Can't figure out where all your money is going or why you can't seem to save? Consistently keeping a spending journal will tell you exactly what's happening with your money.
So what is a spending journal?
A spending journal is a documentation of every single expenditure you make on a daily basis over a period of time. For instance, over a 30 day period.
The goal of having a spending journal to keep you more aware of how you are spending your money, help you identify your spending habits and also to help you identify what areas of improvement exist for you to do better. Keeping a spending journal is an incredible eye-opening exercise if you follow through.
I highly recommend a pen and notebook that you carry around with you as opposed to keeping your journal in an app or other electronic form. Why? There's just something about putting pen to paper when you first start this exercise as well seeing things laid out in your own handwriting that helps with perspective. Psychology....magic....call it what you will but it works!
How does the spending journal work?
In order to be successful in tracking your spending, you need to commit to writing down every single transaction you make every single day for the period of time you choose to use a spending journal. From a pack of gum to coffee, to lunch, every single transaction should go into your spending journal. You can either write down your transactions as they happen or collect all your receipts and document your transactions at the end of each day.
How do you record your transactions?
A great way to do it is to add enough detail so when you come back at the end of the day or at the end of the week to review your spending, you remember what it was that you spent money on. In your journal, consider including the following:
- The date
- The item description
- How much you spent
- What it was for and how you feel about the expenditure
Reviewing your spending journal
As you progress with documenting your spending, plan to review your journal at least once a week to see how you are doing. Remember the goal is to help you gain clarity around your spending habits, so don't judge yourself and so don't edit your entries! Instead, as you review your journal, come up with a plan or steps to adjust the spending patterns or habits that you are beginning to identify that you don't like and then build the changes into your budget as well.
As you track your spending in your journal, you'll start to find that you are more aware of your spending habits and you will even start to make better decisions around your money because you are now actively thinking things through as opposed to spending money without giving it much thought. You may also find that you are spending less which is the perfect opportunity to use those freed up funds towards your debt repayment or savings.
After all said and done, it's definitely a worthwhile exercise to do!