Control your finances, but why?

Nice oneliner, isn’t it? But having control over your finances, what’s that exactly ? It’s knowing exactly whats coming in and going out each month, for starters. It leaves you with an exact number you have left each month. And you can go figure out what you can or must do with it.

In the Netherlands, where I live the national budget institute, which advises people on responsible finances has a lot of different data on budgets, savings etc. It says only 27% of all Dutch people keep a monthly cash flow report. And 25% has savings less then 2200 euros. Which is roughly 1,5 months of expenses if you don’t a lot of those. A lot more numbers are available but you get the idea.

It’s simply a fact most people don’t know their financial status from one month to the next. Which doesn’t have to be a problem if you simply spent less than you make. Which leaves a buffer automatically. Which in most cases end up in savings accounts.

But it pays dividends knowing how the numbers look and taking it as a starting point in thinking about your financial future. Best case scenario is thinking about how your surplus can make you money, worst case if you come up short each month how too fix that issue.

Let’s start easy, by making a simple monthly balance in a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper, doesn’t matter. You first write down your income, for most your salary. Then deduct your mortgage or rent, your utilities bill, all your taxes etc. Then if applicable monthly tax breaks and or subsidies. (which vary per country.)

Which leaves an amount of money which you can spend, but we’re not there yet. You need too eat. If you haven’t got an exact number on your groceries make an estimate. Deduct that and you have your free spending money for that month. Well most sensible thing you can do is make a fixed reserve and deposit in a savings account. Anyway now you know more or less what comes in and goes out each month. Easy enough right ? Your monthly budget is alive !

With what you have left , you can start doing stuff, spending it , or saving it, or reducing debt. It doesn’t matter really. You now now a figure which you can safely allocate or spend for this month. Start saving for future calamity’s is smart, replacing broken washing machines, unexpected car repairs and so on. You name it, it will happen and an nest egg will help you overcome such things.

Looking up all your monthly costs will take some time when doing it for the first time. Most don’t really changes a lot during the year and once you have 1 month mapped out, the rest will be less work. For inspirational purposes I added an example, a very basic spreadsheet as a start, click here [download id=”1429″] . Most months after the first initial set up it will take about 5 minutes making a new one for the coming month. Maybe 10, but 5 is an amount people tend to want too spend on not so fun stuff, so just stick with 5.

But why ? Well stress which comes directly from financial issues is one of the most recurring causes of stress. A nagging feeling not knowing if you come up short or have enough money in reserve or when having have debt is a large amount of stress people experience on a daily basis. Im my experience starting out with a budget will make things a lot clearer and is a good starting point in solving financial problems one might have. Your feelings get to be facts and facts make solutions possible. You can now start improving your financial situation.