Blogs from the Financial Front
Five online money diarists too smart--or weird--to miss.
(MONEY Magazine) - What's a heck of a lot more fun than sorting through your own finances? Why, sneaking a peek at someone else's, of course.
That's what's great about Web-based diaries (known as blogs) devoted to personal finance. They can give you an up-close, over-the-shoulder look at other people's money adventures, whether they're everyday folks balancing a budget or financial pros with a front-row view of the markets.
Granted, these blogs, often written anonymously, can at times read like the ramblings of your dullest relatives: Who cares that some guy saved $6 on lightbulbs at Target? But when blogs click, these running commentaries can educate, entertain and inspire you to get your own finances in order.
Here are five of the best.
Tastiest Nuggets of Wisdom
Sound Money Tips www.soundmoneytips.com
• WHAT IT IS This blog, maintained by financial journalist Michael Weinstein, comes up with one good financial resource a day: a website that will save you money, perhaps, or good tax advice excerpted from a newspaper article.
• TYPICAL POSTING For people who share expenses with housemates or friends, the blog spotlights BillMonk.com, a new, free service that enables easy tracking of debts among friends.
• WHY TO READ IT The blissfully simple format--one money-saving tip a day--is simultaneously predictable and surprising. Just like a fortune cookie.
Best Professional Commentary
All Things Financial www.allthingsfinancialblog.com
• WHAT IT IS Financial planner Jeffrey Pritchard flags useful advice elsewhere on the Internet and tackles some of life's difficult choices: Are index funds better than ETFs? Does a 15-year mortgage beat a 30-year?
• TYPICAL POSTING A student writes asking for "some direction" in solving a homework problem about the savings necessary to finance a college education a decade away. Pritchard not only explains the strategy for solving the problem but also goes ahead and calculates the answer. Another reader jealously comments, "I wish the Internet was around when I was in school."
• WHY TO READ IT In a sea of blogs written by learn-as-you-go personal-finance experts, Pritchard brings a distinctive, professionally trained perspective.
Most Vivid Glimpse into Mortgage Madness
Another F@cked Borrower www.housingbubblecasualty.com
• WHAT IT IS A mortgage banker from Southern California writes about the housing bubble and loose credit standards. Enthusiastic readers share their own experiences, both within the blog and on separate message boards.
• TYPICAL POSTING The author, who goes by the nom de blog "SoCalMtgGuy," reminisces about the boom times of not so long ago, back when young mortgage brokers bought themselves Escalades, blew $10,000 on weekends in Las Vegas and wouldn't deign to write loans smaller than $500,000. "That energy is gone from my best offices," he writes. "Many of the cubicles that used to be full are empty. The top people are still around, but they are having to work much harder."
• WHY TO READ IT Lots of blogs track the housing bubble, but this one does it from the inside.
Sharpest Argument for Cutting Up Credit Cards
Defying Debt... in Two Years www.thedebtdefier.blogspot.com
• WHAT IT IS A California woman records the process of digging herself out of credit-card debt that totaled $19,794 in May 2005; as of late February, it was down to $6,488.
• TYPICAL POSTING She explains her scheme to make $314 in savings account interest by writing a 0%-interest check off of one of her credit cards. Several readers warn about the fine print.
• WHY TO READ IT If you're trapped by debt or want to know what it's like, you'll get a front-row seat to someone else's great escape. Inspiring and voyeuristic.
Simplest Path to Riches
Change Is Good www.changequest.blogspot.com
• WHAT IT IS Many people pick up loose change they find in the street. But only a visionary few, starting with Brian, the author of this blog, publish a running tally of what they've amassed and record where they found each coin.
• TYPICAL POSTING First, Brian finds a dime on his way to the gym. Then he notes the death of former major league pitcher Paul Lindblad, who used to search for change at the ballpark with a metal detector. "My kind of guy," writes Brian.