Tip #2 Do a budget or at least track your living expenses
One should always know what is coming in the door as well as what is going out. Single, married, divorced, or widowed it doesn't matter. If you don't have control of your money, then your money has control of you. Take a look at these statements:
- I do not want to be oblivious to where my money went or is going.
- I want my money being put to work to help me accomplish my goals.
- I want to understand my lifestyle choices and how I can be a better steward of my money.
If you agree with them, as I’m sure you do, you should have a budget. In my experience, working with clients as a financial planner, most people cringe when I say the word "budget". So, I have found that I get a better response when I say Monthly Spending detail. I know that sounds a bit silly, but it works. Creating a Monthly Spending Detail provides a breakdown of where your dollars are going while also giving you a plan for the future. Although it can seem overwhelming, creating a Monthly Spending Detail can represent more expenses and a life with less stress. Creating a Monthly Spending Detail doesn’t have to be boring either. Picture it as art. What do you have to add, take away, or rearrange to paint the financial picture that you want for your life?
It's good to start monitoring your progress accordingly using a budgeting method. If you are not sure where to begin then start by tracking your expenses for 3-6 months. Six months is ideal but three is acceptable. I like to separate them into expenses that are a need and those that are a want. If you aren't sure, just ask yourself, do I need this to live or is it something that I want? Include everything from house-related expenses to the car, insurance (home, auto, health, life, long term care, disability, etc.), groceries, entertainment, personal care, pet care, vacations. Don't forget about camps for the kids (summer and sports), childcare costs, and private schooling. If you are anything like me, you will be amazed at how much you actually spend. This is why so many people are in debt especially credit card debt.
Using a budgeting method is also a great way to organize your finances. According to NerdWallet.com, one simple method is the 50/30/20 rule. This simple framework allows for 50% of your income for needs (groceries, utilities, housing, insurance, etc.), 30% of your income for wants (gifts, travel, entertainment), and 20% of your income to savings and debt repayment (emergency funds, retirement, college debt).
Here is a link to their 50/30/20 budget calculator and more info about this budgeting method:
Creating a budget and tracking your living expenses may seem like a big task but hopefully this can be one of your first steps towards financial confidence. And of course, if you have any questions, concerns, or confusion, don’t be afraid to reach out to your financial planner…after all, that’s what they’re there for!
Want a free Monthly Spending Detail spreadsheet to better track your living expenses? Let us know! Give us a call at (470)-878-1247.
Be sure to check back regularly for more tips on pursuing your best self. Happy planning!