5 ways to start a money journal habit for the new year

woman journaling
OCCU  -  02.07.2020

This time last month, you were getting ready for the new year, full of motivation and positive intentions. Now that the holidays are over, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and lose track of all those life-changing goals you set for yourself.

The best way to stay on track with your New Year’s resolutions is to develop healthy habits that support the changes you want to make. Daily journaling is one of the best new habits you can establish to keep yourself on target. Whether your resolutions revolve around finances, fitness or relationships, maintaining a daily journal can help you reflect on your progress and hold yourself accountable while keeping your long-term goals front and center.


Financial benefits of journaling

Did you know that journaling every day can improve your finances? For example, it can help you:

Make better decisions. Whether you’re choosing between investment options, considering a career move, or mulling over a major purchase like a home or a new car, keeping a daily journal can help you sort through your priorities and make important decisions with a clear head. “Often, decision making comes down to being able to filter through a lot of options, figure out which elements matter the most, and choose from those options based on that,” says Trent Hamm, founder of The Simple Dollar. “Journaling has helped me with every piece of that process for many different major decisions in my life.”

Identify your financial goals. Most of us have big goals for the future, but “they're often shrouded in nonspecific thinking,” Hamm says. “We haven't considered what we need to do to make that vision happen.” Journaling gives you an opportunity to articulate your goals for yourself in a concrete way. From there, you can start working out how to set about achieving them, one step at a time.

Analyze your spending trends. We’ve all had moments of buyer’s remorse or times when we’ve spent more of a budget than we planned for. When you keep a daily journal, you can use that space to reflect on your spending trends, find out what you spend on, and figure out what areas of your budget you can focus on in the future.


5 easy journaling techniques

Committing to a daily journal might sound like a lot to take on, but it doesn’t have to be. Since there’s no “right” way to do it, you can make your journaling habit whatever you need it to be. If sitting down for an hour each morning or filling three pages a day works for you, that’s great. But even if all you can spare is 10 or 15 minutes, you can still leverage that time into a healthy journaling habit.

Here are a few techniques you can try to see what works for you:

1. Bullet journal

If you don’t have the time or desire to write out your thoughts in long form every day, consider keeping a bullet journal. Jotting down your thoughts as bullet points rather than as a narrative allows you to quickly get your ideas down on paper so you can move on with your day. It’s an easy way to keep tabs on your daily spending, record financial successes such as debt payments, and track your savings goals.

2. Writing prompts

If you’re not sure what to write about, start with a writing prompt to get your ideas flowing. Here are some money prompts you can use to kick off your 2020 journal:

  • When it comes to money, I believe…
  • The best financial advice I ever received was…
  • When I’m stressed about money, I…
  • If I had to spend $10 million within the next 24 hours, I would…
  • When I retire, I will…

3. Letters to your money

If journaling feels uncomfortable to you, it may help to write as if you’re penning a letter to someone. For example, why not write a letter to your money? Talk to your money as if it were a person, telling it what kind of relationship you want to have with it and what you’d like to achieve with it in the future.

4. Art journal

There’s no rule that says your journal must be in written form. If you’re a visual person, you may prefer to keep an art journal instead. Drawing, painting, or doodling your feelings and goals can help relax your mind and inject some creativity into your daily reflections. Have a vision for where you see yourself financially in the future? Sketch it out and give yourself something to focus on as you work towards your money goals.

5. Gratitude journal

When you’re stressed about money (or anything else in life), it’s easy to become fixated on the negatives. A gratitude journal helps you reframe your focus and celebrate the positives. Write down what you’re grateful for each morning—try to think of something new each day. It’s amazing how quickly your relationship to money can change when you’re always looking for the silver lining.

Ready to start journaling? Here’s to creating healthy new habits for the new year and achieving your money goals. Cheers!