You just received your regular paycheck. Finally, after all those weeks of hard work and not having enough sleep, you finally reaped the fruits of your labor. After a few days, you checked your bank account and most of your fresh money just disappeared. You ask yourself, “Where did my salary go?“.
This is a common occurrence nowadays. People sometimes feel like they don’t see any rewards from their work as most of their paycheck just seems to vanish every month. While we need to pay our dues and bills and our costs of living, do you honestly know where your salary is going?
If not, here are some things that you may want to consider:
Automation is not always good, especially in finances. There is good automation, such as regular investment schemes and auto-debit savings plans. There are also bad automation, such as subscriptions that you charge to your credit card. Non-essential services such as Netflix, Spotify, and the like rely on automatic subscriptions to lock you in their service as you pay them without any intervention from you. Even if you want to unsubscribe, there is an element of inconvenience in doing so which normally leads to procrastination.
Most people just charge everything in their credit card because it is convenient. It also saves time as the monthly transactions are already listed in the credit card statement. However, can you honestly say that you go over each and every transaction to determine if these are expenses that you actually need to spend? How often do you actually stop paying for a service by going through the (usually tedious) cancellation process?
The danger with using cards is that you do not physically experience the actual transaction. When you buy something, you just give the merchant your card (or card details), and then the transaction is done. The amount of the transaction is essentially just a number in your receipt or in your online statement.
Compare this to paying with cash. When you buy a big item at a store using cash, you will need to prepare that amount of money beforehand. You will see how many bills that amount is composed of and this provides a tangible, tactile experience for the transaction. This in turn allows us to gauge the actual value of the transaction compared to what we normally deal with. “Wow, this purchase is like 10 times the amount I normally have in my wallet“.
It also provides a more realistic sense of the deducted amount. In addition to seeing the transaction receipt, you may also have your withdrawal receipt and see the impact of the transaction in your bank account. You can even feel it physically, like “My wallet is much thinner and lighter than before!“.
This is not to say that auto-debit arrangements and credit cards do not have its benefits. If used mindfully, these are great tools to help manage your finances. However, if it prevents you from having clarity on where your money goes, then that is where the problem starts.
There is a saying, “What gets measured gets done“, or sometimes “What gets measured gets managed“. If something is vague or the information is unclear, it is hard for us to do the task or to be successful in it. A critical step in successful financial management is to track everything.
Some people love using their credit cards for everything as it keeps a transaction of all the things every month. The expenses are already itemized and so you can just glance at your credit card statement and get an idea on where your money is going. However this could fall into the desensitized expenses trap as everything is just a printed number on a sheet of paper. If you are already mindful and disciplined about your expenses, this can work, but if not, writing down or recording each transaction on a separate system can work to your advantage.
It doesn’t have to be in a fancy application, a piece of paper or a spreadsheet can work as well. The goal here is to get an individual “feel” for each transaction. As you write down the amount you can ask yourself if this expense is necessary and if it is justified. This process allows you to reflect deeper on where your money is going, and as a result help you make informed decisions on which of those you can reduce or eliminate.
Are you satisfied on where you are currently financially? Do you want to succeed in your financial goals? If so, then let’s stop ignoring where our salary goes every month and track all our expenses. Doing this is an essential step. You need to know where you are currently before you can start going to where you want to be.
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash