When I started BankerGirl, I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to what my goals were for the site or who my intended audience was - I just wanted to record the process of getting out of debt and add some fiscal accountability to my life. The one thing I did know that I wanted to maintain a bit of anonymity - I would like to keep people from my work or professional organizations I belong to from stumbling upon the site (due to the fact that I’m disclosing details about my income), and I didn’t want my family or close friends to know about it (due to the embarrassing amounts of debt I have accumulated).
So far, I don’t think anyone I work with knows about BankerGirl, which is good. I did not, however, manage to keep it from friends and family. They were clued in from the beginning because my future brother-in-law is hosting the site and I didn’t express to him from the get-go that I wasn’t planning to tell anyone who knew me in the flesh about my new endeavor. After a couple of weeks of publishing, it became very clear that my nearest and dearest were reading. The following is a list of the unintended consequences of making my personal financial information very public:
1. Expectations change
I have never been especially shy about talking about my income, so my friends and family have always known roughly how much money I make. I haven’t been as forth-coming with information about my debt. Once I put it all out there, people’s expectations of me changed for the better (or at least for the betterment of my finances). For example, this is the first Christmas that family members have said things like “should we lower the maximum gift value this year?” and “You don’t need to waste all that gas money making two trips in one week.”
2. The realization that I’m not alone
A lot of my friends are in the same financial boat - we’re all young professionals in our early 30s and want to drive the right car and live in the right house but are holding the whole thing together with smoke and mirrors and duct tape. The happiest consequence of starting the site has been finding out that my loved ones understand and support my financial make-over. Some examples of how people are showing their support:
- My future mother-in-law sent me a copy of Debt-Proof Living and a subscription to their monthly newsletter
- My closest friend suggested my partner and I spend New Year’s Eve with her and her fiancé playing cards and drinking “Two-Buck Chuck” from Trader Joe’s. We had a great time and saved a ton of money.
3. Accountability to readers is real
I had hoped that just having my goals and progress in writing would bring me the accountability I need - but I have been pleasantly surprised that my handful of readers take my progress very seriously and offer advice to keep me on track. In December I blew my Christmas budget buying things for myself - and readers responded with suggestions to get back on track. I didn’t return any of the items I purchased that day, but I am being much more thoughtful about what to do with the money I got from Santa.
4. We’re in this together
My partner has been reading and has been taking stock of his financial house as well. As a result of articles I have posted, he has checked his credit report (and discovered his score is 20 points higher than mine!) and created a budget for 2008 that includes paying off credit card debt and saving for our wedding. I am looking forward to sitting down with him later this week and deciding on our joint goals for the New Year, but I am also a bit afraid of losing some of my financial autonomy. My fiancé gave me a really hard time about the watch I bought while Christmas shopping (and rightfully so) - I expect more of the same scrutiny regarding other “unnecessary” purchases in 2008.
Looking back, being truthful about my financial situation is the single best move I’ve made to date for the betterment of my balance sheet (The truth will set you free, my friends!). I have been amazed and humbled by how understanding those within my inner circle have been - my only regret is not putting it all out there sooner.Stumble it!