Track your expenses

How to identify your spending habits

Last time, I shared my tricks on creating a budget with you. Are you using this weekend to set up your own budget? Fantastic! It’s a great first step to get control over your expenses and to gain financial peace of mind. In this blog, I’ll show you how to track your expenses and how to identify your spending habits.

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Create a budget

How to set up a budget

Have you ever noticed how many people shriek when they hear the word budget? Yesterday, as I tackled my paper binders, I also reviewed some documents in more details. The ones which can have an impact on my budget.

My mom taught me how to set up a budget and while I don’t always stick to it (yes, I am human too), it’s been such a great gift. It allows me to plan my financial resources and take corrective actions as needed. Sounds very business like, doesn’t it? Well, it helps and makes your life easier.

If you aren’t budgeting already, try it for the summer and have more peace of mind!

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Savings, savings, savings

It’s often only after a few years within the region that expats are thinking about putting some money aside. Working in a tax-free environment is very appealing and folks are thinking of how much they can save while here. After all, most employers don’t provide a pension or provident fund and employees need to save for their retirement themselves. Yet, with the great opportunities we have here after work, thinking of savings is put on the back burner. After all, who wants to think about saving money when enjoying a day at the beach, regular visits to the mall or eating out with friends?

There are various possibilities to increase your savings. You just have to make a small start. Take the first step with these top tips:

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Get ready for tax season

One of the beauties of Dubai is its tax-free nature. Unfortunately, some of us still have to file a tax return in our home countries. I’m lucky and only have to submit a “mini” tax return. The supporting documents, receipts and forms are already available and kept in one folder. It shouldn’t take my accountant too long to complete it. It’s not always this easy to get ready for tax season.

I’ve had my years where I scrapped for the receipts to get the most out of the different allowances and deductions. The stress of knowing that I had it but couldn’t find it drove me nuts. Until I changed to a system of collecting and sorting tax-relevant documents throughout the year, tax season always had a reputation. Please note this is not tax advice, just general information: Here are my tips to make tax season easier for you:

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No shopping for one month

I’ve read a number of articles where folks experimented how long they’d last not buying something. Often, shopping has a very calming effect. In the short-run, it gives you that pleasant feeling. Almost like a reward. You’ve made it through another tough day at work. Treat yourself to that nice handbag, that lipstick or that dress. You are worth it. It will make you feel so much better!

Yet, shortly afterwards, this positive feeling changes into guilty. Did I really need that handbag? How can I justify spending so much on a lipstick? Is that dress really looking that good on me?

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Are you prepared for the unexpected?

FreezerWhile visiting my family in Germany, our freezer decided to break down. It was ironic to happen when our handyman checked our dishwasher and shortly afterwards, there was the new freezer. After 21 years, it’s a well-deserved retirement. For my mom, it meant an unexpected and unplanned expense. Luckily for her, she had set some money aside for these events.

We don’t know what the future holds but we can prepare ourselves for the unexpected. Here are the latest tips to start your own preparations for unexpected financial expenses:

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Hope is not a financial strategy

In a few days, I’m going to my home town and I cannot wait to see friends and family again. It will be fabulous to sleep in a bit and catch up with them. Despite my best efforts, I will also look after tedious banking affairs. “Hope is not a financial strategy”, as Suze Orman once fittingly said.

Your strategy may be adjusted over the years, reflecting your age, family and job circumstances. When you’re in your 20s, retirement may be far away and you may focus on paying off any student debt. Forward 30 years and planning for your retirement may have become your top financial priority.

What do you want to achieve in life? Or what do you want to get out of life? For some, it’s saving enough that they’ve achieved financial freedom. Others may want to make enough money to travel to foreign places. For others, it may be providing private education for their children. I realise that this is probably one of the hardest questions you’ll ever ask yourself. By defining (in writing) what you’re looking for, you’ll gain clarity.

One you know where you’re heading, ask yourself:

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Time savers = Life savers?

Do you ever have the feeling that time just flies by? This happened to me this last weekend. It was a fun packed one. An organising job, meeting my friends, playing a decent round of golf and finally having purchased new bedroom curtains. Luckily, I didn’t have to do any of the boring or time consuming activities. I’m very grateful for having found some time saving shortcuts, making my life a lot easier. Here are some of my favourite time savers = life savers:

  • Automate your bills and savings. Set up a direct debit or standing order and have your mortgage/rent, utility, TV and phone bills paid directly. While you’re at it, create a regular transfer on pay day and put however much you can afford to into a savings account.

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Is your stuff bringing you down? The cost of clutter

Last week, I was helping a client transform her spare room filled with moving boxes into an arts and crafts haven.

Until then, walking by the room was dreadful for my client. “Where do I start?” was a big question and it was just easier to keep the door shut. Yet, she could feel the impact the room had on her, even with its door closed. It brought her down. You should have seen the smiles on her face at the end of our session. Her spirits are high and she’s now all set to start her first sewing project.

How is your stuff bringing you down? What are you paying while living with clutter?

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