life is “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Natural Approach.” I know that trimming spending could be a bit difficult, but that isn’t what I had in mind.

  4. lori says:

    I love this book! I have gone back to it many times in my life when my finances are unraveling – times when I have failed to take heed to the lessons of the book. The most important thing I learned from this book is to pay attention to mindless consumption. The book does a terrific job of defining “consumer” and the ills of being a consumer.

  5. Steve says:

    Quick comment to Brian – I think the relationship between “Your Money or Your life” and “Irritable Bowel Syndrome…” is in that people worry about money/life so much that they get sick – and when they decide to order the financial book, they get the health book too. NOT that they read the book and then get sick!! Got a good laugh though! One of the few times I laugh when I am reading up about money – and by the way – I had/have irritable bowel syndrome!

  6. james says:

    What is the difference between RDPD and Your money or your life. You state that neither are concrete and are inspirational not step by step instruction. My advice buy a book on taxes and finance. By the way I like your site and I have read these book and agree.

  7. Michelle McCallum says:

    Actually I think “You Money or Your Life” should be your first book on your list as well as required reading in high school. I read this book shortly after it was published many years ago(at least 15) and it has remained my financial Bible ever since. It is brilliant and so simple.

  8. This is also one of my favorite books, and after reading Michelle’s post above, will probably be added to the living will kit I already give to every graduate.

    In my ideal world, the graduates wouldn’t need it, because they’d already taken the class in school!

  9. Rita says:

    This book too, changed my life. I was working ten to fourteen hours a day, driving 2 hours to and from work and spending no time with my family. My family has always been my first priority but “the job” was putting them last. When I got home there was no time for family. I quit “the job” 6 weeks ago and have never been happier. We have some money saved and my plans are to stay home awhile and then look for a part-time job outside the home. In the meantime, I am catching up with some family time. I love my life and am not the least bit worried that there will not be enough money.

  10. Matt says:

    I was skimming through this book at the library today and sections would jump out at me because it addresses points that I have never seen mentioned in other finance books. I checked it out and can’t wait to read it.

  11. Liara Covert says:

    All of these books offer useful insight which will no doubt benefit your readers. I’m amazed at how you limited your list to ten favorites. That is a tough call for a lot of people! I guess going through different phases leads to different priorities and preferred book themes. Sometiems I like instructive and other times, fables or motivational. It depends. Thanks for your ideas!

  12. Frank says:

    I’ve heard so much about this book and still have yet to read it. After seeing your review I’m definitely going to pick it up!

  13. Brenda says:

    I was going to go out to buy this book on the weekend – but had trouble with spending money on a book that will help you with your money. . . so, I ordered a Chapter’s gift card with my Air Miles and when I get it – the book won’t have cost me a thing. It’s killing me to wait to read it though. It’s a lesson in delayed gratification.

  14. Rick says:

    RDPD’s philosophy is to have your passive income exceed your costs. I guess being frugal is one way to do it, but not the only way or necessarily the most desirable. You can’t be frugal enough with medical bills, health insurance premiums or increased taxes, cost of food, etc. I’d rather go the other way and increase my passive income.

  15. Mark says:

    Thanks for the info! I will go to my nearest library and get a copy!

  16. Jeanette says:

    I read this book what seems like eons ago ~ about 15 yrs ago. I have to say it opened my eyes incredibly. Where we come from, there is very little opportunity for good paying jobs. Majority are minimum and not much above that. I know several people driving almost 120 miles a day for work. When you figure it out, that $15/hr job isn’t really $15/hr in your pocket and life. You’d be farther ahead working closer to home for less hourly wages than that 120 mile job with the 3+ hour drive daily. Makes no sense to me. Just found your site and LOVE it!

  17. El Gordo 42 says:

    I read this book years ago. I did not take their advice to work my tail off for twenty years and save as much as possible,the live off of the interest on T-bills. Not sure that that strategy would be working so well this decade, anyway!
    What I did take from the book is this idea: Your time is money — for whom are you working, and how much is every hour of your life worth to you? or to an employer? It is a sobering thought!

  18. Steve says:

    I like the book “Titan”. It really motivates me to achieve great things! I’ll read other books also. Thanks for the article!!!

  19. Simone says:

    Thanks for sharing this intersting book.
    Anybody knows an italian edition?
    I’m looking around with no results yet

  20. Deb says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and gathering a lot of tremendously helpful information and insight. Thank you.
    After reading your review/recommendation – I borrowed this book from the library (frugal) and just rec’d my own copy via paperbackswap.com (again frugal). I’m planning to re-read it and see where it can lead.
    We are already a one-income family of 5, I homeschool our youngest 2 children and our oldest is attending the local comm. college debt free. We have eliminated all debt other than our mortgage in the last 8 months. I can’t wait to see how much more God will allow us to accomplish!
    Keep up the amazing work here at Simple Dollar – I think you are impacting the world a few words at a time.
    Blessings on the journey~

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