I get it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. This is one area though where awareness is very beneficial to your life. I am not writing today about having a budget, but simply taking steps to track what you are spending. There are several benefits to this:
Many financial goals revolve around how much one is spending. For example, retire at 65 with the same lifestyle. If you don’t know what you are spending, you don’t know what you need to reach that goal.
You can become aware of areas where spending is increasing. Upward lifestyle creep is a danger for most. It is unfortunately a double negative. Not only can lifestyle creep reduce the amount you have to save, but it can also increase the amount you need to save to reach your goals.
Tax planning - This is particularly true for business owners but can be true for everyone. Tracking your expenses may help you find deductible expenses that otherwise would have been lost.
Find unwanted or unnecessary expenses - You may catch a fraudulent charge more quickly or realize that the subscription you only wanted for a short period has gone beyond its free period.
There are several different ways to go about tracking your personal cashflow.
I know a few people who are diligent enough to do it manually. They don’t use an app but rather enter every transaction into a spreadsheet from either receipts or statements. If you are diligent enough to stick to this, it can be an excellent way. It brings increased attention to each transaction.
The way I track my personal cashflow is by using Tiller Money. After linking your financial accounts, transactions are downloaded automatically into a spreadsheet. You can then go through and categorize or organize the data as you see fit.
There are several different apps that people use - YNAB and Mint are two of the more popular ones.
For some odd reason, the idea of tracking personal cash flow doesn't excite everyone. Maybe you have tried and failed in the past. My encouragement is to keep trying- it took me a couple of attempts before I found a system that worked for me. Quick bonus - I read about a “fun” family activity in Randy Alcorn’s book Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Once you know what you are spending every month, you can get your monthly expenses in one-dollar bills and make stacks on your kitchen table for each category - giving, housing, etc. This could be an eye-opening experience for everyone involved. Let me know if you try this and if it sparks any good conversations among your family.
Interesting Article(s) or Video(s)
Dimensional - The Cost of Trying To Time the Market
“Missing only a few days of strong returns can drastically impact overall performance.”
Thank you for reading! Do you currently track your spending? What system do you use?