It struck me the other day just how different the blog looks now than when I started.
The bad old days
When I first started blogging back in 2008, Tim and I were living on $3,100 a month with $700 rent and $500 health insurance for him. Meanwhile, we were attempting to pay down student loans and medical debt with whatever was left over.
My energy was worse in those days, which meant frugal hacks were harder to, well, hack. And I certainly couldn’t get that second job that espoused by so many frugality blogs at that point. In fact, I couldn’t even work a first one. And Tim was looking at also getting on disability too, so he couldn’t pick up any work either.
My original purpose
I felt there were demographics that was being underserved by traditional PF blogs: lower income folks who couldn’t pay down debt in leaps and bounds, people with disabilities or other impediments to absolute frugal living, people in debt for necessary reasons instead of having been sucked into consumerism — really anyone who didn’t fit the stereotype that most bloggers were speaking to.
In fact, I still remember the exact moment I knew I was starting my own site. I was reading yet another “How to” post about getting out of debt. The suggestion that was the final straw? Sell your toys — the things that got you into debt. For example the blogger had made a fair amount of money selling his JetSki.
“That’s it,” I thought. “I’m starting a blog for people like me!”
I wanted to speak to the folks who were couldn’t be perfectly frugal due to unusual circumstances. (For example, one reader kept kosher, meaning she couldn’t shop meat sales.) Also, I just wanted to remind the rest of the people that folks like me were out there. And I thought a more imperfect form of frugality might speak to a lot of people feeling daunted by the perfection most PF blogs were touting at the time.
So I got on blogspot and started up a site. I even tried blogging five times a week, though I burned out on that pretty quickly and switched to three times a week.
I found a core audience of people like me — and some who just found me through my mom’s site, since she shamelessly plugs me. #nepotism
Change is inevitable
Life clipped along for a couple of years with my blogging about being in debt and struggling to pay it off on a low income. I got a lot of good feedback from people in their own unique situations, who appreciated a voice from off the beaten path.
But then we paid off what we owed, and I found a job I could do from home. Life got a lot easier, and the tone and focus of the blog changed a little.
Still, it was about saving diligently since we had to save up for some much-needed expenses. Most notably, Tim’s full-mouth dental implants (which ended up costing $26,000) and new windows for the house ($10,000).
But we were definitely struggling less. My income grew, and I started to allow for indulgences. And of course there’s a certain luxury in saving — even for things that are very necessary — compared to paying off debt. Even if, at times, it felt like we were in debt to the future expenses.
Yet more change
Meanwhile, over the years my income has continued to grow. I now make more than twice I did when I started — all because my boss is overly generous. (Well, that and I work hard for my company. Let’s call it a combination of the two.)
So over time, the blog’s point — and voice — has continued to evolve. I started to write less from a panicked, desperate place and more from a place of assurance, where I knew that we could pay our bills without issue. A place where, most months, it wasn’t about whether we could save but instead about how much we could save.
I felt a little bad that we were privileged enough to be in that situation. At the same time, I was also proud at how far we’d come, even if my income was what made a lot of it more feasible rather than our being especially frugal (compared to other bloggers, anyway).
I had readers cheering me on, which is always great. But over time I noticed some commenters going quiet. Perhaps they still read me and simply have less to comment about. But most likely they stopped coming to the site when it no longer spoke to them.
And of course, after the divorce I found out that I’d lost a number of readers over the years when they got sick of my making excuses for Tim’s spending. Or my spending to kowtow to his wants — the pool table being a prime example of my rationalizing expenses for him.
I know that some have come back since the divorce (thank you!), but I’m sure some don’t know that I’m on my own now.
Of course, I’ve found new readers (welcome!), but I do miss people when they go silent. Not for the page views — though obviously those are nice — but because regular commenters make me feel like there’s a dialogue with the readers. And that’s an amazing feeling.
So yes, I lost readers. But when I feel badly about this, I wonder what else I could have done with the blog.
If I kept writing from a lower income standpoint, I worried that it would ring hollow. Or worse, people would be annoyed or even feel betrayed when they found out I was no longer low income.
Besides, I ran through most of the “How to” posts pretty early on, and I don’t like to be too repetitive. Which meant not recycling said instructional posts and listicles. And that meant that most of my pieces over the years have come from talking about my own situation and struggles. As those evolved, so did the blog. And so it came to pass that I was no longer writing for my original audience.
In fact, I wrote from a position of privilege — the same one I once so envied and, frankly, had been bitter about back when I first started the blog.
True, at the time we were still, for all intents and purposes, a one-income household. Tim’s check just about covered his alternative therapies and not much else. But as my income inched higher, life became easier and so saving became easier. I began to take it for granted that most months we’d save. Perhaps not as much as I’d like, but save we would.
New types of struggles
Of course, I still talked about struggles. They were just different. And a lot easier.
But I wrote about working hard to save amid Tim’s ADHD spending/wants and the medical bills that still got thrown our way. Like the two times Tim went to the emergency room (complete with ambulance) before he was covered by insurance.
Still, it wasn’t the same, and I don’t blame some readers for getting disenchanted and leaving. Especially because of all the excuses I made for Tim and the rationalization of spending on him that must have wearied a lot of you. I appreciate those who stuck around through it all.
Change is ongoing
And the blog still continues to evolve to this day.
After the divorce, my finances got hectic, but they (and my life in general) quickly settled down and improved vastly.
This means that there’s less to report in life updates. It means there are fewer developments to blog about. When I do have reports, the results are so positive that I worry it’ll come off as bragging and disenchant more readers.
Still, it’s my life and that’s what this blog is about — personal finance, yes, but also my life as it relates to PF. But since life is quiet — blissfully quiet, really — even that has changed some. So the blog has pivoted yet again. Now, in addition to my life, I discuss findings from recent surveys about personal finance that I find interesting (or worrisome).
I can only hope this doesn’t make the blog too impersonal. But there’s only so much about my own life that I have to write about. So “What’s going on in life” begins to translate to “What I’m reading about personal finance.” I can only hope that you guys find it interesting too.
So here we are
For better or worse, this is a very different blog from the one I started 11 (!!!) years ago.
Of course, this worries me. As I said, I fret that that my financial updates come off as braggy or disconnected. I know how tough it was for me to read about anything approaching a 50% saving rates when we were broke. Or even just when I was struggling with Tim’s spending.
Still, as I stated before, I have to write about my life. And this is what my life looks like now. Perhaps I am disconnected from the blog’s roots now. It’s hard to say for sure. I can only hope that the majority of you come along for all of the ride’s twists and turns, no matter where they take me financially.
The future is uncertain
Because there’s still a chance I’ll end up back near where I started.
If I ever lost my job, I couldn’t find another one like this. I’d either have to freelance — and I’m terrible at coming up with posts to pitch — or get a part-time job outside the house. Part-time is about all I could manage. That would make things very lean indeed, though at least at least the guest house rent would pay for the majority of the mortgage.
I don’t think I’ll lose my job. At worst, if competition gets really bad, I’m guessing I’d have to take a pay cut.
But you never know. I’ve made myself as integral to them as possible, but in the end I’m still just delivering customer service. I’m replaceable. My boss could do my job. Lucky for me he really doesn’t want to, but he could if push came to shove.
In that case, I’d be back to writing about my experiences being lower income. Because as I’ve said I write about my life.
Turn and face the change
Part of me feels somewhat sorry that this blog has changed so much, though I’m not sorry about the reasons behind that change (a job, then raises, then a divorce). Of course, I still want to help people who are low income, but I’m at a distance from that life. So I worry that anything I write about it come off as fake.
It will, to use the technical term, truly suck if that loses me my audience. But I hope that, even if you’re in a different place financially, you can appreciate how hard I’ve worked to get here.
And more importantly, I hope you know how much I care about you guys. I really I enjoy keeping up with the bits of your lives that you share in the comments, and I’m always honored that you tune in to see what I have to say.
Because without you this blog is pure (as opposed to the current semi-) navel gazing.
So if there’s something you want me to cover — even if it’s about how I once did something on a low income — please let me know. I don’t think up a lot of how-to, or “How I did X” posts on my own, but I’m happy (and finally have the time/mental bandwidth) to write them if requested.
If there’s something you’d like to see on the blog, please let me know. And I’ll do my best to oblige because I truly value each and every one of you, and it still blows my mind to realize just how many people navigate over to this site to see what I have to say.
I may not be a huge blog, but each day hundreds of people check in on the site to see if I have something new. That’s crazy!
No, wait. I mean it’s obviously logical and everyone should do it (and tell their friends to read me too).
But seriously, the fact that you guys come here, over and over, and share my adventures with me… It’s truly humbling. I can only hope that you keep tuning in for said adventures, even as the blog continues to evolve.
Have you been reading long? If so, does the blog’s evolution bother you?