Keep Things Simple: Create A Routine For Your Finances
Fee-for-service financial planner and founder of PlanEasy.ca
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…
One of the biggest benefits of reviewing our finances on a regular basis is that we have a very good understanding of where we stand. From investments to spending we know exactly where we are versus our plan.
Maybe we don’t know our financial position exactly at every moment, but I think that level of knowledge is overkill anyway and it can even leave you feeling worse about your finances. We’ve found every 4-months is a good balance. We know where we are, but it doesn’t take a lot of time, plus we avoid seeing many of those short-term dips in our investments.
We also have a good shared understanding of our finances. Often in a relationship there is one person who takes a more active role in managing the household finances. This is great for day to day management but can lead to issues over time. Sitting down every few months to review everything together creates a very good common understanding.
Fewer Impromptu Personal Finance Discussions
Not sure about you, but I dislike impromptu personal finance discussions. I feel caught off guard when we need to make a major personal finance decision out of the blue. It makes me feel anxious and defensive, and that’s never a good way to start a personal finance discussion.
Having a set routine lets you have many of those discussions with plenty of advanced warning. At any point in the year we know that within a few months we’ll sit down an review all our finances together. Unless it’s extremely urgent, we usually “park” personal finance decisions until our next financial check-in.
Parking personal finance discussions is an awesome way to avoid a lot of those negative personal finance feelings. It gives us plenty of time to think about the decision and lets us talk about it while also reviewing the rest of our finances.
It’s common to worry about things you don’t control or don’t understanding. Having a routine for your finances is an easy way to increase your control, increase your understanding and decrease your level of worry.
Having a routine also gives you a set time to have important personal finance discussions. We don’t worry about big spending decisions if we know we have a check-in coming up (unless it’s super urgent).
In-between our financial check-ins we worry less about our finances because we know we always have an opportunity to review it coming up soon.
Having A Routine Is More Efficient
Usually we spend about 1-2 hours reviewing our finances every 4-months. That’s it! And usually we do it while eating some delicious take-out and enjoying a bottle of wine!
Every one of our financial check-ins follows the same routine. We review investments, contributions and net-worth vs our long-term plan. We check to see if we need to rebalance our investments based on our rebalancing rules. Then we look at spending and budgets. We discuss if we need to make changes to our budget (usually small tweaks, if anything). Lastly, we look at any big expenses coming up in the next 4-12 months. This could be vacations, furniture, appliances, home renovations etc. We discuss if now is the right time, what we consider important when making the purchase (ie what we each value), and we discuss where that money should come from if it wasn’t planned for (ie. our home maintenance fund, our emergency fund, or in extreme cases our savings and investments)
All-in-all we can get through this routine in just 1-2 hours. Then for the next 4-months we just manage our monthly budget, but otherwise we don’t really discuss our finances. This makes it an incredibly efficient way to manage our money.
Create A Routine For Your Personal Finances!
If you haven’t already, consider creating a routine for your personal finances. It’s made a huge difference in our personal finances and I’m sure it’ll do the same for you.
Every person is different. Find a routine that works for you. Maybe it’s 4 times per year instead of 3. Maybe you need a kick start, in which case you may want to do it monthly for the next 12-months and then switch to quarterly after. The important part is to stick to a routine and make small tweaks as you figure out what works.
Financial planner, personal finance geek and founder of PlanEasy.