In last week’s blog post, Creating a Money Management System You Can Stick To, I talked about how you can create a money management system for yourself. When you are starting to get organized and work towards your financial goals, creating a system is so important. But, it is equally important to keep track of your progress over time. So today I thought I would talk about why it’s important to track your progress as you work towards financial independence. I also thought I’d give you some ideas of how you can track your progress to make it work for you!
Ultimately, the goal of any system that you create, it to have something that is easy for you to use, saves you time, and keeps you on track.
Why Should You Track Your Progress?
If you have a system in place to manage your money, the hard part is done right? You’ve taken the time to set a budget, set up spending goals, or decide what debt to target. Now the rest will all fall into place. Unfortunately, the best system in the world will not work if you don’t.
It helps Keep You Focused
It’s important to track your progress as you work towards your goals because each step towards your goal can actually change the way that you feel and keep you motivated. Each time you take a step towards your goal, your brain releases dopamine, which is a pleasure chemical. This causes you to feel good and focused (read more about the effects of dopamine and goal setting here). Each time you take a step towards your goal and track your progress you are going to get this little feel-good kick that will help you when sticking to your goal grows difficult.
It Allows You to Correct Course
Another reason that it’s important to track your progress is that is allows for course corrections. As with most goals, personal finance goals may hit stumbling blocks that we don’t anticipate when we set out. These bumps in the road can leave us feeling lost and let down. However, if you are tracking your progress through your money management system, you have a full picture of your finances. Using this picture and tracking your progress, you can find ways to still achieve your goals. You want to know where you are going, but always find your best path to get there. Tracking your progress will help you find the route that will work for you despite any bumps life throws your way.
How to Track Your Progress
Now that you understand why it’s important to track your progress to keep yourself motivated and adjust as needed, you need to find a way to track your progress that works for you. There are so many different methods that you can choose. While selecting your method remember that it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you! Pick something that you like, understand, and will stick with! Here are the most common tracking methods I use with my clients.
Pen and Paper
For some people using a journal or notebook to track progress works. Whether it is bullet journaling or making a budget in a notebook each month, this method works well. To make this method work for you, be sure to keep your notebook close by. Set up a time each week or at a minimum each month to review purchases, savings, and debt repayments. Then track your progress!
For some people, working towards savings or debt repayment goals, coloring sheets are a great way to track progress. They can help you relax, unwind, and tap into your creative side. It is also a great visual representation of what you are tracking. If you are a visual person and want to really see your progress, using a coloring sheet tailored to your goal may be a tracking system you can stick with!
Using Excel or Google Sheets is a common way that people track their progress. It allows you the flexibility to have your tracker with you on the go. It can also automate some of the math. While it works great for some people, the spreadsheet world is not for everyone. If you like using spreadsheets, this might be a good way for you to track your progress.
If you are looking for spreadsheets or coloring sheets to get started in your tracking, check out my Resources page. I have several to get you started!
An App/Software Program
You could also use an app or software program to track your progress. There are so many different budgeting and goal apps you can download for your phone. Additionally, your bank may offer a software solution that you can use. Be sure if you are using an app or software that you know that your personal information is safe and taken care of.
One thing to think about with using software or an app is that is sort of takes you out of the driver’s seat. You want to take an active part in tracking your progress. Remember the dopamine connection with working towards your goals and creating positive reinforcements. So, if you do use an app to track your progress, be sure to check in with it regularly and stay engaged!
Setting financial goals and working to reach different milestones can be fun. But to truly see the benefits of your hard work, it’s important to track your progress. Tracking your progress allows you to stay motivated and focused. It also gives you time and information to make course corrections as necessary. Be sure to find a method that works for you. And customize it to your needs. You’ll be amazed at the progress you can make by taking these simple steps.
If you are ready to get started and want to learn more about goal setting, check out my blog post Creating New Year’s Goals Instead of Resolutions.