A reader, Jimmy, wrote in with an interesting question recently.
Where do you come up with your ideas? I know you read a lot, but what do you read for personal finance ideas? Just the books you review?
I thought, in response to Jimmy’s question, that I’d list all of the materials I read regularly for ideas and inspirations for The Simple Dollar.
Personal finance blogs I read several of these on a daily basis and I go through fifty or so every week when I prepare my weekly roundup. The ones I enjoy reading the most right now include Frugal Dad, Get Rich Slowly, Gather Little by Little, Queercents, Money Saving Mom, and Wise Bread. All are pumping out a lot of interesting stuff right now. If you’d like to see some of the other sites I read, check out the list of sites on the right hand menu of any Simple Dollar page.
Other thought-provoking blogs I regularly read about the same number of non-personal finance blogs, too, and they often give me interesting insights and angles I hadn’t considered before. Chief among these (my daily reads) are Seth Godin, Reddit, Lifehacker, Glenn Greenwald, and Consumerist (which trends pretty hard toward personal finance). I dip into many others about once a week, usually when I do my roundups, because occasionally I’ll find a relevant link in a non-personal finance blog.
Personal finance magazines I read the “big three” personal finance magazines once a month in the reading room at the local library. This includes Money, Kiplinger’s, and SmartMoney. I usually have a notebook with me to jot down thoughts - I’m usually more inspired by single sentences and pictures than I am by the articles, though. I find Money to usually be the most relevant, but also the most repetitive.
I subscribe to The Economist and I find it to be the most informative thing I read each week. It’s my primary source for keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world and also for learning more about how economics is applied today. I almost always have a few interesting ideas after reading an issue, and it’s one of two that I make sure to read cover to cover during a week, the other being…
Business Week is the other strongly related magazine I subscribe to. It’s not quite as good as The Economist - it has an American business focus to it - but like The Economist, it inspires lengthy trains of thought. I tend to read this one cover to cover as well, with a pen in hand so I can scribble on the pages and circle things that make me think.
Other well-written general magazines I also subscribe to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and a few cooking magazines. While I read all of these intensely, they rarely inspire thought about personal finance, to tell the truth. They do, however, often inspire me to write about other things.
Personal finance, personal development, and business books As readers of this site know, I review two books a week, usually one that’s generally describable as a personal finance book and another that would be a personal development, business, or entrepreneurship book. I tend to read two and a half books in this genre a week, usually quite speedily since much of the material is now familiar to me. I tend to slow down if the book is entertaining or offers ideas I’ve not really heard before.
Challenging fiction and nonfiction of all kinds I usually get through about another book a week on a completely separate topic. I read all kinds of stuff, from philosophy to the latest Michael Chabon novel. Much like the general magazines I read, I occasionally get inspired about personal finance from these books, but not often. They mostly help me with other trains of thought and with mastery of language.
How do you read so much?
This is a question I get all the time. The truth is that I usually set two to three hours a day in the middle of the day aside for devoted reading related to The Simple Dollar, then an hour or two in the evening is spent with other reading choices. Add on top of that the fact that I can read pretty fast and it’s clear how I can get through so much material.
I find that it’s easier to come up with interesting ideas when you constantly hit yourself with a wide variety of ideas and facts. That’s why I read so much and it’s why I rarely have difficulty coming up with topics to write about for The Simple Dollar.
The Simple Dollar chronicles a man's road to recovery from "total financial meltdown." As author Trent Hamm puts it, "The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two." We'll post a couple of entries a week, but you can check out his writing daily at www.thesimpledollar.com