Being a scrooge is the new mantra for personal finance magazines
The Deal executive editor Yvette Kantrow writes about how personal finance magazines have changed their tune with the current economic crisis.
Kantrow writes, “Clearly, these are not fun times for the personal finance press. Most people can’t even bear to open their 401(k) statements these days, so they are not all that interested in reading about 10 investments they should make right now! We saw this problem a few years ago after the tech bubble burst and personal finance mags like Smart Money morphed into pseudo-lifestyle pubs. But this time around, even that category is suspect; it’s hard to have much style in your life when you’re worried about losing your home or your job.
“Now, the personal finance buzzword is thrift. ‘The present crisis could actually be the ideal moment to make thrift cool again, because debt has rarely been in worse repute,’ Money Magazine’s sister Fortune recently intoned helpfully. OK, that makes sense. But what does that really mean for the legions of personal finance journalists out there? How do they write about ‘thrift’ without boring readers to tears or coming off like the latte police? Can thrift be ‘cool’? And can it make for interesting, helpful journalism?
“The Wall Street Journal, for one, seems to think so. It has launched a new column called Cheapskate in which reporter Neal Templin dishes about his thrifty ways. In one recent offering, Templin urged readers to ‘opt for the cheapest way to look acceptable’ and proudly revealed he was wearing $40 dress slacks and a $35 shirt. Good for him. Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal style columnist Christina Binkley last week told us ‘in a troubled economy, splurges seem shameful and cheap is cool.’ And in another recent personal finance offering, the WSJ presented ‘How to Make a Spending Plan.’ Its words of wisdom: ‘The goal of successful budgeting is learning to live within the bounds of your discretionary income.'”
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