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 our big picture money map:
You Need a Budget. A Money Map is a Great Place to Start! Here’s Cubert’s:
Interpreting the 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 expense. 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 regret later for that mindset. I’ve said my peace enough times already on this topic.
How to escape the cubicle of despair!
Any new readers out there may be wondering how to avoid winding up in the Cubical of Despair, illustrated at the bottom of my map. It all starts with drawing a map like this of your own. Maybe seeing all the disparate expenses and bills laid out in front of you will be the wake up call?
Admittedly, I’ve always been a spreadsheet guy, and even before “figuring out money”, I kept my extra CRAP neatly organized in columns and cells. When I think about those cable and home-delivery dry-cleaning bills from back then, I get a little heartburn. reaching for the Tums
If nothing else, KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don’t assume you have to spend money on anything that doesn’t bring you joy, beyond your basic needs. F cable. F that new truck or BMW that’s the stupidest possible waste of money on the planet. Jet ski? Holy shit! Get real, pal.
Anyhow, take a look at what some of my outstanding peers in the FIRE community have done with their maps below, and get inspired today!
The Official Money Map Chain Gang: