Money Diaries as we know it has existed for years, but it has been a solid minute since we pulled back the curtain and let you into our Money Diaries bubble. So we present our first Ask Me Anything — you asked the questions and we’re here to answer them. First off, let me introduce myself — I’m Hannah — I’m a lifestyle writer and the keeper of all things Money Diaries in the U.S. While I do have a few lovely colleagues who help out with edits, the majority of Money Diaries is curated and produced by me. Yep! That’s me who sometimes misses a comma or chooses colloquialisms over grammar. And when you @ “R29 editors,” yeah, that’s me too. Oh, and yes, I read the comments.
At the end of last year, we asked Money Diary readers to ask us questions, and y'all certainly delivered. Before we dive into the AMA, here’s a little bit about me, the current editor/producer/curator of Money Diaries: I was instantly drawn to Money Diaries, which has existed since 2016, about three and a half years before I became keeper of the keys. I was inspired by the candid financial honesty, and if we’re being real, they definitely influenced my personal money habits for the better. I also truly love working with my team and the MD community, so owning this franchise has felt like an honour. When I’m not working on Money Diaries or hanging out in the comments, I’m writing for the site (you can read my work here, here, and here) and occasionally swinging from a trapeze (you can watch that here). And now, here I am! Ready to answer your Q’s with the best A’s I can muster. (Please be gentle in the comments!)
Are all Money Diarists real people? Do you check?
Yes! I check the identities of our diarists to make sure they are who they say they are.
Why are there occasional grammar mistakes?
As a rule, we choose colloquially correct over grammatically correct because we prioritize keeping the diarist’s voice as close to their actual voice as possible. Occasionally, we also miss commas and such because we’re human.
What criteria do you apply to choose which Money Diaries get published?
It depends. On average, we get between 10-20 submissions a day, so I have quite a few diaries to choose from, which is why I can’t post them all. First, I choose based on varying location, salary, and job title — with a priority placed on including diarists from marginalized communities. Then I look at length — I prefer diaries that are between 3,000-5,000 words, though I’ll edit down a long one if it’s really great. Finally, I look for voice and story and any interesting or unique purchases/life situations.
How does one become an MD editor?
I applied! I had been freelancing writing for four years and was a fan of Money Diaries. It was a relatively standard hiring process and I was brought on specifically for Money Diaries. I sit under the Lifestyle team, which encompasses Food, Home, Travel, Weddings, Work & Money, and Tech. The rest of the Money Diaries team also work across these verticals and wear multiple hats.
How many people edit Money Diaries? Who gets final approval before something is posted? Is someone monitoring the comments?
Two people look at each diary before it goes out, myself and one of the editors on our team. And yes, I monitor the comments for doxxing and the like, and we have a moderating service called Spot.im that makes sure all comments are within our editorial policy.
How much of the actual submitted content do you rewrite/edit? So many money diaries read in the exact same voice. Is this intentional, to make them feel cohesive?
We rewrite the diaries as little as possible, but most of them need a decent amount of revision to flow in the way we want them to. We specifically don’t edit out voice to try to keep each diary as unique as possible, but I will say, many diarists seem to fall into similar styles, which I’m guessing comes from most diarists being avid readers.
Why are you asking gender identity?
Not all of our diarists identify as women and I want to make sure I get pronouns correct. I also include trans voices whenever possible.
Do you ask diarists follow up questions (for instance if the paycheck numbers don’t add up or if someone mentions a debt without any explanation)?
I do! I often ask for clarification, especially when diarists don’t include specific paycheck or salary information. I also double-check any numbers that don’t make sense since everybody makes typos sometimes!
I am part of the "sandwich generation" — caring for kids and elderly parents. Our money issues are different from most millennials, but still interesting, I think. Are there any plans to expand Money Diaries into other age groups?
Please submit a diary! I get asked this question all the time and we always welcome non-millennial diaries. We’re in the process of changing that language to include all generations (18 and older).
I wonder what time allocation looks like by employees that work on MDs? Are they dedicated to MDs or a lot of different areas? If the latter, explain more.
Some weeks, Money Diaries is about 70% of my job and other weeks it’s 100% of my job. When I’m not producing Money Diaries (which is about half editing, half logistics), I write for the Lifestyle sections I listed above.
How has the readership of Money Diaries been recently? Lately, a lot of people have complained about judgmental commenters and I was wondering if that's affected readership in any way?
Honestly, it’s been just as great as ever, if not better. For every judgmental comment we get, we get five friendly, wonderful comments and they really add up. I’ve also noticed since I started commenting more frequently, there has been more discussion and a little less judgment (or the judgment is directed at me, which I prefer to diarists taking the brunt of the judgment).
Is there one Money Diary that comes to mind that sparked a lot of controversy/negative feedback that the editors never anticipated readers having such a strong reaction to (besides the infamous diary from the NYC intern)?
At this point, I have a pretty good handle on how commenters are going to react. I think more than anything, I’m sometimes surprised by how kind and generous our commenters are, thinking specifically of the recent Texas diary about a woman on disability. The comments can get negative, but it’s also really wonderful to see y’all lifting each other up — which happens more often than not.
Has there been any consideration to updating the submission page?
Yes! This is a 2020 goal and we are working on it. Changing the backend is not a super simple process, but we are hopeful that it will happen this year.
Have more questions? Pop them in the comments and I'll answer whatever I can.