You know you need a budget, right?
If you don’t know where to start, drawing a money map is a simple and useful means to get there.
The money map simply lays out your inflows and outflows, with your financial accounts “stitching” it all together. The idea is that you tailor your money map to specific goals, such as debt pay-down, or even early retirement, and isolate areas to improve, accounts to combine, and so on.
Once you have all the pieces laid out on the map (using PowerPoint or Visio, or crayons on paper), then you can dive into Excel and go nuts with cells and formulas. YES! (spreadsheet dork alert…)
But before we regress to cells and figures, let’s focus on the art (and science) of money mapping:
Example of a Money Map (Using Microsoft PowerPoint)
Interpreting a Money Map
My map is a top-down view that helps me find “leaks” in the financial plan. Am I putting too much hard-earned cash into discretionary items like dining out or bike gadgets? What am I doing to manage my tax bill?
You’ll also see that I have those little purple bars off to the far right. Here, I try to depict the dual-nature of home maintenance and student loan expenses. Sure, they each put a drain on the wallet, but you could certainly argue that you get value in return. Those categories straddle the line for us.
I’ve also got some “halo money” flowing up up up (cue the harps!) to charitable donations, travel, and 529 accounts. These are investments that don’t appear on your balance sheet come retirement time, but they sure as hell count as investments in humanity – both yours and those around you. Make sense?
Don’t discount these as mere expense “outflows” my friends, or you’ll find yourself in a sea of regrets later for that mindset. I’ve said my peace enough times already on this topic.
How to Start Money Mapping!
Any new readers out there may be wondering how to avoid winding up in the Cubical [sic] of Despair, illustrated at the bottom of my map. It all starts with drawing a money map of your own.
1.) You can be inspired to create a fun one like mine or a deeper one like the money map Jim Wang shares at Wallet Hacks.
2.) You can use PowerPoint or Visio. Heck, you could just draw the thing on paper or a whiteboard.
Maybe seeing all of your disparate expenses and bills laid out in front of you will be a wake-up call to better money habits. Or, you’ll find that you’ve got a pretty good understanding of the inflows and outflows within your budget. If so,
3.) hang your Money Map on the wall in a gilded frame for posterity. Or if you went digital, make it your laptops background picture.
4.) If nothing else, KEEP IT SIMPLE. Start with the biggest expenses (mortgage, student loans, car loans, etc.) and build from there.
5.) Don’t assume you have to spend money on anything that doesn’t bring you joy, beyond your basic needs. Say NO to cable. Say NO to that new truck or sports car. It’s a game of balance. If you have a ton of debt, live small and chip away.
Lastly, remember to enjoy life, but don’t spend on credit. That’ll only serve to add stress and frictions that compound any money anxiety you may be dealing with.
Admittedly, I’ve always been a spreadsheet guy, and even before “figuring out money”, I kept my financial minutiae neatly organized in columns and cells.
When I think about those cable package and home-delivery dry-cleaning bills from back in the day, I get a little heartburn and start reaching for the Alka Seltzer…
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