I had three separate conversations over the weekend with personal finance bloggers who have secrets. Not the scandalous kind, like having illegitimate children or belonging to a cult. No, these bloggers are carrying the weight of a much larger burden - they have made financial decisions that they never mentioned on their blogs.
One blogger recently bought a new car. “I’ve never owned a new car in my life, and I just felt like it!” she said. “I shouldn’t have to defend my choice.”
Another blogger hasn’t been saving much lately. She told me, “I don’t want to hear what people think so I’m just not going to write about it.”
The third committed the worst offense of all – he used a credit card to pay for an impulse weekend trip. “I haven’t been out of town in almost a decade. It’s not like I’m asking someone else to pay the bill!”
Why All the Secrecy?
The three people above are my friends, and they’re all fantastic. They’re also responsible with money 95% of the time. They pay their bills and save for retirement and write about finance online in hopes of helping others. So why do they have to feel so guilty about making choices about what to do with the money that they earned? More importantly, why can’t they write about their real lives on their own blogs?
Because they’re worried about being judged. Because they don’t want to deal with the rude comments from “holier than thou” readers. Because other PF bloggers don’t talk about things like that.
I know that feeling all too well. I’m a little more open about my habits than a lot of bloggers, but I’ve paid a price for that honesty. I’ve been called names, from the run of the mill to the truly disgusting. I’ve received emails from people who tell me my blog is shit and I should delete it. I’ve been ignored by some of my fellow bloggers who think my blog is a disgrace to the personal finance community. I was also the recipient of a death threat back in the winter, complete with police reports. Why? Because I dare to tell the truth about what I earn and what I buy. *gasp*
Life is Too Short for This
When I discovered the PF blogosphere, I thought, Finally! A place where I can talk about money openly without being judged! Boy, was I wrong. No matter what I do, it seems that someone has a problem with it. I’m not frugal enough. I don’t use coupons. I’m not trying to be a minimalist or save a million dollars by the time I’m 35. And despite being part of a supposedly “diverse” blogging community, sometimes I feel like the only acceptable diversity is the brand of credit card I pay off every month or what brokerage I use for my Roth IRA.
I started blogging about money because I wanted to change my spending habits and become more responsible. I also thought that sharing my mistakes might benefit other people. When I was broke and couldn’t even buy groceries without help from my parents, I was terrified. I hated myself for spending too much and not saving enough. But I didn’t have anyone to talk to because we all know conversations about money are awkward. I wanted to build a community where those conversations were welcome.
I am not Personal Finance Jesus™. I’m never going to be perfect, I’m always going to own a smartphone and buy shoes (though in moderation now), and I’m not going to turn into a female Dave Ramsey. My mission here is not to lean down from my ivory tower and shout at people about what they should do. I just want to write about random things that occasionally relate to money.
Do the Thing You Fear Most
I think it’s pretty sad that bloggers can’t be upfront about all aspects of their financial lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly – without being afraid of losing face among their readers and fellow bloggers. But I see it every day and I bet you do too. As Daisy and Aloysa recently posted, the personal finance blogosphere has become an ocean of boring encyclopedia articles. How to [insert easy thing here]. Save money with [completely obvious method that even children know about]. And while there’s a place for those articles, I feel like the general public deserves a little more credit.
How awesome would it be if more bloggers were willing to write about their real financial situations, even occasionally? Not all this “do what I say because I’m an expert” crap, but “here’s what worked (or didn’t work) for me.” Writing posts that have value for real people instead of constant love letters to Google. Less judgment because they’re putting themselves out there as real people with real stories. More engagement from readers who feel they can contribute to the discussion instead of feeling woefully inadequate.
Yeah, I know. I’m hallucinating again.
As for me, I’m sick of tiptoeing around the real things going on in my financial life because I’m scared of what people will say. I’m tired of being bullied into treating money like the forbidden topic that it was when I was a kid. This blog is pointless and boring as hell if I can’t post what I want. And if that offends you, I apologize. But it’s time someone said it.
What do you think? Do PF blogs make you feel like you can share your experiences (as a blogger OR as a reader), or do you feel pressured to hide? Do you feel a connection with the blogs you read?