Jungle Magazine: I, Blogger
By Jeff Ousborne
Focus: Personal Finance and the Angst of Living in a Material World
Okay, so you don’t visit Flexo’s blog for mind-blowing stock tips, breathtaking macroeconomic analysis, or shocking exposés of the business world. Indeed, the unassuming nature of the site reflects its modest, practical origins. The spirit is less “here’s how to get rich!” and more “here’s how I figured out how to pay less for insurance.”
Flexo, “single, almost 30, and not a personal finance expert” — likes it that way. “In 2003, I was working for this nonprofit and knew nothing about personal finance,” says Flexo, now an accounting associate at —. “I was living in New Jersey and, one day, I did the math on my salary and my life and my commute and realized I was operating at a net loss.” So he set up a blog for fun — and to keep himself honest. So far, at least, it has.
“I wanted to track my own progress and hold myself accountable,” says Flexo. “For example, I had written about how I wanted to go to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin this year, but as I wrote and thought about it, and as people read about it, knowing my finances, everyone knew I couldn’t afford to do it right now.” In an odd way, Flexo’s well-designed, easily navigated site has the intimacy of, say, personal blogs devoted to dating and romance. Only instead of romantic confessions and hot updates on The Kama Sutra, he dishes up the scoop on his budget crunches or tests out a new, higher-interest savings account. And, sure — there’s also some informative stuff about the recent Bankruptcy Bill and a link to an interview with the preternaturally tanned financial guru Suze Orman.
He even shares his search for career nirvana and his pursuit of an online MBA. On February 27 of this year, he posts: “A few weeks ago I took the Law School Admissions Test. My ‘career’ hasn’t had much direction lately, so I’m considering changing course. Alternatively, I may decide to move out to California or some other place not New Jersey, whether I choose to go to law school or not.” Three weeks later, we read this: “I resumed taking classes for my MBA.” The guilty pleasure of the blog is in the voyeurism of watching an astute, honest, financially self-aware everyman with an unpretentious prose style. “I use my own numbers, whether it’s a car payment or an insurance premium,” he says.
The numbers? He spends $3,600 a year on car insurance, about $67 a month on groceries, and (apparently) nothing on a Valentine’s Day gift this past year. He’s paying 2 percent interest on his car loan. He bitches about his yearly bonus and worries about whether he’ll be able to afford to have children. He muses about how much to tip a maitre d’, and even engages in some schadenfreude when a co-worker gets fired for “blatant stupidity.” His regular readers write in to commiserate or offer advice (“The responses have been really great — no flaming,” he says).
Of course, more than a diary or an online bull session, the site provides a digest of practical articles on personal finance: a quick, one-stop clearinghouse on financial news and advice, from a piece on the best way to get a loan to 401(k) diversification and web- based financial planning. “I link things from a lot of different sources — The New York Times, The Motley Fool, other finance blogs, wherever,” he says. “But I think it’s most important for me to focus on my own goals and obstacles, which is really the point and which sets it apart from other sites.” Flexo figures his site gets maybe 200 unique hits a day, which is small cyber-potatoes in the blogosphere, but fine by him. And he’s philosophical about the modest revenue Consumerism Commentary (like argmax.com) generates from its Google ads — an amount he’s not at liberty to discuss. “I work on this anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour a day, in the morning, at odd moments during the workday, at night,” says Flexo. “If I get enough money from it to take myself out to dinner every once in a while, that’s all I’m looking for. I’m more interested in getting good advice, contributing to a discussion, and keeping myself on track financially.” We’ll be reading.
* Source location: Jungle Magazine