Day 10 / 31 Build a 3 Months Living Fund

Day 10: Build a 3 Months Living Fund
Day 10: Build a 3 Months Living Fund
Day 10: Build a 3 Months Living Fund

Little by little you are improving the financially weak areas in your life: with an emergency fund building up you are taking away the risk of having to go into debt when an emergency expense comes up and by paying off your debts you are regaining control over your finances and reducing the amount of interest you are paying in the long run.

There is another very powerful safety net you can create for yourself: a 3 months living fund. Such a fund would have 3 months’ worth of expenses saved up in case you are without an income for a while. There can be many reasons you might find yourself without an income for an amount of time such as loss of a job, taking an upaid sabbatical to look after an elderly parent, or taking time off for yourself to name just a few. Continue reading

Day 4 / 31 – Limit one Expense

Day 4: Limit one Expense
Day 4: Limit one Expense
Day 4: Limit one Expense

Now that you have created a budget (Day 3) and started tracking your expenses (Day 1), I am sure that you are becoming aware of some expenses that you currently have that seem way bigger than you thought they would be.

Day 4’s challenge is to have a quick and stern look at your expenses and then pick one (and only 1!) that you are going to limit for the rest of the month.

Look at the budget you made yesterday as well as your expenses up to now, and pick one expense to reduce. Make a rough estimation of how much you might be spending on it each month, then set yourself a goal of how much you can save during the next 4 weeks. Remind yourself of this goal every day, as at first I am sure you will get tempted to go back to your old habit! Continue reading

Day 3 / 31 – Start a Budget

Day 3: Start a Budget
Day 3: Start a Budget
Day 3: Start a Budget

The challenge for day 3 is to start a budget and plan on how you are going to spend your money this month. A budget not only ensures that you have enough money assigned for all of your expenses (and avoid running out of money at the end of the month), it also guarantees that you plan ahead and start setting aside some money to pay down debt or to add to your savings. Without putting in a plan, these long-term goals are unlikely to get prioritized and are therefore often forgotten about.

As you start your budget, think about the various expense categories that you have (such as utilities, car payments) and the individual expenses you have within each category (electricity, gas, water) that are likely to come up this month, both ones that are relatively predictable each month (such as rent / mortgage, groceries, utilities) as well as any less regular expenses such as birthday presents, clothes or meals out in restaurants.

Once you have a list of all expenses you expect to have, look at your expected income for the month and start assigning your money to each category, being careful not to budget any more than you have coming in. You can do this again on paper, in a digital spreadsheet or in a budgeting app or online program. Continue reading

Step 80: Your Savings Rate

Step 80 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Your Savings Rate
Step 80: Your Savings Rate

Now that you’ve got a bigger picture of your long-term financial goals, it is equally important to identify ways to achieve those goals. Hopefully by now you’ve set yourself some big financial goals to work towards to in the near future. These could range from earning some extra cash, becoming debt-free and paying off your mortgage, to reducing your work hours or retiring early.

Why exactly do so many people still have debt or no financial or pension plan for their future? Ask anybody in your environment and a vast majority will say that they just don’t have enough money to pay off their debt or to throw at their pension fund. They’ll tell you that they might plan to pay off their debt as soon as they get that promotion and accompanying pay raise. But by now you probably know that even when they get that increase in income, they still most likely won’t be using that money to pay off their debt, nor will they tuck it away and use it to invest in their pension. They’ll simply spend it on new things and without them even realizing it, their lifestyle will gradually inflate to a new level.

And are you maybe still telling yourself a version of this story as well?

Let’s think about how you can speed up your savings goals. Simply speaking and as we have already discussed in earlier steps, there are generally two ways to increase your savings:

  • increasing your income
  • decreasing your expenses

The disadvantages of looking at achieving your savings goals in this way however is that it is easy to focus on the finding excuses for not saving more: “I don’t make enough money”, “If only I earned another $1000 a month”, “It’s so much easier for my neighbor, he earns a lot more than me”, or: “I wish I didn’t have a mortgage for 30 years, it’s a big expense each month”, “It’s easy for you to say, I came out of university with a $50,000 debt”, “I have two young children, do you know how expensive they are?”…. And the list goes on and on and on. Continue reading

Step 77: Make a Year Budget

Step 77 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Make a Year Budget
Step 77 of the 100: Make a Year Budget

We’ve looked in detail at making a monthly budget where you carefully plan your expenses per category per month to ensure that you achieve your goals, both short-term as well as long-term, especially when it comes to savings, pension and investment goals. Without a budget it is easy to overspend and to lose the overview of where your money goes each month.

In addition to making a monthly budget it is wise to also draw up a yearly budget in which you make a yearlong plan for your expenses. We’ve already touched upon this a little when we discussed making a monthly budget, when we looked at the importance of bearing in mind certain yearly expenses that don’t come up every month but might come up just a few times or even just once a year.

A yearly budget doesn’t only ensure that you remember to budget for these expenses though. The added advantage of a yearly budget is that you can make a better and more accurate plan for your expenses by bridging the gap between your long-term financial goals with your day-to-day spending patterns. Of course, having a monthly budget already gives you the opportunity to plan expenses far better than if you just spend without being fully aware of your monthly total spending pattern. But it won’t give you as much insight into whether you are on your way to achieving your long-term financial goals or whether you are still quite a long way off. By making a budget for a full year you get a far better overview of this. Continue reading

Step 76: Translate Expenses into Time-Costs

Step 76 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Translate expenses into Time-Costs
Step 76: Translate expenses into Time-Costs

Every time you spend money you spend time. It’s not the good old “time = money” adage you should worry about, but the exact opposite: “money = time”, which although might seem to mean the same, is much more pertinent and important to remember than the first one. If you are like most people, the bulk of the money you have to spend each month comes from your job in the form of income. Each month you start afresh with a new paycheck of money coming in on one hand and also new bills to pay on the other.

It’s a logical sequence of how things work: You have bills to pay therefore you need a job so you can generate an income to pay these bills. Your job provides you with money so you can pay your bills (and then spend some more). The next month it starts all over again when there are new bills to pay and another month to work to pay these bills.

You are working for an income and regardless of your profession, your job is designed to trade time for money. You put your skills and expertise to use and in exchange your company gives you a salary. Change from a full-time job to a part-time one and you’ll likely get less money (less time = less money) and vice versa. Continue reading