Why do I, and other debt coaches like me, advise you to keep a spending journal? What is the benefit of that? It isn’t only for you to see where your money is going but also so you will start to think before you spend.
When there is a record of every cent you spend and you know you are spending money you don’t have on something foolish, you may stop yourself. Even if you are the only one who sees it, you may stop. Or course, you could just not record it but that would be lying and you don’t want to lie to yourself.
Another advantage of keeping a spending journal is when you also record how you are feeling when you want to spend money (or do) you may be able to find your triggers. Did you just get into a fight with your significant other and now want to go out and spend a lot of money? If you have sat down and wrote in your spending journal about this experience – the fight, the feelings it brought up and the desire to buy something – you can then go deeper. Where did you learn this behaviour? Did you see it with your parents? Did you see it repeatedly through the media?
You may never get to the core reason you spend when you are upset – there are probably numerous reasons you spend when emotional. Just as there are numerous reasons an alcoholic drinks or a drug addict uses – it is difficult to pin down to one cause. However, if you are more aware of your triggers, you can stop the overspending in its tracks.
I first started using a spending journal when I went through a bankruptcy in 2002. It was one of the requirements. I learned a lot about myself. There are times now when I realize my spending is getting out of control again so I start keeping track. It is difficult to maintain, it takes discipline. But the rewards are well worth it.
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Karen is profiled in our Celebrate Audacious Series