Top 10 Signs You Might Be Spending Too Much
- You got a huge raise last November but, inexplicably, you don’t seem to be any better off than you were before.
- Your company offers 401k matching contributions (a.k.a. “free money”), but you can’t free up enough cash to take advantage of it.
- George H. W. Bush (Bush the elder) was in office the last time you paid off all your credit card debt.
- Your new Cadillac Escalade ESV looks great in the driveway, but you can’t afford to buy the gas to actually drive it.
- You know you ought to check your credit score, but you can’t handle the truth. (Apologies to Jack Nicholson.)
- You have more different kinds of debt (mortgage, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, car loan, credit card, student loan, life insurance loan, 401k loan,… ) than you can count on the fingers of one hand.
- If you lose your job, you’ll probably be able to avoid complete financial ruin… assuming you find a new job within the week.
- You’ve convinced yourself more than once to purchase a big-ticket item because you “need the frequent flyer miles.”
- Your emergency fund usually has a negative balance.
- You couldn’t come up with a decent estimate of what you’re spending even if an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii in January were at stake.
If more than a few of these signs sound a bit too familiar, if you’re not saving at least 10% of your income, or you simply want to save more… you could almost certainly benefit from taking a closer look at your cash flow. The New Means Cash Flow Questionnaire is a good place to start if you’re trying to answer the question “Where does all the money go?” Clients who have taken the time to do this exercise have found it very eye-opening.
Once you know what you’re spending, chances are you will immediately identify several areas to which you’re allocating more of your hard-earned dollars than you care to. For additional help in making sure your spending is aligned with what matters to you, both long and short term, I always recommend the book Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence. This book does a great job of shedding light on what your purchases are really costing you so that you can make conscious, informed decisions about whether they’re worth it.