Updated on 09.09.14

The One Hour Project: Take A Trip To The Library

Trent Hamm

I’m going to start off the month by suggesting that you check out a book from the library. Not just any book, mind you, but one of the really worthwhile books on personal finance. Check it out, put it on your nightstand, and read a page or two each night before you drift off to sleep. Here’s the game plan.

Use the Library to Become More Financially Savvy

1. Go visit your local library.

First, find one – this is pretty easy to do with Google. Generally, the larger the library, the better – I don’t use the library in the town where I live, but patronize two libraries in the two significantly larger towns where I do most of my grocery and supply shopping. When you get there, you’ll likely have to sign up for a library card, which are usually free – this means bring a photo ID with you.

2. Find the personal finance section and browse.

Look for a book that seems interesting to you. Here are four recommendations from me that I’ve reviewed here on the site before, though there are many books in this section that are well worth reading.

Your Money or Your Life

by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
This book is my favorite personal finance book of all. It focuses heavily on finding the central values in one’s life and then realigning one’s finances to match those values. If you ever feel like you don’t fully trust the choices you make and are perhaps trapped in a financial lifestyle that doesn’t match your values, this is an essential one to read. Read my full review of Your Money or Your Life.

The Bogleheads’ Guide To Investing

by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, Michael LeBoeuf, and John C. Bogle
Thinking about putting your toes into investing, but have no idea where to start or even what options are really available to you? This is perhaps the best all-around book for conservative investing that I’ve ever read and a very clear illustration for people who are just beginning to think about investing. Read my full review of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing.

The Total Money Makeover

by Dave Ramsey
Of all of the books I’ve read about managing a debt situation and eliminating that debt, Dave Ramsey’s book takes the prize. It presents a very clear plan that anyone can follow for escaping debt and getting your financial house in order. His tone is very inspirational and occasionally borrows from Christianity and the Bible, but that doesn’t affect the quality and truth of his message. Read my full review of The Total Money Makeover.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette

by Amy Dacyczyn
Another valuable tack to take in seeking a better personal finance path is to look for ways to save money through living frugal. If that’s your interest, there is no better guidebook than this book, which is like drinking from the fire hose of frugality. Almost a thousand pages of frugal ideas and discussions broken down into short articles roughly the size of a blog post makes it a wonderful bedside read. I checked this out from the library, but eventually bought my own copy because of the sheer quantity of good information on frugal living. Read my full review of The Complete Tightwad Gazette.

3. Check out the other resources your library has to offer.

Check out the DVD selection, for starters – there are usually a lot of current movies and some interesting older ones, too. See if there are any novels by your favorite author. Look at the periodicals room and see what magazines they have available to read. Look at the music selections. Check their calendar for any interesting upcoming presentations. All of these are free opportunities for entertainment.

4. Put the book on your nightstand and read a few pages each night.

If you want to read it all at once, that’s great, but most personal finance books are better off sipped rather than chugged from. That’s part of why I believe blogging about personal finance works – there are a lot of individual, discrete, but interlocking ideas in play. Read an idea, let it digest overnight, then read another one. Over time, the pieces come together for you.

Why do this? I’ve found that time and time again, reading a personal finance book a bit each day helps keep me in a good mindset for making strong financial choices. That’s part of why I review so many of these books on The Simple Dollar – if I keep reading them and writing about them, astute personal finance decisions are always present in my mind.

Tune in tomorrow for another one hour project for getting your financial house straight – the cost benefit of that one might be a little more direct.

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  1. Margaret says:

    Don’t knock your local library. I live in a very small town, but our library is part of a large library system, so I can search all the libraries on line and request books from other libraries which are delivered to my local branch at no charge to me. Very rarely do I come across a book that I can’t get that way. I’ve been checking out many of the books reviewed on this post in that manner, and I will also order books that get reviewed in a magazine that look interesting. The only downside is that you have to wait while the books are shipped, or if it is a popular title, you have to wait your turn.

  2. guinness416 says:

    Like Margaret above I find our library system to be a treasure trove of cheap entertainment. Every book I’ve ever looked for, recent films and TV shows (including 1980s masterpiece Strumpet City, one of the best TV series ever made), documentaries, CDs to fill my iTunes and all delivered to the branch around the corner from me. Outstanding.

    While I think everyone should explore them a little, I haven’t the stomach for the personal finance books any more though. There’s so much more to read!

  3. FIRE Finance says:

    Nice list of books. Another great book which is easy to read and very effective is “Work Less, Live More” by Bob Clyatt. This book has changed our lives.

    We have one life to live and we had rather lead it well so that we enjoy it. A balance between work and life, good management of personal finances and retiring early are very well handled in a simple way.
    FIRE Finance

  4. Cory says:

    Thanks, Trent.

    As a librarian, I’d also point out that once you have a library card, you will often have access to a vast collection of online proprietary databases, including financial reports, WSJ and business databases.

    Also, since many of the popular and interesting items will not be on the shelves, you can use the online hold function to search for and set aside titles for you to pick up when they’re available.

    Finally, those of you with kids will often find toys and games available for checkout, as well as age-appropriate “live” programs, like story hours, puppet shows, music, craft projects, and teen workshops.

  5. Kate says:

    Don’t miss the most valuable resource of all–the reference librarian! She (or he) knows about the hidden treasures of the collection like the online databases that give you free access to magazine subscriptions from home and the investment materials like Valueline. If you can’t find something you want/need, don’t assume it’s not available–ask the reference librarian. If your library really doesn’t have it they may even be willing to buy it for the collection.

  6. Lise says:

    I discovered the joys of the public library recently, and one of the first things I did was take out The Tightwad Gazette (which my library had) and Your Money or Your Life (which I was able to order from another local library). I too have generally been able to find anything I like from our library system, which spans all the libraries in central and Western Massachusetts.
    Going to the library is great because you can walk home with ten books without paying a cent. It makes me fill rich and fulfilled.

  7. Avlor says:

    This is one of my favorite “need to get away from the children trips” I make whenever I can. I have two books (Bogleheads and Overspent American) I’m trying to read before I have to take them back.

    Our library just got a downloadable video service. Looking forward to trying it out on the next bad weather day.

    Being a frugal person, I’ve also been supplying my local branch with grocery bags that can be used to carry books or keep books dry on a rainy day. Why throw them away when they can be used again?

  8. Amanda says:

    I check out finance books almost every week. One problem I’ve had is that there is so much conflicting advice in them and I’m only beginning to be able to discern the wheat from the chaff (not really with the frugality themed books, but with the investing books) And still have far to go, but am also learning from this blog and some other finance blogs. I’m going to look for the Boglehead book this week! I know the two libraries I use don’t have it but will see if another one in our system does and I can request it.

  9. Mary says:

    Most libraries have a subscription to Consumer Reports, which can really help when considering big-ticket purchases. Ask the librarian for help finding articles about specific types of items.

    And, a fabulous link:
    A compiled catalog of over 10,000 library systems worldwide. Its also great if you’re traveling without a computer and need to find a local place with free computer access.

  10. Rudi Pittman says:

    I wanted to point out that if you use firefox and greasemonkey there are several “library” scripts available at “userscripts.org” that will automatically tell you if your local library has a book while you are browsing the amazon.com book section. This is particularly useful when looking at the “bestsellers” or “new releases”.

    In most cases all you have to do is grab the library script and change the url to what your local library uses for an direct ISBN search. Many of the script users will create a new version for a specific library if you ask them also.

  11. Bellen says:

    Another often overlooked reason to use your public library – you pay for it with your taxes!!
    Also, with many communities facing financial problems, libraries are often targeted for reductions in funding. Keeping users numbers high means less chance of closing/reducing hours at libraries.

  12. Mike says:

    I like browsing in a big library, too. But find the time and reasons to use your local one. Public libraries in this country survive on statistics; that is visits and circulation. The way to get the books (or materials) you would like your local to have is to go there and express an interest. Not all library systems are created equal of course, but the small, rural library where I work (you guessed that, right?) will purchase any book a patron requests within reason. Even if we don’t or can’t buy it, we’ll jump through hoops to get you a copy to read. I know, you want it now, but save the trips to the big city for those things you just can’t wait for and utilize the local for the rest. As far as personal finance and thrifty living goes, your local public library is the best bargain around.

  13. beth says:

    Hooray for all the pro-library posts! I used to live in a state that has pretty widely-varying funding for libraries on a county-by-county basis. It’s often possible to purchase an annual membership to a library system to which you would otherwise not have access (say, if you live in county A but want a card in county B). The fee was pretty reasonable, about 40 bucks, if you consider how much it saves.

    Also, ever had a problem with multiple cards and accounts? Check out libraryelf – you can have it track multiple cards and systems, and get emails about when your stuff is due. It rocks.

  14. nadine says:

    I have been using my local library system for the last several years. I check book websites for the newest bestsellers and other books of interest and then request them online. I get to read them for free and if I don’t like the book, (or DVD), I haven’t lost anything. It is a great resource and satisfies my urge to shop!

  15. Sue says:

    I have recently rediscovered my small, childhood library. Fortunately, the library system has come a long way – online searches throughout multi-counties! I can put any book on hold for $0.75, and it usually is waiting for me within the week at my sweet little local library. Plus I’ve discovered tons of new music borrowing CD’s, which I load up on iTunes within minutes. I’ve saved money and valuable space! Love it!

  16. Savvy Frugality says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the recommendations for Total Money Makeover and the Tightwad Gazette. In fact, I purchased all three editions of the Tightwad Gazette on Half.com because I wanted to keep them for reference material. The Tightwad Gazette is like the Bible of Frugality. I would also recommend “America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money” by Steve and Annette Economides, which is very similar to the Tightwad Gazette in its approach. Most of their advice deals with shopping with coupons, buying clothes from thrift stores, etc., but there is a lot of good advice about how to save money.

  17. Julia says:

    thinking of linking to this post in an upcoming examiner article.

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