How to Create a Money Map

A money map is essentially a financial road map. Using your current financial information, such as your income, your debts and expenses, and other monetary considerations, you’ll develop a route. And, with a clear destination in mind, you’ll be better able to meet your financial goals.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a financial whiz to create a money map that works. And when the map is complete, you’ll have a much better idea of your financial situation, what you need to do to plan for the future, and how to clear and avoid future debt.

Step One: Calculate Income and Expenses

To start creating your money map, you’ll need to gather a few numbers. Your income and your expenses are the main two amounts you’ll need. Figuring your monthly income should be easy, but you’ll want to make sure you write down and add up all monthly expenses. Utility bills can be estimated, since they can vary from month to month.

Don’t forget other things that many people forget or ignore, such as magazine and newspaper subscriptions, streaming services, monthly car maintenance and gas, lawn care services, gym memberships, etc.

When you subtract your expenses from your income, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you have to work with each month for additional spending and savings.

Note: If you have several bank accounts, you might want to consider drawing links from your accounts to the expenses you pay from those accounts. This will make it easier to make adjustments to your money in the future as accounts and expenses change.

Step Two: Plan Your Budget

With a clear picture in mind of your expenses, you can see if there is anything you can trim or eliminate. Whether you do or don’t your remaining money is what you’ll have to budget with. As a general rule, the 50/30/20 budget is a good place to start. This involves 50% of your income going towards necessities, 30% to spending on wants, and 20% to put towards savings and debts.

If your expenses and debts comprise more than 50% of your income, you’ll want to see where you can make adjustments to improve your financial situation. Otherwise, you can make adjustments as you see fit.

For example, if you want to put more into savings and don’t need to spend so much on wants, plan your budget that way.

Step Three: Set Your Goals

If you want to have a certain amount put away for savings by the end of the year, see if your current budget will work to achieve that goal. If not, you’ll need to adjust either your budget or the goal amount. With all the numbers in front of you, you can set a realistic budget and goals that you can meet.

As you stick to your budget month after month, you are essentially traveling along your money map. When you reach your goal, you will have reached your financial destination. Then you can set a new goal and adjust the budget as necessary.

Keep in mind that a money map will change periodically. Expenses may rise or fall with the seasons, or disappear completely. You may take on new debt, or eliminate an older debt. But as long as you stay realistic and stick to the money map you’ve created, you’ll be on your way to a much better financial future.