Give Me Back My Five Bucks

GMBMFB article in The Globe and Mail

At the beginning of April, I was interviewed by The Globe and Mail about how blogging has helped me achieve my goals. Well, today the article has hit the newsstands. :) You can read the entire article, Blogging to a better you, but I will also copy and paste it here.

A shout out to Erik over at The Captain is out to Lunch for his contribution to the article as well!

Blogging to a better you
From losing 212 pounds to erasing $17,000 of debt, bloggers are making their personal goals public, hoping to boost resolve
BY WENCY LEUNG

VANCOUVER — Vancouver resident Krystal, 25, found it uncomfortable discussing her money troubles with friends. So instead, she created a blog last February titled Give Me Back My Five Bucks and disclosed all her personal finances over the Web.

After three months of writing about her mission to get out of the red, she paid off the last of the $17,000 debt she’d incurred from student loans and credit cards, and is now very publicly saving for a down payment on a condominium.

“If I hadn’t [started a blog], I think, eventually, I would have gotten out of debt, but it would have taken a really long time because there just wasn’t that extra push,” said Krystal, who, despite divulging all her bank statements and spending habits, declines to disclose her full name.

“If I set goals for myself and I write it on the Internet and everyone’s reading it, I’d be embarrassed and really down on myself if I didn’t achieve that goal,” she said.

Forget private diaries and life coaches. Bloggers, tackling everything from debts to diets to addictions, are posting their personal goals online, hoping to boost their willpower by publicly documenting their achievements and failures.

It’s a twist on the old talk-therapy concept, said Matt Fields, 24, founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based mySoberLife.com, a new website where people with drug and alcohol addictions blog about their experiences with recovery.

Sharing your story allows others in the same boat to relate to it and give you motivation and insight, especially during your weakest moments, Mr. Fields said. At the same time, he added, it allows you to process your thoughts.

Openly failing, however, is a big risk. That’s why the blogosphere is rife with goal-setting blogs that have been abruptly abandoned, and why – combined with the stigma attached to certain personal problems – many bloggers opt for anonymity.

The use of blogs for addiction recovery is still new, so there is little research about its efficacy in helping people stay on track, said Mr. Fields, who has worked with young people dealing with substance addiction.

But those tackling other goals through blogging swear by it.

“I definitely would recommend blogging,” said Jennette Fulda of Indianapolis, who is documenting her dramatic weight loss on her blog, Half of Me (pastaqueen.com). “The more I wrote about my fat issues, the more confident I became.”

Ms. Fulda started blogging on and off in 2004, and began losing weight in earnest a year later, when she also committed to blogging regularly.

After shedding an average of a pound or two each week through diet and exercise, the 5-foot-9 Web developer has slimmed down from 372 pounds (169 kilograms) to about 180 pounds. Her goal is to reach 160 pounds.

“On TV, you see a lot of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, but you never see the ‘during,’ ” Ms. Fulda said, noting that blogging fills this gap for her readers and helps them understand the process.

Although her site started with only a handful of visitors, it now attracts close to 50,000 unique visitors a month.

In one recent entry, she wrote about exercising at a local YMCA. In another, she wrote about struggling with the urge to overeat.

A section of her blog also allows readers to see three-dimensional photos of herself at various stages of her weight loss – imperfections and all.

“You can check out my fat ass from eight different directions,” she wrote.

While it can be scary to expose all your flaws and confess your mistakes, Ms. Fulda said, she receives some of the best feedback from readers when she posts entries that make her feel vulnerable.

She acknowledges that she gets the occasional nasty comment, but for the most part readers cheer her on.

“Sometimes they’ll even guilt me into exercising,” she said, by commenting about how inspirational she has been to them.

Like many other bloggers, Erik Price, 27, of New York started blogging in secret, since none of his peers seemed to share his concerns.

He kept his debt blog, the Captain is Out to Lunch, from his friends and even his girlfriend, whom he had been dating for years.

“I think at first I wasn’t sure if putting everything out there was such a hot idea,” he said. “[Debt] went from something I was dealing with on my own entirely to something I was broadcasting to the entire world. It would have been a major leap for me to stick my face on it right away.”

As his blog gained exposure, however, his embarrassment about his finances faded.

With more than $33,000 (U.S.) in student loans left to pay off, he doesn’t expect to reach his goal any time soon.

But blogging has helped him stick to a budget and put him in touch with an entire online community willing to offer support, advice and occasional criticism, he said.

Now that Krystal, the Vancouver blogger, has reached her goal of becoming debt-free, she has set up new financial targets, such as contributing to a retirement portfolio, an emergency fund and the down payment for a condo.

“There are always more goals to set,” she said.

She acknowledged blogging is not for the faint of heart, and advised: “If you’re not going to set up a blog, at least write your goals down and make sure you’re accountable to those goals. Because if you keep … saying ‘next month I’ll do it,’ it’s never going to get done.”

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


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