The past three years have brought about an interesting online financial trend: Money diaries.
Made popular by digital publication Refinery29, money diaries are exactly how they sound. They are spending logs, budget trackers, or a running receipt of your money hemorrhaging away – whichever glove fits best.
They are also talking points for a faceless crowd seated firmly in the comments section. After all, it wouldn’t be the Internet if some stranger wasn’t getting pissed off about someone else’s weekly cappuccino budget.
While I may not agree on money being the last taboo, it definitely is a stigmatized notion. Chatting about one’s personal finances is generally seen as bad form. And this is even more so when it comes to women and their money.
We hear men dropping earning figures boastfully while women are relegated to keeping quiet about their own finances. Even discussions regarding the wage gap between the sexes can be incendiary.
In fact, the stigma runs so deep that a study found that wives often lie about their pay when they’re earning more than their husbands. On average, in tax filings, women would report that they earned 1.5 percentage points less while men would report 2.9 percentage points more.
Ironically, even within fake data, their numbers rank higher.
A report by banking company Merrill Lynch provided further evidence of the presence of this stigma when they reported that 61 percent of women would rather discuss their own death over the topic of their money.
The trend of sharing one’s money diary was supposed to be a turning point. It was to be a safe space for women to share their budgets and their ways of handling their finances. Instead, money diaries have largely become a point of entertainment with readers partaking in financial voyeurism.
Judgment passes freely in the comment section. Readers label diarists anywhere from too frugal to too loose, or too privileged to too stuck-up. Always “too” something.
And how can they not when diarists helpfully embellish their entries with details surrounding their purchase – easy fodder.
In one instance, a 21-year-old HR intern innocently uploaded her diary – A Week In New York City On $25/Hour And $1k Monthly Allowance – crediting her parents for footing the bill for major expenses. The Internet was not happy.
The first R29 diary – A Week In NYC On A $65k Salary – was also not exempt from the judgment.
So why is there so much stigma? “I think part of the reason Money Diaries took off was for so long men have really dominated the narrative around money. And this is the first time that women get a chance to tell their financial stories so openly,” said Lindsey Stanberry, editor of Refinery29’s Money Diaries, in an interview with The Guardian.
Money diaries are decidedly incendiary, and this exact trait has made it clear why we must continue to push to talk about money. Money already holds a different meaning for us women, considering how much harder we must work to make it, and these social cues are ingrained in us from a young age.
“I also think that men don’t really talk about money either, and maybe they’re the ones who’ve always made it so secretive, to their benefit, right? They make more than women and they’ve encouraged us not to talk about money. It’s only when we’ve recently started poking our heads up and realizing the guy next to us makes more, that it really brings to light why it’s important to talk about it,” Stanberry added.
In the words of one R29 diarist from California: “If we hate capitalism and debt, and living in a world where we need money to survive, we have to learn to talk about it in order to change it.”