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Bragging and Blogging

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?


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Writer Dad May 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

We only fall so that we can learn to stand. I can’t think of too many mistakes that haven’t helped me out in some way (so long as I took the time to let them). To err is human, to admit it is cool.

dogatemyfinances May 19, 2009 at 9:53 am

Absurd.

Only a woman would write an absurd article that you should dilute your success or think about whether you really are successful. No man would ever think that way.

She thinks they won’t buy from you if you have a pile of cash. What, she likes buying from someone about to go under? Success is a GOOD THING in a small business. It means you DELIVER.

As for blogging, people like the schadenfreude posts about failure in business, but the success ones are really more useful. Like how to get an accountant, keep your clients, and so on.

mrsmicah May 19, 2009 at 10:18 am

To be fair, Dogatemyfinances, she was writing about not pretending to be successful if you’re struggling. She also wrote about not being down on your business or your self when communicating with clients (her second point in the article). I’m sorry if I misrepresented that.

There are some great comments on the article about ways in which you can be honest about where your business is but frame it in terms of successes, not failures.

Grace May 19, 2009 at 3:51 pm

When it comes to discussing one’s small business, I’m firmly in the “keep it positive” camp. I think people are more drawn to success when it comes to using business services.

But personal finance blogging? There, the daily ups and downs, mistakes and visits from Murphy are all important and actually the most helpful.

However, while I try to post honestly, I sometimes obscure my less-than-stellar financial moves. For example, regular readers know that I tend to reduce my indebtedness (which is mostly mortgage and credit card debt) by around $800 a month–yet recently, I only managed an $81 reduction. Hmm–could a faithful reader detect some credit card useage in there?

Grace’s last blog post: Moving Florence Up Front

Abigail May 20, 2009 at 3:56 am

I often have results that are less than ideal. As someone who deals with both depression and fatigue on a daily basis, there are so many ways that I frustrate my inherent Type A personality.

I think it’s okay, though. Because there are tons of PF blogs about how to do things perfectly. My blog is about personal finance in the real world. The one when you’re busy and exhausted and still have eight more things to do by tomorrow. And if you’re *really* good, you’ll get four done.

It’s about how to make the best of the abilities you do have, rather than focus on all the things you’re not doing by the PF book. My natural inclination is the latter. But I’m working hard on the former. Even people who don’t have disabilities are going to be frustrated by their basic human natures. So everyone can relate to mistakes made, and most can share stories about how they dealt with the repercussions of the mistakes or at least learned to avoid it in the future.

The thing to remember is that most PF bloggers aren’t PF experts. They’re experts at their own finances. They’re experts at what works for them (and perhaps people they know). When people want advice, they read books. When they want inspiration or ideas or just a companion down the long road of debt reduction, then they come to blogs.

Abigail’s last blog post: A house shouldn’t be a priority

Kelly from Almost Frugal May 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

Yeah, I’m definitely of the camp that my blog is about *learning* to be frugal- I’ve never pretended to be an expert!

I do have to agree with the above commenter who said that women have a tendency to downplay or backpedal themselves, although I don’t think this was what Cath was arguing.

Kelly from Almost Frugal’s last blog post: Turning a Hobby Into a Job

TStrump May 24, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I have no problem sharing my mistakes, of which there are many.
I think it makes for better reading and hopefully, readers can learn and save some money.

TStrump’s last blog post: Getting Out of the Home Office

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