In just the past few years, there has been an explosion of personal finance blogs, a niche that was vacant eight years ago. Those eight years feel like a generation or two, considering the way the Internet has changed since then. Now some might argue that the blog form is on its way out as the primary means of social communication online, with more efficient or sophisticated methods like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr taking charge. Nevertheless, what started out as a small niche community several years ago is now a thriving but noisy bazaar with more marketers and salespeople than good, old-fashioned information.
I’m not being judgmental. You see advertising here at Consumerism Commentary, and it’s allowed me to earn a living. I hope, though, that regular readers don’t come away with the feeling that I’m trying to sell them something, whether a product or my “brand.” In all that I do, I try to be genuine and authentic, so even if I’m writing about a credit card offer, I do so with readers in mind.
I like reading personal stories or articles with a certain “voice” — something that reminds me that there is a person inside, and that person is intelligent, thoughtful, and not maintaining a website just because she could earn a lot of money by publishing articles with certain keywords. I don’t like gurus, motivational speakers, or writers who assume their audience either needs a lecture or is stuck at a fourth-grade reading level. I don’t like being sold something when I read an article, even if the article was witty or helpful. I choose when I speak to a salesperson; I don’t like surprises.
I’m not normally a negative person, so that’s enough of what I don’t like. I do like knowing that the opinions and thoughts described in articles are not significantly influenced by commercial enterprises, even if they are earning money from the website. I prefer blogs that are still operated by their original owners, because there is a sort of passion that a blog often loses when its founder sells, if he or she doesn’t take special care.
I’d like to share seven blogs that I think, today, feel right for me as a reader. I’m excluding a few of the bigger excellent blogs that you may already have on your list or are now part of a larger corporation. The websites listed below are all, to my knowledge, still owned and operated by their founder. I’m also leaving out some great blogs written by financial columnists and authors, going for the truly independent, non-professional-writer voice, though I suspect one of the anonymous writers below moonlights as a professional financial columnist.
If you read other blogs about personal finance, feel free to leave comments about your favorites or disagree with my picks.
These are in no particular order.
Weakonomics. Philip’s background in economics and IT makes him an ideal finance blogger to me. Note that his background does not include marketing. His grasp on economic issues is more complete than I’d ever expect, or want, mine to be. I particularly like his recent open letter to James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner technology inventor who stars in his own company’s commercials. Also, check out his article here, The Greatest Loss of the Recession.
Pop Economics. While we’re on the topic of economics, let’s not forget Pop. No, he’s not Ben Bernanke in disguise. Pop often focuses on behavioral economics, which I find fascinating — much more than, say, macroeconomics. Check out his articles on Consumerism Commentary, The Wrong Reason to Dollar-Cost Average and Creating a Risk-Free Retirement Plan. Pop thoroughly researches and contemplates his articles, and this provides a lot of value to his readers. Read his article on 2011′s job market, definitely one of my favorite articles of January, anywhere.
Frugal for Life. Let’s switch gears from the economy to the personal. Dawn’s been writing about her frugality since at least 2004 or 2005. Frugal for Life started as a way for her to organize all the ideas she was reading about frugality, a concept she fell in love with after reading The Tightwad Gazette. Frugal for Life is more than just a compendium of tips for saving money, it has a personal touch, without the feel of most “frugal” blogs that are more interested in sharing “deals” (ie., ways to spend money), that make you wonder whether they’re being paid by Wal-Mart or some other company to encourage consumerism. Here are 41 things that Dawn has learned from living frugally.
Blonde and Balanced. You may think Amber is new to this scene, but she had been blogging about money under a different title (Carrie… on the Cheap) for a while before coming back to take the blogosphere by storm. Her writing flows naturally and her personality shines through. That’s a refreshing approach at a time I’m constantly reminded that “content farms” are taking over the Internet. I am not the only one who sees value in Amber’s writing; she has unsurprisingly picked up freelance gigs everywhere I look. Here is her excellent short article, Who Cares If Resolutions Don’t Work?.
Bad Money Advice. Unfortunately, Frank Crumudgeon has been spending most of his time lately looking for a new job, so we have not been treated to many new articles. When he returns, which I hope he does, readers will enjoy more of his critical look at mainstream financial advice, including stuff I write about here. He’s commented on and criticized a few of my articles and ideas on Consumerism Commentary, which is always welcomed and encouraged, and it got my attention. I like his criticism of The Millionaire Next Door and the discussion that followed, as well as his contribution to Consumerism Commentary, Thinking is Not Enough.
Well Heeled Blog. The author says she has a nerdy interest in personal finance, but her articles don’t reflect nerdiness at all. Even though she freely admits a love for “stuff” like shoes, she is taking a stab at minimalism. I have no criticism of either approach to living, and I think it’s great when people have an open mind and try new approaches, particularly when they can share their experiences publicly. Her recent article about non-traditional engagement rings inspired a good discussion, and here on Consumerism Commentary, she asked if men paying for dinner is more romantic. The intersection of relationships and money always fascinates me; while I’m not private about my finances, for the most part, I tend to keep my own relationship experiences to myself.
Psy-Fi Blog. I minored in psychology for two semesters in college until I realized that I had no time for a minor. I still find psychology fascinating, and I wish I knew more about the subject. That’s why I like the Psy-Fi Blog. Psychology plays a significant role in personal finance and the decisions we make, and I am interested in reading more about why human brains function the way they do. More importantly, the best information we can take away is how we can use what we know about psychology to make better decisions with our money. I have enormous respect for a writer who can work Schrödinger’s cat into financial decisions, as he did in his recent article, Quantum Consciousness is Market Uncertainty.
I know that when reading any of the above websites I won’t be distracted by the thought that there are ulterior motives at work. I don’t mean to say that other blogs are not trustworthy; I’ve picked just a few of my favorites to highlight a small number of blogs that I like and that I believe deserve attention. What are your most trusted personal finance blogs and websites?
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published January 27, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.