This is the fourteenth part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?
Most of the remainder of the fifth chapter spells out the usefulness of keeping an up-to-date chart of your financial situation. The ending of the chapter really drove it home, as it stated seven reasons for doing so that I’ll reiterate here.
It is a reminder. I find that the act of actually adding new data to the chart is often an uplifting experience, a very big tangible expression of the sense that you are doing the right thing with your money. I do my numbers each week, and I find that time and time again, when I sit down and do the numbers, the end result (my net worth) puts a smile on my face, and watching the progress of that number over time reinforces that smile. It makes me feel as though I’m doing the right thing – and all of this stuff is really working.
It is a feedback system. Whenever I spend money I shouldn’t, it shows up on the chart. Whenever I live very frugally for a period, that shows up on the chart as well. It tells the truth about what I’m doing, cutting through my psychological blocks with a searing line.
It is an inspiration. I like to put a version of the chart in a place where I can see it often. Since I create it on the computer, I often put a picture of our dream house in the background, a nice place out in the country, and seeing that graph shows me that I’m really really heading toward that goal.
It is motivational. Indeed. Just seeing it sometimes keeps me from doing things I shouldn’t.
It challenges your integrity. Those lines don’t lie. I can’t tell myself I’m making good moves when those lines show me that I’m not. Similarly, they also show me clearly when I am doing the right thing.
It is a constant suggestion. It constantly suggests to me that I spend my time effectively, because that line only goes up if I earn money and then only spend it wisely. If I find ways to make my time and my money both more effective, I can keep up the progress and enjoy my life more.
It enlists support. I share this data with my wife and we use it to support each other. I show her the latest numbers and sometimes it results in a long hug and a warm realization that we’re in this thing together. Getting your spouse on the same page as you is invaluable.
If you haven’t figured it out, I believe that keeping track of your financial progress is incredibly valuable. It’s a constant motivator for me – without it, I’d be less in touch with my finances and less motivated to make good progress.
Tomorrow, we’ll start chapter six, “The American Dream – On A Shoestring,” up to the heading “Ten Sure Ways To Save Money.” This section appears on pages 166 through 171 in my paperback version of the book.