journals - financial power tools

A Ridiculously Cheap but Powerful Financial Tool

Ever heard of Richard Branson?

He’s the guy who founded The Virgin Group in the 1970s and has since built a global empire of companies. His net worth is in the multiple billions.

“So what? What does this have to do with me?” you ask.

One of his habits – something super simple – has proven to be instrumental to his success and it could help you make much faster progress toward achieving your financial goals, too.

I’ve used this practice – a financial tool, really – to help me rebuild my finances after inheriting $400,000 of debt back in my 30’s.

And I’ve since used it with hundreds of course and coaching clients, with great results.

The cool thing is that it could cost as little as one dollar.


Take a note of this

According to Branson, in his book The Virgin Way, he carries a notebook with him everywhere.

When he’s in a meeting, he takes notes on what was said, considered, and agreed to.

When he gets an idea, he pulls open his notebook and writes it down.

He uses notebooks as a type of journal in which he collects and hashes out ideas, records the people he speaks with and what they say, compiles his thoughts, and keeps track of what works and what doesn’t.

The notebooks – and there’s apparently a mighty collection of them by now – are an important tool which Branson has used, and continues to use, to grow his life and his businesses.

One of the things I learned years ago is that when you see a successful person doing something that gets results, emulate them!

I started using a journal to collect my thoughts, throw out ideas, work out frustrations, and record my progress years ago, but when I read about Branson’s approach, I took it to a whole new level.

Curiously, the pace of my progress increased.

Isn’t that interesting?

Important applications for your money

I’ve been recommending to my peeps that they keep a Money Journal for years. Here are 3 reasons why:


#1 – You forget how much progress you’ve made

When my first child was born, I didn’t write down the details of many of her milestones because at the time, I thought I was too busy. It just wasn’t a convenient time. I swore that I would remember anyway.

Who forgets their child’s first word? Not a mother!

I forgot.

To this day, I can’t tell you what it was. I have plausible guesses, but I can’t say for sure that one of them was THE first word she uttered.

We all forget a ton of things, even the important stuff.

When it comes to making progress with your money, there are a million small steps you go through to get to your valuable goals.

And when you’re tired, stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed, you’ll start to think that damn it all, you’re getting no where. All this work and this time, and you haven’t achieved much at all. Gah.

Until you flip back through your Money Journal and realize, “Hold on a second. I did this and this. Oh and this, too. I *have* done a whack ton of stuff.”

You’ve simply forgotten because life got in the way.

Your Money Journal doesn’t forget.

Celebrating the small steps is an important part of the money system that I teach. And let’s face it, progress is made up of a thousand small steps with an occasional big leap.

The big leap may be sexy, but it’s the small steps that make the big leaps possible.

Record, remember, and celebrate.


#2 – It’s easier to spot patterns

When I submitted the draft of my book Protect Your Purse to my editor, she came back with the following, “You have used [a particular word] 78 times in 284 pages. Revise all.”

What??? No way. I absolutely did not use that word (can’t remember which it was off the top of my head – see what I mean?) 78 times. That’s ridiculous.

I did a search of my manuscript for that word.

Well crap. Seventy-eight bloody times.

It’s hard to argue when it’s in writing.

Want to know what else having something in writing helps with?

Money patterns.

When you read through your Money Journal and you see that an issue or a feeling or a negative outcome keeps popping up in your world, that’s a signal that it’s time to invoke my favorite questions:

Isn’t that interesting?

I wonder what’s going on?

I can’t tell you how many clients have written to me to say that their Money Journal has helped them identify patterns that:

  • they didn’t know they had;
  • or they did know about, but had no idea of the extent of the issue;
  • or they knew about, but didn’t know where the pattern came from until they started to write about it in their journal.

In other words, by taking the time to read through past notes, then think about them, my clients identified key issues in their finances and where those issues came from.

That’s the first, necessary step in breaking old, unhelpful patterns.


#3 – It sparks creativity

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with an idea that you thought was brilliant, but you decided to wait until morning to record it because you didn’t feel like hauling your body out of bed at that ungodly hour?

The next morning, unfortunately, the idea was gone. Vanished from memory.

That’s what happens with good ideas that you get during the day, too, if you don’t write them down.

You might dismiss certain ideas as impractical at the time, but several months later, they might spark another idea that could make you a lot more money or help you tackle a persistent problem.

Sometimes, your bright ideas need time to percolate in a place where they won’t be lost. Your journal is the perfect place for them.

Notes from my journal

My business today, as a financial literacy educator, is the result of many entries in my journals (there are several by now) in which I noted the following:

  • I’m furious about the fact that there is a massive wealth gap between men and women. What on earth can I do about this? This is not cool!
  • People keep asking me how I paid off massive debts in two years. They’re struggling and they need ideas. What was it about my approach that worked?
  • If budgeting is so damn good as a tool, then why does it fail for so. many. people. What gives? Where’s the research on this?
  • I thought bringing together couples to talk about money and how to improve their finances would be a great idea. It wasn’t. Total fail. Only the men talked, even when I asked for the women’s input. Where are the women’s voices?
  • Even when I work directly with couples, men do most of the talking. How do I get the women to talk? They’re not shy in other respects. What the hell is going on here?


These ideas and musings and failures led me to build a business that focuses exclusively on empowering women financially.

It turns out that women have a lot to say about money when they’re not around men! Giving them a safe, judgement-free space to speak was the key.

If I hadn’t recorded all these thoughts over a period of several years, and taken the time to review my notes, I’m not sure that I’d be doing the work I do today. I certainly wouldn’t have helped thousands of people improve their finances and create real, exciting options for themselves.

The practice of keeping a journal worked so well for me that I now keep a journal for each of the three courses that I teach. I consider them an essential part of my personal and business life.


Record everything

Do yourself and your finances a favour.

Buy a notebook if you don’t already have one on hand and create your very own Money and Life Journal. Record everything.

What you did, what you’re thinking, your memories, your dreams, and what you’re feeling.

Give your genius a place to land, to percolate, and to grow.

On days when you’re feeling low, look back through your journal to remind yourself of all the progress you’ve made that you have totally forgotten about.

And use your journal to remind yourself every single day of the goals you’re shooting for.

They’re within reach.

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7 Responses

  1. I love this! I started journaling a little over a year ago and haven’t looked back.

    I also love the approach here. I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t take good notes or prep for meetings to remind myself of people’s background and interests. It would have been very useful had I done something like this.

    Towards the end my career I added buffer time before meetings to do research and polish up on who I was meeting with. I’d look at Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter to get a better idea of the person, and it paid huge dividends.

    So now whenever I meet with anyone even friends I try to jot down some important points from the conversation that might be useful for the next time. Having a notebook system like this is gold!

    1. Hey Accidentally Retired (great name!), thanks for popping by and sharing your journal story. You’re absolutely right that having a notebook system is gold. I can’t tell you how often I’ve looked back through my notes to double-check on what was agreed to during a given meeting or suggestions that people made that I later implemented. Pure gold!

      I love how you’re using this as a prep tool to get up to speed on the people you’re going to meet. That’s a great idea. Consider it borrowed. 🙂

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