My favourite 4 books to get better with money have nothing to do with personal finance

Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

For me, spending was an addiction that a hangover-inspired half-oath on January 1 or some colour-coded budget spreadsheet couldn’t supersede. I had to dig deeper.

Altering my own stubborn tendencies required thinking beyond budgets.

Here, I’ll share my favourite non-finance books for getting good with money. Yes, learning about money has plenty to do with compound returns and debt snowballs. That piece can’t be avoided. But for many of us, the struggle to master our finances is also a mental and emotional journey.

The High Price of Materialism,’ by Dr. Tim Kasser

Dr. Tim Kasser spent decades studying materialism and the results are conclusive: an attachment to possessions (and to their pursuit) will not only fail to make us happy but can actually make us unhappy. Beyond a certain level of comfort and security, seeking affluence can impose high emotional and physical tolls – including insecurity, depression, and a reduced sex drive – even when we get what we want! (Why? Because it’s never enough).

I can relate to avoiding this book because it can feel like lecturing – like,let me buy my cheetah-print jumpsuit in peace! – but to cold-shoulder Kasser’s scientifically supported findings is to risk a lifetime of malaise. Are you working just to buy things (and then working more to buy more things)? Or are you earning to save and invest in the freedom to do what makes you happiest? Anyone interested in the journey towards contentedness should read this book.

Favourite quote: “Individuals who are strongly oriented towards materialistic values place little emphasis on valuing connectedness to others and the community; it is difficult to impress others and simultaneously be warmly connected to them.”

Bossypants,’ By Tina Fey

In “Bossypants,” Tina Fey confronts how ridiculous (and expensive!) womanhood can be – and does so without triggering defensiveness in women and feminist alarms in men. Her summary of the body parts women feel obligated to own, buy, or reverse-engineer is a brilliant example of this: Caucasian blue eyes, hairless Asian skin, Michelle Obama’s arms, and so on.

Between advertising, celebrity worship, and cultural obsession with beauty, we’ve all felt our self-worth under attack at one time or another – though women are doled a majority of the assailing. Fey helps us cope through sincere and self-deprecating recollections of her own dweeby childhood and impressive career trajectory. She reminds us that we don’t feel inadequate because we are, but because society sometimes makes us feel this way.

Favourite quote: [On being 40 years old] “Overnight you may grow one long straight white pubic hair. Not that this happened to me, of course, because every six months I get a very expensive Japanese treatment that turns my pubic hair clear like rice noodles.”

The Story of Stuff,’ by Annie Leonard

If any book can put a moratorium on your spending, it’s this one. “The Story of Stuff” is an examination of the costs – environmental and social – built into the lifecycles of our possessions. Many will choose ignorance is bliss when it comes to considering the ramifications of consumerism, but we have to be better than that. Leonard’s book should be required learning.

It was revelatory to be saddled up with the uncomfortable reality that even my most innocuous purchases – a t-shirt, cheap jewellery, an aluminium can filled with bubbly grapefruit-flavored water – ransack the environment at every stage. From the extraction of resources to production to waste, we are gutting Mother Earth for the sake of vanity, convenience, and – strangely – civic duty. (One example: George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attack? Buy more stuff.)

I know. Can we do anything these days!!? Not to worry, Leonard is not out to make you feel guilty – her solution isn’t even for you to stop shopping (although that will help). Leonard wants to shift how we think about stuff, and does – Leonard will change you for the better. You will think twice about buying and reconsider what you already own, with revived appreciation.

Favourite quote: “We need to object when we are identified as a ‘nation of consumers’; individually and collectively, we are so much more than consumers, and those other parts of ourselves have been relegated to subordinate levels for too long.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,’ by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo’s book on the art of decluttering yields two new ways to look at your personal finances. The first is straightforward – get rid of all the crap in your life and appreciate what is left behind. The sheer volume of possessions we own renders it impossible to enjoy the things we do indeed cherish – so we buy more to fill the void. And duh, this is bad for our bank balances.

Second, Kondo instills that “a drastic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective,” and this is a practice we can apply to our finances. You can’t master your finances without having organised them first.

Instead of examining physical items, review each line item on your balance sheet and understand where it fits in your overall financial picture. Then, consolidate like hell. Kondo would kick your butt on this – if you don’t know what or where it is, you won’t be able to fix it.

Favourite quote: “In Japan, people believe that things like cleaning your room and keeping your bathroom spick-and-span bring good luck, but if your house is cluttered, the effect of polishing the toilet bowl is going to be limited.”

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