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Thursday, May 27, 2010

OT or not OT: That is the Question

The other day, one of my fave bloggers, Funny About Money, took up the question of a blogging glass ceiling, since generally, the guys make the big bucks and the gals do not. She wondered if part of the reason lay in the tendency of the female personal finance bloggers to go off-topic. She did a compare/contrast and discovered that the guys stayed on topic, while the women did not.

Yours truly was one of the test blogs under examination. Funny listed my topics--pantry organization, children's books, other stuff--most of which seem to be OT, especially compared to the fellows who were taking up such classic personal finance topics as buying gold or ye olde Roth vs. Traditional IRA. First I confessed: guilty as charged. After all, women have long been thought to be blabbermouths who cannot stay on topic. Example: Chaucer's Wife of Bath.

Part of the humor of Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Prologue (oops--there I go into the literature AGAIN) is that Chaucer really is spot on in presenting a woman who (in modern paraphrase) "wanders by the way" and frequently says (again in modern paraphrase) "Oh, where was I. Oh yeah. I was talking about my fourth husband."

Oh yeah, personal finance. After my confession of off-topicness, I thought for a bit. First, I don't profess to be a personal finance blogger: I write about frugality. My supposedly OT post on children's books was about how many of the most beloved children's books are about frugality. The pantry post was related to the idea of stockpiling or "investing" in your pantry--a frugal habit endorsed by many, including Funny's very own SDXB. That post was also about using up stuff that was getting old--also a frugal principle.

So, IMHO not OT at all. There is some overlap between personal finance and frugality. In fact, frugality has allowed me to participate in the personal finance world--in real life. Even aside from that, I would guess that learning to stockpile sale items in your pantry is of more immediate use to many of the debt-ridden and unemployed than any meditation on whether or not one should invest in gold. In fact, you can't invest in gold unless you have quite a wad of excess cash. If I had only $1200.00 to my name, I wouldn't buy an ounce of gold.

It would be better to practice frugality and get an immediate 20-100% return on your $1200. Everyone has heard--via Dave Ramsey--of the debt snowball with its variation the debt snowflake. Well, it works the other way with frugality. Not as rapidly--because your return on savings and frugal practice generally is not as big as the drag of debt.

So here's a double assertion. I was not OT because I write on frugality, not personal finance. And I was not OT because frugality is a branch of personal finance.

The rest is silence.


Duchesse said...

Frugality is a value, and if a value is authentic, it is acted upon. So you describe how you cook, manage your household, relate to your family. Utterly on topic! Occasional discursions to Milton, music, your community etc only show that you are a person of varied interests, not relentlessly focused on net worth, as so many of the male finance bloggers are.

I read no personal finance blogs, and no other frugality blogs-which I find either smug, joyless, whiny or all three- but I always read you.

Shelley said...

I'll have to go read Funny's post, as I've not been there yet. You write about your frugal beliefs and acts. You also write about your scholarly interests (as in, Frugal Scholar). I'd not even realised you had monetised your blog, to be honest. You might want to re-consider the placement of your ads if this is important to you. I find everything I want in the top portion of your blog page...

Funny about Money said...

No, totally NOT off topic.

And I didn't intend to say that Frugal Scholar is off topic. The point is that women's writing on personal finance is different from men's writing on the topic. If you compare them, you see that women are taking a somewhat different tack from the head-on, nuts-&-bolts approach that many (if not most) male PF bloggers take. Women's writing on this subject is much more subtle and it takes in many more psychological and social aspects than most of the writing you see in men's PF blogs.

IMHO, Frugal Scholar is a prime example of the subtlety that one comes across in women's writing on the subject of personal finance--and frugality, as the reasoned opposite of profligacy, is smack in the middle of the personal finance spectrum. For me, what takes FS to a new level in terms of writing skill and downright interest is your use of literature to complement your points or to make them.

If you were to enter almost any of your posts in one of the various PF blog carnivals, 9.5 times out of 10 you would have to classify it as "other" when you got to the point where you had to select a term to describe the post's content.

That's not because you're writing on something other than personal finance. It's because your discourse is covering so many aspects of personal finance. In the posts that come to my mind, without actually getting out of this page and cruising the site, I can recall more than one that at once has discussed frugal strategies, teaching the next generation money management, debt management, and retirement planning.

You can't classify an essay like that under one limiting little category. But many, many posts out there CAN be classified that way, and I think those are either written by men or follow the model set by men.

A friend of mine used to say that feminine writing (she was talking about fiction and poetry) is nonlinear. To the extent that her claim is true, it may apply to women's online writing, too.

To my mind, that's what makes a blog like this interesting: its subtlety and its unselfconscious comprehensiveness.

The bookmarks on my Mac are organized into directories and subdirectories. Under "Money Blogs," there are two subfolders: First Rank and Second Rank. Frugal Scholar is at the very top of the "First Rank" folder. It's been there since I first came across the site.

It's been there for a reason: Frugal Scholar is ALWAYS interesting. I think it's interesting because there's nothing knee-jerk about the writing here. If you were to make a comparison to cuisine, you would say it blends all the flavors smoothly to make a new and exciting creation.

Not all women writers do that as well as FS does...but I think in various degrees this is characteristic of women's PF blogging.

simple in France said...

Hah! I don't really have a personal finance blog either--I like writing about frugality, culture and our cultural attitudes towards spending and consumption--but I write about other things too (like today's post--are people ruder than before. Completely OT).

Perhaps the OT that Funny notices does cause blogs by women to be less lucrative. I'm not sure that it's wrong, however, to have a different writing style than the most successful male bloggers do. Interestingly, I've found that many PF bloggers who link to my articles in their 'link love' tend to link to posts with rather ephemeral PF ties. Perhaps being 'on topic' helps in the search engine area more than the networking area.

It all depends what you want out of a blog, I suppose. I don't apologize for going off topic ;)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse-Thanks as always. I am truly honored that a person of your discernment would be reading ME. Check out Funny About Money and Simple in France--they are both outstanding writers.

@Shelley--My son put adsense on when he set this up for me. I guess I should figure out how to make SOMETHING--haven't really put any effort in that direction.

@Funny--I am absolutely speechless. Thanks. And you appreciate my literary references too.

@simple-Well, I should think about monetizing as I mention above. It would be nice. I don't have much trffic, though--too arcane perhaps.