Here’s an interesting activity that could help shed some light on where your funds are going. In order to do it though, you’ll need a budget from the last year to really dig into how much you’re spending in different areas of your life. When starting this exercise, I didn’t have all of these numbers, which was concerning considering how general these numbers are. Creating a budget and comparing that against my spending distribution helped highlight the weight of my spending decisions.
For this exercise, we’ll break down a 40 hour work week into what those hours purchased for you during the last year. This is a gut-check about your priorities and checking if they are in line with where you want them.
For me, when I first did this, my “savings” section was nowhere near as larger as I wanted it to be. I was spending too much on many areas that weren’t adding value to my life, and even too much on taxes when there were some ways to reduce them.
Getting Your Data
Here’s the data you’ll need for this:
You’ll need an estimate of these numbers to get started:
- Total Earned for the last year — taxes and all
- Total paid towards taxes
- Total saved
- Total spent in various categories
I’ve tried using a combination of Todoist, Mint and Google Sheets to get this data before, which has worked well for me.
Your Spending Distribution
With this data in hand, head over to the Spending Distribution Google Spreadsheet, and make a copy of it. In your copy, you can start editing it based on your categories. The hard part (for me at least) was divvying up categories into 2.5% blocks. It meant rounding some things down and others up – as well as combining categories I might not otherwise group together. Here’s a snapshot of mine split out into categories.
Getting your Categories
Your categories will vary. I came to the categories I use in my quarterly report after much experimentation.
There are potentially a LOT of categories to list here, so editing it down to ones that take up at least an hour may be tricky. For me this involved grouping similar categories — like “travel” and “luxuries”. I define luxuries as things I purchase that I could do without — any electronics and physical things. Same for grouping something as broad as “entertainment” which contains a wide variety of things including alcohol, bars, movies and fun nights out.
Give it a Shot
Go give it a shot and see if it uncovers any interesting discoveries!