My money habits are pretty solid and that has much to do with the fact that I write about money for a living. I'm not alone. Plenty of other writers, paid or not, use blogging as a platform to get their finances in shape and document their goals. Some of the most popular money sites started out as blogs. If your finances are overwhelming, blogging can help you sort things out.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Blogging Sheds Light on Your Money Habits
Behavioural studies about money are always fascinating. They say a lot about our financial habits and how mindless and automatic they can be. We spend less when we pay with cash, for example. We also tend to save more when we simply view time differently. And there are countless studies on how stores manipulate you into spending more than you think.
The point is, we like to think we're completely in control of how we handle money, but sometimes our habits and decisions are almost subconscious. Journaling can add a little more awareness to your actions. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people were more likely to stick to a diet and healthy habits when they kept a journal. Researchers called it "self-monitoring".
In conclusion, although there were methodological limitations to the studies reviewed, there was ample evidence for the consistent and significant positive relationship between self-monitoring diet, physical activity or weight and successful outcomes related to weight management.
Like journaling, blogging about money gives you a reason to analyse your behaviour and decisions. You could just keep a journal on your own, but there are a handful of extra benefits to blogging where the world can see.
When You Write, You Learn
If there's one thing I learned as a technical writer, it's that the best way to understand something is to explain it to someone else.
When you blog, chances are most of your posts will be personal and cover your own experiences with money. You have to learn new things when you get your finances in order, though, and if you have to write about those things, you want to know what you're talking about. You may also want to come up with new content and write about stuff your readers will find useful or interesting. Need to start saving for retirement? Write about it. This gives you another reason to explore new topics. When you write about those topics, you explain them, and that means you have to learn them inside and out. In fact, many of the posts I've written are topics I needed to learn more about, like investing and switching banks.
Of course, you can just research this stuff on your own. When I first learned how to start investing, for example, I did some cursory research and bought a few target date funds because they were easy. When I wrote a post about investment, though, I had to learn more so I could explain the topic to readers. And I learned these funds have drawbacks: Their fees are usually higher and they may not perform as well as regular index funds. Lesson learned, portfolio adjusted accordingly.
In short, when you have to explain a topic to someone else, you tend to research more, beyond your own questions. You learn the ins and outs so you can write about the topic knowledgeably. Meanwhile, you've increased your financial literacy and stocked up on knowledge that will come in handy.
Blogging Gives You a Platform for Accountability
Finally, blogging in public comes with accountability. When you write about your own experiences with money, you document stuff like:
- Your spending habits and decisions
- Your progress towards your financial goals
- How you recover from financial setbacks
When you blog, you report these experiences to your audience. In a way, they hold you accountable for your actions and your goal progress. If your blog is about getting out of debt, for example, you might think twice about how your audience will react if you overspend on restaurants for the month (even if that audience is just your mum).
Even if you don't think twice, though, the process of documenting your experience encourages you to think about how it affects your goals. Without that accountability, you might just brush it off and do it again.
How to Get Started
Obviously, a blog isn't going to solve all your problems and magically make you awesome with money. There's a lot that goes into money management. It requires more effort than typing a few words every week. However, blogging can help you along the way and it's free and easy to get started.
Pick a Platform
First, pick a platform for your blog. There are plenty to choose from. Here's are some popular platforms:
- Blogger: Blogger is Google's weblogging tool and, like most Google services, it's easy to set up and get started. You won't get many customisation options unless you want to tweak the HTML, but it's an easy option for writing.
- Tumblr: Tumblr is mostly focused on sharing memes, gifs or images. Sure, it allows for long-form writing, and plenty of users write long posts, but its design and community are focused on reblogging quick content.
- Wordpress: Wordpress is probably the most popular platform for long-form writing. It may not be as intuitive as Blogger, but it's more customisable.
- Medium: Medium is designed for writers who want exposure, and it's a great platform for that. While it's great for discovery, it's less customisable. You also give them royalty-free access to your content.
Some blogging platforms, like Wordpress, have a paid option where you can buy and host your domain. When you're just starting out, a simple free site will do. For now, you're just trying to journal your progress, not create the next big personal finance site.
Most platforms make it dead simple to customise your own blog. Wordpress, for instance, has ready-to-go themes you can install in one click (you can also create your own, though). From there, come up with a snappy name (Get Rich Slowly and Budgets Are Sexy are two of my favourite personal finance blog titles), make it look pretty and get started!
Finally, once your blog is officially up and running, you want to tell people and come up with a writing schedule you can stick with. This way, the accountability can work in your favour. Blogging can lead to other opportunities, too. You might even make money with it. Even if you don't, though, it can still be an effective tool to help you along with your money goals.