Do Personal Finance Yourself.

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Expense Planning Experiment

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How do you plan, account for and manage your costs of living and basic consumer expenses today?
How painful is planning, accounting for and managing your consumer expenses today?

Step 1

Write down a list of ALL the expenses you, personally, expect to incur, or have at least some likelihood* of incurring, within the next year, to supporting your existing lifestyle, as well as monthly and yearly estimates of those costs.

* > 5% chance

 

This can be everything from normal costs of living that you budget for (e.g., food) , to large purchases (e.g., trips), to contributions to savings, to a monthly reserve for unplanned expenses. Suggestion: start with basic costs of living on a monthly level and then move to more infrequent costs on a yearly level.

List these expenses at the level you would budget for them (High level = bills, savings, discretionary; Mid-level = food, transportation; Low-level = groceries, gas, auto maintenance). Don't forget to account for a savings allocation or, if it exists, a "slush" fund that covers specific infrequent categories.

Since they are reflective of your current lifestyle and situation, the total of these expenses should align to your monthly income. If there are categories that you know you NEED to support your existing lifestyle, but can't budget for, list them with a $0 budget and mark them as ones that would come out of your savings today.

Step 2

Use the following expense checklist, or cards provided to you, to review common expense categories and associate all relevant expenses from the checklist or cards to an expense on your list.

 

Since the WellFi checklist is at low level, you may find that multiple expenses map to one of yours. Leave all other expenses that you forgot entirely or don't need to the side, for now.

 

Step 3

After you've completed the mapping, notate the following:

- which expenses were discarded completely ("not needed")

- which expenses should have been included in your original list

- as a result of the mapping exercise, which initial expenses have budgets that are now underestimated compared to the TRUE amount you'd need (disregarding income)

Step 4

Make a final list of your expenses that includes the following:

- original list of expenses, with revised, true estimates

- additional expenses from the WellFi checklist link or cards, along with corresponding monthly and yearly true estimates

Based on this exercise, do you expect to spend more time planning or monitoring expenses in the future?
Are you about to start, or have recently started, a new living situation (e.g., starting school, graduated from school, moved apartments)?