Review of Your Money: The missing manual

J.D. Roth, who writes the educational and extremely valuable personal finance blog, just published Your Money: The missing manual with O’Reilly books. The book is filled with charts, graphs, checklists, guides, and explanations that explore the basics and advanced methods of personal finance — all with Roth’s simple ease and charm.

The book begins with a quote from George Mallory that aptly reflects the focus of the text:

“We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”

Roth’s financial philosophy is based on the premise that you have to spend less than you earn. Regular readers of this website know that this is also a fundamental rule of being an Unclutterer. If you spend more than you earn, your thoughts will consistently be focused on anxieties (clutter) about money instead of on what matters to you most. Roth details how to get out of debt, spend less than you earn, and save money for the future (saving also means that you alleviate worries about your financial future).

One of the highlights for me is on page 95 of Your Money: The missing manual. Here, Roth presents a flowchart created by April Dykman that she “created to help her stay on track while shopping.” I think all Unclutterers should have this chart tattooed on their forearms (I jest. Please don’t get a tattoo of this.):

I’m also fond of the section titled “The Tyranny of Stuff,” which is perfectly suited for Unclutterers. In short, Roth’s premise in this section is if you “own less stuff” you will spend less on new acquisitions as well as maintaining the stuff you choose to own — less clutter, less storage space, less to clean, and less wasted money on unnecessary purchases.

In addition to the book, if you aren’t familiar with Roth’s blog, I also recommend you check it out. Money Magazine named it one of the top two financial advice sites on the internet. Roth knows very well how to get rid of cluttered finances. I give his new book two thumbs up.

13 Comments for “Review of Your Money: The missing manual”

  1. posted by mbeef on

    Also, I think that graph is the most essential thing for anyone. I know many, MANY, people that do not follow that simple rules and allways finishes regretting himself spending money on stuff they don’t really need.

  2. posted by Sandman on

    That flow chart looks flawed.

    Is the option high quality? No -> Is quality important? Yes -> Consider it?

    I would think if it was low quality and quality was important you shouldn’t buy it.

  3. posted by Beth on


    I will pay for it to be tattooed on some of my clients extremities!

    One flaw of the flow chart, Question #1 – “CAN I AFFORD IT”.

    Should read

    “CAN I PAY FOR THIS IMMEDIATELY?” Some people take “affording something” as “I have enough on my credit limit on my credit card so I can afford it” whereas it should be “I can put it on my credit card and then pay it off when the bill comes due.”

  4. posted by UncleSam on

    As Sandman said, I also think the «yes» and «no» answers in «Is the option high-quality» look misplaced. At least, the other way would be logical.

    All the chart itself is quite common — every reasonable person would be thinking that way, so I did not find anything outstanding in it, just the fact that the decision making process is subdivided into steps. However, sometimes there could be extra steps of conditions, e.g. «Would my wife give her approval?» (and the resulting «Do I care?»), of course, depending on every one of us.

    Though I think it should all stop at two questions: «Do I need it?» and «Am I really sure I need it?» — these two usually remove the necessity to consider furthermore all unnecessary purchases

  5. posted by Joke on

    @Sandman & Uncle Sam

    I think the problem is the interpretation of which option we are talking about! “the option” refers to “the less expensive option”. And then if you are coming from “is quality important” you should read “consider the purchase” as “consider the purchase of the more expensive option”
    That makes everything more logical 🙂

  6. posted by mbeef on

    @Joke That’s it, it’s talking about the same product all the time, so “Consider the purchuase” is for the main product, not the alternatives (aka ‘the option’).

  7. posted by J.D. on

    Thanks for the review, Erin.

    And thanks, everyone, for pointing out the ambiguity of that chart. I’ll see if I can get some better phraseology for future printings!

    For more info on the origin of the flowchart, check out April’s original post about it at Get Rich Slowly.

  8. posted by Aran on

    “You have to spend less than you earn.”

    If I knew how to dress that bit of COMMON SENSE up and sell it for $15 at Amayon, well, that’d be a business idea now, wouldn’t it?

  9. posted by Sean on

    I like the chart but would change the last bubble to “Make the purchase”. After all, if you need it, and you can afford it, and there is no option of comparable quality at a lesser price, what’s left to consider?

  10. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Aran — If it were common sense, the vast majority of Americans wouldn’t own credit cards. I know that you were just being funny, but the truth is that most people can’t imagine (and don’t want to imagine) living within their means.

  11. posted by UncleSam on

    Joke, thank you so much. Considering the chart once more, I got the sense. The problem is, I really read it independently, besides, English is not my native tongue, so I always have a good excuse for a mistake made. 😉

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