Can Personal Finance Blogs Help You Improve Your Finances?
I began reading personal finance blogs sometime after The Great Recession started. Just like much of the U.S., I was stuck in a downward financial spiral and the stress that comes with it. I felt alone, dejected, and overwhelmed.
I don’t remember the first personal finance blog that I read. I just remember that I was consuming stories of people like me. People who were dealing with profound financial struggles. People who weren’t sure where to start with cleaning it all up. What kind of stories were these?
There was a story about a woman whose spouse was unable to work, hurting their financial bottom line.
There was a story about a single mom in debt who needed to earn more money but craved more time with her kids.
There was a story about a man who wanted to make room for a new person in his life but felt he had to improve his finances first.
These were stories about real people going through real financial problems. For the first time ever, I was able to glimpse into the lives of people who went through the struggles I was going through - and I was able to learn from their experiences.
As I got into more and more of these personal finance blogs and hearing these stories, I started to connect with the authors. I became a part of the community built around these people and their honesty. Finally, I was able to talk to people who lived, felt, and understood my financial struggles.
Personal Finance Blogs Are Personal
No longer a bystander, I became heavily invested in the success of these bloggers. I cheered for their successes, felt frustrated for them at roadblocks, and sometimes even questioned their decisions.
I wasn't just hearing their stories, though. I was inadvertently learning about different financial tools and strategies by reading their stories.
I discovered grocery apps to help me save on my food budget. I read about sites that helped people save painlessly (have you ever found saving to be painless?). I found out about the variety of APRs (annual percentage rates) that people might be paying on their loans and credit cards.
I learned about travel hacking (using travel credit card rewards to travel for less) - and I learned that I should never attempt to do it. I discovered an entire community of people aggressively saving for early retirement - something I would like to attempt to do.
I learned about extreme side hustling as a method to grow income or pay off debt (or both). I read about people working full-time jobs who also participated in focus groups, became brand ambassadors, and took up freelancing - all so they could quickly boost their income.
You Can Learn About Finance by Reading Personal Stories
Reading personal finance blogs started as a way to find people dealing with financial struggles like I was. But what happened instead was that I found my horizons broadened. These blogs gave me a depth, clarity, and focus in my financial knowledge that I never had before.
Through these blogs, I was able to learn more about financial topics such as investing, savings, retirement, and debt payoff. And, through these blogs, I learned that there was nothing wrong with me. I saw that there were other people dealing with the same gap in information that I had and that it was normal to go through the struggles I was going through.
As there is with all things, there were some low moments in reading these blogs. I found myself at times wondering if I could ever achieve the same results as the bloggers. I questioned if I was motivated enough, focused enough, or driven enough to accomplish the same goals they were working towards. One thing you'll notice when you read personal finance blogs is that the writers set some seriously ambitious goals. and if you hold yourself to those goals exactly, you too might find yourself feeling discouraged. That's why it's so important to learn from them but not to compare yourself to them. No two situations are exactly the same.
After getting past those low points and learning not to compare myself to the bloggers, I was able to find support in ways I never expected through these blogs.
Always Carefully Consider Advice Before Acting On It
Like all advice, I had to be aware of whether or not the advice given was good for me and my situation.
For example, I was enamored by the lives of travel hackers. I wanted to fulfill my own dreams of grand travel on the cheap with the aid of credit card rewards and bonuses, just like so many other travel hackers had done before. But when I tried my own epic travel hack, I failed. My failed experiment didn't just hurt my travel hacking dreams, though, it also hurt my credit score. And that's a mess I'm still in the process of cleaning up today.
That's why it's so important to remember that personal finance blogs are personal above all else. What works for the blogger and even other members of the community won't necessarily work for you - but you can still learn a lot from their experiences (including their failures and their successes).
I know this now, but at the time I had to be kind to myself and understand that many of these bloggers were years ahead of me. They had a head start in addressing their money mindset issues, in working on their money stories, and on improving their finances as a whole.
I was just beginning my journey, but I didn't always let myself remember that. I needed to understand the dangers in comparing myself too closely with them in order to move forward in a positive way.
How Blogs Have Led Me to My New Financial Life
It's been six years since I read my first personal finance blog. I credit these blogs with the very important mental shift I've made about money. Through that, I've been able to make stronger money decisions that have changed my life profoundly.
One of the greatest things I've learned is that our money mindsets are what hold most of us back - if we don't know how to work with them. For example, if you believe that you deserve a certain lifestyle, it’s hard to buy into the idea that you have to say no to that. Not only that, it’s incredibly hard to change your financial life if you have to reimagine and rework a lifetime of established money habits. It’s also hard to admit that you play a huge role in your financial outcomes - not just your income.
It has taken me 6 years to change my money thought process. It has taken me 6 years to get to the point where my money-related actions are a natural and pain-free part of my day.
When I go to the grocery store I use my grocery app to save money (I don’t like coupons and always forget them). I side hustle with the best of them. I’ve participated in jury duty focus groups to earn extra money. I’ve sampled different food items (free lunch) as a side hustle. I’ve even made extra money as a brand ambassador handing out yummy food items at festivals.
Besides these new habits, I’ve learned different financial strategies that work well for me.
Finally, as serious as the topic of money is, I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously. I've learned to embrace the journey and give myself a chance to figure things out. Before I started reading money blogs, I was working with the information that I had been given throughout life or that I learned from observing the actions of others. These blogs gave me a chance to fill in the gaps of my knowledge and understand finances more holistically.
I can’t say that I am at the end of my financial journey. But I am definitely a lot farther along than I was when I started reading personal finance blogs. What's the end, anyway, really? The financial journey is one that should always be evolving as we learn and grow in our lives.
Should You Start Reading More Personal Finance Blogs?
As I learned in the past 6 years, personal finance blogs can change your life by connecting you with other people dealing with financial challenges, connecting you with a community that supports you, and educating you along the way. But ultimately you have to decide that you actually want to change your financial life. It doesn’t matter if you read a blog post or a book about money every day. You have to actually use the knowledge you gain and take action on it.
Currently, I find that I am a much more informed, enthusiastic, and hopeful person as I continue working on my financial journey thanks to what I learned from these blogs. I understand that there are moments of great success on the road to financial clarity. And, when I experience a moment that feels like an epic financial fail - I brush my pants off and try again.