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Twelve years ago today I started a blog called Consumerism Commentary. On that date, I was about one year into my journey of improving my finances. I had the bright and forward-thinking idea to track my progress — both in my bank accounts and in my skills of money management — publicly but anonymously, and by the end of the day I had a new website up and running. You can see what it looked like in 2003, in the graphic below, thanks to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

I’ve told the story a few times before. Here’s my most recent and succinct retelling of how I found myself in grave financial circumstances and, through the help of blogging and later the business that grew from it, improved my financial situation and my life substantially, from a negative net worth a few months before I started writing to a seven-figure net worth today. It’s not just about the money, though. I’ve met lovely people including and especially my girlfriend thanks to this website and the community, and I seem to have grown into a fully-formed adult (after starting the website as a late-model adolescent of 27 years).

I sold this website to a lead generation company called QuinStreet three and a half years ago. It was a good acquisition for the company, as they really wanted to ensure their own advertising was being served to the high-quality search engine traffic from which this website was benefiting. It was a good sale for me, because I saw revenue from search engine traffic as highly volatile and unpredictable, and I was happy to offload that risk for a good price.

After the sale, I became an employee, continuing to write for Consumerism Commentary, manage the blog, and offer consulting on blogging and community building as the company was interested. I negotiated a healthy salary — but six months after the sale, the company determined I was too expensive and laid me off. For some reason that baffles many (sometimes including myself), I offered to continue as a contractor, reducing my consulting role but continuing to manage this website and write occasionally.

The frequency of my writing has dropped off significantly since then, especially in the past couple of months. My “freedom” date was approaching. I had many years to prepare to move on, and I had a plan to do so. As luck would have it, after another reorganization at QuinStreet, I got a call the other day from the new supervisor of QuinStreet’s blogs asking me to reduce my role even further. I declined, choosing instead to move on. I imagine I’ll always be welcome to contribute an article for time to time at QuinStreet’s freelancing rates, but I expect I won’t have much to write here that couldn’t be published elsewhere.

I plan on launching a new financial website soon, and in the mean time, working on The Plutus Awards, the Plutus Foundation, a drum and bugle corps I work with as a volunteer, my photography, and other projects will keep me more than busy. Please follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and my LukeLandes.com website to stay on top of my current projects — and consider reading or joining my new financial website once it is launched.

There was no financial blogging community in 2003 when I started Consumerism Commentary. Today, thousands of blogs cover financial topics from thousands of angles. The community today is one of the most supportive groups I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. I’m not leaving the community; in fact, I’ll be more involved than ever as I work hard to make The Plutus Awards the premiere event for the community and turn the Foundation into the most important charitable effort for the independent financial media.

The days of an independent financial blogger earning seven figures from advertising are probably over, at least not without an expensive team of professionals helping behind the scenes. I don’t expect any project I work on to be as lucrative as Consumerism Commentary was, but as long as I continue to have passion for financial education, I’ll find a way to express myself and gain something of an audience. I’m not retiring. This isn’t the early retirement everyone promises. I still have much more to do.

From the readers’ perspective, I expect the future of Consumerism Commentary to feature several articles a month from a freelance financial writer.

There was a point earlier at which, had I left Consumerism Commentary, I would have felt bittersweet about the departure. This was my baby; I put my heart and soul and countless hours into writing and working behind the scenes. When I had a day job, I’d come home, eat dinner, and work another eight hours writing for Consumerism Commentary, emailing readers, bloggers, and the “mainstream” media. I put many unpaid hours into building other affiliated sites and projects like the Carnival of Personal Finance, pfblogs.org (the ad-free personal financial blog aggregator), and free hosting for other financial bloggers. This was my life. There are some readers who have been with me since the very beginning. I appreciate that more than anything else. Thank you.

But today, moving on feels like nothing other than the natural course of action.

I wish QuinStreet the best continued success with the website. Thanks for reading.

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Despite my varied interests, education, and professions throughout my teenage and adult life, which have included everything from music to computer technology, education to personal finance, there has been one constant: building communities.

As a teenager I ran a computer bulletin board system (BBS) out of my home computer. This is an outdated concept now, but back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, online communication involved using one computer to dial directly into another, the host. The host would run software that allows callers to communicate by leaving messages for other callers, through email or message boards. The software would also allow file sharing, like software and very low-resolution graphics, and game playing. One of my favorite games on my BBS was TradeWars 2002.

Like any computer geek — a term that at the time was not the compliment it is today — I would spend hours rewriting the BBS software to customize the experience for callers. My goal was to make my destination one worth calling, even long distance, for not just other computer geeks but anyone with a computer. Since an increasing number of computers were being sold with modems built in, the potential audience was growing.

I went away to college and shuttered the BBS, but less than a year later, the World Wide Web started becoming popular. My college campus was wired. Every dorm room had an Ethernet connection, and every student had access to the Internet. With the web, I could run a server on my computer and build a website that could begin to replicate the BBS experience. This was 1994, so web applications were simple at first, but within a few years, my online community was up and running again, this time, via the Internet.

No community I created was ever as big as Consumerism Commentary and the financial blogging community, though. When I started this website in 2003, I figured it would be a mostly quiet online publication, with small readership. Personal finance was not that big of a topic except among financial professionals. There was no such thing as a “personal finance blog” in 2003. But the topic proved to resonate with people, especially throughout the recession, and now there are thousands of writers who focus on the personal aspect of money. The topic and community are now so big that for the last three years, some of the bloggers, writers, and others involved with the operation of websites have been getting together once a year for a conference: the Financial Blogger Conference.

This is also the fourth year of the Plutus Awards. In other, non-online communities, I’ve been drawn to awards ceremonies. For example, when I was in college, our new marching band director was changing the organization. I was among a group of young leaders in this organization, from both musical and personal perspectives. When the director introduced a banquet to celebrate the end of the season, I created an award ceremony, with fun categories and certificates to recognize not only the hardest workers in the organization but some of the fun social things that occur when you get three hundred college students together.

That led to the creation of the Plutus Awards in this new community of personal finance writers. This is more important than silly awards in a marching band, though. Personal finance bloggers are dong a great thing for this world, and it deserves to be recognized at least once a year. Encouraging writing about money issues from a personal perspective gives a purpose to the broader community, and is a much better alternative than what existed prior to 2003 — almost all financial writing at that time came from professional financial experts or journalists. There was little room for the “common man” to share his experiences with a wide audience.

The Internet changed access to publication, and now, millions of readers with financial concerns go to blogs first, before buying books, reading magazines, or visiting professionals, if they do the latter at all. This is a great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. The Plutus Awards encourage and reward best practices, not only from writers but from the financial industry at large.

Please show your appreciation for the financial blogging community by voting here for your favorite blogs. If you visit that link, I’ve filled two categories with nominations for Consumerism Commentary, but you can vote for any blogs you like across a number of categories. If you are a blogger yourself, you also have the opportunity to vote for your favorite financial products and services.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Financial Blogger Conference in October hosted again by Kevin McKee, the founder of RewardBoost and Thousandaire and one of the most entertaining people within the community of financial bloggers.

The conference is about more than fun, though. Hundreds of bloggers and others interested in the world of financial blogging come to learn how to best operate their websites, to meet other people with similar interests, and to be excellent at everything they do. At the conference, I will be hosting a “roundtable” session focusing on monetization techniques for bloggers. Although it wasn’t my intention at the beginning, Consumerism Commentary turned into a business over time. In fact, it became a big business with annualized profits in seven figures. This is obviously not normal; thousands of personal financial blogs won’t be businesses that earn that much, and most won’t even earn enough to provide a livable wage on its own.

This wasn’t a quick transformation — I’ve been building communities since at least 1990, and this financial community is the first to profit anything. For the conference, I’m bringing together three of the most successful bloggers, from both a financial perspective and community-building perspective, to talk about alternative monetization techniques, and we all have the experience to back it up. If you’re attending the conference and have any interest in blogging, be sure to join me, J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly, Toni Anderson from The Happy Housewife, and Andrea Deckard from Savings Lifestyle as we discuss a variety of methods of earning money as bloggers.

All of the above comes back to my love for building, fostering, and maintaining communities of people. This is my passion, and this is why I continue to write here today.

{ 8 comments }

I wrote recently about how sharing my financial progress publicly on a monthly basis enabled me to better evaluate my life, make better decisions, and grow my wealth faster than if I had kept my progress to myself. Over time, not only did the public display of my net worth and income motivate me, but the transparency became crucial to my philosophy of improving anyone’s financial situation, and the same transparency helped build a relationship with readers here on Consumerism Commentary.

Here’s why I believe this worked. Knowing readers would be looking for positive improvements each month, there is extra motivation not to let them down. Fear of embarrassment can drive better decision-making. It’s rooted in a life philosophy I’ve often heard: “Live as if everything you do could be a front-page story in the New York Times.” This type of motivation may apply not others, not only myself.

A few reasons now prevent me from being just as forthcoming about my own finances today, but I have decided to take this model of transparency and create an exciting new feature on this site. In the midst of writing the article linked above, I came to the realization that the monthly progress reports are and should be an integral part of the identity of this site, and I want to bring them back. At the time, I called for readers to be willing to share their monthly financial reports anonymously.

The response was positive and unexpectedly voluminous, so I’ve expanded the plan. Each month I’d like to track up to five readers’ financial progress. Assuming there are enough readers willing to commit to this tracking for at least year, I will be able to choose those whose life situations are substantially different from each other. For example, one reader might be a single guy looking to quit his job and start his own business, another might be in a family of four with a household income of over $150,000 with investments to track, while yet another might represent a couple nearing retirement with a savings deficiency.

The participants will provide a report exported out of Quicken or something equivalent, which I will format in much the same way I’ve formatted my reports in the past. Each reader will be featured in one article a month, in which they will present their financial update and describe any obstacles or successes they might have experienced in the past month. Each article will also feature feedback from me and a few financial experts I’m recruiting.

I plan for this to begin with the end of 2012. The end of the year is a great point for creating a baseline. It will also be one year after my last personal net worth update.

Even if you have already contacted me to be part of this major new feature on Consumerism Commentary, please complete the form below. It’s important to understand these details about each interested reader in order to select a good mix of financial situations. Continue reading this article to see the form. Read the full article →

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If you are new to Consumerism Commentary, start here.

My name is Luke Landes, and I am the founder of Consumerism Commentary. I started this website in 2003 to hold myself accountable for my choices pertaining to my financial condition. Over the subsequent years, Consumerism Commentary has grown into one of the most popular blogs to focus on the world of personal finance. The website counts among its praises being called one of the best money sites by the most-read financial columnist on the internet, Liz Weston, named as a must-read blog by Kiplinger’s, and listed as a best money website by Money Magazine.

The mission of Consumerism Commentary is to develop financially literate, capable, and successful human beings by sharing educational, entertaining, and engaging writing.

You can read more about Consumerism Commentary and about me here.

Here’s how to approach Consumerism Commentary for the first time.

Step 1: My net worth

From 2003 through 2011, I tracked my personal financial reports publicly as a way to hold myself accountable as I progressed from being in debt with little income towards financial independence. Readers can still access my full net worth history.

Step 2: Subscribe to and follow Consumerism Commentary

There are new articles on Consumerism Commentary every weekday and occasionally on weekends. Don’t miss anything by subscribing to the website or interacting with Consumerism Commentary through social media.

Step 3: Enjoy Consumerism Commentary

While I write about a number of topics related to personal finance on Consumerism Commentary, all of the articles are geared towards making the best financial decisions throughout our lives. These are some of the must-read articles, essays, and tools on Consumerism Commentary. Read the full article →

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Thanks to the Consumerism Commentary Community

by Luke Landes

In just a short period of time, Consumerism Commentary will be entering its tenth year of existence. The site’s ninth anniversary is approaching, and I’ve been involved with the website longer than I’ve been involved with any other commitment in my life. Jobs and relationships have come and gone, but Consumerism Commentary remains. I started ... Continue reading this article…

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Interact with Consumerism Commentary

by Luke Landes

There are more ways to interact with Consumerism Commentary than visiting this website. I hope you do visit this website often to participate in the discussions. Subscribe to the Consumerism Commentary RSS feed For those with feed readers, we offer an RSS feed, bringing the full text of these entries to your reader, the way ... Continue reading this article…

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About Consumerism Commentary

by Luke Landes

Welcome to Consumerism Commentary! This website was one of the first blogs to focus on money from a personal finance perspective, and Luke Landes was the first blogger to share monthly financial updates, such as his net worth statement, with no restrictions. Consumerism Commentary is now a premier personal finance blog offering daily articles stemming ... Continue reading this article…

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My Interview on Talk Credit Radio, Plutus Awards

by Luke Landes

A few weeks ago, I was a live guest on Talk Credit Radio, hosted by Gerri Detweiler, on radio station WSRQ. We talked about my sordid financial history pre-Consumerism Commentary, in which I confess to owning a car without knowing how to maintain it or how to handle my traffic tickets. We also talk about ... Continue reading this article…

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Nominate Your Favorite Blogs and Products for the Plutus Awards

by Luke Landes

I don’t normally like to interrupt the stream of personal finance articles with something that’s more related to the website than it is to money, but this is an important message that can help support the entire community of blogs that focus on writing about personal finance. If administration-type articles don’t interest you, skip ahead ... Continue reading this article…

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Write a Guest Post for Consumerism Commentary

by Luke Landes

I am not currently accepting guest articles. Out of the hundreds of emails I receive every day, many requests I receive are from writers who would like to contribute to Consumerism Commentary in some form, such as a blog guest post. Many bloggers, particularly those whose websites are popular, can attest to receiving similar requests. ... Continue reading this article…

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Advertise on Consumerism Commentary

by Luke Landes

By advertising on Consumerism Commentary, you will reach hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month. Visitors are actively interested in financial products and services. Consumerism Commentary has been mentioned in and linked by the media including The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo Finance. Some options for advertisers include: Banner advertising Podcast advertising Sponsorship of ... Continue reading this article…

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Meet Bryan, Host of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast

by Luke Landes
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Those listening to the Consumerism Commentary Podcast may have noticed that our latest episode, featuring guest David Bach, was hosted by a new voice. Our long-time producer, Tom Dziubek, is currently taking a hiatus from the show to explore a great job opportunity, and we wish him the best of luck. We’re happy to have ... Continue reading this article…

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About the Consumerism Commentary Staff and Writers

by Luke Landes
Luke Landes

Luke Landes, chief editor and founder Read Luke’s articles / Facebook Profile / @luke_landes / Contact Luke Landes has been building online communities since 1990, and he has been writing for the web since 1994. In 2003, Luke founded Consumerism Commentary to learn more about personal finance, hold himself accountable for his financial decisions, and ... Continue reading this article…

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Consumerism Commentary Store

by Luke Landes

Welcome to the Consumerism Commentary Store! Have you registered for an account on Consumerism Commentary? If you have, and you have logged in, you can earn points for leaving substantial comments on recent articles. (Comments consisting of only, “Great post!” or “I agree with you!” will not earn points, for example.) Note: all users must ... Continue reading this article…

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Best of Consumerism Commentary 2010

by Luke Landes

This was a fantastic year for Consumerism Commentary. Readership has grown by 10 percent since 2009, and I’m happy with these results considering the website has been around since 2003. There are many readers who were with Consumerism Commentary since its start — thank you! And for those who may be new to Consumerism Commentary, welcome. ... Continue reading this article…

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Earn Points By Participating on Consumerism Commentary and Win Goodies

by Luke Landes

You may have noticed that Consumerism Commentary authors, like myself and Smithee, and some commenters, have points and ranks displayed alongside their names. I’ve implemented a new feature on Consumerism Commentary in which visitors can earn points by participating in the discussions following every article and by visiting Consumerism Commentary every day. There will be ... Continue reading this article…

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American Express Offers Currency

by Luke Landes

American Express has been working on ways to attract more of Generation Y to their products. Earlier this year, they began offering the charge card ZYNC with features they expect will attract a new generation of customers, including customizable rewards packages. Earlier this week, AmEx unveiled Currency, a website that incorporates financial advice from writers ... Continue reading this article…

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Best of Consumerism Commentary, February 2010

by Luke Landes

Don’t forget! Consumerism Commentary is in the running to win a few Plutus Awards. The Plutus Awards are designed to celebrate the best personal finance resources such as books, savings accounts, and blogs. Vote here now before the deadline on March 16. The finalists were selected from among those that received the highest number of ... Continue reading this article…

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Vote for Your Favorite Financial Products and Blogs

by Luke Landes

Earlier this year, the personal finance blogging community nominated their favorite products, services, and blogs to be considered for a new annual awards ceremony, The Plutus Awards. (The name comes from the relatively unknown ancient Greek god of wealth, Plutus.) These awards are designed to celebrate the best in personal finance. I’ve been working on ... Continue reading this article…

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Best of Consumerism Commentary, January 2010

by Luke Landes

Wrapping up the first month of the year, I’m not quite convinced I’m on the right track yet. I spent most of this month without much time for myself. I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not responsible for any other person than myself. On the other hand, January was a great month for Consumerism ... Continue reading this article…

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