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)?