How to keep a financial journal that will help you achieve your money goals and spend mindfully
Welcome, friends, to a delightful exploration of a simple yet powerful tool for achieving financial mindfulness and empowerment—the money journal. In a world filled with financial complexities, stress, and uncertainty, keeping a money journal can be a beacon of light, guiding us toward a brighter and more secure future.
Who better than myself can vouch for this: I have used a money journal every single day for the past 2.5 years, and this was a catalyst for me and my husband to save £10,000 in under a year on average salaries. Starting a money journal has been illuminating and has radically changed the way I spend and budget for our household. I can’t wait to share everything I know with you, and hopefully steer you towards the path of financial mindfulness.
This blog post aims to help you embark on this joyful journey, unlocking the potential of a money journal to transform your relationship with money and build a solid foundation for financial well-being.
Let’s get started
What we’ll cover:
- The Magic of a Money Journal
- Choose Your Journal
- Your ‘Why’: Set Your Money Goals
- Set Your Income, and Fixed and Variable Expenses
- Track Your Income and Expenses
- Reflect and Adjust
- Money Mindset Journal Prompts
- Track Your Savings and Challenges
- Celebrate Milestones
- Share and Seek Support
- My Thoughts on Starting a Money Journal
Disclosure: There are some affiliate links below and I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post, but these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t put anything on this page that I haven’t verified and/or personally used.
The Magic of a Money Journal
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of starting a money journal, I want to talk about the magic of this tool. My money journal has become like a trusted friend, patiently listening and recording the ebb and flow of our financial lives, allowing me to reflect back on my decisions, and plan my moves ahead. It provides a safe space to track my income, expenses, savings, and aspirations. More than a mere ledger, it is a reflection of my dreams, hopes, and progress.
Everyone knows about the benefits of keeping a wellness and gratitude journal – so why would a money journal be any different? Putting pen to paper clears out our minds and allows us to look at our experiences from a different viewpoint, and this is exactly what a money journal will do for you.
Choose Your Journal
First things first, find a journal that resonates with you. It could be a beautifully bound notebook, a digital journaling app, or even a simple spreadsheet or Google doc—whatever appeals to your personal style and preferences. The key is to choose a medium that invites and motivates you to engage regularly and consistently.
My personal recommendation is to choose either a paper journal, or a digital journal you can write into with a digital pen. I do love a spreadsheet (I am an accountant after all!), but when it comes to journaling, I think that the act of writing instead of typing makes you really think and focus on every word. And the money journal is centred around mindfulness, it is not just a mere exercise of data analysis.
If you would like to set up a physical book for your money journal, here are some timeless choices for you:
Stationery Island Bullet Dotted Journal – £8.99
Feela Bullet Dotted Journal, includes washi tape, fineline pens, stencils, and stickers – £16.99 for the entire bundle
Rettacy Dot Grid Notebook – three of them for £12.99
If you would rather go with a digital option, of course I will point you to the one I created myself! The Idle Money Journal is the exact tool I used to budget every month and track my actual income and expenditure. And it does even more: you can track your progress against your savings goals, and write your month-end reflections and intentions for the future.
It’s on sale for just £3.99!
Your ‘Why’: Set Your Money Goals
Now that you have your journal, let’s set some goals.
Create a section to reflect on your financial aspirations—short-term, mid-term, and long-term—and write them down. Is it saving for a dream vacation, paying off debt, starting a business, or building an emergency fund? Be clear and specific, and let your goals serve as guiding stars on your financial journey.
Also, make sure you create a space to acknowledge where you are now, and any negative feelings you may have about your finances. Then, write where you want to be: debt-free, in control of your money, not living month to month, etc.
This page will be your reminder of WHY you have embarked in this pathway, and you can always return to it in moments of frustration or slump.
Set Your Income, and Fixed and Variable Expenses
It is absolutely vital that month on month, you know exactly what these are for you.
Income is, of course, anything you earn, and/or any money you will receive. List all your income streams, and how much income they will generate for you. If you don’t know (perhaps you are a freelancer with variable income month on month) do your best to set a ballpark figure for the month.
Fixed Expenses are all those items that you pay out that are always the same every month. A few examples: rent/mortgage, phone bill, internet bill, insurance, subscriptions, debt repayment. List all of them, and their amounts.
Variable expenses are where the true budgeting happens: these are costs that vary month on month.
Create about 6 categories that align with your spending habits and financial priorities. A few examples: groceries, travel, eating out, household items, health and supplements, childcare, etc. You may also add custom categories that are unique to your circumstances. Remember, this is your money journal, so tailor it to fit your needs.
Then, set a budgeted amount for each of these categories: these will be the amounts you will track every day, that you will strive to stay on budget for. Or, if something unforeseen happens and you overspend in one category, you will need to try to make up for it from another category.
Track Your Income and Expenses
Now, let’s dive into the heart of your money journal—the income and expense tracking. Dedicate a section to record every single transaction from your bank account (or cash stash if you will use cash to pay for stuff!).
Note all of your income, such as salary, freelance work, or side hustles. Make note of the amount, source, and date of each income stream.
When it comes to expenses, make it a habit to diligently track every penny you spend. And I mean every single one, even that pack of gum you paid £0.60 for. Note the amount, category, and date of each expense.
I recommend doing this every day: every morning take 5 minutes to sit down and add the previous day’s transactions to your money journal. Be honest with yourself and embrace the process of self-reflection. You might discover patterns, identify areas where you can cut back, and celebrate your progress along the way.
Reflect and Adjust
At the end of every month, regularly review your money journal and reflect on your financial journey.
Sum up all the income, fixed expenses, and actual variable expenses you have incurred over the month, and compare them to the budget.
Whatever is left when you deduct the expenses from the income will be your savings amount for the month: make sure you note that and transfer those savings to your savings account (if it’s an interest-earning account, even better!).
Add a section to reflect on how the month has gone, what has and hasn’t worked, and what you can do next month to achieve your goals.
Celebrate your achievements, learn from your challenges, and adjust your course as needed. Your money journal serves as a valuable tool for self-awareness and growth, helping you make informed decisions that align with your goals and values.
Money Mindset Journal Prompts
One of the greatest benefits of maintaining a money journal is the opportunity to cultivate mindful spending habits. As you review your expenses in your journal, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of where your money is going and whether it aligns with your values and priorities.
Take a moment to reflect on each expense entry. Ask yourself:
- Was this purchase necessary?
- Did it bring me joy or add value to my life?
- Could I have made a more mindful choice?
- What are some things I tell myself about money daily, weekly, or monthly basis? Are these things always true?
- What bad habits should I stop to improve my relationship with money?
- What didn’t go as planned?
- Was there anything holding me back?
- Did I buy this because I needed it, or because I was convinced I needed it?
This process of reflection helps you become more intentional with your spending, making wiser financial decisions moving forward.
Track Your Savings and Challenges
A money journal isn’t just about tracking income and expenses; it’s also a tool to monitor your progress toward your savings and investment goals. Dedicate a section of your journal to record your savings contributions, whether it’s for an emergency fund, retirement, or specific future endeavors.
My Idle Money Journal has specific spreads you can use to track your progress, look how cute!
Additionally, set up no spend challenges: set out to not spend money on a specific thing for an entire month, and if successful, you can treat yourself to a reward! (or not: save that money too!)
Your money journal isn’t solely about numbers; it’s a space to celebrate your milestones and achievements. As you reach financial goals, big or small, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate them. Write about the accomplishment in your journal, express gratitude for the progress made, and reward yourself in a way that aligns with your values.
Remember, the journey to financial well-being is not solely about reaching the destination—it’s about appreciating the progress along the way. Celebrating these moments will motivate you to continue your financial journey with enthusiasm and resilience.
Share and Seek Support
Lastly, don’t forget the power of community and support. Share your money journal journey with trusted friends, family members, or online communities. Discuss your financial goals, seek advice, and learn from others’ experiences. Engaging with like-minded individuals can provide encouragement, fresh perspectives, and valuable insights that further enhance your financial journey.
My Thoughts on Starting a Money Journal
Congratulations! You have taken the first step toward financial empowerment by starting a money journal. Remember, this is not a race; it’s a lifelong journey. Embrace the process with curiosity, kindness, and patience. Your money journal will be a steadfast companion, supporting you through the highs and lows of your financial life. Trust in its magic and your own ability to create the financial future you desire.
As you embark on this joyful journey, may your money journal become a place of reflection, empowerment, and dreams realised. Embrace the self-awareness within you to make conscious choices that align with your values and goals. As you continue to fill the pages of your money journal with your financial experiences, remember to celebrate every step forward, no matter how small. Each entry represents progress, growth, and a commitment to your financial well-being.
In moments of doubt or setbacks, turn to your money journal as a source of inspiration and motivation. Reflect on the lessons learned, the challenges overcome, and the resilience you’ve developed along the way.
Your money journal is a testament to your dedication and the positive changes you’re making in your financial life.
Trust that you have the ability to make empowered decisions and create a life of abundance: and this abundance isn’t about owning more stuff, but it is about being intentional about what you want or don’t want. Your money journal will be there, guiding you through the twists and turns, helping you navigate the choices that will bring you closer to your dreams.
So, dear reader, let your money journal be more than just a record of numbers; let it be a companion on your journey to financial empowerment. Embrace it, and continue to write your story of financial empowerment one entry at a time. May your money journal become a treasured keepsake, reminding you of the progress you’ve made and the dreams you’ve realized.