Why should I keep a financial journal?

New Years is often the time we start thinking about resolutions and goals – and reflecting on the year gone by.

For several years, while we were working towards our financial independence, I kept a Financial Journal in which I would write down all of my savings goals, and notes from the (many!) finance books I read. Of course, you can use an online solution, but studies have showing that writing down your goals leads to greater conviction, and handwriting what you learn helps you to remember it.

I kept my Financial Journal in a gorgeous ‘Money Planner’ I had been eyeing off for some time (although naturally, I waited until I found a slightly dented copy reduced to half price!) but you can use pretty much any notebook you have on hand.

The key advantages this notebook had were:

  • an obviously savings-related cover (although you can print your own!)
  • a clear plastic sleeve at the start (again, these can be purchased separately or you can just use glue!)
  • section dividers (sticky notes are also excellent for this)
  • a ring binder (this is only necessary if, like me, you are too much of a perfectionist and can’t stand ‘mistake’ pages remaining in your notebook – for shame!!)

On the first page (the plastic sleeve), I created a kind of mini ‘vision-board’ depicting a variety of goals in a visual format: the kind of home I aimed to own. A photo of two deckchairs to remind me that all of the work and saving we do is to be able to spend more time together. A pair of hands, relating to my goal of wanting to give – not only monetarily, but to be financially secure enough that I could volunteer. An image of the stock market to remind me of my investing goals. A tropical beach, indicating our love of travel, and the need to work and save to be able to afford to do so – both in terms of money and time. And finally, the kind of magnificent library I would like to have one day.

Five years on…

How did we fare? Reflecting on this vision five years later, I find that my dreams evolved in some unexpected ways.

We didn’t end up buying an expensive town house – instead, we opted for an investment property. I didn’t end up with a magnificent library – in fact, I drastically downsized my collection, donating over 400 books and putting the rest in storage.

Both of these choices allowed us to maximise some of our other goals: when I put together this vision, I didn’t dream that my husband and I would be able to travel for as long as we have so far (6 months to date, with exciting plans for 2017 in store!). That we would be able to take a whole month off to volunteer at cyclone affected schools. That we would be able to spend all of our time together without dragging ourselves off to work.

Ultimately, I’m happy that we achieved the things we have from our list, and that our goals shifted in accordance with our priorities.

So is this the magic of a vision board?

Of course not. It’s the magic of all of the other pages, put into action.

The other pages of the journal contain written goals and important lessons from financial books.

A vision board, especially if you are visually-minded, may help you focus on your goals. But the chances of you achieving your goals by accident or coincidence (what others more starry-eyed might call ‘magic’ or the ‘forces of the universe’ or some supreme being) are hugely less than they are if you put thought and action behind your goals.

As Psychology Today reports, constructing vision boards can actually be harmful. Instead, Niel Faber suggests turning your vision board into an action board.

Positive thinking must inspire positive action, and your financial journal can be one way to begin – create a cover that reflects your goals, write down your thoughts, and then take action!

GreeceHow are you celebrating the new year?

Today, we rang in the new year (quite literally – it was the first time I’ve heard church bells at midnight!) in Greece with a slice of βασιλόπιτα (Basil + pita) the bread cake eaten on New Year’s Day in Greece, which has the year written on it, and a lucky coin baked inside. The tradition comes from the story of St. Basil, who lobbied for more reasonable taxation for his people, and, upon securing the return of thousands of coins and valuables that had been paid in unfair taxes, baked them into breads (pita) in order to redistribute them fairly to the populous.

As you begin 2017 – or any day – ask yourself:

  • What goals do I want to set?
  • What do I need to learn to make this happen?
  • How can I help others?

And most importantly…

  • What action can I take to achieve these goals?

MenuPlanPinDownload your financial journal template now!

If you’re looking for a refresher on talking about money, check out my recent guest-post at the newly launched Beautiful Budget Life – Let’s Talk About Money!

Please share your goals and thoughts in the comments section!

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7 thoughts on “Why should I keep a financial journal?

  1. Happy New Year to you, and thanks a lot for all your inspirational posts. I’m learning a lot, and always with fun!

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