An Interview With Flexo From Consumerism Commentary

consumerism commentary interviewI had the awesome opportunity to interview Flexo from Consumerism Commentary. Flexo’s articles are always personal and entertaining.  I was a fan of his all the way back in college.  So, to interview him today is so cool!  Enjoy the interview and enjoy!

1- Thanks for this awesome interview opportunity.   You’re known for running a pretty successful blog.   How did you get started in personal finance blogging?

I started Consumerism Commentary in July 2003 mainly as a way to hold myself accountable for my financial decisions. After college, I had made a mess of my finances, and it took a few years for me to really see the effect on my life. I started reading more about how to manage money, and I was fascinated. As a long-time blogger, I decided to start a new anonymous blog where I could post monthly financial reports to track my progress, write about my financial decisions, and share links interesting articles from the financial media.

There weren’t really many other blogs focusing on personal finance at the time, but before long, interest grew and there were dozens of personal finance blogs.


2-What are your favorite personal finance topics to write about?

I like writing about the psychology of money because this is the area of finance that most interests me. If people made financial decisions based on math alone, there would be fewer financial problems in the world, but there’s more to money than math. There is always something new to learn about when it comes to the way the mind operates.

I also enjoy looking at the way corporations interact with customers and the public. The needs of the corporation don’t always match the needs of the consumer, so it’s always relevant to highlight a situation where the two priorities are disconnected.


3-How do you manage your time and run your blog?   What type of balance do you have in your day to day life?

I’m no time management expert. I try my best not to waste time, but I find it difficult to stick to schedules and to-do lists. As a result, certain things often slip through the cracks in my daily attention. I’m always looking for new methods of getting things done efficiently, but in reality, I understand that my goal is not to be super-efficient. I only have one chance at living this life and I’m not going to add unnecessary stress.

Many people have a need for work-life balance. It’s a trend in the corporate human resources community. Companies want to offer work-life balance as if it’s a benefit. For many people it is, and there is a struggle to balance work with other things. For most of my time developing Consumerism Commentary, my goal was to find a way to balance my day job responsibilities with my desire to build something for myself on my own time. I had other interests as well, but did not try to find an equilibrium; I knew that if I wanted Consumerism Commentary to succeed, I wouldn’t be able to strive for balance between it and another activity, like photography, or even a family.


4-Give us your top two posts you’ve ever written.   What were the goals of those articles, and why were they so popular?

I’m a poor judge of my own writing. Two of my favorites are Wearing  Many  Hats: Specialism  Vs. Generalism and 3 Aspects  of  Your  Finances  You  Can  Control. I cite these two articles because they both deal with internal discussions I’ve been thinking about for the last decade.

I don’t normally write articles with goals in mind, but after the fact, I could say that both of these articles encourage readers to think about not only their finances but their life choices in a way they may not be considering. I wouldn’t say these articles were particularly popular; the ones I write that gain popularity, with several hundred comments in the discussion, tend to be controversial, overtly negative about my experiences with a company, or something technical like how to fill out a tax form to receive the Homebuyer Credit.


5-What advice would you give to a new blogger?

If you started your blog because you’re looking for a way to make money, do something else with your time. If you’re passionate about your writing and are interested in the topic, write as much as possible without sacrificing quality for quantity and don’t worry too much about anything else. Find — or even better, build — your community. Write articles you would want to read. Develop your own voice.


6-What were some of the best and worst financial decisions you’ve ever made?

I’ve written quite a bit about my worst financial decisions. For a few years, I owned a car without knowing how to take care of it. When the motor blew because there was no oil, I learned my lesson. Also related to driving, I made a habit out of ignoring speeding tickets, hoping they’d just go away. I didn’t have the money to pay for them, but I paid much more, particularly in lawyers’ fees, by ignoring the situation.

All of my best financial decisions are related to quitting jobs. Every time I’ve done it, it has been the best financial move I could make at the time.


7-If you wish you knew one financial tip when you were 18, what would it be?

The best thing I could have known at age 18 was that I had more control over my life, including my financial situation, than I believed. I did have mentors who did try to get this point across over the years, but it wasn’t until later that I discovered it for myself.


8-What are some of your favorite tools for budgeting and tracking spending patterns.

Now that I can afford the software, I am a die-hard Quicken fan — the desktop version. Before I could afford it, I used similar free software like GnuCash or MoneyDance. I don’t use Quicken as often as I used to, because I’ve found that tracking expenses to the cent is much more important when you don’t have many cents to spare. But as you become more financially secure, occasional updates are all that are necessary.


9-If you could teach a college course for one week, what would you teach to the students?

Music appreciation. But if you’re asking about financial courses that might come in handy, I’d probably like to cover the basics of money management since it’s unlikely they had any education in this subject. This would not exactly be a popular course, and many college students still don’t have the cognitive capacity to take these subjects seriously, so it might be a fruitless effort. Then again, so might be music appreciation.


10-What is in your wallet?

A personal credit card (ContinentalAirlinesOnePassPlus), a business credit card (American Express Blue Cash for Business), a back-up credit card (CitiDividendWorldMasterCard), a business ATM/debit card, a personal ATM/debit card, my driver’s license, my AAA club card, a MetroCard for New York City, my health insurance cards, a few loyalty cards, receipts from the last week, and less than $100 in cash. Someone commented recently that I have a Costanza wallet.❠It’s not that bad, but I’m attempting to condense as much as possible.


Thank You!

You’re welcome!