One of the tools I use on a regular basis to keep my wife in the loop about our finances is the monthly report.
Monthly is a bit of a misnomer, since I really do it twice each month (once mid-month to monitor our progress, and once at the end of the month to review everything).
I’ve found it to be one of the most powerful financial tools at my disposal to keep everything on track, keep everyone in the loop, and keep myself accountable to another person.
Benefits of a Monthly Report
While there are many benefits to the monthly report that are outside the scope of this discussion, some of the major ones that apply in our case are:
- We keep each other accountable. Neither one of us can step too far outside the artificial boundaries we have set up for ourselves, because we know that we have to answer to the other every 15 days. This helps us avoid making major financial mistakes.
- Awareness of our financial situation. Each one of us is fully aware of our current financial situation at all times, including our account balances and other major metrics.
- An opportunity to discuss goals and progress. Our meetings to review and discuss the report give us the opportunity to talk about our major financial goals, how we’re progressing toward meeting those goals, challenges that lie ahead, and potential changes we may have to make in our financial management to meet those goals.
- We can celebrate successes. Seeing our progress on paper allows us to look back and celebrate how far we’ve come and encourages us to know we’re moving in the right direction.
What Do I Include?
Since the establishment of my monthly report about two years ago, very little has changed with the format and the information I include. The major elements were there on day one, and they continue to be there today. These are:
- The date and whether the report is a mid-month check-in or an end-of-month summary.
- Money In: All income and transfers into our accounts.
- Money Out: All expenses and transfers out, categorized by bills, other expenses, savings, and loans. I also break down the biggest expenses within each of these major categories.
- In-Out: Cash flow for the month, and the plan for the resulting shortfall or surplus.
- Net Worth: A quick overview of all assets and liabilities to determine our month-to-month net worth.
- Credit Score: Update of our credit score from our monitoring service, and a comparison to last month’s score.
- Goal Monitoring: If we have any special savings or financial goals set up at the beginning of the year, this is the place where we track them and keep each other accountable.
- Notes: This is where I explain any unusual activity, or make notes on upcoming expenses or issues. This is also where I make notes as to important milestones and successes we’ve made, particularly when year-to-year comparisons are important to make.
Because of our financial arrangement, and because I am primarily responsible for managing the day-to-day financials of our family, I’ve found the monthly report to be the best tool to communicate about money with my wife. What kinds of tools have worked for you?
Bonus: Download my monthly report template for Microsoft Word.