17 Things to Include in Your Money Journal

Those who know me in person know that I never go anywhere without my notebook, which also acts as my de facto money journal.

My notebook is my primary organisational tool, my productivity hack. It’s how I keep track of my life, including my financial life. I jot down everything* in there. The way I see it, what doesn’t get written, gets forgotten.

(*Except for my passwords. I use a password manager for that. Security first kids)

Here’s a list of financial-related information that you can include in your money journal.

#1 – Your monthly income

How much do you earn per month? Combine whichever applies from below:

  • Monthly salary (for those employed)
  • Own business income (if it fluctuates, as it often does, a guesstimate or average will do)
  • Rental income, if any
  • Freelance income and side hustles with regular customers and clients
  • Any other regular income

#2 – Extra income

Before you ask, yes extra income is different and separate from monthly income (#1). It’s more like additional income as opposed to your main income.

Extra income might come from

  • Freelance income and side hustles (irregular or just starting out)
  • Selling pre-loved items
  • Sudden windfalls – tax refunds, winning competitions, etc
  • Any other irregular form of income

#3 – Expenses

I *love* tracking my expenses and highly recommend this habit. You get to discover parts of your personality that’s hidden to even yourself! I love it so much that I write and publish my monthly expenses breakdown, and my annual income and expenses report.

Personally, I use notebook + app combo. For example, this was my spending breakdown in May 2019. Then I’d write reminders in my notebook on areas where I can do better.

budget update may 2019 1

Read this article if you’re interested to start or restart expense-tracking. I’ve included tools and tips that you can try.

#4 – A list of all monthly financial commitments

The general rule of thumb is fixed expenses shouldn’t take more than 50% of your income (see #1). The actual definition of fixed expenses varies, but usually includes:

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Car instalments
  • Utilities
  • Overheads (if own business)
  • Insurance
  • Credit card instalments
  • Loans

In my experience, the figures tend to change every 6 months or so. For example, I was paying braces instalments until I finally paid it off. Likewise for my laptop instalment.

So yea, do this self-check every so often just to be on track of your finances.

#5 – All your subscriptions

Specifically, you should definitely, definitely know how much money leaves your account every month without your notice. Auto-payments are great for some investments and payments (avoids late fees etc), but not for products and services you don’t use (media subscriptions etc).

Related: What Subscriptions I Pay For And Why

#6 – Annual payments

This one is a bit tricky, and sometimes require a lot of guesstimating. You also don’t know what life will throw at you.

For example, in my own list, I’ve included things like:

  • Birthday gifts for loved ones
  • Membership and license renewals
  • Services I use and pay for annually

Your actual figure will probably differ wildly from your estimated figure. But at least you have a figure.

Related: All The Annual Expenses I Have to Make Every Year

#7 – A financial to-do list

Financial-related things that you want to do but haven’t had the time or energy to sort out yet. For example, I know I should do a will but been dragging my ass in that department.

This is my personal financial to-do list, if you’re curious.

#8 – All the financial products and services that you use

A while back I came across an article about how there is over RM5 billion in unclaimed money. Billions you know! Not loose change you know!

But the fact is some people really do forget where they placed their money. Or just unaware of financial transactions which took place, like insurance payout in a forgotten bank account or something.

So it’s in your best interest to keep track of your accounts, correct or not?

I did this myself. Here are all the financial products and services that I personally use. Everything – from banking accounts to credit cards to insurance products to investments accounts and more.

#9 – List of your investments

If you do #8, might as well do #9 too. It’s not a bad idea to list out:

  • Where you keep your investments
  • It’s risk profile (low, medium, risky)
  • How much money you have there
  • How much and regularly you contribute to that account
  • What are your plans (do nothing, buy more when price dips, reduce risk exposure etc)
  • Their fees and charges
  • Who you named as beneficiaries for each investment

#10 – List of people/companies owing you money

Because *some* people only pay when you ‘gently remind’ them. If you forgot, they’ll happily ‘forgot’.

#11 – Next month’s projected income and expenses

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead. That way, if you have higher-than-usual expenses next month, you still have time to pick up an extra gig or sell some preloved items instead of taking a loan or getting into credit card debt.

#12 – Money-making ideas

This could be anything you want it to be, as long as they have some sort of earning potential. It could be random business ideas, or list of clients to pitch to, or contact list of businesspeople you want to grab coffee with, anything.

#13 – Your goals

I follow Ramit Sethi’s goal-planning checklist as a personal reminder. Copy and follow this template:

  • I want to make RM____ in __ months’ time
  • I will spend ___ hours per week, or __ per day on __ days to work on this goal
  • My long-term goal is to _______*

(Mine is (1) To give RM3k per month to my parents, and (2) get financially independent by accumulating RM2 million in interest-generating investments.)

Use those hours to:

  • Get clients
  • Perform freelance work
  • Learn negotiation skills to increase salary or rates
  • Upskilling
  • Learning in-demand, high-paying skills like coding
  • Update and improve CV and use it to apply for better-paying jobs
  • Operate a new business
  • And more

#14 – A wishlist

I also call this my ‘what I want but won’t get’ list lol. The effect may differ, but personally this list helps to reduce mental clutter. It’s like I acknowledge the desire, instead of suppressing it.

An unexpected benefit – an easy list to refer to when someone asks you what present you want for your birthday or some other special occasion.

Currently, my wishlist includes things like:

  • Air fryer
  • Popcorn maker
  • DIY dollhouse
  • New handbag
  • Bedsheets
  • Cushions
  • More plants
  • Dyson vacuum cleaner
  • Pretty shoes

Ah, I can’t wait to trade my Maybank TreatPoints into AEON or Lazada vouchers so I can get some of these things guilt-free.

#15 – Travel plans

Whenever I travel, I would make a Google Docs sheet or dedicate a couple of pages in my notebook to list out:

  • Flight times and dates
  • Flight and accommodation booking numbers
  • Rough itinerary
  • Important phone numbers and addresses
  • The current exchange rate
  • Running tally of all travel-related expenses
  • Packing list
  • What I need to buy or borrow

All I’m saying is, I’ve never missed a flight yet, or ran out of money during a trip. (TOUCHWOOD TOUCHWOOD TOUCHWOOD)

The detailed notes is also the secret behind my travel articles 🙂

#16 – Grocery list

Because it’s just too practical a list to not include here. Regularly making and updating a grocery list will:

  • Reduce the number of trips to the store. This reduces petrol and impulse purchases too
  • In the same boat, reduces the annoying emergency trips to the store because you ran out of something
  • Helps you to plan and make meal preps. Cheaper and healthier
  • Gives you focus at the grocery store. You know what to get, instead of wandering aimlessly there

Hmm that reminds me I’m almost out of eggs.

#17 – Journaling

Sometimes, when I’m stressed or just need to vent about a career or money-related frustration, I’ll just do some free-flow writing. I just write whatever comes to mind. It usually works. I’ll feel much better afterwards.

This is also called writing therapy. I learned about it in a writing workshop, and you can use pen+paper or notebook (I recommend the latter – more ‘feel’).

Try out writing therapy the next time you are stressed about money. It’s worth a go, plus it’s a free form of therapy, too. Suitable for even the brokest of y’all.

What else to include in a Money Journal?

Any of you are avid note-takers, too? What other things would you suggest to include in a money journal? Which of the above are you most keen to start including in your notebooks?

As always, share your thoughts in the comments section! If you’re comfortable sharing pics from your money journal’s pages, please leave the link in the comments too!

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2 comments

  1. Hi, Its Kenny (again) I still struggling to keep myself updating my daily expenses. The latest record was 15 days 🙁 I do have a journal but I rarely jot down since my semester break starts. Feel free to drop by my blog sis! Selamat Hari Raya to you!

    1. Hi Kenny,

      Restart again 🙂 Over time you will build the habit!

      Nice website you have there. Cute nephew 🙂

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