Diaries methods are commonly used as qualitative research tools, where participants share written, oral, or video accounts of their everyday experiences or observations. Financial Diaries expanded on this method by introducing quantitative data collection, where participants record financial transactions such as income, expenses, savings, and loans, read more on the origins of the (Financial) Diaries method. L-IFT has further advanced this approach by combining quantitative and qualitative data collection in its own technology tool called FINBIT.

Diaries approaches were developed to gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of individuals’ experiences. By collecting data on the day or shortly after events occur, diaries provide more reliable information compared to relying on participants’ recall. Diaries also encourage participants to reflect on their experiences as they take notes. In conjunction with interviews, diaries can facilitate discussions on various topics.

Overall, diaries methods offer a comprehensive and nuanced perspective on individuals’ lives, combining quantitative and qualitative data to gain deeper insights into their experiences.

The method consists of the following:

Frequent interviews: This research methodology consists of interviewing the same respondents over a longer period of time. At least six months and ideally a full year. Each respondent is interviewed frequently, at least every two weeks.

The same research questions during the entire period: During each interview, the same basic questions are posed. In the case of financial diaries, these questions are about their income, their expenditures, their savings, loans, emergencies, and some other aspects that may fluctuate strongly from a two-week period to the next two-week period. These repeat interviews give us a good insight into the fluctuations of income and expenses over time of individual respondents. It helps us capture complexities and those aspects that only happen occasionally.

Building trust with Respondents: Interviewing the same people over a longer period of time means that a high level of trust develops between the respondent and interviewer. This results in more reliable and intricate findings. The methodology used combines the benefit of quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative data is generated about people’s financial behavior over a longer period of time as well as a qualitative understanding of the reasons for their behavior.

L-IFT’s Methods: Personal interviews assisted by smartphone technology (CAPI) data collection with scriptable, off-the-shelf software to allow for continuous adaptation of additional, follow-on questions. L-IFT uses its proprietary FINBIT technology to collect Dairies data.

  1. EmicRespondents influence the direction of (some of) the research, they guide the researchers to the important topics. Equally, based on the first findings from research L-IFT then formulates follow-on questions to delve deeper.
  2. Specials to make interviews more interesting and to capture a huge range of qualitative information, each standard, repeat interview is followed by a set of questions. around a focus theme, e.g. support mechanisms, gender, and appreciation of financial service providers.

Further Reading on Diaries Origins and Uses

The financial diaries research methodology was first developed about ten years ago by a team of international researchers consisting of Daryl CollinsJonathan MorduchStuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven. Their work culminated in the publication “Portfolios of the Poor – How the World’s Poor Live on 2$ a Day”.


Our Different Diaries

ghana1.1 Financial Diaries

This research methodology consists of interviewing the same respondents over a longer period of time on financial aspects such as income, expenditures, savings, loans and emergencies. Read more >


Livelihoods Diaries

Livelihoods vary greatly depending on the season and circumstances. On request of the MasterCard Foundation L-IFT adapted the diaries methodology for researching livelihoods. Read more >


Energy Diaries

L-IFT’s energy diaries investigate people’s energy usage and particularly enable us to compare clean energy usage to usage of traditional energy forms. Read more >



SME Diaries

SME diaries tracks SMEs over time through interviews every other week. It looks at the SME from three perspectives: i. the owner or manager, ii. an employee, iii. the customers. Read more >


Agricultural value chain diaries

The agricultural value chain diaries focus on the various actors’ experiences in the value chain, i.e. their interaction with their suppliers and their clients. Read more >


Self diaries

Self-diaries are offered as a service through which individuals can themselves report about different aspects of their lives, such as their financial lives, their livelihoods, their energy. Read more >



Impact measurement

We have a fully developed methodology to help businesses and organisations evaluate their programme’s beneficiaries as compared to a control group by using the financial diaries methodology. Read more >