Sunday, January 8, 2012

The value of tracking things

I'm lately obsessed with tracking things.

I've been tracking my spending for....well, longer than I've had this blog, so at least five or six years. I find it incredibly useful - first for keeping to a budget and now for giving me an overview such that I don't feel a need for a strict budget anymore. It shows patterns, helps me encourage savings, and acts as a spending mitigator (if I don't want to have to report the spending...maybe I shouldn't buy it!).

I'm now becoming aware of the usefulness of tracking other things in your life as well. I know people track things like:
  • weight
  • temperature (for fertility planning)
  • savings
  • debt repayment
  • times at the gym
  • car mileage
  • books read, books to read
  • chores
  • home repairs/maintenance
  • meals
What else can I track?

I'm working on a spreadsheet that will allow me to track all of my trackable New Year's Resolutions as well as any monthly goals - think of it like a slightly grown-up version of a sticker chart. The two biggest criteria for my spreadsheet are that it be quick and easy to use (or else I won't use it!) and that it be available anywhere (so I can update it on the go instead of trying to remember it later). I'm thinking a Google doc but if anyone knows of a free iPhone app, I'd take that too.

I feel a little bit like Benjamin Franklin, when he first put together a chart to track his 13 virtues, or maybe Gretchen Rubin, with her Happiness Project score chart. Five minutes a day to track certain behaviors or situations has given me all sorts of clarity ranging from discovering that our bathtub needs to be cleaned to being able to predict when my face will break out. It's awesome.

Do you track anything in your life? What's missing from my list? How do you keep document the things you're tracking?


  1. I track: spending/income/money, books read & to read (Goodreads), and miles ran (and race times). I think making something to track your yearly resolutions is a great idea - it really helps you remember how you are doing on them!

  2. The only thing that I track is money, both money spent and saved. I find that tracking meals actually makes me obsess over food.

  3. You could start a 'price book' for your grocery staples. Record how much, where, and when you spent on them. Then you will know when a sale for them is a good deal and you can stock up on it.

  4. With with ND Chic, we only track money spent and saved.

  5. I track books, weight & money as well- I also track movies I want to see. I just keep the lists in seperate 'Note' files in my blackberry and transfer the money list to excel on my computer at least once a week.

  6. I track my net worth once a month but this article has inspired me to track other things...perhaps by weight and number of books read.

    What gets measured gets results.

  7. I'm so addicted to tracking things! And I have accounts at multiple websites for tracking things. My boyfriend and other friends have jokingly made fun of me, that I use too many tracking sites! It may be true, but I find unique uses for the sites. Right now I'm mostly tracking money stuff (net worth, transactions, debt, investments/savings, etc.) and fitness/weight loss/exercise. I guess I also use Goodreads to track what I read or want to read, but I am not as religious with that as with the money and the fitness stuff.


Thanks for commenting!