I admit that this step should have probably been way earlier on in the list, since if you share your household and finances with your partner, then discussing money matters and making sure you have the same short-term and long-term goals in mind is essential to not only achieving your financial goals but also keeping your relationship healthy and happy. At the end of the day if you are trying to save, invest or grow your capital whilst your partner is more of the “let’s spend it all now” school, you likely both wind up frustrated with each other, meaning both your financial goals and your relationship happiness will take a hit and suffer at some point.
Sad but true: finances and a lack of shared financial goals or financial compatibility are not uncommon reasons for people to end a relationship, so let’s get this sorted once and for all and make sure that you and your partner discuss your individual and joint financial beliefs and goals. You might not have exactly the same ideas about how to spend or save your money, but discussing will at least create more understanding and hopefully pave the way to an agreement that satisfies both and leaves some (financial) room for both to do your own thing.
Of course it might be that your partner is not into finances at all and is happy for you to take control of the (majority) of the money decisions and responsibilities. If that is the case, it might sound easier in the short-term to simply assume that role not inform or even consult your partner, but remember that long-term this might not be in the interest of neither your relationship nor of your finances. Continue reading “Step 55: Discuss Finances with your Partner”→
When you were making your first budget in step 17, you might have felt it was a bit of a stab in the dark. Maybe you would have appreciated a simple formula that indicated how to allocate your money in a way that would just make it faster and easier to budget. A formula that also ensured you’d work towards you goals. Or maybe you were happy to rely on your own methods but would now like to find out about a general indicator of how much to allocate to each area.
In this step we are going to have a closer look at a very common concept in budgeting, the so-called 50 / 20 / 30 rule. I’d like to think of it as a guideline more than a rule, as depending on your financial position and your goals, your expense patterns change and you might spend more or less in certain categories at certain moments in your life. It is therefore wise to not just adopt but to adapt this guideline and adjust it to your own specific needs and circumstances. Continue reading “Step 19: Budget with the 50/20/30 rule”→
Step 18 is all about starting a new and incredibly powerful habit, one that will allow you to focus on your mission, realign your spending and savings patterns to your goals and get closer each time until little by little one day you tick off your first goal, then your second one, your third, until you realize you are able to hit your goals one after the other.
This new super habit is starting a weekly finance review, during which you will go through your goals and some of the main steps we have covered up til now, and when you work your way through the next 82 steps that are still to come, you will add some of those steps to your weekly review too. In that way you consistently hold yourself accountable for your success as you review whether you are on track (or not) for the rest of the month, and what adjustments need to be made in order to make sure you will achieve your goals for the month, and with that ultimately those much desired long-term goals.
In the last few steps we’ve laid all the groundwork to set ourselves up for success to achieve our mission. You should by now have a great overview of all your expenses, how much comes in, how much goes out and very soon you will be setting yourself some more detailed, time bound goals to work towards to. But to get you truly started, create momentum and feed the desire – that hopefully you are feeling by now – to see some positive results, now is the moment to take a very first step towards change. Therefore from today onwards you will by limiting one expense consistently for a whole month.
Does that mean cutting it out all together? Maybe, maybe not. You need to decide what works for you (I know! as always…). It might be that looking at your expenses you have suddenly become aware of how much you spend on your smoking habit, and since you’ve always wanted to give up smoking, now might be the moment. So yes, that would mean eliminating that expense altogether. Or maybe you’re surprised at how much you spend on nights out in the pub on Friday nights with friends. If you don’t want to give up those nights of fun, maybe you can make a commitment to staying in once a month, or going home just that one drink earlier and reducing the expense without cutting them out completely. Continue reading “Step 14: Limit one Expense”→
Simply put, in personal finance your cash flow indicates how much money you have coming in on a monthly basis, how much is going out and how much the difference is.
As you might expect, having a positive cash flow, where you earn more money than that you spend, is what you want to pursue, as if the reverse is true, you are either building up debt or you are eating away your savings. Having a positive cash flow means you are living within or below your means, and not beyond.
This might sound easier than it is: there might be some months when you have more money coming in than going out, but other months the opposite might be the case, and if your income fluctuates a lot, this might concept might be especially difficult to control. Continue reading “Step 13: Calculate your Cash Flow”→
So one last one to go: your savings expenses. Saving expenses are any expenses that you have that are related to improving your financial situation now or in the future. They are payments that you make towards your financial goals and include debt payments that you are making to pay off a loan, savings plans that you are paying into, investments that you are making and any emergency or rainy day funds that you have.
When you were looking at your fixed expenses you might have been wondering what to do with these savings payments already, or you might have even included them, as many of these can look like fixed expenses that you have monthly. The reason why we want to take these out and identify them as a different category however is that they are generally very different in nature to a fixed, variable or discretionary expense, as they are focussed on achieving a financial goal, as opposed to the other categories. Continue reading “Step 12: Identify your Savings Expenses”→
Discretionary expenses are expenses for thing that you don’t absolutely need in order to survive or run your household. They are often optional (some would even argue unnecessary) expenses that mainly enhance your day-to-day life and make it more fun. Think about dinners at the restaurant, holidays and a trip to the cinema. To give a definition of a discretionary expense, it:
is an expense of a variable amount that you have more or less complete control over;
might or might not have a regular time interval;
is not needed for day-to-day living;
you can cut out all together relatively easily.
Discretionary expenses are usually the type of expenses that people cut back on first during tough financial times, and also the first ones that increase again when their economic situation improves. That coffee you get every day at Starbucks on your way to work? That’s a discretionary expense: you have complete control over it, you don’t need it for day-to-day living, and you can cut it out all together and make your own coffee when you get to work or bring one in from home in a thermos flask. Continue reading “Step 11: Identify your Discretionary Expenses”→
In step 9 we looked at fixed expenses, but apart from these regular payments of a set amount, you most likely also have regular expenses which vary from one month to the next: your so called variable expenses. Indeed a variable expense generally:
is an expense of a variable amount that you have some control over
has a regular time interval
is needed for day-to-day living
you can cut down by making small lifestyle or behavioural changes.
An example of variable expenses include groceries: you need to eat for day-to-day living, they have a regular time interval, as you probably go to the supermarket several times a month but contrary to your fixed expenses, you have some control over the amount on your grocery bill. Continue reading “Step 10: Identify your Variable Expenses”→
From the previous step you should now have your base expense categories identified. In the next few steps we are going to dissect these expenses and classify them into three different types, starting here in step 9 with having a closer look at your fixed expenses. Typically a fixed expense:
is a set amount that you have little to no control over
has a regular time interval (e.g. monthly or yearly for example)
is needed for day-to-day living
you cannot cut down without making a big life change or running substantial financial risk
(I classify insurance as a fixed expense, hence the addition of “without running a substantial financial risk”.) With fixed expenses you can tell at the start of each month they will be coming up and how much you will be charged no matter what you do. You know that every month you’ll be charged rent, or that you have to pay your mortgage.
By now you have (hopefully!) been tracking your expenses for a while so you should have a reasonably good idea of your spending. Ideally you would have at least 1 month’s worth of data to look at, if you have more than a month that’s even better. In the next few steps we will be looking at your expenses in detail to get a better idea of where your money is going, how much you spend on various categories and most importantly, whether this spending pattern is aligned with the way you WANT your money to be spent.
The first action step will be identifying the different areas that you are spending your money on by categorizing various expenses into groups, which will allow us to analyze in which areas of your life there is a potential to save more (or less) money. Continue reading “Step 8: Categorize your expenses”→