Hey everyone! Today I have an awesome post for you by Erin from Reaching For FI (Financial Independence). I've noticed that M$M readers are always looking for financial book recommendations and ways to get ahead with their money. Erin has an awesome strategy: go to the library. She read 48 books in 2017 and is sharing her favorites. Enjoy! ~M$M
I’m a huge nerd and a voracious reader. I always have been, always will be. In elementary school I was that kid who was asked repeatedly by exasperated teachers if I was sure I didn’t want to go play during recess instead of reading. I got in trouble in preschool for situating my mat in the corner by the bookshelf and looking at the books instead of sleeping during our daily two-hour naptime.
I could never fall asleep anyway, so who needed a nap when they could be reading instead? (Don't worry, the irony isn't lost on me that I'm now an adult who would love a two-hour nap in the middle of the day.)
Not only am I an irredeemable bookworm, but I am also a frequent patron of the local library. Libraries are amazing places in general, but my local library is playing an integral role in helping me get to financial independence. Here's how:
Money the library saved me in 2017
In 2017 I did something new and kept track of all the books I finished. It was awesome to go back at the end of the year and have a list of everything. And, because I’m actively trying to save money, I relied heavily on the library instead of buying books. All of the new-to-me books I read were checked out from the library.
Of course I still bought books! I’ve pre-ordered three or four books from bloggers whose writing I love and who I want to support. But the rest of the books I’ve bought (and there have not been many), I’ve first borrowed from the library, decided if it was something I actually wanted on my shelf, and then bought used.
Just to illustrate to you my level of commitment to not buying books on a whim this year: I went to Portland a few months ago to visit a friend and we stopped by Powell’s Books, as you do. I managed to spend 40 minutes and there and not walk out with a single book!
I read 48 books in 2017, and a quick tally of prices on Amazon gave me a total of $569.09 to buy all 48 of those books. I certainly didn't have that amount in my budget to spend on books, so thank you, library!
Personal finance learning
In addition to the amount I saved by not buying books, the library has helped me change my finances for the better. I’ve read many personal finance books in the past year and a half and the value of that money knowledge is unquantifiable.
Money books I read in 2017:
- You Only Live Once, Jason Vitug
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Ramit Sethi
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyzyn
- Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton
- The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated, Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack
- You Are a Badass at Making Money, Jen Sincero
- Broke Millennial, Erin Lowry
Other favorites—which I got from the library in 2016 as I was starting to wade into the world of personal finance—include:
- The Simple Path to Wealth, JL Collins
- Your Money or Your Life, Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
- The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
My finances look radically different today than they did a year ago when I decided to go down the FIRE path, and it’s thanks to information I’ve gotten from blogs, but also these books. The amount of money I've saved by doing things I've learned from these books far, far outweighs the amount of money I spent supporting the library through my taxes.
Non-money changes I'm making in my life and related reading
Financial independence isn’t solely about money. I’ve found myself making a lot of lifestyle changes in the past year as well: there are the usual suspects like cutting down on the amount of happy hours I go to, tracking my spending, and getting a part-time job to increase my income.
There are also lifestyle changes and mental shifts: thinking about purchases and whether or not I really want to buy something, rather than buying it on impulse; challenging my spending habits; learning to be content with what I already have. I’ve been slowly decluttering for a few months now and letting go of things that I never used (and frankly don’t have space for in my apartment anyway). Addressing my mental health has been an integral part of changing my life over the past year.
I read a number of lifestyle/self-help books in 2017, courtesy of the library:
- The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
- Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
- Rising Strong, Brené Brown
- Creative Confidence, Tom Kelley and David Kelley
- 10% Happier, Dan Harris (if I had to choose, I’d probably say this would be my favorite new read of 2017)
- Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
- The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, John Izzo
- Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
- The Crossroads of Should and Must, Elle Luna
- The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
- The More of Less, Joshua Becker
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson
- Essentialism, Greg McKeown
- Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
- Help, Thanks, Wow, Anne Lamott
Libraries aren’t just a place for free books: a quick perusal of the DC library’s calendar reveals a wide range of opportunities and events.
One of the most valuable services libraries provide are free resources for skills-learning. There are computer skills classes for everything ranging from computer basics, how to navigate the Mac or Windows ecosystems, how to use the internet, to various levels of classes for Microsoft Office programs, and Adobe Creative Suites how-tos.
There are classes that teach you how to use a sewing machine or how to crochet. The library offers one-on-one prep classes for people preparing to get their US citizenship. There are services and tutoring classes for adults who need their GED, or who have their GED and need a job. You can also learn various languages through classes at the library.
There are social and developmental classes for babies and toddlers, including child/parent storytime sessions for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. There are arts and crafts classes, music and movement classes, and playgroups.
The library offers social opportunities for everyone: book and film clubs, art therapy/coloring classes, midday movies for seniors, game nights for teens, opportunities for teens who need service hours, movie screenings, yoga classes, and knitting circles.
The next time you think “it would be great if I could take a class to learn a new language” or “I'd love to participate in a club that read books and then watched the movie versions of those books,” check out the schedule at your library to see if they offer those opportunities!
How the library helped me get a job
There was a period a few years ago just after I graduated college where I desperately needed to use the library for more than borrowing books or free yoga classes. The people who had lived in the apartment before us had been mooching off a neighbor’s unprotected network all year and not gotten internet service of their own.
My roommate and I decided we’d continue that as a stopgap while we figured out the internet options in our area, but not long after we moved in, the neighbors got smart and the network disappeared. Long story (it involved Comcast for about two weeks, so very long story) short, we didn’t have internet in the apartment for about a month.
Unfortunately the period of no internet in my apartment coincided with the end of a senior year internship-turned-summer-job. I was unemployed. I’d been applying to jobs for weeks and heard nothing back and I really needed a job. In order to get one, I needed to send in more applications, and in order to do that, I needed internet access. Enter the library.
I’d walk the few blocks to the library, grab a seat and pull out my laptop, and spend a few hours looking for jobs I wanted to apply for. Then I’d go back home to write the cover letters and back to the library the next day to send the applications in and look for more jobs.
Sure, I could’ve gone to Starbucks, but I would’ve had to buy something in order to justify sitting at a table for hours. I’d graduated from college a few months before, was living on my own for the first time ever, and was quickly depleting the little savings I had paying for rent and groceries in an expensive city. I needed a job, and I couldn’t afford to pay for coffee while I sent out applications.
Libraries are one of the few places left where people can sit and exist without having to spend money in order to do so. I will forever be grateful to my local library for being the place where an unemployed, broke recent college grad could go to apply for jobs while she had no internet at home.
In conclusion, I really love the library
I could sing the praises of the library forever, so I’ll stop now, especially because I’ve got some books to go read before they’re due back! But if anyone doesn’t use their library, I’d encourage them to rethink that choice. Libraries are amazing resources, especially for anyone pursuing financial independence.