An Interesting Taxonomy of Personal Finance approaches from Moneysaving Challenge

I’d never really taken the time out to analyse the different approaches to improving your financial situation, but MoneySaving Challenge did some of the the legwork came up with this intriguing summary

UK Personal Finance Blogosphere
UK Personal Finance Blogosphere, Source:

It’s reasonably obvious that frugality is at the opposite pole to consumerism, and indeed money management is also an antidote to consumerism. It did make me wonder, however, wherther frugality is a hazard to growing wealth. Although it’s a small sample, it indicates that British personal finance is sparser on the growing wealth axis than the American PF scene. Although the American Dream has taken a serious hit over the last few years, perhaps the myth of continuous progress is helping people in the States feel more chipper about their plight.

Some of the same optimism, though in a more understated British way, is displayed by Monevator who is still upbeat by the end of Gruel Britannia, leading one commenter to observe he may “see sunrise as a bullish indicator“.

Perhaps that’s where I’m going wrong…Β  There is also the implication that frugality is not necessarily the best way to growing wealth, and this is another notable difference with US perspectives, there tends to be a stronger bias to increasing your income rather than cutting spending. This wasn’t my experience; I only started to build significant financial assets after taking an axe to spending. For most of my working life I was building non-financial assets, in particular buying out my mortgage. Cost control worked for me.

I also observed an interesting gender distribution on the plot, let’s just say that the distribution does not appear to be gender-neutral to me. And that’s all I’m going to say on that front, but it is interesting what areas are focused on by the ladies and the guys πŸ˜‰ For the sake of clarity, I don’t think this is because MSC imposed this distribution, I’ve observed it in the PF blogosphere as a whole.



8 thoughts on “An Interesting Taxonomy of Personal Finance approaches from Moneysaving Challenge”

  1. Hmm, but your much-debated approach to extreme saving later as opposed to a little and often from an early age is predicated on receiving a big salary hike later on in the career, is it not?

    And because your income rose, that’s why it worked for you?

    I think you may be perceiving your salary hike as a ‘sunk benefit’, if there is such a thing! πŸ˜‰

    I personally think that after a certain point frugality is a rotten method compared to the benefits (including psychological) of finding ways to raise your income. So I was happy to see where I was placed on this chart.

    But then I am naturally frugal compared to most, who would probably see my spending gauge as near stuck to the sides since my student days… πŸ˜‰


  2. I think that the constraint of time is a major element to consider here. Time spent pursuing frugality against time spent increasing income.

    Examples where my frugality runs short include not spending all of my time in shops and on the web researching the best deals on small scale one-off purchases (say sub Β£40 ish) – I just want to get the job done; or paying someone to sort out a problem with the shower or install a radiator, instead of learning how to do it myself (far too many DIY botch-jobs in the past anyway!).

    However my wife and I do keep an eye on bigger monthly costs and will spend time comparing insurance deals and sticking to a budget for monthly grocery spend, etc.

    It probably also depends on where people are in their financial epiphany. The first step for most people waking up to their debt problems is to go on a big financial diet and pursue a more frugal lifestyle – for people used to just splashing the cash, being frugal can be quite a revelation; the next stage would be good money management to keep those finances under control, followed by income growth.


  3. @Monevator, no, it’s a fairly linear progression in real terms from 1989.

    There were two big game changers in the last five years. One was largely discharging my mortgage, and then running the rump of it out of town. The other was a change in focus as I saw the writing on the wall at work. Without the latter I would have been reasonably happy to carry on to 60, and icing the mortgage means I get an effective pay rise of 7k net or about 11k gross. Plus the realisation that “no stuff tastes as good as financial freedom feels”.

    > who would probably see my spending gauge as near stuck to the sides since my student day

    That’s probably your unique trick there. This was a fight for me to get it down, though I am sitting on a mountain of stuff that I can learn to appreciate better when living on less πŸ™‚

    @MoneySavingChallenge the time/cost balance is always hard to square, and that’s probably even harder for families. I’m surprised, however, reading some people’s posts where the focus is on getting great deals on this that or the other. That’s good if it’s something you really need, but I look at some of those and think “these are wants, not needs”. I’d aim to cut the purchase out in the first place.

    I’ve probably got a bias to aim for building wealth. Bumping 10k into my ISA so I have Β£500 increased tax-free income every year gives me more enhancement of quality of life than spending that Β£10k at the moment.

    However, this equation is different for everyone, and what’s right for me isn’t necessarily what’s right for others. And I’d be the first to admit that some of the frugalistas put me to shame in some areas.

    I liked your taxonomy. It really made me think, and that’s what this is all about – getting ideas, integrating some into my world-view, and discarding others or concluding they don’t square with my experience. Slowly, over time I get a better investor, I foul up less often/less big and gently add reliable holdings to my stock. Some of that is learning technique, some of it is learning to challenge my inbuilt predilections and biases and let go of those that don’t serve me well.


  4. That’s a very interesting idea, plotting a collection of blogs on an x-y axis according to their ideology.

    Of course, with the background image being Outer Space, it opens up the imagination to additional dimensions for the plot. On the Z axis, I would put “optimism”, where Monevator would be deep in the positive territory sticking out of your computer monitor and poking you in the nose, while SLS would be way back in the depths of Andromeda due to his bearish perspective on the economic future.

    For my own benefit, I could even add a fourth dimension which measures Badassity, putting Mr. Money Mustache and similar blogs at one end, and CNN/MSN and other places where people like to complain that they can never save money, at the other end.

    Anyway, very nice post.


  5. @MMM Ah, but I put it to you Badassity has multiple dimensions too! I don’t have your badassity in the physical domain; I’m not averse to saving money using a bicycle but the weights and general physical fitness are out fo my ken πŸ˜‰ OTOH I’ve so far managed to avoid starting my heating, using a wood burner and fuel from my own hedgerows to heat the house. So that fuel bill is going to take a serious sucker punch straight between the eyes this year, so I have badassity in that dimension at least!

    I can imagine four dimensions, some of the time. More than that is beyond my brainpower πŸ˜‰


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