Becoming an everyday banking superstar
Today’s spending creates tomorrow’s future. Each dollar you earn has enormous potential – if you can just hang on to it. But it’s not always easy to sacrifice the things you want now for the things you’ll need later.
The challenge a lot of people face is that they’re not aware of their spending habits. They might feel the pinch just before the next pay period, or be surprised again every month by the same direct debits. The good news is that there are plenty of simple steps you can take to get on top of your day-to-day spending and make your long-terms goals a reality.
Step one: Follow the money!
On a daily basis, where does your money go? Most people think it’s the big-ticket expenses that get them into trouble. But there’s also the issue of the cumulative impact of $5 here, $10 there … and maybe $150 towards a new pair of shoes you just have to get right now.
One way to track where your money goes is a spending diary. For a full pay cycle, keep track of each dollar you spend. This will give you a good indication of the stuff that’s draining your finances.1 This can be pretty tedious, but it has two big upsides: first, it doesn’t take long to get an idea of where your money is going, so you don’t have to do it forever. Second, knowing you’re going to have to write down every coffee, Snickers and Lotto ticket you buy can actually make you reconsider whether you really need them.
It might help to get technology on your side here. Think about using the NetBank My Spend option or other expense-tracking apps that allow you to easily enter and categorise spending.
The key here is to figure out whether you’re spending according to your priorities, and living within your means. But what are your means?
Step two: Assess your means
Where your money goes is only half the story. How much is coming in to fund your spending?
Take some time to check your pay slips (paying close attention to your after-tax income), bank and investment statements. These are your means. When your spending exceeds your means, your future self suffers. So, time to create a budget.
Step three: Create a budget
A budget sets out your income and planned expenditure to effectively manage your money. This is a brilliant way to check that your means are going towards the right priorities.
Start by calculating your monthly income. Then, record your regular expenses. This includes recurring costs like your rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments and debt repayments.2 Commonwealth Bank’s Budget Planner can help you neatly manage this step.
There are many ways to implement a budget. Ramit Sethi, the New York Times best-selling author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, doesn’t believe we’re great at following precise budgets. Instead, he suggests dividing spending into a few key categories, such as essentials, saving and guilt-free spending money.3
The power of a budget is that it allows you to align your spending with your priorities. If you run out of money before the end of the fortnight, it’s pretty hard to save for those amazing future plans.
Step four: Get technology working for you
Technology is a wonderful tool for automatically managing your money. Online banking can help you track your purchases, and easily produce spreadsheets if you’re so inclined.
Furthermore, by setting up direct debits, you can effectively put your finances on ‘autopilot’, ensuring that funds for savings, bills and investments automatically disappear from your take-home pay.4 You never actually see the money, which removes the temptation to spend it.
1 ASIC’s MoneySmart, ‘Managing your money’, www.moneysmart.gov.au/media/392764/managingyourmoney.pdf.
2 Ravenscraft, E., ‘How To Manage Your Money, For Those Who Never Learned’, Lifehacker, 14 May 2015, www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/05/how-to-manage-your-money-for-those-who-never-learned-growing-up/#Jk1GzXRCCmqYUu1O.99.
3 Klosowski, T., ‘Adult Budgeting 101: How to Create Your First Budget In the Real World’, Lifehacker, 10 March 2013, www.lifehacker.com/adult-budgeting-101-how-to-create-your-first-budget-in-1440446091?IR=T.
4 Weliver, D., ‘Put Your Money On Autopilot’, Money Under 30, 9 September 2014, www.moneyunder30.com/money-on-autopilot.