(This aint your ordinary personal finance course)
What do you do when you’ve spent years upon years trying countless personal finance tips, suggestions and books only to find out none of them work? Do you give up? No! You take the most no-bullshit approach to personal finance on earth. From now on, its bigger than a bunch of tips. It’s a life change. This time it’s about results.
Welcome to Brass-Knuckle Finance – A five part course that promises to not only change the way you view money but change the way you view yourself. But please don’t think this is going to be a walk in the park. Many of the steps and mentality changes that we walk you through here are very radical and at first very hard mentally to grasp. These are custom methods that I’ve been personally using successfully so far on hundreds of my clients. Please be advised: this is only for those who are dead serious about changing their situations.
Course One: Your Budget is Sh*t
Our first step in this journey is to get a fundamental understanding on the absolute most important aspect of successful personal finance: your budget. If you’ve ever conducted a simple Google search online for the term “best way to budget” you’ve no doubt been provided with hundreds of budgeting methods each claiming to be that method that will be the final fix all. Well clearly if you’re still reading this, it’s because none of that shit worked. Even in my own personal use, they have been complimentary at best..and I’m good at this stuff! Why is this? Because while many of us understand what a budget is, most of us forget the key ingredient to making it work. We all know that a budget is simply a set of guidelines on how to allocate our monthly incomes so that we reach specific financial goals, but even after knowing this, we overlook the most important part to making it all work: discipline.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me come right out and say it: we have no discipline in this category. This has been the problem from day one. Yes, we do know the goals we want to accomplish – buy a house, fund our retirement, buy our dream car etc. We’ve also put guidelines in place to help us achieve these goals. But who needs another set of guidelines when mentally we aren’t ready to even follow them? This is the point where its time to bring the brass-knuckles out and beat these pre-determined circumstances to a bloody pulp.
Here’s a little known fact: Every single person with income technically has a budget already by default. Each month, you have a certain amount of money to work with which you know you want to use for x,y & z. Should you spend over that amount then you begin to get in trouble with those goals. Knowing this, what if you found a way to trick this default budget to work for you before you even have access to it? Follow these steps and you will be able to do just that:
- On a blank piece of piece of paper, add up all of your fixed monthly expenses: rent/mortgage, car note, utilities, debt payments etc. and then combine that number with how much you normally spend on variable monthly expenses: eating out, entertainment, grooming, etc. (and make sure to include a small miscellaneous amount)
- Take that total and subtract it from your monthly take home income.
- If the number you have left over from subtracting your expenses from income a negative number, then you want to first aim at cutting back on your variable expenses to at least break even each month.
- If the number you have left is still negative even after cutting back every variable expense possible, then you know how many of your fixed expenses you must now cut. Remember, this first step is about at least getting to the break even point. I don’t care if your ass has to rent a room out, get rid of your car payment or even cut off your favorite cable channels. There is NO new debt allowed in this process so you will be doing it.
B. Incorporate Your Financial Goals
- Buying a car, taking a vacation, starting a business – whatever your goal may be, take the total amount in dollars it will take to reach it and divide it by the number of months you plan on spending to get there. If you have multiple goals, do this same exercise for each which should provide you with multiple amounts.
- Goal 1- buy a newer car with cash in 5 years. Total cost-$15k. Divide $15k by 60 months which = $250/month.
- Goal 2- buy a wedding ring in 3 years. Total cost- $10k. Divide $10k by 36 months which = $277/month.
- Total you will need to save each month = $527
- Take your monthly expense total and subtract the amount you need to save to meet your financial goals. In the example above, if your expenses are already breaking even with your income then you would need to further cut those expenses back by $527 per month.
- If you’ve cut everything possible and don’t have any further room to accommodate those savings goals, then you need to take on additional employment or overtime hours to so that you can achieve them. Please note: never work two full-time jobs to pay for standard monthly living expenses. Thats how you know you’re spending too much. Only seek additional employment if its something you love to do or if you have a specific savings goal you want to accomplish on top of your living expenses.
C. Forcing it All to Work for You
- Once the calculations are done and goals set, immediately go to your bank to set up a second checking account. Then go online to your favorite online institution and sign up for a separate savings or money market account. Why online for the savings/money market? Because the 3 day transfer policy can help provide a cooling off period for when you get the urge to purchase dumb sh*t. It’s also beneficial if you use an account with some sort of minimum balance penalty so that it also discourages you from playing hide and go get it with your money. Some good institutions for these accounts are Ally Bank and Ing direct. (FYI- always make sure opt out of overdraft protection on all of your accounts.)
- Now that you have two checking accounts, assign your original account for payment of your fixed monthly expenses only while your new, second account is to be used only for variable expenses.
- Order a separate ATM card for your new variable expenses account. (Read: NOT credit card but preferrably an ATM/Visa Check card if you can). If you are with a bank like Wells Fargo that allows you to design your own ATM card, you can use a specific design that will remind you which account is for which. For instance – since your variable expense account will be for things like eating out and entertainment, you could use a design that indicates that card is for play money with the words “Variable Expenses” at the top. I’m sure your creativity can surpass mine here. But in all reality you want to get out of the habit of carrying your fixed expenses ATM card in your wallet or purse to begin anyways so this wont be an issue.
- Setup automatic transfers each pay period as money comes into your main fixed expenses account so that the amount you want to spend on variable expenses transfers automatically over to that account/card. You can also set this up for your online savings account so you are automatically depositing as you get it. Some employers even allow splitting up your checks in multiple accounts using specific direct deposit instructions. Once the amount is used up in your variable expenses account then its game over for that month and you’re forced to do better next month.
- Make sure to pay your monthly fixed expenses as soon as humanly possible so you dont have access to that money. This means if you know your first check comes by the 3rd of the month and you have enough left over in your check for your variable expenses, you should be paying your car note by the 4th. I could give a good god damn if its not due until the 24th. The object here is to hide your money from yourself while at the same time staying a month ahead and away from late fees.
- If you have an iPhone or other smart phone with budget tracking applications, download them. You can use apps like Mint.com or Quicken as a resource to keep you aware that you may be overspending on a specific category and that a balance may be low. Mint and Quicken also provide you with bill due date reminders so you can stay 1 step ahead.
If you do each of these things, your finances will be automatically separated for you and from you. You are using a fool-proof strategy that should eliminate any setbacks you normally encounter while traditionally expecting your self-control/discipline to magically one day kick in. Remember, you know good and damn well you have no discipline and this becomes clearly evident every time H&M has a fire sale.
With your variable expenses (which most people get in trouble with) you don’t even need to figure out what the typical percentages are you should be spending. You know how most financial gurus will try and tell you that you should be spending x percentage of your budget on food, x percentage on entertainment etc etc? Well whos to say each person’s entertainment amount should be the same percentage of their budget? Why should everyone’s food amount be the same? What if you love food? What if its what helps you enjoy your life? As long as you’re healthy, you can afford it and you’re saving for your goals, then why not have a budget lopsided custom to you? The method I’ve provided here is a debt proof way to tailer your budget the way you want while forcing you to learn as you go with as little monetary consequence as possible. If you spend all your money on entertainment halfway through the month, then you have to do without that Friday Chipotle treat and you have to learn how to get better next month. (FYI you should have a set amount for groceries in your fixed expenses every month so you never run out of food.) At the end of the day its really you teaching you..with force.
There is no right way to spend your money as compared to other people. There is only a right way to spend and save according to your own financial goals. I don’t think anyone has to tell you that you need health coverage. You know you do and if you could afford it, then you would enroll. All you need is a way to force yourself to save, cut back and be able to afford these things you have been missing out on. Using the Brass-Knuckle Finance formula, you’ve just been given the ability to do so.
Stay tuned for our next course: Course 2: Frugality vs. Being Cheap and How to Never Pay for a Damn Thing in Life.
FYI- Here’s a free Microsoft Excel budget document you can use after you’ve first done it on paper:
And here are some monthly expense categories that may help jog your memory as you jot down how much you spend every month. Too many people turn in a half assed selective memory type budget to me and make sure to forget half the stuff they spend on. Remember you should be using your last two months bank statements in this exercise as well! If you have credit card statements with items on them from last month then you need to be slapped.