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4 Exercises for a Money Journal

Budget? Check. Savings account? Check. Retirement account? Check. If you’re following all the right steps, but still struggle financially, try writing in a money journal. The practice of writing down your thoughts has the power to improve your relationship with money and keep you on track toward your financial goals. For this year, challenge yourself to document your financial journey! The following exercises can help cultivate a more positive mindset around money and strengthen your money management.

Express Gratitude

It’s easy to fall into the “more is better" trap: Earn MORE. Have MORE. But always seeking more can feel like an uphill climb toward an unreachable summit. If you can recognize and appreciate everything you have, you’ll feel content knowing that you do have enough. Resist the pressure to keep up with a standard way of living! Here’s inspiration to help you practice gratitude with your money journal writing:

  • More Mentality: I wish I could order food delivery all the time like my friends, who are always ordering pricey meals from the trendiest restaurants.
  • Giving Gratitude: I enjoy preparing food that I really love at home and savoring a nice restaurant meal once a month.
  • More Mentality: I wish I could travel more like my friends, who are always vacationing to exotic destinations.
  • Giving Gratitude: I love taking a small weekend getaway. I don’t have to put large trip expenses onto my credit card.

Celebrate Mini Successes

Does mounting debt or a small savings discourage you? The numbers can be overwhelming! Use money journaling to set small goals and celebrate when you achieve them. Let’s say you’re still in credit card debt, but you’ve been able to boost your score by making all your payments on time. Win! Or you may not have a six-month emergency fund yet, but there was a time when you had zero savings, and now you’re halfway there. Win! Mini victories help keep you motivated and on track. Be proud of your progress!

Give Yourself Permission to Be Human

Like following a strict diet, following a strict budget gets exhausting. And sometimes, you just need to break a “rule.” It’s OK! Turn to your finance journal to explore why you went on a huge shopping spree or indulged in an expensive dinner. Was it worth it? How can you recover? Is your budget too rigid that it causes you to impulsively overspend? Documenting your experience can help you understand why you splurged and how you can move forward on the right track.

Discover Your Financial Values

A financial value shapes goals and guides behaviors. Use your journal as a place for discovering what’s most important to you financially, along with what kind of spender, saver, sharer and investor you want to be. What past experiences dictate how you manage money today? Could you reframe your perception of money? What matters most to you monetarily? See if you connect to any of these values:

  • Subscribing to a belief system of consuming less stuff, devaluing materialistic items or adopting a minimalistic lifestyle
  • Resisting instant gratification and impulse buying so you can cultivate long-term financial stability
  • Prioritizing a healthy financial future over short-term pleasure derived from careless, unnecessary daily spending

Once you establish your financial values, you can refer back to them for support anytime you’re facing a challenging choice.

Make Journaling a Habit

Regularly writing about your financial journey keeps you accountable. It’s a tool for finding contentment with your current financial state while gaining insight about any setbacks and learning more about your spending habits — so you can create successful outcomes. To get started, just start writing. Then schedule a routine “money journal writing” appointment with yourself. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, play some relaxing music and enjoy the exercises!

Ready to Get on Board with Budgeting?

Learn about the basics and download a Budgeting for Beginners worksheet!


The material presented here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as financial, investment or legal advice.