Minimalist Finance: My New Super Tool

Behold my financial super tool: a notebook.

There is nothing as lame and boring and unsexy as someone discussing their financial diet. A friend of a friend once told me about buying the wrapped up mega discount produce at T&T and cutting the mold and squishy stuff off to make a stir fry. While I applauded her efforts to stay out of debt while in school I also felt kinda sick at the thought of it.

My husband and I have recently paid off a bunch of consumer debt. We were prepared for financial disaster while I was on maternity leave but found, strangely, that a few months in we were staying afloat. This curiosity lead me to inspect our finances a little closer and in February we decided to actually watch our spending and see if we could save money. I messed around with some Excel spreadsheets, an app for my iTouch and a pay for use online budgeting software that imported all of our banking information. None of it worked for us. But the spend less approach did and we have saved into the five figures in the last eight months.

Just to be honest: I’m not ready for full financial transparency on this blog. While I know it is fun to see other people’s numbers I don’t think I am ready for it. But I will admit to being a card carrying member of the ‘still have student loans and over 30’ set. *I did go back to school for a year when I was 26. Expensive school.

But I am ready to take my financial awareness and planning to another level. I read a pretty good e-book over the weekend, Unautomate Your Finances by Adam Baker. I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is the second e-book I have read and while I like Adam’s ManvsDebt blog his writing style is not in the vein of say, The Wealthy Barber.

But I guess his writing style is what made the book so good.

Adam and his wife were $80k in debt when their daughter was born just a few years ago. Becoming parents was a wake up call to them. Not just about their finances but about what they wanted to do in life. Over less than two years they paid off over $20k in debt and saved an additional $17,000 so they could live abroad for a year. In the book Adam details how they did, how others can do it and pumps you up about spending less and earning more. He also recommends a tool I know quite well: writing it down!

August 2006
August 2007

In 2007 I lost 25 pounds using a website called and marathon training. Essentially you write everything you eat down, in this case online. The act of writing it down makes you more aware of your consumption. And with awareness you stop mindlessly eating and listen to your body’s hunger cues more. And then you lose weight.

Adam Baker recommends writing down all your purchases for 30 days in his book Unautomate Your Finances. Pretty simple, right? I’ve only been practicing this for two days and already I am seeing a difference. Simple works.

There are some great ideas and tools in the book and I highly recommend it if you want to make some changes in your financial life. Big or small. If you want to know more about the book check out Adam’s blog

UPDATE: apologies, this book is no longer available. You can read more about Adam’s debt strategy at

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  • I totally agree. When I live my life consciously, actually making decisions after a few moments of reflection, I make much better decisions. What I lack is the perseverance to continue keeping track. I think I need more structure in my life.

  • Just saw your blog and am totally inspired. Can you come help declutter my house… I’m jealous of the cleaned off mail/paper table and spacious closet! Nice work!

  • Pen and paper, love it! I got all crazy a year ago and started making spreadsheets that would roll over month to month so I’d know what my averages were really like. It was more fun creating the spreadsheet than actually using it.
    Recently I’ve taken my “entertainment” budget and broken it down to a daily amount. It’s worked for me because it has a built-in reward system. If I spend only half of today’s amount, I have one and a half tomorrow. My own compound interest.

  • Another great post!

    I started writing stuff down when I left home at 18 and haven’t stopped since :-) almost 20 years later, it still does the trick although I do use a spreadsheet now. The tricky bit is keeping track of my husband’s spending too, but generally that’s limited to coffee and a few small items here and there.

    One interesting thing I’ve found is that how I record it changes a lot depending upon where I live and what methods of payment I use more etc. Now I live in a mostly cash based society so I have to write down individual purchases as I go. Previously I lived in a more card based society where I could look at the internet banking for most of my purchases. I have really refined it now, but I know the format of the spreadsheet will invariably change to meet different needs when we move to another country…

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