The Perils of Personal Finance Blogging

When I started a personal finance blog, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew I wanted to help people with personal finance. I liked to write and had a knack for frugality. I wanted to bring a spiritual, biblical perspective to personal finance topics.

I also knew that the personal finance blogosphere was pretty crowded, and that good bloggers comment on other people’s blogs.

What I didn’t realize was just how time-consuming and thought-consuming blogging could be. For a while it felt like I spent hours fussing over each post, proof-reading, trying to find the perfect words, image, and points to convey my message. And reading and commenting on others’ blogs was fun but overwhelming. I could spend all my free time on it and still barely scratch the surface of what was out there.

While I never set out to “build a successful blog,” more people started reading and commenting. As the daily views rose, so too did my concern with growth. Could this month exceed last months’ views? It was a peripheral but persistent thought. Plus lots of other bloggers write about blogging. How was their blog growing? What income was it earning? Should I pursue the freelance writing opportunities blogging can open the door to?

Career is also a natural topic for personal finance bloggers to cover. Here I was, someone who never put career first, and left paid work entirely after the birth of our second child. Even with PF bloggers communicating respect for SAHMs, I felt like a failure. Why hadn’t I taken my career more seriously (I knew the answer)? What was I going to do when my kids are in school? Would I have any decent career options left to me after years out of the work force?

Still years away from the point when we decided I’d go back to work, I found myself worrying about work. It took time and prayer to convince myself that my season at home was not the time to fret about work. I kept praying Galatians 6:14 “that my interest in the world would die, and the world’s interest in me would die.”

I’m not blaming other blogs for my worries. My brain naturally hangs onto what I read, mulls it over, and makes a case for or against adopting a philosophy or advice. This has led to some of my most popular posts, as well as personal angst. Because sometimes I inadvertently hang onto others’ messages even after I decide they’re not for me.

I knew something had to change. So I chose to stop reading posts about blogging. I chose to stop reading posts about side hustling. I chose to stop reading bloggers whom I simply couldn’t relate to, or who came off overly dogmatic. The hordes of childless twenty-somethings attempting lifestyle topics sounds a little passe to a sometimes-cynical mother. As I stopped steeping my mind in personal finance articles, I found myself increasingly at peace with my season in life. And my blog.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to read only my favorite blogs, and then only when I have time. I decided I could repost old posts if I didn’t have time to write. It often feels like this site is one week away from extinction. Will I have a topic? Will anyone care? Part of the struggle was I no longer knew who my audience was. Or rather, I had two different audiences simultaneously in mind: the people I knew IRL, and the people (mostly bloggers) who comment here.

So with the turn of the year I also decided to write primarily what would be helpful to people I know. Most PF bloggers don’t actually need more financial advice.

There are other dangers with personal finance blogs: taking major financial advice from non-professionals, getting obsessed with money or a certain lifestyle, looking at only one side of an issue, or getting caught up in the comparison game. For the most part, those just didn’t happen to be my struggle.

Do you want to know what happened when I stopped spending so much time thinking and writing about personal finance?

My readership stats went down. And I didn’t care.

I got fewer comments. And I didn’t mind.

I enjoyed the blogs I did read more. It no longer felt like an obligation, but a pastime.

I stopped worrying about work and focused more on my kids.

I read books instead of blogs posts. Lots more books than I had been reading. Books about parenting, marriage, ministry, and spiritual growth. Books with full, complete arguments instead of 500-word ones. And even fiction!

I grew more confident in our financial choices, including the fact that we keep our plans and goals flexible in order to follow God’s plans.

I’ll never have the most successful or profitable blog—and that’s fine with me. I didn’t set out for that, I got a little lost along the way, and I’m glad I found my way back to my purpose.

What topics would be most helpful to ya’ll readers? What do you tend to be more interested in—“how” posts or “why” posts?

22 Responses to “The Perils of Personal Finance Blogging”

  1. FullTimeFinance says :

    It’s not about number of readers, career, or even personal finance. It’s about doing something you enjoy and potentially helping others. Each person’s path to do so is different

  2. Barbara says :

    Hi! I can’t recall which posts I have enjoyed and benefited from the most, so I’m not able to say whether they were ‘hows” or “whys”. I subscribe to extremely few blogs, but I did discover yours while researching something. I actually subscribed! And, as full as my inbox is, I actually read your blog! Occasional posts are fine with me.

    For myself, as I also have a blog which needs tending to, and I had a brainstorm which generated the kernel of an idea, and I’m so excited. I have yet to put it into practice!! LOL But the idea is a calendar system where I schedule topics on a rotating cycle. It’s certainly not an original idea, as I’ve seen blogs where every Tuesday, for example, they post about such and such. But, unique to me are the collection of topics because they are based on the body of my own published work, and my own skill set. I know I have about 35 topics I can plug into that cycle. I bet you have a bunch of topics too. Have you done anything like this schedule?

  3. Brian says :

    You hit the nail on the head Kalie. I took a step back from the number of blogs I was reading and commenting on too, only doing so on the ones I really enjoy and connect with. I also just recently gone to a once a week posting schedule. My goal is to focus more on things in my local community, and offline.

    I also enjoy reading how other families are handling their money, its great to have other perspectives to learn from and possibly incorporated into our own lives.

  4. LifeZemplified says :

    Respect! I’m glad you found your purpose again too.

    Personally, I enjoy why posts.

  5. Tonya says :

    Amen to that! The past month I made one final push to see if my youtube channel and really spending time “marketing” my blog and youtube channel would move the needle. Instead I felt nothing but frustration, then I got to read how someone’s views just reached a million or how their youtube channel is making tons of money or how pinterest is killing it for them. I too felt like a failure. I realized I was trying way too hard. I have a job, and it pays well, so why am I losing sleep over all this. This past weekend I also decided to take a social media fast. That too was driving me nuts. The worst? Humble bragging!! Drives me insane!

  6. Retire Before Dad says :

    PTBP,
    Your progression sounds very natural and similar to what a lot of us face. Coming up with good and regular content, balancing life and parenting, and simply enjoying what you read. To be happy and successful, we really need to enjoy what we’re doing. Choosing a blog topic you’re passionate about is the most important step. No shame in reposting old content! It’s still good and usually new to most readers!
    -RBD

  7. Sheri says :

    Hey there. Just so you know your audience I bit. I’m a mom in California. I’m not a blogger, just a personal finance geek. I like your take on finance and family. I also stopped reading a bunch of bloggers, but I kept your blog, because I think you have a unique take on finance for families.

    • Jay says :

      Can I say ditto to all of this, except my location being Australia?

      It can be overwhelming trying to keep up with all the different bloggers, especially when they’re posting prolifically. I had to cut down the number of blogs I read or I’d never get any real life done.

      Kalie, I find your particular blog to be like the quiet conscience of the personal finance blogging world. When I used to get too money-obsessed, thanks to some of the more extreme blogs bringing out that part of me that can become TOO focused, you brought me back to a more balanced view – the WHY of being frugal. I love how you weave God’s word into finance, building a bigger picture which reminds me not to be greedy but to be careful, in order to be generous.

      I’ll offer my opinion that posting on a less-regular basis would be great; quality over quantity would be ideal. Mr Money Mustache posts maybe every few months currently, however I am sure he still has many subscribers. Even if a few may have left…
      If you feel it is better for you to post infrequently, we will still be here. Just don’t STOP posting 🙂

  8. FrugalTravelGal says :

    I found your blog in the spring from a link on Through My Lens (thank you, Emily!). This is my first time to comment, and I’m sure there are many others like me who read and enjoy your posts – but don’t let you know how much they appreciate what you have written. Please keep doing what you’re doing!

    I enjoy all of your posts, but I especially like the “why” ones. Your “Inflate Your Usefulness, Not Your Lifestyle” is one of my favorites!

  9. Kimberly says :

    I could’ve written this. Thanks for the reminder. It’s easy to get caught up in the world of social media and before you know it, the day is gone. We need to do what we do best. Whether it’s writing, parenting, taking care of our finances, helping others and serving God. When you do what’s important to you and your family, everything else will fall into place.
    Bless you.

  10. Hannah says :

    I agree with most of your sentiments, and I too largely fell off the face of the planet in terms of commenting and even reading other blogs.

    All that said, I hope you continue to write. You’ve helped me to see ways in which God intersects with everyday finances.

  11. Mike H says :

    You also have some readers who don’t speak up often (I being one of them). 🙂

    I love that you come at the topic of personal finance from a biblical perspective. I’d actually been planning to start my own blog specifically addressing PF from that perspective, to the point of getting a domain name and putting up an initial post… and then decided that this was a bit silly since I don’t actually enjoy writing!

    But, your own perspective aligns so well with my own that now I just recommend your blog. 🙂

    Thanks for doing what you do… and don’t stress about it!

  12. Oldster says :

    It sounds to me like you have crafted a very healthy approach. In my experience, if you say what you feel, and believe what you say, the rest just kind of works out. At least way more often than it doesn’t.

    Thanks for your honest appraisal of what this “hobby” can mean.

  13. Emily says :

    Love this! I’m glad you’ve found freedom in your blogging! That’s how it should be! Coming from someone who makes $0 on her blog 😉
    I find in my own life that getting caught up in numbers and especially money makes enjoyable things stressful. But I can relate with the desire to want to contribute and feel “successful”. At the end of the day, though, I’m grateful for the time I can write on topics I care about and spend time with my kiddos. You’re doing more than you think. Frugality = saved income even if you aren’t the income earner. And even finance blogging is about a lot more than money, which you communicate very well!

  14. Simplest Happiness says :

    I’m not even sure how I came across your blog…I have only just started a blog (might not last for long, we will see :)) and this past week I just realized exactly what you posted here. I hope you continue posting. I love to see quick recipes and frugal things that people do to motivate others.

  15. Linda Sand says :

    I pretty much know the how but the why is still interesting to me. There are so many versions of why. But, if you are not enjoying writing then change it. There’s not enough time in life to do “Should”.

  16. mary in maryland says :

    I’ve stopped reading blogs that talk about side hustles, retiring before 40, roaming the world, or living with the fewest possible number of things. We’re retired in our late 60s. We enjoyed our work and the contributions it made to the world. We enjoy our little house (not tiny) and our deep ties to the neighborhood and church. More than enough is too much.

  17. Kyle says :

    I like the “why” posts as well. Like others, I know most of the “how” that is working for my family, so reading another “how” isn’t going to do as much for me unless there’s a compelling “why” behind it. That’s the whole reason we decided to do something about our situation in the first place: someone gave us a “why.” Before that, we were perfectly content living normal, broke lives. Share your “why.” That’s more beneficial.

    • D says :

      I’m not religious and I’m a dad, not a mom, but I often find value and insight in your posts. I believe my family has many similar values and philosophies to yours, and maybe a similar way of thinking, but I also like reading your thoughts on the areas where you have a different perspective, because i think it’s important to try to view things from the perspective of others. I find the same about Hannah’s blog, by the way. For some reason I have tended to connect more with some of the personal finance bloggers who are explicitly religious without getting into the Dave Ramsey or prosperity gospel areas.

      I don’t mind irregular posting. I subscribe to too many blogs already. I’d rather have really interesting or insightful posts than more frequent posts.

      I think “how” posts are good for topics where you can’t easily do a search and find a dozen other blogs on that subject. Other than that, I like “why” posts.

  18. Harmony says :

    I go back and forth on whether to even consider myself a personal finance blogger. There are posts that deal with financial issues, but I see my blog as more focused on our journey. I’m no expert on money, but have some insight to offer based on our own experiences. I started off just wanting to document our mission to destroy debt and achieve financial semi-independence for our family. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that when it comes to the blog.

    As pointed out in some of the other comments – I read your posts for the unique point of view you have to offer. I love reading about your burbsteading and unique, religious insights on money. You have to follow your heart with these creative endeavors and do what feels right – it seems like you’re on the right track.

  19. Prudence Debtfree says :

    I find it shocking that you ever allowed yourself to “feel like a failure” for not pursuing your career at this time. For some perspective, just know that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but finances – both of our doing and outside out control – made that impossible. It was the single most heart-breaking time of my life when I went back to work full time (after resigning to be a stay-at-home mom). I’m so glad that you’re back to a place of confidence with where you’re at. It’s a blessed, blessed place. As for blogging … I totally relate. Especially as Laurie and I are no longer running Fruclassity. Lots of soul-searching in the aftermath. Never doubt for a moment that you add something of great value to the bloggosphere.

  20. Josh says :

    With the birth of our second child this spring, I’ve cut back on my personal blog too. Mostly because I’m either focused on active income or spending time with the family as they are only little once (and to give mama a breather).

    For me personally, I like how you talk about living with purpose and the Burbstead posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *