There are two camps of thought when it comes to spending. The first is: Earn more than you spend. If you identify with the first, this article isn’t for you. The second is: Spend less than you make. Follow this second mantra and so many good things happen. But how? Here’s where to start and what to ignore when it comes to your personal expenses.
There are a plenty of apps available that track spending, like Mint. They seem helpful, with alerts, auto-budgeting and spending categories. However they’re more likely to make you feel bad than fix your spending habits. I’ve seen people lie over and over to their apps by making purchases in cash to avoid the stern spending notifications: “You spent too much on clothing and coffee!” Generally people end up ignoring or deleting them. I suggest you do the latter. There is a better way.
We use QuickBooks Online Essentials to run Osbon Capital. We also use it to run our family income and expense ledger. It links with every banking institution to automatically pull in all transactions. When you first get started it will pull your last 90 days of transactions. As you sort through them (plan for 2 hours), you may discover a surprising number of unused recurring payments like an old 1990’s AOL dialup(!?) account or stray sneaky fraudulent purchases. It’s too much to think about without a central database. It happens to nearly everyone and it’s probably happening to you right now.
Once you’re all set up you’ll see a real bottom line — a monthly personal income statement. Offer to Osbon Capital clients: we’ll do the setup, download and sorting with you – just ask.
Why bother with an online system and personal income statement? Can’t you just eyeball your credit card statement? Not likely. Chances are you have somewhere in the range of five credit cards, two banking relationships with checking and savings accounts, automatic mortgage and utility payments, checks flowing in both directions, etc. You are more complex than you think; mental math just isn’t going to cut it. QuickBooks sorts it all out and shows where you really stand, month by month. You do it for your company. Do it for yourself, too.
Here’s a recent real client example. This client was spending $35,000 per month. For what? When they couldn’t answer the question, we knew it was time for the Osbon Audit Experience. Three months later they are spending less than $20k per month, with no change in lifestyle, and are much happier. Why? Because they have an extra $15k per month or $180k per year to invest, save or spend on something they really care about.
You, too, may find that once you see your true bottom line on your personal income statement, you can start making changes that better align your expenses to your personal and family priorities. What did you spend last month? How much went to food and housing versus extras like excess clothing, gadgets or online impulse buys? For that month, did you get your money’s worth of happiness, personal growth, experience, adventure or safety? Or are you spending $35k to get $20k of value? You decide.
You may find after a simple review of your actual spending habits, you can cut an easy $5K in unnecessary spending per month. $5K/month = $60K/year. Or $600K over 10 years, enough to send three of your kids or grandkids through full college tuition. Invest it and it could even reach $1M. That’s real value.
How much are you spending on stuff versus experiences? Researchers find that happiness lasts longer when you spend on experiences compared to material goods. You’re much more likely to remember and treasure a family trip to Vancouver, a Superbowl adventure, or a front row concert experience than new cabinets in the garage. Spend, or don’t, accordingly.
Trick your kids into smart habits. Do what my friend does the next time one of the kids feels a strong shopping urge coming on. When she feels like binge shopping she goes to Amazon.com, adds every single item she could want to buy regardless of the price to her cart, and then closes the browser and moves on without making a single purchase. She gets the shopping high for free with more money left over at the end for other things. I recommend trying it!
Max Osbon – firstname.lastname@example.org