Updated on 01.23.08

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Downloadables Edition

Trent Hamm

Since eliminating most of the ads on The Simple Dollar for ethical reasons, I’ve been looking at other approaches to earning money from the many hours of work I put into The Simple Dollar. Most of the initiatives have been suggested by readers: I’ve put out a donation button and I’ve directly contacted several companies that I actively use and believe in and asked them for sponsorship, for starters.

The most interesting one, though, is something I’ve decided to call “downloadables,” and it’s based on suggestions I’ve received from a number of readers over time. If you visit The Simple Dollar on the website, you’ll notice a section on the right hand side entitled “Downloadables” with a handful of icons underneath it. Each of these represents a cohesive group of writings from The Simple Dollar that I’ve collected, reformatted into a book-like format, and turned into a standalone document so that it can be downloaded, printed, and read as a cohesive book instead of in bite-size posts spread out over many pages. I invested quite a bit of time formatting these so that they’re elegant, inviting, and readable. They’re available for download for a nominal fee – $5 or less depending on the document.

So far, I’ve made three of them to see whether they’re successful. I have plans for three more if these prove to be popular. Here are the ones available:

31 Days to Fix Your Finances is a series of exercises designed to help you turn your financial situation around in a single month.

Building a Better Blog is a compilation of advice on the art of blogging, encompassing everything I know and used to help build The Simple Dollar into a widely-read success.

Twenty Big Ideas: Essential Readings is a collection of twenty book summaries. I chose twenty of the best books I’ve reviewed on the site and compiled my summaries of these books into one document.

Why would I download these if they’re already free? First of all, once you download the document, it’s yours forever. You can share it with others if you wish, print it off, read it on any computer you want whether it’s online or not, and so on. It’s also reformatted to be much more like a book than like a blog post – appropriate for printing for reading at your convenience, making notes on, or handing to people without internet access. Also, the prices are quite cheap – $5 or less. In my desire to keep information free, the content is already online – the value here is in the formatting and the portability of it. Don’t worry if you don’t think this is worthwhile – it’s just a service I’ve provided for people who want it.

This is an experiment suggested by readers. Let’s find out if it works.

Now, for some interesting blog posts.

Stupidity Got Us Into This Mortgage Mess I’ve been very wary of commenting on the current subprime mess because I’m emotionally involved in it. My wife and I got a prime loan in July with a very nice rate, the result of a lot of hard work. We were also available for an ARM for substantially more money that would have allowed us to borrow a lot more than that and have the same payments for the first three years (then they would jack up). We chose the prudent route, and now when politicians talk about locking in ARMs, I feel as though the government is telling me I should have been irresponsible. That’s the wrong message to send. (@ all financial matters)

Wills: The Basics I was clueless about wills about a year ago, but my wife and I realized we needed to plan for the unthinkable. I’m glad we did. (@ wise bread)

The Simple Dollar Retro: Seven Things I Thought About While Holding My Second Child For The First Time This was an intense moment – and it was met with some serious reflection.

Writing Your Autobiography Through Spending My credit card statements two years ago would have said that I was crazy. I looked at my charges for the last month just now, and they were all either grocery stores, department stores, or Amazon. Does that mean I’d have a boring biography? (@ clever dude)

Moving to a New City? Ways to Manage Your Relocation Costs A reader wrote to me about this topic just a couple days ago, interestingly enough. (@ the digerati life)

The Worst Financial Advice From Around The Web A good point, made sarcastically: people who pronounce doom when the news is bad are usually paranoid. (@ i will teach you to be rich)

Should I Prepare My Own Taxes or Go to an Accountant? This year, I’m using an accountant. I have more side business income than I’ve ever had, along with a lot of potential deductions. (@ get rich slowly)

The Simple Dollar Retro: The One Hour Project: Thirty Ways To Use One Hour To Improve Your Finances – And Open The Door To More Riches One of my favorite series ever on The Simple Dollar.

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  1. Frugal Dad says:

    I think the “downloadables” are a great idea. In fact, you’ve inspired me to try something similar with a series post I’m wrapping up now (The 7-Day Financial Turnaround).

  2. m_s says:

    This is a great idea – I’ve recently bought ‘Zen to Done’ and ‘Ramit’s guide to kicking ass’, and have been wishing that some of the other blogs I enjoy would do something similar. I’m trying so hard to save at the moment that I probably won’t be buying right now (though I would love to have ’31 days…’ and ‘Essential readings’!), but I’m really glad you’ve done this.

  3. elizabeth says:

    I kinda wish you would vent on the mortgage mess. My husband and I want to buy a house…and prices are falling, but they won’t continue to do so if the rates are all locked and foreclosures are frozen. I don’t think I am really mean about this issue, I just think basic economics need to rule and not politicians. I applaude you for getting a fixed rate…we will too. Don’t doubt making good financial decisions. You are responsible for you then, not the bank, lender, or government.

  4. I think that you should provide a preview page or two for each downloadable. Since the main draw is the formatting and compilation, readers will want to see what they’re paying for when they can already get the content for free.

    Don’t you think?

  5. Great list of resources, Trent.
    Thank you.

    I got your 31 Days here a while back and it is a great read. Thank you for putting it together.

  6. turbogeek says:

    Trent —

    I agree with Writer’s Coin — I’d like to see some sort of 1-2 page preview. I don’t even buy books on Amazon anymore unless a preview is available, which is for lots of titles at this point. You are competing with that kind of site as a source of information, so I think offering a comparable teaser makes sense.

  7. Jill says:

    I, too, wish you would vent about the mortgage mess. My husband and I purchased a new home in August and also went the prudent way with a fixed rate mortgage and now I’m reading about government bailout plans to payup for people behind on their mortgages. Why are the responsible people penalized? If others are getting $5k to pay up, I was a $5k principal paydown!!!!!!

    In the mean time, I’m looking into refinancing after the significant rate cuts of late.

  8. LisaB says:

    I purchased “31 days” and I hugely benefited from it. It was the best $2 I’ve ever spent! In terms of adding value: I suggest that the bookmarks be fixed so that each chapter has a bookmark so readers can easily navigate through.
    Also, can you do a workbook to go with it? Or add workbook pages at the end? Or spreadsheet templates for the calculations? These might add value as well.
    Thanks for your hard work, Trent. The greatest success of the Simple Dollar is how it is actually changing people’s lives (like your truly here). My Fundamental Choice has shifted.

  9. sabrina says:

    I feel the same way about the mortgage mess. While I don’t think the lenders are completely blameless, its a HUGE purchase, and people should be smarter about it! Do a little research, think about your options. I live in florida, and while prices were going up I saw people picking up houses as investments like they were shopping for shoes…a friend of mine tried to convince me to buy a $300k house (interest only payments, of course) Mind you, I’d just graduated from college. This friend is now selling the house at a loss to avoid foreclosure.

    While I feel somewhat bad, I agree with the rest of you that purchased houses once you figured out if you could afford it. From the limited understanding I have about how the bailout would work, it seems unfair to the rest of you.

  10. vh says:

    That must have been quite a job to reformat all those posts in to create downloadable “books.” It’s a great idea — DIY publish-on-demand, and you save yourself and your customer a bundle by keeping the transaction digital.

  11. Kevin G says:

    Why not set up an online forum (like phpbb2) and charge a modest fee to sign up to post? I would definitely sign up and contribute.

  12. Trent: I do hope you can find something to replace the revenue you lost. I admire the stance you have taken.

    Best Wishes,

  13. AmyR says:

    I agree with you on the ARMs. We purchased a home several years back on a ARM. Thankfully we paid 15% down. After see the error of our ways and realizing that we didn’t need a huge home to heat and cool and two new cars to insure we sold the home during housing boom and took the equity and purchased land and built a home ourselves as we could afford to pay cash up front. Try living in a small fifth wheel with 3 young boys for 2+ years. Now at 35 I have a paid for home, two paid for used cars and sleep well at night. I agree it is not right to bail out the ARMs. We got out of ours only to pay for someone elses mistake? Whats next paying for someones Lexus that should be repoed? We all need to learn from our mistakes as we are adults now. JMHO

  14. Daily Walrus says:

    I think the downloads are a great idea as well. I also would like to see a preview of the formatting – something simple like a screenshot would be ok I think.

  15. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I will chop off the first five pages of each one and post them very soon.

  16. !wanda says:

    Two things about the mortgage mess:
    1. The bailout would bother me more if there weren’t such a mystique about owning property. That attitude encourages people who aren’t ready to buy property, who don’t have enough money or don’t know how to shop for the best mortgage, to buy more than they can afford. Yes, these people should have done their homework, but some of them had no idea that there was any homework to do.

    2. The government bailout rescues individual homeowners, but it also rescues communities. One or two foreclosures on a block is fine, but there are some places where every house on a street is now being foreclosed. That’s a certain recipe for increased crime, and increased crime and resultant police enforcement costs something too.

    Any bailout needs to be clearly one-time only and, more importantly, accompanied by changes in banking and mortgage regulation that discourage banks from offering risky mortgages to risky borrowers. My understanding is that for the past few years, banks offering mortgages would sell those mortgages to other financial institutions, and they would be re-bundled, re-parcellated, and re-sold until all sense of risk disappeared: the ultimate buyers of these instruments believed that they would be insulated from individual homeowners defaulting. Clearly, no one thinks that anymore! I’m not sure what exactly such regulations might be that would discourage banks from passing the buck. But if the banks’ incentive structure is changed, they would have no reason to offer exotic mortgages to people who can’t afford them.

    Yes, people shouldn’t buy what they can’t afford. But right now, the banking structure is twisted so that the banks have an incentive to sell people things they can’t afford. Individual people will always act irrationally, while banks can hire mathematicians and economists to do their logic for them. Thus, it seems to me that the best way to fix this crisis is to change the regulatory structures to discourage irresponsible lending.

  17. Lurker Carl says:

    Home buyers (as well as other commodities) are brainwashed into thinking they should live like movie stars. Homes, automobiles, vacations; the advertisements tell us we deserve only the best and cost is irrelevant. Like most Hollywood and Madison Avenue creations, fantasy clouds reality.

    A reason never discussed about the housing bubble, the major increase in housing cost has to do with the blueprint of a typical new house. New homes are palatial in size, features and options compared to the typical new home in 1960. Shoppers bought into the idea that every member of the household requires a private bedroom with attached bathroom. And a restaurant style kitchen with the family room resembling a ski lodge. It’s just like children pretending to be royality.

    Anyone thinking government will rescue them is living in a fool’s paradise. The bailout is an election year “feel good” to make voters think their current representatives are worth re-electing. There are so many restrictions that few people can qualify. Those that are accepted are postponing their financial avalanche to the future when the media’s eye is no longer watching.

  18. I like where your blog is going. I truly wish you the best and hope readers provide you with better support than google ads ever could!

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