Book Thoughts: The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm’s personal finance blog The Simple Dollar was the first one I ever read and have continued to read regularly for a few years. The transparency of his story and his willingness to help his community by answering their mail directly kept me coming back. With the release of his first book, The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams, I was sure to pick it up. Here are my biggest takeaways from reading it. What really stuck with me about Trent’s writing was that I agreed with him about how money doesn’t provide happiness, but that it is a tool for creating it.

“In short, happiness doesn’t revolve around financial success. Instead, it revolves around simple elements that we can all foster in our lives; building positive relationships with other people, cultivating low-pressure situations and minimizing high-pressure one, and improving our personal energy level all contribute heavily to a personal sense of happiness.”

By creating a life that cultivates happiness and simplicity you can live a much more fulfilling life. One major way you can make this happen is building a strong financial foundation. As you get your finances under control, your debt paid off and savings built you can create the exact life you want.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” - Lao Tzu

This quote describes Trent’s belief on how to accomplish things in life. By taking that first step you are already on your way towards a new destination. That first step might be cutting up your credit card or placing a chart on the wall to chart your net worth. It may be updating your resume or writing your first blog post. Wherever it is that you see yourself in five, ten or even fifty years, take that first step now.

Instead of focusing on words, focus on actions. Instead of pledging to lose weight, forget the pledge and concentrate on eating smaller portions at meal time. Instead of promising to alter our spending habits, focus your energy on avoiding situations where you’re tempted to spend.”

You can talk all you want about your goals, how you are going to get out of debt or break that bad habit, but you should focus your attention on the action you are going to take.

Just like on Trent’s blog (The Simple Dollar), the book is filled with a lot of great personal finance advice. The biggest issue I have with it is that it is laid out in a strange manner. Instead of being categorized by topic the tips and principles are scattered throughout the book. It feels a bit more like reading a series of posts on a blog than a step by step comprehensive book. If this book was read in shorter sittings it may not be as noticeable.

The book is filled with a lot of personal “journal” type entries from the author’s own story. These were helpful to make the tips more human, but they weren’t organized chronologically. It would have made more sense to me to have them laid out in order so that as you progress through the book then his story would be advancing as well.

Should You Read this Book?

While I wouldn’t recommend The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams to be the first personal finance book to hand someone starting off with learning about the topic, it is a good read filled with a lot of frugality tips. His personal story throughout helps add additional connection to the reader.