BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
If you’ve ever needed to lose weight, you may have used a food journal or other tracking methods to keep your diet under control. Certainly, research has found that this is very effective, and it turns out that nutrition isn’t the only area of life that you can improve just by keeping track of things. In fact, there is a growing trend of people using journals to improve their financial health too.
The idea clearly resonates with people, and some websites, like Refinery29 and Man Repeller, have even started publishing people’s money diaries. On one hand, this gives the people posting their diaries a sense of public accountability. On the other hand, it can also be illuminating and inspiring for the people reading, since it can give them a glimpse into aspects of other people’s lives that we generally understand to be private.
We aren’t really encouraged to discuss the finer details of our finances with others, so it shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise that, on top of writing these journals, a lot of people are also reading them. Although a pessimist might call it voyeuristic, it is telling that people actually want to read and write about this topic. And it all makes you wonder whether part of people’s trouble with spending is that up until now, many of us just haven’t been talking about it.
Only by opening up the conversation can people know, for example, what other people in their city and income bracket are spending on various expenses, from the necessary to the frivolous. But it’s obviously not just about the readers. The people writing these diaries often come to understand more about their spending habits than before, and also spend less simply because they have to write it all down.
For example, one money diarist who published a week of their spending online later said “I think it’s a great habit to physically write down spending habits because visually seeing the amounts total up is a lot more intense than just swiping a credit card.” Another said that “since the diary, I’ve made more of an effort to skip eating and drinking out as those seemingly small expenses were really adding up.” Although many money diarists have also commented on the risks of letting the internet see and comment on your spending habits – the judgmental comments that some people send the writers may be part of why we don’t talk too much about this stuff – people generally find it to be a very positive and helpful exercise.
This isn’t to say that the only way to keep a money diary is to post it online, though. Plenty of people who keep money diaries keep them private, which also gives them the freedom to make something much more personal and even artistic. The important thing is that by getting their spending habits down on paper, they empower themselves to make the changes they need or want to make in order to improve their financial situation. And you can too.