Are We Real? If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed?  

Kitty PoP, contemplating murder as usual.

Kitty PoP, contemplating murder as usual.

Not too long ago, I was poking around the internet, half zoned out while riding in the passenger seat on a mini road trip with Mr PoP, and ran across some commentary on how people seemed to think that personal finance blogs rang false to many of those commenting.  Commenters were deriding most personal finance blogs (including ours in particular, which didn’t feel great) for being more filtered than Instagram photos, and for being disingenuous about making money off a blog dedicated to financial independence (or something along those lines).

Honestly, reading it felt pretty crappy and I immediately got defensive.  We’ve always tried to be pretty up front with things going on in our lives, while also maintaining a level of privacy necessary to feel comfortable sharing financial information on the internet.

Addressing The Second Item First…

Is it disingenuous to earn the occasional buck from a blog where we are purportedly trying to become financially independent (including independent from blog income)?  I’m not sure I’m impartial enough to answer that one.

For us, we have some Google ads on our blog.  Hopefully they’re not too intrusive to most readers – and if they are, get an ad blocker because most sites have way more ads than ours!  These days the ads throw off <$1/day and the blog being cost neutral is occasionally the only thing that keeps me from insisting we shut it down.  We briefly toyed with affiliate links and flirted with the idea of a sponsored post in our blog’s infancy, but earning actual income from our blog was thrown to the wayside years ago as we opted for a more journal-type blog experience here.  Which (at least for us) doesn’t tend to have a ton of product placements (unless said products are knobs and pulls on cabinets – but I swear those weren’t affiliate links!).

And how about the first item now?

Are We Disingenuous?

When I first read that commentary, I was in complete denial about using any kind of filter on our lives.  But the more I chewed on the thought (and I had plenty of time since we were still 80+ miles from home), I think it’s fair to say we do have a filter.  Maybe it hasn’t been upfront for us not to spell it out to the readers and give everyone a shot at deciding whether or not they are comfortable with the level of filtering that happens behind the scenes here.  So here goes.

The way I see it, we have 2 main filters here at PoP.

Filter #1 – We avoid being overly specific about our jobs.

When you’re on a financial journey that by design seeks to eliminate the need for traditional employment at some point in the future, it feels unwise to draw too much attention to that by describing our jobs too closely.  While we’ll certainly give an appropriate amount of notice when we feel it’s our time to leave traditional employment… why give our employers a multi-year heads up that we might not be there for the long haul?  Hence, we tend not to speak out our jobs in much more than a general sense.

Filter #2 – We try to never say anything here that we think will hurt family or friends (and this includes each other as we are both!) now or in the future.

In case you were unaware, the internet is forever.  FOR-E-VER!

Some of our family knows about this blog (namely Mr PoP’s parents), but for now, most don’t.  Neither of us harbors the expectation that it will be possible to hide it from absolutely everyone we care about from now until the end of time.  In fact, there are some friends that Mr PoP in particular looks forward to sharing the blog with to explain our financial journey once we reach our next big transition point.

The last thing we want is friends and family members seeing caricatures of themselves in these digital scrapbook pages when we do finally share it with them!

It sounds trite, but we have always tried to follow my recently departed Gram’s advice – though she had no idea it was for blogging.  In fact, I can still hear the words in Gram’s voice.  (And I miss her.)

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”  

You might disagree with Gram’s advice.  There are certainly times lately when I’m running counter to Gram’s advice with others face-to-face.

But here on our little corner of the internet?  Where emoticons are a poor substitute for connecting with someone emotionally face-to-face?  Where we have no desire to attract the attention of internet trolls who choose to spend their free time harassing people?  Well, here we’ll stick with Gram’s advice*.

And we’ll try never to write anything here, and try and limit other public writings, that could be construed as hurtful to people we care about.

Maybe that’s a pretty significant filter, but it’s an important one to us.

As far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the extent to which we actively filter our IRL experiences to get to what we publish on the blog.  Well, we also filter out a lot of the boring stuff (which is quite a bit of everyday experiences, actually!).  But I think that hardly rises to the level of an “official filter”.

* In case anyone is reading into the converse of Gram’s advice, it is absolutely not the case that if we don’t talk about something that we have nothing nice to say on the subject.  That should not be assumed in the least.

How do you filter yourself on the internet?  Is it disingenuous for a personal finance blog to be earning income via advertisements or affiliate links?  Do you think we’re overly filtered here?**

** Okay, maybe don’t answer the last one.  Clearly I don’t want to here the answer “yes” here.   

40 comments to Are We Real? If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed?  

  • One way to get over the guilt of earning money from something you spend so much time working on is to take your daily hourly rate and multiply it by the time you spend on your blog. If you have a match that, then you absolutely deserve to earn more.

    Don’t let other people tell you what can and cannot do with your own property. For me, the more people say I cannot, The more I will. It is so fun that way!

    What form were you reading that discussed personal finance blog not being able to make money?

    Financial Samurai recently posted..Why Is United States Property So Cheap Compared To The Rest Of The World?My Profile

    • Yeah, our blog income is well below what we earn on an hourly basis at work… laughably below, in fact.

      It was a thread on a well-traveled forum, though I’d rather not direct more attention to it as I think the thread has reached a natural end point and don’t really want to see it revived.

  • Thanks for being honest, and especially for not going crazy trying to cash in on your blog :)

    About a year ago, I completely stopped following one of my favorite personal finance sites after I read an article that was very clearly just an unattributed paid post (for a service in a different country than the one the blog was based in!).

    Just don’t start losing money on your blog — you deserve far more than that!

    • When it comes down to it, even if the blog had cost us $100/month to run we think we would still have been better off doing it than not. Having this shared space and focus on our finances the past almost five years (yikes it’s been a while!) has done a ton of good for us financially and personally. But if having a couple of adsense placements makes it net-neutral, well… =P

  • This is why my blog is still on WordPress :) I definitely have a pretty strong filter – I don’t talk about where I live or my husband’s finances. I also try to be vague about my job. The problem I find is that in order to maintain privacy and anonymity I do feel like I need to hide a pretty reasonable amount of information which does affect financial decisions so I just try to not talk about those ones. Even if I was talking with my real name though there is still plenty I wouldn’t talk about. I understand that complaint you read but it is really hard to provide full information on your financial situation even with minimal interest in privacy. There are just so many moving pieces and the people who are going to complain will no matter what you do. I wouldn’t worry about them so much.
    Leigh recently posted..2017 Joint Spending PlanMy Profile

    • I think once I finished writing this post, I was pretty well done with worrying about what the forum commenters were talking about. But I kindof needed to write it to get there, if that makes sense?

      You do seem to have a strong filter, but not so much that it feels like an impediment (at least from this reader’s perspective!) Though I’m still kindof curious how your husband feels about your pf blog and if he’s ever going to join in on the fun with a guest post or anything. =)

      • My husband told me I could blog about whatever I wanted and didn’t need to check with him before writing about things including him. He’s not much of a writer, though I do want to write a post on his financial background at some point since it’s pretty different than mine! He was surprised I had a blog since I’m a much more private person than him.
        Leigh recently posted..2017 Joint Spending PlanMy Profile

  • Jenny

    I read the forum discussion you mention, and I was surprised at the level of emotions in it. I didn’t understand what the posters thought was filtered about your blog, with it’s DIY stories and biking injuries. Of course you’ll only post cute kitty pictures, not pictures of cat vomit. Most likely it’s a sign of jealousy of the part of the posters. You guys are doing so great financially, and you put specific numbers out there. I think your best bet is to ignore the complainers and hope they focus on their own finances. If someone doesn’t like what they read, they can always choose to not read it. The rest of us will look for motivation in your finances.

    • Full disclosure, I just found cat vomit in the bedroom a few minutes ago. I gagged so much I made Mr PoP wipe it up. Neither of us stopped to take a picture. And of course, Kitty PoP acts like nothing is amiss.

      “If someone doesn’t like what they read, they can always choose to not read it. ” Thanks for this. It’s the conclusion that I came to after mulling over the contents of that thread for too long Saturday night, but it feels better to have someone else say it, too!

    • The only thing I could think of when I read the thread was jealousy. We are very specific about our numbers to show people that it IS possible to do this, not to make a show of our wealth. Maybe we don’t talk enough about how we started out pretty broke!
      Mr PoP @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Are We Real? If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed?  My Profile

      • “pretty broke” is relative, though. We didn’t have a ton when we got married, but we weren’t in the hole like a lot of other people start out with massive student loans! =/

    • Michelle G.

      I also came across this thread and was surprised, had to do a double-take when planting our pennies was mentioned specifically. I was insulted on your behalf because your blog is clearly about doing what works for you, steering clear of the preachy tone that other PF blogs can take. As for the filtering, I think your blog does a good job of presenting some of the upsides and downsides of your life in a straightforward, even-toned manner. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, but it’s not all doom and gloom either. So, anyway, I thought that was a really unfair attack on a small blog that’s just minding its own business and never hurt nobody.

      I read quite a few PF blogs and yours is one of my favorites, despite your infrequent posting schedule. I wish you would post more often. :) I am really into your kitchen updates. Also, the “where can we retire to” index is really original. I’m surprised other bloggers haven’t adopted that metric.

  • Your filters are sensible.

    If you were making money from any other hobby, that wouldn’t be disingenuous, what difference does it make that your journalling happens to contribute? My internet income doesn’t come close to paying for my time or my expenses, but even if it did, it doesn’t affect how I write or why I write and I assume that same goes for you until I see evidence that says otherwise.

    I don’t share my identity, specific location, or job for similar reasons. I talk about certain money situations that necessarily name my family and I don’t want them to be hurt. They might be able to find me one day but I don’t bet on it since I make it a point to never share the fact that I write online, and the ones I have to discuss (since they have such an impact on my life) aren’t that internet-savvy. Still, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be careful to limit the likelihood they’d come across my thoughts as I deal with the aftermath of their actions.

    • Your filtering seems eminently reasonable as well. What’s the point of seeking financial independence (early or otherwise) if we end up hurting the ones we love along the way to get there? =/

  • I guess it’s a compliment that people think you guys seem to have a great life!

    We’ve complained about this some in the context of mommy blogs. There are some very sad women with sad home situations who say that everyone who doesn’t show themselves arguing with their husbands all the time is lying. It’s sad that they can’t even imagine that a peaceful happy homelife can even exist. :(
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..The Last Mortgage PaymentMy Profile

    • ha, I tend not to read Mommy-blogs, but I imagine this could definitely happen. Women seem so vicious to each other on mommy/parenting blogs!

      For the record, Mr PoP and I do argue sometimes. Luckily not often, but on rare occasion. Writing about it here would fall under the not wanting to hurt someone we love filter, so serious arguments aren’t relived in this space.

    • I can’t imagine living if I fought with my husband every day. I would do a LOT to change that situation in multiple ways. I’m often surprised when people have problems that could be easily changed by both parties being straightforward.

      Lucky we both have reasonable husbands!

  • Sorry that people would call you out specifically.

    I want to be sympathetic to people who are skeptical of FIRE bloggers’ stories. To someone living paycheck to paycheck or in serious debt, the real-life stories of some early retirement bloggers defies belief, and sounds like something you’d see in a click bait ad. “Software engineer retires at thirty! Shares his secrets!”

    No matter how open you are, you’re going to run into some Plato’s cave sort of shit with people who just can’t believe you’re being totally honest with them. At least that’s my take.

    We, like you, try to keep some filters on identifying info like our jobs. But I suspect some enterprising person might be able to find out who we are. :/
    Done by Forty recently posted..Should I Stay or Should I Go?My Profile

    • haha, I agree with you to a certain extent. But my sympathy for the disbelief goes out the window when the commentary is on a site about financial independence, not on something generic/mainstream like Yahoo Finance.

      We’re in the same boat as you – that we figure someone with proper motivation could figure out who we are… which is all the more reason to keep from motivating the internet trolls.

  • Jacq

    I’m cool with your filters. I wish there were more Kitty Pop pictures.
    I’m generally anonymous online. I too am vague about work, both by choice and usually there are forms where if I say something that could be construed as insider info etc.
    I’m on the down low about my FI plans too. I tell people but I don’t think they believe me.
    Keep up the good work, just help me with my cute Kitten addiction?

  • Filtering is good! Part of why I don’t blog much is because of the filtering issue and what to share, especially since having a kid. There’s also some people from my past life that I don’t want seeing too much of my current life. What I really need to do is find a way to archive all I wrote during my traveling years, close down that blog, and open up a free one where I can be more anonymous and just write.

    I really enjoy your blog. I’m impressed at the level of spending you do share. My only despair is personal; I can save at similar rates, but due to lower earnings, I can’t accumulate as fast. That’s my deal and not yours. I think some people don’t like finance blogs because they don’t make as much or don’t choose to save as well. I just remind myself about my personal choices whenever I start to feel a little green-eyed. We love our jobs (most of the time) and our life.
    Leah recently posted..A little sparkleMy Profile

    • I have several friends that retreated from social media and sharing pretty much completely when they had kids. I can totally understand that.

      Your life does sound pretty idyllic sometimes, so know that I occasionally get jealous when you mention baking with students!

      • Haha, I could also mention the not idyllic parts, like getting up at 2.45 am because some boy locked himself out of his room in our dorm. I actually had not one but two supervisors ask me about that the next day (the hall security cameras are motion activated, so they often fast forward through to see what happened during the night). “Why did you get up instead of your husband?” I’m a lighter sleeper, the doorbell rings in our room (wireless one), and I might as well go help if I’m awake anyway.

        There are great things about our life and rough things, but I mostly try to be grateful. Doesn’t help to complain a lot. I would like to write more transparently about life at a boarding school, but I have been far too open on my blog about who I am and where we work. It would be really simple for someone to find us and/or share with my employer. Come to think of it, I’ve shared blog posts on my facebook, so many people I work with have already seen it! I wouldn’t mind writing more about our activities (we hike, bike, etc as much as possible with our little one — she can hike 2/3 of a mile now!), but time is also an issue.

        Thanks for your comment back. It is good to remember that life always looks better from the outside :-)
        Leah recently posted..A little sparkleMy Profile

        • If you ever do a more anon blog, let me know the name and I will surely follow for fun boarding school adventures with a promise not to disclose your secret identity. =)

  • I think that person is just whining. The Internet is not the place to talk about everything. I appreciate SOME level of candor. Like I try not to compare myself to other people, but it was nice when Mrs. Frugalwoods spoke openly about her acne. I personally have a rather nice complexion, but I look more pregnant now (my baby is in pre-K) than she did, well, ever. We all have our things, y’know?

    I often ask myself, “how much sh** would I be in if people I know IRL read this?” If the answer is, “a lot,” I rephrase myself. On the forums, too.
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..December 2016 Spending: All Hail the Third PaycheckMy Profile

    • I think your policy is good :-) I often type up a comment, realize that is way too much info or ish, and delete it. I got the catharsis from writing it all out.
      Leah recently posted..A little sparkleMy Profile

    • Mama PoP

      LOL!! I almost always end up deleting my comments on the internet! I have seen far too many situations where too much was said (written) and it created disasterous results. I was in teacher education where the wrong thing posted on the internet could mean no teaching job. I find that it is often better to tell my cat what I think than comment in a post.

  • It’s definitely appreciated when folks like you and Living AFI present these types of disclosures. It helps inform aspiring retirees what they should and shouldn’t take away from your blog (and how it aligns with their own personal vision of FIRE). Again, there’s no issue for Sam or Pete to make money for delivering as much value as they do, but transparency is important, too.
    Edifi recently posted..Baffling Office Conversations 3 – Flight RiskMy Profile

  • “Filter.” Yeah, right. What does this guy want? Full transparency? Tax returns? A half million words explaining your life minute by minute, like Ulysses? Every blog is inherently filtered.

    I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve tried to read and couldn’t take because of the author photo/ads/overly sunny About Me/obvious ulterior motives. Yours isn’t one of them. I have a very low tolerance for cultivated internet personalities.
    Norm recently posted..HelloFresh: Cost Per Serving AnalysisMy Profile

  • Mama PoP

    I am so proud of the way you two are managing your financial lives and I really enjoy reading about it. Of course, I want to jump down someone’s throat if they disparage or criticize my children, so it is hard to be objective.

    It is not someone else who would suffer if you included too much information online and there were repercussions of some kind. Therefore, someone else’s ideas on what you should/should not include is not your problem – it’s their problem.

    Mr. PoP gave me some very important advice a long time ago that I continue to use almost daily. “SEP” stands for Someone Else’s Problem. It’s my job to figure out if a given issue is my problem or if the problem belongs to someone else. In this case, you properly mulled over the criticism and rejected it for good reason.

  • You guys seem pretty real to me! For years, I’ve felt like I sort of know you in a superficial way because of how much of your personalities are revealed through your blogging. And I’ve never noticed an intrusive ad or affiliate link!

    That thread was so weird. Another similar thread mentioned a few blogs as examples of how to monetize “the right way” and I was just shocked to see who they cited, because two of the blogs they mentioned are full of affiliate links these days.

    *shrug* You can’t please everyone, but you’re pleasing me!
    Ellie @ The Chedda recently posted..My Most Profitable Side GigMy Profile

  • So I wandered across that thread myself, and just want to point out that of the many many people who posted on it, only two were, as a famous blogger would term them, “complainy-pants” and only one mentioned your blog. He sounded like a douche. The other one just sounded frustrated in general. Everyone else had great (surprisingly mature) advice and was kind of like, dude, get over it.

    The availability heuristic makes the immature negative comments seem more prevalent than they actually are.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..February is challenge month: I gotta get some @$!& writtenMy Profile

  • Heidi

    While I did not see the thread you were mentioning, I do think that whomever is calling you out for not showing your “real” life (so to say) is ridiculous. If you were on here to only show the good and perfect things going on, why would you write about having to take time off from something you like due to a hurt foot or health problem? Why would you write about making your kitchen cabinets and how much work it is?

    Personally, I think that sharing those sorts of details makes you more “real” and inspiring- I am currently saving up to renovate my kitchen, and find it helpful to see a personal finance blogger choosing what and why they selected certain items vs a magazine article telling me “everyone” spends at least $30-50k on a reno. I like seeing how you break down your finances because even if I am not at the same place you are at, it is helpful to see how others are saving.

    Please don’t change anything- other than more KittyPoP pictures! (Perhaps riding the new Roomba?)

  • Debi

    I miss the he said she said posts. Please bring them back!

  • Kristy

    Kids have destroyed my spare time and I’m way behind on posts (Why no, this isn’t a late comment) but I completely concur with the above! I love your blog for it’s taste of your lives and I appreciate how you approach your life choices. Ours are quite different (dog!), but it’s the discussion that is interesting.