Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Any Improvement Worth Celebrating?

I know many of you read HS's blog "Our Debt Blog." For those of you who don't, it is often a hotbed of controversy in the PF blogging world. HS is incredibly honest in chronicling his struggle with debt, and truthfully, he's frustrated me a time or two with his spending habits and choices. But, recently he has put his nose back to the grindstone and gotten serious about his debt payoff.

The comments on his blog are hard to read. The responses range from support, tough love, advice, and irate attacks.

Earlier this week he posted about his weekend spending, explaining that he was proud he was able to keep it to around $100. Which for him is a big improvement! I clicked to leave a comment telling him "great job" and noticed that once again, people had jumped on and attacked him...
(despite the quotes, I am paraphrasing these)

"My entertainment budget is $100 for a whole month!"
"Why did you buy that soda at the register? That's a waste of $3."
"You were too tired to fix dinner on Sunday?"
"If I spent as much as you I would shoot my dog in the face" (Okay, not really. But it gets a little heated over there.)

I couldn't believe it. I understand that every person handles their money differently, but that's exactly why we should be supportive. I think HS makes some mistakes, but I also think you could have looked at my budget while I paid off credit card debt and been really critical. I still got my hair done every other month, spending $100 each time. I still ate out and socialized, spending about $250 per month on that. I took some small vacations.

But I still paid off my debt. This is where it gets tricky. I made enough money that I was able to pay off debt and leave those expenses in my budget. I sacrificed other things and made good choices, but I didn't have to cut back everything and made quite a bit of progress in 22 months. For someone who makes less, their debt payoff budget would have to be more strict.

I think people want to see austerity. Especially in the case of someone who has gone wild before, it's easy to point out all the things they're NOT doing that they could. But the thing is, HS makes good money. His improvements and his cutting back may not look like someone else's. My budget doesn't look like someone else's. We all have different incomes and different situations.

I guess I tend to think we should be here to applaud the improvements, encourage each other when we're feeling frustrated, celebrate the accomplishments, and make constructive suggestions when appropriate. It's not a contest, it's a community.


  1. I think you're right - it's important to recognize where people are improving!

  2. The last paragraph of your post is spot-on...the exact reason I began my blog; to support and be supported!!

  3. I think it's really weird how some commenters seem to take is overspending personally, like he's insulting them by not sticking to his budget or buying a new gadget. I don't get it. The only one he's hurting is himself (and his wife) so why do people get so HOSTILE? I think it's a little out of line.

    Anyway, I think you're right. Improvements are worth celebrating no matter how small. I know Dave Ramsey has his whole "gazelle intense" thing, but I think that's what makes people burn out. Obviously, you want to be committed, but getting too austere is a recipe for disaster.

    Also, I really don't think $100 for a weekend for a couple is that bad. I think HS spends like most Americans, just not most PF bloggers and that's why he gets so much flack.

  4. Such a good post! Negativity is not a good motivator. I think if people don't agree they shouldn't even comment, or at the very least phrase their criticism in a more constructive way.

    I have been so lucky to have had only positivity from the PF blogging community and I'm sure not everyone agrees with all my choices!

  5. LBC - we must be on the same page. I gave HS an U-rah in my blog today.

  6. I agree, some people have an all or nothing mentality when it comes to debt and paying it off. While Eric is more of a spender, and I am more of a saver, I think we've both found a happy medium that allows us to save money (about $1000 a month) while still being able to afford little things, and mini vacations, so we're still LIVING life.

  7. We're all at different stages in life. Single, married, city folk, country folk, young kids, teenagers at home. So of course our entertainment budget is different.
    As a single 28 year old woman living in a major urban city, my entertainment/going out/restaurant/cab/etc budget is different then my married suburban housewife friend's budget. And that is OK! We're all different. In the end, we have to live with the consequences.
    While I spend $25 every other month on hair, I spend $125 per month on taxis and $400 on food/entertainment. For one person. But who is to say that your choosing to spend money on hair and my choosing to spend money on safe night transport from work or socializing with family/friends is wrong? PERSONAL finance is personal.
    Kudos to you for being supportive.

  8. When I'm trying to make a lifestyle change I give myself a break when I slip up, otherwise the whole experience becomes negative and the change is just a chore. I try to applaud my efforts and when I get off track I remind myself that I will have another chance and I will do better.

  9. I have been surprised by the comments that show up on his blog, and even more surprised that he approved them!

    The most maddening aspect of Our Debt Blog for me was his unwillingness to be open with his wife about their debt. I was genuinely happy to read that they'd had "the talk" recently, and look forward to following their progress.