Talking personal finance with neighbors/strangers

friends and strangers faces
I’m gonna hit you with a blast from the past today. I wrote this post over 2 1/2 years ago but it still holds true today, and I think you might get a kick out of it. It’s one of my favorites :) Happy Monday!

I was out on my deck last night talking with our deck neighbor (we live in townhouses), and he asked me something I don’t often hear a lot. He asked me “what I like to do for fun”. Simple question, but I always get caught off guard with that one. I think it’s because I can never actually REMEMBER what I do for fun ;)

Last night, however, I was able to get out how much i enjoy reading personal finance blogs. And it’s funny doing this because 3 things always happen without fail:

  1. No matter how you bring it up, it always comes out dorky! haha… I don’t have a problem with that personally, I just wonder if anyone has pulled it off in a cool way? I can see older people discussing it just fine, but never have I heard it shared by anyone in their 20’s… as sad as that is.
  2. People are usually shocked to hear it. I don’t blame them, really. Have YOU ever been told that reading up on finances were on someone’s “Fun List”? And being told on blogs, or comments, doesn’t count ;)
  3. They want to know “secrets”. This, of course, after their shock fades way. It’s not every day peers can talk openly about finances, so I can only imagine how far pieces of information could help them.

It also gets tricky because not only do I blog about it myself, but I’m ANONYMOUS! So, it’s either let someone else in on my secret, or tell them how wonderful other blogs are to help them get started on learning! And then, of course, secretly hope they come across THIS blog and rave about it ;) OR, better yet, figure out that it’s my blog so i can talk openly about it all.

As you may have noticed, I teeter on whether to tell friends and family I do this, or to keep blogging away in secret. There are pros and cons to both, but it WOULD give them a better understanding as to why I think personal finance is important. And hopefully they’d be willing to educate themselves more, or at least poke around a bit and ask questions.)

I ended up sticking with the Anon. route, as hard as it was, and giving my neighbor few of my favorite blogs to get started (,, and Those are a mix between super informative, a mix of everything, and diary-type writing styles (respectively). Everyone has their own preference, so I’m hoping he’ll get something from at least one of them.

I really didn’t know how to answer the “secrets” part. It’s always hard when you don’t know that person’s situation, nor finance expertise, you know? I don’t wanna go into something they already know, only to have them lose interest and think they “know everything” already and thus not wanting to learn more.

So I started by speaking generally to get a feel for things. Our convo. worked itself to credit cards and credit scores, so I chimed in with a few “secrets” regarding those like:

  • The average household has around $8k in credit card debt. At least that’s what everyone says, but whether it’s true or not, at least you know you’re not alone.
  • Raise your credit limit, and lower your interest rate. This will help lower your debt to credit ratio, AND increase your credit score – especially if you don’t have much credit at all. All of this can usually be done by making a simple phone call to your c/c company.
  • Make a budget – My favorite! (I wonder why?) Try tracking your expenses for 3 months to get an overall picture of everything, and then create a budget out of it. That was one of the best things i have ever done. You just need to do it once, and you’re set for the rest of your life (because you’ll adjust it as time goes on).

It was seriously one of the best talks I’ve had with a sorta-but-not-really-stranger :) Not only could I talk about a passion of mine, but I had the potential to help him. Or at least get him going in the right direction. Whether he checks out the blogs or not, at least he knows he can come to me now when financial things arise!

Since the original posting of this, we’ve talked about all sorts of things – Dave Ramsey, our crazy economy, and more recently business ventures.  It’s fun to have someone in the “real world” you can talk to about this stuff.  Not that you all aren’t real, haha, but you get what I’m saying.  Face-t0-face adds a whole new element to things, I highly recommend it.

(Photo collage by Ashley Campbell Photography)

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  1. Lauryn February 28, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Pretty cool.

    I can definitely say that this blog, along with Punch Debt in the Face, and Fabulously Broke in the City, have inspired me to look at my own personal finances, especially since I’ve become more structured in my self-employment and financial organization is everything in terms of success. I’m going to be blogging about my own adventures, more to keep me “in line” with my experiences than to become an expert. I appreciate what I read here and it keeps me interested and glad there are likeminded people out here!

  2. KH February 28, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    I can so relate to the anonymous/not anonymous thing. I recently (just this month) started blogging on PF, but I run several other blogs under my real name, as well as a side business providing luxury services to my clients. At least for now I want to keep my PF identity anonymous just because I’m not sure how well it would go over with my clients and readers of my other blogs to see me post about my debt and personal living situation. I haven’t had the conversation about it with people in real life yet, but I have had to go back and rethink some blog posts that might “out” me. The being anonymous thing is tough! :)

  3. Grace L. February 28, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    I have to say that reading your articles just make my day. You have such a flair for making budgeting fun and dare I say it… $exy. ;-) Your articles have a way of hitting home. Even though I have no clue who you are, I feel like I know you and that you are a good friend. I especially enjoy the fact that you make blogging personal both to yourself and your readers. I have responded to your VIP newsletter a few times and every time you have commented back to me. I appreciate you and all that you have done for me personally. You’ve helped me to form my outlook on finances (I’m 23 and have been following you about a year now). I hope to someday have the same inpact on the people that I serve at my agency (I’m a social worker who teaches budgeting and energy conservation courses as a side project).

  4. retirebyforty February 28, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    I’m an anonymous blogger, but close friends and family know about my hobby. I would be very uncomfortable sharing this with the neighbor though. I sometime put specific numbers in my blog and wouldn’t want the neighbor to know how much I spent on health care for example.
    I talk finance with my brothers and give them advice. That’s about it for the f2f actually.

  5. Crystal February 28, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    I’m semi-anonymous – most of my online readers don’t know my last name. That’s about it. I could have never told friends or family, but I don’t keep my own secrets well and I LOVE blogging too much to shut up about it, lol. I was the girl who dorkily replied that I loved to budget. Now I’m the dorky girl who will just go on and on about how awesome blogging is, hahaha. My personal finance blog usually does lead us into talking about our own finances, and I think that is the most fun subject in the world!

  6. Sarah February 28, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    OMG! That’s a serious blast from the past. I remember when I read that the first time. Has it really been 2 1/2 years that I’ve been into personal finance blogs?! Incredible…and to think the first time I actually contributed to these blogs was this year! Haha I’ve been missing out

  7. J. Money February 28, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    @Lauryn – Awesome! Great great group of bloggers you mentioned up there, welcome to the family :)
    @KH – Haha, you got that right. I’ve been caught a few times over the past few years, but now a days I’m not *as* worried now that I’m 100% self-employed. It’s really kinda fun at this point ;)
    @Grace L. – Woww, THANK YOU Grace! Way to make my day :) I’m so glad you get a lot out the blog and newsletter (which I’ve been kinda slacking on lately, oops). I think that’s wonderful you’re teaching smart budgeting on the side, and I wish you nothing but success! Thanks for leaving this comment, you made smile :)
    @retirebyforty – Yeah, it can get pretty weird at times for sure. The cool thing about being more anonymous is that you can hide as much, or as little, as you want. Then just whip it out per specific situation or person.
    @Crystal – Yeah budgeting!! I can go on and on about it too w/ people, but I try and hold back unless they bring it up ;) Which isn’t too often probablly because I go on and on about it! haha… we’re very like-minded, you and me.
    @Sarah – Hah! Really?? that’s too funny :) I’m so curious to see what % of my readers now were from back in the day, so thanks for letting me know.

  8. Nunzio Bruno February 28, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    It’s never nerdy to talk about reading and writing blogs! :) I love discussing personal finance, regular finance, and economic stuff with people – i think i can blame being an adjunct professor on the topics for that. It’s great that you vent with people outside our blogsphere because it helps to add some perspective. I liked the “secrets” you gave too – that was some really solid foundational advice that could work for every one. Whether your neighbor gets aggressive with it or not is up to him..maybe you can keep him motivated :)

  9. Jon the Saver February 28, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    Sweet blast from the past J. Money! Yah, I’m definitely not anonymous haha. I even have my picture on my “about” page. Sometimes I wish I was though. I would be able to share my ubber personal information like my net worth for example. I decided to go a different route and show my face instead. I get weird looks when i talk about it too because I’m a bodybuilder. They usually go “wait, you’re a bodybuilder, love talking personal finance, and run your own blog?” I’ve had some pretty funny conversations with people.

    I totally get you on feeling dorky about it. I could talk all day about personal finances, but I end up seeing eyes getting glazed over haha. That’s when I hand them a biz card and tell them to visit my blog. The best part of not being anonymous though is having someone me that my articles have helped them make better decisions with their finances.

    Anyhooo, great article brotha!

  10. Jenna February 28, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    Has that ever happened to you? Someone ask if you read Budgets are Sexy?

  11. J. Money February 28, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    @Nunzio Bruno – You’re a professor? Impressive! Now I’m gonna be all self-conscious up in here ;) haha… until I forget 40 seconds later.

    @Jon the Saver – You’re a body builder? Double imporessive! haha… wow, learning a lot about you guys today :) You know what would be cool? If you guest posted on my site next week… wanna conjure up a post on body building/finances? Hit me up on email and we’ll make it happen: j (at) budgetsaresexy (dot) com (and then you can pimp out your blog in the bio too – send a little traffic & love your way, sir.)

    @Jenna – Actually, close! I had someone once ask me if I knew “J. Money” at a blogger happy hour once :) haha… I was like, “in fact, I do!” haha… it was awesome. and now we’re buds.

  12. Shaun February 28, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    Hey J money,

    I keep the whole blogging thing from my friends as most wouldn’t understand or even care. Perhaps the age group has something to do with it, but I don’t want people to think I’m getting all gospel and preaching to them either. It is nice when you find someone that shares your passion and while the internet is great for meeting like minded people and sharing ideas, it is pretty hard to beat f2f.

  13. LaTisha @FSYAonline February 28, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    I’ve actually wondered whether i should tell people I actually like reading and writing for personal finance blogs. I’m still debating if I should own up to my inner dork! For now I’ll just keep telling people I run a website with personal finance content. lol

  14. J. Money March 1, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    @Shaun – yeah, I can see that “gospel” thing happening. it’s good you know when to open up and when not to :)
    @LaTisha @FSYAonline – haha, I’m right there with ya friend.

  15. Jenna March 1, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    @J. Money – That is pretty funny!