How to track, manage, and save money using a notebook

Why do you need a money notebook?

I believe the best way to get started is to backtrack where you spend your money.

A money journal doesn’t require expensive tools. A small notebook can serve as your money planner.

Many people recommend deciding on a personal budget and sticking to it. I have no objections to the idea and I have seen many people succeed at that approach.

However, I’ve been unsuccessful at money management and budgeting until I began to list my expenses and I found out “how much do I actually spend?”

What tools do you need to compliment your money notebook?

Start keeping receipts and writing your expenses in a notebook (invest ₱30).

Encode your expenses every weekend into Google Spreadsheet (Free).

You can start with these inexpensive tools as your personal budget planner.

Using simple tools to manage money means you can start today.

There’s no obstacle and you don’t get confused searching for “the best money management app” because the answer to that questions is different depending on the person asking the question.

This is as close as you can get to a free budget planner.

What should you write in your money notebook?

Just write the expenses and the date on your money notebook.

You’re free to add categories.

Encode your expenses in Google Spreadsheets.

How often should you review your money notebook?

I recommend spending a few minutes reviewing your expenses weekly.

I also recommend spending more time to review your expenses monthly.

You can spend a few hours analyzing your expenses once you have enough data.

You don’t need fancy cash management software.

What questions should I ask to make intelligent financial decisions?

Your notebook will eventually reveal the following information:

  • Where do you spend your money?
  • How much do you spend every day?
  • How much do you spend every week?
  • How much do you spend every month?
  • How much do you spend every year?

One you figure out exactly where the money goes, you can find opportunities on what to fix.

Questions about buying triggers

  • What are your buying triggers?
  • Which buying triggers are acceptable?
  • Which buying triggers are not acceptable to you?
  • Are you emotional when spending money?
  • What emotions trigger your biggest purchases?
  • What emotions trigger the most frequent spendings?

Question about purchases

  • What are your most frequent purcases?
  • What are your biggest purchases?
  • What are your unintentional purchases?
  • What purchase do you regret the most?
  • What recent purchases do you regret?

Frugality gone wrong

  • Are you spending too much in an area that’s not giving you value in return?
  • Is your effort to save money backfiring? For example, are you buying sale or inexpensive items that break easily and results in more expenses?

Here’s a story about how I spent more moeny the more I tried to save money.

Income generation issues

  • Is your income not enough?
  • How much are you earning?
  • Are there side projects that you can do?
  • What is the average income for your job?
  • Are you earning in the upper bracket of your job title?
  • Would your income benefit from transfering to a higher-paying job?
  • What skills would you need to transfer?

Environmental obstacles

  • Is someone else spending your income?
  • Who else is spending your money?
  • What is your money being spent on?
  • Are those expenses needs or wants?
  • Can the expenses be negotiated?
  • Am I spending money to please others instead of myself?

I wrote about how honesty made me better at managing money.

Personal obstacles

  • How much money do you spend on self-care?
  • Do you feel that you are eating a helthy and generous amount of food or do you feel depriced?
  • Are you scheduling both inexpensive and reasonably priced fun activities?
  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Do you get to participate in creative activities and self-expression?
  • Do you have an intimate relationship and regularly meet with supportive people?
  • How much money do you believe you should be saving?
  • What’s the minimum number of savings you can reasonably commit per month?
  • What’s the maximum number that you can commit?

I recommend that you commit to the minimum number. Aim for the higher number only if your resources allow you to.

I made it a goal to get to a place where I am happy with how I spend my money.

Mid to late-game strategies

  • Where can you spend money to earn more money?
  • Where can you save money to save money?
  • Where can you spend money to save time and allow yourself to earn more money?
  • Do you have opportunities to earn more income but don’t have time?

What are the benefits of a money notebook?

Self-awareness is the key in many of these problems.

So if you follow answer these questions:

  1. You know exactly where the money goes.
  2. You’ll have a decent grasp of your money triggers

I suspect that paying attention to where the money goes will give you better insight than any advice that you’d get from financial authors, advisors, and strangers like myself.

I’m projecting here, but my intention is to share an example.

Here’s a situation to consider. Are you taking care of yourself so poorly or are you too focused on the financial gain that your subconscious is trying to protest through impulse buying?

For example:

Too much work time and too little self-care or time for fun activities that the other you is filling the hole through purchases.

Back when I was a BPO worker, I worked an extra 3-4 hours a day. I often skipped often one or two of my restdays to do overtime.

I was neglecting myself and eating either unhealthy convenience food or preparing homemade low substance (pang-tawid-gutom) food to save time and money. I was feeling burntout without realizing it. I found myself mindlessly buying trinkets at the mall simply because I felt that “I deserved it” at the moment. What sucks for me is that many of the trinkets I bought weren’t really the things on my list of goals and things I wanted to buy. Like I said earlier, these items were purely impulse purchases that could’ve been spent on things that would help me with my long-term plans. My expenses increased to match my income.

Here are my thoughts about my struggle to save money.

My discipline with money seemed to return after doing the following:

  1. Paid for a gym membership and worked out every day. The gym helped me regulate my sleep which is critical for working in a demanding environment that requires a lot of cognitive load. I’m mindful of my sleep and food intake as a result of my regular exercise.
  2. I bought a nice bike and rode my bike to work. This saved me a little more money and helped clocked a few more minutes of exercise.
  3. I dialed down my work hours to 1-2 hours overtime and one working rest day every other week and scheduled time on my rest days to do fun things. I got to see my friends, go on dates, competed in weightlifting, and travel. I also scheduled free or inexpensive fun activities like writing, drawing, tinkering with my computer, and studying new skills.

A lot of these things took me some time to figure out so I pray you find the balance in your life.

Do you need more ideas on how to earn more money? Read my side-hustle recommendations.


Thank you for reading.

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