I have a folder in my bookmarks aptly named “Ultimates.” This is a very special place in my browser. In the two and a half years I’ve been following blogs, I’ve only appointed 11 posts into this folder. At least once a month, I reread all the posts to help provide me with inspiration and motivation. The post at the very top of the list is one written by Trent at The Simple Dollar entitled Everything You Ever Really Needed To Know About Personal Finance On The Back Of Five Business Cards.
I’m not exaggerating at all when I tell you that this is my single favorite personal finance post I’ve ever read. When I first heard that Trent has turned this into an e-book, I took a quick glance at the “On Just One Page” part of the title and thought to myself, “Oh Trent, trying to be clever. Launching and entire e-book in pdf that’s only one page long.” Even thinking it was just the one page, I’m a fan so I took the bait (it’s free bait, after all).
You can imagine by school-boyish excitement when I realized the document was 49 pages long!
First, this is unarguably a compilation of some of Trent’s best work. In fact, he links back to 111 different articles that he has written over the years. It’s also awesome that he provided the links by numbers at the end of the sentences instead of linking strands of text, which would have made the document much more difficult to read.
Second, Trent provides short, easy-to-implement strategies you can immediately implement. For example, he lists out 15+ strategies to network and increase your income. In the next section, Trent goes onto to list 100 ways to cut spending and save additional money. Each tip is discussed in detail, which will help you take immediate action.
Third, did I mention this was FREE? I can’t imagine the amount of work that it takes to compile an e-book like this. To be honest, this is something that Trent could easily monetize and a ton of people would pay for. It’s obviously he is leaving money on the table in order to be able to share the information freely. It proves why he is universally respected throughout the blogging community.
Fourth, Trent spreads around the love. At the end of the book, Trent shares his top 25 personal finance and development blogs that he regularly reads. It’s an awesome place to find great content, especially for those looking to branch out a little from just personal finance.
Fifth, Trent provides even more additional reading through book reviews. He’s listed 12 of his favorite books (complete with links to reviews). I’ve had the fortune of reading the majority of this list, but the couple I haven’t have immediately made their way onto my “to read” list.
My Favorite (and least favorite) Sections
This first “Idea” as Trent calls them is really just a summary of the #2 and #3 Ideas. Trent’s main focus is on how this is the “fundamental rule of personal finance.” I couldn’t agree more.
However, the majority of the meat and potatoes comes once you break this down into it’s two parts:
Trent provides several great tips on how almost anyone can increase their earning potential. Among the content that resonated with me was:
Go to work well-rested and presentable. I can really relate to this one. Even working from home now, I can tell a huge difference when I get a great night of sleep and wake-up, shower, and dress nicely. It’s just gets me in the zone. Not getting enough sleep or skipping any hygenic routines can destroy your work day.
Learn from (and emulate) the people who do their job well. This has also been a key part of the successes in my life. I’m a big believer in the power of modeling. It’s worked wonders in every are of my young life, including this blog. I try to seek out the people who have already achieved the results I desire and emulate the steps (and sacrifices) they took to get there.
Ignore poisonous people. If you surround yourself with shitty people, you will become a shitty person. Trent is much more elegant than that, but that’s how I truly feel. This is even more true of those of us who attempt to strike out on to our own. There will always be doubter and hecklers. Just remove them from your life. Always focusing on the negative will result in a miserable life.
Step up to challenges when they present themselves. I have many faults, but this is one area where I pride myself. I very rarely back down from challenge once it rears it’s ugly head. I love to take problem break it down and really own it (as long as it’s not losing weight).
Own up to your own mistakes. I’m not so strong at this area, but I have been making a surge recently. When you genuinely say, “You know what, I was being an idiot. I wasn’t thinking and I really messed that up.” What is someone going to reply to that? Even the most heartless people will back down in the face of a genuine apology. And some (like myself) down right respect that trait in people.
Develop More Income Streams. As time goes by, this is something that becomes more and more appealing to me. It certainly one concept that attracts a lot of people to the internet. I view multiple income streams or at least the possibility of multiple income streams to be insurance. Insurance against job loss, recession, or even just a change in your interests.
Move Towards Your Passions. Easier said than done, right? Not really. This is just a mindset that needs adjusting. Notice how Trent does not say, “Quit Your Job & Do What You Love.” He instead suggests to “move” in that direction. Once again, this is something Courtney and I are really trying to pursue.
Donʼt Burn Bridges. It’s a commonly used saying, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I’ve had a few relationships in my life where I’ve decide to take the high road instead of getting out the torch and lighting things on fire. In each of the specific cases, I can recall at least some benefit that came from that relationship later on. It just doesn’t make sense. Our culture, lives, and jobs are changing too rapidly for you to ever really know what the future holds. We simply try to make sure our future holds as many options as possible.
In this section, Trent really ups the ante by providing 100 strategies for maximizing every dollar you spend. Here are the ones I personally connected with the most:
2. Turn off the television. Check. My wife and I recently lived 6 months or so without any. With an internet connection, I can’t find much reason to even have one any more. If you like being distracted, the internet is a far better tool for this anyway.
3. Turn a critical eye to your “collections.” At many different times in my life I’ve been a collector. One of the most expensive periods (time and money) was when I actively played Magic: The Gathering.
6. Master the thirty day rule. - When I first heard about this, I thought it was for stupid people who were weak. Until of course, I realized I too was stupid and weak at times. Maybe it’s just my personality type, but I’m amazed at how many random things I “have to have” that fall off this list after even 3 days.
8. Invite friends over instead of going out. In the month of April, my we were able to not spend one penny out of our entertainment envelope. Do we just lead a miserable existence? Well, maybe. But in reality it’s just because we love to play board/party games. They cost a little more up front, but can literally provide entertainment for years.
14. Drink more water. My wife and I have been 99% water for over a year now. Aside from making you feel much healthier, I can’t believe how much cheaper it has been. Some restaurants can charge a pretty penny for your right to guzzle down 6 rootbeers.
25. Hide your credit cards. I’m a big fan of hiding. If by hiding you mean cutting them into tiny pieces and setting them on fire. Kidding aside, if you choose to utilize them ensure that you have put restraints in place to help control their use.
30. Talk to your loved ones about what your dreams are. I’m a big dreamer and my wife and I like to chat about our hopes, desires, and best case scenarios. How do you think we wound up heading off to Australia soon. It started as a neat idea and slowly became a reality. Discussing our dreams has saved us from throwing a bunch of money at things that we simply don’t want or need.
47. Create a visual reminder of your debt. As some of you know, I enjoy nicknaming my debts with military names; Sallie Mae Alpha Group and Citibank Guerrilla Forces. I know, I’m a dork. But it helps me visualize and keep track of them. I like viewing debt as a “battle.” It instills commitment and passion.
52. Go through your clothes – all of them. Here’s a personal tip. Act like you are moving overseas and can only take one bag. It’s done wonders for us. Every month, my wife has been eliminating half her wardrobe. Every month it seems impossible, but every month she feels so much better once she’s done. She’s got one big purge to go before we leave. Wish her luck.
59. Look for a cheaper place to live. This could also be a cheaper country to live, as well. There are places in this world where a dollar can still go a very long way (yes and safe too). We’ve seriously considered doing some extended travel in some of those areas.
64. Take public transportation. Right now, we don’t live in an area that promotes this very well. However, upon moving we aren’t planning on getting a car at all. We are going to be combining biking and public transportation once we arrive in Carins, AUS. That’s one extreme, but even taking public transportation a couple times a week can make a big difference.
65. Cut your own hair. Let me be blunt. If you are a twenty-something male there are very few legit reasons why you shouldn’t just shave your head. It’s so easy, still socially acceptable, and dirt cheap. I’ve loved it ever since I first took the plunge.
81. Read more. I am a huge reading fan, as well. I read at least a book a week and subscribe to nearly 100 blogs online. I love exposing myself to new content as much as possible. Keeping a good mix of online and printed material helps provide variety, as well.
82. Buy a smaller house. My wife and I are fans of this movement, too. We’ve given serious thought to the possibility of living on a boat if we are going to remain in a area with water for very long. I’ve even read two or three books about it in the last year. We don’t have any crap right now anyway, so why not take advantage of something like this?
84. Always ask for fees to be waived. I always, always, always asked for things to be waived. It’s the easiest form of negotiation that exists. My rate of return has just been ridiculous the last couple years. If you aren’t already doing this, you’ll be very surprised at the frequency of times companies will waive a part or all of random fees.
86. Eat less meat. It’s better for the enviroment, it’s more effecient, and it really is cheaper. I’ve been vegetarian for a couple years and I really enjoy it.
100. Never give up. Never give up. Never, ever give up.
In this next section, Trent trends away from providing tips and instead focuses on outlining a step-by-step plan for managing your money. This is the first section where Trent’s philosophies don’t mesh well with my own.
First, Trent is a fan of paying off your debts in the “highest-interest first” method. Specifically, he advocates paying off anything higher than 9% first. I’m not sure why he settled on that specific number, although I do understand what he is trying to go for. I prefer paying off the debt that has the most “emotional impact” first. A large percentage of the time that results in a debt with a lower balance. In specific cases where individuals place the most emotional value in those debts which have the highest-interest, then we agree. However, I think that this would be an exception to the norm.
Second, I prefer to prioritize some kind of emergency fund before paying down debt. I think the emergency fund plays a crucial role in the mentality of debt reduction. I know this has been a fact in our own lives. I’m not obsessed with the $1000 benchmark that is often thrown around. I think that each person has to set their comfort levels, while being mindful of not saving too much before reducing debt. In addition, Trent throws out the benchmark of 1.5 months per family member as a target emergency fund (after eliminating high-interest debt). Once again, I realize this is just a blanket rule-of-thumb, but I’m not convinced it’s a good idea to apply any sort of formula to something like this.
Despite these two fundamental differences, I enjoyed the rest of this section. Trent goes on to briefly touch on Retirement, College Savings, and General Investing.
I can’t sum this up better than Trent, so I’m not even going to try. Here is how he summarizes this Idea:
Hereʼs the secret: itʼs not about being rich. Having a big net worth is just an indicator
of what this whole process is really about.
Itʼs all about freedom. Freedom from debt. Freedom from supervisors telling us what
to do. Freedom to spend the time to do things right. Freedom to try out new things and
follow our interests. Freedom to sleep until eleven one day, then stay up until two in the
morning working on what weʼre passionate about.
Courtney and I really try to focus on this ideal. For us, it really is all about the freedom. We’d want to be able to live a mobile lifestyle and to follow our passions as they change and grow. This is why we are so passionate about both travel and debt reduction. Simply, eliminating debt form our lives is crucial to our long-term goals.
Should You Read This Book?
You are kidding me, right? Of course you should. It’s absolutely free. No Gimmicks. The only thing you have to lose is a small amount of time. How’s this… I absolutely guarantee that you will be able to find something useful in this document. It’ll be worth far more than time it takes to read.
Lastly, this e-book has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. In other words, you can do whatever you want with it. So after you are done reading, I urge you to help Trent spread his message in whatever way you can.