The Ledger

This post is part of a series on the various ways I've used pen and paper in my life. To learn more about it, check out the introduction, or view the "ink and paper brain" category for other posts.

I already track my finances with a spreadsheet and with Mint, but last year, I began doing so another way: by noting my expenditures in a notebook. This little book cost maybe a dollar and is slightly damaged, and yet, it’s just the thing for keeping a running list of the money I’m spending.

In the last few months of doing this, I’ve noticed that it serves a slightly different purpose than my digital financial tools. My spreadsheet and Mint, they record data. I turn to them if I want information. Writing dollar amounts in my ledger, however, is primarily a personal act, not an informational one. By writing down each expense, I hold myself accountable to every dollar I spend. It also gives an at-a-glance view of my cash flow, sure, but that function is secondary. First and foremost, writing out my expenditures keeps my money, even my purchases on debit or credit, real.