Clients often ask if they should have a budget or keep track of their spending, and for the majority of them the answer is no. This is mostly because they’re already in an automatic savings pattern, they’re on track for their goals given that pattern, and they naturally don’t outspend what they bring home. These clients make money and their employers — or if self-employed, they themselves — take out taxes, a retirement contribution, additional savings and put the rest in their checking accounts. Then they can spend this checking account money however they wish.
If you are inspired to do it, I believe there are benefits from keeping track of how much money you spend. When you know where money is going, you know where you can cut expenses if you need to or spend more because you want to. This is valuable knowledge when you need to navigate unexpected increases in expenses like health care, decreases in income from, for example, a job loss;, save additional money for a new financial goal, like a new car; or figure out what you’ll spend in retirement.
Some easy “life hacks” now can help you figure these things out relatively quickly and painlessly. Here are my favorites:
- Most online banking apps can tell you, with varying levels of specificity, how much you deposit into your account and how much you spend. Even knowing your numbers in broad brush strokes — I deposited $X last year and I spent $Y last year — is a good guide.
- Most credit card companies will track your spending, which you can view online, and will send you an end-of-year statement. How they categorize and assign spending may not jibe with how you would do it, but this can often be changed so the company’s app will “learn” how you want those categorizations to work.
- Mint.com and its competitors will do a “scrape” of your spending balances and transactions and do a similar categorization.
Of course you can wait until some life event prompts such a budgeting review, but if you’ve got your eyes on a retail prize or a fun vacation for next year, maybe now is the time.
If you’d like more insights on how to do this, please give me a call. May you enjoy your summer!