The 10 best personal finance books of 2021


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Almost everything we know about money has changed over the last decade thanks to technology, policy and an unprecedented pandemic. To help you make sense of the new financial normal, we picked the best personal finance books published in 2021. Believe it or not, we’re one of the only places you can even find a list of the best finance books published this year since most personal finance publications include books anywhere from three to 30 years old on their best books lists.

1. The Future of Money by Eswar S. Prasad

While personal finance has changed a lot over the last 10 years, Eswar S. Prasad — the Tolani Senior Professor of Trade Policy and Professor of Economics at Cornell University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution — thinks even bigger changes are right around the corner. The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution Is Transforming Currencies and Finance is a fascinating look at how the end of physical cash and the rise of digital currencies will create legal and ethical challenges for banks, businesses, governments and individuals.

2. What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits by Michelle Singletary

Were you financially prepared for a worldwide pandemic in March of 2020? Probably not. Michelle Singletary’s new book, What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide, is a supportive and accessible guide to preparing for the unexpected, whether it’s a global event like the Great Recession or an individual crisis like losing your job or landing in debt.

3. The Debt Trap by Josh Mitchell

In our interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Mitchell, he said, “The only way to highlight how catastrophic student debt can be is to show how debt affects people.” To tell those human stories and help people understand student debt is more than a numbers problem, Mitchell wrote The Debt Trap: How Student Loans Became a National Catastrophe. It’s a stunning and compelling look at how the student loan industry has left millions of Americans in debt, including “scandals, scams, predatory actors and government malpractice.”

4. Get Good with Money by Tiffany Aliche

Also known as “The Budgetnista,” Aliche’s new book — Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole — is a step-by-step workbook full of checklists and self-assessments in addition to her award-winning advice. It’s a perfect crash course for getting your finances together, no matter where you are in life.

5. The Price You Pay for College by Ron Lieber

“Not long ago, just a handful of years before a frightening virus caused nearly everyone to question almost everything, we reached a startling threshold in the financial life of American families that went mostly unnoticed,” writes Ron Lieber in the introduction to The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make. “All of a sudden, sending an eighteen-year-old away to a state university for four years cost over $100,000 in many parts of the country.” Lieber’s book is a thorough examination of the cost of higher education and how to deal with it, brimming with data and insights.

6. Activate Your Money by Janine Firpo

Janine Firpo’s new book, Activate Your Money: Invest to Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World, focuses on how women can become more successful and sustainable investors. “Starting with checking and savings accounts and proceeding asset class by asset class,” Firpo includes a ton of valuable advice on investing in a greener future — for yourself and for the planet.

7. Shutdown by Adam Tooze

Why was the world so unprepared for the financial crisis that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic? And did we learn anything from it? Those are just some of the questions Adam Tooze seeks to answer in Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy. It’s a riveting follow-up to his book explaining the Great Recession, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.

8. Stacked by Joe Saul-Sehy and Emily Guy Birken

The co-host of the Stacking Benjamins podcast, Joe Saul-Sehy, teamed up with personal finance author Emily Guy Birken on Stacked: Your Super-Serious Guide to Modern Money Management. It’s a witty, quirky, easy-to-read guide to making and saving more money in today’s economy, including side hustles, financial advisors and new technology.

9. Think Like a Breadwinner by Jennifer Barrett

“For many women raised in a middle-class household — whether we were born in the 1970s or the ’90s — a lot of the ideas and expectations we picked up around money aren’t just disempowering; they’re outdated,” writes Jennifer Barrett, former Chief Education Officer at Acorns and the author of Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth-Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More (and Worry Less). It’s an empowering book full of tips, advice and real-life examples.

10. Trillions by Robin Wigglesworth

You could argue that nothing has changed investing more than index funds over the last decade, but Robin Wigglesworth’s new book — Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever — explains how the concept originated with a “motley crew of nerds” 50 years ago. It’s a page-turning work of narrative nonfiction for fans of The Big Short.


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30 life-changing tips for frugal living


I am all about frugal living. I live frugally. I blog about frugality. Frugal, I am thee.


I wanted to share some of the best frugal living tips I could put together. I got some help with this post. Since frugality takes so many different forms and since we all have such different living experiences, I asked many people for their best frugal living tips.


I was not disappointed! I got some fantastic suggestions. Some I already do. Some I plan on doing. Some are not at all applicable to my or my lifestyle but may help you.


I hope some of these frugal living tips help you be frugal, whether you choose to live frugally or you live a life of frugality out of necessity.


Living a frugal life is not only about not spending too much money, saving for retirement, stocking up an emergency fund or avoiding credit card debt. When you live a life of simplicity, you can spend time and money on what’s important to you. The best frugal living tips are the ones that work the best for you, the ones that will help you start living frugally and make your life easier.


Of course, if I can help you spend less money while you also work to make extra money, then you will be setting yourself up for a lifetime of financial success. Being successful financially can give you options in life, and then you can also help others by giving and using your power (after all, money is power) to help others.


Jorge Villalba/istockphoto


Creating a budget that works and then STICKING TO IT is the best and biggest frugal tip anyone can give you. Creating a budget gives a structure to your spending, which allows you to spend on what you want and not spend on what you don’t want to spend on. That is the definition of living a frugal life.


When you find a great deal, buy in bulk. If meat is on sale, have your butcher cut it up into smaller pieces and then wrap them separately. Label everything clearly! Buying large amounts of meat is usually cheaper than buying individually cut pieces.


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Cooking ahead for holidays and big meals will be a lot less stressful if you can freeze a lot ahead of time, and that will free you up for other things. Time is also money and being crunched for time also makes you spend more.


Reduce your shopping trips so that you spend less time in stores. The more time you spend in a store, the more likely you are to spend money. Make a shopping list of the main things you need so that you have a guide to help you stay on task.


Buy what’s on sale and then plan your meals around that. The number one way to save money at the grocery store? Plan your meals around what you buy, not the other way around.


We don’t eat out. We experiment at home! We don’t go to bakeries; we figure out something fun with the kids from home. You can make so many meals and treats at home with a little planning and creativity.





Keep your freezer stocked with meals, so you don’t need to get take out when you are stressed or overwhelmed. When you cook, then double the recipes so that you have food ready to eat. Soups freeze well and are great for this type of thing. This is particularly important before a major holiday (Pesach, anyone?) or if you are having a baby. Have freezer meals ready to go so you can save money on take-out.



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Keep frozen fruit and vegetables in your freezer so that you can make quick smoothies and vegetable dishes in a pinch. You can take the slightly browning fruit (from those bananas you bought on sale and that no one eats even though your kids told you that bananas are their absolute favorite food) and freeze them for really cheap snacks and smoothies.





We don’t have cleaning help. We clean one floor together as a family every Sunday, and we often turn it into activities.





Train your children from very young ages to do chores and household cleaning, according to their ability. Have a list of things that need to get done nightly, weekly and monthly. Make it a fun family activity you can do every night.





My kids wear really lovely hand-me-downs. You can trade with other families or shop at thrift stores to get nice clothes for you and your kids.


I decide before each season how much of each clothing item my kids need and only buy that amount (if some of it is from hand-me-downs, even better). Sales were causing me to overbuy until I set it up this way.



Andrii Shablovskyi / istockphoto


Choose the right place to live. We live in an area where families are happy with little, making it easy to live below our means and our kids to have fewer expectations. Choosing where you live is a key part of being content with your frugal life.


Turn down the heating and put on a thick sweater. The house doesn’t need to be warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt and bare feet in the middle of winter.





Automate everything: bills, savings, fun money, etc. Use the extra mental bandwidth to implement money-saving systems. When you automate, you don’t have to second tons of time thinking about money: living a frugal lifestyle does not mean that you are always concerned about money.


Library card is like the biggest one; I don’t buy books anymore. If you decide to invest in a Kindle or other e-reader, you can also get tons of free e-books online.


I love using my library’s Libby App to get free books downloaded to my kindle no matter the time of day. Libraries also offer many other services. Some have games you can borrow, discounted passes to museums, and many other free or cheaper things. Get a library card!



Deposit Photos


Everything in the Amazon cart has to sit for 24 hours. Anywhere you shop online, keep your stuff in the cart for 24 hours before purchasing to reduce impulse spending. An extra perk of this trick is that companies will often send you a coupon code for items you left in your cart to entice you to buy.





Avoid big name brands and look for value in products. Buy generic brands as a rule and only buy brand-name when you have a coupon or you are sure of its value.





Get freebies! Books, samples, baby gear. Get all the freebies you can. These freebies will help you spend less money on items you are not totally sure you want to buy yet. Especially with baby gear, this can save you a lot of money!


Shop garage sales for old toys. Especially big outdoor toys or toys made of plastic like a plastic slide, a toy kitchen, riding toys, etc. These are easy to clean and hold up well, even if a few families use them. Garage sale shopping is a great way to get expensive toys for very cheap.





I don’t have a house phone. Since everyone has a cell phone, you don’t need a house phone. If you do need a phone for the house, get a cheap prepaid cellphone for emergencies.


Cut down on meat, chicken and fish in your diet. These are usually more expensive, and you can save money by buying healthy beans and grains instead.



Getty Images | Justin Sullivan


Buy a large freezer. Your freezer will pay for itself in six months or less, I promise you. If you have to, keep it in your patio, garage, anywhere you can get electricity and somewhat protect it from the elements. Mine is outside right now getting rained on, but it has a few garbage bags on it to protect the wires from getting wet.





Be creative with what you find. For example, If you have a chest freezer, take the door off and an upright freezer, remove the door and turn it on its side. Drill some holes in the bottom, and fill it up with dirt. Now you have a raised garden bed that won’t kill your back. Of course, that only works if you find an old freezer, but you can go dumpster diving or drive around and see what is being given away for free.





Do free fun things with your friends and kids. Good thing I have tons of ideas on how to have fun on a budget. I wrote about 45 free things to do with kids indoors and 9 fun things to do with kids at home. If you don’t have kids, you can still do free stuff at home instead of going out (and spending money!). You can have a board game night or even have a romantic date night at home.





Use money-saving apps. Spend some time to sign up for Rakuten (Ebates), Ibotta and use the cashback apps to save money on things you are already buying.


When you go shopping, go to the clearance aisle first. When you shop online, look in the clearance tab first. Never pay full price is a good rule to help you live a frugal life.



ake1150sb / istockphoto


Using a drying rack to hang your clothes will not only save you money on your electric bill but will also make your clothes last longer, and you will need new clothing less often.





Credit cards can be a useful tool, and some credit cards offer excellent cashback opportunities that you can use to get perks, free gift cards, or even use the cash back to pay your bills. (REMINDER: only use a credit card if you can afford to pay it off in full. Do not go into credit card debt just to get some perks).


I know this a long shot but if you don’t care about the newest and the best, try to find someone who either cares about the latest upgrade or try to find someone who constantly gets free upgrades. You can then get or buy their phone or tablet for cheap.


For example, my sister-in-law’s phone broke, and the sound does not work well. She was able to get a new one for free, and I took her old one. For the price of a pair of headphones, I have a perfectly good smartphone. Be creative in how you can do things like this.


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Some of these frugal living tips will be exactly what you need. Some will be so out of touch you will want to throw your device across the room. The point of these tips is not to assume that everyone will gain from them or that everyone will even save money by using them. The point is to help you realize the different ways you can start living your best frugal life.





Living a frugal life means making do for what doesn’t matter. It means not filling your life with things that don’t matter. It means stripping down to the things that matter. It means not devoting time and money to things that don’t matter.


There is an inherent value in doing with less regardless of the amount of money you have. Even if you have a lot, there is value in doing with less, eschewing materialism, reducing your waste as much as possible, and leaving the smallest physical footprint in this world as possible.


There is something good about living a frugal life. Frugal living can be rewarding in many ways. There is something about doing with less, about trying to have less materialism in your life.


Phynart Studio/istockphoto


We also need to understand that saving money is a necessity in the world we live in. When you spend all your money on things that you don’t need or you spend your money because you are in the habit of spending, then you are giving up any financial freedom you may be able to have in your future.


Good money habits included cutting down on spending and making more money. You need to find places in your budget to cut down so you can save more money and be prepared. Be creative in where you save and work to find more places to save money without compromising on your happiness.


There was a time in my life when I was unemployed, and we (my husband and I) had very, very little money. It was a dark, depressing time. I was extremely hesitant to use credit cards or dip into savings because I had no idea if I would ever get another job or be able to pay it back. I had watched too many people sink deep into credit card debt, and I didn’t want that happening to me.


I was on a tiny, strict budget, and I really stuck to it. I sometimes look back and wonder how we managed to make it work, and I honestly don’t know. We had so little. Being frugal-not-by-choice is a terrible situation to be in.


From that moment onward, I decided that I would actively embrace frugal living whether I had to or not. I would make frugal living as a value that I espouse.


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