The goal of A Guide to Personal Finance Blogs is to help readers navigate the vast seas of personal finance blogging to find new blog sites that best fit their specific tastes. I’ve recently had several discussions with people on the best ways to use the Guide to fulfill that lofty purpose. Not too long ago I posted one example on how to use the Custom Search Engine in the Guide. I thought a more comprehensive example might be useful, particularly because I’ve added some new features to the Guide in the last few weeks.
One good way to use the Guide is to start with a blog you already know and like, and let it lead you to other blogs with similar characteristics. So, let’s try that method using the example of The College Investor. Why use that particular blog as an example? There are several reasons. One, it’s a well established and respected blog that’s been around since 2009. Two, it’s not so big (e.g., about 11,000 followers on Twitter) that it creates a huge constellation of blog spin offs. In contrast, if you started with Mr. Money Mustache that would probably lead you to a bewildering array of blogs, because so many people have been influenced by MMM over the years. Three, in the interest of transparency, The College Investor recently mentioned Mindfully Investing in a post about the Best Investing Blogs of 2017. If I am going to use an example, I at least want to use one that’s recognized the stunningly great content available at Mindfully Investing.
So, let’s say for our example that you are a fan of The College Investor. What next?
Personally, I like to start with the writing Style of a blog. If you like reading personal and touching stories and go straight to a similar sounding blog that has hard-nosed research and education pieces, then you’re going to be disappointed. Accordingly, let’s start by clicking on the Blog Styles page of the Guide. There you will find a nifty graph that plots over 1000 personal finance blogs on two style “coordinates” that looks something like this.
You can go to the actual interactive graph by clicking on the graph picture above. You can read more about what the graph style coordinates mean on the Blog Styles page, but for now, just know that the styles sort into four broad categories tracked by the colors in the graph:
- Stories (green)
- Examples/Advice (yellow)
- Education (red)
- Opinion/Motivation (blue)
The particular graph above is for well established blog sites (blogs started prior to 2013). There are too many blogs plotted on this graph to easily pick out The College Investor, so instead, we’ll click on the Styles Table page, and enter the first few letters of “college” into the filter form at the top of the table. This gives you a smaller table with The College Investor showing up as an “Education” style blog (red). You can click on the example below to take you to the actual interactive table.
The College Investor turns out to be clearly in the Education style (red) category with ratings of 2 and 2 on the two styles axes. A rating of 5 and 5 would indicate a blog is strongly educational, which probably means it’s going to read very much like a text book or technical journal article. Some people love that, others’ don’t. It’s a matter of taste, and that’s exactly what we are trying to divine here. So, The College Investor is not extremely far into the educational quadrant, which means it tries to entertain to some degree as well educate.
So now we can go back to the graph of well-established blogs and look at other blogs that have a Style of 2 and 2. These include:
- Before You Invest
- Lazy Man and Money
- Money Under 30
- Miss Thrifty
- The Military Wallet
- The Chicago Financial Planner
- Lauren Greutman
- Money Smart Guides
- My Own Advisor
- Retire Happy
- The Work at Home Wife
- Femme Frugality
- Chris Reining
- Financial Best Life
- Living on the Cheap
You can also obtain this same list by going back to the Styles Table and sorting blogs by the year they were started and filtering for blogs with a style of 2 and 2.
That’s still a pretty big list and it clearly covers a range of topics of potential interest from military to retirement, etc. So, let’s look next at the factor of Blog Topic. On the topics page you will find a similar interactive table that summarizes recent content from all the blogs in six topic areas. You can find The College Investor just like we did before using the table filter. This gives the following result:
Recent articles in The College Investor covered mostly topics of investing, saving/budgeting and debt/credit. This is a somewhat eclectic mix of topics, and mixed topic blogs are color coded gray on the topics table. We can look for similar blogs by looking at other mixed (gray) blogs, or we could recognize that The College Investor recent articles were most often about investing with saving/budgeting articles coming in second. We can find other blogs with similar topic mixes looking at the Blog Topic Graphs page and then clicking on the page with graphs focused mostly on investing. That graph shows us investing focused blogs with significant red (representing saving/budgeting topic) right at the top:
One member of that list stands out because it was at the top of the list of blogs with similar Style to The College Investor that we generated above. That one blog is called “Before You Invest“. I urge you to take a look at this blog and compare it to The College Investor by reading a few articles on each site. I think you’ll find considerable similarities in style and topic mix between the two. There are other similarities including they both are well established (Before You Invest started way back in 2000) and both are from the United States, which can be easily determined by looking at the table on the Geography page.
Style, Topics, and Recent Posts
Many folks are looking for fresh content. We can see by looking at the Blogs over Time page that “Before You Invest” has not posted in the last week (as of the writing of this article). To look for similar blogs with more recent posts you can use table in the Blogs over Time page and filter it for education style and mixed topic focus (because these are the general style and topics categories for The College Investor). (This sorting and filtering process is exactly like we followed on the Styles and Topics tables above.) You can then sort that smaller table by the year the blog started (to get well established blogs like The College Investor) and by “days since last post” to get blogs with the most recent posts. This results in the following list of established blogs similar to The College Investor, which have also posted within the last week.
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich
- Getting Your Financial Ducks In A Row
- Money Under 30
- Lazy Man and Money
- Money Ning
- Everything Finance
- Your Smart Money Moves
- Couple Money
- Frugal Confessions
- Lauren Greutman
- Femme Frugality
- My Money Design
- Penny Thots
Again, we see a couple of overlaps with the previous lists including: “Lauren Greutman” and “Money Under 30“. If you peruse these blogs, I think you will again find some clear similarities to The College Investor. One caveat is that Lauren recently posted that she is taking her blog in a new direction. So, her blog may start to drift away from some of the characteristics of The College Investor in the next few months. Also, in my opinion Lauren’s blog has more a feminine touch than The College Investor. But I’d suggest that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Finding one blog that is similar to, but not exactly the same as a blog you like may be a more fruitful outcome in some respects.
Results of the Chase
So, we pretty quickly came up with three blogs (Before You Invest, Lauren Greutman, and Money Under 30) that may be worth exploring if you are already a fan of The College Investor. I should also add, that I find it quite helpful to randomly select some of the blogs on all of the above lists. I often find that there are a few more blogs that interest me in these slightly wider lists, and it’s definitely a much more efficient hunt than randomly clicking on websites in some giant list someone presents as “awesome”.
There are many other ways to use the Guide to Personal Finance blogs. So, this really is only one example. Another approach is to simply look at a few random blogs of various styles, topic mixes, new vs. older blogs, countries, and post frequency to get a sense of the content you like in general. For example, once you determine that the Story style seems to drive much of your preference for any given blog, you can just focus your search to other blogs that have the Story style.
Another big factor in determining blogs you may like has to do with the type of blogger writing the content. Are they male/female, young/old, single/married, and do they have kids or not? And what’s their profession and claimed focus of their blog? Do they claim to be blogging about being in the Military, being Millennial, their family life, or something else? These factors often help further determine the blogs you may like, and I am currently working on a new page for the Guide that will tackle exactly this issue. Of course, I will post again and tweet when this new page is available.
As always, please let me know if you see any other ways I can improve or augment the Guide to Personal Finance Blogs.