28 Life-Changing Books: My 2019 Reading List + Freebies

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I’ve eaten; even so, they have made me.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books are bae! Didn’t you know?!

When I was kid, one of my aunts always gave me and my siblings books for gifts. We’d strain smiles and sing, “Thank you!” but we really wanted new Sega games, dolls or straight up cash. You couldn’t pay me to read then.

My fondness for a good page-turner came after leaving college. That’s when I realized no one was gonna save me from my debt or give me the life that I wanted BUT ME! The local library became my pusha and books, my drug of choice.

This year, I decided to read all of the 28 life-changing books curated by @FutureNow, formerly @FutureSuccessors, of Instagram. I had already read 8 by coincidence. So 2019 is marked for reading the remaining 20 books on the list.

I’ll also apply, at least, one thing that I learned from each book. Knowledge alone isn’t power. Applied knowledge is power.

Wise Woman Wallet Book List and Reading Log Blog Graphic

Do you want to join me? You don’t have to read all 28 books this year, but start by reading 12 (an average of 1 per month). Feel free to download the book list and reading, and start checking off your books ASAP.

Get the full list of 28 life-changing books and learn cheap ways to read them.

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My 2019 Goals and End-of-2018 Reflection

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s February, but I live in China and we’re celebrating the Lunar New Year. I’m right on schedule! (Also, it’s the year of the pig, as in piggy bank. Cha-ching! 🤑)

Check out what I accomplished in 2018 and find out what’s coming up in 2019. Check out the Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist for guidance on your goals.

What are my 2019 goals?

My new goals include:

  • Complete Operation: Sock Away $10K by April 30. Having a huge Sunny Day Fund, or emergency fund, will give me peace of mind.
  • Visit 2-4 new places in China (e.g. Yangshuo, Xian, etc.). It would be a shame to live here so long and not explore its beauty.
  • Pay off $19K in ’19. This goal will help me pay off my penultimate grad school loan and break even on net worth. How amazing!
  • Read everything on the Life-Changing Books List and apply 1 thing from each book (20 books in 2019). Will you join the reading challenge?
  • Complete the Happiness Planner (100 days). This goal will help record my emotions and reflect on the highs and lows of each week.
  • Attend 1 social event each month. I gotta do something besides each brunch with friends. This year, I plan to branch out and meet more people.

Wise Woman Wallet 2019 Goals and End-of-2018 Reflections Blog Graphic

How did I do in 2018?

The 2018 goals included:

  • Reduce debt balance by $18,000.
  • Become a certified teacher in Florida through an online program.
  • Pay cash only for all certification costs.
  • Pay off Barclay balance transfer card by June 30.
  • Climb the Great Wall of China.
  • Create passive income stream(s).

Through dedication and the universe working in my favor, I checked off 5 out of 6 goals!
Learn which goals I checked off and ask yourself questions to reflect on your wins and opportunities to improve.

Fast Financial Fixes You Can Check Off in 30 Minutes or Less

We’re all on a time crunch, right? Especially around the holidays. Folks want to improve their finances, but they think they must spend ages doing it. The trick is to do what you can with what you have.

If you only have 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes, then guess what! You have enough time to tweak how you manage money for the better. Take a look at some quick tasks you can check off your list today.

(Psst! I’ll add to this list over time, so be sure to check back from time to time.)

5-Minute Money Moves

  1. Remove your debit or credit card information from your favorite retailers’ sites. Yep! Dump Easy Pay. Why? Having your payment information already on the checkout page makes it too easy to part with your money. You’ll think harder about purchases when you have to type in that 12-digit card number, security code and billing address each time.
  2. Straighten out your wallet. File or discard receipts, collect loose change and organize your dollar bills. Marie Forleo, life coach and author, used to wash and iron her bills. Now she just makes sure they lie flat and face the same direction by denomination ($5 with $5, and so on). “You might think this is silly,” she says in a YouTube video, “but keeping my money tight and right is a sign of reverence and respect—respect for myself, for the money that comes into my life and for the money that flows out of my life. I feel like I’m being a good steward of my money for the time that it is with me.”
  3. Download the Strides or HabitShare app and set up 1 or 2 habits or goals you want to achieve. Don’t spend your WHOLE 5 minutes in the app store trying to decide on which habit tracker to get right now. DON’T DO IT! You can get another app later. Right now, just act on creating a habit goal in the app ASAP, set a start date and an end date, if applicable (i.e. save $3,000 by mid-July). Then you’ll start getting alerts to keep you on task. What get’s measured, grows or fortifies. Work those habit muscles!

  4. Write down a financial or life goal and put it in your wallet. If you see your goal, you might be prompted to put back that shirt, bottle of wine or the 20 $1 Target items you don’t need. Love-hate you, Target! 😉

  5. List free or low-cost activities you love doing or want to try. This list with definitely come in handy during a No-Spend Challenge. When you’re bored, you can look at this list, pick an activity and already know that you’re not gonna break the bank. Mark certain activities you can do when you’re sad or stressed. If you feel yourself about to indulge in a bad habit like unnecessary shopping or binge-eating, refer to your list. Here are 103 ideas for free things to do. Your list could include:
    • walking in the park
    • hitting up a museum
    • visiting the library
    • volunteering
    • apple-picking
    • seeing a community theatre performance
    • reorganizing your closet
    • dancing in your living room to music on Spotify or YourTube
    • drawing or painting
    • playing cards or a board game
    • reading
    • listening to a podcast
    • baking cookies

Keep reading to get 15- and 30-minute money moves.

The 5 Most Important Things I Did to Organize My Finances as a Newbie

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

One of my best friends called me “the money expert” the other day and I chuckled. I thought, “Me?! Girl, bye!” Truth is: My last name is Wise, but I was anything but just a few years ago.

As a recent college graduate in North Carolina, I thought I had everything in control. I had a job in my field, which some of my friends couldn’t say, and I didn’t have to depend on my parents for anything. That’s because I was depending on Visa.

My level of financial literacy was non-existent. Neither Mom, Dad nor my teachers had ever taught me about managing money. When I decided to take responsibility for my financial life a few years ago, here are some of the most crucial steps I took to organize my finances.

1. Started seeking knowledge.

Everything starting with Call Number 332 was fair game at the local library. I think the first personal finance book I checked out was Girl, Get Your Credit Straight! That title gets to the point, doesn’t it?! I needed someone to be real with me and break things down simply. Author Glinda Bridgforth explained how credit scores were calculated and what I could do to get caught up. I even ordered my first credit reports. The more books I read, the more resentful I became for not knowing all of this already. More importantly, I grew more confident in my money management and decision-making skills.

2. Stopped using bills as coasters.

Avoiding money problems leads to more money problems, so I stopped tossing bills on my nightstand like frisbees and leaving them there to collect dust. When I opened up the Bank of America, Old Navy and CFNC statements, I finally confronted the numbers and saw how reckless I’d been. I also found out my mom had maxed out one of the credit cards in my name. The balances seemed insurmountable at the time. But I had, at least, conquered my fear of knowing the numbers so I could make a plan to clear the balances.


5 Ways I Organized My Finances Initially
Click here to read more.

10 Steps to Debt Freedom

You are taking a HUGE step in your life. Congrats! It’s so awesome that you want to get out of debt and are willing to seek knowledge on how to do it. If you want to go from confusion to clarity, then do these 10 steps. Don’t skip any.

The journey is tough but so worth it. Debt freedom is yours! Happy debt-crushing! Download the printable of this list and the debt-free pledge so you or a loved one can use it at home.

1. Get your mind right.

First, forgive yourself for having so much debt. And exhale. Perhaps your parents or guardians didn’t teach you proper money management. Forgive them, too. From now on, do not judge yourself for past mistakes. Debt does not define you. What you do with the debt does.

2. Declare your debt-free goal and create your “why.”

Say this out loud: “As of today, I am in control of my finances. I will not create new debt. I am striving to be debt-free by increasing my income, spending less than I earn and making extra debt payments. I want to be debt-free because _______________.”

Maybe your“why” is traveling or sending your kids to college loan-free. If you don’t have a strong, emotional reason for getting out of debt, then all of the budgets and checklists in the world won’t help you. When you lose motivation—and you will—remember your “why” to keep going. Repeat this declaration to yourself daily. Better yet: Write it on paper and sign it. You just made a debt-free contract with yourself!

10 Steps to Debt Freedom Checklist See the other 8 steps to get out of debt.