It’s been 5 and a half years since I started Frugal in Singapore. Let me just say that I’m so grateful to all those who supported me throughout this journey. But much has changed online and in the blogosphere. Blogging has become less about sharing, and more about making money through sponcon, product placements and online content marketing. And that’s just not for me. So I feel it’s time to take a break from blogging. At least for a few months. Maybe longer.
How it All Started
As I’ve previously mentioned, I started this blog after I reached a significant financial milestone which allowed me to semi-retire. It is important that I stress the word “after” because I withheld from writing until I was absolutely sure I had the authority, evidence, and experience to share my story and advice.
I didn’t want to be a phony who was sharing unsubstantiated advice, like so many others out there.
In the early days, I was happy to be included in the blogging community. I met so many friendly fellow bloggers. There were also many readers who reached out to me. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
That is, until my first troll (3 years ago). This person had gone out of his/her way to really hurt me. And sadly, it worked. That troll disappeared only to be replaced by others.
How it Changed
When the blog became very popular, seemingly overnight, I was bombarded with emails from companies that wanted me to sponsor articles. They wanted to pay me to write positively about their products or services, but not to label them as “sponsored”.
Even though I told them this was against my policy, these companies persisted. They disclosed to me that many popular Singaporean websites (even ones that dull out financial advice) already receive kickbacks from them and publish pieces without labelling them as “sponsored”.
There were banks, credit card companies, even online casinos that wanted to pay me to put their content and links on this blog. These companies didn’t really want people to be frugal or even financially prudent. Which is why I turned them down. There were also product sponsors who didn’t care if I was even an authentic user of their product. They just wanted me to write a fake review.
And the community of bloggers started changing too.
Now that there is a lot of money in it, people from all over the world have started Singaporean blogs. For example, the CEO of Value Champion Singapore himself has never stepped foot on our island (he lives in New York). But he makes money (though referrals and sponsored content) from his “Singaporean” website.
About a year ago, the offers from companies also changed. To have more control over the content, companies started getting their own freelance writers to write the articles. Then they would offer these written articles to bloggers like me as “free content” for me to use and even pay me a placement fee to use it.
It just became easier and easier for bloggers to sell out. Why come up with content on your own when you can have others write it? All you need to do is copy and paste in order to collect a fee….
But that just wasn’t for me.
And Then a Wake-Up Call
Fast forward to June 2019. I attended a “media” event which made it clear that I was no longer part of the community. This event was supposed to be a launch of a new hangout and place to chill and have fun now that school’s out. The space was located within a mall.
And although free and open to the public, it was cramped and tiny. The food options surrounding the space were all unhealthy and over-priced.
But the thing that really got to me was how they decorated the space with painted palm trees that were once alive. The space was supposed to have a nature-inspired theme. But everything looked so fake and staged.
During the media event, all the bloggers (except me) were posing at this new space, surrounded by pastel-coloured palm trees with drinks held high, as if they were on vacation and not in a shopping centre. The striking thing was that no one was engaged or conversing. No one looked like they were truly hanging out and having fun. Everyone was just taking selfies.
I just didn’t see or understand the allure of it. Why create a nature theme that is so unnatural? Why sell it as a space to hangout with good company, when no one is actually hanging out; they’re just taking photos?
I also came dressed in my usual attire (from a thrift store, of course), and not in a sundress and flip flops, as the others did. And five years ago, I would have fit in. Five years ago, the organisers would have had more things for bloggers to do.
But with the rise of Instagram, it seemed that the only thing organisers were interested in were hashtags and likes from well-dressed, young and beautiful people with massive followings.
I didn’t belong there.
When I first started writing this blog, the main focus was on saving money. What I soon realised was that most people knew how to penny-pinch (and be “penny rich”), but the biggest problem was that many were pound foolish. So the articles became more about how use frugality as a framework for decisions and for life.
Someone once told me that what I write about reminded him of Stoicism, a 3rd century BC school of philosophy. And he’s right. Many of the things I believe in and try to follow are indeed from the Stoics, but with a modern twist.
So with that in mind, I will leave you with my ultimate guiding principle that I often ask myself: Just how much is enough?
It seems like too much of something can be just as harmful as too little of it. This not only applies to money, but also to food, belongings, rewards, ego, and even attention. And in my case, blogging…
My goal, ultimately, has always been to find that point of “enough”, and to be truly content and satisfied with it. Reaching this point makes you immune to temptations like hyper-consumerism, materialism, unhealthy attention-seeking, and other potential addictions and harms. But to achieve this, you have to know what is enough.
And also believe that you are enough.