Recently, I was interviewed on the psychology and brain science behind the “power of tracking”- why tracking our spending is so powerful. (Link: http://blog.credit.com/2013/04/the-power-of-tracking-your-spending/ )
Tracking is simply recording our income and outgo – it’s about taking the time to “write down” our financial transactions.
What?! Many people think that they don’t need to, since on-line banking shows their transactions, or various software programs do it automatically for them. But I strongly disagree. Here are three benefits to tracking your money yourself.
First of all, the act of tracking will often give you pause and help you think about what you’re doing. You simply become more mindful. That is a huge benefit.
Imagine that you could log in at the calorie bank and see where you “spent” your calories last week. You didn’t have to track what you ate – you could just see it. Well, most of us would not want to look. And besides, what’s the point? We already ate that cheesecake. Now it may be true that in a calm moment, we could rationally analyze the week of food we ate. But the truth is that if you record what you eat yourself, the act of recording makes you more mindful. And it often changes what you eat.
Tracking money can be just like that.
When you track your money, you become more aware of your behavior around money. And people who track their spending are simply less prone to impulse spending. They are connecting to the experience of spending.
This leads me to the second benefit. When people track their spending, they find that when they do spend money, they are more at ease with it.
In fact, people who track what they spend report being happier and calmer about money in their life. Who couldn’t use more financial happiness and calmness?
And tracking spending only takes five minutes a day. Less time than cooking or working out.
Here’s a third benefit of tracking. With the rise of “one stop shopping”, automatic tracking software (for example, mint.com or your own bank) simply cannot know what you bought at Amazon, or at Wal-Mart. You may have one purchase that is part clothes, part food and part gifts. And a part of you may want to forget about some of the items you purchased…. Tracking gives you clarity. When people don’t have clarity, they tend to feel uneasy and anxious about money. The money fog drifts in. So tracking helps you see clearly where you are really spending your money, to help you make powerful decisions about where you’d like future money to go. You simply can’t get to where you want to go financially if you don’t know where you are or where you’ve been.
My money mentor, Karen McCall, taught me the power of tracking when I went to see her about my own money issues many years ago. Karen says, “Tracking may seem like a very simple practice, but it will give you important feedback about your money behaviors as well as the chance to alter them. This is a big part of developing a healthy relationship with money.”
I have found this so true.
So I leave you with two questions that my own money mentor, asked me:
- What are you afraid you will discover if you track your money?
- Is it worth becoming conscious of your spending and earning in order to have a healthy relationship with money?
I decided creating a healthy relationship with money was definitely worth those five minutes a day. It’s brought me a lot of calmness and peace. And I’ve never looked back.