What do you do if you want to know how a dress looks on you? You wear the dress and look in the mirror or take a picture and even send to a friend to give their opinion. Right?
Now let us try this concept with our financial life. So many of us cannot understand why the next salary is gone before it even hits the bank. Why funds set aside for specific projects are gone before the onset of those projects or why in spite of the last salary increase they we are still cash strapped by the middle of the month. If you want to know why you just can’t seem to retain your savings or why your bank account just seems like a leaking faucet. Look no further than a camera. Yes, I said it – A camera!
Ladies and Gentlemen get ready to take some pictures. We are going to do this over 30 days or 2 pay checks, even though it’s best to give it at least three months to see a pattern. Lights, Camera, Action!
Step 1 – Get your camera ready: Grab a pen and a paper (or an excel spreadsheet if you are friendly with technology)
Step 2 – No hair extensions or fake lashes: In short, lock up the credit cards. We want to spend the money you actually have. So stick with your cash or debit cards.
Step 3 – Wear the dress: Live as you would normally. Buy groceries, clothes, and shoes, pay your bills, and do whatever it is you do normally but make sure you stay within the cash available to you.
Step 4 – Pose for the camera – Say Cheese! Record every single item you buy. Create categories for: Rent/mortgage, Car insurance, Car maintenance, Gas/transport, Vacations, Dining out, Groceries, Savings, Loan repayment (student loans, car notes, credit cards), Charity /Gifts and so on, but don’t have too many categories. You can pretty much fit everything you spend money on into 20 categories or less.
Step 5 – Like what you see: Now look at the amount you spent in each of these categories and ask yourself if you are truly comfortable with spending so much/so little on these items. One of the reasons I cancelled cable TV was because I realized that I was spending an insane amount of money on cable when I don’t even watch TV. But the only way I knew the amount was insane was because my picture showed me, that is, I tracked my spending.
Step 6 – Missed the bulge? Of course Not! What are the items you “missed” because you did not swipe your credit cards during this period? Truth is you probably thought you’d “die” without seeing that new movie in the theater or go out with your friends every single weekend, but hey! You survived. Chances are many of those items are not essential but you would have bought them anyways just because you had credit cards in your wallet. So cut them out.
The outcome of this exercise is that you will see the reality of where your money is going and make informed decisions about where you want it to really go if you don’t like what you see. You will also be informed enough to separate your needs from your wants with self discipline.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how your picture came out!