What I learned getting lost in Singapore

Posted by in Budgeting, Communication, Tools

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Back in the summer of 2006 I spent a few days visiting Singapore, a beautiful, modern city-sized country in southeast Asia. One day, I was wandering around the Little India neighborhood with some friends. It was getting late and we wanted to head back to where we were staying. But first, we wanted to visit a store we’d seen earlier in the day. There was only one problem. We remembered where the store was, but soon realized we had
no idea where we were. Not my finest moment.  😳 

We were hopelessly lost in a city we’d never been to before in one of its oldest ethnic neighborhoods. The best map in the world wouldn’t have done us any good since we would’ve had no idea where we were on it. And this was before smartphones with GPS, so we couldn’t just Google it or Uber our way there. Besides, we didn’t even remember the name of the store, just what it looked
like and where it was.

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Little India


After hours wandering around, we finally got our bearings and found the store we were looking for. I learned an important lesson that day: knowing where we want to go isn’t enough. First, we need to know where we are.

Having a target isn’t enough

We want enough money to never have to worry about having enough money. We want to talk about money without fighting. We want to be able to quit our jobs. We want to pay off our mortgages. We want to master our money, not be slaves to it.

These are awesome, noble goals, but when it comes to money, it’s not enough to just have a financial target. Before we can have any meaningful money conversations with our partners or make any serious progress towards our dreams, we first need to know where we’re starting from. To do this financially, we really only need to be able to answer one question. Everything else you and your partner do financially hinges on your answer.  

Finding your place on the map

Answering this one question will give you and your partner the clarity to accomplish any financial goal. Want to quit your job? Want to pay off debt? Want to get rich? Want to get on the same page as your partner? Answer this question first.

How much money do you have leftover at the end of the month?

No need to complicate things. This is what it all really comes down to. This is our starting point. How much money do you have leftover at the end of the month? Typically every month we have money coming in via paychecks, side jobs, interest, selling stuff, etc. We also have money going out to pay for things we need; food, shelter, clothing, and basic transportation. The more we have leftover at the end of each month, the better off we are.

Whatever we have left at the end of the month is what we can use to pursue our hopes and dreams or protect against our fears. We get to throw the leftovers at our student loans to pay them off faster. We can save the leftovers towards an awesome vacation. Or we can stockpile the leftover money just in case. But before we can have an intelligent conversation with our partner about what to do, if it’s enough, or what needs to change, we need to know how much leftover we have to work with.

Your financial GPS

You probably at least have a vague sense of how much money you have leftover at the end of the month. But if you really want to win with money and get on the same page with your partner, it’s not enough to just have a general sense of how much leftover money you have to work with. We’re going to need specifics. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to figure out and find your place on the financial map.

No need to get super nerdy. Add up how much money you made last month. Then subtract however much money you spent during the same time frame. The best part is, your bank does this for you. All you need to do is deposit your paychecks and any other money you make into the same account you use to pay for everything. Money in and out of the same account, easy right? Then actually open the Account Statements your bank sends you each month. Subtract the “Balance Last Statement” (or whatever your bank calls it) from your “Balance This Statement” and you’ll have your answer.

I realize this may be really basic to some of you, but you’d be surprised how many people have no clue how much money is coming in or going out. Please keep in mind your partner might be one of those people. Don’t do your relationship the disservice of shouldering your financial situation alone and letting your partner live with you in ignorance. You owe it to yourself AND them to both know where you are financially. 

Later we’ll automate, itemize, and set up a system that manages our money for us in our sleep. But first, we’re going to have a firm understanding of where we are financially before we do anything else. We’re going to know exactly how much money we have leftover at the end of the month. Doing so will give us clarity into our financial lives and some much needed confidence to move forward. We’ll have a solid starting point from which to chase your financial hopes and dreams. Even better, we’ll have an objective view of your money you can discuss with your partner.  

Let me know in the comments, how did your answer differ from what you expected?

In the meantime, if you need help talking about money without fighting sign up for the FREE program.