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16 Great Personal Finance Resources & Blogs

16 Great Personal Finance Resources & Blogs

    It’s one of the most common reasons for arguments and divorce in marriages. It can keep us from achieving our dreams, or it can enable us. It can cultivate the worst in people, and it can cultivate the best. Money is one the most fundamental, crude, material parts of our existence, yet we look at it like some kind of metaphysical, unknowable force.

    If this describes your relationship with money, it might be time to dedicate some time to improving your knowledge of your finances and set about improving them. You could even make a 30-day trial out of getting a grip on your money. From reducing your debt to automating your tax accounting records, there’s something for every reader.

    Get Rich Slowly – JD Roth’s immensely popular blog covers personal finance topics for the everyday individual, by breaking down the world complex and intimidating information so that anyone can understand it. With articles on investing for beginners and money saving tips, Get Rich slowly is also well-known for its reviews of personal finance and money-related books and products. Visit here.

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    The Simple Dollar – Trent Hamm’s blog also focuses on breaking down intimidating personal finance topics for everyday people, but it focuses on those who are in massive debt and need to do a complete 360 degree turnaround. If you’re experiencing serious financial difficulty, check out The Simple Dollar and learn from someone who has been there before and done something about it. Visit here.

    Wise Bread – This community blog features many talented contributors (such as Linsey Knerl, David DeFranza and Andrea Dickson) who share their tips on living frugally. Wise Bread excels at and is best known for providing those handy tips and tricks your grandmother would’ve given you to save a buck—maximizing tight budgets. Frugality is baked into this Wise Bread, and you can check it out here.

    Investopedia – Forbes’ site is useful for those who are interested in, but totally clueless about, the topic of investing, all the way up to the experts. It features articles, tutorials, tools, reports and simulators and will give you all you need to get started. It’s also got a Community section where you can ask advice from other ordinary people who happen to know a bit about investing (no substitute for professional advice, of course). Take a look here.

    AllFinancialMatters – AllFinancialMatters is a blog that covers the gamut of personal finance topics from budgeting to portfolio management. It’s run by a guy called JLP and is a breath of fresh air for me—having spent a lot of time in the blogosphere I know that there aren’t many bloggers who tell it like it is. JLP offers answers to his readers even when they’re not the ones they wanted to hear. Have a read.

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    CNNMoney – Despite belonging to CNN, this subsite is a handy reference for those who need to keep on financial news. Besides, if you’re not keeping up on news at all, this may truly be the one aspect that affects you (unless you’re an athlete or celebrity!) and can give you an upper-hand for financial decision-making. Take a look.

    Five Cent Nickel – Last time I visited Five Cent Nickel, the story on the frontpage was about rotating your car’s tires in order to make them last longer and hence save money. Beneath that? How to save 5% on gas with a credit card. This is really a blog that endeavors to serve up good info on saving the last penny. Check out this frugal living blog here.

    Consumerism Commentary – Consumerism Commentary finds its niche in commentary on financial news (such as whether women find rich men attractive or whether the rich are more stressed) with personal finance tips thrown in between. Take a look here.

    Free Money Finance – This blog’s tagline is Grow Your Net Worth and covers all sorts of useful and practical topics. For instance, recently it has looked at what to do about your financial situation when you’ve been laid off until you’ve got a new job, and how to best manage severance packages. Check it out here.

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    No Credit Needed – the No Credit Needed blog offers more handy advice, and their recent post on the Bills-in-a-Box system for organizing personal finances almost sounded like a Lifehack post. Check it out here.

    The Family Wallet – Are you managing the budget for a family or just for yourself? If it’s just you, you might want to move right along, but the Family Wallet is a fantastic blog for those who want family-specific financial ideas and advice. Check it out.

    Moolanomy – This personal finance blog is oriented towards wealth building and investing (as opposed to debt reduction, a common focus for blogs in this field) and about creating more money for yourself. It does cover topics such as frugal living, but for inspiring ideas on building your income, take a look here.

    Zen Habits – Leo Babauta just posted a big round-up of the best money-related posts he’s written since starting the blog. Get ready for some in-depth link exploration here.

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    Fix My Personal Finance – Here’s another resource on managing your money and fixing your personal finance problems. Take a look here.

    Binary Dollar – This blog has a quirky sense of humor and provides “free money tips for everyone” and seems to have a fetish for link round-up posts. Check it out here.

    Of course, we don’t advocate that you make serious decisions based off nothing more than the advice of a blog, and while these are all useful resources you should certainly check with a professional who you trust before taking action.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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