I read a lot of material on personal finance for this blog, from at least one personal finance book a week to issues of Money, The Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, and so on. What might surprise you, though, is that most of my reading that really inspires me to write about money issues comes from other sources. Here are seven things I’ve read that have inspired me to keep my financial house in order – and a few of them might be quite surprising to you.
The New Yorker I’ve repeatedly been inspired by The New Yorker to think about my situation in a different way, from how to thrift shop for clothes to the power of checklists in managing your life. In fact, there’s usually at least one article a week that inspires me in some way to think differently about money, time, and how I write about it.
Classic literature I enjoy classic literature quite a lot, as it explores the lives and thoughts of people who live in a different world than mine. It encourages me to see things through a different set of eyes, different experiences, different everything. Such a paradigm shift often reveals many interesting ideas and truths. For example, lately I’ve been rereading the novels of John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row – and I’ve been thinking in detail about the lessons of disasters and extreme poverty.
Writer’s Digest I started reading this magazine hoping to learn how to polish my writing skills for publication, but the most useful parts are the ones on how to creatively assemble ideas and how to structure them in a usable way. Naturally, I apply these techniques directly to personal finance materials, and they often end up revealing new ideas and angles that I hadn’t considered before.
The local newspaper The weekly newspaper in my local town is free – entirely advertising supported. I pick it up faithfully at the local gas station because it lists all of the activities going on in the town, most of which are free and are also great places to meet people and expand my social connections. Plus, there is a general utility in being aware of the latest happenings in my local town.
BusinessWeek I’m able to read BusinessWeek thanks to a subscription at work. What I learn about most from BusinessWeek is efficiency, because in the end that’s what this magazine is really about. In my mind, efficiency is a key part of personal finance, because if you are inefficient with your money or your time, you wind up in debt – or at least with diminished amounts of money in your life.
Personal productivity books There’s a reason I review a personal productivity or personal development book each week. Time is money, and having a poor concept of how you spend your time or wasting a lot of time is basically a waste of money as well. I strive to constantly improve on my time management and my sense that I’m covering all of the important areas in my life and devoting appropriate time to each of them – without it, my life would feel empty in some way and I would also not earn nearly as much money as I did before.
Vogue I often see this on the table at various office visits (dental, doctor, hair, etc.) and I always pick it up because it reminds me on every single page of the absurdity of rampant consumer culture. $1,500 for a pair of sandals that I could assemble a reasonable facsimile of at home for about $10? In my eyes, this type of thing is the enemy, because it devalues our work and our time.