There’s something that all financially successful individuals do; it’s not technologically advanced or only for the ultra-rich. It’s so basic, but so powerful. It sounds simple, yet most people don’t do it. And it’s this:
Control the flow of money.
Sure, there are other names for it, like budgeting or creating a spending plan, but “controlling the flow of money” describes it exactly as it is. It’s not only understanding what money is coming in, it’s having full knowledge of where it’s going.
We’re all in this together.
Every household, individual, and business is faced with the same set of basic constraints: A certain amount of money comes in, there are expenses, and a certain amount of money is left over at the end of the period (or not). Pretty basic. Money comes in and we make decisions about how to utilize it.
So why does it seem so hard to get a handle on it?
As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Practitioner for almost a decade and a half, I can tell you that one of the most common things I hear is, “We make decent money, but I just don’t know where it goes.”
That’s a problem, because it means that resources aren’t being used efficiently. It means there’s a leak in the flow somewhere. And as Benjamin Franklin said, “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
These “small leaks” could not only mean that you’re missing out on some larger financial opportunities, they could leave you feeling somewhat overwhelmed when it comes to your finances. After all, if you don’t have a firm grasp on your money flow, that probably means that you’re just hoping that it all turns out okay at the end of each month or year.
How can you get started?
So, how can you get control over the flow of your money? Get back to the basics. And do it YOUR way.
There are many approaches to understanding where one’s money goes. You should choose one that works for you and your skill set. If you prefer pen and paper, start there! If you like Excel, open a new spreadsheet! If you prefer using more advanced technology, there are tons of free options. In fact, on the Wisdom Wealth Strategies website, we offer a fill-able PDF that makes the exercise easier.
- Start by determining your take-home pay each month (or annually, if it’s easier). That’s what comes in.
- Make a list of every expense that occurs each month.
- Get into the nitty-gritty and include items as low as $10 monthly.
- Be really honest. This work is for you and for your future.
- Involve your partner or spouse in the process. Yes, I realize that those discussions can be difficult, but you both need to understand the process and agree on the best use of your household finances.
- Are you surprised by what you spend? Are you surprised by where you spend? Most people are.
- Now that you have all the information, you can utilize it to make decisions based on your needs, your goals, and your values. You can change your spending decisions and your savings decisions because you have the power of knowledge. You can control the flow of money and ensure that it is utilized to your greatest advantage.
Creating this basic budget flow will give you control over your money, rather than the other way around. Knowing where each dollar goes will allow you even more opportunities to reach your goals – whether it’s a vacation next year or more contributions to your retirement account. By going back to the basics with your budget, you’ll be molding the building blocks for a better financial future.
Andrea Blackwelder is a Certified Financial Planner ™ Practitioner and the co-founder of Wisdom Wealth Strategies, a fee-based financial planning and investment advisory practice. Andrea looks at your complex financial planning puzzle and assists you with the best options and financial strategies that align with your financial needs. To contact Andrea, email email@example.com.