Routines add structure and discipline to our lives. They make things easier. When we’re in a good routine things seem faster, easier and more efficient. We know exactly what to expect and how to do it.
Creating a routine for your finances is a great way to add structure and discipline to your financial life. It makes you more efficient and happy with your finances (and who doesn’t want that?).
Anyone who has spent too much time managing their finances knows how quickly you can feel burnt out. This is called budget fatigue and it’s a very real problem. It’s when you spend so much time and effort managing your money that you end up making worse spending decisions because you’re just so tired.
Having a routine helps you manage your finances more efficiently. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your finances for the long term. Your routine can include things like budgeting, investing, saving etc.
For years and years, we’ve been on a 4-month personal finance routine. We review our finances only three times per year. How’s that for efficient!
We review our finances once in mid-January, once in mid-May and then once in mid-September.
During these reviews, we sit down and look at our spending, our budget, our investments, our contributions and we see if we need to rebalance or not. We also talk about the next 4-12 months, what special expenses we can expect, and if we should make changes to our regular budget.
During these financial “check-ins” we also review our long-term financial goals. We check to see if we’re on track or if we need to make changes to either our expectations or our savings rate.
Having this routine has improved our personal finances immensely and I recommend everyone create a routine for their finances so you can experience these benefits too.
There are four main ways our personal finance routine has helped improve our finances…
How many transactions to does the average person make per day, one, two, three or more? For the last eight months I’ve been averaging about 1.3 transactions per day but I suspect the typical person averages closer to 2.
Since the beginning of January I’ve been religiously tracking my spending. This has been a departure from my normal budgeting routine but it’s been extremely interesting because of how much detail I now have on my spending habits.
For the longest time, I was an anti-budgeter. I would set a savings goal and then each month I would put away enough money to cover my savings goal plus any fixed expenses, then I would leave the rest in my checking account and spend freely. Over time I created good spending habits and most months I would have a bit left over.
Personally, I found the anti-budget to be a great balance between managing my money and my time. I could hit my financial goals but didn’t have to spend much time tracking expenses.
This all changed when I came across this super simple way to track your spending. You don’t need to give Mint all your passwords, you don’t need to pay YNAB a monthly fee, all you had to do was use Google Forms and Google Sheets to setup your own semi-automated spend tracking.
Adding a new transaction didn’t mean opening a spreadsheet, you could do it right from your phone. Tracking your spending took just 10-15 seconds after each transaction.
So, since January I’ve been tracking every transaction I’ve made and one thing I find super fascinating is how many transactions I make.
Habits drive a lot of what we do. Habits are subconscious and they form in weird ways. Did you know that a lot of our spending is driven by past decisions?
We all have this weird desire for coherence. We want things to be consistent. We judge current spending decisions based on past spending decisions. We want to keep things consistent so we make decisions based on what we did in the past (or what we’ve seen other people do).
We’d like to think we’re in control of our spending but that’s not really the case. We’re influenced by things we purchased in the past, or things friends have purchase, or co-workers, or even our family. We’re even influenced by random people we have no relationship with like the people in advertisements.
Arbitrary coherence is the idea that the first decision we make, or the first piece of information we receive regarding a decision, is arbitrary, we don’t have any reference point or anchor to evaluate this new piece of information so it’s very arbitrary. But after we get that initial piece of information we start to use it as a reference point, and subsequent decisions are made using it as a reference.
Interest rates are going up and that’s putting a squeeze on anyone with debt. Whether it’s a mortgage, student loans, or a line of credit, you’re about to feel the sting of higher rates. We’ve had unprecedentedly low rates for almost 10 years now and forecasters have repeatedly called for higher rates, and it seems that they’re finally right.
The Bank of Canada just increased their rate again making this the 4th increase in the last 12 months. That increase means we’re being charged an extra 1% interest on variable rate debt versus last year. It also means any we’ll be charged an extra 1% on any new fixed rate debt. On a $350,000 mortgage that’s an extra $3,500 per year in interest charges or about $300 per month!
Rising interest rates impact all kinds of financial products. Variable rate mortgages, new fixed rate mortgages, lines of credit, home equity lines of credit and of course, student loans too.
Not only are we paying more for our current debt but rising interest rates also make it more difficult to qualify for a new debt too. Higher rates will decrease the amount of money you’re qualified to borrow. A household earning 80,000 per year will see their home buying budget decrease by $28,000.
There are a few strategies you can use to immunize yourself from the impact of higher rates, at least for a short period of time. From a few months, to a few years, to a decade, these strategies can help you avoid the sting of rising rates.
Have you ever had a project that just seems to last forever? Or maybe a chore that seems to take all weekend?
You may have never heard of Parkinson’s Law but you’ve probably experienced it. Parkinson’s Law is when “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”.
Simply put, if you have 3 hours to complete a task then it’s probably going to take 3 hours. If you have 3 days to complete a task then it’s probably going to take 3 days. The work expands to fill the time you have available.
Parkinson’s law applies to finances too. Lifestyle inflation is a great example of this. You get a raise and your lifestyle expands to match it. You spending increases until you’ve used up all your raise. Not necessarily because you needed it, not even because you wanted it, but because it was available.
Another good example is lottery winners. Lottery winners expand their spending to match the amount of money they have available. Whether thats $1,000 or $100 million. Lottery winners are notoriously spendthrift and that might be due to Parkinson’s Law (among other factors).
Thankfully you can use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage and if you struggle with budgeting then this is one simple budgeting trick you have to try.
Do you want to track your spending but you don’t want to give Mint all your passwords or pay YNAB a monthly fee? Are you looking for a low-cost budgeting alternative that is still automated and easy to use? Then why not setup your own spend tracker using Google Forms and Google Sheets?
Creating your own spend tracker using Google Forms and Google Sheets is super easy to do. Google Forms integrates with Google Sheets so that every entry you make gets automatically added to your Google Sheet. As you spend money you simply pull up the Google Form on your phone, enter the amount and the category and hit submit. Google automatically adds this entry to your Google Sheet with a timestamp.
To help we’ve created a short video to guide you through the steps. In this video we’ll create a basic spend tracker, it’s nothing fancy but you can always add more functionality/charts later.