My Journaling/Tracking Habits

Weird fun fact about me: I’ve kept a running and health journal for the past decade.  Though most of it are the old yearly journal and pen method, recently I’ve converted to using Google Drive, and in any given day I can tell you how many miles I ran, if I did a weights workout, if I hiked that day and what peak, if I had a doctor appointment, if I took Advil/Tums/meds that day, etc.  If I did a race, I rate at how well I did and why, and if I have an injury, I rate the pain.  Moreover, the times I’ve found myself wanting to get my weight in check, I’ve also kept a food journal, which kept track of not only food/calories, but how I felt if I “slipped.”  I suppose I’m OCD in nature, but once I started tracking, I couldn’t stop – it’s become habitual, and pretty darn handy for whenever I have an ailment or injury.  Once I have something like that occur, I go back to the time frame I remember experiencing it before, and read what I did in order to fix it.  It’s become even handier now more than ever, since I’ve noticed my ‘brain fart’ rates have increased in my 30’s (note to self: apologize to the mother for always clowning her about being forgetful back in the day… I totally get it now!).

In light of this, I thought since starting this debt payoff project, I would keep track of my money allocations/expenses.  Why I didn’t do this sooner, I have no idea… actually, that’s a lie.  I didn’t because I didn’t think debt was that big of a deal before.  But now I’ve become more financially conscious, especially with B in my life, and thought tracking my finances would make me self-aware in why I spend, how much I save/spend, and what my overall money habits are.

For the most part, any expenses beyond the “fixed” are separated into the wants and needs category.  Though I write 1-2 words on what the expenses are, for the wants I also write down why and/or what emotion I was feeling that day.  For the most part, a lot of my wants are going out with friends or buying stuff for potlucks.  Those are pretty self-explanatory, since I value my friendships and do my best to continually cultivate those ties.  However, there’s also wants in the form of treats or splurges, and almost always those purchases are made due to stress, lack of time, feeling down, etc.  They don’t make up too much of my overall budget thankfully, but being able to see them at month’s end, it’s still a bit more than what I would like for myself so it helps make me more self-aware of what I need to do in order to prevent them.  It primarily tends to be lack of time, which, if I’m being honest with myself, has more to do with my lack of planning.  So, I’m starting to plan better, especially with my work time snacks, so that I’m scheduling time to buy healthier and cheaper options rather than the “this will do in a pinch” choice from vending machines or the nearby coffee cart (which I almost always regret) as I’m going from meeting to meeting.

It’s helped so far in my little habits, but since I plan on continuing this, it will be interesting to see how I’ll do and what I’ll learn in the long term.  I suppose it’s like my own self-concocted case study, and I know I’ve benefited from my running/food journals, so I’m curious to see where this will go over time.  Plus, it’s kind of nice to see the finance metrics on the month to month basis, so I’m sure it will be tons more interesting to see year to year improvements (at least I plan to improve every year!).

I don’t think tracking is for everyone since it can get tedious, but for me it’s what works, especially during the times when I’m seeking improvements.  I actually only spend 5-10 minutes on it (5 for populating, 10 if I’m fixing formulas), which I think is a small time-price to pay.  And the biggest take away is that in terms of food and spending – stuff adds up quickly!

Does anyone else do something similar (I’m thinking some do at least in the form of budgets)?


24 thoughts on “My Journaling/Tracking Habits

    • It’s nice to know people as put together as you two track every penny – I’ve had a few friends comment that it’s a waste of time, but I think it’s the best use to be knowledgeable with your finances.

  1. That’s a great idea – especially for the health and food part. I need to start doing that. I bet it comes in handy especially if you’re seeing the doctor – you can pinpoint specific things this way. I used to track my spending down to the penny. I had a little planner thing for the year that I wrote in, and I would tally things up week by week, until I finally did it for the whole year. I want to start doing it again, because if I pay cash for something small, I’m not good with inputting it into Mint. Things can slip through the cracks easily!

    • I know exactly what you mean about things slipping through the cracks – that’s definitely where a lot of my mindless spending was before, and I sadly don’t even know what I spent it on. I really like the health one especially if I have an injury or something recurring – then I can just go back and figure out the methods I did before to make it better, as well as stay away from what didn’t work. Writing stuff down helps my poor memory. 🙂

  2. That’s pretty incredible that you’ve been doing it for 10 years! I used to track my health stats religiously when google health still existed, but then they shut down 😦 (like google reader soon).
    I have a number if google docs tracking my monthly progress and spending breakdown, but I’ve never written down my emotions at the time… but its a great idea.
    With great data comes incredible possibilities for change. Im excited to hear more.

    • Haha, thanks, it’s kind of dorky but I don’t know, I just like it. It’s amusing, too, to look back at all my emotions or situations from ten years ago, it’s kind of like a record of how I’ve evolved over the years. That’s a shame about Google Health, were you able to save the data before it shut down? Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how things look financially ten, twenty, thirty years from now!

  3. I use runkeeper for my runs/walk and I occasionally use myfitnesspals to get back on track with calories. For a budget I use a simple excel spreadsheet, but I don’t write down every single thing I spent money on.

    • I recall you were into the runkeeper – do you use a GPS or do you manually input? I used Fitocracy for awhile, but it became more tedious to populate it since my spreadsheet just has columns for every metric I’m keeping track of, so it’s like a one stop shop. I do miss the social aspect of fitness sites, though, so maybe I’ll go back or try Runkeeper!

  4. I track my spending and its been a real eyeopener. You never really see how much money you waste until its there in black and white. Even if you only do it for a month or two its worthwhile, you figure out where you’ve been spending needlessly and where to cut back.

    • I know, right? It’s definitely eyeopening to see how fast things add up, since figures don’t lie. I was easily underestimating my groceries by a couple hundred (though I did move in with B, so that for sure had an affect). Glad to know I’m not the only one that tracks! 🙂

  5. Wow lady, I can’t believe you’ve kept a running and food journal for the last decade! And now you’re adding a spending journal too – rockstar much? 😉 The only tracking of spendinig I do is in my head. Good thing those brain farts haven’t hit me yet. 😉 I may start tracking my spending once I enter my 30s though lol.

    • Haha, just you wait, Missy! j/k 😉 Yeah, I think I definitely noticed around 32 years old, and now at times I go from one room to another and forget why I needed to go there. lol

  6. I am trying to log my runs in dailymile. Like anything repetitive and that requires discipline, I find it tedious. I also log my grocery shopping for fun on canadian budget binder and lose my receipts all the time…

    • I haven’t heard of dailymile, I’ll check it out. I agree it gets very tedious, but the geek in me likes all the data, even if it is just self-serving. 🙂 Hope you’ve been enjoying running!

  7. Wow, Anna! That’s amazing you’ve been tracking your workouts and food so diligently for the past ten years. I don’t religiously track my workouts, although with all the great apps out there, it would definitely be easy to do. I do, however, track my finances pretty carefully. Probably not a big surprise, 🙂 Have a great weekend and enjoy our beautiful weather!!

    • Thanks Shannon! The food diary is for when I want to get my weight in check, otherwise I don’t keep one. Definitely no surprise about your finance tracker, you are definitely an inspiration in this whole process! Have a wonderful weekend, as well. 🙂

  8. That’s pretty incredible and pretty cool. I’m pretty OCD so I can totally imagine myself doing that. When I was paying off debt I tracked everything down to the penny. What coupon I used, what percentage of savings etc. etc. Once everything was paid off I relaxed a little. Now I just track my savings and side hustle money.

    • Wow, that’s pretty cool about the specifics of your couponing/savings… I might have to implement the savings one. Haha, glad to hear you think it’s cool… most people just think it’s cray. 😉

  9. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog – I’m trying to pay off a mountain of debt so it’s been helpful to read your posts :o) I’ve got a monthly spend tracker which details any direct debits and regular payments that occur but I like the sound of your tracker and I think it would help me to stop spending money on things that I forget about easily – the odd coffee here and there! I’ve also just nominated you for the Liebster Award, if you visit my blog, the details are on there!

    • Thanks for stopping by, your kind words, and for the nomination! I think tracking has definitely changed my spending habits, mostly with the odds and ends like you stated, so now that I’m trying to just spend on things I truly want (like a nice dinner with friends over a scone I’ll forget about in a hot minute). It’s little behavioral changes, but I think in the long term it will help me out. Looking forward to learning more about you. 🙂

  10. I think this is a great habit, Anna! You can learn so much about yourself from tracking stuff like this and journalling. I’ve gone through periods in my life when I’ve tracked everything from food and exercise to moods and habits to spending patterns.
    I found the insights I’ve gained from doing these things have been amazing. I’ve started tracking my spending again which has helped me learn what I’m doing and made me more accountable.
    Thanks for the reminder about the importance of tracking – it’s a great learning tool!

    • I agree about it being an insightful tool – it helps being accountable for sure, especially during spending “fogs” when I usually spend frivolously. Of course, there’s this blog which has been a great tracker tool, as well. 🙂

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