After two full weeks of writing the Frugal Cool site for MSN Money, I’ve learned that a five-times-a-week deadline can be less intimidating than a once-every-10-days deadline.
I’d been writing a biweekly personal finance column since spring 2009. Initially I thought this would be easier than my previous job at MSN Money, the three-times-a-week Smart Spending blog. It wasn’t.
Each assignment meant doing interviewing experts and consumers all over the country. Generally I’d talk with eight to 15 people for each column. Just lining up and conducting all those interviews often felt like herding rabid cats.
But then I’d look at all the material and think, “Now I have to organize it.” And always, always, I was aware of the next set of interviews needing to be queried and set up. Developing major, overarching topics took a surprising amount of time, too.
Lately I’d been longing for the time when I only had to come up with three narrowly focused topics per week, then turn them into lively prose. (One thing about MSN Money: I do get to have fun with the writing over there.)
Smaller-scale, but still serious
With the new gig I’m back to narrowly focused topics, but five instead of three per week. Thus far it’s been, well, cool, with fun subjects like:
- Why the junk drawer can save lives (okay, slight exaggeration — but not by much)
- The $1,200 plastic baseball statue (aka, “eBay funded one-fifth of this year’s Roth IRA“)
- How to go to the movies for free (that subject just never gets old)
- The day I got paid to lie to a bank (take that, all you unethical money dudes — I can be sneaky, too!)
- Who’s paying for free tickets to 150 museums (speaking of banks)
Coming up with good material that actually helps people is a big challenge. I don’t want to write filler, ever. (Not that my editor wouldn’t notice immediately, and kick my butt up around my shoulder blades. Bless his heart.)
If you have suggestions, e-mail me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com. Any food for thought will be gratefully received, even though I can’t promise that your ideas will be approved by the aforementioned editor.
Yet more assignments
My latest column at Get Rich Slowly, “Stepping off the foodie-go-round,” ignited a snitstorm: 256 comments so far. Some people missed the part where I wrote “do what works for you” and considered the article a polemic against polenta. In fact, I was just suggesting that it’s OK not to be an adventurous cook if it isn’t a priority for you.
Some folks get really touchy about their gluten and their locally sourced feta. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the subject.
I’ve been represented twice this week at The Daily Worth. First up was a short rant think-piece called “How dollar stores drain you dry.” I disclose at the get-go that sometimes I do shop at dollar emporia, which is why I’m well aware of the perils contained therein. The road to hell is paved with good intentions — and I bet a lot of them only cost a dollar.
The other piece was the introduction to The Money Fix, an annual project involving four readers with challenges and four experts who help. It’s sort of like the Big Sisters-Little Sisters program for personal finance.This year I’m happy to have been chosen as one of the experts, along with Liz Weston, Jean Chatzky and Kimberly Palmer.
My li’l sis, SaVanna, is a 21-year-old student who’s facing a year of unpaid internship in her quest to become a registered dietitian. Unfortunately, her student loans will be coming due at the same time and she has relatively little savings. My advice to her will be revealed day by day. Some of it may surprise you. (Hint: I actually discourage her from using coupons and rebates.)
Hope you’ll have time to check out the extra gigs, and to clock in at Frugal Cool (daily, if possible). Every now and then I’d appreciate a comment, especially since I already seem to have at least one recurring troll. I have been civil, even though I’m greatly tempted to mention the Greater Internet Dickwad Theory. Self-preservation, i.e., “I really want to keep that job,” has kept me in line thus far.
I have no idea why these folks take out after me. Maybe they hate my freedom.