Why I Can’t Relate to Mainstream Personal Finance Blogs
I love discussing personal finance. I know it’s a topic that bores many. Still, few things get me more excited than the chance to talk about savings, investing, and ways to make your money work for you.
When I realized there was a whole online personal finance community that loved to talk about these topics as well, I was ecstatic. Now I could fully geek out with like-minded people and stop annoying my friends and family.
I eagerly began reading personal finance (PF) blogs, anxious to learn more about other’s journeys. However, my eagerness subsided a bit when I came across the same story many times. The same story in this instance, is one where the blogger reminisces about days when he/she was terrible with money and worked low-paying jobs to cover the bills.
The blogger got tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck, and through some stroke of good luck, stumbled into a job finally paying a decent salary. He/she quickly paid off any remaining debt, stacked up a healthy amount of savings, and now puts away 10% or more of that monthly income for retirement.
Not only that, but now the blogger offers consulting services and e-courses and makes a few thousand dollars a month from their PF blog. These details are laid out in a pretty infographic along with a monthly income report (usually totaling more than six figures).
After reading so many of these stories, I thought: “What about people like me?”
When I say, “people like me,” I’m talking about the ones who still haven’t tackled all of their debt. The ones who still work low-paying jobs. The ones who barely have enough to cover their monthly expenses, let alone put a lump sum away for retirement.
Maybe the stories told by the mainstream PF bloggers are meant to inspire, but this limited view of what financial success looks like, can feel like a slap in the face. There’s a “been there, done that” vibe that comes off when reading these blogs. You can practically see them wagging their fingers at you as they brag about never paying a penny of credit card interest.
I get it. Credit cards can be dangerous. Debt is bad. Financial freedom is what we should all strive for. I also know life isn’t constructed as neatly as some PF bloggers make it seem. There may come a time that, despite one’s best efforts, the money just isn’t there to pay a credit card in full. Making the minimum payment on a debt may be the best you can do if other funds must be spent on an emergency.
That’s why I share my own financial experience, even when the outcome isn’t pretty. I want to highlight the fact that we’re all human, and even those well-versed in finance make mistakes.
I’m not suggesting anyone feel resigned to being financially unstable forever. Rather, I think it’s important that a variety of financial backgrounds are shared, not just the ones that end with a high-paying office job and early retirement.
I’ll continue to work towards my own definition of financial success. In the meantime, it is my hope that sharing my experiences, good and bad, will help those who need to hear from someone like them. If you’re in need of some guidance in personal finance, here are five tips to get you started:
1. Set aside a minimum of $5 a week.
Even for those with fluctuating or low income, I think most of us can commit to setting aside a few dollars a week. It might mean sacrificing a takeout meal or two, but considering how easy it is to waste $20 a month anyway, this is about as painless as it gets. Also, once you put this money away, PRETEND IT DOESN’T EXIST. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself dipping into savings for an “emergency,” and before you ask, a Sephora clearance sale does not constitute an emergency.
2. Give yourself a boredom allowance.
As much as we do our best to keep ourselves occupied, boredom always gets even the best of us. Although some finance experts urge you to fight through it by knitting or doing a crossword puzzle, that doesn’t work for me. If you feel the same, make room in your budget for a small amount of money to spend when you’re bored. Use cash if you can, as it’s often easier to spend more when you’re swiping a card. Once the cash is gone, no more spending. This allows you to indulge the human desire to overcome boredom, while still being responsible.
3. Visualize your financial goals.
Most of us are visual beings, so when you’re paying off debt or saving, create something you can SEE every day. If you want to let out your inner child while moving towards your goals, try these free coloring charts. Or maybe you’re saving for your dream vacation. Find images of your destination and put them on a vision board. We all get discouraged during the long (and tedious) process of reaching financial milestones, but visual cues can help keep you motivated.
4. Pick a day where you don’t think about finances at all.
This one is tough, especially when you’re obsessed with everything finance (like yours truly). However, if you’ve contributed to savings, paid off some debt, or completed any other frugal task, take a day to rest. Treat yourself to a bubble bath, binge watch a Netflix series, read a book, or whatever you need to relax.
5. Adjust your budget as needed.
As a creature of habit, I find myself trying to stick to the same budget every month, only to have expenses come up that weren’t there last month. There may be months when you put $50 into savings instead of $100, or spend more because of holiday shopping. There’s no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to money management. As long as you have a general guideline (and pay yourself first!), give your budget some wiggle room.