Best Financial Literacy Books to Help You Get Out of Debt

Personal Finance books

Personal finance self-help books can be a great resource while you’re working to pay off debt. However, as with any other form of self-improvement, not every book is one-size-fits-all. The best results come from finding personal finance books that resonate with you and your situation.

You see, not every personal finance book is written like a textbook nor are they all written by financial gurus. In fact, many personal finance books are written by someone who encountered experiences similar to yours. And wouldn’t you rather read about how someone became debt-free themselves instead of a how-to guide written by someone who never experienced debt in their life?

Given that knowledge is power, we’ve chosen a handful of personal finance books that we found helpful when working to eliminate debt. Most of these books can be found at public libraries, or at used book stores. Some of these titles are more widely available than others, but each one has valuable information for people seeking to pay down debt and address the mindsets that initially led them to financial trouble.

Best Financial Literacy Books to Help You Get Out of Debt

  • Debt is Slavery: And 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money

By Michael Mihalik

In Debt is Slavery, Mihalik shares he has two main goals for the reader: to change the way you think about money and to give you concrete methods to control your finances.

Mihalik opens the book by presenting his thesis: that debt is a form of slavery. Aware his thesis may instantly turn many some readers, Mihalik acknowledges it’s an extreme statement to make; However, he argues that by dragging ourselves out of bed, to go work at a job we don’t like, just so we can afford to live, is itself a form of slavery.

Though the subject matter is heavy, Mihalik’s conversational tone leaves the reader entranced in fully learning the 10 steps Mihalik took to regain control of his finances in order to pay off his debts, which included:

  • $10,000 in credit card debt
  • $13,000 on a car loan
  • $2,500 in student loans
  • $535 on a medical bill
  • $1,500 on a loan for an electronic keyboard.

“I want to help you eliminate debt and live a happy, prosperous financial life – and get you started as soon as possible,” Mihalik writes in the introduction. “I want you to have a healthy relationship with money and gain control of your finances and your life.”

“I want you to benefit from my experience, so you can avoid the pain I experienced as I dealt with my paralyzing debt,” he continued. “But most of all, I want you to pass these lessons on to your children, so they won’t ever have to say, ‘I wish my parents had taught me that.’”

Who it’s for:

People who are looking to change their money mindset.

What we like about it:

The author is an everyday American who, like many others, got caught up in having “stuff” and found himself drowning in debt. This is the only book he’s ever written; he has no courses to sell you. Mihalik doesn’t even have a website. As a result, the author’s passion for helping others by sharing what he’s learned others comes across in this short book. 

Key takeaway:

Figuring out how many hours you have to work to afford each item can be a huge motivation to reduce your spending and get serious about paying off your debt.

  • Your Money: The Missing Manual

By J.D. Roth

J.D. Roth is another accidental personal-finance expert who started an award-winning blog, Get Rich Slowly, after accruing an uncomfortable amount of debt. Like his blog, Roth’s book is jam-packed with relevant advice on not only how to get out of debt, but how to make sensible financial decisions regarding spending, saving, and investing, moving forward.

In that regard, Your Money: The Missing Manual is more of a reference guide on how to manage your money than a book. It’s designed to help the reader decipher what their financial goals are, and highlights the various strategies that can be deployed to achieve those money goals.

Who it’s for:

If you are new to personal finance or want to reset your financial life, this is a great book to start with because it asks you to really think about your financial situation and come up with financial goals. Roth not only explains why financial goals are crucial; he makes sure to cover the basics of personal finance: from budgeting to debt, to saving for retirement, to buying vs. renting.

What we like about it:

Roth’s honesty about his own money mistakes makes this book perfect for those who are intimidated by a lack of financial knowledge. To help you gain confidence in your financial literacy, Roth includes references to many resources throughout the book; however, many of those links are to websites, which makes it a little more difficult when reading the paperback version of the book compared to the e-book version.

Key takeaway:

There are some areas of personal finance where there’s a clear right and wrong way to handle your money; but in several other areas, you can customize your goals to meet your lifestyle needs and wants. The key is to figure out what works for you.

  • Dear Debt

By Melanie Lockert

In Dear Debt, readers are treated to a humorous personal narrative, as award-winning personal finance blogger Melanie Lockert chronicles her personal experience paying off $81,000 of student loan debt. By comparing her debt load to a bad relationship. Lockert’s writing style feels more similar to watching an episode of Sex and the City than it does reading about finance.

Lockert’s relationship analogies are comical, but also help the reader understand how, like a bad relationship, we can be emotionally connected to our debt and credit card usage. Check out this excerpt to see what we mean:

“Dear Debt, I have welcomed you into my home for the last fourteen years. I have had many members of your family come to visit and in some cases even stay a long time. It all started with your friendly brother, Student Loans. He told me he would only be around for a couple of years…Fourteen years later he is still staying at my house…That is just the beginning; I met your sister, Credit Cards, shortly after letting student loans enter my home. I dated your sister and to me, she is one of the worst people I have ever met… You must have a lot of sisters because this is not the first or the last one I have ever met.”

Even if you don’t have student loans, you’ll likely benefit from the money-saving tips Lockert peppers throughout the book on topics like how to avoid your spending triggers, replacing expensive habits with cheaper alternatives, starting a side hustle, negotiating a higher salary, and developing a financial plan once you’re debt-free.

Who it’s for:

Anyone struggling with finances due to emotional or mental-emotional repercussions of debt and isn’t sure where to start. Fans of Lockert’s award-winning blog of the same name, Dear Debt, will also enjoy this piece.

What we like about it:

Lockert’s writing is entertaining and approachable, yet realistically describes the crushing emotional weight of debt. The book also addresses side hustles in an exciting way, emphasizing the fact that they are great opportunities to expand our lives while we attack debt.

Key takeaway:

The book is an excellent illustration of how we have more power and control over our financial situation than we think we do, and just how easy it is to forget that we are not our debt.

  • Total Money Makeover

By Dave Ramsey

Unlike the other personal finance books on our list so far, Dave Ramsey is arguably one of, if not, the most well-known personal finance gurus. Though not everyone in the world of finance agrees with Ramsay’s strict methods of getting out of and staying out of debt, his financial strategies have helped millions of people around the globe not just become debt-free, they stay debt-free.

Ramsey’s writing style is a little more preacher than a teacher. While Total Money Makeoverdoes include personal testimonials from Ramsey’s own life, as well as others who have used his financial system, Ramsey’s tough love approach can be a little overwhelming at times for some people.

Who it’s for:

If you like to have a clear direction when it comes to finances or have no idea how to begin paying off your debt, Ramsey clearly lays out every step you need to take in order to become debt free as well as set yourself up for a successful financial future.

What we like about it:

Ramsey’s methods are clear and he is upfront about his rationale behind everything he teaches. Ramsey takes readers through every step of the process, from the often-difficult stages of denial and acceptance, all the way to what he describes as financial peace. In other words, he illustrates how becoming debt-free is partly paying off debt, part relearning how to approach money, wants and needs.

Key takeaway:

One of Ramsey’s most controversial methods, the “debt snowball,” may not be right for everyone, but can provide the kind of psychological and emotional boost to keep progressing on debt repayment. This method states that you should pay off the credit cards with the smallest balances first, then apply that payment to your next balance, regardless of interest rates. The idea is by paying off one debt, you’ll stay motivated to become debt-free.

  • The Power of Habit

By Charles Duhigg

While technically not a personal finance book, The Power of Habit takes a scientific look at human habits. Not just why habits exist, to begin with, but how they are created, whether they can be changed, and how to change them. Experts often joke that personal finance is 20 percent knowledge, 80 percent behavior.

If you know what behaviors you need to change in order to pay off your debt and/or save for the future, this book could prove to be a resourceful tool in helping you break those habit barriers and adopt new, healthier financial habits.

Who it’s for:

Persons looking to change their money habits or who have struggled to become debt free in the past because of a bad money habit or two may find this book to be a good starting point in your debt-free journey.

What we like about it:

The book provides clear guidance on how to change our habits of thought and action without prescribing a one-size-fits-all solution.

Key takeaway:

Discovering our habit loops and triggers can be very revealing about why we spend and why we find that paying off our debt to be troubling.

What book(s) helped you create healthier financial habits? Share with us in the comments below!

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *