Wednesday, December 26, 2007

First-Person & Public: How Writing in the First-Person Saves Money

It's like going to the mall without make-up or even a smear of lipstick. That's how it feels to write a first-person column on finance under my real name. I recommend the process or other forms of peer group mentoring. Public discussion actually helps me to save money and to set realistic financial goals. Here's how:

The You vs. I bonus: A little while ago, Flexo of Consumerism Commentary wrote a column about keeping personal finance personal: (Thoughts On Finance Writing) Basically, he mentioned the importance of using the pronoun "I" instead of "you." He urged fellow personal finance bloggers to keep it real. Reading that column -- excellent as always -- had a profound impact on me. Here's the deal: I've written about stocks, bonds and the capital markets since the mid-1980s. I earned money by writing about OPM (other people's money).

But writing about personal finance is trickier when I put myself under the microscope. The process demands a different set of skills and disclosure than those I developed as a financial reporter. And although I continue to rely on news releases, industry studies and expert interviews, I've also started to write more columns about my own mistakes, triumphs and experiences.

That means I have to try many of the tips that appear in this space and then report on the process. For example, it's great to write about a money-saving, all-natural hair dye (cold brewed coffee on my greying hair). But to make it real, I actually poured coffee on my head. The experience provided a fun story and enhanced my life. And besides, the scent of coffee in my braids keeps me alert.

The Folks Factor: Because I write under my real name, I know that my Mom and Dad can easily track my personal accounting. Besides, they really know me and hold me accountable. (My phone will ring about 30 seconds after my folks read this post.) For example, earlier this year when I wrote about adding more money to an emergency fund, my parents wanted to see results not just words. Bottom Line: Pleasing M&D still matters to me.

The Mirror Factor: My blog reflection has to match my inner mirror reflection. Fears of sounding insincere or false keep me up at night. Therefore, if I write about saving energy, I feel obligated to turn off unnecessary lights throughout my home. And in fact, I just walked around my apartment and hit the off switch in two rooms and a bathroom. As such, blogging in the first person saves money.

The quest for new material: I write on a dining room table that faces the ocean. (I live in a low-rent building in a high-rent neighborhood.) I see a lot from this view point, but without constantly reading and reporting, my blog, life & finances get stale and stagnant. Therefore, in order to hunt down new topics and personal finance tools, I have to live a fuller life.

This year, for example, I'm plan to enroll in a 529 college savings plan for my middle-school son and elementary-age daughter. Maybe I'll also enroll in a DRIP stock program or some other investment. I also plan to try a new budgeting process that I read about in the Weekend Millionaire Mindset. My goal: Live it; earn it, save it & blog it.

Embrace the "YOU" pronoun: Of course, I'm not abandoning the second-person "you" pronoun and in 2008, many of my posts will continue to read like this: "You should try... or You should do... or You should save.... " But in those cases, that you means me. I'm not lecturing or preaching to anyone but myself. That understanding helps because as I blog about personal finance, I'm constantly reaching to improve my own financial portrait.

Other interesting posts on this topic:

Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in May of 2008 by DPL Press.
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Meredith said...

Great post! That's one reason I enjoy reading *personal* PF blogs instead of something that reads like Kiplinger's.

Getting to know real people doing real projects makes a profound difference.

Flexo said...


Thanks for the links and especially the thoughts in this post. Looking forward to reading your new book... Did the cold coffee hair dye work?

Frugal Duchess said...


Thanks so much for the kind words.
It means a lot.
Take Care.

Frugal Duchess said...

Hi! I appreciate your thoughts so much.

Thanks for asking about the book.

And yeah: the coffee worked okay.
My hair looked darker, but it didn't completely cover the Elvira Streak that is sprouting from my left temple.

I'm going to try super black tea next time.

Best Wishes,