Opinion

Join the Personal Finance Blogosphere

Join the Personal Finance Blogosphere

Join the Personal Finance Blogosphere

Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006 | Lately, I’ve been spending my time savoring the secrets of regular people’s diaries. I’ve just been reading personal finance blogs.

As part of the ongoing evolution in how the Internet is changing our lives, people are now unveiling their bank accounts (details not account numbers), assets and habits for the world to read. Go to www.bloggers.com, type in personal finance and you’ll see what I mean.

The personal-finances blogosphere is a very well-established community and it seems that the primary bloggers all read each others posts and may even be friends. This week several of the personal finance bloggers – led by Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity – are one-upping each other with tales of their worst financial moves ever.

The best blogs are not by personal finance experts and advisers, but by regular people sufficiently obsessed with their own bottom line so as to share the details with the rest of us. They’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, including accumulating debt and poor credit. Some of them have pretty good ideas. The blogosphere includes single professionals, married people with children and married people without children. They’re almost all anonymous and most seem to exclude salary information or any other details that might reveal who they are.

What they have in common is a desire to save money, track spending and reduce consumption all while balancing the demands of living in an object-driven, wealth-obsessed society.

Where do you draw the line between the things you want and the things you need? And when you determine that something you want is just that and nothing more, what calculus do you use in determining whether it’s worth the cost to your diminished savings?

My favorite blogger is Crazy Money, a 20-something Texan who seems to have an incredible amount of financial acumen and accumulated wealth for such a youngster, and he even owns his own home. Of course, he lives in Texas, where you can still buy a home for less than $100,000. But I lived in Texas when I was mid-20s and can tell you that buying a house and saving for retirement were the last things on my mind. My life then was just “one big whirl of pleasure,” my mother used to say. Arguably some of my silliest expenditures occurred at Victoria’s Secret, where I managed to rack up several hundred dollars worth of charges on my handy Victoria’s Secret credit card, forcing my mother to ask, “How can anyone owe money to an underwear store?” Indeed.

Crazy Money has spent the past several weeks calculating his “Crazy Money Consumption Footprint” which has inspired me to do my own. The consumption footprint is essentially what it costs to be you. Crazy Money adds up everything he has spent on himself that doesn’t add to his net worth. Excluded from the list are taxes, money given to charity and principal payments on loans. Interest payments go on the footprint side. The point is not to suggest that spending money on oneself is a bad thing. In fact, Crazy Money determined that his footprint is pretty low.

Another popular blog is Boston Gal’s Open Wallet, in which a single 30-something Bostonian tracks growth in her net worth. In two posts this week, Boston Gal has gotten philosophical about the dream of wealth from the perspective of the California Gold Rush, and provided a historical breakdown of her utility usage.

www.fivecentnickel.com is described as “the money musings of a 30-something family man.” In a recent post, Mr. Nickel bemoans the fact that since gas prices dropped over the past six months, Americans started buying gas guzzling SUVs again. He says we deserve high gas prices and I have to agree.

PFblog.com tracks the personal finance “observation, musing and decisions” on the writer’s journey toward accumulating a million dollars by age 36. PFBlog is 30.

Here are a few more to try:

City Girl is a 24-year old San Francisco woman, who bought her first house in 2004 with one of those old fashioned 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. One of City Girl’s posts actually did list the contents of her wallet.

These DINKs (dual-income no kids) from Washington, D.C. provide their names, occupations and a picture. And a link to their wedding web page. The couple blogs about all manner of personal-finance issues, including saving money on a business conference, their views on poverty and the joys of refinancing.

www.raising4boys.com, or “Parenting by the seat of our pants,” is written by a mom and dad who blog about family life and teaching kids about the value of a dollar.

This blog is by a 30-something who calls himself LAMoneyGuy. His most recent posts covered wedding expenses, airline and hotel miles, and blog advertising.

Catherine MacRae Hockmuth is a free-lance writer living in Point Loma. Please contact her directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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