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For a lot of people, having a strict routine will help them not forget anything. This is the same for me. I really like routines. Each month, I am following the same personal finance routine for my budget. You can see most of the results in my monthly finance reports. In this post, I am going to describe the steps I am doing every month.
I think it is great to have a routine. This helps to get more efficient and like this, you do not forget to do everything.
Of course, you do not need to have the same steps as me of course. Every people can have different things to do based on the way they are investing or based on their situation. But I would encourage you to clearly define your at least a monthly routine. And why not even a weekly routine?
1. Pay my monthly bills (after salary)
Once I receive my salary, the first of my routine step I do is to pay my monthly bills for next month. This is my rent, my taxes, my insurances and sometimes exceptional things like Billag or some bi-annual bills. My salary goes into my checking account.
Why am I doing this first?
For the simple reason that I want to know how much I have left for next month. And I want to know how much money I can invest this month. I do not believe in the “Pay Yourself First” philosophy. It does not make any sense. If you save as much as you can, there will something left to pay yourself.
2. Move money to my broker (Interactive Brokers)
Once I have paid my monthly bills, I am checking how much I can move to my broker. I always keep about 3000 CHF in my checking account. This is my buffer for the next month. It helps me not moving money from my savings account to my checking account.
I look at the amount remaining in my checking account. I also look at my credit card. Then, I calculate how much I can move so that I will still have 3000 CHF after my credit card bill is paid.
Once I know how much I can move, I directly move it. It generally takes one working day for the money to arrive at Interactive Brokers. After I receive the money, I directly invest it. For instance, I can invest all the money in my VT ETF.
I am using the new amount to rebalance my portfolio. I am investing in the fund that is the most below its allocation. This is how I am doing balancing month by month. Hopefully, this should help me not having to do a big rebalance at the end of the year. This is in check with my overall investment strategy.
3. Check my spending and budget (on the 1st)
At the beginning of each month, I take a look back at the past month budget. I try to do this as early as possible, ideally on the first of the month. I check every expense and earning for mistakes. Once I am sure of my expenses, I take a first note of my savings rate (can still change with the next two steps). I am doing my budget in a very simple way with multiple categories and an amount per category.
And most importantly, I take a look at how much we spend for every category. I try to understand what went well and what did not go well. This will help me improving month after month.
4. Check my credit card spending
I am also checking that all the expenses from my credit card are in my budget. I also check every credit card expense for a possible mistake. Several times I forgot to add small expenses to my budget from my credit card.
It is also a good time to check if I could buy more things with my credit card. Now that I have several credit cards, it is a good thing to check if some expenses are not using the correct credit card. I want to minimize as much as possible my fees. And maximize the (very small) bonus I get for spending with my credit card.
5. Check all my accounts
After my credit card, I check all my accounts. I do not have many. First, I have an account at PostFinance with multiple accounts. I check all the transactions in my checking accounts. I also make sure each of these transactions has been correctly put in my budget. This is generally the only account that is moving significantly. I have my third pillar and an old fund at PostFinance. So I am checking the value of these accounts as well.
I also have an account at Interactive Brokers for my investment. I check the value of each of my investment. Once I have all these values, I can carry on to my next step.
6. Update my net worth
Now, I got the values of all my accounts and all my investments. It is time to put them together in my net worth tracking application. Once it is done, I get my new net worth :)
From my net worth, I can see how much it increased (or decreased) from last month. I also keep track of how much my net worth increased from the beginning of the year.
7. Keep track of the trend
One thing I also like is to compare the trend of several things. In the previous step, I can compare the trend of my net worth. It should, of course, go up. But it should ideally accelerate its ascent. However, these days the market does not agree with me and this does not help the acceleration ;)
I am also checking the trend of my expenses. For instance, I keep track of the trend of my expenses over time. One thing that is very important for me is the 12-months average. For instance, for my expenses (in black):
Ideally, I would like the average to go down to 4500 CHF. But these days it is not great. The average is more important than each month. Because you may have some bad month and some very good month. But the average should stabilize. I am also checking the trend of my income. And very importantly, I am checking the trend of my savings rate. This is the most important trend for me.
Since I started to improve my finances late last year, my average savings rate has been consistently going up. This is a very good sign.
8. Check my Financial Independence (FI) Ratio
After I am done with all the data, it is time to get the final numbers out. I can check my savings rate of course. And its trend as seen in the previous section. But the last number I am checking is my Financial Independence (FI) Ratio. This tells me how far away I am from being Financially Independent. I can also check the trend:
My FI ratio should always go up. For now, it is increasing quite slowly. I am working on making it increasing faster.
9. Update yearly goals
Finally, I have checked all my numbers. It is time for me to check the current status of my goals. Every year, I try to set a few goals for the entire year. And every month, I am checking how the goals are going. For instance, here is one report of these goals:
It helps me to have a good idea of where I am. I also help me see what I should do better to reach my goals. In 2018, many goals were reached early than I thought. I 2019, I will see some more difficult goals. This will be motivating :)
10. Set next month goals
Once I am set with my inspecting my yearly goals, I am trying to set a few goals for the next month. For instance, if I have spent too much one month, I am going to set a very strict limit on spending in the following one. I am also doing goals like:
- Research credit cards to find a better one
- Research bank accounts to find a better one
- Find out what is the best Employee Share Purchase Plan (ESPP) strategy
And so on. I try to put 4-5 goals for each month. I do not always report them on the blog, generally, I simply write them down on a piece of paper.
11. Post on this blog
Finally, the last item on my routine list is to post my monthly report on this blog. For instance, you can check out the most recent monthly report. This post has the details of my expenses and income. It also contains the current status of my goals. And of course, some information about things that happened during the month. And my expectations for next month.
Why am I doing this?
I am mostly doing this for me. I want to keep a track of my financial status. I also believe it makes me more accountable. And it helps to keep me motivated. And since I like reading monthly reports, maybe some people will actually enjoy reading mine!
Here you have it! My 11-steps monthly financial routine system ;)
Following this system helps me being very aware of what is going on with my finances. What is good and what is bad. I want to have as much information about possible with my budget. And I want to avoid missing a step.
These steps are personal of course, not everybody will have the same. However, I believe everyone should have a bit of financial routine. Even with you have only a few steps, it helps to do them regularly and each month.
Enough about me! What about you? Do you have a financial routine? How many financial steps you do each month?