The Unbearable Lightness of Money Diaries

This problem is exemplified by another confessor, whom Refinery29 asked to reflect on her life after her diary posted online (she now earns $69,000 a year). She says she appreciated the experience of documenting her spending because she learned that it’s all right to talk about money, even if that involves mistakes. She also says she feels newly empowered.

And what of her financial situation since?

“I made some frivolous spending mistakes and fell behind on student loan payments, maxing out my credit cards for birthdays, experiences and travel. Now I’m working to rebuild my savings and get back on track for the new year.”

If you don’t learn from transparency, what’s the point?

When it comes to the weighty issue of how much you should save and what you can afford to spend, you shouldn’t just look to other people’s money confessionals.

If you’re not into fancy apps or actuarial spreadsheets, consult this index card, which offers a terse accounting of tried-and-true advice such as paying off your credit cards in full each month. It’s a great place to start. Maybe get a little creative and convince your friends to join you in a tanda.

If you enjoy being a financial voyeur, imagine the diarist as a fictional character rather than anyone you might encounter in the real world. In doing so you’ll create a little distance from the author, since very few people would compare their spending with a money diary written by, say, Bruce Wayne.

If you find yourself feeling bad after reading these diaries, they may not be the best use of your time, especially if they don’t offer any real help.

Financial security and confidence, rather than transparency, is the goal.

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A version of this article appears at Wirecutter.com.

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