In Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, trainers were introduced to a resume feature that reminded the player of the last few things they did the last time they played the game. This feature evolved into the journal in Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. What I loved about these features was how helpful they were if I picked up a game after not playing for a while. Gone were the days of being confused why my last save was on a mountain with one pokémon at level 60, three pokémon at level 16 and two of the same pokémon at level 1.
This feature did not last long, which disappointed me because I like records and notes. I mostly just like keeping open memory in my head for other information if I don’t need it there and there is someplace outside of my head almost as safe. It may play into the millennial stereotype, but I think it just makes sense. I currently use four different methods to store my personal finance information: my financial diary, my net worth spreadsheet, my student loan notebook and my bill books.
My Financial Diary (Journal)
I could talk about how I use my financial diary for hours, but I will try to minimize it for now. My financial diary is an Evernote notebook that I use to keep all of my thoughts and feelings about my finances and track my personal finance concepts, ideas and plans. I have three main types of notes I keep in here: my quarterlies, my financial reviews, and my random thoughts about personal finances and money.
In my diary, I assign financial goals to three-month long goal lists, or quarter notes. When I think of new goals or challenges, I write them down in a future quarter note. I break down long term goals into smaller steps and distribute them through future quarters to encourage chipping away little by little. At the close of each quarter, I xatu to determine what was successful, decide which goals should stay for the next quarter and determine if the next quarter’s goals are reasonable. Once the quarter begins, I freeze the note and can no longer edit it.
I have written all of my monthly financial reviews in this diary since starting them in 2016. I use these to review and journal what I did over the course of the month. I also use these to track random ideas or concerns for each part of my finances that bounced up over the month. All of my monthly reviews originate from these entries.
I also keep random financial thoughts in this diary. These can be anything from questions for the bank to figuring out how I’m going to distribute a bonus. I have a note titled “Stupid June Spending” that contains a list of things to buy in order to make June a big spender month instead of August. There are also notes where I have the pros, cons, and math for deciding between different health insurance options.
I like that my financial diary is on my phone and computer. It is almost always accessible so I can always write down any thoughts, information, or review a note when I need to. It is also backed up online.
My Net Worth Spreadsheet
I originally started keeping track of my net worth in a grid in Word. I was never taught Excel and always resisted using it. However, after a year of doing all of the math by hand, I decided to skill swap over because I knew the math was automatic.
After I read a guest post on a Budgets Are Sexy about the magic of using spreadsheets, I learned we can use different tabs to track different information. This psyshocked my mind! When I was forced to use spreadsheets before, I found the tabs to be mostly annoying. But now I understood the ease of keeping all of this information in one place.
With my new inspiration, I started a new tab on my net worth spreadsheet to track our monthly bills to learn how much we should expect to pay. I caught it up with all of our old bills and continue to try to update it monthly. This helped me notice our internet bill increased three months in a row. I called them and returned it back to where it was.
This year I started tracking membership fees, subscription renewals, irregular expenses (like medical bills), and started separate tabs to track my credit cards. It is similar to how my bank tracks my spending, but I use these other tabs to track my how much I owe and other information that I want to know to help me learn and plan for the future. Tracking all of this now will help me as I start to plan for 2018.
My Student Loan Notebook
Although I have started volt switching everything over to digital, this actual, physical, tangible notebook is my favorite place to track my student loans. This is probably my second oldest tracking method and was a major part of turning my personal finances around in 2013. The simplest description of its system is that every page contains a month. For each month I list each loan by the servicer and track each loans’ current balance, the accumulated interest, the amount due, the amount recommended to pay, how much I paid last month and how much I am paying this month.
What I like about this notebook is the tactile nature of it. Like Pokémon-Amie, writing in it makes me feel like I am interacting with each of my student loans to raise my affection. It hangs out with my student loan binders (see below) and I pull it out whenever I make a payment.
I also like having the last four years’ worth of information right at my fingertips. Occasionally I will compare numbers from years ago to now to estimate when my loans should be paid off. It also helps me remember my own repayment ideas and which loans I have been paying extra on.
My Bill Books
Like a trainer’s bag, my bill books is a handy storage system that gets everything in the right spot for future use. These “books” are different three-ring binders where I store all of my bills and information on how and when I paid them. I have a book for each student loan servicer, my banks, my utilities, any paychecks, my credit cards and my irregular expenses (like cell phone issues).
I like these because they are easily accessible, they go back ages and they give me a simple place to keep everything dealing with a specific topic in a single spot. I just punch holes in either the bill, payment, or other important information and place it in the front of the book.
Let’s Chat: What are your favorite ways to organize your personal finances? Do you have any systems you developed to help organize your thoughts, finances or funny-third-thing?