It sounds obvious, but it’s worth noting that following a budget makes your money go further. Venmo, credit cards and “Buy Now” buttons on Amazon make it so easy to blow through our money. Having a budget helps us visualize where our money is going.
To make your budget even more visual, here are three metrics and accompanying graphs to help make your budget a useful tool for managing your finances.
Personal inflation rate bar graph
Your personal inflation rate tells you how much your expenses increased year-over-year. To calculate it, take the total of your current yearly expenses and divide that by the total of last year’s expenses. Then subtract one from that number.
So let’s say you spent $51,000 over the past 12 months and $50,000 over the 12 months before that. This is the formula you would use: 51,000/50,000 — 1. Your answer would be 0.02, or 2 percent. Once you’ve calculated your personal inflation rate, compare this number to the inflation rate of the US or Utah. If your number is higher than those numbers, you might be spending too much.
To better visualize your personal inflation rate, you can create a comparative bar graph that compares your spending in specific categories year over year. You might find, for example, that even though your overall inflation rate was pretty low from 2019 to 2020, your spending on utilities went way up. Knowing that can help you cut back on unnecessary spending.
Financial independence ratio line graph
Your financial independence ratio is your passive income divided by your living expenses (multiplied by 100, if you like percentages!). To be financially independent, you want your FI ratio to be 1 or higher – that would mean your passive income can completely cover your living expenses. If your FI ratio is below 1, you know how far you have to go to reach financial independence.
You can visualize this data with a double line graph that charts your income and expenses in dollars. When the two lines intersect, that’s when your FI ratio has reached that golden 1!
Expense using a multilevel pie chart
There’s nothing like a pie chart to help you see what’s going on with your spending. To take it up a notch, you can create a multilevel pie or doughnut chart to see how your family members’ budgets compare to the 50/30/20 rule.
What’s the 50/30/20 rule again? This rule recommends putting 50% of your income toward needs, 30% toward wants and 20% toward savings. When you compare your budget with the 50/30/20 rule, you may find that you’re not saving enough. To start saving more, follow these tips:
Save a little every month, no matter how little. Make it a habit!
Include saving as part of your budget.
Set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account each month.
Cut down expenses and put away the money you save.
Save any tax refunds or bonuses.
If you’re one of the 80 percent of Americans who have a budget, give yourself a pat on the back. Keeping a budget helps your hard-earned money go further, and when you visualize your personal finance data through helpful graphs, you have a more complete idea of what is happening.
If you’re not currently keeping track of your personal finances, start today! Whether you keep an excel spreadsheet or try out one of the best budgeting apps of 2021, keeping a budget will help you reach your financial goals and give you peace of mind.