RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And on Fridays, we talk about your personal finance. Today, we get really personal. We're talking about people who post their credit card debt, bank balances and other financial information on the Internet, in blogs, for all the world to see. Joining us to talk about this proliferation of what you might call online graphic finance is Joan Goldwasser. She writes for Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine.
Ms. JOAN GOLDWASSER (Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: There are lots of these personal finance blogs. Tell us exactly what they are. What are the parameters?
Ms. GOLDWASSER: They seem to cover the gamut. I mean, there are people who talk about everything from how they raise their children and how much money they give them for an allowance, to how much money they're planning to spend on buying a house and how they're going to get out of debt. And then there are other people who literally put up, you know, their net worth: their credit card debt, their assets, etc.
MONTAGNE: These are virtually all anonymous. They have names like "Single Mom and Money," "A Stingy Student," things like that.
Ms. GOLDWASSER: Right. And not only do they have names that wouldn't identify a person. When they say that they own stocks and bonds, they won't tell you the name of it. They try to keep any identifying information off of the blog.
MONTAGNE: There's a whole group of these blogs and they have names like "Make Love, Not Debt." There's one called "The Debt Defier." I'm looking at one here, "Blogging Away Debt." An entry from the first of the month is, I spent more than I made in January. And then there's a budget here: automobile fuel, registration, credit cards, entertainment. And in the end, minus $515.
Ms. GOLDWASSER: Right. I mean that's what people do. You know, they explain how I overspent - I went out to dinner too many times, I bought new clothes, whatever it was that, you know, made your budget get out a little bit out of whack. And each week or every time they post, they talk about how much they've succeeded or, occasionally, that they slipped back and didn't, you know, do what they were supposed to do. And so, they are sort of confessing their sins.
MONTAGNE: There are lots of these that might be called therapy.
Ms. GOLDWASSER: I think some of it is saying, you know, I've done this also. I've been through it. I know what it, you know, how difficult it is and this is what I did. I mean I think it's a feeling that if I put it out there, I'm going to be forced to actually confront the fact that, you know, this month, I just didn't, you know, do what I was supposed to do. It's similar to, I think, Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous, where you know, you have to go and say what you've done or what you haven't done. And that makes you more likely to do what you're supposed to do.
MONTAGNE: Well, but ultimately, is it effective? Is there any way to know that these Web sites really help people curb their spending, cut down on debt, and really get control of their finances?
Ms. GOLDWASSER: They seem to. I mean, if these people who, you know, are writing are telling the truth - and I assume they are, I don't know why you wouldn't - you know, you read some success stories. There was one young woman who wrote about the fact that she was finally out of debt and she was going off to Thailand to become an English teacher. And she wasn't going to make as much money but she didn't have any debt and she could live more cheaply and she was, you know, this was sort of her repayment to herself - a wonderful new, you know, life experience.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Ms. GOLDWASSER: You're very welcome.