Journaling For A Frugal, More Productive Life

Keeping a journal both inspires me and helps to keep me organized and moving forward in my life. Something about writing things down makes them much clearer to me. I used to think that journaling had to be a record of the days’ events or some deep ruminations about my life. That wasn’t really for me, at least not day after day. Sometimes I’d get mad and blow off steam on the page, but I could never sustain the journaling habit.

Then one day I made a commitment to simply journal about whatever I needed to work on that day, no matter how silly or trivial it seemed. Even if I only wrote two sentences, I wrote. I made lists, tracked various aspects of my life, and sometimes just doodled and wrote nonsense. I’ve been keeping a journal now (consistently) for over ten years. Most of it makes sense only to me, but that’s okay.

Over the years I’ve realized that there are many different ways of journaling, many of which can be beneficial to your finances and career. You can devote all of your efforts to just one of these things, or you can do many of them simultaneously or at different times. If you want to improve your life and your finances, try keeping some of these types of journals.

Tracking Expenses

Many people do this to find out where their money is going. Writing down every expense shows where the unnecessary spending is occurring and helps you eliminate it.

Time Diary

I am easily distracted and it sometimes creates problems with my work. I’ve taken to writing down how I spend my time in my journal. I track how many hours I worked (and on what so I have a record), how many hours I watch TV, how many hours I mindlessly surf the Internet, etc. This helps me find the time sinks in my life and eliminate them. It’s amazing how much more time I seem to have when I’m tracking and eliminating the wasted time.

Food Diary

If you’re trying to lose weight or eat healthier, tracking your food intake can be helpful. You’ll see where you’re slipping up and what can be improved.

Goal Tracker

I love to track my goals. I set small goals, such as for daily word counts, and large goals such as finishing a book by a certain time. I track my progress in my journal. It keeps me accountable and, on days where I’m not feeling so great, I can look back and see how far I’ve come.

Tracking Medical Symptoms

Whenever I have a medical issue, I track the symptoms in my journal. It helps me identify any triggers and helps me track the problem so that I can better explain it to my doctor. This helps her make a quicker diagnosis and results in less wasted money and appointments for me.

“Want” Lists

Writing down the things you want to buy or do (including pictures, if you want) gives you inspiration to work and save toward those things. Sometimes, after something has been on my want list for a while, I’ll realize I just don’t want it anymore. This is better than having bought it only to discover later that I didn’t really want it.

Cheap Entertainment

Journaling can be cheap entertainment. Writing, doodling, creating stories, or simply dreaming can be a fun way to pass some time.

Exercise Diary

If you’re trying to work more exercise into your life, an exercise diary can keep you accountable and show you how you’re improving over time.

Savings Tracker

If you’re saving toward something like a vacation, new car, or new home, it can be helpful to write down all of your savings. Don’t just write down the amounts, but also note where the money came from. For example, if you gave up your daily coffee and put the money in the vacation account, write that down. It’s inspiring to see that you can cut out that less important item in order to make your bigger dream come true. And there’s nothing like seeing your savings grow over time.

Motivation and Clarification of Thought

Writing down your goals and dreams for any area of your life can provide motivation for achieving them. Seeing your progress, identifying your stumbling blocks, and noting small achievements along the way can keep you moving forward. Through your writing, you can start to see patterns and problems that aren’t obvious. (

Cheap Therapy

If you need to work through some feelings, there’s nothing better than a journal. You can get everything out without fear of judgment or hurting someone else. Of course, if you’re seriously depressed or suffering from some other mental illness, seek professional help. But for smaller issues and concerns, a journal can help you through it.

Money Maker

If you want to make your thoughts public, you can start a blog. If you get enough traffic you can sell ads and make some money. If you have a really unique life, you might be able to publish a memoir that will earn you some money.

Gratitude Diary

Whether times are good or bad, it’s always a good idea to remind yourself of the many things you have to be thankful for. Practicing gratitude can make your financial problems easier to bear and make you remember what’s important in your life. Who knows? It might even mean more prosperity down the road.

Improve Your Skills

If you’re a writer, poet, musician/lyricist, or artist, you can use your journal to practice your skills. Write, draw, practice, and try out new ideas in the pages of your journal. Even if you’re not in a creative profession, you can use a journal to work through new product ideas, marketing strategies, inventions, or business ideas.


Whenever I have an idea, whether it’s for a work project, something to do to the house, or something I run across on the Internet that I want to consider later, I write it in my journal. This keeps me from forgetting that great idea and it keeps reminding me of the things I need to do.

How you keep your journal is up to you. I prefer pen and paper, but many people prefer the computer. You can use a word processing program or a more specialized notebook/journal software package. Do whatever is comfortable for you. If you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it long enough to see the benefits that journaling can bring to your financial life.

(Photo courtesy of JoelMontes)

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4 Responses to Journaling For A Frugal, More Productive Life

  1. Wowitsawonderfullife says:

    I journal daily. About my triggers for smoking as I am trying to quit (that was a real eye opener!), my debt payoff for each week, and gratitude. This is a nice summary of what journaling is all about.

  2. Rosie says:

    I also journal daily…I LOVE IT!!! I have been journalling for the past 4 years…I love reading those old journals they really inspire me to keep going in my frugal journey.

  3. Sunshine says:

    I have been journaling for 46 years since I was 4 years old. It kept me sane through some tough years, or perhaps gave me a safe place to be the furthest extremities of my emotions without interfering with my life.

  4. Jo says:

    I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve started journaling and kept up for a few months….on and off….only to stop writing. Frustrating! I’d run out of “stuff” to write about, mainly.

    I suppose I don’t need to lead an exciting life in order to have something to record, eh? As you listed above, Jennifer, there are many different topics to write about….it’s just a matter of sticking to it on a daily basis. Like sticking to a budget…

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