Book Reviews Books for Adults Non-fiction

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending by Laura Vanderkam

Want to spend your money in a way that really makes you happy? This book is full of interesting suggestions!

I’ve been on something of a non-fiction kick this year so far.

Sometimes, it’s all YA, all the time, for me, but over the past few weeks, a chapter of All the Money in the World before bed was exactly what I was looking for.

I’d read Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours a couple of years ago and found it completely fascinating, so I figured it was time to read her book about money.

I love books about personal finance and money, but this isn’t really a book about saving money or how to pay off your house faster.

Instead, it’s a book about choosing how to make your money give you the most happiness possible by thinking about what really does make you happy.

One of the early chapters, for instance, talks about diamond engagement/wedding rings and where else you could put that money instead. And not just in an investment account. Instead of splurging on a huge rock, you could go out on a date every weekend for a long long time which might bring you a lot more happiness than a ring you don’t notice much after a few months.

Every chapter explores some aspect of finances in a really engaging way.

One chapter talks about how we so many of us move to the suburbs to get a bigger house and yard, but then we end up with more house cleaning, more yard work, and longer commutes, which bring almost everyone less happiness.

Another chapter talks about how many personal finances gurus suggest cutting out the extras (say, your daily latte) but that it’s probably easier to increase your income a little than to deprive yourself every single day in a way that both makes you unhappy and strains your self-control. This chapter was really eye-opening to me about how little things really do bring a lot of happiness and you’d be better off doing more small happiness purchases than the occasional big-ticket purchase.

Probably my favorite chapter was called “The Best Weekend Ever.” This chapter discusses how anticipation is one of the most fun parts of purchases or experiences, so we can significantly boost the happiness we get out of spending money by planning in advance. She has a few readers come up with their ideal weekend and then determine how much it would cost, plan it out, and do it. Bart and I spent a very fun thirty minutes talking through what our ideal weekends would look like and how we could make them happen.

This is definitely not your standard money book. but it really helped me think about money – both earning and spending it – in a totally different way. Plus, it was just FUN to read.

And of course, I immediately rechecked out 168 Hours because I find her just very insightful and fun to read. Not to mention that, with a new baby coming any day, I could use all the time help I can get.

Copy checked out from my library

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  • Reply Kristin @ Going Country February 12, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    I just finished this book last week. I also really liked it. My husband and I have long agreed that we're much happier controlling the big expenses (like cars) so we can do things like go to the ice cream stand in the summer without agonizing over the 8 dollars. It was nice to see the idea articulated and validated by someone else.

  • Reply Christine February 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Looking forward to reading this book! The chapter about living in the suburbs really hits home for me. After 3 years in a house we love, my husband and I are majorly downsizing and moving for a much shorter commute (2 hours each way now!). We have also started being more intentional and conscious of our spending and can already see the boost in our happiness. Thanks for your recap… this will definitely be next on my list!

    Christine @

  • Reply Carole February 12, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Shockingly, Paseo Verde has this book — on audio. I'll be picking it up today. LOVE a good money book!! Of course, no sign of her other book. The Whited Sepulchre.

  • Reply missris February 12, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I love nonfiction and this sounds like a must-read. I used to get coffee out almost every workday (I don't work close enough to a coffee shop to do it anymore) and while I'm frugal almost to a fault, I never gave it up because it gave me such happiness each morning!

  • Reply JoLee February 12, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    We lived in a small townhouse with no yard and were miserable. We moved to a large house with a big yard, and yes, it is a lot more yard work and housework, but we have room to breathe. Plus, my husband likes yard work. And he still has a super-short commute (15 minutes). A short commute is huge for personal happiness for him and the whole family. I guess we have the best of both worlds.

  • Reply A. P. Bullard February 12, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    This sounds like it offers a great perspective on balancing budget and happiness. Great review!

  • Reply Meg C February 12, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    This went straight on my hold list at the library- I'm a huge fan of 168 Hours, and this sounds right up my alley. I didn't know she had another book out!

    I'm sure it will be eye-opening… I wonder if I some of those "little things" would make me happier on a daily basis than saving up for certain "bigger things" that have so not-happy side effects.

  • Reply Feisty Harriet February 12, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    OoooooH! Interesteing!! I love the idea of saving up for a big splurge (trip or whatever), but I am also dead set on giving myself little treats every so often, whether that is something small like an overpriced fountain soda, or fresh flowers, or the expensive nail polish. I love someone "legit" validating those choices for me. 🙂 And now, I'm off to hunt down this book.


    • Reply Feisty Harriet February 12, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      Let's just pretend there aren't any spelling mistakes in that comment, mmmkay?


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