Updated on 07.30.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Walking the Ad Line Edition

Trent Hamm

So, the big brouhaha lately has been the fact that, after talking about abandoning unethical ads and also decrying The Secret, I then sold an ad on the site to Jack Canfield, the guy who wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, who has written a book about The Secret. Multiple readers called me hypocritical over this, which made me roll my eyes pretty strongly.

Here’s the scoop. Canfield offered to buy the ad a while ago, but I said “no” to it initially, wanting to read the book first. I did not want to post an ad for a book like The Secret, which vastly overvalues positive thinking as compared to hard work. Canfield’s book isn’t one I’ll review here, simply because in a lot of ways it’s similar to many other books and I try to stick with books with interesting viewpoints. However, what it does do is address my very complaint about this whole Secret nonsense – he makes it very, very clear that thinking positive has to be coupled with hard work to get anything done. That’s a message I agree with and so, even though I find Canfield’s writing style to be a bit over the top with the touchy-feely aspect (ever read a Chicken Soup for the Soul book) for my tastes, I was glad to accept that ad.

Let me repeat this one last time: I don’t put ads on this site for stuff that I have an ethical problem with. I gave up much of the site’s income because this issue is deeply important to me. I put a lot of value into the message I present here, and that includes the site sponsors. I sacrified a lot of income because I believe in that principle. If you see an ad here, it’s because I personally see positive value in the product.

Now, on with some personal finance articles.

Credit Cards, Billing Cycles, and Bimonthly Paychecks I had a hard time with this very challenge earlier in my life. The real key is to just master spending less than you earn – when you do that, this ceases to be a problem. An aside: this article is written by Mrs. Micah, one of the most frequent commenters here, and she’s really coming along as a writer. (@ mrs. micah)

Are You Discouraged By Your Finances? Most of the emails I get from readers are from ones who are either completely discouraged by their financial state or are in some form of panic mode about financial disaster. Hopefully, this article can help some of them. (@ gather little by little)

Marketing Messes With Your Head Marketing, as far as I can tell, seeks to make you feel inadequate so that you’ll want to buy a product that will make you feel adequate again. That’s not a game I want to play. (@ wise bread)

A Little Stock Market History: January 1991 Great analogy, and a nice example of why “doom and gloom” is usually a waste of time. (@ all financial matters)

Saving Money at Fuddrucker’s: What’s Too Frugal? I thought this was a nice extension of the “what’s too frugal” discussion here a while back about bookstores and coffee shops. Is it ethical to go to a restaurant, buy the cheapest item, and then fill up on their condiment bar? I don’t really see a problem with it, since the restaurant still is making a profit, but I probably wouldn’t do it, mostly because I don’t like to eat out very often and when I do I like it to be top-notch. (@ lazy man and money)

Car Trouble: A Real Life Lesson in the Value of an Emergency Fund Stories like this make me glad I have a nice healthy emergency fund. (@ get rich slowly)

Ten Financial Considerations for Newlyweds This would have been great advice to read – and actually follow – several years ago when we got married. (@ make love, not debt)

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  1. I think most of us were rolling our eyes with you. I was shaking my head and asking, “Huh?”

    I think you’ll get farther by sticking to your principles. You’ll sleep better, too.

  2. Matt says:

    Good for you. You are a man of principle and you seem to be a guy who follows his own moral guide. Your writing is bang on. I’ve been hooked since I first read an article linked from pickthebrain.com. Since then, every morning I’m reading your posts and checking out your blog recos and others. Yours is one of the only sites that does NOT have advertising. You have a great product, your writing, and if you can find business partners to advertise on your site that you can live with then good for you. I’m surprised more financial planning companies or book publishers don’t want to advertise on your site. Am eagerly awaiting your your next post.

  3. Becky says:

    I’m with Matt. There are plenty of good companies out there that you would feel good advertising for. I’m also surprised that there aren’t more of those seeking advertisement space :)

  4. rocketc says:

    Great list. The my money blog post was especially useful. thanks!

  5. Interesting tidbit: I work in publishing and no one includes any quotes by Jack Canfield in any of their press or marketing materials: his endorsement is worth nothing because he will endorse anything.

    True Story

  6. gourmie says:

    I’m a regular reader through your blog feed and frankly I think that ad is extremely cheesy regardless of your endorsement of the product.
    It blinks and reminds me of snake-oil salesmen, and unfortunately your weakest articles (it does happen) will make me remember your recent switch from a loudly-announced no-ad policy to that kind of thing.

  7. Michael says:

    Three points:

    One: I, too, like this site, or else I’d leave and not come back.

    Two: Trent saw no problem with the ad. I did, and since he says he likes to talk to us I told him so. He met his standards, not my standards. That’s how disagreements start.

    Three: How do disagreements end? One guy’s forced to give up. This time he’s me.

  8. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Michael: if any readers have something they want to talk about, I’m glad to discuss it, even if it potentially makes me look bad. I’d rather people figure out the right answer for themselves, but I usually have some reason for what I do.

  9. Mrs. Micah says:

    Fortunately Micah and I have gotten past the credit card cycle issue as well. And our friend who was affected is looking into Dave Ramsey now, which is a pretty positive outcome. I guess some people need a strong motivation to attack debt, it had seemed to stressful to her before.

  10. Diane says:

    Trent this is still your blog. Anyone who would like is free to write their own blog and pick their own advertisers.

  11. JLP says:


    In some people’s eyes it’s “unethical” to make money. In other words, you can’t please everyone so DON’T even try. Do what you do best, which is obviously working, and forget about the rest. If you lose a reader or two, so be it. It’s their loss, not yours.

    Finally, thanks for the link. I love writing about the stuff nobody else wants to cover.

  12. Joe says:

    I think it’s funny that you say Chicken Soup for the Soul type books are over the top. Your writig is as mushy as those books are Trent, and this is what I meant by the “sappiness quotient”…

  13. Brad says:

    When 1991 is used as “history”, you know we are in trouble.

    Doesn’t anyone realize that stock market history has not been just a single progression upward, with only minor downward ticks?

    While doom and gloom may not be good, it is also dangerous to ignore other wider ranges that could hit the market. Can a market only go up? Tell that to people in 1929. It too a couple of decades (and lots of government bungling) before it started up again.

  14. Andy says:

    I have an idea, why don’t you compose a list of products you like, contact those companies, and see if they will advertise on your site. Examples might be energy efficient refrigerators and appliances, used cars, investment houses, banks, bicycles, and affordable vacation spots.

  15. tanya says:

    The ad is so small that I hardly noticed it. As long you do not have pop-ups I’m reader for life. I think I got a mint.com link from you and I enjoy it very much. So do not abandon advertisements at all, if you have a possibility to swift through them and approve the ones you agree with go for it. Who knows it might benefit us much more then you think.
    I’m looking forward to reading the book, how can that hurt me ????

  16. Dee says:

    Hi Trent,

    I roll my eyes with you. I think you are entitled to make money from this site in whatever manner you choose. You put a lot of hard work and effort into this site. It’s ridiculous that some people think they should be able to partake of your service (reading this blog) for free.

  17. JLP says:


    I was simply comparing January 2008 with January 1991 since it was the last time the market got off to such a rough start.

  18. Sarah says:

    Trent, I’ve got to say, there’s a real difference between running an ad for a book you just disagree with and running an ad for a service you think is unethical or exploitative. In other words, even if you didn’t agree with Canfield, there’s still nothing wrong with running an ad for his book. For a payday loan, on the other hand…

  19. turbogeek says:

    It seems pretty straightforward to me. Trent will sell ads to those businesses, which include books as they are a business, who have and hold similar value sets to TheSimpleDollar — and will not to those who hold disparate value sets. As Trent IS TheSimpleDollar, he is the best judge of what matches those values.

    I’ve got to agree with how he divides the values espoused in Canfield’s writings from those like The Secret. Canfield may be cheesy at times, but his fundamental values match those of ‘hard work shapes your feelsings’; The Secret espouses that ‘our feelings shape everything’.

  20. Reagan says:

    Trent, I like the fact that your ads are on the right side of the screen and are on-topic. They’re considerably less obtrusive than some sites’. I also try to shop Amazon through your link (when I remember!)

  21. sunny says:

    what ads? I have you set up for RSS feeds and never see the ads :-)

  22. ange1ash says:

    Trent, I have been a subscriber to your blog for…well the better part of last year or more. I don’t even notice the ads. I personally do not mind one bit if you choose to profit off of your work. I think that for the time you put into writing well, and the information that I am able to recieve you deserve to be compensated.

    Keep up the good work!

  23. W says:

    I read The Simple Dollar via the RSS feed. Feedburner places ads in the articles in the RSS feeds, including the Google Adsense ads you’re avoiding on the web site.

  24. W says:

    (looks like sunny doesn’t see the ads. I’m using Google Reader)

  25. Amanda says:

    I think this is a post you may be interested in, even as an IT person. And, as a very regular viewer of your frugal blog & a frugal person, I think you’d love to know what we’re thinking…

    OK — you hate marketing. After your last, truly bizarre, unresearched post on marketing & I believe on Benjamin Franklin, I thought, ok, bad research– no problem, one less blog to read. By the way, marketing has taken place since the first printing press. Start counting those centuries.

    I regretted my decision. I’ve found numerous, valuable things on your blog. I thought to myself… I’ve overreacted to an instance of bad research. We’re all fallible. I’ll go back. This is my bad. It’s an enjoyable blog. Not a big deal.

    But, wait a minute…
    How did you buy that Wii?
    How did you buy…well, anything?
    How do you sell space on your site? (Though your readers seem unable to tell that you have ads on your site.)
    Not only do you use marketing, you react to marketing. There’s no problem there. So, quit being putting your head in the sand & admit you use marketing. Don’t you talk w/ msn? Is that not marketing?

    Marketing makes you aware of a product. Also, marketing can be very persuasive. That’s its nature. That’s WHAT IT IS. But just like every author on earth, you proclaim marketing is from the antichrist, but, as an author, you don’t leave me alone for one second until you’ve been ASSURED that you’re getting more than your fair share of marketing. (Can you tell I work in publishing?) See, as an impartial observer, if I woul’ve thought you made ANY sense, I’d be all over you for the acquisitions editors. Because–guess what… all publishing cares about is MONEY.

    Hmmmm. Marketing is really convienient when you’re the person selling the product. Marketing, all of the sudden, is essential, when you’re the author.

    Do you want the capitalist economy to collapse? Just take away marketing. Believe it or not, even in a frugal economy, you still have to choose between the things you buy.

    I think, deep down, you’re a very smart guy. And, take out the hypocrisy. I think you understand marketing far better than you think. Or, you’re just another person that wants to & repeatedly has said make money, but hates marketing = you’ll never make any money!! How do you pay all those debts w/o money?

  26. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Amanda, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never, ever said “ban all marketing” – that would be idiotic. I just encourage people to be very mindful of it, that’s all.

    And you really must have juxtaposed another blog with mine – I have mentioned Benjamin Franklin exactly once in the last year, and it was to merely mention his personal networking skills in a review of the book “Never Eat Alone,” which discusses him. It kind of undermines your attack on me as being bizarre and unresearched.

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