Book Recommendation: The Art of Money Getting by PT Barnum

By Andy Hayes

It’s not often than I share a book recommendation that was published on 1880 (over 125 years ago), but today’s book recommendation for improving your money mindset is an eternal classic.    The Art of Money Getting  was one of several books that the budding entrepreneur published.  While PT Barnum is most well-known for his successful circus empire, he also owned a newspaper, was a politician (mayor and state representative), opened a general store, ran a book auction house, was a real estate speculator, and became early lottery magnate.

While it’s a quick read – you can find digital copies for free in most local libraries – Barnum’s recommendations are still applicable today, and despite its age, it’s fairly easy to read – something I can’t say about other books written in the 1800s.

Barnum offers over 30 specific pieces of advice about “money getting” – most are aimed at would-be business owners, but the advice applies to having a wealth mindset even if you aren’t going to go the entrepreneurial route.  Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice from the book.

Avoid Debt

We have started a  whole section on our website about avoiding debt – but it’s not a new problem, Barnum advises against it even a century ago.  Barnum suggests that beyond mortgage debt, there is no good debt and suggests being frugal to help you achieve your money goals.  The book is heavy on the “penny wise, pound foolish” line of advisc (for example, spending a lot of effort to save $5 on your monthly phone bill, but still spending $10 a day on coffee).

Use the Best Tools

Obviously PT Barnum wasn’t expecting tools like our wealth calculator and savings planner – but his advice still rings true, whether we’re talking about productivity tools or automated savings and wealth tools.  Barnum also talks about “living tools” – e.g. people who can help you to achieve your goals, whether that is an employee, freelance assistance, life coach, or financial adviser.

Read the Newspapers

PT Barnum was well read, and he recommends others be well read also.  I couldn’t agree more!    People who read a lot tend to be more successful in general.   And Barnum says, “he who is without a newspaper is cut off from his species.

Even back then, though, Barnum advises getting unbiased advice – very important today with the variety of options for news advice – but it’s easy to find great sources for improving your money mindset.    You can browse through our previous Q&A’s with our favorite financial bloggers to find new websites to follow.

Preserve Your Integrity

Last but not least, I love this chapter of The Art of Money Getting.  Barnum says: “To get rich is not always equivalent to being successful.”  It is an important reminder that regardless of whatever money advice you receive, whether it is via an article you’ve read or a suggestion from a financial advisor, you’re in control.  You get to choose.  So always make money decisions in alignment with your values.

While the writing is very ‘old fashioned’ English, I can’t recommend this quick read highly enough!  I found a copy in my library’s digital option, but there are several copies floating online and on Amazon.