Nowadays, it seems there is a “day” for everything. And, today, October 17, is spreadsheet day. Spreadsheet day commemorates the day the first spreadsheet program, Visicalc, was released way back in 1979. Spreadsheets are a great tool because they help us to organize and categorize data into a logical format. Then, we can use them to analyze or help solve a problem or create a solution.
Cash Flow Spreadsheets
As a financial planner, one of the things I help people with is their cash flow – making sure that what comes in and what goes out is sustainable over a lifetime. It starts with a typical spreadsheet – a list of items and what they cost each year and then projected out over several years. The columns and rows add up into numbers that can be analyzed.
But when it comes to spending, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Since resources are finite for most people, where the money goes has a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Lots of people lose sight of this in living and spending day-to-day. For example, they may spend money on things or experiences that aren’t that important to them, and not have money left over for the things that are. Or, they may have a long term goal that requires saving up for, yet, they continue to deplete their checking account each month without saving a dime.
Some of this spending behavior is a function of how our brains work. Immediate gratification is very compelling, and it’s hard to focus on longer-term goals unless we make it a habit. Another brain feature that makes it hard to be a disciplined spender is that our brains like novelty. We prefer new and shiny objects or situations – much more than the same old, same old. These biological brain cravings are hard to overcome unless we do it on purpose. That is where my brain hack for controlling spending comes in, and yes, it’s a spreadsheet: The Happiness Spreadsheet.
The Happiness Spreadsheet- what is it?
Filling out a Happiness Spreadsheet requires you to think hard and identify the things and experiences that are the most satisfying to you.
It also required you to admit that you may be spending money on things that aren’t important to you at all. For example, you may own an expensive car that costs a lot to maintain and is a hassle to park, when you would rather walk, take public transportation, or rideshare. Or, you love to cook and eat simple healthy meals, but instead, you eat out four times a week. Once you identify your values and desires, you can focus on bringing more of them into your life through your spending habits.
Want to give the Happiness Sheet a try? You can download a free copy here: https://www.curtisfinancialplanning.com.