My oh-so-insightful take on The Simple Dollar vs I Will Teach You To Be Rich...

If you're a denizen of the financial blogging-sphere, then you've probably noticed the recent post-exchange between Trent of The Simple Dollar and Ramit of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I just twittered about being indignant with Ramit about the whole thing, and to my surprise he actually responded.

So, I wanted to try to explain my thoughts, because a twitter-response just wasn't cutting it. I'm going to assume everyone's familiar with the exchange and not waste time explaining it -- so quick do a bit of reading if you're not.

1) The whole month-long-challenge deal -- when the original stance The Simple Dollar was highlighting how "small things" can be worthwhile over a longer period of time -- just doesn't work at all. Trent has dealt plenty of times with large-scale financial changes, so it's not like he's saying those things aren't imperative. I would really say his stance in general is that small things should follow the big changes, in order to keep frugal development 'evolving.'

2) If you're struggling or stunted financially (with school loans to pay and (at least for right now) a job that nobody could properly call a career, I lump myself in this group) then little things do matter. I myself measure my Thriftie investments based on whether the hourly time/money exchange comes out to at least what I'm making at my current job, so I can see if you have a higher income then the small things may appear neglible. However I felt as though Ramit's post didn't take into consideration that some people aren't at that point yet (and some will never be), and so came across as arrogant. Perhaps he does take that into consideration and doesn't mind alienating that segment of the blog-reading population... his seemingly devil-may-care-whose-feelings-I-hurt kind follow-up to Charlie's comment (it's in green if you keep scrolling down) would seem to fit with that. The overall tone came across as mocking. And if I'm scraping and pinching just to make an extra school-loan payment each month, then I'm going to find that offensive and perhaps eventually join the ranks of the alienated.

3) Ramit seemed to have taken Trent's comments personally. The whole, 'I woke up one morning to find my beautifully baby has been attacked!!" thing didn't feel humorous, it seemed as though Ramit honestly felt threatened by an alternative point of view. I felt like I needed to admonish Ramit that if everybody agreed with and followed his exact method, it wouldn't be his method at all it would be the norm... And I think he didn't mean it to be taken seriously like that, so perhaps the tone of the writing was just open to being misconstrued.

4) The thousand-dollar stake of the proposed "challenge" and the implication that frugal ideas can somehow be patented as 100% unique also was problematic. Trent is a freelance writer with a family --sure, I'm sure he's doing fine now, but did you really expect him to *snap* agree to what appears at first glance to be a rather dubious contest? Ramit is acting like frugal ideas can somehow be patented as mine vs yours, when in actuality Trent has highlighted many of the same topics (investments, dealing with credit card debt, things to know about insurance, etc) plenty of times, so the whole month of "your tips" vs "my tips" would overlap hugely. A whole lot more thought would have to go into a proposal like that to make it "scientific" (groups of similar socio-economic status, for one thing, and similar levels of financial savvy already possessed for another) so it seems as though the "challenge" was made with the knowledge that it wouldn't be accepted. And so, perhaps made just to make Trent look bad... which in my opinion made Ramit look bad (or at least, calculating, which maybe isn't "bad" but definitely unscrupulous).

I've been subscribed to both blogs since October, so I'm not claiming to have knowledge of either of their individual "doctrines" of either up until that point, past the limited clicking I've done in their archives. I very much value Ramit's more aggressive tactics in many cases (like with his post on negotiating auto insurance) and have greatly benefited from a lot of his advice, so I don't mean to seem harsh, but I feel as though his challenge was either not well thought out or not well-intentioned. I hope the former.

My dispassionate assessment is that with two very different styles and perspectives on approaching money-management and finances, the two blogs end up sandwiching the topic. I just wish they would step back far enough to gain perspective on the marvelous lunch that together they provide for their faithful blog-readers. :P

Disclaimer: The title is meant ironically.

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