If you have completed step 2, Create a Spending Plan You Love, then your budget spreadsheet should have all of your fixed expenses already listed. Next you will need to add a line item for each variable expense. Items such as gas, groceries, entertainment, personal expenses, children, pets, charities, and whatever else comes up. Determine the easiest way for you to track expenses. You may choose to use cash, your ATM card, a credit card, collecting receipts, or a combination of each. Track your spending over the next 30 days. The intention of this exercise is to help you be aware of where your money is going. Do not place judgement on yourself or your partner. Just be aware.
What I do is use my ATM card for all variable purchases. At the end of the month, I add up how much I have spent in each category. I know someone else who uses an envelope method. She determines how much she wants to allocate to each variable expense then creates an envelope for each category and puts cash in that envelope. Once the cash is gone, she has hit her limit. Another friend uses a small notebook, and many people use apps on their phones. Kelley Long, a former contributor to Forbes Magazine, explains how she uses a separate spending account as part of the way she tracks expenses. She puts a portion of her income into a separate account used specifically for spending. “The money in the separate account is “fun money,” where we just dial it back on spending when the balance gets low.” Do what works best for you and your partner.
Many of these variable expenses are not necessary to live but contribute to the lifestyle you choose. I believe we are meant to Live Richly℠ by experiencing love, beauty and joy in life. For some, living richly may mean spending money on spa services, health clubs, and designer bags. For others, living richly may mean spending time in nature, being playful with family, and eating healthy foods. United Capital has an HonestConversations® exercise that can help you identify your values and what is important to you. It also gives you the opportunity to get on the same page with your loved ones about your financial goals and intentions.
Once you have tracked your expenses for 30 days (or more), update the amount spent on each line item of your budget spreadsheet. Is your money flowing in the same direction as your values?
For more tips on how you can Live Richly℠, keep an eye out for step 3 of the 10 steps to improve your financial life!
References and Further Reading
Long, K. (2017). 6 Ways to Track Your Spending from https://www.forbes.com/sites/financialfinesse/2017/08/17/6-ways-to-track-your-spending/#6720d0046503
United Capital, a Goldman Sachs Company. (2019). Understand What’s Important to You from https://www.unitedcp.com/financial-life-management/goal-based-investing