Mind the Gap - Income/Expenses Graph
The wider your positive Gap, the better you are doing financially.
Keeping a chart like this was a big part of our financial journey as it really trains your brain to want to save instead of spend.
The Gap here is the difference between your Income and your Expenses.
When the Gap is Positive you have the money to reach your dreams, when it's consistently Negative you are living a life you can't afford.
The Positive difference goes into your "snowball", either to pay off debt or into savings.
The goal here is to get as big of a Positive Gap as you can.
When just starting out, there might not be any Gap at all, or you might have a Negative Gap if you've been living above your means, and that's okay, we all start where we are and move forward from there.
How to fill out the chart:
- Take your typical monthly income, your take home pay plus any side hustles. Multiply that number by 2. Then divide by 24 (the number of lines).
- With $0 in the bottom space, use the final number from #1 and add it going up.
- For example if your monthly income is $2400, multiplied by 2 = $4800. $4800 divided by 24 = $200. So your numbers up the left would be $0, $200, $400, $600, $800 and so on, adding $200 each time
- Plot your monthly income in one color, and plot your monthly expenses in another color. Yes, this means you actually have to track your spending. If you are serious about getting out of debt you should already be doing that, so it just takes plotting your numbers.
- Once you have at least two months plotted, you can begin to color your Gap. Use one color for a positive gap, and one color for a negative gap. I like using a lighter version of the same colors I use for plotting.
The first few months your Gap may be negative, meaning you are spending more than your income, or they may be so close that you can't see a Gap yet. That's ok.
As you increase your income and decrease your expenses your Gap will become positive and grow wider.
What qualifies as an Expense?
For this chart, Expenses are everything you spend minus your Snowball. So all your living expenses, eating out, groceries, utilities and all your minimum payments to debt. Even credit card spending. If you spend it, it's an Expense and goes on this graph.
Do not include optional savings in the Expenses (retirement, emergency funds, sinking funds), that is part of your GAP.
The GAP is your wiggle room. The difference between what you bring in and what you spend each month.
When a big expense comes up, but you pay for it out of savings, your Gap might be Negative that month, meaning your expenses are higher than your income, that's normal, and the point of savings.
Mind that Gap, it will bring you Freedom!
Comes with two versions, one with the months filled in on the bottom, one without. So you can start any time of year.
This graph chart is a great companion to the Debt is Going Down, and the Net Worth on the Rise charts.
Inspired by the book Your Money or Your Life by Dominguez and Robin.