Have you ever thought about keeping a spending journal? I’ll admit, when I first heard of this method of budgeting, I was apprehensive – I couldn’t imagine investing a large portion of my time to track every dollar spent. But in reality, the introduction of this journal has allowed me to reevaluate my spending habits, saving money and avoiding unnecessary purchases. Here are some tips to maintain a successful spending journal.
Use your journal to set monetary goals. The most important financial goal is to set up a realistic budget – and your spending journal will undoubtedly provide you with a visual wake-up call. Beyond this, you can use your journal as an effective way to save for a vacation, Christmas gifts, or a down payment on a new vehicle.
Electronic spending journal. This is my own preferred method of budget tracking. It’s easy to utilize the “notes” section on my phone, and type in what I expect to spend on each item. While perusing through the store, I’m able to use my calculator app to help project what my grand total will be.
Notebook spending journal. If you’re more old-fashioned – you might prefer to jot down your expenses “pen and paper” style. Just keep a small pocket-sized notepad in your bag, purse, or coat pocket. The benefit of this method is the physical act of putting pen to paper every time you break out your wallet, which leads you to realize just how often you do so.
Analyze the data. The primary benefit of keeping a spending journal is to shed light on how you spend your money. On a weekly and monthly basis, review what you’ve purchased. Divide your purchases into categories, and rank them by importance. Groceries, utilities and mortgage/rent take precedence – while purchases like junk food, eating out, and an expensive cable package does not. For example, if you spend $25 a month on things you don’t really need or use, that’s $300 a year that could have been used to pay off debt.