How Two Men Helped Me Redefine Myself

As I’m writing this, it’s the afternoon of September 7th, and the first day of presentations at #FinCon12 has just come to an end. Already, I am thankful I saved the money to attend, because two presenters have changed everything about the way I view myself as both a blogger and as a member of the personal finance community.

The first presenter to shift my focus was keynote speaker Adam Baker. For anyone in the personal finance community, Adam needs no introduction. But to better explain who he is to everyone else, Adam writes the popular blog Man vs. Debt; he is also a public speaker and now documentary filmmaker. Adam’s message is simple: “Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love.” And his presentation certainly aligned with that message.

In his opening keynote, Adam explained that most people identify themselves by what they do. So I could say: I’m Cait Flanders and I’m a personal finance blogger. Then we explain how we do what we do. So now I’m Cait Flanders, a personal finance blogger who uses WordPress and Twitter to share my experiences with money and debt. But what we really need to identify is why we do the things we do. And why should always be at the core of what we do and how we do it.

I write, tweet, email, chat, etc. to connect with people who have been through similar situations as I have; people who have a) been in debt, b) know what it’s like to work their way out of debt, and c) are often faced with the fear of telling people about their financial situation. I am obviously not a financial expert; this is why you never see economic predictions or how-to posts on my blog. I’m just a real person who goes through real-life situations. And why I write is simple: to show that it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s ok to not have all the answers, and it’s ok to ask for help.

So I write to not only share lessons I have learned but to help others see that they are not alone; this is my current why. Adam’s presentation, however, made my mind spin and I wrote a ton of notes down about the second site I want to start. While my plans for that have definitely been pushed back (you’ll find out why next week), I know my why is about to change… and I cannot wait to see where it leads me.

While the presentations after Adam’s were packed full of fantastic information, I could not have asked for my first day to end with a better presentation than the one Travis Pizel gave. For anyone who reads his blog posts or tweets, it should come as no surprise that Travis is a motivational rockstar. Not only are he and his wife digging their way out of $109,000 of credit card debt (and only have 18 months to go, woo hoo!) but he has also made his health and fitness level a priority, working out to lose weight and now training for a marathon. And it only takes one conversation to know he loves his family more than anything else.

All of these things were formed into an inspiring presentation about how he balances family, work, and life as a part-time blogger. Travis chronicled his journey in a way that I think many bloggers can relate to… or, at least I could. He explained how motivated he was after #FinCon11, including how he imagined one day becoming a full-time blogger. But, after burning out, he realized that it was ok for blogging to just be a part-time passion. He didn’t need to do it full-time to feel fulfilled and inspired. And that it only took a few posts, comments, etc. each week to feel like he was making a difference.

Since finishing school, I’ve struggled to retain my voice on this blog. I keep thinking I should do and write more; be bigger and better. But, the truth is, I am both happy and grateful that Blonde on a Budget is just a hobby. Like Travis, blogging has been an incredible outlet for me. Blogging has allowed me to express myself, share lessons learned and connect with complete strangers, many of whom I now consider good friends. I am constantly inspired by others and the greatest reward with my writing is hearing that I have inspired someone else.

A moment I will treasure from my time here in Denver is when Travis told his audience that one of my posts inspired him to be more open and honest with his family. Like me, his family had no idea about his financial situation or his writing. I’m not sure how much he’s told them now but I can only imagine they would be proud of his journey and supportive in how long (or short!) he has left to go. Even though he asked beforehand if he could mention my name, I still blushed when he did… because to physically hear that you have inspired someone to make a change brings on a feeling like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. And, after listening to both presentations, I realized what type of blogger I am.

And, with that, I’m removing the advertising page from this blog. Deciding to allow advertisers, sponsored posts, etc. was always something I struggled with… and now I know why. I’m not in this for the money. Yes, picking up freelance work, side jobs, and sponsorship opportunities are fantastic bonuses. But I’m here to share my experiences. I know first-hand how it feels to lose sleep and shed tears over maxed out credit card statements and with only pennies in the bank. And there is no way I can shape my content around anything but the up’s and down’s that come with that.

So, thank you Adam and Travis. I owe the future of my blogging experiences to you both.