A Community member of the ChooseFI Facebook group, Sharah M. shared her method for tracking optimizations and improvements:
“Inspired by the weekly Choose FI “What did you do this week” posts, I started a Make Life Better journal last January (could also be called an Aggregation of Marginal Gains tracker). Each Friday I recorded the 1-4 things I did to make my life a little bit better that week. 2018 was a rough year, but I'm heartened to look back at all the incremental progress I've made.”
Excellent, right? We thought so too! In fact, we thought it was such a great idea, we'd dedicate an entire post to it.
(Here's the original Facebook thread if you want to check it out.)Beyond your finances, weekly tracking of small optimizations can have an emotional and motivational impact on your FI progress. Though certain activities like utilizing the library or installing a Nest thermostat may not seem like big wins, they are both positive changes and small improvements that make a big difference.
1% Better Isn’t Just Financial
Our lives are more than our net worth. It's the moments shared with loved ones, achieving goals, or volunteering for causes we care about. While none of these moments add to our bottom line, they're equally valuable.
While it’s important to track our net worth in apps like Personal Capital, it's important to keep track of the little moments as well.
Keeping track of the little things reminds us that not all milestones are financial. It reminds us that, when reflecting on a year or years, to look at the big picture. Reminding yourself of not only how rewarding it is to live within your means, but giving back to the people and causes you care about.
Related: The Aggregation Of Marginal Gains
The Benefits Of Tracking For The Long Haul
After the first few months of discovering a FI or frugal lifestyle, you might have experienced loads of rapid improvements. Over time, though, you might have seen your financial wins slow down, and it can make you feel like you're waiting forever for your FI number.
This is the right time to remind yourself you're in it for the long haul, not the short-term.
Tracking can be beneficial to see your marginal gains over time and keep you motivated in between the milestones. By reviewing some improvements, you can see how far you’ve come even if the needle hasn’t moved too much.
Additionally, tracking these little wins serve as a good record of what to revisit later. What had the most emotional payoff? Do you want to make volunteering or decluttering a more regular part of your life? Do you continue making improvements to your home or do you refocus your savings efforts elsewhere?
These are the kinds of questions you need to answer to get an accurate gauge of your progress, financial and personal.
What To Track
What changes or improvements you track are up to you. But anything that helps to improve your life, save money, or make you happier and healthier is fair game.
If you're looking for some ideas, here are some of the small wins our ChooseFI Facebook community members have shared:
- Taking advantage of bank sign-up bonuses by opening a new checking account
- Utilizing an HSA
- Researching tax optimizations and implementing them
- Switching to a better car, health, or home insurance
- Negotiating a raise at work
- Starting a new exercise routine
- Learning to meal prep and reducing the weekly grocery bill
- Taking on a side hustle
- Starting house hacking
- DIY home improvements
- Learning a new skill (hair cutting, plumbing, landscaping)
- Enrolling in a new financial program, retirement plan
- Paying off debt
- Re-enrolling in school
- Using travel rewards and planning family time
- Reducing eating out
- Canceling a recurring expense
- Organizing, digitizing photos, or decluttering
- Spending time reading, listening to podcasts or other self-improvement activities
- Getting together end-of-life documents and wishes for self or family members
- Setting five, ten, or 15-year goals or vision boards
- Committing to reducing waste, cycling to work, or other green initiatives
- Relocating to a lower COL area or downsizing
- Committed to taking more adventures as a family within driving distance
No matter what your ideas to improve your life, even by 1%, these little changes add up over time. As the old saying goes, “you wouldn’t believe who you can become in a year.”
Optimizing little things in every area of your life does amount to big change!
Getting Started? Use This Template!
If you’re interested in tracking your weekly 1% improvements, Sarah created this handy Google document, the “Make Life Better Journal.” Select “make a copy” and it will create a duplicate that saves to your personal Google drive.
From there, you can easily access your document from your phone, tablet, or computer to track even your smallest of wins.
Thanks so much to Sarah and all of our ChooseFI community members who share their weekly progress, 1% improvements, life hacks, and mini-optimizations with us in the Facebook group. It’s truly inspiring to watch.
If you find this document helpful, be sure to thank Sarah for creating it!
- 50 Ways To Improve Your Finances By 1%
- The Baby Steps Of FI
- Guest Post: What I've Learned From ChooseFI