Cath Lawson wrote a great post for small business owners and freelancers called Quit Bragging About Your Booming Business. She warns against exaggerating or even acknowledging your business’s success in these tough economic times. I don’t intend to recap it here, but it got me thinking about personal finance blogging and bloggers.
When you’re blogging about your finances, it can be tempting to put an overly-positive spin on things or filter what financial information you share with others. For example, it was easy to share when we saved $1750 toward debt repayment in March (and $2000 in April!).
It’s less easy to share that you haven’t updated your budget in 2 weeks (*waves hand*) or that you paid your cell bill late last month and got hit with a penalty (*waves hand again*).
What Should Bloggers Do When We Mess Up?
It’s hard to admit you’ve messed up whether you’re sharing your story with ten readers or thousands. People can be very judgmental online. We’re all separated from each other and somehow not quite real. It’s easy to say things anonymously that you’d never say if your name and face where behind them.
It’s also hard to admit you’ve messed up when it feels like people are looking to you for financial inspiration.
Admitting Mistakes Makes Bloggers More Approachable
But it’s ok to be human. Not admitting the occasional mistake makes most writers come off as unsympathetic or as possibly hiding something. At the beginning of 2008, Gather Little By Little wrote something I still remember over a year later, admitting that he hadn’t stuck to his financial plan or budget for the last two months.
One reader responded:
finally, a pf blogger who is willing to be honest about how difficult this really is. it’s so much more than the ever-convenient “5 easy ways” lists and “just use the debt snowball” commentaries that i so often read.
Admitting Mistakes Helps You Do Better
Besides making you a more approachable blogger, I’ve found that being open about mistakes almost always helps me feel better about getting off track. If I’ve messed up, I often feel ashamed and frustrated because I should be doing better. I can get stuck in a mental cycle telling me that I’m a bad person and a particularly bad PF blogger for not getting it right. How dare I go $15 over the grocery budget?
But there, now that I’ve told you, I’m not a bad PF blogger any more. Writing about your struggles transforms how you see yourself and inspires you to continue. That’s why I got into PF blogging in the first place, because it inspires me to keep our finances in order!
What About When We’re Doing It Right?
It’s easy enough to blog about something that you did right or to write advice for people getting a hold of their finances, etc. But what should any of us (bloggers and non-bloggers alike) do when we’re discussing finances in the “real world”?
If you’ve got your finances in order, it can be tempting to brag about how well you’re doing. You did it right, so other people should be listening to you now–especially the ones who used to rag on your about your frugality or low-key lifestlye.
Positively, Fashionably, Frugal
But people don’t like to listen to condescending advice. They may listen, but they won’t like it. I think those of us who found finances interesting and educated ourselves before do have something to communicate. In her post, Cath suggests that you stay positive and remain “fashionable.” Fashionable is frugal, but a modest frugal that doesn’t say “I told you so,” and listens to people’s new frugal discoveries–sharing the joy even though you’ve been doing that for years.
Remember that it’s one thing to recommend that someone pick up Dave Ramsey because you found him so helpful when you were facing the same thing, but it’s another to sit them down and explain the debt snowball theory. If your friend is a numbers geek, that might be perfect–but for other people it could be an obstacle to getting started. One big reason people don’t get into personal finance in the first place is that it can be overwhelming.
What about you? Have you found people more interested in talking about personal finance and receptive to new ideas?