If you want to improve your financial outlook, you should track your money, and that includes both tracking where and how much you spend as well as tracking your balance. If you want to lose weight, you have to weigh yourself and track what you eat. It is a single action and a single choice.
If you want to make any improvement or change any behavior, there is one thing you should do: track. Tracking is a personal accountability process of linking behaviors and actions towards goals. In other words, tracking, or measuring, shows you both a starting point and also demonstrates progress. As the adage goes, “Anything that gets measured, improves.”
Let’s be clear, the old maxim applies here, no pain, no gain; no new behaviors, no new outcomes! You must make a conscious effort to track. Stick-to-it-ive-ness requires that we separate daydreams from goals. That means we should write out our goals and track things.
Many people find themselves in debt, not because they outwardly chose to owe thousands (or even tens of thousands) more than they could pay but because they were sleepwalking through their choices. The same is true for those who find themselves overweight. They are not paying attention to their choices. Think about it: New findings show that people who weigh themselves daily or weekly seldom gain too much weight. Why? Because the action of weighing themselves is a tracking behavior, so they are more aware of weight changes.
Very simply, tracking is a conscious awareness technique that can lead to positive results. Without tracking, there is no way to measure progress. Without measuring progress, there is no way to know if you are on the path to success. We seek the tangible secret of success, but in order to achieve it, we must do what all kindergartners are taught: good habits, good life! Overtime, our good habits compound into a good life.
All top performers track. Olympic athletes don’t reach the top of the podium without tracking and measuring. They log every workout and every performance. Politicians use tracking religiously as they are constantly monitoring their positions in the polls. If you want to be successful at anything, there is one action you must take: You must track.
Face it: We lack success where we lack control. In other words, those spaces and places where we allow ourselves to be unbridled, like spending money compulsively, constantly going out to eat, or sitting in front of the television unconsciously grazing on pizza or ice cream. This is where we fail.
Think about it: Why do casinos give you plastic chips? Because they know if they can remove you by one degree from real money, then they can induce you to be less conscious about it. You will gamble more. The fast food industry knows this, too. In the last few years, they started accepting debit cards. Why? Because studies they did show that people unconsciously spend more when using plastic money. Super sizing is another way to get past your conscious filters to disregard how much you eat-“Oh, it’s just a little more of the same thing.”
Now let’s turn the tables and think about the reverse mindset: the organizations that set these traps. The casino gets you to swap real money for plastic chips, thus making you less conscious about how much you spend. Plus they make money, a lot of money, off of small amounts, like nickels. They meticulously and soberly add each nickel to their total. Moreover, they have people constantly watching gamblers. Why? Because they know the secret to greater profits is to be conscious of all small amounts because those add up to large sums.
Finance companies also know the value of small amounts adding up to big sums. For instance, they offer car financing at an amount you feel comfortable with making, let’s say $300 a month. But then they adjust the interest rate so that instead of paying on a car for five years, you end of paying on it for six or seven years. Restaurants have their own way of dulling your senses, and getting you to pay more. Just order some French fries and then watch their trained staff ask you if would like the extra large. Why not? You’re eating them anyway, so you might as well get the extra large.
Tracking works because it’s the way our minds work. First you set a goal. It could be to lose weight or get out of debt. Next you put a plan in place to begin working toward your goal; however, a plan alone is not enough. Your brain wants to see evidence that the steps you are taking are leading you in the right direction, leading you toward the outcome you want. This is where tracking comes in. Tracking and measuring is a process that links your behaviors with your goals.
Tracking builds the self-fulfilling evidence for you to reach your goal. Simply put, it provides the proof and the emotional shield that you have put in the work and that you deserve your goal. In other words, tracking is the balm for self-sabotage and all of those other feelings of unworthiness which derail us from reaching our goals. Tracking builds confidence and a sense of inner-momentum that says, ‘I did it, I deserve it, and here is the proof!’
If you want to gain financial control or get out of debt, you should write out your financial goals and then track your money toward those goals. It’s that simple, and every financial guru will tell you the same thing. The task is not difficult, but you must be aware of it and do it repeatedly so that it becomes a second-nature habit. If you want to improve your financial outlook and save more, you must begin with the very simple step of tracking your money and keeping a money log.
You can keep a money log with a simple notebook and write down every single cent you spend for one month – from a cup of coffee to a major appliance purchase. Everything. It is a simple step that makes you aware of what you’re spending, and equally important, makes you aware of the choices you are making regarding what you buy. Once you are aware of your choices, you will stop sleepwalking through them. You cannot make the choices to save more or eliminate frivolous spending if you aren’t aware of them.
While a simple notebook will work for your money log, you could also use Excel or other spreadsheet programs, and there are apps like Mint and a new smart electronic checkbook register, the Debit Tracker that may help you track more efficiently. Basically, this does the job of a bookkeeper for all of your accounts, enabling you to create a sound budget at the end of your month of tracking without the tedious, manual calculations needed with a notebook. The most important thing is to take the small step of tracking and gain control over your finances and your weight. Choose to track, and you will be choosing to succeed. When money is tight and it’s gotta be right, track it or lack, it.