I had a money diary for a year and here’s what it taught me

I had a money diary for a year and it helped me not only keep track of my spendings but also understand my behavior better.

Do you keep track of your finances? Or are you winging it from month to month taking each paycheck as it comes? I perceive money as a boring part of everyday life and I understand the importance of being financially literate. What surprises me is that most of us would rank money quite high on the list of important things, yet many don’t know that much about it. And I am not talking about being on Wall Street level, but simply knowing your own economy and how to make the best of what you’ve got.

I am not particularly skilled with money, so in order to better understand my spendings, I had a money diary for a year. Now, when I say money diary, I mean a list of all my expenses that I made each month for the last twelve months. It required me going through my bank statements and bills and figuring out how much money was spent on what. Expenses were various – phone bills, subway cards, birthday gifts, groceries, shopping,… Every month I made a list and calculated my total spendings. This is nothing revolutionary and is very easy to do. And the best part is that the insight I gained from it was quite rewarding and sometimes surprising.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that even if I thought that I wasn’t spending much money on one category (shopping for example) that month adding up all the numbers sometimes proved me wrong. While feelings are subjective, numbers don’t lie. Having everything on paper also helped me make better decisions for the following month. I would set a goal to cut down certain expenses and having tracked the results it was clear to see if I made it or not. However, there was a phase where I felt like keeping track of it all made me a bit stressed and focussing on expenses kind of made me (want to) spend even more. It’s like when you try to eat healthier and all of a sudden all you can think about is pizza and chips. 🙂

To get read of that feeling I reminded myself that this was an experiment and that I can stop at any time. But, I think my curiosity was stronger and I ended up going through it. Understanding that people are often not very rational with money was also something I’ve learned. Sometimes we act on impulse, and that’s ok as long as it doesn’t happen often. Also, no amount of calculating could stop me from occasionally indulging and treating myself and the ones I love with something special. But, it also reminded me that treats lose their magic if they happen too often and that there are ways to enjoy yourself and practice self-care without spending (much) money. Like with anything else in life balance is key.

While I came to no revolutionary conclusions during my little experiment, I still decided to keep going with it in 2019. There is power in knowing where your money goes, especially in the digital world where shopping often requires just a few clicks. Call me old-fashioned, but writing it all down on a piece of paper gave me a clearer picture. It helped me to understand myself and my behavior a bit better. And anything that helps with self-discovery is priceless, right?

Do you keep track of your finances in any way? Please share if you have any tips, we’d love to hear from you.


Ivona Josipovic

Ivona Josipovic is a co-founder of The Smoke Detector, writer, fashion stylist, social media manager, curious creature, chocolate lover.

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