Collin writes in:
What personal finance blogs do you read?
You can actually find the answer to this question on any page of The Simple Dollar. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see a section in the lower right entitled “Blogs I Read.” Under that heading is a list of twenty five blogs that I keep pretty close tabs on – I visit all of them most days.
I update this list about once a year, and because of Collin’s prompting, I decided it was time to give that list a good refreshing. I removed about half of the sites that used to be there (a few are now defunct, the rest have simply become less compelling) and added quite a bit of new blood to the list.
So, which personal finance, career, and personal development blogs do I keep tabs on? Here they are, along with some notes on why I find them so compelling. If you want to visit any of these sites at any time, just visit any page on The Simple Dollar – the full list can always be found in the “Blogs I Read” section.
Ask MetaFilter is an interesting community blog of sorts. Here’s how it works: members pay a small fee to join, then they’re allowed to ask questions that are on their mind. The questions are all over the place, ranging from whether a person should move from Boston to Colorado to things like how budget reconciliation in the Senate works. The diversity of questions – and the wide range of responses, many of them well thought out – makes Ask MetaFilter a compelling read.
Bargaineering (formerly Blueprint for Financial Prosperity) is probably my favorite personal finance blog for interesting ideas. Jim Wang, the author of the site, is quite good at generating compelling core ideas, which usually gets my mind moving. Quite often, I’ll see an intriguing idea on Jim’s site, stew on it for a while, try it out, look at how it works in my own life, and find myself eventually telling a story that goes off in some completely different direction. Two great examples of Jim’s interesting ideas are his post on the meaninglessness of net worth by age and his far-too-short introduction to the “100 boxes” budgeting technique.
ChristianPF has a distinct take on personal finance: that the themes of Christianity and the themes of money management have quite a bit of overlap. Because the site focuses so heavily on that overlap – and because the author is a solid writer who occasionally throws out a few amazing gems – ChristianPF consistently offers insights that leave me thinking. Some of ChristianPF’s best stuff includes this amazing detailed description of how bloggers earn an income and five essential pieces of scripture that discuss money (although he missed the one that really impacted me, Ecclesiastes 2).
Clever Dude keeps me coming back because of the tone and the sense of humor underlying most of the posts. The site does a great job of putting just the right touch of humor on personal finance and frugality issues, often with the humor sneaking up on you and just brushing you when you least expect it. It’s just the right amount – enough to make the articles enjoyable to read, without going too far and making it all into a farce. Two great examples of this include the article about creating a frugal lunch for a lot of people and the post on saving money by reducing waste (with fifty examples).
Flexo, the writer at Consumerism Commentary, has the knack of a good essayist. He can turn a simple, seemingly unrelated event or idea into an interesting personal finance take. For example, his article on whether it makes sense to follow what makes you happy does a great job of riffing on Arrested Development, and this piece on money and unintended consequences turns a look at ethanol in fuel into a great discussion of looking at the ramifications of your choices.
Consumerist is a blog run by Consumers Union, the folks behind Consumer Reports. It focuses directly on consumer issues, which means that it often calls out poor customer service from companies, faulty products, and so forth, mixed in with some great advice on saving money and making good buying choices. This is what I call a “flood” blog, meaning there are a lot of posts each day – I usually find myself just leafing through the piles of posts for the handful that really apply to me. Some great examples of what Consumerist brings to the table include 112 ways to save money and a a great look at the dark underbelly of the housing crisis, where awful homes are built in middle-class neighborhoods.
Deal Seeking Mom
Deal Seeking Mom mostly just provides a lot of great coupons and freebies – the site does a great job of filtering out many of the less-useful items and just provides some of the cream of the crop – and occasionally drops a great article on specific money-saving tactics in the middle there. Two great examples of this dual nature is a great article on the learning curve of saving money and the guide to getting free rentals at Redbox (which I’ve used several times, actually).
Dumb Little Man
I keep coming back to Dumb Little Man for the variety. The site posts articles on a wide variety of topics – productivity, personal development, money management, careers, and so on. The author usually gets right to the point, outlining a handful of good suggestions on the topic. For me, it usually serves as a great starting point for ways to improve myself, whether in terms of money or career or even my day-to-day life. Two great examples that I found particularly useful are 14 Simple Ways to Convert Your Sedentary Lifestyle (I’m a high-volume writer, so I’m more sedentary than I’d like to be) and 50 Very Simple Ways to Be Romantic (I’ve used many of these with my wife).
Freelance Switch focuses very specifically on the money and career issues that face people who are freelancers – of which, to an extent, I would include myself as a member. Because of that tight focus, Freelance Switch can toss out many of the extraneous details and really hone in on factors that matter specifically to freelancers. Two articles that really clicked with me: 101 Ideas to Get More Freelance Work and Generate New Client Leads and Mixed Marriages: When One Spouse Goes Freelance (which was particularly insightful for our household).
Free Money Finance
Free Money Finance succeeds for me because the author is very, very effective at combing through the mainstream media, finding the articles on personal money management that are really compelling, and commenting on them in a relatable fashion. The (slight) majority of the posts at FMF follow that general format and, for me, those are the ones that keep me coming back for more. Two good recent examples of this technique are The Little Things Matter to Interview Success and Ten STeps to Becoming a Millionaire.
Frugal Dad. The name alone tells you exactly what you’re going to get: frugality tips and personal finance thoughts related to kids. Two topics that, unsurprisingly, appeal to me quite a bit. Another factor that works in Frugal Dad’s favor is that the site, over time, tells the story of his life – a meshing of good advice and memoir that I find appealing. Two of my favorite posts from Frugal Dad include The Language of the Perpetual Poor and Planning a Frugal Family Fun Night (from which I’ve used several ideas over the years, in some form or another).
Get Rich Slowly
Point blank, this is the best personal finance blog out there (besides TSD, of course). JD and I write with a fairly similar tone and have similar ideas so often that I’ll sometimes check Get Rich Slowly before I post a new article just to make sure that JD hasn’t randomly came up with a similar idea. Here are two examples of that, where JD has written articles I’d be proud to say were my own: The Road to Wealth is Paved with Goals and The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good – but I could list dozens and dozens of great articles from GRS.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich
I read I Will Teach You To Be Rich for two reasons. First, Ramit’s focus is largely on entrepreneurship – it’s fairly obvious that his audience is the Silicon Valley startup crowd. Second, his tone is pure entertainment – a pastiche of self-assurance and compelling advice that makes most of the articles there quite worth reading. Two great examples of his style and advice are The $28,000 question: Why are we all hypocrites about weddings? and Money Diaries: The 20-something cube-dweller with an addiction to phone accessories.
Lifehacker is a very frequently updated site (ten or more times a day) focusing on productivity technology issues, but occasionally brushing on personal finance, personal growth, and other areas. I almost always find a gem or two by browsing through Lifehacker – a useful piece of software, a good piece of advice, or something wholly unexpected. Two articles from Lifehacker that really influenced my thinking: Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret (“don’t break the chain” is utterly brilliant) and How Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Gets Things Done (some great advice from a person I admire a lot).
Money Saving Mom
Money Saving Mom is something like a hybrid between Frugal Dad and Deal Seeking Mom – it’s a real medley of frugality tips, solid coupons (I’ve used more coupons from MSM than from pretty much any other site I’ve visited), and excellent anecdotes about parenting with frugality in mind. Walgreens 101, for example, is a great introduction to saving money at that particular store, and a great example of how the site can really save money is with this method for getting Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers for $0.16 at Target using coupon stacking and finding deals from flyers (my kids love these crackers – and the post is a good example of the type of thoughtful deal-finding that shows up on MSM).
Pick the Brain
Pick the Brain is an excellent wide-ranging self-improvement blog, offering up tons of interesting articles on motivation, productivity, money management, and other aspects of self-improvement. The variety of ideas is what keeps me coming back – it’s infrequently updated, but when I do see an update, it’s usually full of solid ideas. Two articles that really made me think were 7 Ways to Grow the Action Habit and George Orwell’s Five Rules for Effective Writing (all of which I strive to use).
Productivity501 focuses squarely on how to be more productive with your time – and time is money, after all. Mark does a consistently great job of digging through ordinary tasks and finding ways to reduce our time investment on those tasks, resulting in more time to spend on other things of greater personal value (like spending time with my kids, for example). Here are two excellent tastes: Components of a Paperless Office (this is something I strive towards, and the article is my guide for doing it) and Getting the Most Out of Magazines (which basically describes how I tackle personal finance magazines).
Queercents is actually a collective blog, including writings from a large number of writers that are all members of the LGBT community. As with many group blogs, the presence of many writers creates a great diversity of opinion and perspectives – and often you find a writer or two that you really click with (I like Nina, for example) while being exposed to a lot of ideas and angles that you would have never considered before. Two great articles: Answering The Question: Should I Go To Graduate School? and Build A Business While Keeping Your Day Job (something I had to do when The Simple Dollar was first getting started).
Red Tape Chronicles
Red Tape Chronicles (from MSNBC) focuses on consumer issues – mostly, how to deal with customer service headaches, identity theft, and other painful elements of modern financial life. Bob Sullivan provides great fact-based coverage of consumer fraud, writing really strong material that often leads me to investigating similar experiences in my own life. Two great examples of the material you’ll find there are How to Save Money on: Bank Accounts and Win Customer Service Phone Battles.
Smart Spending is something of a “meta-blog” of personal finance blogs. Karen Datko and Donna Freedman do a great job of scouring a wide range of personal finance blogs, finding a wide variety of commentary on personal finance issues while adding their own unique views. Smart Spending is a great resource for seeing what lots of different voices are saying on personal finance topics. A couple of great examples: Is Bankruptcy Her Best Choice? and ‘Gifting Club’ Pyramid Schemes Flourish on Web.
The Digerati Life
I often look at The Digerati Life as something of an urban parallel to The Simple Dollar. The author lives in the Bay Area and often has a more urban perspective than I do, but we regularly come to the same conclusions. What keeps me coming back? A warm tone and a lot of excellent advice. Two samples: Force Yourself To Save! 15 Painless Ways To Pay Yourself First and Borrow, Barter, Buy Used: Espousing The Frugal Lifestyle.
The Wallet is a personal finance blog from the Wall Street Journal. It can be dry at times, but if you want a flood of thought-provoking reading on personal finance, this is a great source. It’s a mix of link collections to interesting articles from all over and short pieces from WSJ staff writers, all adding together to create a compelling mix of money material. Standouts (to me) include Be Aware of Who’s Behind Advice on Cell-Phone Plans (this is part of the reason why I tend to trust bloggers whose material I’ve read over a long period of time) and Extreme Finance: Cutting Out 401(k) Contributions.
Unclutterer is a fascinating blog with a very specific topic: reducing clutter. In Erin’s eyes, clutter stands in the way of personal productivity, personal happiness, and good personal finance, too. Her soft, witty tone and her consistently thoughtful ideas on reducing the clutter in one’s life keep me constantly coming back for more. Two great examples: Retail tricks that get you to buy more and If you have a job you hate, prioritize what is important to you and align your career accordingly.
Wise Bread is a group blog that looks at a huge array of personal finance issues, providing a wide range of voices and insights on money matters. The wide variety of voices (in particular, the always-excellent Philip Brewer) and wide variety of issues make this one a great blog for getting your juices flowing when it comes to money management. Two great examples include Baby Carrots – The Frugal Idea That Isn’t and Like DIY? Avoid These Ten Costly Mistakes.
Last but not least is Zen Habits, a site focused on simplicity in life, money, work, and love. Leo’s goal with Zen Habits is pretty clear – if you reduce the complexities in your life, you have much more life to enjoy, a philosophy I wholeheartedly agree with. Leo’s posts vary widely, but they all strike the common theme of finding a simpler way in life. Two great examples: Handbook for Life: 52 Tips for Happiness and Productivity and The Cheapskate Guide: 50 Tips for Frugal Living.
Got a favorite blog along these lines? What’s great about it? Let us know in the comments.