Updated on 03.07.07

Ideas For The Simple Dollar: Which Ones Interest You?

Trent Hamm

Lately, I’ve been musing over some future directions for The Simple Dollar: what sorts of things might be interesting to my readers? I’ve made a list of a few series that I’ve been thinking about starting and I wanted to get some input back from you on which ones you’d really like to see.

Here are the ideas I’ve had that seem most interesting to me:

A detailed look at stock information. I did a really brief version of this a while back, but I wanted to get into some serious detail on each of the numbers, what they actually mean, and how you can use them to evaluate individual stocks.

An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies. What are they, how are they different, and how can they maximize your time and money? I’ve tried several different schemes over the years and found that pieces of all of them worked for me and other pieces did not.

A weekly review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance. I’ve been listening to a lot of business books on CD on my morning and evening commute lately and I’ve found that many of them actually have a lot of information that’s applicable to personal finance situations. I’m actually going to give a taste of this fairly soon, but would there be an interest in a weekly (or biweekly) series of reviews of business books from the perspective of personal finance? A few that I would review early on would be Winning, Good to Great, and possibly The Audacity of Hope, though the last one is a bit of a stretch (I quite liked it and thought there was some great material in there, but it’s a stretch to call it a business book).

A video series. I actually have one largely made that shows visually how to do a few basic auto maintenance tasks that can save money. It’s about three minutes in length. Would this be of interest, or others along the same vein (I also thought about a tour of a Sam’s Club versus a local grocery store to compare some prices).

A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time. I’ve tried a lot of these; most of them didn’t work or had obvious flaws. I’ve had two successes (you’re reading one of them). Would this be an interesting series?

An expose. Some citizen journalism at work! Basically, I’ve been thinking about doing a couple of exposes on a few specific financial businesses to get various angles on their story from people who are involved in the industry. The first one I had in mind was a payday loan place; I have a person who is willing to be interviewed who runs one.

Uses for common items. This is actually a series that would get a lot of input from relatives of mine who live near the poverty line and have a ton of clever techniques for stuff. For instance, baking soda has an unbelievable list of potential uses, most of which are great replacements for much more expensive items (Soft Scrub, etc.).

Here’s what I want from you: Please, pick two or three of these that you would like to see, and one you have no interest in, and leave a comment on this post. Also, if you have something you’d really like to see instead, throw that out there, too. Don’t pay any attention to the other comments, just tell me what you’d want to see or not see. I’ve already started drafting a framework for all of these, so I’m mostly interested in seeing which ones you would enjoy the most. After a few days, I’ll survey what everyone has said and focus on the most positive ones – and probably forget about any that people were negative about.

The ball’s in your court: what would you like to see?

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  1. Jennifer says:

    I like either the weekly review of productivity systems, or the uses for common items.

    *PLEASE* don’t do the video series; video (IMO) is killing the written content of the internet. As in, people figure out they can do audio/video and lose the mental discipline of actually writing articles.

  2. Ellen says:

    I like the idea of exposes and uses for common items; I couldn’t be less interested in business books or stock information (get enough of that at work).

  3. Laura says:

    I would be most interested in self-employment ideas, uses of common items, and anything to do with personal productivity (the series or the book reviews). I also like the expose idea.

    I would not be interested in the stock information or the video series and most likely would skip over those posts (nothing personal, I just keep track of 63 blogs so I have to be picky what articles to spend my time on!)

  4. Seth Miller says:

    I like the stock one (I invest a lot of my paycheck right now through a financial planner but if I could feel comfortable doing it myself or helping my wife set up hers that would be great) and the video series seems interesting, I think learning some new skills would be great. (The self employment stuff would be interesting for the same reason)
    I wouldn’t be that interested in the expose.
    I’m slightly surprised you didn’t put anything about cooking, I think there would be great interest in that and how to create dishes that can be easily reused.

  5. Ryan says:

    – Uses for common items.

    – A weekly review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance.

    – A detailed look at stock information.

  6. Debbie says:

    I would like to see:
    * A video series
    * An expose – not just negative stuff (which the word expose implies), but any kind of thing where you interview people who know more about something financial would be cool
    * Uses for common items – and any other advice or interesting perspectives from those guys would be great

    I would be least interested in:
    * A detailed look at stock information

  7. kyle says:

    Video series and self-employment are of interest. I’m mildly to moderately interested in the rest, so there are none I absolutely don’t want to see.

  8. Karl says:

    The two I would most like to see are:
    1. A detailed look at stock information.

    2. A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time.

    I’m not sure which is my least favourite, although probably the uses for common items or the video series.

  9. Nicole, James' Mom says:

    I like the idea of stock picks and following them for a few months to do an analysis. I also like the self-employment ideas. But who doesn’t like other uses for common items? That’s always fun.

    I’m not particularly interested in video series or book reviews. Too lengthy and if I were that voracious of a reader, I would read the book. :-) Keep up the good work.

    Nicole @ carseattraveler.com

  10. avlor says:

    Top 3 to me:

    detailed look at stock information
    video series
    Uses for common items

  11. Tyler says:

    I think the stock information would be useful, I think the uses for common items would be good too. In my last job I worked in customer service and they gave us a crash course in “Good to Great”. I think this information would also be worthwhile.

    The one I’m least interested in is personal productivity philosophies.

  12. Crys says:

    Uses for common items.
    An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies.

    Third, but not as requested: A weekly review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance

    I really enjoy laymens financial advice as well. Like I know little about stocks, but I love to learn about preparations for retirement, small everyday changes I could make to save money, and of course, lists!

  13. moose says:

    A review of self-employment opportunities.

  14. David says:

    Self-employment opportunities and uses for common items both sound interesting.

  15. I’d like to cast my enthusiastic vote for the self-employment topic.

  16. doug says:

    Only a few are voting for it, but I would love to hear more about:

    “A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time”

  17. I think a video series would be great, but please include a writing portion to work together with it.

    An expose might also be good, give a little first hand knowledge about various financial institutions.

    I’m not really interested in the personal philosophies.

  18. Michael says:

    My top two would be:
    1. Uses for common items
    2. An expose

    The one I like the least is the look at stock information as that is extremely easy to do on one’s own time.

    Also, as I am entering college next year I would like to see an article or two about Simple Dollar tips about college.

  19. Bobby says:

    I like…

    A detailed look at stock information
    A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time
    An expose

    Not as interested in…

    A video series

  20. Mitch says:

    Exposés, self-employment series, etc.–who doesn’t like muckraking and gossip? Not to mention learning about different people. It’s human nature, in a seriously innate (like Chomsky) way. And I always like the kind of thing where they imitate the $20,000 outfit with a $700 outfit (although really $60 would be even more fun)–your free/open software tools etc. fall into this category for me.

    Book reviews and uses for objects are sometimes fun, especially when novel or with a detailed texture or interesting writing style. This maybe goes against some of the “simple,” but I’ve been reading the Dollar Stretcher and so on for about eight years and if your blog were just about “simple” I wouldn’t have been coming back since, what, December??!!

    I’ve paid little attention to the stock picking things–I’ll let my index and target funds handle it so that I can find a decent mid-level book on game theory. And doubly so for the OO Calc tutorials–my copy of Constructability is going unread, it’s so sad. So if those are what you focus on, tant pis for me, but I can/do skip the occasional post if you’re not doing anything particularly clever.

    Maybe: videos. (HCI hat:) I like videos now and again and think they have a lot to offer, but what they offer is different from text. I have to be motivated (this will be funny, this will be really important to me) vs. the time and undivided attention–we can’t skim them, so you would have to skim them ruthlessly yourself. I think the car maintenance demo is a good use for it potentially–enough improvement over text that it doesn’t have to “entertain.” (In writing, at least, you don’t have me laughing out loud.) Also I highly advise including transcript/outline/?? with each video to help people find/preview them and captioning where available.

    Making connections between “personal” and “finances.” Balancing/aligning frugality with other lifestyle values–such as beauty, bibliophilia, and other pleasures. (Or as Grandma said, “People are more important than houses.”) Brainstorm problem solving–if I need to find a way to store my spices, what are my options and what tradeoffs am I making so that I can maximize value (personal utility). Stories, Tightwad Gazette for the middle-to-upper middle class. A thorough mix of reflective and fluffy, serious and silly.

  21. Chris V says:

    I’m looking to start another business and would love to hear about self-employment opportunities for my spare time and your take on them.

  22. Francis says:

    I like…

    An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies.

    A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time

    A weekly review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance.

  23. Patrick says:

    A detailed look at stock information – I am a young adult and very new at this. I’d like to know more about how what the heck investing is from the ground up.

    An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies – This site started me on GTD, and I’ve never been more productive with my time.

    A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time – Hey, everyone could use some extra cash!

  24. Yoni says:

    stock info/common items

  25. Ursula says:

    * personal productivity philosophies
    * book reviews
    * citizen exposes!

    * videos (I’d never click ’em)

    Thanks Trent!

  26. Mark Wiley says:

    I would like to see:

    A weekly review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance


    An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies.

    Thanks for asking!

  27. imelda72 says:

    Interested in:

    – Self-employment ideas
    – Journalistic exposes
    – Uses for common items

    Least interested in:

    – reviews of popular productivity philosophies (yawn)

    As for the book reviews–I hope you stick with the ’52 books that changed my life’ series, no matter the outcome of this poll!

  28. Don says:

    It’s funny how different everyone’s opinions can be. I like:

    * A detailed look at stock information
    * An expose–seemed lame at first, but the payday loan idea seems fascinating.

    I think videos are only good if you can’t reasonably present your message in words (and maybe photos). Articles can be skimmed in a lot less time than takes to watch a video.

    By the way, I think the blog is terrific.

  29. sid barcelona says:

    I’m interested in:
    * Stock information/investing
    * Weekly Review of Business/Productivity applied to personal finance
    * stories on self-employment/entrepreneurship

    I’ve really enjoyed your stories about:
    * Determining your personal goals and creating a budget
    * Sustainability/environmental tips and personal finance
    * Buying a home
    * Family Finances
    * Financial Freedom/Independence
    * Cooking tips – eating healthy/saving money

    I especially like stories that show ‘compounded’ benefits i.e. preparing meals at home for friends/saving money/helping the environment. it helps reinforce that we’re not doing things in a vacuum or saving just for the sake of saving. we are doing these things because they are in line with our values and they give us the freedom to achieve our long term goals.

  30. VG says:

    Please do more on this
    -A detailed look at stock information.

    I would also like more articles about teaching children (5-6 years old) about money, saving and spending.

  31. Mike says:

    Most interested:
    -Personal Productivity
    -A weekly review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance.

    Least interested:

    This site is excellent by the way.

  32. Eamonireland says:

    I’d love
    * Stock information
    * PPPP
    * Self-employment opportunities

  33. Linda says:

    I’d be interested in:
    – review of productivity books or even self-improvement books that go along with your theme
    – ways to get side jobs that people can do at home on their own time (maybe editing?)

    not so interested in: video series
    – I’m sure it’d be interesting but I don’t have the internet speed ability to watch it.

    I love this site. Whatever you decide to do, I’ll be looking forward to it.

  34. Getzly says:

    -A detailed look a stock info
    -Personal productivity philosophies
    -A video series

    Don’t do:
    -Uses for common items

  35. David Szpunar says:

    Most interested:
    -Detailed stock info
    -Personal productivity philosophies
    -Spare-time self-employment opps.

    Least interested:
    -Video (I listen to podcasts in car, read blogs on computer, rarely watch video on computer)

    On the fence:
    -Uses for common items (sounds good but I’m more interested in my above picks)

    OTHER: To make this type of polling easier, if you use WordPress (not sure), there’s an excellent polling plugin, that can allow people to add their own answers if you choose as well): http://blog.jalenack.com/archives/democracy/

  36. Al says:

    The video series on how to do preventive car maintenance would rock!

  37. River says:

    My vote: “A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time.”

  38. JD says:

    I’m interested in:
    – A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time.
    – An expose.
    – Uses for common items.

    Not terribly interested in:
    – A detailed look at stock information.

  39. James G. says:

    Most interested:
    Self-employment info
    business/productivity and how it applies to pf
    uses for common items

    Very uninterested:
    video series – conceptually good, but I greatly prefer text
    overview of productivity philosophies

  40. TiP says:

    I like:

    * Expose: on subprime mortgage lenders. Inside scoop from people who have been there. Maybe borrowers who got burned.

    * Uses for common items

    * Ways to make money on the side

    * Also keep the general frugality tips coming. It’s looking like hard times ahead for the US economy.

    Don’t like:

    * detailed stock info: plenty of other places doing that already.

  41. plonkee says:

    An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies
    A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time

    As I prefer reading to watching

  42. plink says:

    SELF-EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES. Who dosen’t like the idea of “the self made success” story. Isn’t that up there in the 5 top things we would like to show up to a class reunion with?

  43. Jesi says:

    A review of self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time
    Stock numbers evaluation
    & Uses for common items

    Not Interested:
    Video Series

    Thank you!

  44. Gran2Dausha says:

    I would really love to see Sams club compared to a local grocery store,uses for common items,and self employment options for spare time!! NO INTEREST at all in Stocks!
    Something about planning menus to stretch food dollars would hit us young families in a good spot too :)THANKS

  45. Leigh says:

    would love to hear more about self employment opportunities..they sound too good to be true!

  46. Erich says:

    Wow, great list of topic ideas, can I say all of them? If not, the three that interest me most are the detailed look at stocks, the productivity series, and the self-employment opportunities one.

    Thanks for the hard work you put into this site.

  47. Lana says:

    *A detailed look at stock information — especially how to get started, step-by-step, for people who know nothing.

    *Self-employment opportunities that can be done in your spare time. (This would be great!)

  48. Dave says:

    Expose and stock information! That’s an easy question to answer. next?

    Naw, seriously I think the expose would be interesting. Alot of time while companies to release information it is usually buried on the website with the intention of not being seen. I think bring “bad” practices to light would be a good thing.

  49. Jamie says:

    *Use for common items
    *An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies
    *A detailed look at stock information
    Not Interested:
    *Video Series

    *Tax tricks? Little known ways to avoid the taxman…

  50. David says:

    Here are my picks in order of most interest to least interest.
    1) detailed look at MUTUAL FUND information
    2) self-employment opportunities
    3) expose
    4) video series

    Am uninterested in “uses for common items.”


  51. maya says:

    I like your site the way it is, but since we’re voting…

    What I’d like to see:
    1) Overview of personal productivity philosophies
    2) Review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance
    3) Review of spare time self-employment opportunities

    What I have little interest in:
    1) Detailed stock information. There’s plenty of site that do that already.

    THanks for asking!

  52. jessecoug says:

    1. expose
    2. personal productivity
    3. self-employment on side
    4. business books

    Not so much:
    1. video series

  53. Daniel says:

    I’d love to see some detailed info on stock information. I think your tone and vocabulary do well to distill the sometimes tricky finance jargon.

    I’d also vote for the productivity series and the video series. I am about to purchase my first real car (the previous ones I’ve had were of the disposable variety) and I want to make it last!

  54. Susan S. says:

    would like:
    reviews of business books on the best seller lists for the past 5 years

    exposes – if people really understood what all the marketing is in front of they’ll make better choices (keep this to the financial world – credit cards, payday loans, mutual funds load / no load, insurance sales, etc

    do not: do how to use baking soda for 101 uses and other cheepie tricks – plenty of others have done that

  55. Michelle says:

    Another angle on what I said above: give us the depth of your expertise in certain areas (such as cooking, reading) and counterweight it with a breadth based on principles rather than a shallow sample. I think the “101 uses for baking soda” that Susan S. mentions falls flat for me not just because I’ve seen it–because there’s always a few items that I didn’t know–but because it’s shallow. Perhaps think of it as very short creative nonfiction about topics related to PF. That’s where I think the gap/opportunity is that you’re filling, and if I’m wrong and I just have not found it despite looking again year after year, maybe you can post where it is or how you construct your search queries or what have you.

  56. chai says:

    i want to see philosophies and self-employment with free time.

    thank YOU!

  57. Shannon says:

    I would like to see Uses for common items and An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies. Would like to see all but A detailed look at stock information…that being because I do not have interest in or knowledge of the stock market.


  58. Frank says:

    I read a recent article in US News that says that about 20 % of recent grads have over 20k in student loans. In my case it’s closer to 80k. Given that only a quarter of this is federal which can be consolidated at fixed low rate. What are good strategies for dealing with the other 3/4? How does saving for the long term weigh in when you are paying down long term debt?

  59. Frank says:

    The reason why I ask about student loans is because so many of the finance sites and books completely ignore it, while a growing percentage of the populating continues to pile up this debt.

  60. Julie says:

    I would like to see uses for common items and also self employment. I would also love to hear more of your cooking\cutting down on food expenses.

  61. Julie says:

    I forgot to add – not interested in the videos. I usually check this site at work so I would never click on a video.

  62. Becca says:

    1) Self-employment opps
    2) Book reviews

    AND more spreadsheet how-tos if there are more out there… tell us how to use the tools to keep better track of finances and measure our goals.

  63. Helena says:

    Interested in:

    1. A detailed look at stock information
    2. A weekly review of a business / productivity / etc. book and how it applies to personal finance

    Not interested in:

    Any videos.

    Thanks Trent, you are changing my world one day at a time.

  64. LuckyLily says:

    My vote: Common uses, self-employment, stocks. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  65. Of your suggestions, I’m partial to:

    * An overview series on popular personal productivity philosophies.

    * An expose

    I enjoy your postings; you’re one of my first-read RSS feeds… keep up the great work…

  66. Barb Minton says:

    * Work from home part time successes
    * Personal productivity systems evaluated
    * Continuing business book reviews

    I already read several investing and stock market news letters. Like what you have done so far. Frugal living hints are good because not only are they less costly, they are usually less toxic.

  67. Megan says:

    My favorites are
    Personal productivity systems (GTD has been great for me!)
    Book reviews

    I’d be least likely to view the videos.

    Thanks for your great site and, as a fellow bookworm, all the book reviews/recommendations!

  68. Tricia says:

    My favorites are
    Self employment (what is the other good one beside writing???)
    Common uses

    Least favorites would be the videos which seems like general consensus.

    I just discovered your blog and it is very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to write all these great articles.

  69. Julius says:

    Book reviews, please! I’d love to see the great classics applied to personal finance.

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