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An idea for an e-book

January 8, 2010

I have an idea for an e-book.

I don’t know if it’s been done before, I don’t know if there’s any market for it. I don’t even know if I’m allowed, by copyright law, to do it, but I have an idea, and I’m really excited about it.

My idea? I’m going to tell you. Ha! Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Put it out here for the whole wide internet to see (or at least the small subsection of the internet that has stumbled over to my Corner of Awesome), because, as Megan of That Idea Blueprint Girl says, “Ideas are infinite.”

If someone comes along and takes my idea, and runs with it, and makes a bunch of money, yeah, that’ll suck because I wanted to take my idea and run with it and make a bunch of money (if there is money to be made, of course). But at the end of the day, it’s not the only idea I’ll ever have. If I guard it with my life, on the other hand, it might well be the only idea I ever have, because I never free myself to think of any others. (For the sake of transparency, most of these thoughts on ideas coalesced in this form after I listened to the first Day of Summer Camp, which was all about ideas. None of it is probably original, but it is no less true for being regurgitated.)

So anyway, my idea: to write an e-book about how to take the Balanced Money Formula (see below) and turn it into a simple spreadsheet that you can use as an overview for your finances. And I could even provide the spreadsheet, pre-fab, so all you would have to do is plug the numbers into it, and voile, big picture budget. Because that’s all most people need anyway; just an overview, and way to make sure that they’re not going to be spending 80% of their income on shiny toys, and then be wondering why there’s not enough left to pay the rent.

The Balanced Money Formula: I read almost nine months ago, on Get Rich Slowly, about this idea of the Balanced Money Formula. J.D., the author of Get Rich Slowly, read about in a book called All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. I will admit that I have not read this book.

The basic premise is that your money is in balance if you spend 50% (or less, better is 35%, the authors of the book say) of your after-tax income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings. J.D.’s post has a graph, and an explanation of the specific definition of ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ which I won’t steal for the purpose of my post, but you should totally go check them out. You can also check out his review of the book.

When I read that, I thought, ‘That’s brilliant!’ and immediately went off to create an Excel spreadsheet version with my own information, because my Next Action (a la Getting Things Done) for almost anything is “create an Excel spreadsheet.” (You think I’m kidding, but I’m really not. :D)

So I created an Excel spreadsheet, and then I saw how awesome it was to have a broad overview of my financial situation that I could adjust (say if my income got cut in half and I needed to see if I could still pay down my debt at the same rate) with just a few keystrokes. And seeing how awesome it was, I thought, ‘I bet I could do this for other people, so they could have a great overview of their finances, and they would have peace of mind knowing that they’re going to be okay, or that they could stand to cut back a little here or there, and it won’t kill their standard of living.’

Of course, being me, I had that great thought, and then did NOTHING about it. Why? Because I was afraid I’d screw it up. Lame.

Actually that’s not true. I told my mom about it, and she said, “Well, you know, you’re grandmother’s having this economic trouble right now… could you show me how I could plug her information into the formula and see if we can’t figure out a way to make her situation work?” And I did, because my family rocks and my grandma deserves to not have to worry about money. Ever.

Two months ago, my mom took my spreadsheet to my grandma’s house, and they plugged in all of her information, and figured out her situation, and my mom reported to me a few days ago that my grandma no longer lays awake at night worried about her financial situation. Her situation’s not great, but it doesn’t keep her up at night.

That is AMAZING. I got such a kick out of hearing that, and it reminded me of how much I want whatever I do in business to HELP PEOPLE.

And so I have renewed interest in figuring out how to helping people figure out how to get their shit together. And I thought, if I can’t figure out how to make the consulting aspect of it work (still thinking), maybe I can just write an instruction manual (read: “e-book”), and let people figure it out for themselves. And if they like the idea but don’t want to do it, I’ll say “contact me, and I’ll do it for you.”

The potential hang-ups: I have no idea if anyone would be interested in this e-book, or in me helping them put together a broad overview of their financial situation. Even if they might be interested in those things, I don’t know a) the first thing about putting together an e-book (although I’m sure I could learn), and b) how to get people to trust that I’m not a raving psycho out to take all their hard-earned cash.

I have no idea if I’m allowed to take this idea that someone else came up with, and make a product to sell that’s based on the principals of it. And if I am allowed to do that, but I have to get permission or give credit, or whatever, how do I find out what I have to do?

If I were to get whatever necessary permissions to do the e-book, and put it together in a not-lame format, I would stil have no idea how much should I charge for it. I don’t have, at the moment, a website from which to sell it (other than this blog, which isn’t even a purchased domain, it’s just a free wordpress blog).

My fears: I have all sorts of mild fears associated with doing things like this: fears like what if I spend all this time on putting it together and no one cares. No one buys it. Whatever.

I know that if I do it, and no one likes it or buys it or cares, I will still have learned very valuable information in the doing of it. … and actually, just reminding myself of that, I’m going to do it.

Project: Balanced Money Formula E-book.
Next Action: Research whether or not the Balanced Money Formula idea is copyrighted and how I go about getting permission to use something based off of it if it is.

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