Should You Blog Anonymously?

by Kelly · 9 comments

in Uncategorized

Is there value in blogging anonymously? Or should bloggers disclose their names, full or partial, or locations? It’s a mixed bag, especially in the world of personal finance blogs. Personal finance bloggers tend to fall into two camps, like most other bloggers in fact. There are those who give full names and pictures à la Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar. At the other end of the spectrum are bloggers like Frugal Babe who don’t even divulge their physical location.

I’ve been thinking about this matter recently, especially since last week’s Sunday Conversation with Frugal Dad. I had been emailing (read pestering) him for advice on all things blog related and this was the last topic I questioned him about. Part of his response intrigued me.

“Early on every personal finance blogger has to make a tough decision – to remain anonymous or not. I started out blogging anonymously, but had a few media interviews that wanted to use my real name. Fortunately, I had decided not to include any “real” numbers such as my salary earnings, networth, etc. so I really had nothing to hide.”

Does including “real” numbers require anonymity? I guess for many people it does. When I started this blog, I chose not to give my name or my exact location precisely because I was going to be talking about my budget and my money issues in detail. But as I’ve been blogging along, I’ve grown more comfortable with the idea of being a bit more open; most of my friends and family know about this blog. Now, with just a few minutes of digging, you could easily find my last name and the city I live in. Although I don’t publish this information here, it doesn’t bother me that it can be found, otherwise I wouldn’t have put it out there in one form or another.

I think this is because I’m abnormally open about money in real life relationships. I talk about our financial ins and outs and ups and downs with friends and family. In fact part of the impetus for blogging was to relieve them of hearing me talk about money quite so much! A recent commenter wrote: “Would love to be so forthcoming about our finances but wonder what others (friends who read my blog) might think about sharing so much”.

In our society, and by society I mean the Western European and North American countries that make up my readership, talking about money is taboo. Giving specific numbers, except for very tightly scripted circumstances, is just not done.

Imagine the difference between “Great coat! How much did it cost?” and “Great coat! Where did you get it?”. The decision to reveal, or not, is then on the discloser not the asker. That is what we feel comfortable with. I can’t imagine that people feel as uncomfortable hearing about how much other people earn as they would with having to give up that information themselves. That is why so many bloggers who divulge everything, divulge everything except their name.

Far be it for me to argue the point one way or another- each blogger must decide the question for him or herself. But I also think that the larger question raised, that of how society talks about money, is important and worth examining.

Do you blog anonymously? Do you give specific numbers in your budget? How and why did you make this decision?


1 Mrs. Micah June 15, 2008

Whoops…that was me.

2 dmoms June 15, 2008

oh, I think I made that comment. I’m working on a new blog where I plan to share more…now,hopefully my husband won’t read it.

Getting it all “out there” makes one more accountable to the goals that have been set.

3 Anonymous June 15, 2008

I fight with this one a lot. Some people in my life know about it, which I mind to varying degrees. What I don't like is when I have to use this site to explain some of my writing/blog-running/etc experience.

4 Kelly June 15, 2008

My mother doesn't like to comment on the blog, but here is what she wrote to me in an email:One thing you didn't mention in your blog today is that, like it or not, knowing someone's personal finances (how much they earn, how much they spend) does affect your relationship with them. Not could, but does. Whether it is a little bit or a lot, often or not, might vary…but once the information is out there, there is that little bit of information that makes you say to yourself, "if I had that much/little money, I would/wouldn't do…"

5 BillyOceansEleven June 16, 2008

I made the decision to be anonymous because there are some people I just don’t want knowing that much about my personal life. And if I decide to vent on a particular subject related to my work (which I do from time to time), I don’t want my bosses knowing about it.

I think a lot of it depends on how comfortable you are having others knowing your business and what you plan on posting about. For instance, I did several posts about a scam GPT website that screwed my BIL, and the scammer found the posts, started harassing me, and even found my eBay username from another post and started emailing my customers asking for my personal email saying I scammed him and he wanted to sue me. Thankfully the guy never got my info, and thank goodness I never posted it on my blog!

6 Jon June 16, 2008

I agree that "knowing someone's personal finances does affect your relationship with them." If it hasn't caused you any awkwardness with the people around you yet, I would suggest that it's for the simple reason that the personal financial details disclosed on "My Small Cents" are all about not having tons of money! That tends to make others feel better about or at least comfortable with their own situation. If later on though, your friends start to get the impression from your blog that you're doing way better than they are, that's when you'll start having issues with jealous remarks and the like that can really queer a friendship. At least that's my understanding of human psychology :-/

7 Amphritrite June 20, 2008

I’m a very open blogger – I talk about home, life, and the things I experience, but after being dooced because my blog mentioned SOMETHING about fighting with a coworker/friend in my off-hours, I absolutely do not give real names, titles, addresses, or information that makes me easily identifiable. I’m perfectly happy being Neptune’s Bride (That’s what the name “Amphritrite” means) for the time being…because no matter what name I give myself, I’m still me. My readers know that.

You can take the blog from the writer, but you can’t take the writer from the blog!

8 Monroe on a budget June 24, 2008

I blog under my newspaper byline. The blog is officially a spinoff from my newspaper job, and is sponsored by my newspaper.

Obviously, I have a very unique situation.

The trade-off for my blogging under my public persona is I stay away from certain specific details.

I assume most readers, especially local ones who would be most likely to catch the lifestyle references, have figured out my family is not in the high income bracket. I don’t need to say “we make XXX”.

But that’s a balance that traditional newspaper columnists have to work out too. One of our columnists wrote in today’s newspaper what neighborhood he lives in … but it’s a densely populated neighborhood. He obviously felt comfortable mentioning that connection without giving his street address. And the neighborhood was a key part of his story today.

Now, I do like knowing the geographic location of other PF bloggers – whether under a real name or a screen name.

Reason: I find it annoying to read a post about this or that frugal or financial management technique being such a great idea, when it won’t work / is not available for people who live in my city and I have no idea of the geographic context where it does work.

9 June 26, 2008

This is something I have struggled with since I’ve been blogging. When I started my blog – which as you mentioned is very anonymous – I did tell my husband, parents, and siblings. I didn’t tell anyone else, but I found out last year that my dad mentioned it to his brother, who told another uncle (it happened to be when I posted about being pregnant, and that’s how my dad’s side of the family found out about the baby!!). So I know that my dad’s family knows about the blog. They’re all in Ireland, and I rarely see them, but it felt a little weird for a while, knowing that they knew about it. I even considered canning the blog when that happened.
I have dropped a few hints along the way relating to where I live – I suppose someone could piece it together, and who knows, maybe down the road a ways I’ll feel like giving out more of that information.
Several times in the past few months I’ve considered switching to blogging under my real name. But I’ve gotten very comfortable with my under-wraps blog identity. I write another blog – a professional one for work that requires lots of research and isn’t as much fun… In my mind it’s almost as if two different people write the two blogs, since one is anonymous and the other isn’t.

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