By: Revanche

Musings on PF blogging and attitudes

February 4, 2013

Vanessa and I started an interesting conversation on Twitter when I failed to fully grok her meaning behind these tweets:


This surprised me because: I enjoy a good hot drink from Starbucks once in a while and I certainly would love a European vacation. The fact that I haven’t taken one yet is to do with lack of time, money and general coordination. No discrimination either: I’d like a Canadian vacation, a New Zealand vacation, an Australian vacation among numerous other destinations I don’t have time to reel off.

I’ve always considered myself a PF blogger, first and foremost. Certainly for the first 90% of this blog’s existence, I was Tightwad Extraordinaire. But things have changed, as they should, as I earned more and became more financially stable.

The idea that everything but tightwaddery is roundly and generally condemned by PF bloggers comes as a bit of a surprise especially when PF bloggers themselves feel it’s the official theme song. I mean: it’s personal finance.

It’s not Finance for the Good of the People.

It’s not Finance by Fiat.

It’s not Finance: As Long As We All Approve.

The Asian Pear joined the conversation with some elaborations on what is evidently known in the General Standards for PF bloggers.

PF bloggers, we hate life and choice?

Once again, I’m a PF blogger. (Perhaps I’ve been booted out of the “the club” and didn’t know it?) Either way, I do not identify with these general terms and I don’t feel like the people I read or converse with do either. It seems a bit of a shame, in my opinion, if the trend is so clear. Though not to me, apparently I’m oblivious.

My Take

While, no, I don’t think financing living room sets or pricey televisions is a good idea, particularly because I have experience with how shitty that turns out for the responsible person in the household (*cough* family *cough* thanks!), I don’t have any issue with people making life choices that suit the individual. You want to enjoy life? You have the money to pay for it? Excellent. Go for it.

You want stuff and you don’t have the money for it? Well, probably not the best idea. Do what you will, please don’t natter at me if it doesn’t work out. I’ll also choose not to read if it’s a blogger who uses their blog to expound on the many failures and failings of life. We all have a choice here.

I will cop to enabling friend bloggers to buy stuff they’d like but only after I’ve established that it fits in with their principles. (Do they abhor debt beyond anything else? Then would this incur debt?Β  Do they prioritize food over things and feel guilty for spending on more things? Would they be annoyed later that they had more stuff than they can appreciate?) If I’m asked, I will render an opinion. But those are my friends. I only want the best for them and I can suggest one thing or another based on knowing their values.

Otherwise, I only have observational comments for you because it’s Not. My. Life. If flamethrowing commences, which sounds a little bit like what my fellow Tweeters were saying, that’s a bit much.

Unless you plan on subjecting me to your whining over the results of your “bad” decisions (doubt it, I’m too mean for that) or it’s going to materially affect me in some way (again, doubtful), then I really can’t say that I feel like anyone’s life decisions requires much of my concern. Doesn’t mean I might not suggest that a course of action might be more or less advantageous than another if I happen to have had experience with the situation but I completely understand that not everyone is soliciting advice. And as Oil and Garlic mused, even when they do, that doesn’t mean they intend to follow it. So, as a friend says, “nothing to do with me.”

So what’s up with the “Judgy McJudgerson”-type rules of a PF blogger?

Did we (not we, “they”) form a club from which the Commandments are issued over what is good or right and what is bad or wrong when it comes to money and you’re signing on the dotted line to be subject to mockery and derision if you take a different path? Therefore, you have to hide your “unpopular” decisions lest you be judged and summarily executed?

That would a) suck and b) be rather stupid.

Again, I cite “personal finance is personal.”Β  Sure, there are general rules of thumb that make a lot of sense but they’re just general and blindly insisting on rules of thumb aren’t how to run a household or live a lifestyle for each and every one.

I’m not your PF keeper, and you aren’t mine.

Now, I see the general assery that people get up to on the “anonymous” Internets. As a lover of comics who enjoys the occasional sporting event and has various other interests, there’s a particular theme, a common phenomenon perhaps. I see cyclical preoccupation with validating whether or not you’re good enough to carry the card of the in-crowd, whether you BELONG: this is where crap like “fake geek girl”, “geek cred”, the “bandwagon fan”, “fair weather fans” sprouts and thrives.

It’s been referred to as a fandom problem, a genre problem or something specific to the subject. But across the span of occurrences, it really just looks like it’s a people problem.

Our version is apparently at least in part perpetuating a hate-disdain cycle that Miss JJ calls out.

As such, I would like to propose: it’s your money and your life. Do what works for you. Also (Wheaton’s Law) don’t be a dick.

Your thoughts?

Is this as simple as failing the Civility test or is there something more going on? Being controversial for the page views, perhaps? Some people do believe that drama or increase chatter = success.

Note: Turns out MochiMac and I were channeling each other.

41 Responses to “Musings on PF blogging and attitudes”

  1. Katherine says:

    Very interesting post, and I agree with your points. I love reading personal finance sites and find many of them very helpful with new insights and discussion. What has taken me aback however is the undercurrent of schadenfreude that you can find in some of them – the almost pleasure in hearing about other people’s debts and irresponsibilities and the piling on about why something is irresponsible, etc etc etc. I don’t find that helpful or very kind. And I think a fabulous cable package can be just as rewarding as a trip to Europe, it’s all up to the individual to decide.

    • Revanche says:

      Agreed, I feel like the biggest benefit of having such a varied PF community is how helpful it can be to see and hear new ideas and perspectives. But sometimes it’s not just an UNDERcurrent of unnecessary negativity, from some of the things I’ve seen.
      I am quite certain that there would be so much more to learn if there wasn’t such a preoccupation with throwing stones.

  2. Linda says:

    I used to read a lot of personal finance blogs, but I’ve been scaling back quite a bit. I’m more interested in reading blogs that cover a diverse set of topics, like yours.

    I think this post is indicative of the phases people cycle through on their PF journey. First they are eager to attack their debt or build their savings and are looking for tactics that help them do so. That tweet is a 140 character story they tell themselves to reinforce their ability to stay focused: visiting Starbucks a lot is bad!; taking a European vacation is too expensive and must be avoided! As they meet their debt repayment or savings goals, they will throttle back a bit and start telling stories about balancing desires for stuff or experiences with their PF goals. Finally, they will get their debts paid off (or be left only with a manageable amount of “good debt” like a mortgage) and/or hit their savings goal and start thrilling in the ability to treat themselves to a domestic vacation and cautiously think about a more expensive trip abroad.

    Unless they are the type of person who’s main thrills are in frugal hacks and building “wealth” or being “financially independent.” For those folks the pleasure is in hacking “the system” and they don’t care about lattes or vacations that much.

    Maybe some of it is age-related, too. Once someone finishes college and is facing payback of large sums in student loans, it can be quite discouraging to think you’ll get ahead without being nearly puritanical in approach.

    I’ll be 46 this year, and I’ve relaxed my approach to PF partly because I’m comfortably meeting my financial objectives, and partly because I realize that as much as I save and plan, life is a crap shoot, too. A satellite could plunge out of the sky and take out my house. Or, I could end up with a crippling injury during a traffic accident. Or, I could live to 103 and outlive my savings. Or…well, you get the gist. Be smart with your money, but enjoy the latte and/or the trip to Europe while you can.

    • Revanche says:

      Whether you intended it or not, I’ll take your continued readership as a compliment! In my opinion, everything I do or blog about has a dotted line back to money but I don’t necessarily feel the need to draw the line obviously.

      I do love the frugal hacks and wealth building for the sake of doing it as well as the results, which probably harks back to my “give a mouse a cookie” attitude. I always want to win and win just a smidge more than I did last time.

      And your review of the stages sounds very close to one that Get Rich Slowly had (too lazy to find a link) discussed. I think it’s certainly likely that being entrenched in a particular stage can and will color a person’s opinions; my argument is that we recognize that! πŸ™‚

    • Katie C. says:

      A million times this comment! I was going to say the same, but now I’d just be repeating Linda and in a much less eloquent way. I never called anyone out on their spending or left mean comments on their blogs, but I certainly judged others’ spending much more harshly when I was in debt. I was SO focused on getting out of debt, on denying myself almost all pleasures (up until the end when I snapped out of it a bit) that reading about someone else’s debt and then seeing that they paid the monthly fee to have an iPhone made me think all kinds of judge-y things. So many people tried to preach the “everything in moderation” approach to me while I was paying off debt, but I wanted none of that. About 10 months before I paid off my student loans, I realized how crappy it felt to guilt myself over buying furniture for the porch or going out to eat every once in a while. Now that I’m out of debt, I don’t regret my gung-ho approach (because it got me out of debt faster), but I’m also much less judgmental and much more appreciative of the moderate approach and the people who are going that route. Who am I to judge someone for how they spend their money? Not all of us are kept up at night by our debt, and I’m no better than anyone else for being obsessive and spartan while paying back debt. To each his own.

  3. moom says:

    I think PF bloggers split quite clearly between those who focus on frugality and those who focus on making more money, investing etc. The latter though are not always considered to be about PF. I’m in some ways frugal, but never have written about frugality really except very vaguely or reporting I’m happy our spending was low for the month.

    • Hi moom! You pop up all sorts of places! How’s snorkmaiden?

      ~Nicole (who knows you virtually WAAAAAY back from when you were a lonely econ prof posting on the Chronicle forums)

      • Revanche says:

        I’m proud to brag that moom has been a welcome guest here since before I was “Revanche”! πŸ™‚ Yay reunion.

    • Revanche says:

      I think you’re right about the split and perhaps the fact that I have always combined both equally in my life for a long while meant that I never defined PF as anything other than “Everything Money”.

  4. “Being controversial for the page views, perhaps? ”
    We would *never* do that…

    • Revanche says:

      Haha, I was going to link you guys for that! But I didn’t want to conflate your “thoughtful and deliberately controversial” with “kind of just being a dogmatic ass a whole lot.”

  5. moom says:

    Hi Nicole! Did you know that moom is now totoro on the Chronicle? I just asked Snork Maiden how she’s doing and she said “um” but I don’t think that is bad, she is just surprised that someone remembers my alias from back then. We are doing OK here in Australia for the last 5 years careerwise, financially etc.

  6. Kara says:

    I’m not a PF blogger, but I read them, and I have also cut way back on my PF blog reading because of the “Judgey McJudgerson” PF bloggers.

    I’m also with @Linda above, on being older and maybe more financially settled and on realizing that life moves quickly and you can’t control the future. I suppose by every PF standard out there, I’m a rank failure; I just spent $3000 on a new sofa – the most expensive piece of furniture I’ve ever bought. Then again, I paid cash for it after saving for well over a year and, again, I’m 45 and want to live in a home that is comfortable and beautiful and so that’s where I put my money.

    And I promise if I ever blog about how awful my life is because I spent $3k I didn’t have, you have my full permission to slap me down. πŸ™‚

    • Revanche says:

      I *refuse* to believe we can’t control the future! πŸ˜€
      (But .. it’s true…)
      See, your feeling that you’d be considered a failure for buying a new sofa is striking. Striking because that’s how deep the beliefs run! You paid cash, you’re choosing a comfortable and aesthetic piece of furniture, and I have no clue whether that purchase has put you in debt, made absolutely no difference to your financial future or anything in between. So where on earth would I or anyone else get off judging you without any hint of the full picture?
      Anyway. I suppose I have my own prejudices, with my insistence that no one gets to whine at me, hm? πŸ˜‰ Not that that’s ironclad either. We make mistakes, we’re allowed to whine. But get off the pot eventually! Heh.

  7. So true. All of it. The enabling part by female PF bloggers cracks me up, because I think I was in that position before too…but different strokes for different folks, and I’ve come to realize that the PF blogging community strives to be similar yet different. Not sure if I’m being too philosophical here, but I think that’s what turned me off to it too. Everyone is genuinely nice, but sometimes I feel like I just want to read about someone’s ups and downs, dilemmas, etc. without having to resort to asking for advice, apologizing, or whatever. If someone wants to buy a house with debt go for it..personal finance is def personal. I’ve always felt there was this “right way” of doing things in the PF blogosphere though, and it def can drain the life out of you if you try to conform to it. I’m def a Starbucks guzzling, wanting to buy a property with debt, non-frugal person and I’m proud of it.

    • Revanche says:

      Re: the enabling and being in that boat – meaning you enabled others so they could buy what you couldn’t?
      And hey, if you’re just looking for chatter, step this way! πŸ™‚ I don’t write to give or solicit advice (except when I do ask for thoughts) and if I’m feeling guilty about something, it’s because I did something that I consider stupid by my values.
      And if people are doing things I don’t agree with, I have the perfect right and choice to just not read it. If I can respect people in my real life despite or because they make independent choices whether or not I would agree with them, I think I can extend that same courtesy to others online. I won’t claim that I don’t “conform” to an anti-debt stance but that’s because I wasted so much opportunity and time paying off debt that wasn’t even my own. I won’t even go to school because I refuse to rack up debt and that would be a stupid choice even by my standards if there were no other really good reasons to opt out.
      We all develop our own allergies! πŸ™‚

  8. Miss JJ says:

    Thanks for the link.

    To be fair, I understand where vanessa and the asian pear comes from, because I have seen some of the comments to certain bloggers about their “anti pf” behaviour and these were somewhat harsh.

    Where it gets hard to read is where the same chided blogger turns around and does the same to another blogger, after complaining about their treatment.

    This was what prompted my post. Consistency. That is all I ask.

    I am also reminded something I read lately in the comments sectiin of a Get Rich Slowly post – We judge ourselves by our intentions, but we judge others by their actions. I think if we can find a way to balance that, there would be a lot less inconsistency on the internet.

    • Revanche says:

      Oh I hope it didn’t come across as me thinking Vanessa and Asian Pear were “a problem”, or that I disagreed with *them*. I quoted them to give credit where due in sharing with me a perhaps-widespread perception. I don’t disagree that it exists, I’m just not a fan.

      And yes, I do very much think that the impulse to give ourselves credit but not understand that our refusal to grant others than same credit for intention when we screw up is rather unfair and sits at the heart of these “rules”. “There must be rules so that we can sit in judgment” – it seems.

  9. janelle says:

    I’m with you 100%. I’m not a full PF blogger per se… I try to save money the best I can but I know that I’m not one to hunker down and save EVERYTHING I CAN NO MATTER WHAT. Because that’s not my situation. I feel like a lot of PF bloggers who are still in debt from student loans, consumer debt or otherwise, can be very strict with their budgets and spending. Honestly when I read these types of PF blogs I feel guilty about my own personal spending and sometimes it really is a nice wake up call. BUT. That’s their life, and their personal finance situation. I applaud others for being so diligent in reducing their debt but that’s not me. Any complaints about “not being very PF-blogger” is ridiculous. You’re right.. there is no rules to be a PF blogger and everyone’s situation is different.

    • Revanche says:

      I think it’s always nice to have a sense of what you’re spending and saving and it’s helpful when someone else’s choices presents a new avenue but – exactly- it’s their life and situation.

  10. Single Ma says:

    Hmm…I’ve been PF blogging for 7-8 years and none of that sounds like any PF blogger I read. The phrase should probably be anti-beginner-PF Blogger because it describes the mantra many beginners follow when they are just figuring things out, saving nickels and dimes for debt reduction and emergency funds, and seeking the oh so elusive financial freedom. Whereas, the PF bloggers I read, and closely identify with, focus on building wealth, enjoying life, and spending money on things we VALUE – including the occasional crackbucks and LOTS of international travel. Then again, maybe I’m not considered a PF blogger anymore. πŸ™‚

    • Revanche says:

      Ah ha, I know! That stuff is fledgling PF.
      But we’ve long since grown our flight feathers where we can fly, hunt and build on our own. We don’t need to lap up the mama-bird type advice and we have the confidence to live and flourish.
      You and I read the same people πŸ˜‰

  11. People will always judge and it’s out of our control… sadly. I don’t consider myself a PF blogger but the label of anti-PF is dick-ish. I agree with you that it’s really up to the individual to decide what to do with their personal finance, errr, even their life. Now “YOLO” could become a slippery slope if such idea is continuously used as excuse to spend but for people (such as you, and I’d like to include myself too) who had put in the effort to manage the health of personal finance and understand how to use money, we are entitled a bit of freedom to spend on things we value. It’s not all about money after all.

    • Revanche says:

      Quite true that what people say or think of you is out of your control so far as that goes. But luckily, IMHO, that’s the very stuff that shouldn’t really matter if you’re living a life true to your values and standards.
      It’s funny to me that “YOLO” is bandied around like it is, when did we get the impression we got more than this one go around? πŸ˜‰

  12. Love this – thanks for defending my Starbucks gold card! Hahaha…. I kid, I kid.

    I agree with several other comments: there will always be judges in the crowd. But anything that involves talking about money — saving it, spending it, or otherwise– is PF to me!

  13. Mary says:

    Firstly, I want to say I really like this blog! I think primarily because it is diverse
    I’m not sure why so many of us, in this era of forced diversity, are so very judgemental of other opinions.
    Personal finance as many here have pointed out is, just that, personal. It can be helpful to see what others are doing with their finances, since it can offer me a new way of looking at things – I really do not want to read only the frugalites or only those whose income vastly outstrips mine. Either side may have tips that can help me find a better way for me.
    I really enjoyed reading the comments.
    Wishing you all a wonderful New Year.

    • Revanche says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence!

      “I’m not sure why so many of us, in this era of forced diversity, are so very judgemental of other opinions.”

      In some ways I understand that there is an impulse to be so; we just don’t *need* to be.

  14. Yup, I agree. I only know what’s really good for myself and my money, and I like to share what I know and my stories. But otherwise, other people’s money and how they use it is up to them, and we shouldn’t judge them for making different choices than us.

  15. I should clarfiy… While I do think that while the PF community is very supportive… Some are harshly HARSHLY negative when your values do not coincide with their own. They become mad and even disappointed at you. In general, I find PF community more accepting of purchases for life experiences (such as vacations) as opposed to material goods (such as a purse or a car.) I’ve also noticed that there is more value placed on certain items too… So iPads, smartphones, giant monitors are OK. But a Coach bag is not. I find this ridiculous. People value and enjoy different things. But the community places value judgements on different items. In the same turn, I’ve noticed that the blogger needs to always JUSTIFY their spending not to themselves but often to the readers too. In part to assuage harsh criticism but also also convince themselves as well. Anyhow, that’s jut my observations.

    • Revanche says:

      Noted! πŸ™‚ I didn’t mean to suggest there isn’t any supportiveness, in fact, that has been primarily my experience. (Though, the community has quite outgrown my ability to keep up.)
      And as SingleMa mentioned, she’s been around 7-8 years, (it’s been about the same for me) and the stuff we discussed just doesn’t jive with the PF community we enjoy.
      The difference seems to be, from other comments and after further thought, this is a specific part of the community or mindset that flips from being very supportive to being that harshly negative. I think your observations are probably spot on for those folks.
      Perhaps mOOm is right: that attitude and need to be harsh is more prevalent in the “debt/ frugality” side of things. I see strong opinions but not as much piling on (like, as you pointed out, on Krystal’s site) in the wealthbuilding side.

  16. I still reserve the right to have the crud irritated out of me by people who keep complaining about the results of their bad decisions while making the same bad decisions because goshdarnit they’re entitled (while also lashing out at people who are in better positions from not making those bad decisions). Really I wish they’d just shut up (and also: not be included on so many blogrolls so it’s easier to ignore their angsty headlines). And yes, that’s judgmental. But Imma keep judging there.

    • Revanche says:

      I made provision for that!
      “Unless you plan on subjecting me to your whining over the results of your β€œbad” decisions” = don’t come here and whinge (which I think is a bonus level of whining); also don’t poop all over other people’s sites if you weren’t invited to.
      I’ve blogged on the “while also lashing out at people who are in better positions from not making those bad decisions” before – I think it’s irritating and rude because it’s often targeted and bullying. Basically the behavior that irritates me here! While I support inclusiveness, I am neither martyr or saint. IMO, having discernment is not a bad thing.

  17. […] gai shan life muses on pf blogs and attitudes.Β  This is one of those fun “do what works for you” […]

  18. “I’m not your PF keeper, and you aren’t mine.” AMEN!

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