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Step 2Define your income and expenses

Once you’ve set your savings goals, it’s important to get a clear picture of where and on what are you spending your current money. Again, it is important to put it all in writing, for which you might want to use the MONTHLY HOUSEHOLD BUDGET charts.

Download the MONTHLY HOUSEHOLD BUDGET charts (print version) »

Download the MONTHLY HOUSEHOLD BUDGET charts (fill-in version) »

Try to keep written track all your incomes and expenses for at least one month (even when you buy something small, like a breakfast bagel, a bottle of water, bubblegum or a lighter at the newsstand) and at the end of the month enter the sum amount of your expenses into this chart. For now, don’t fill out the final chart with the additional yearly seasonal expenses, nor the column titled “After revision”, which can be found in the living expenses chart, since we’ll be dealing with those in later chapters.

This might be difficult at first, since you won’t be able to track everything your household members spend the money on (but you can write down how much you gave to whom), and there will be expenses that you forgot about, but an easy way to keep track of it all is to save your receipts after every purchase, no matter how small. Also, save every ATM or bank statement, and diligently write them down in your notebook, at least during that first month. Don’t be worried if at the end of the month you discover that you’ve spent more than you wrote down (even if you were very thorough), that’s the so-called expense “black hole” that every household has, and is not at all uncommon.

If after the first month of keeping written records of all your income and expenses it turns out you have no REMAINDER, or maybe even have a negative bottom line, it is even more important to adhere to the advice from this practical guide. If you have the REMAINDER on paper, but not physically, meaning you don’t have any money left at the end of the month, that means you have a discrepancy caused by unrecorded expenses. In that case, try again.