The Best 5 Books About Budgeting

Adam Estela
6 min readMar 15, 2021

The Books

About These Books

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is the king. His advice is boring but it made me rich. There’s nothing sexy about saving six months of living and paying debt, especially when that takes years to do, but the only alternative is spending a lifetime suffering the consequences of being owned. This book is about building a foundation and walls to fortify your finances and ultimately have control of your life.

His steps start with saving $1k for emergencies and six months worth of expenses. Paying off all debt is the next step — with the exception of a mortgage. After doing enough steps to be financially resilient, he talks about retirement and giving. I promise, as dull as it all sounds, this is the book that will make you rich — permanently rich, not just rich for a few years from one job, or lucky rich from one good unrepeatable bet, but rich now and for the rest of your life regardless of circumstance.

This book doesn’t leave its readers with a bunch of nice dreams that are too far to reach. He outlines his trademark envelope system among other budgeting methods that guarantee anyone following along will be able to accomplish each step. He sells a companion workbook, and has an app that connects people to free financial advisors. Dave Ramsey does not f*ck around — you’re going to be rich whether you like it or not.

He offers little unconventional gems throughout the book like ✨buy a good mattress✨. Sleep affects mental health and decision making so drastically that a good mattress is one of the best investments anyone can make. I did this and realized that his entire book could have been called Buy a F*cking Mattress and it would still be life changing. (If you still don’t believe me, read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker)

You can see how I apply all of the lessons from this book in my budget here.

I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi builds on Dave Ramsey by offering a lot of good practical advice. Advice like ✨buy your f*cking latte✨. What difference does $5 a day make if you can get a huge raise at work, or cut spending in half by moving to a different city. If you love lattes, then drink lattes. And if you don’t love lattes, drink fewer lattes and spend money on the things you love instead. It’s all about intention and priority instead of having things labeled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as if those labels came from the top of Mt. Sinai.

He also introduces the idea of guilt-free money. If a budget is set up correctly, and thoroughly accounts for real life messiness, then the money left over is truly guilt and worry free.

You can see exactly how that works in my budget here. My budget was 99% influenced by this and the previous book.

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin

Vicki Robin is the original F.I.R.E. (financial independence, retire early) author. She challenges the reader with a different perspective of money, or more likely, invites the reader to think about what money actually is for the first time. Money is your time. It’s your life energy. What is enough money? What do you have to show for your work in real life energy and freedom? Are you happier now? Do you have more freedom now? What does having enough look like? At what point would you know you could stop working?

Most people don’t have a clue how to answer any of that. Most people think they need to be a billionaire to live a lifestyle that you can actually live making 6-figures (read the first couple chapters of The 4 Hour Work Week). And most people think they need millions of dollars to retire. The truth is actually closer to a million or less. See how I’m retiring at 33 here. This book wakes people up from working unquestioningly and reveals money to be a tool, nothing more.

Here’s my official paraphrasing of the entire book: optimize money for happiness.

This is one of many examples where she looks at work and life from a different angle: “Work doesn’t need a higher purpose — the purpose of any paid employment is pay.” Don’t let anyone trick you with “passion” and “purpose”. Earn the money you deserve, and use it to gain freedom and happiness, whether that includes passion work or not.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

By now everyone is familiar with the practice of picking things up and asking if said inanimate object sparks joy. Similarly, all fitness ever is the practice of picking something heavy up and setting it down over and over. Knowing the vague concept of a practice is entirely different from reading the fine details, and even more different than doing it. This book can only change your life if you do the practice, and read the details. Muscle doesn’t grow by reading about exercise.

I live in a one bedroom apartment that’s mostly empty space. My closet has extra room and my desk is clean. That was before reading this book. Somehow, owning next to nothing, I was still able to get rid of half of my possessions, and two weeks after tidying up I couldn’t even remember what I had gotten rid of.

But cleaning up is only a side effect of the real magic. This book naturally changed my spending habits. I buy less and somehow end up with more of what I care about. Doing the practice helped me train my senses and built an intuition for optimizing money for happiness. It’s not something I even think about anymore, I don’t freeze before a purchase and question if it gives me joy. After completing the practice, I just know — it’s built in.

Imagine if I told you that it’s possible to spend nearly half of what you spend, but still get everything you’ve ever wanted. That’s what this book does. I think “life-changing magic “ is completely accurate — magic is difficult to describe.

Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins

In case the books above aren’t enough, here’s 600 more pages. If you can get past the fluff and cringiness, there’s a lot of good information here, but this book is nothing more than supplementary to the books above. Tony Robbins leads the reader through introspection, psychology, and purpose building before diving into money and retirement investing.

The main reason to read this is to pick up where Dave Ramsey leaves off and dive a little deeper into retirement investing. The psychology and soul searching is a bonus.

Reading Doesn’t Make You Rich, Getting Rich Makes You Rich

Don’t let all the recommendations be overwhelming. Get The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, study it thoroughly, work along with it, put it into practice, and keep experimenting until things work. That really is the only book you need in order to change your life and get rich. As a fellow book addict, I know how tempting it is to blow through every book on this list. My challenge to you is to not move on to the next book until the current one has already made some meaningful and consistent change in your life and proven itself over time. Let each book build on the change you’ve created in your life, and move you one step closer to a life where money is an afterthought.

Share this and I will love you. 💖

I don’t “make content.” I don’t sell anything. I wrote this from my heart to help others. Sharing is caring.