5 Ways These Money Experts Improved Their Finances — By Journaling

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young woman journaling, millennial

If you ever wrote the words “Dear Diary” as a kid, your younger self might have been onto something. Writing can be a powerful form of self-care. In fact, journaling can boost your mental and emotional health.

Journaling can improve your financial health, too. We interviewed two money experts who have used journaling as a tool in managing their personal finances. Here are five financial moves they made — with the help of their money journals — that you can use, too.

1. Set and tackle money goals

Ryland King is a money coach and founder of The Hidden Green, an online personal finance resource for young professionals. But he wasn’t always a finance expert.

After college, King was nearly $7,000 in debt and didn’t have any budgeting or money management skills. He tried to improve his finances but had limited success — until he tried building on a habit he already had.

“I’ve always been someone who’s written and loved making to-do lists every day,” King said. So, he started using his lists to set and track monthly targets, including one or two achievable money goals.

King’s listed targets reminded him of the goals he was working toward and nudged him to make small but necessary changes along the way. “I’d look at it every day or every other day, and it gave me a little reset,” he said.

2. Become more money-conscious

In addition to being a powerful goal-setting tool, money journaling can increase your awareness of your day-to-day financial mindset and management.

King noticed he had a habit of mindless spending. When eating out, for example, he’d order extras such as guacamole and chips, or super-size his meal.

Money journaling kept King’s goals at the top of his mind and highlighted how his daily spending wasn’t aligned with what he wanted to achieve really. “It’s not about sacrificing,” he realized. “It’s about being conscious and saying, ‘You know what, I’d be happier if I had this extra bit of money to throw toward the loans and debt.'”

3. Manage financial stress

After a big move, Sarah Li Cain felt burned out and overwhelmed. A money coach and co-host of the Beyond The Dollar podcast, Li Cain decided she needed to try something new to get out of her rut: Include money topics in her usual journaling habit.

“I wanted to see if writing down rants and worries about money on paper will help me alleviate some of the anxiety I felt about it,” she said.

Journaling about her finances, she found, was a powerful way to regain perspective and manage financial stress. “[Before this,] I didn’t allow myself time to unwind and explore the negative feelings I was having around money,” Li Cain said. “Journaling gave me the excuse to pause and reflect, and I felt so much lighter as a result.”

4. Identify money lessons to learn

A money journal can act as a safe space to reflect on what you’re learning about money management — and about yourself. Writing in a journal can give you the time to explore money hang-ups, experiences, or decisions in a new light.

Often, journaling can help you work out which actions to take or changes to make with your money. “It was a way to see what it was that I was constantly worrying about and whether or not I could address those worries,” Li Cain said.

Similarly, King took the time every week and month to check in with the money goals he had set. He’d reflect on what had gone well (or not), and what he could learn from his efforts. The process helped him identify two things: what wasn’t working for him and which strategies were most effective for his financial situation and personality.

5. Celebrate financial progress

King also found that journaling set reference points that proved his efforts were paying off. Even when he didn’t follow his financial plan perfectly, he could look back and see how far he’d come.

“That was a really positive feeling, and it helped me continue my push forward week over week and month over month,” he said.

Li Cain had a similar experience. “The biggest lesson I learned was that I simply wasn’t giving myself enough credit for all the things I have already accomplished,” she said. Now, she makes a point of journaling about her financial wins and celebrating her hard work.

How to start your money journal

Ryland King shows money journal

Ryland King with his money journal

If you’re interested in the benefits of money journaling or looking to get out of a financial rut, consider giving the technique a try.

Here are some tips to help you kickstart a money journaling habit:

  • Try different formats. You could make to-do lists like King’s or write for a set time like Li Cain does. Others use a money journal to track money going in and out, record money affirmations, or explore their values and beliefs about money.
  • Make it a habit. You’ll get more out of journaling if you’re consistent. As Li Cain stuck to her journaling goals, she felt more comfortable — and honest — with her writing.
  • Find what works for you. Experiment a bit to see what kind of journaling fits your personality and the flow of your life. You’re more likely to stick with a journaling habit if it feels natural.
  • Push past any discomfort. Money journaling can help you make progress, but it also can cause you to confront some difficult feelings or truths about your finances. Stick with it anyway, King advised, and you’ll start to see progress.

Keeping a money journal doesn’t have to cost anything, and anyone can do it. “You don’t have to be a writer,” King said. “Literally go get a piece of paper right now, or an old journal, and just start.”

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal LoansFixed rates from 6.199% APR to 15.365% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.145% APR to 14.685% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of June 15, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.145% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.97% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply:SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

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Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
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* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.