Logging--writing down what's been done--is originally associated with sailing ships [later extended to ships of the air and beyond, as Star Trek's Voyager]. And with ubiquitous digital technology, logging is often automated: Your car computer has a digital file of your vehicle's discharge of pollutants, mile by mile; when I arrive at work is logged automatically with the sweep of my keycard to get in the building [and a log a few keystrokes away for any manager].
Those logs aside, I've found personal logging is a powerful tool. I first hit upon this when I tried to come up with a budget. Like many people, I found myself spending until money wasn't there. Living paycheck to paycheck offers you no idea of where your money is going. Financial embarrassment is not pleasant.
Most personal finance experts suggest, at minimum, going on a wholly cash basis for one week--no credit/debit cards, no checks--and just writing down every cent you spend and where. I did this and was surprised to see the drain on my pocketbook eating food away from home often became. I identified expenses by category and had the basis for a reasonable weekly budget.
But I've kept up the logging of my cash expenditures and it's a permanent habit. Why? I will take my slip of cash expenses for the week, total it up, and write down that figure in my weekly calendar book. I throw away the slip and do nothing about the total I wrote down. So why do I keep up this practice, recording the seventy-five cents for parking, the two forty-nine for a head of lettuce at Safeway and on and on?
I realized logging expenses doesn't give me feedback I need to adjust the budget—certainly not on a weekly basis. No, what logging does is make me conscious of spending money, a process that otherwise easily slips into autopilot for so many, with the frequent result financial discipline is maxed out credit cards and tapped out check balances.
Yes, I budget my total weekly expenses, but it is the logging and being conscious of every expense that keeps me from breaking the weekly budget [or if I do, painfully aware of why].
I recently tackled another budget with my logging habit. My dial-up internet access at home. My monthly budget is forty hours, but it costs only three bucks a month. Logging seemed perfect for staying on-budget. I wanted to be conscious of the connect time I used. I stood to lose my value-priced web access if I didn't.
Possibly my logging habit works too well: November's connect time was under seven hours!
Image credit: google images: mdnautical.com
Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.
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