Keeping a money diary is an eye opening way to keep up with your spending habits. Sure, you could always look back through your bank account or credit card statements, but the physical act of actually writing down your transactions helps you become more cognizant of how you spend your money. You don’t need a special money diary. You can simply follow these tips.
What is a money diary?
A money diary is simply a record of your spending throughout the day. Instead of looking at a statement and adding it to your budget, you write down what you spent and where. You can even keep notes of why you made certain transactions.
I like to think of my money diary like a food journal. I’ve been reading food blogs for years, and I’m always surprised by how a lot of the tips nutritionists provide are also applicable to money. My favorite tip for losing weight is to keep a food journal, so why not do the same with money?
It’s really eye opening to write down every transaction so you can see exactly where all your money goes.
How do you keep a money diary?
Well, it only works if you actually use it! That is the first step- actually write down all of your spending.
A money diary or money journal isn’t the same as a budget. Don’t think of it as a formal way to keep track of spending. Instead, it should be used to help you be more aware of what you spend and where.
You can keep a money diary by writing down what you spend each day in your regular planner.
You could even use the notes app or calendar app on your phone! You don’t need anything fancy!
Spending money on a special money diary or money journal is not necessary.
Where do I buy a money diary or money journal?
Personally, I think the best budget friendly way to track your spending is to log it where you keep your regular calendar of appointments. I find that using my planner is the best option for me.
However, there are so many options for real money dairies or money journals. If your an organizing or planner junkie, it might make you really happy to have an official money journal.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Are there any good money diary apps?
Of course. Of course you can use an app to track your spending!
There are almost too many money tracking apps to choose from, but one consistently gets top reviews. And to make it even better, it is free! You can’t beat free!
The number one money tracking app is Mint. Head here to download it and learn more.
I love Mint because it was created by the same people who do Quickbooks. As a small business owner I love the ease of Quickbooks. Mint is no different. It is easy and once again, you can’t beat free!
A glance at an old money diary of mine from 2016:
This is two weeks of spending from 2016 when I was very dependent on tracking my spending. In fact, most of the early blog posts on this site were in the format of keeping a money dairy on the internet!
I no longer keep a money diary, but definitely suggest it. Keeping a money diary helped me completely change my mindset when it comes to money. When you take the time to write out every single transaction you are much more aware of where your money is going!
groceries– $92.86 on food, $22.31 on toiletries (ePantry and Amazon- both were reduced prices. See more about ePantry here. I used my Amazon associates money from blogging to buy a huge order of Viva paper towels).
home decor/ maintenance– $39.91 I bought a fabulous frame at Old Time Pottery.
medical– $63.76 We all got sick this past week and needed to buy medicine. Since I’m breastfeeding, I had to have different meds than the rest of the family. I wish we could have gotten away with one big pack of DayQuil!
fun– $12.40 We treated ourselves to Starbucks on Sunday since we needed a pick me up from being sick. I also treated myself to iced coffee at ChickFilA during the week when they had a free chicken mini special. Totally worth the $2.64!
Total: $251.29 WAY OVER BUDGET!
It was an eye opening experience that made me want to do better this week.
So far I’ve done a lot better for the week of March 7th.
groceries– $101.10 at Publix
home decor and fun– $32.03 at Target. We got new lights for our patio, and a few random things for the house, such as butcher paper, bubbles and a new coloring book (all on sale)
fun-$10 reload to Starbucks
Total: $143.13 Much better!
Here are a few tips from the last two weeks:
–Always buy toiletries on sale when you can. Even better, make your own when you can!
–Use your diary to see where you can spend less. Obviously I need to spend less at Starbucks. I really don’t need a pick me up every single week. I’m going to try to go without it next week. Or maybe get a cheaper drink at Dunkin Donuts instead.
–Don’t forget to use credits when you have them! I had $12 to Amazon from my affiliate links on my blog. When a reader clicks on a link to Amazon and buys something through my link, I get a very small portion of that sale. I almost forgot to use my money because they send it in a gift card instead of immediately giving me credit. Don’t lose your credits in the depths of your email.
-Similarly, don’t forget about other credits. I was able to cash in on a $100 Visa gift card through Century Link by switching to them from our old cable provider. I’m glad they sent me several reminders in the mail because I misplaced the first reminder!
–If you decide not to spend it, save it. Tom and I discussed buying a new outdoor rug for our patio. I looked them up and the one we want would be about $260. Tom gave me the go ahead but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t spend the money. He saw how hesitant I was, and decided to put it towards his student loans instead. Making extra payments like that actually makes me happier than having tangible objects. Crazy, right?
Like this post on keeping a money journal? Check out some similar ones to help you change your money mindset.
- 8 Steps to Think Like a Saver
- How to Save Money with Value Based Spending
- 6 Meal Planning Hacks to Save You Time and Money
- How to Talk to Your Spouse About Money Without Fighting
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Sandy Mangis says
When you write it down it really jumps out at you. My shopping is usually what I run out of that day. I need to work on this a little harder.
Hannah @ Eat, Drink and Save Money says
Exactly! It’s crazy how you notice things more when you have them right in front of you!
Old Time Pottery says
Hannah – We can’t wait to see the frame when you put it up!
Great blog! Like you say, no reason you can’t have fabulous decor on a budget:)
The Personal Economist says
Love this idea of s money diary.First step is awareness…