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Created on 10.12.2018 | Updated on 26.01.2021

Where is your money going? Use these five questions to achieve greater clarity

“Where did all the money go?” is a question many people probably ask themselves when they take a look at their bank account at the end of the year. How about you? Use these five questions to help change that.

Twelve months is a long time – particularly when you consider everything that has been debited from your account over this period. The major items, such as rent, groceries, household bills, taxes and insurance premiums, quickly come to mind. And that’s where they stay – in your mind. Most households do not keep close tabs on their income and expenditure. It’s hard to imagine many people drawing up financial statements or a balance sheet, like companies do, for their own domestic purposes. Adopting a long-term perspective may enable better control over your budget.

Your annual financial review in five questions

Don’t worry – what follows is not instructions on a long, drawn-out accounting session. We simply ask five questions which you can quickly answer and that will provide you with a good insight into how you are managing your money. 

How much money came in over the past year?

In addition to your salary, it’s also worth listing all other sources of income. This could be money received for your wedding, an inheritance, or income from sales at flea markets or on the Internet.

If possible, list all sources of income or, if you’re a PostFinance customer, simply check your e-finance. 

How much did you spend in the previous year?

Things soon add up: rent, leisure activities, car, groceries, etc. There is quite a lot of expenditure all told. It’s probably easier to remember the costs for recurring items such as rent, healthcare and insurance premiums or major purchases. Or you can see them when you check your e-banking.

For all other expenses, you can draw on estimates from your experience or likewise the information from your (digital) bank statements. 

What were the main items?

Now let’s take a closer look at the items mentioned above. Firstly, check the fixed costs: how high are living costs, taxes and health insurance premiums? Have you made major purchases – such as a car, motorbike or real estate? How much did your holidays cost exactly, including spending money? Have you done any advanced training? Have you paid into your pension fund? Are there other expenses to be taken into account? Perhaps a leasing contract, loans or other debts?

How much have you saved?

What is the net amount left in your savings account, funds saving plan and even your piggy bank at home after all of these deductions? Work out the total amount of income you can set aside or invest. 

Which budget items can be minimized?

By analysing six different areas, you can easily identify where untapped savings potential is lying dormant in your life. 

Check your expenditure and identify savings potential

  • Living costs (rent, heating and running costs) should not exceed a quarter of your net income. Is that the case?
  • Compare insurance policies: have you got the best rate for health and home insurance, etc.?
  • Smart shopping: you can  also reduce grocery costs without having to compromise on quality and healthy food. All it takes is a little online research.
  • Find out about tax allowances to make sure you only pay what’s due. Many people are aware that donations, for example, are tax deductible or that you can opt out of paying church tax if you wish. But did you know that you can claim a CHF 700 cycling allowance if you travel to work on public transport? Pillar 3a payments can also simply be deducted from taxes. To calculate how much tax you save by paying into pillar 3a, use our tax calculator.
  • Children: if you have at least one child, then this is also taken into account. We’ve listed the budget items that apply especially to parents in this article. On average, parents in Switzerland spend at least CHF 300 to CHF 400 per child a month.
  • Fixed costs: your fixed costs should not generally account for more than 60% of your income.

If your expenditure is above this percentage in at least one of these six areas, you should try to reduce it. You now also have an excellent template for the following year. Bear these household budget rules in mind for next year.

How you can learn from the past

As we’ve discussed financial expenses, we’ll now work out what is or should be left over at the end of the year. Work out what percentage of your annual gross income you would actually save: 5%, 10% or even 20%? Have you achieved this target over the past 12 months? Could you actually even increase it for next year? 

If not, then you could set this saving target for the new year. If you adapt your spending based on the six rules outlined here, you may even achieve your savings target more easily than you imagined.

Additional savings tip

In the new year, standing orders and withdrawal limits may also help you achieve your savings goals. Set up a standing order for all monthly fixed costs so that the amount is immediately debited from your salary. You will be less tempted to spend money instead of paying the bills. Many invoice issuers also offer e-bills which can also help you to settle monthly expenses – which are unfortunately unavoidable – in just a few clicks. 

You can set your own withdrawal limits for your PostFinance Card in a number of different ways.

Go for it in the New Year

Learn lessons from the review of the financial year that you have just undertaken. How could you organize your finances better in the new financial year? If you are unable to achieve either the savings target or to reduce your expenditure, then give some thought to how you could get more out of your money next year. You don’t need to change job or look for part-time work – take a look at our advice on “Financial investment”.

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