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September 01, 2023

Why You Need to Try Financial Journaling: Unlock Your Money Goals

Yop & Tom

Why You Need to Try Financial Journaling: Unlock Your Money Goals

Money money money. It’s the thing that makes the world go round. But it’s also one of the scariest words in the dictionary. It’s all too easy to feel like getting to grips with your finances requires an accountancy degree. 

But, it turns out, financial journaling is a genuinely enjoyable way to unlock your money goals and move forward with your finances. We spoke with Harriet Formby, an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and Founder of Below The Line Finance, which provides CFO & Accountancy services along with feel-good Finance Coaching, Mentoring & Training, to find out how you can get started.

Spoiler alert: Harriet’s a Chartered Accountant and also practices financial journaling. And she wants you to know that it’s not as scary as you think!


This is why financial journaling = self-care

When you look after your finances, you’re also looking after yourself. You’re giving yourself a valuable tool you need to move forward and reach your goals.

No matter how much we want to pretend otherwise, we all need money. Developing an awareness of your finances - what you’ve got coming in, what’s going out, and what you might need to do a little differently - can help ease any potential financial stressors as you set a clear plan to iron out any creases in your financial journey.

As Harriet explains, being proactive is the key: “Regularly checking on your finances is a really valuable self-care practice. It’s not just about staying informed; it’s about being intentional and mindful with your money. 

By monitoring your spending patterns, setting budgets, and tracking your progress towards your goals, you’re taking charge of your financial wellbeing and destiny. 

Keeping an eye on your transactions is also essential to prevent unintentional money leaks.

So you can be quick to spot and action any inaccurate or fraudulent charges. And to shed any unnecessary subscriptions or automatic payments that creep in for things that no longer serve you. 

It’s amazing how easy it is to sign up for a new app or streaming service and then forget about it! Money that you could have put to better use.  

A regular check-in can feel really empowering, knowing that your money is working with

you, not against you. It’s a boost to your confidence, and builds resilience and financial stability. Enabling you to reach those important dreams and milestones and create a healthy relationship with your money outcomes.”

What is financial journaling?

Financial journaling is simply the process of writing about your finances on a regular basis. Just like regular journaling, you can approach it in any way you choose.

You might like to take a purely practical approach, tracking your finances (you can find examples of these below) so you have a clear overview of everything you spend and earn. 

Or, you may like to use your financial journal to tackle your money mindset. Your journal is your space to write about whatever’s on your mind. Whether that’s how you feel emotionally about spending or saving money, or how much money you need to reach your next financial goal (and how you’re going to get it!).

This is why Harriet finds financial journaling can be such a powerful tool for her clients:

“Our day-to-day finances tend to be quite scattered, many of us have an array of current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages/loans, pensions etc (and even more if you are also a business owner) in different places.

Financial journaling is fantastic for helping you distil this down on paper, see the bigger picture and get a clearer grasp on your financial health. 

You can then take those big financial goals, that can sometimes feel far away, and break them down into bite-sized, actionable steps that slot into your monthly budgets and money flows. Creating a roadmap for your financial journey that guides you towards your goals.

This journaling practice then becomes a routine that empowers you towards achieving these

dreams. Perhaps you're saving up for something special, paying off debt, building up a nest egg for the future or simply want to understand your financial patterns, journaling brings both clarity and progress towards these goals.”


Do accountants practice financial journaling?

“Yes, I find financial journaling to be a really impactful practice! 

It gives me a clear, bird’s eye view of my financial health when otherwise things are in all different accounts. I journal to help me track and plan towards my financial goals – breaking down my dreams into small achievable chunks. Jotting down my thoughts on this also really helps me to get curious about my money mindset and influence my financial choices. 

In my work, I spend a fair bit of time immersed in accounting software and complicated spreadsheets but there’s something special about putting pen to paper that just clicks. It’s the power of journaling, but for my money.”

As you can see, even accountants, who spend all their time managing money, find benefits in financial journaling. Because, as you know by now, journaling is so much more than simply writing stuff down. It’s about unlocking a different part of your mind. And that’s why we love it!

How you can start financial journaling

You could just use pen and loose paper to start your financial journal. But let’s be honest for a second. Where does that paper go? It sits alongside the bills you’re already stuffing into that drawer, gathering dust and soon to be forgotten.

And let’s not even get started on the spreadsheet you opened once and then neglected for the next six months, shall we?

Your financial journaling equipment needs to be both easy to use and eye-catching. So you actually enjoy the process. Here’s what we suggest instead.

Pick your financial journal

Your financial journal needs to be attention grabbing, so you never neglect it. But it needs to be flexible too, so you can write, make a table, track your numbers and use it in whichever way you choose.

Bonus points if there are bookmark ribbons to make key sections easy to find!

That’s why we love the dotted notebooks from the Contrast Collection for financial journaling. They’re bold, bright and 100% flexible. 

contrast journals

Choose your pens

Notice we said pens plural? Because one pen just isn’t going to cut it.

Colour coding is your friend when it comes to keeping your financial journal nice and organised. So pick out a selection in your favourite hues.

Find somewhere obvious to store it

Keep your journal someplace obvious. On your desk. Next to those bills you’re about to process. In your kitchen. Just make sure you’re going to see it everyday and be reminded to open up a page or two.

Financial journaling examples and ideas

Okay so you’ve got all your financial journaling equipment. You’re excited to give this new practice a try. You’re ready to feel calm about your money (for the first time in wayyyy too long).

So what do you track? We asked Chartered Accountant Harriet Formby for some tips to help you get started. Here’s what she said.

🎯 Personal finance goal(s)

This is where your big dreams come into play. Because if you don’t know why you’re tracking your finances, what’s the point?

“It’s really important to track the big financial goal(s) that you’re striving towards. Perhaps it’s progress towards a net worth target, perhaps it’s how many more payments are left before you’re debt free. 

Or maybe it’s a savings target towards taking a special holiday, buying a property, or even quitting your drop and starting up your dream business. Linking everything back to you achieving this will be super motivating and will keep you engaged with your finance journaling practice.”

💸 All your income

You need to know what’s coming in before you can start matching your finances up with those big goals. 

Even if you’re employed, the chances are your income’s coming from a few different sources. So be sure to track them all!

“This could be your salary, but you’re also thinking about money earned from side hustles or other activities (like having a good old clear out of unwanted items) or even windfalls that come your way. 

Tracking your income is crucial as you can then plan outgoings around these expected inflows of cash.”

💵 Your routine expenses

This one might not feel quite as fun but we think it’s one of the most important things on this list. Plus, your expenses can be a great way to assess what’s important to you in life.

Take a look at where you’re spending your money. Does it line up with your priorities? Is there anything you’d like to change? Write it down in your financial journal.

 “It’s important to track your regular outgoings and living expenses, ideally broken down into relevant categories. For example, utilities, groceries, travel etc. This will help you set budgets, make informed spending decisions, and maybe even find some savings.”

💱 Any movements in debts and liabilities

Remember how we said that financial journaling is a form of self care? This is where that really comes into play. When you’re clear on what debt you owe and how you’re going to pay it off, it suddenly becomes a whole lot less stressful.

“Tracking payments against your credit cards, loans, mortgage etc. will give you a sense of progress as the debt gets paid down. A full overview where there are multiple can also help you to come up with an affordable repayment plan, and maybe even to pay things down quicker.”

💰 Progress with savings and investments

Could this be the most exciting thing to track? We think it might be! Because when you’re clear on your financial goals, watching your income progress towards those goals is an incredible feeling.

“Knowing how much is building up in your savings accounts, investments and pensions really helps you to make progress towards your goals and gives peace of mind as you watch them build up over time. And sometimes (like with pensions) we forget that they are there!”

a person holding money bills

Still feeling scared about your finances? Then this is for you

When your finances scare you, it’s all too easy to shut them at the back of that dusty drawer. Never to be given the attention they deserve.

But as Harriet explains, you’ll feel a whole lot better when you open up your bank accounts and start tracking things properly. “Just make a start because honestly, it tends to be more scary to continue avoiding tackling it.

Living with the money gremlins playing on your mind and triggering you every time you have to think about or spend money, is often much harder in the long run than taking even the steps to check in.”

Try to make it a habit (our free habit tracker can help you with this) and turn financial journaling into a joyful experience. Add a few of your favourite things into the mix and you might even find yourself looking forward to opening up your notebook again.

This is something that Harriet really recommends: “A real game changer that has worked wonders for my clients who felt shut down with fear of their finances, is to schedule a regular time each month when you will spend even just 30 minutes looking at your finances. 

Make it a regular appointment in your calendar, buy some lovely stationery and pre-write a task list or practice that you will follow so you know exactly what’s to be done. 

Just like any self-care ritual, it’s advisable to set up a cosy space, put on a suitable playlist, prepare your favourite drink and snack, and plan something fun to do to reward yourself when you’re done. Better yet ask a friend to be your accountability partner.”

So go on, set that money date with yourself! Add it to your diary now 👀


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