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Reconciling Our Online Selves and Real Life

Coming next week: Our quarterly financial update, and our take on dollar cost averaging. Fun!

Last night, while Mr. ONL and I were talking about what we should write about in today’s post, he said something interesting:

I think if you just look across all of our posts, you’d get an overly rosy portrait of our lives. We kinda make it sound like we have our act together in every way possible, and like we’re out adventuring all the time, yet somehow still earning big paychecks.

— Mr. ONL

That comment hit me hard. I’ve made it one of our tenets from the beginning to keep things as real as possible, to share our struggles and insecurities, our doubts and fears, our stresses and frustrations.

But I also think it’s important to keep things positive, to encourage our community, and to express the gratitude that we feel. We feel beyond lucky about how many things in our lives have lined up to even make us eligible to plan for early retirement — it wouldn’t be right to complain about things, especially given the science on how complaining rewires your brain. I’d also just read a thoughtful post called Travel Bloggers Are Lying to You by Like Riding a Bicycle that was all about how curated and deceptive a picture of life many bloggers share. I’ve always been determined not to do that here.

Of course when he said that, I started doing a mental tally. “But I make no secret about how much I have to travel for work. And we wrote about how we don’t always agree about money. And how we overpay taxes because I’m stupidly afraid of the IRS. And how we worry that we’re squandering our potential. And that maybe we were too optimistic about our goals for the year…” And then I stopped myself.

Because I realized: It’s not that we’re being dishonest. It’s just that there’s something inherently reductive about sharing ourselves online, even in a long-form blog, just as there is something inherently reductive in our own memories and the narratives we tell ourselves about our lives. Just because we aren’t posting super posed, ultra-filtered, socality-style Instagram portraits doesn’t mean we’re sharing the full picture.

OurNextLife.com // Reconciling Our Online Selves and Real Life -- curation, storytelling, authenticity, blogging

The Bias Toward Subtracting the Mundane

Even the best real lives are filled mostly with forgettable, mundane moments. Those are the things that largely dictate the vibe of a day (did we hit snooze too many times and start out the day in a bad mood?), or how we’re feeling generally (have too many meetings at work been making us feel like we can’t get caught up?), but they’re also the things that we forget quickly, the things that no readers need to hear about. You guys do not need a play-by-play of all my trips through TSA security, or a rundown of how much of our days we spend listening to conference call hold music.

This is the reality for almost everyone:

Our days are made up of mostly mundane moments, but what we remember and write about tends to be the good and bad stuff at the ends of the spectrum.

But when we subtract everything mundane, which is the natural filtering that happens with our memories, what’s left is the stuff on the ends of the spectrum — the really good and the really bad. Because we have made the conscious decision to try to focus on the good stuff — for example, by not complaining about work anymore — and because we think of our lives as generally semi-charmed, with not a lot of bad stuff happening to us (knock on wood), what comes out here is bound to look much more rosy than our real lives.

This is how our memories filter things, and what we tend to blog about:

OurNextLife.com // We remember the bad and especially the good a lot more than we remember the mundane stuff in our lives.

And given that most of us live lives that are at least two-thirds mundane, anyone presenting a life online that’s more like two-thirds good and great is bound to sound like they’ve got it all figured out.

We Do Not Have It All Figured Out

Our lives have just as many mundane and frustrating moments as everyone else’s, and we expect that we’ll still have plenty of those moments even after we retire early next year. That is one of our great lessons of adulthood:

Life is never awesome all the time, no matter what.

But more than the mundane stuff, we make mistakes like everyone does. Mr. ONL forgot to pay his credit card bill this week, which is going to cost us a late fee and some finance charges in an already expensive month (though he will call and try to get a one-time exception). I was late renewing the registration for one of our cars, which means we can’t drive it past Thursday, until whenever the DMV gets around to sending us our 2017 sticker. We toss out food that we’ve let spoil far more often than we’re okay with.

And on the stuff that’s actually fun to think about, if we shared all the boring details, here’s some of what you’d know:

  • We’ve only skied about 15 days this year, which is super low for skiers who live in a ski town. Most of those days were just a few hours, with the crowds on the weekends.
  • The photos we feature on the blog are not all coming from new adventures happening in real time. You’re seeing an assortment of photos compiled over more than a decade of being together, though we try to emphasize more recent outings.
  • We spend as much time on the couch as everyone else, sometimes more when work is especially stressful and we just need to turn our brains off.
  • Because we work from home, sometimes we go days without so much as setting foot outside. Even though we have trails a five minute walk from our front door.

And on the money stuff:

  • Besides having blown through too much money at one point in our lives, and having had credit card debt in our 20s, we’ve also made some bad investments, bought both of our cars brand new, and made a slew of other financially questionable decisions, like splurging on a high-end dishwasher.
  • We’re still not immune to impulse buys or frivolous purchases.
  • We disagree on spending priorities relatively often.

Finding the Authentic Balance

I think we’ll always struggle with how to tell the story of our journey authentically, but without all the unnecessary stuff that doesn’t add anything. Does knowing all that stuff we just shared make our story more interesting, or less? Does it make us more relatable, or just more dull?

Like the great Hitchcock quote:

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

— Alred Hitchcock

Those dull bits add up to the bulk of our lives, but they don’t always make for good reading or good photography. And — more importantly —  they’re frankly not what we want to look back and remember from this season of our lives. We want to document the ends of the spectrum, the stuff worth remembering, good and bad.

But when we cut the middle of the spectrum out completely, we’re also painting a portrait that’s not complete or honest. I’ve always loved the title of Jack Kornfield’s book After the Ecstacy, the Laundry, about how even if you achieve total peace and something akin to enlightenment, there’s still the laundry to attend to. We can never escape the mundane, and we’ll be happier the sooner we accept that fact. But we never intend to blog about doing laundry, unless we find some incredible lifehack that no one else has discovered, to do it faster and with no environmental impact. (Don’t hold your breath for that one.) :-)

What’s Your Take?

As usual, we’d love to hear your wisdom on this. How do you think about your own life in retrospect? Are there details of our journey that you would find interesting, that we have glossed over or discarded? Who out there do you think is doing this especially well, keeping things real while not getting bogged down in the boring, mundane stuff? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

And if you like pretty nature pictures that aren’t overly posed, staged or filtered, we’d love if you’d follow us on Instagram. :-)

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87 thoughts on “Reconciling Our Online Selves and Real Life

  1. Personally I see no reason to expand on the mundane things. We all have them and I don’t really feel like I need to read/learn about others. Unless….it’s those mundane things that you’re trying to get out of your life. Or your pursuit of getting them down to say 1/3 of your day rather than 2/3. There’s lessons around us everywhere but it’s how you tell the story that makes it interesting. Even if they aren’t financially related the disagreements between the two of you for example Mr. wants to vacation here but Mrs. wants to vacation there. Those are mundane things that almost every couple deals with but seeing how y’all work through the issues is what is interesting, not the issue itself. That’s just my $0.02. I accept Paypal. ;)

    1. Okay, thanks for confirming what my gut tells me. (“No one wants to know what you had for breakfast!”) :-) And we’ll keep sharing the “how we work through differences” stuff — thanks for that feedback! Can I just mail you some pennies? I don’t know what else to do with ’em. ;-)

  2. You make a great point. Sometimes, I would love to hear about how couples argue more about money just so I don’t feel like we are alone in that. Mr. SSC and I both have the same long term goal – but how to get there… its like having two cooks in the kitchen. But – I don’t need to hear about the mundane – I got enough of that in my life anyways :)

    This theme reminds me of a recent issue we’ve had, dealing more with coping with life with kids vs. life without. We thought we were completely failing as a couple. But, after a few honest chats with my friends, I realized we are doing better than most. Sometimes, just seeing the rosy view of other’s lives makes you feel like a failure because that is what you use as a yardstick to measure your own success.

    But I’ll admit: 1) I went on a lego shopping spree with a Amazon gift card this week for my kids – and bc I love them. 2) we live in an almost 4000 sqft house – it was a good price, but the AC bill kills us; 3) Mr. SSC gets angry sometimes that we have dirty dishes every day and some days I use paper plates just to reduce dishes (his job is to load the dishwasher)

    1. You guys are for SURE not alone in arguing about money! Same as you, we have the same long-term goals and vision, but we definitely disagree a lot on how to get there, what to spend on, where to scrimp, etc. I love your two cooks in the kitchen analogy! And with stubborn people like us, it sometimes feel like we maybe manage to have three or four cooks. Haha. And wow — your story about feeling like you were failing because of other people’s rosy stories. Yeah, that’s exactly what we DON’T ever want to do here — portray something that sets the bar too high, feels unrealistic, or makes other people feel discouraged! Thanks for your confessions, too. :-) I love legos! And I bet you’ll be happier once you downsize to a smaller house — though now I can see why you appreciate the housekeeper so much!

  3. Your post reminded me of something I read somewhere about the new era depression experienced by people who become distraught because of Facebook postings that make it appear everyone else is living a more vibrant, exciting, interesting life than they are. Just writing that made me smile! People don’t tend to post mundane things on the web because they don’t think others will find them compelling. Whether they actually are compelling or not depends upon your perspective, I guess. I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to save money, usually on the most mundane aspects of life. I hang our laundry to dry (and I’ve proudly posted photos of the freshly laundered clothes swaying in the breeze on the clothesline on FB); I make my own laundry detergent, fabric softener, dishwasher pods, dog shampoo, cleansing conditioner and whatever else I can think of, and I cruise the net for new ideas daily. I am passionate about reducing our exposure to contaminates, and search for better ways to prepare and store food regularly. My current quest is to rid our kitchen of as much plastic as possible, because I don’t trust it, why take a chance, and I can. Fascinating? Doubtful. But these things are very important to me, and they make up the balanced, comforting and predictable routine of my daily life. Going organic, vegetable gardening, wasting less…not the stuff dreams are made of, but surely the stuff life is made of. I don’t kick piles of money out of the way to get in my front door, although I could surely do so if it became a priority to me, so what is the real “fabric” of my life in day to day retirement? Cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, medical appointments, vet appointments (today, in fact), paying bills and checking the garden and running errands and texting the kids and reading stuff I love to learn about (like your blog!) on the web and yes, in book form on occasion! Spellbinding? Hardly, but life is not a series of heart pounding events interrupted by monotony, it’s the other way around. Your basic daily lives, regardless of how much money you’ve saved and/or you make for a living, are interesting to me because they’re different than mine, and I find that fascinating! Then again, I’ll be making liquid dishwashing soap for fun today, so that gives you a glimpse of the entertainment level around here these days, and clearly the bar is set low. Whatever I’m doing, I try to enjoy it, suck it in, experience it, learn from it, love it and live it. Life is a banquet! Relish every single morsel. It’s all interesting to me, every single bit.

    1. LOL — I bet you’re underselling the excitement of making dishwashing soap! :-) A lot of the stuff you do in your daily life must seem exotic to a lot of people — there’s such a movement afoot to return to simplicity, to make more of our daily products by hand, to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals and to reduce waste. I find it crazy fascinating, for example, that the zero waste blogging community gets thousands of people to follow along to see what they *throw in the garbage.* Like whole blog posts on what they put in the trash that week — and yet it’s kind of riveting, actually! So your comment is a good reminder not to assume that we necessarily know what counts as mundane, and what might be fascinating to others! :-)

  4. I think the mundane goes without saying. I appreciate your honest self-reflection. We just had one of these chats a couple of days ago about my mortgage post. I felt it was ok to be honest about my experience, given that I also think I paint a rosy picture that doesn’t tell the whole story. I think it’s a fine line.

    1. Hi Claudia — I just clicked through and saw that you revamped your site! I like it. It took me a sec to find the blog link, fwiw. :-) And yeah, I think it IS a fine line, and sometimes it feels like it’s always moving. Like what seems important one day might seem trivial and boring the next. But we’ll keep trying to figure it out along with you! :-)

  5. I really appreciate this post. I’ve never thought you paint an overly rosy picture of your lives, and I appreciate your positivity. I’ve had the same worries, though. I don’t want to act like we have everything figured out or that we are the best at being frugal or generous (we’re not). But I don’t know if people want to read about how I forgot to cancel my Target baby wipes subscription before it shipped. So it’s a balance, for sure. I do appreciate how Abigail from ipickuppennies.com shares about her real and imperfect financial life.

    1. Thanks for that, Kalie. Nice to get the validation that we’re getting the balance (at least mostly) right. And I’m glad to know that we’re not the only ones who sometimes forget to cancel subscriptions — like when Amazon dropped two more unneeded cases of toilet paper on our front porch last month. Whoops! :-) And I need to read Abigail more — thanks for the suggestion!

  6. I enjoy reading a little bit about the mundane, the fails, and the disagreements of others. I always see how it relates to our situation. I find I can learn little bits from the varies points of view and help improve or tweak what were are doing.

    Believe me I know it not all rosy for you or me or just about anyone. :)

    1. That’s good to know. Thanks, Brian! And I agree — reading about how others handle some of the more interesting little things teaches us a lot, and we appreciate that. So we’ll just keep going! :-)

  7. ha ha I love the bar describing how our lives are to ourselves versus everyone else or what we write about. I do a mixture I think, but I like to do it in broad strokes, not the nitty gritty details. For instance, what I wrote about money and how my future life surprises me. I don’t go through all the boring details that make me arrive at that conclusion. Overall though, I’d rather see someone write more positive and hopeful posts (or at least that’s just my preference) than someone who complains ALL the time or does nothing buy rant.

    1. Haha — Yeah, and I think for some bloggers, it’s really more like 99% good and great! And I love the positive and hopeful tone of your posts — totally agree with you that I don’t want to read the ramblings of a ranting complainer. :-)

  8. Interesting topic! For me, I don’t view my blog as a diary necessarily. Like you, I very much filter out the mundane because I would surmise that the majority of readers probably don’t want to read that material. They want something that is more exciting, or at the very least, more unique or interesting aspects of my life. After all, they follow my blog because they have an interest in a very real aspect of my life, just like your readers follow you for the same reason.

    That said, I do very much agree with you and Mr. ONL that painting an overly rosy picture probably does portray an inaccurate view of what’s truly going on. Ignoring the negatives and only writing about the positives can certainly make it appear like you guys always have your stuff together and never make mistakes.

    On that point, we absolutely agree 100%. I will be making a very concerted effort to give the whole story, especially as we move into the Airstream. I know it won’t all be roses and flowers. Life happens. And I honestly believe that people want to read about both the positives and the negatives of what’s going on. In fact, the negatives can be just as exciting!

    You are being followed on Instagram for sure. We’re regular stalkers! :)

    1. Thanks, Steve. And thanks for following on IG! :-) I’m definitely looking forward to hearing how things go when you move into your Airstream, sell you house, get good at camping, and all the rest — I’m sure there will be plenty of false starts and learning curves, and I think that stuff is actually MORE interesting than the “we’re total pros at this” kind of posts that some people do exclusively.

  9. It’s refreshing to read about other people having some problems and also some mundaneness (I thought I just made that word up, but I checked and it’s really a word!).

    I read a lot of the FIRE blogs and it does sometimes sound like everyone’s right on top of everything. Although it’s inspirational and motivational in the learning process, the truth is that none of us knows everything. It’s actually helpful to see that you have a path that you’re on, but even you don’t have it all figured out.

    — Jim

    1. Ooh, good to know! “Mundaneness” is a word. I think I’ve probably used incorrect derivations before like “mundanity.” (Nope! Just checked — that’s a word, too.) :-) I agree with you that most FIRE blogs *seem* to have everything figured out, obviously because we’re trying to share the stuff that we *have* figured out, which is how we add value to the community. But we want to be sure we’re not discouraging people along the way! So we’ll keep finding ways to show that we’re just figuring this stuff out like everyone else. :-)

  10. I love the bar charts and think you’re spot on here in reality vs. online personas whether its through a blog, or on facebook.

    I also think that since this is your space, you both should share whatever you feel like sharing. If you don’t want to remember the mundane, then don’t make a written log of it to come back to. That’s one reason I stopped having a personal blog a few years ago…going back, I didn’t like re-reading all those memories.

    As a single guy who is more than a bit interested in not being single and how that whole money dynamic works with the FIRE goals, I’d selfishly be curious about the spending priorities stuff that you tend to disagree on and how you overcome that together. I.E. Do you just compromise on every little thing you might disagree about? Do each of you pick the battles that you’re going to be extra stubborn on? or does it just stereotypically default to “happy wife, happy life?” <- LOL

    I think that would be an incredibly interesting post, but you might find that to be a horrifically boring and mundane, and that's completely okay, because this is your place to write whatever you feel like sharing and leave out whatever you feel like not.

    1. LOL — I *wish* this was a “happy wife, happy life” kind of place! Hahahaha. (And I don’t really wish that, but we definitely don’t make a habit of operating that way.) :-) But thanks for that input, TJ. We’ll definitely keep sharing how we work through those disagreements — sometimes we have good answers, and other times we agree to disagree. I’m pretty sure there’s no magic bullet formula there, sadly!

  11. Everyone asks my wife all the time, where is Chris now? She chuckles and says he’s at home working right now. Social media (my instagram anyhow) makes it seem like I’m always adventuring but the fact is I just curate and spread out my images to share a story all the time. My blog is where I try to discuss the challenges and hard decisions we have in life as well as work through tough mental roadblocks. As long as we are being honest somewhere along the way I feel our readers will identify with that and respect the transparency. We will also not be lying to ourselves, if we document it we make it real and then can choose to improve or continue to be a rat in the maze of life.

    1. Hahaha — Yeah, same here. Or I’m probably on a plane or at a hotel, but not for fun travel. Sometimes I think about doing an Instagram project where I show our photos, and then pan back and show the actual context. Some of our best photos are snapped out of the car window, not from some icy ledge we’re perilously balanced on. Or they’re snapped on an hour-long adventure, not a multi-day expedition. Or it’s 10 photos from the same outing, not 10 different trips. You know how it is. :-) But yeah, to your larger point, we’ll keep doing our best to keep it real and honest here, while hopefully providing enough inspiration to encourage others to follow in our footsteps… and hopefully do better and pass us up on the journey!

  12. I think you guys do a good job of presenting a realistic representation of the good and bad of the journey to FIRE which is one of the reasons I manage to find time in my busy days to read and comment on almost every single one of your posts. When starting out, I was inspired to get more hard core and start blogging about it by MMM and I still enjoy reading his blog. However, there is a point where it gets tiresome to hear someone tell you how “bad ass” they are and people that don’t agree must be “clowns” of some type. I like your more gentle and balanced approach which is encouraging and accepting of others who are on a bit of a different path than your own while trying to help them avoid your mistakes or encourage them to do even better than you. We try to take a similar path in sharing the good and bad of what actions we have taken and continue to take as well as the emotional ups and downs that occur on the path to FIRE. Keep on keeping on and keep sharing the awesome pics!

    1. Thanks, EE. That all means a lot. We really appreciate all your thoughtful comments, and your friendship. :-) And yeah, someday I’ll write the MMM post that I’ve had stewing in my brain for a while, but bottom line is we’re NOT perfect, we’re NOT especially badass, and so we’d never try to represent ourselves that way. We’re more of the school of thought that there are a thousand ways to get to the same destination, not one “right way,” and so we’d never try to tell people that this is exactly how you get there. (Plus, where’s the fun in that? Isn’t the fun getting to explore and find your own way?) And nothing would make us happier than if others could learn from our mistakes, find a way to do it faster and better, and keep building on that — but that only happens if we share the mistakes. I love how you guys share those, too, along with your struggles in thinking through major life decisions. I always learn something or look at something differently after reading your posts. :-)

  13. This is an awesome post. I sometimes struggle with balancing the two, especially because I didn’t start blogging until my debt was paid off. From time to time, i will read something on reddit (r/personalfinance) that reminds me of a struggle or unique experience while paying off debt or living on a budget that I can share.

    Other times as I go through life I will acknowledge that something isn’t 100% perfect when it happens.

    When we include the imperfect we are telling someone else with the same issue that they are not alone and this gives hope.

    I like your blog, the good and not so good.

    1. Thanks, Budget Whisperer! :-) I think we all struggle with this now that we all do so much projecting of ourselves online, even if just through Facebook. But yeah, it’s a different kind of wrinkle for those of us who blog, isn’t it? But thanks for the feedback! We’ll keep sharing the good and the bad. :-)

  14. I’ve been a reader for the last couple months, but first time commenter. I really liked this post. I feel like what draws me to a particular financial blog is authenticity and you guys have that in all your posts. It’s true that readers want to read about the positives and the negatives, and not the mundane. I like reading about the positive because it gives me more encouragement to continue to apply good financial principles to my own life. On the other hand, including the negatives is important for the sake of honesty and being real. No one is perfect (and you guys never claim to be), and it’s good to be reminded of that from time to time. Reading about mistakes and struggles makes things more relatable, and I think you guys have a good balance in your posts. Thanks for sharing your self reflection!

    1. Hi Matt — Thanks for reading! And welcome to the comments! :-) I really appreciate you saying that we have authenticity in our posts — that’s certainly what we strive for, but it can be hard to know if we’re getting it right. But we’ll keep sharing the good stuff for encouragement and the bad stuff so others can avoid making the same mistakes. :-)

  15. This week has been UNUSUALLY slow for me at work. Believe me I’m not complaining. I’ve left the office between 5-6pm every day, have ample time to catch up on blogs and listen to podcasts. But yesterday I got home, and I was like “What should I be doing?? I should be reading! I should be bettering myself! My blogger friends are probably working on side hustles!” But sometimes we just need to embrace the downtown and sit on the couch. It’s okay! I don’t need to fill my life with activities or adventures 24/7. Sometimes I feel like that is tough when our internet friends (or friends in real life) appear to be motivated 24/7 :)

    1. Omg — YES! Take advantage of your down time! Same here — unusually quiet, no travel for *two whole weeks* now, and I’ve been far less productive than I could be. But we need to rest and recharge, too! Tune out those perceptions from blogs and social media, and do what your gut tells you to do, even if that’s just vegging out on the couch. :-)

  16. I have a friend who DOES post pictures of almost every lunch & dinner to Facebook. Ugh.

    I think I put a little too much anxiety, emotion, & personal awkwardness into my posts. I have a lot of friends and coworkers reading, so I think my twice weekly guilts, goofs, and gratitudes are becoming “Too Much Information”. Maybe I need to be a little less real starting next week. I’ll be MrFABULOUSstation ;-)

    1. If you want to make us all more envious than we we already are of you, then go for the MrFABULOUSStation vibe. :-) And I would not say that your current posts are full of awkwardness or anxiety! You come across as very calm and reasonable.

  17. I think that although the mundane does account for the majority of one’s daily life, it is wise to cut out some of this as you do want to make sure to keep your readers engaged. I do include the bad along with the good as I think it is important to remember that this journey to FIRE is not always easy and things can go wrong. But if nothing in particular is really happening or I am not inspired then I am not going to post something mundane just to get a post out there. This week is a good example of this for me. Pretty average and uninspiring.

    I only got out snowboarding 14 days this year, 6 of which were on vacation. I barely broke even on my seasons pass. So sad. :(

    1. Completely agree with you — we can keep it real without bogging people down with the boring, unimportant stuff! And yeah, I feel your pain on the snow days! I’m glad we didn’t buy the top level passes this year, since we wouldn’t have gotten much value for them!

  18. I disagree with Mr. onl, I think you’ve done a good job of presenting both the awesome and the suck! (although I did not realize you were home enough to *not* go out for days on end, but I was probably projecting my own situation.)

    1. LOL — “the awesome and the suck.” #newblogtitle
      It’s not often that *I* am in the house for all those days in a row, but sometimes I’ll have a week or two with no travel, or even in the traveling weeks, my only time leaving the house is to go to the airport and back.

  19. I think you’ve written a bit of both the goods and the bads. It certainly gets boring to hear about the good stuff all the time.

    1. Haha — so true, right? 100% good IS boring. We wouldn’t want to live that life, because then we’d stop appreciating the good stuff. So we shouldn’t write that way either!

  20. Thanks fro clarifying! I thought the two of you were super humans having it all figured out and living in a gold plated house ;-)

    You post is actually very spot on. It is nice to see an analysis of the blogging bias that happens
    1- filtering out the mundane: a must do! A security check at the airport or the cereal photo snapshots are of little interest to me. And there are for sure some great blogs out there that specialise on breakfast lunch and dinner pictures.
    2) bad stuff: Can be useful to post about it if it adds value to your or the readers. To you: to get it off you chest or get some advice for possible solutions. For the readers: how to avoid it.
    3) Good and great stuff: More or less same as above: If the readers can learn from it, or challenge it by adding another opinion.

    For me, the balance between good and bad is there. so, keep that.

    To me, it looks you focus more on the human aspects, the feelings that it brings. Not at all on the how (no detailed posts on what you bought,…). That focus is very fine for me. It is a sort of finger print of what matters most to you (This is how I interpret this blog, tell me if I am wrong)

    1. Well our house IS gold-plated. Have I not mentioned that? ;-)

      But thanks for the feedback, and affirming that we’re covering both ends of the spectrum. You’re totally right that we will probably never talk money mechanics, in terms of what we bought and why, namely because our investment strategy is a super boring one — we mainly buy five index funds, and not much else. Our biggest questions are how much to keep in cash, and ratio of stocks to bonds, not which dividend stocks to buy or other investment instruments to explore. But also, we feel that other bloggers have that stuff well covered! What we can offer is the more human side, or sometimes the neurotic side. :-)

  21. Yeah, I do hate the dishes – ugh… It’s like every day, the kids seem to use 4 cups each, and how do all those plates get dirty – there are only 4 of us here???? So, it’s not all rosy pictures in our household either.

    You know the allowance was spawned by our disagreement on how to spend money. I was spending too much, and Mrs. SSC needed to curb it, lol. But it was pretty much exactly like that. I knew a couple that had that same concept and it worked well, so we tried it and it works pretty well for us. Honestly though, since December I just now got back into positive territory with my allowance due to poor timing on some one off purchases. Oops… hahahaha

    We also have bad times, days, weeks, and not just bad, but even worse MUNDANE days, weeks, etc… I love remembering those when it comes to monthly budget updates, no surprises is best!

    I try to balance our blog posts with real stuff and if it seems great, just know in the background the wheels are slowly coming off the train, we just manage to tap them back on at the critical moment before they pop off. One of these days, we’ll miss and it will make for some interesting reading, I’m sure. And FYI – I forgot to renew my car registration also, and just drove it for a few weeks waiting for my new sticker to show up in the mail… :)

    1. Man, you guys have a rough life. You have to WASH your DISHES!! :-) Hahaha. I seriously feel so lucky, though, that Mr. ONL doesn’t mind doing dishes, because it’s my least favorite chore. We only argue about dishes if I’ve loaded the dishwasher and he decides that my loading is suboptimal and redoes it. :-) (This happens more than you’d think!)

      I’m glad the allowances work for you. We started out with those back when we first got married, but found that we weren’t really using them after two or three years, and we dropped them. But I think it’s a perfect idea for couples who crave that.

      I know that wheels-coming-off feeling well! Our expression is “I suck at life.” Especially when work gets nuts or I’m traveling constantly, you hear that a lot around here. :-) But thanks for letting me know I’m not alone on the DMV fail!

  22. I feel like you do a great job at showing both ends of the spectrum. It’s one of the top reasons I love your blog! I find mundane stuff is good to touch on once in awhile, because it IS such a huge part of life, and for me, my blog is about telling the story of my fugal life. But it doesn’t need to be a twice weekly kind of thing.
    I also follow y’all on the ‘gram. I love your nature pics!

  23. Oh gosh, I love this post. Such important stuff. It can get so tricky because blogs (at least the blogs I want to read) essentially consist of layers of narratives, and narratives by definition pick and choose elements to play up and elements to omit (i.e., what Hitchcock said, except he said it better).

    I think some of this is unavoidable for sure. And I think that in general people are aware that if someone writes that they have a full-time job, it’s pretty much understood that that entails a lot of time doing things that may be mundane, or, at the very least, a lot of time doing things that may not be blog-worthy or blog-appropriate. So it’s certainly not misleading to say (as you do), FYI, I have a demanding full-time job that I spend tons of time working at, and now I’m going to write about some stuff that I did/thought about when I wasn’t actively working on things for that job.

    But in any case, I really appreciate that you make a point of saying (not just in this post but in many posts) that there are things you don’t know, or issues you’re struggling with. Especially since Internet Writing is generally skewed so much in the opposite direction.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! That’s a good point about the assumptions or understanding that people come in with — because yes, obviously we are spending loads more time working than doing anything else, though that’s not what gets us fired up in the morning. And yeah, I think you know, but people claiming to know everything or have all the answers is one of my major pet peeves, so we try hard not to venture into that territory, even just because we’re excited about something we learn and want to share it (that is when it can get tough) — but it’s easy to talk about what we don’t know or where we’re struggling, because there’s tons of that fodder. :-) I know that I am a big time overthinker, but I’m sure we’ll be 10, 20 years into retirement, and I’ll still be asking, “Is this *really* such a good idea? Are we *sure* the math checks out?” ;-)

  24. Great topic. I swore I’d never post food pics but have broken my own rule!
    I think of it in terms of ‘keeping it real’ and by definition, some of those things are mundane. I try to share what the reality of our life is like, eg we baked cupcakes for my daughter to take to school on her birthday instead of paying $24 to order them from the canteen.
    Or, we clean our own house instead of paying for a cleaner.
    This is not exactly interesting, but shows the choices you have to make to achieve the less mundane things – like travel.

    1. Thanks! And I think posting about saving money on cupcakes is different from posting everything you ate this week. :-) I agree on showing some of those trade-offs, which mostly are the smaller, day-to-day decisions, not the big and glamorous ones. :-)

  25. I’m glad you addressed this. As a mom and a blogger, I think about this a lot. I don’t want to be a mommy blogger, so I usually leave most of the non-money-related kid stuff out. In reality, being a mom takes up way more of my hours than my part-time work at home job. And my reality involves a lot of making school lunches, playing board games, staying up to make science project boards, cleaning up spills, and navigating tantrums. The “mundane” in your definition is actually “the children” in my life chart. Some of it is mundane, some of it is awesome, and some of it is horrible – then there are the other sections of the life in there as well, but the giant chunk of “children” is mostly left out of our blog compared to the amount of our life it consumes. So, I think a sliver of authenticity is fine. No one wants to hear about that stuff. I don’t hide the fact I have children or spend my life with them, but I shield readers from the majority of what that entails. Inauthentic? Maybe.

    1. There is no way anyone could read your blog and NOT know that you are a super devoted mom who cares most about your family/kids. I think you’re being completely authentic and straightforward on that without veering into mommyblog territory. Just as Sarah said here that people understand that we’re not writing about work even though that’s how we spend the majority of our time, people understand that you’re doing everything that goes along with being an awesome mom. And I think some of your posts about your kids are my favorites! The saver then spender, the lessons you’re teaching them… that stuff is some of your best. :-)

      1. How about the next one about how I literally hard to carry my kicking and screaming 5-year-old to the car without shoes or a coat to get my 8-year old to school on time! No? Alright. :)

  26. I am SO aware of this and finding the balance is definitely tough!

    I’m struggling on several levels. I’m travelling long term and I know this is a dream for many people – so how do I find the balance between sharing the downsides (long bus trips, bed bugs, and don’t get me started on stomach issues) without sounding like I’m complaining or being ungrateful? And beyond the ‘discomforts’ of travel, I also want to communicate that this lifestyle took a lot of sacrifice to achieve (my husband and I have never lived together in a house with a private bathroom, for example) – not that I’m complaining, but I want to present a balanced picture.

    And then beyond travel – my blog is about helping women create lives they love, and I try to communicate that this does not = a perfect life, but I know that sometimes this message gets lost (especially when I’m sharing Instagram shots of exotic sunsets …)

    I suppose, as bloggers and influencers (which feels funny to write!!) all we can do is try and write honestly and from the heart and hope that our readers are able to pickup on the truth.

    1. I think you do a good job of communicating that stuff, but I do think you have the challenge of the beautiful photos, like we do. I sometimes wonder how far the words really go when the photos look so pretty all the time. :-) Maybe we should each consider showing some of the rougher moments as well — though I can’t quite wrap my head around how we do that and stay anonymous!

  27. It’s natural for the online representation of your persona to differ from the real you. There’s only so much emotion conveyed by words on a screen. The internet suffers from a lack of body language, voice inflection, smirks, and eye-rolling. Yes, I’ve heard of emoji, but it’s not the same thing.

    I think of MMM, who is basically an online caricature of his creator, Pete. MMM can say and do things online that Pete might not do in real life. Of course, I haven’t met Pete; maybe he does punch actual faces.

    I write anonymously, which gives me license to step outside of my comfort zone a bit in a way that I might not do in reality. Realizing that the veil of anonymity could be lifted keeps the online me and the real me reasonably well aligned, though. Thought provoking post, thank you for writing it and to Rockstar Finance for putting it in front of me!

    1. MMM is an interesting example, and I think you’re right that his online persona IS a caricature of his real self by design. In our case, we’re trying to stay true to our real selves, and plan to drop the anonymity not too far off in the future, so it’s a different thought process — but point well taken!

  28. Such a thoughtful post, and soooo true! And I for one appreciate your judicious editing of the overly mundane. While I don’t want to appear judgmental, I am not a fan of blogs that post…”What I did over the three day weekend” or “What we had for dinner!” That said, just know that in reading through your posts, I have never had the sense that you were sugar coating it. We both know that the voyage is exciting, terrifying, sometimes anxiety producing, and plain old hard work! Thanks for a nice piece!

    1. Thank you for this note! Glad to know that our full spectrum is coming through loud and clear. :-D You’re so right — the voyage is a complex thing, with pretty much every emotion mixed in there!

  29. It is these thoughtful blogs that I enjoy that make me look again at our life, our journey to financial independence and our trips in our campervan and review them or slot them in to the whole in a different way. I try not to blog about the mundane and don’t really want to read about it, so keep up the good work of providing posts that challenge my mind-set and keep my brain cells ticking over. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for this. :-) It’s true that *how* we think about things changes how we see ourselves fitting into our own life narrative. And we’ll for sure stick to the interesting stuff that makes us think, and stay away from the filler. :-)

  30. I wouldn’t worry about it that much. I mean, I’m really freaking honest on my blog, but I try to limit it so that I don’t come across as complaining a lot. It’s hard to strike a balance because I also think there’s an inherent bias where we all want to be liked as a part of this community, which further limits what and how we say things. All we can really do is be mindful of what value we’re trying to provide to both our audiences and ourselves. I don’t think very many people started these blogs for other people; I think almost all of us made our blogs for ourselves, whatever our reasons may be.

  31. I do not think sharing every detail would make for an more interesting story. But it’s good to stop and think about the bias off everything we read about other people life on the internet!

    As a side note, did you know you can often reverse the charge on a late payment on a credit card (if it’s a couple of days, and that you usually pay on time). Give them a call, explain de situation, and tell them it would be a bit annoying to take a hit on your credit rating for a honest mistake of a couple of days.

    I did just that 2 weeks ago. 5 minutes, and it was done. Charges reversed. Never hurt to try !

  32. Another blogger mentioned that they followed me because my stories are interesting. My wife thought that was hilarious because she thinks I’m the most boring person in the world :)

    It’s true that a blog is only a small snapshot of your life, but in many ways I think it shows the most important aspects. I don’t share EVERYTHING that’s going on in my life, but what I do share are a lot of what I feel is important in my life. I like to read blogs because other people’s stories often inspire me. It’s also nice to know that I’m not alone in this nerdy world of personal finance :)

    1. So funny — I bet it’s same for us, though, and Mr ONL thought it was overly rosy just because it was more rosy than real life. And I’m with you — I love hearing other people’s PF stories!

  33. It’s a really interesting question that you ask in this post! My impression is that you are authentic. And I appreciate your desire to avoid complaint and to stay positive. Having said that, I always appreciate hearing about the bloopers in the lives of other bloggers – perhaps especially those like you who are going to reach financial freedom at a young age. It serves to prove that perfection isn’t necessary for great success, and that’s a message worth getting out there.

    1. Thanks, Prudence! Appreciate you saying that. :-) And yeah, we try to share lots of bloopers here, which I think we can do without complaining — lord knows there’s no shortage of whoopsie moments we’ve had along the way. :-)

  34. We just found your blog through My Mixed Up Money and we just had to read this post! We recently started a blog for the very reasons that you write about here. We wanted a digital footprint of our lives as we work towards our goal of becoming financially independent. We are a bit nerdy in our own right, but being able to share our ups and downs, as well as our past mistakes, is what made this idea so intriguing. We applaud and respect your candidness!

    Happy we found you! We look forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Welcome to the fun over here! Yeah, we love the aspect of the blog that is chronicling the journey. I bet we’ll both be happy that we kept track of what it was all like. :-)

  35. This article definitely made me stop and think! In my humble opinion, I think you and Mr. ONL strike a healthy balance in your narrative and what you present to your readers. However this post made me very aware that my own narratives likely sound a lot worse than what life really is like – I have a tumultuous relationship with money so my blog on my finances is a repository of my struggles. My money life is 90/10 negative to positive but my life in general is inverse – all not seen on the blog! Just like filiming a documentary, one must take all that data and filter it down to one common, over-arching theme – we can’t show every side of every angle. I find when it comes to readership, people want something uplifting and positive, so I do think most bloggers do try to emphasize the good; it may not always be “full reality” but it does create a positive, encouraging environment that many readers (like myself) gain a lot of inspiration from!

    1. Thanks for this nice note! :-) Like you said, I think it’s hard to strike a balance, and while we would never expect a blog to capture every bit of our lives (so boring!), we do want to make sure we’re not presenting a skewed view one way or another. We struggle with big decisions just like everyone else does, and never want to imply that we have all the answers. As for what you’re writing, I think the most important thing is that it’s authentic — and if your money experience is mostly negative right now, then that’s worth sharing, too. The world needs the whole range of voices, including those of folks early in the journey!

  36. Sorry about the late comment, I’m still working through your prolific posts.

    I used to get so irritated with my husband, who took pictures all the time – of every little thing. Then he compiled one year of of life into a slide show. The random dinner at home, the routine stroll through the neighborhood, the evening downtime with a book, even the vacation trip. Aside from too many cat photos, the daily mundane becomes precious with time. Looking back at pictures my parents took in the late sixties, the Eiffel tower was pretty, but seeing them in their little apartment with the sparse furniture playing cards with their friends means more. It shows how they lived and filled their days. Don’t forget to record the mundane; it has it’s own fascination, and it’s the very thing we most want to hold on to when we approach the end.

    1. Never apologize for commenting. ;-) I’m impressed you’re still going on the old posts! And you’re so right… the standard touristy photos are never the ones I cherish, it’s those seemingly inconsequential ones that show what life was like. So, so true!

  37. I’m just addicted to your writing style. Even though I’ve only been reading this blog for a few days, I just can’t get enough of it.

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