I paid $149.99 for an excel spreadsheet.
Not a program, an app, a course or an online service…a spreadsheet.
It might sound a little crazy at first, but what if this spreadsheet could help me trade better? Turn my 50% win rate into a 75% or 80% win rate. What would that be worth to you?
I thought it was worth a shot, so I clicked on “purchase/download” on the Trading Journal Spreadsheet site and took a leap.
The Trading Journal Spreadsheet (TJS from here on out) is a spreadsheet which the TJS sites says:
turns raw trading data into refined evaluation analysis, for sound trading decisions.
Sounds simple enough. I input my data, it helps me analyze the information and in turn I apply this information to make my trading more successful.
Almost seems a little too simple…hmmm…now I’m suspicious. Let’s dig in some more.
The TJS isn’t really just a single spreadsheet. It’s actually a conglomeration of 13 different sheets varying from the primary trading log and tracking pages to extras like a milestones sheet and a position size calculator. All designed to help you breakdown, dissect your trades and learn what’s working and what’s not.
Here’s the video you’ll find on the home page of the TJS which provides a quick look at the product and what it’s meant to do.
But why would you need a trade tracker? Don’t most online brokerage platforms come with a trade tracker or journal? Yes and no. My experience with OptionsHouse is that the trading journal experience is little more than a blank text file for you to input your information into. Sure, the platform ports over the data for whichever trade you’re currently journaling, but there’s no real analysis to be had or tools to conduct a post mortem on the trade.
Getting to a more fundamental question though, why do you even need a trading journal? Why do you need to track the history of your trading success or failure?
Why you need a trading journal
When I first started trading, the course I took introduced me to the concept of trade tracking. Now I know all the veterans out there are rolling their eyes and thinking, “of course you track your trades!”
However, I’m not confident everyone tracks their trades from day one. I built a horrible, little spreadsheet based on some of the input from the first course I took, but I really didn’t have an idea of what should go into it and how it could help me in the long term.
For those of you new to trading or having made only a handful of trades, I think maintaining a trading journal is a must. A lot of my justification goes back to the same reason I decided to build a format for a trade plan, which I recently wrote about at How to Create an Options Trading Plan.
Let’s say you’ve grabbed my trade plan template, put your brain bytes to work fleshing out a trading plan and executed on the plan. Excellent! But now what?
Seven out of ten of your trades went well, but those three losses nearly offset your wins. Why? You stuck to your trade plan, executed according to your procedures but something just didn’t work out. Here is where the trading journal comes in.
If you’ve built your own journal, like I initially did, you’ve probably got a bunch of columns with headers which look a little something like this from one of my journals:
This was a great start for me, but my ability to conduct analysis was really limited. Beyond noting which trading template I used, I lacked notes on how and why I entered each trade. I also didn’t track what my entry and exit goals were…probably because I didn’t have any!
The bottomline is, there’s a lot missing from how I was tracking my trades and I wasn’t completely confident in my ability to manipulate Excel to meet my needs and ensure my calculations were correct.
This ultimately limited my ability to conduct any real kind of in-depth analysis of any of the trades I made. What hurt even more was my poorly thrown together spreadsheet was limiting my ability to become a better trader and meet my goals.
So, with that frustration in mind I set off to look for a solution to my problem.
What’s the competition look like?
When you Google “Trading Journal” as with just about anything you get a variety of results. When I set out on this journey I looked for something I get within the $50 range.
So, when Tradebench.com popped up as free I was interested. I skimmed through the site liked what I saw and signed up. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way I missed the fact the program isn’t built to trade options. I think I was a little mislead when the site talks about helping you determine exactly how many “shares, contracts, lots…” to trade since contracts and lots are terms usually associated with options trading.
Okay, scratch that one off the list.
Another top alternative I looked at was Tradervue.com and it looked promising. The layout of the interface looked clean and came with tons of features like importing data, of which OptionsHouse was a choice, tagging trades, and giving external access to a coach/mentor which many options traders have.
Tradervue looked like a good choice, so I clicked over to the plans/pricing information. Their free option immediately caught my eye; however it’s limited to 100 trades per month (which I don’t come close to) and only stocks.
I moved on to their Silver and Gold plans which were priced at $29 and $49 a month respectively. Great pricing, however I wasn’t looking for a monthly commitment with my trading journal. I wanted to pay once for it and be done. Maybe I’ll come back to Tradervue later, but for now it was out of the running.
One of the other journals I looked at was at TradingDiaryPro.com. This trading journal offered what seemed to become the “usual” features associated with a trading journal (i.e. notes for trades, risk management, etc.) with one unusual addition of a “Tax Report” section for capital gains reporting. I wasn’t too interested in this since OptionsHouse does this for me, but at least it proved TradingDiaryPro was thinking outside the box a little.
As with the previously mentioned platforms the interface looked clean and useable by a technically challenged person such as myself, so off to the purchase tab!
I was hit with this, “Buy a TradingDiary Pro License!”
License? Not really what I was looking for. TradingDiaryPro.com was asking for $129 upfront and an annual upgrade/support fee of $45. So not only was I out of my $50ish price range I was shooting for, but I was also entering into a long term commitment.
Okay, so I learned a couple of lessons here. One, I needed to expand my dollar amount I was willing to spend to get a one-time purchase for a great product. Two, I might have commitment issues…
When I finally stumbled over to TJS, I was a little worse for wear but more willing to open my wallet a little bit more.
I’ve already talked a little bit about TJS, but it was the product reviews which pushed me to purchase the product.
The multitude of reviews from a variety of traders, retail and professional alike, from world-wide locations was fantastic. This told me the product was already extensively tested and likely to withstand any form of punishment I could send its way. Additionally, embedded within many of the comments were notes about the customer service of the creator, Greg, and his quick, helpful responses to his customers’ needs.
This was awesome and seemed to fit my needs, so I added it to my cart and off I went!
What $149.99 gets you
After confirming my purchase and giving away my money I finally got it, a 2.1MB file along with a 16.2MB PDF to show me how to use the TJS. A little underwhelmed at first? Yes. But you can guarantee I put that file in a safe place!
Before I even opened the file, I created a copy to track my 2015 trades creatively named…2015 Journal.
Of course like any good consumer I skipped straight over the instructions and went right at the spreadsheet.
When you first open TJS you’re presented with the home screen just like you seen in Greg’s presentation on the TJS site.
Beyond just the titles above each sheet, there are little red triangles most users of excel are probably familiar with. For those of you unfamiliar with excel, these triangles indicate a “note” about the item in that cell. Each of the pages is marked with a triangle describing in some detail the use of each sheet.
While the descriptions aren’t lengthy, I’d say they’re just right for giving you a good, “Okay, that’s what this sheet is for” feeling.
After perusing many of the sheets and reading the “red triangle” notes on the pages (I kinda felt like a kid at an Easter Egg hunt…Oh! Another one!) I figured I should go through the instructions instead of just hunting and pecking around.
The TJS instructions are a “getting started” guide. Much of it is devoted to getting you up and running with the TJS. At only 12 pages it doesn’t really get into the “how-to” of operating and manipulating the spreadsheet.
There is a quick explanation on which parts of the TJS are customizable, which is definitely a bonus with this product. I’ll talk about this more a little later.
Overall, I think this is an area the TJS could improve, but it’s not a hindrance to the use of the spreadsheet. The instructions do direct you to find the “Easter eggs” (red triangles) throughout the TJS for detailed explanation on the various pages. However, for $149.99 I would expect a slightly more detailed explanation.
I think a single 2-5 minute video on each page, walking you through the use of each page would be perfect. I don’t think videos would need to “ship” with the product, but maybe be a link within the spreadsheet or on each page of the spreadsheet back to the TJS site with the videos would work great.
As I mentioned previously, the TJS is customizable to some degree. However, you need to proceed at your own risk. If you go so far as to adjust equations or some of the work Greg did, he won’t be able to help you troubleshoot it.
However, I don’t think you really need to go crazy on the customization to reap the benefits of this feature. Let me show you.
In the screen shot above from my journal, you’ll see a list of “trade indicators” which allows you to customize which indicators you use to get into a trade. As you can see, the last entry is “Slow Stoch” and then it starts counting from “10”. Slow stoch is one of the indicators I put into the spreadsheet to allow myself to select the indicators which fit into my current trade plans.
The numbers are just slots for additional customization. The nice thing is how you customize this portion of the TJS feeds into other parts. So, this change I made in trade indicators feeds into my trade log for when I record my trades. See the screenshot below.
Now with this little tweak I can use the TJS to tell me if my trading plans are working or not based on some of the indicators I’m using. I think it’s a great feature and wonderful that you’re not locked into using the TJS as is and can mold it to suit your needs.
As you can see on the screenshot above, the graph labeled “Equity Curve” is also adjustable to meet your needs.
I think this is probably one of the best and most useful features of the TJS. Every trader and many trades are different from one another and the ability to customize the Trading Journal Spreadsheet to fit your requirements is a big bonus in my book.
Beyond pages like trade analysis and trading log which you’d expect to find within this type of product, there are a host of other pages which add to its value. In the stocks and options version of the product I bought there are eight additional sheets and six blank sheets for you to add in your own information if you’d like.
Maybe I’m a little biased since I just wrote about building a trading plan, but I was excited to see a page devoted solely to this topic. This page is a free form writing page which sparks your thought process by providing 17 different entries about a trading plan.
A couple of the entries I hadn’t thought about and tend to talk to a higher level of trading such as, “Continuing Education” or “Discipline & Mindset Notes”. Great points every trader should think about and I’ll definitely incorporate those into my trade plan!
Another hidden gem is the Milestones page. Here’s a quick snapshot of it.
When you first open the page, it’s set to tell you the answers to basic questions most traders would want to know.
What’s my largest win/loss?
What’s my win/loss streak?
What’s my average win/loss?
But that’s not all. The best part of this page is (drumroll please…) it’s customizable! Yup, though it’s not shown in the screenshot above, you can create milestone information for yourself. This may take a little Excel expertise to make it work, but it’s easily within reach.
If you don’t feel like customizing those cells, no harm no foul. The preloaded milestones are more than likely to fit the needs of any trader.
I could keep going and talk about every page within the TJS, but this post would get ridiculously long. Suffice to say, the TJS is loaded with extra pages beyond what you’d expect and they all support your learning and effort to become a better trader.
The trading log is just as it sounds, a location to log all of your trades. However, with 40 predefined fields and five others which you can fill out to your need (there’s that customization thing again), there’s a ton of data available for you to work with.
I won’t go into detail on each of those fields, but I’ll lay out the various categories for you. The first few fields are devoted to those characteristics which identify your trade. Pretty basic stuff here such as the symbol and strike price go here. There’s also an ability to link it to a specific account within your spreadsheet in the event you’re tracking multiple accounts.
The first three sections focus on entry/exit parameters and your results. Here you’ll input your entry/exit price, dates and quantity of lots traded and your results will be tabulated. One of the unique aspects of the entry/exit section is the ability to track your target and stop prices if you’re interested in seeing how well you manage your trade one you’re in it. I think this is a great addition and should definitely be taken advantage of.
The next section is devoted to the multitude of characteristics associated with each trade. If you remember back under the Customization section, I talked about the capability to change certain measures of each trade and how you track it.
This section is where you put that customization to use to identify your trade. Did you use a 3/6-month or a 1-year chart? Was this your strategy or did you borrow it from someone else? A lot of the data you input here directly feeds into the analysis page giving you the opportunity to break down your trades.
The next section may be my favorite. Here you give yourself a grade on each trade. Was it good/bad or just blah? Why was it that way? Many of my initial entries in this section boiled down to either a bad/no plan or poor entry. Great information for future trade analysis!
The next two sections allow you to make adjustments to your trades if need be and the spreadsheet shows you the summary of your trade. For example, here is where you’ll input your commission information and any other miscellaneous information you need about fees.
The trade summary section provides a breakdown of 10 different measures from risk to percentage gain to net profit/loss. It’s a good snapshot to see how your individual trades perform and where I draw all my data from to see how I’m performing (or not) on a monthly basis.
The last section is a generic notes area. It’s basically a large, free text area to put whatever you want about the trade. I tend to leave my notes to a couple of short bursts of info to capture what I need, but you could be as detailed as you’d like to be, or not. Again, it’s up to you!
The trading log is a great page, however it’s the combination of it with the tracking analysis page where you earn your money (quite literally) with TJS.
Tracking Analysis Page
The Tracking Analysis Page is where you’ll probably spend the majority of your time with the TJS. It breaks down all the data from your trading log into manageable chunks for you to further dissect and understand what went right, or wrong.
Your data is broken down into thirteen different segments such as entry strategy, trade strategy source and error recognition to name just a few.
Each of these segments is further measured to show the number of occurrences for that particular piece of data, your win percentage and other pieces of data which highlight the success/failure of your trades.
You can quite literally get lost in the data which is available to you in this page. Your initial goal, however, should be to focus on the error recognition segment.
Here your own self-identified errors are captured and tallied and exposed for how much they’ve cost you. For example, the worst culprit in my trades this year is “Bad Order Entry”. This three time offender cost me $260 and occurred in 21% of my trades.
Now I know $260 isn’t a ton for most traders, but for those of us trading small accounts it can make or break a year. Without this insight going forward I would probably continue to make the same mistakes, slowly whittling down my account.
This single data point was one of the primary reasons I began the research to learn how to build a trading plan.
Beyond bad orders, the page helped me identify four other errors contributing to my trading blunders early this year. Would it be possible for me to calculate and identify all this information on my own?
But how long would it take you to recreate and test this product?
Is a spreadsheet worth $149.99?
I’d say yes.
I think the true value of the TJS is purely in using the spreadsheet. It forces you to think through your trades and their outcome.
Why did you select that strike price?
Did your emotions get the best of you and you exited early?
Was this trade in line with your trade plan?
Reflecting on the details of each trade helps you understand why you’re succeeding or failing with trading and either replicate or eradicate those habits.
Developing the correct mindset for trading, or any skill for that matter, can be one of the toughest aspects of learning. And I think the TJS is a great tool for assisting you in the transition.
Of course you could ignore a lot of the utility within the TJS, continue to make the same errors and still get some benefit out of it by just logging trades. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t suggest buying TJS.
However, if you want to improve your trading by analyzing, planning and placing your trades better, then I think the Trading Journal Spreadsheet is a great tool to compile and analyze all your data in a single space.