I am a voracious reader—it has always been that way. From devouring an entire series of books in elementary school to spending my junior high spring break on the beach reading the Diary of Anne Frank & Flowers for Algernon, books have always been a part of my life. Our oldest daughter is quite a book worm herself, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It will serve her well through the years. There is just so much you can learn from books!
It’s time to start making my summer reading list, so I was inspired again to share this one with you! This list includes the 10 books that have made the biggest impact on our budget. What’s on your reading list this summer?
Personal Finance Books for Your Summer Reading Lists
If you read my review last week, you know why this is at the top of the list! It is by far the most enjoyable non-fiction book I’ve ever read. While it is a non-fiction, personal finance book, it’s set up as a story, with characters who meet in an effort to achieve the financial peace their parents lack. J. Steve Miller teaches valuable lessons on earning, saving, investing and being charitable through the stories & lives of the Counter Culture Club—4 high school students who learn from their financially savvy teacher, Mrs. Kramer. I wish I had started my life with the lessons in this book. I can only hope to start my own children out with the strong background these characters received.
The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
If you’ve spent anytime in the world of personal finance blogs, you know we’re big fans of Dave Ramsey! His no nonsense approach to debt management has helped countless families dig their way out from under a mountain of creditors. His zero budget envelope system will change the way you think about your paycheck. The hubby & I each read this book, and, while we’ve had some setbacks along the way, I’d like to think we’re making good progress. We’ve only recently taken his full advice and switched to a cash budget system—it’s already making a difference in our spending habits.
The Courage to be Rich: Creating a Life of Material and Spiritual Abundance
This was the first personal finance book we ever read. I have to admit it’s been awhile, but I do know it was Suze Orman who really got the hubby & I talking about money. In our case, she is spot on with her belief that fear, shame & anger keep people from properly managing their finances. Bringing it out in the open not only allowed us to manage finances & create a budget together, but it gave me the courage to talk openly about finances & money saving online, making this website possible at all!
Frugal Living Books
On the surface, this is a book about clutter & organization. However, Peter Walsh talks a lot about what clutter is costing you. How much are you paying for each cluttered square foot in your house? Are you spending extra money on a storage unit? Is your expensive car in the driveway because your garage is full of junk? While I don’t have the clutter & organization completely under control just yet, it has forced me to carefully consider every purchase, preventing new clutter & unnecessary expenses.
Shop, Save and Share
This is the book that started it all! While, I was pretty frugal & piddled with coupons for years, Ellie Kay kicked off my extreme frugality and gave me my start in the art of couponing. Her commitment to sharing from her abundance really spoke to me and has always been a part of this site. From the charity section on each grocery list to Giving Inexpensively, I’ll always honor the lessons she taught me by helping others to share from their excess as well. Sadly, the book is out of print but I am thrilled to discover an entire Ellie Kay arsenal—I clearly have more reading to do!
Vinegar, Duct Tape, Milk Jugs & More
You probably already know about my love of vinegar. And, it should come as no surprise that the hubby is a duct tape fan. After all, he is a guy. A guy who carries around a duct tape wallet. Seriously. This book on 1,001 Ingenious Ways to Use Common Household Items to Repair, Restore, Revive, or Replace Just about Everything is perfect for us! It includes tips & tricks for reusing ordinary items around the house. From cat litter to toothpaste to hair spray, this book has great ideas to double the use of things you’ve probably already purchased!
When we first moved into our home, I knew I wanted a vegetable garden—but my thumb is pretty much the opposite of green. (What is that? Red? It’s been awhile since art class.) Our first summer we got a few tomatoes & green beans, but at least we had a good plot established (not by me—I bartered with our buddy who’s a master gardener). A few years ago, I found this book and my garden & budget have thanked me ever since. Mel Bartholomew’s square foot garden concept grows a lot of veggies in just a little space! The soil mix & plans he recommends have resulted in richer dirt each year. This is the first year we have added nothing to our garden bed—it was full of dark, rich, organic soil already. The worms are loving it, and I can’t wait to see the vegetables we produce this summer!
Lessons on Food (But Not Really Cookbooks)
Once we start harvesting the veggies from our backyard, we can’t use them up fast enough! That’s where canning & freezing comes in. And, of course, Ball is the expert on home preservation. This book taught me everything I know about canning. Okay, so that isn’t much but I like having the reference when it’s time to experiment with preserving something new. Last year, my mom & I froze 16 dozen ears of corn. That was definitely a new experience, and the corn lasted all the way to the next season (or, would have, if my daughter hadn’t left our garage freezer open for 2 days last month).
Long before Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I read this book by Ann Cooper & Lisa Holmes. Similarly based on the tragic state of our school lunch, the book offers practical, how-to advice for packing a suitable alternative. While I’ve ready (and considered reading) numerous books on nutrition that are filled with depressing stats & frighten me away from the grocery store altogether, this one skips the scare tactics in favor of real, solid help. It reads like a how-to manual, with specific ideas & recipes children love to find in their lunchbox.
Okay, so this one’s a cookbook! But, not really. Instead of making muffins, cake and bread, the book includes recipes for making muffin mix, cake mix and bread mix. The idea is you can store a giant tub of homemade muffin mix in the pantry, then measure & add wet ingredients as needed. The concept is pretty similar to once-a-month cooking. It is especially helpful for those who require or desire a specialized diet, whether that is sugar free, gluten free or organic. I can easily modify the recipes for use with gluten free flour, providing easy access to mixes that would otherwise be too expensive to store.
Read any good books lately? I’m always looking for recommendations!
A version of this post originally appeared on May 24, 2010.