Don’t be too surprised that financial writers don’t follow all of their own advice

Horror of horrors–a financial writer confessed to Lifehacker that he or she doesn’t track every penny of every expense. The hypocrisy!

Not really. There are two things you need to understand: The end goal, and how to get there. The end goal of every financial writer is to get people living within their means. The majority of their advice are ways to get to that goal. If they’re already at that goal, then they’ve outgrown some of their own advice.

So if they don’t follow all of their own advice, that could be a positive sign.

I know someone who attempted a stint as a financial writer, but declared victory very prematurely. It’s hard to argue that your tactics work when you’re still living on the brink of financial ruin yourself–and that’s where this writer was, and still is.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my project manager at work. He was grousing about a vendor we’re dealing with, and he said, “They have very slick, professional-looking documentation, but the instructions in it don’t work.”

And I observed that the technical content of their documentation was close, but usually missed one or two critical details. As one who’s spent some time as a technical writer, that tells me they’re not always trying out what they say. The result is stuff that doesn’t work, and an unhappy project manager.

So when I find a personal finance writer who doesn’t have to track every penny anymore, that tells me that the writer did something in the past that worked, and if the writer graduated from some of that advice, so much the better.

But here’s the caveat: If the writer doesn’t practice what he or she preaches, and still has financial difficulties he or she is working through, then I’d certainly be concerned.

Now, if you don’t want to track every penny of every expense, I have a workaround that I use. I give myself an allowance. I give myself $100 a month to spend however I want. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Sometimes when I want something expensive, I do track that money, but when I’m not saving for something big, I don’t stress over tracking it. It’s a practice I recommend wherever you are in your financial journey.

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