We developed a personal expense worksheet to help our clients identify where they’re spending their money, and how much they’re spending on average, monthly and annually. We hesitate to call it a budgeting template because it’s not. We don’t believe in traditional budgeting unless it’s truly necessary to break bad spending habits. For most people, we believe that by identifying free cash flow, working to increase it if need be, and automating contributions to retirement, savings, or other investments is a more practical and reliable way to work towards your goals.
Personal Expense Worksheet Uses
The personal expense worksheet can be used for individuals or families. It automatically calculates the annual expenses once you’ve entered in the monthly numbers and helps you identify fixed expenses vs variable expenses. It can be surprising how little or how much you’re spending on a monthly basis. A lot of people come back to us once they’ve completed the worksheet having found at least one line item they are surprised by. The following are a few of the uses for our personal expense worksheet.
Managing Cash Flow
If you’re currently accruing debt on a credit card or stuffing your bank account with cash on a monthly basis, you have a cash flow problem. Obviously accruing credit card debt month over month is more of a problem and stuffing a bank account with cash isn’t necessarily a “problem”, but I’ll explain later. In the case of accruing credit card debt, the expense worksheet can help you identify things you’re spending too much on. This is where a traditional budget exercise can come in handy. Set limits on how much you’re spending on certain line items to limit your overall spending. Start using cash to pay for things so you can begin paying down your credit card debt. Once the debt is paid off, start automating all your savings and investments. As long as you’re saving and investing a good percentage of your income every month, the remainder can be comfortably spent.
In the case you’re accumulating cash in your checking account, meaning you have excess cash flow, the expense worksheet can help determine, on average, how much that is every month. If you’ve already built up 3-6 months of living expenses (identified using the expense worksheet) of cash in an emergency fund, then the excess cash should be going to work elsewhere. Holding too much cash over long periods of time erodes purchasing power due to the impact of inflation. Set up automatic contributions to an IRA, Roth IRA, or brokerage account. Depending upon your long-term and short-term goals, you may need to adjust the risk you’re taking in each account. For example, retirement accounts should take considerably more risk than a brokerage account being used to invest for a home purchase in the next 5 years.
Identifying Budgeting Ratios
You’ve probably heard of several different ratios pertaining to how much you should be saving, spending, or investing as it relates to your income. There certainly isn’t a cookie-cutter answer as each individual person’s scenario is different. However, they can be used as a solid foundation if you’ve never gone through the financial planning process. We’ll use a common ratio as an example. The 20-30-50 rule. It says, 20% of your after-tax income (what’s being deposited into your checking account each month) should be used towards paying down debt, retirement, or other long-term investments. 30% should be the maximum you spend on housing. The remaining 50% accounts on everything else. The expense worksheet can help you identify these ratios to determine if you have a solid foundation in place.
While our expense worksheet is great for gaining initial insight into managing your cash flow and determining whether you have a solid financial foundation to build upon, it’s limited in its use over time. For example, your income is likely to change so your spending, saving, and investing habits are likely to change as well. Our financial planning software automatically calculates average monthly expenses for our clients. Once all their accounts are linked into the software, we’re able to recommend actionable insights. It updates in real-time and includes everything from your 401(k), RSUs, checking accounts, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, and more. Please download our free personal expense worksheet, and if you seek further ongoing insight and advice, schedule a meeting with us today.
Levi Sanchez is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, BEHAVIORAL FINANCIAL ADVISOR™ and Co-Founder of Millennial Wealth, a fee-only financial planning firm for young professionals and tech industry employees. He is an avid sports fan, personal finance and investing geek, and enjoys a great TV show or movie. His mission is to help educate his generation about better money habits and provide financial planning services to those who want to start planning for their future today!