A few years ago, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research findings which concluded that keeping a food diary can double an individual’s weight loss effort.
Similarly, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine uncovered that those who did not jot down their food intake on a daily basis underestimated their caloric levels by an average of 1,050 calories.
Generally speaking, the act of journaling – the process of reflecting and thinking meta-cognitively on a particular set of behaviors and decisions – is an excess-management tool that can prove successful for not just overeaters, but for overspenders as well.
Many financial coaches encourage overspenders to keep meticulous notes about their purchases in order to identify patterns in their spending habits, holes in their budgets, and areas for money management improvement. Less attention is often paid to the psycho-emotional triggers that provoke and incite extraordinary consumption.
However, when it comes to embarking on the road to financial recovery, unearthing the why of spending, is just as important as detailing the what of spending.
Here are two areas in your life where journaling will help you improve your finances.
Track how you spend with your friends
Are you a teacher, social worker, or not-for-profit administrator who is expected to spend as freely as your investment banker and corporate lawyer friends at parties, social gatherings, or restaurants?
Are you an “up and coming,” young professional with a lot of “starving artists,” “down-on-your-luck” friends who is expected to cover their expenses when it comes to most social outings? Writing down how your financial behaviors shift when dealing with friends will illuminate patterns; this data, if used, can shape your future interactions and money-related dealings with them.
Monitor your emotional triggers while overexposed to media antics
The tendency to overspend, like the tendency to overeat, is rooted in our emotions. Despite what people would like to think, money is a matter of the heart and soul.
Our belief systems and our learned behaviors from friends and family dictate a lot of our spending habits. But you know what especially drives our consumption? Big ‘ol juicy insecurity! Yes, the fear that we just missed the mark, are not quite as good as (fill in the blank), and are inherently flawed.
Overexposure to big business media antics compounds this fear and drives you to spend. Concurrently, while watching television, pay close attention to how you feel after you imbibe the lies that media try to extol.
Are you insecure about your beauty? If so, monitor how you feel after sex is sold to push new make-up products, gym memberships, and diet systems. Are you insecure about the amount of money that you make?
Being cognizant of how you feel about yourself and your financial priorities after interacting with others and your negative emotions can really give you insight into where your money is going each month.
BMWK, how do you keep track of your spending and your weight?