The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: My Hidden Agenda Edition

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Most writers and speakers have a hidden agenda, and I’m no different (be patient, I’ll let you in on my agenda in due time).

The average book author has several agendas. The writer wants to write something interesting enough that people will buy it, above all else. That usually means providing an exciting story or a substantial chunk of compelling information. Beyond that, the writer usually has some sort of viewpoint that they want to get across. For example, in Your Money or Your Life, the authors have a somewhat liberal political viewpoint and also a tendency to promote voluntary simplicity as an ideal lifestyle. That’s an agenda that steers the book in a somewhat different direction than another writer might take it.

People offering specific investment advice often have a different agenda. Those talking heads on CNBC recommending stocks often have some sort of leveraged interest in recommending those stocks – they will make money if you follow their recommendation.

My hidden agenda? I want eyeballs. Readers. People to read my stuff, think about it, print it off, and share it with their friends. From that I make adequate money to get by, but more importantly, I can make people think about their financial situation or their greater life situation. That is my chief agenda with The Simple Dollar. I look back to where I was in April 2006 and I ask myself what kind of information would help me the most, and that’s what I try to put out there, and the more readers I have, the more likely I am to reach that theoretical person. To do that, I have to be simultaneously compelling and informative. Your cost investment in The Simple Dollar is extremely low, much lower than other media forms. If I don’t hold your attention and inform you right away, you’ll move on to another source of information.

What you have to ask yourself when you hear any piece of financial advice is this: what is that person’s agenda for telling me this information? Sometimes it’s really hard to tell, and you often have to take in a lot of information to find out whether they’re reliable sources of information or not.

I will say this, though: if you think a writer has a hidden agenda that’s keeping them from giving you the best information or advice, move on. And that includes The Simple Dollar.

Now, for some interesting personal finance posts that tweaked my interest this week.

New Home or Remodel? I think it largely depends on whether remodeling is an appealing side hobby for you. For some people (like my good friend who actually built his own house), it’s a lot of fun. For others, it’s mind-numbingly dull. For yet others, it’s incredibly challenging (I can’t tell you how many swollen thumbs I’ve given myself accidentally with a hammer). (@ frugal dad)

Low Cost Family Vacations I really like the “pack the tent in the back and hit the road” kind of vacation myself. Even with high gas prices, it’s not that expensive if you’re stopping regularly to check out things and to camp for a day or two. (@ gather little by little)

Baby Toy Alternatives and More Baby Toy Alternatives These two articles actually outline many of the toys that our children play with. My eight month old daughter, for example, loves looking at old issues of bon appetit (yes, she actually has a preference, and seems to like that magazine the best by far) – she’ll flip rapidly through pages (like you’d imagine an infant who has just recently learned to sit up might flip through magazine pages), then stop on a page and stare for a long while. It’s adorable – I should capture it on video sometime. (@ unclutterer)

75 Gas Saving Tips The most important? Drive the speed limit without excessive acceleration, which basically implies driving conservatively and setting the cruise control. (@ christian pf)

Financial Infidelity as an Addiction Financial infidelity is a really challenging concept to write about because it stabs so deeply at the marital problems of some couples. I hope to soon give the topic a serious and thoughtful treatment. (@ free money finance)

How Will My Decision To Stop Drinking Soda Affect Our Finances? Breaking a soda habit is something I’ve been challenged with. The problem hasn’t been so much withdrawals, but that my wife continues to drink Diet Coke and quite often, I’ll open the fridge and reflexively grab one without really consciously thinking about it. I’ve caught myself halfway through a Diet Coke recently. (@ no credit needed)

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27 thoughts on “The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: My Hidden Agenda Edition

  1. Excellent roundup, Trent! Thanks for including me. I especially enjoyed the article from No Credit Needed regarding the elimination of soft drinks. I recently started my own “water-only” experiment and four days in I’m already feeling better.

  2. Trent, that was probably the best bit of advice about looking at hidden agendas! I couldn’t have said it better!

  3. You are quiet a honest fellow about getting “eyeballs” for your website. However, I do not think that it is a hidden agenda. I believe that everyone in this world will advance their self-interest before others. Thus,the first person in this world that we should all trust is ourselves. Only then can we be guranteed our self-interest is being given the top priority.

  4. I don’t blame your daughter for loving Bon Appetit. I would happily spend entire afternoons gazing at that magazine lovingly.

    Perhaps you can eventually get her to cook the recipes for you that she likes. You know, really get your money’s worth out of your kid and the magazine. I guess that might take a little while though.

  5. We have a second refrig in the garage and all the soda is out there. So you have to make an effort to have a soda, works for me. Also we always have a pitcher of water in the refrig in the house so it more convenient to have a glass of water than a soda.

  6. Johanna, simply not driving is not an option for some. While I will opt out of starting up the car for a trip to the mailbox or a visit to a nearby friends house and just walk. Unfortunately though, I live in a suburb (or borough) with a pretty much non-existent public transportation system, so I unfortunately have to make the long commute to work in the inner city by car. I’ve been trying to get a carpool together for months, that’s the peril of being the first one to the office everyday, no one wants to carpool with you.

  7. Thanks to the readers who noticed my missing italics tag. I fixed it and then removed the dozen or so comments pointing it out. Thanks again!

  8. Makes perfect sense to me. That’s my goal with The Art of Zen Living. On one hand, there’s a “man, I wish I’d known all this a long time ago!” and on the other, when people read and comment, there’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the validation. Hopefully, I’m also providing information that makes people’s lives a little better and a little easier, and that’s “right livelihood” any way you look at it!

  9. Mina: If transit service is only “pretty much” nonexistent, that means that there is some that exists. And nobody forced you to live in a place where it is inconvenient for you to commute to work without your car.

  10. I’ve been following your health twitter. Ditch the DIET soda. So bad for your health and, honestly, the only people I see drinking diet soda are overweight. Hmmmm

  11. “…if you think a writer has a hidden agenda that’s keeping them from giving you the best information or advice, move on. And that includes The Simple Dollar.”

    Will do. I used to visit this site multiple times a day to read the posts and the comments, but I recently took it off my feedreader and have been working on breaking the habit of visiting daily, with the intention of stopping completely in the future.

  12. re: Giving up sodas

    I’ve recently been working on eliminating sodas from our diet and our grocery budget. I really enjoy them, but it’s hard to justify the expense. I switched to diet sodas years ago, so calories aren’t the issue. I just prefer flavored drinks to tap water much of the time, even though our tap water is excellent.

    Fortunately, I do have a nice homemade alternative, which I posted about today on my blog. It’s called shrub, and you can read about it here:

    http://livingthefrugallife.blogspot.com/2008/06/shrub.html

  13. Trent, I think MJ is just being a poopy pants. :-p I think a lot of people believe “If so-and-so thinks its a good investment it must be.” My father almost signed up with a financial planner based solely that his brother used the same guy, so he must be alright. The adviser wanted my father to move all his stocks, and other investments to this guy’s firm. Not surprisingly he was commission based. :-|

  14. your daughter has excellent taste. I cannot help but stare at bon appetite on the news stands. They get incredible photographers to do their covers. You just want to eat the photos!!

  15. Johanna, that’s awfully judgmental unless you know a lot more about her situation (and still!). There are so many factors that go into where someone lives, not the least of which is that in most places, housing gets more affordable the farther away from the city center you get. (And what if a given commuter has a spouse who *does* work close to home?) There is a lot of argument that incentives should not be what they are to structure American metro areas that way, but that’s hardly one individual’s fault for picking her best option the way things are now.
    In the metro where I live, “pretty much nonexistent” means that there might be one express bus stop in a given suburb many miles away from most homes (would take hours to walk to, less to bike, or, tada, drive there), and the process adds too much time to the daily commute to be worth it to most people (not all). Time is worth a lot, too.
    If you are privileged enough to live where you can utilize public transportation and walking and still get your day accomplished in a reasonable amount of time, that’s wonderful (it’s what I did when I was single and childless and shared a small condo downtown). But,no, not everyone currently has that as a *reasonable* option.

  16. Chiara, I definitely could not have said it better myself, well worded. It’s nice to know that there are still people out there that understand that different people have different situations, it can’t all be perfectly cut and dry. There are so many different factors that can be involved in whether someone utilizes public transport (or walks or rides a bike etc.), that it THE answer.
    My husband and I were talking about gas and public transport last night and about how much we missed living in the city (also pre-kids!) and utilizing public transport, walking and a few other perks of city life.

  17. Let me re-write that, I’m rushing out the door to go to work. Luckily I re-read before I did.

    Chiara, I definitely could not have said it better myself, well worded. It’s nice to know that there are still people out there that understand that different people have different situations, it can’t all be perfectly cut and dry. There are so many different factors that can be involved in whether someone utilizes public transport (or walks or rides a bike etc.) or not, that for someone to think that these options are THE answer, just baffles me.
    My husband and I were talking about gas and public transport last night and about how much we missed living in the city (also pre-kids!) and utilizing public transport, walking and a few other perks of city life.

  18. Chiara, I don’t see where I’m being judgmental at all. All I’ve said is: (1) a very good way to save gas is not to drive, (2) “pretty much nonexistent” is not the same as “nonexistent,” and (3) no one is forcing Mina to live where she lives. Those are all statements of fact – not value judgments in any shape or form.

    I’m not saying that Mina is wrong for choosing to live where she has chosen to live. But when you set up your life in such a way that you’re heavily dependent on your car, the risk that’s inherent in that is that you’re vulnerable to gas price increases to a much greater degree than someone who makes walkability, bikability, and transit access a priority in choosing a place to live. That’s a statement of fact too, and I’m sorry if it’s one that you don’t want to hear right now.

  19. I gave up sodas for good as my New Year’s resolution for the year 2000. My suggestion, if you want to stick to it, is to politely ask your wife to switch from single-serving packaging to 2-liter bottles until you get the hang of your new habit. It’s a lot easier to catch yourself if you are having to get a glass from a cabinet and a bottle from the refrigerator. Make sure you have something you can have instead – tea, juice, water, whatever.

  20. Perhaps your wife will give up her soda (and save you the temptation of drinking it also) if she learned that it has a deleterious effect on her bones. It is acidic, which also contributes to health problems and aspartame is suspected of possibly causing all sorts of health problems.

    Buying soda is not a good idea if you are trying to save money since it contributes nothing to your health and may detract from it in the long run.

    Perrier with 100% raspberry or pomegranate juice and a twist of lime is bubbly and refreshing but not necessarily less expensive than soda. To save money, dilute 100% fruit juice half and half with regular old tap water (filtered, if you like). Lemonade made with stevia (an all natural sweetener) instead of sugar is also a nice alternative for those who want their water flavored. Stevia works well in iced tea too.

    For more ideas for living well, check out my blog:

    http://www.creativelifeskills.blogspot.com

  21. “Perrier with 100% raspberry or pomegranate juice and a twist of lime is bubbly and refreshing but not necessarily less expensive than soda.”

    I actually drink something like this on occasion. I’ll mix Perrier (or another effervescent water) with pomegranate blueberry juice. It’s utterly wonderful.

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