I have had numerous conversations with friends about managing their finances. I decided to share how I personally manage my finances to give you a different perspective. Everyone’s relationship with money is different so take what may work for you.
I think of my personal finances in two categories: spending and account balances. If you are familiar with business accounting, it is similar to a P&L and Balance Sheet.
Most people talk about budgets and use varying apps to help them budget. Personally, I think budgets suck. When you’re at brunch with friends after a few mimosas, no one is checking their “fun” budget for the month to make sure they don’t go over. People create a budget and then don’t look at it for months until something happens. Budgets only work if you’re actively checking it and disciplined on executing. But…that is not usually the case, you spend money when you need to and that’s okay.
The psychology of spending plays a big role in your money management. If we see the money in our account, we are more likely to spend it. We know that we may have pending payments coming out, but it’s okay right? We just do some mental math to guess how much we can ACTUALLY spend (I got $500, $250 going to the car, $50 for the phone, alright I really got $300). That does not work either because you always forget something. I have helped a lot of people with their budgeting and 100% of the time, people underestimated how much they actually spend.
The purpose of budgeting is to control/manage your expenses. My preference over budgeting is separation of funds by having them in different accounts. I have 3 checking accounts that I operate out of: primary checking, fun checking, and bills checking.
My primary checking is where I set up my direct deposit and disburse the funds to my other accounts. Whatever is left in my Primary Checking can be used for whatever I want.
I transfer money weekly from my Primary Checking to my Fun account which is used for eating out, hanging with friends, and other miscellaneous spending. Set a budget at the beginning of the month and set-up automatic weekly transfers to the Fun account.
This account is used for all of my monthly bills: rent/mortgage, cell phone, car, utilities, streaming services, etc. I add up all of my monthly bills and then I transfer money every paycheck from my Primary Checking to my Bills Checking. Example: If my monthly bills are $1,000/month, I will transfer $500 per paycheck to the Bills account.
By separating accounts, I have clear visibility of free cash that I can use for other things and it also reduces the temptation to overspend.
Most people focus on budgeting when it comes to personal finance but not much attention on their account balances (which I believe are more important). At the end of each month, I update the balances on all of my accounts. This ultimately gives me a better picture of how I am doing financially. You can easily see if your assets/liabilities are increasing/decreasing and determine what your next goals should be.
The screenshots below are for illustrative purposes (using dummy data). I look at the total value of my assets and liabilities, and how they have changed from the previous month. Ideally, you want your assets increasing each month, and your liabilities decreasing. I have a line that will calculate your Net Worth (Assets – Liabilities). Ultimately, you want your net worth to be growing. I like this tool because it gives you a quick snapshot of your progress and helps you make actionable decisions.
Link to the spreadsheet – Here is a link to the spreadsheet so you can copy it to your drive
As with all financial management, it comes down to your discipline. Automate the transfers to your separated accounts and spend 10 minutes once a month to update your account balances. You will start to have a clearer picture of your finances and it will be easier to set financial goals. Everyone has different perspectives/needs, I’d love to hear any tips on how you manage your finances.