blogPg04_Exp.html Money: A User Guide

Expenses come in a variety of flavors. They may be expected or unexpected, occur frequently or infrequently (some happen but once in a lifetime), at regular or random intervals, and for amounts that may or may not be known in advance. For these reasons and more, expenses can be hard to estimate accurately. We do the best we can, and refine our estimates as time goes on. In time we know, almost to the penny, how much we are likely to spend in a year.

Expenses are easier to estimate if we first separate them by class and type.


Expenses can be separated into two distinct classes:  Scheduled  and  Unscheduled . Scheduled Expenses have a due date, and the amount is typically known in advance. Unscheduled Expenses may be expected or unexpected, occur frequently or infrequently, and the amount is typically not known in advance.


Expenses can be categorized as one of two types:  Monthly Payments  and  Occasional Expenditures . In Exercise 3 you will complete a Monthly Payments table; in Exercise 4, an Occasional Expenditures table. The two (sub)Totals will be combined, with the Grand Total appearing on the SUMMARY table as the EXPENSES Amount


Monthly Payments are payments due each month, on or about the same day, often for the same amount. Examples: Rent, Utilities, Credit Card Payments.[Budget billing makes it easier to estimate expenses accurately.]


Any expense that is not a Monthly Payment, is an Occasioinal Expenditure. Examples: Gas, Groceries, Meals Out. Auto Insurance, if paid quarterly, is not a monthly payment, despite the fact that it is paid on a regular basis, and the due date and amount are known in advance;


Estimating expenses may be the most difficult task you will undertake in gaining control over your finances. It is undoubtedly the most important. Few of us have much control over the amount of money we earn, but we all have absolute control over how much money we spend.


To make this task easier, I have compiled a Comprehensive Index of Expenses, the CIE, to use as a memory aid. Nothing renders a Sound Spending Plan useless more quickly that neglecting to include an expense. So, please do make use of the CIE in filling out your Monthly Payments and Occasional Expenditures tables. Here's how:

The CIE lists over ninety Expense Items, by generic name - for example, "Anniversary". Seeing the generic name may remind you of an expense you might otherwise not think of.

You might decide to add an instance of this item to your Occasional Expenditures list (presuming one does not have an anniversary every month, for which a statement is received, showing the due date and amount - in which case it would belong on your Monthly Payments list), and rename it, "Parents' Anniversary". You could add second instance of "Anniversary", and rename it, "Our Anniversary".

In some cases, multiple instances of a particular item may be required. Credit Card Payments is a good example. Many people have half a dozen or more credit cards. But there is only one instance of the generic name for that item on the CIE.

The CIE lists items of both  classes  and both  types.  X's in the MP column designate items belonging on the Monthly Payments list.  X's in the OE column designate items belonging on the Occasional Expenditures list. Exceptions are unlikely, but you are the final arbiter in deciding on which of your lists an item belongs.

The expense item location per Maslow's pyramid arranged in order of priority, and is - per Maslow's Hierarchy - consistent with healthy human development. If you become aware of something I've left out, please let me know. Help me help people.

Copy and paste the generic terms to your Monthly Payments and Occasional Expenses lists, then rename them, to reflect your particuler set of circumstances. For example: a "personalized" version "Heat" might be "Suburban Propane". "Lights" could renamed "Puke Energy".

I have attempted to include a generic form of each utility, such as Heating and Cooling, Lights, Phone, Internet, etc. However, in some cases, it may be necessary to copy and paste multiple instances of a utility. For example, Streaming Services or Credit Card Payments. Copy and paste the number of instances of each Expense Item that you require, trying to keep the total under sixty; any more than that and the system may become unwieldy for some.


The CIE is recreated below. You may need to scroll to see all of it.

Note: the CIE contains columns for Monthly Payments (MP) and Occasional Expenditures (OE). In these columns you will find an "X", indicating which type of expenses an Expense Items typically is. However, no hard and fast rules govern. To which column an item belongs depends, ultimately, on individual circumstances. You must determine for yourself on which list the item belongs. Each item is followed by a brief description, to help match your expense to an Expense Item.

In the exercises to follow, you will be compiling two lists - one for Monthly Payments, and another for Occasional Expenditures. Take time to acquaint yourself with the CIE, then, refer to it often when completing the exercises. I believe you will find it an invaluable aid.

Note: the CIE contains columns for Monthly Payments (MP) and Occasional Expenditures (OE). In these columns you will find an "X", indicating which type of expenses and Expense Items typically is. However, there is no hard and fast rule governing this. To which column an item belongs depends, ultimately, on individual circumstances. You must determine for yourself which type of expense it is.


Selecting the P-Val tab in the Workbook, displays a version of the CIE sorted by Priority. Each item on the list is assigned a unique value; a hybrid of Maslow's hierarchy, and a rating of my own design. The digit to the left of the decimal (1. - 5.) refers to the position in Maslow's hierarchy where the met need falls. The two digits to the right of the decimal indicate whether the need met accrues to human (.01 - .39), animal or plant (.40 - .59), or inanimate object (.60 - .99) benefit.


The language of human motivation does not translate directly to the language of finance. One cannot, for example, buy Esteem.

For this reason, I have undertaken to separate the things we buy into three distinct classes: Essentials, Non-essentials, and Requisites. This approach works better than attempting to distinguish between Needs and Wants. Consider the following example:

Suppose I have identified a need for transportation, and chosen from the modes available - walking, Segue, biking, motorbiking, automobile, carpooling, public transportation, ultralight - a car.
Having deemed the car Essential. Gas, oil, maintenance, and insurance would be Requisites - necessary only as an adjunct to an Essential (had I chosen biking instead, I wouldn't "need" them). The pin-striping and 20-inch rims would of course be Non-essentials.

Classifying expenditures in this way infuses the process with an objectivity not possible when wrestling with Needs vs Wants. --- bridge needed --- A user need only copy the examples provided and tailor to suit. S/he need not start from scratch; the framework is there. All that remains is personal data entry.

Read more, or proceed.

Third, you'll determine how much you spend (per month). This is a more rigorous exercise, but now that you've got the hang of it, it shouldn't be too much trouble. It just takes a while.

This lesson and the two that follow have to do with expenses. If you plan to tackle all three in one sitting, you may want to grab a bite to eat first.


Expenses may be separated into two classes: Scheduled and Unscheduled. Scheduled expenses are easier to estimate (and plan for) because the due date and amount are known in advance. That's what Scheduled expenses are; expenses for which the due date and amount are known in advance.

Unscheduled expenses occur at random, and may occur frequently (Groceries), infrequently (Auto Service), or unexpectedly (bail). The amounts are often not known in advance, and if they are, typically not very far in advance. For various reasons, Unscheduled expenses are more difficult to estimate and plan for, but it can still be done. It just takes a different approach.


Classes notwithstanding, there are two types of expense: Monthly Payments and Occasional Expenditures.

Monthly Payments are payments due on or about the same date each month, typically for the same amount, and for which you receive a statement each month. Yes, all Monthly Payments are Scheduled expenses.

Any expense that is not a Monthly Payment, is an Occasional Expenditure. Occasional Expenditures may be Scheduled or Unscheduled. Vehicle Registration, for example, is a Scheduled Occasional Expenditure; the due date and amount are known in advance, but it is paid annually, not monthly.

The Problem With Occasional Expenditures

One thing that makes Occasional Expenditures difficult to estimate accurately is the less frequently you encounter an expense, the more likely it is to be forgotten. Having worked with expenses for more than thirty years, I've identified those most commonly overlooked, and have compiled a reference that includes them. That list appears below.


The Comprehensive Index of Expenses is provided as a reminder of expenses that might otherwise be overlooked. It contains columns for separating Monthly Payments from Occasional Expenditures, as well as a brief definition of each named expense.

Most expense items belong on the Occasional Expenditures table. Many items qualify as either Monthly Payments or Occasional Expenditures, depending on how frequently they are billed. The Monthly Payments table will almost always contain the shorter list, and include items like Credit Card and loan payments, traditioinal utilities, and digital services like phone, internet, streaming.

An example of a utility that would not be a Monthly Payment is propane. Unless it is billed monthly, it belongs on the Occasional Expenditures table.

Let's take a closer look at the Conprehensive Index of Expenses.

I have taken the liberty of assigning each expense to either, or both, the Monthly Payments or/and Occasional Expenditures columns. This is just a suggestion. The choice is ultimately up to you.

Line Items (generic names) are listed but once, to keep the index from becoming intolerably long. Should you need multiple instances of a particular Line Item - for example: more than one Utility, or more than one Credit Card - copy and paste as many of the generic names as needed, and rename.

Filling in the tables is the hardest part of learning How To Make Ends Meet. Take the time you need to get it right, and you will thank yourself many times over.


If you are living with your parents, and working and earning your own money, you have a decided advantage over the average working stiff. Not only will you have fewer items on your expenses tables, you are probably more internet savvy as well. With no financial responsibilities to speak of, no debt, and no unfortunate spending habits to unlearn, you are like a blank canvas on which to map your success.

Having your own money entitles you to do whatever you want with it. With a safety net provided by your parents, you may not have given much thought to living within your means. But once you get out on your own, it’s a whole different ball of wax. Without your parents' financial support, you'll need to be much more careful with your money. Before you marry and start a family, decide on a career path, and be sure your finances are in good order.

Freedom and happiness depend to a large extent on achieving and sustaining financial independence. It is easier to become financially independent once you are resolved to make each expenditure a deliberate act undertaken to satisfy a specific need.

At any given moment, every individual is tasked with a single, pre-eminent need. Identifying and satisfying that pre-eminent need results in healthy human growth. Purchasing, in order of priority, satisfaction of needs is part and parcel of handling money responsibly.

Need satisfaction is covered in greater detail in Appendix A: What Would Maslow Do? But for now, let’s continue with the Spending Plan, and take a closer look at the tables that tally expenses.

"Success is measured not by the scope of our possessions but rather, by the extent to which we are able to live life on our own terms."

Nashville, IN USA



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