The Sunday Afternoon Money Routine

Most Sunday afternoons, when my children are taking a nap, I spend about an hour taking care of regular tasks, many of which are directly money related. Here’s what I do each Sunday afternoon.

I process my entire inbox. I’m pretty adamant about practicing some aspects of Getting Things Done, so the first thing I do is go through my inbox and make sure things are dealt with. Once that’s done, I go to another pile, which I call my “Sunday pile,” and start rummaging through that to see what I have to deal with. My “Sunday pile” usually consists of bills and items that need to be filed.

I pay every outstanding bill. One great thing about having some financial cushion, compared to where I used to be, is that I can easily handle every bill that comes in. I don’t have to “time” payments any more to make sure that they slip in there without a late fee but after my paycheck is deposited in my checking account – I have enough on hand to pay almost every bill that comes my way. The ones with standard payments are on automatic, but the variable bills, like the energy bill and the cell phone bill and any magazine renewals, are handled all at once each Sunday based on which ones had come in during the week.

I calculate my net worth. As I mentioned recently, I calculate my net worth on a weekly basis, mostly for the psychological aspect of keeping me honest about my spending. I can see very clearly where my money is going and I strive for improvement on a weekly basis. This really does keep me honest about things.

I project ahead to debt freedom. After touching all of my accounts, I have more information to add to my model of when we might become debt free. If I work hard one week and live frugal, I often find that the date for debt freedom will gradually slide earlier and earlier, whereas if I spend wastefully, it slides later and later.

I file away my documents. I have not yet quite developed a strong electronic filing system – that will have to wait until I get my workstation fully set up (it’s very, very cumbersome to do this with a laptop). So, for now, I file the papers by hand into my own filing system.

I read something financial. Sometimes, I explore a personal finance blog I haven’t read before; other times, I might hop on board with a personal finance book that really has me intrigued. Other times, I even read the financial section from the Sunday paper. I usually just read for a little while to get my mind rolling, and then from there I start jotting down ideas for The Simple Dollar (most of which come from a mishmash of ideas in my head).

If you were to stop by my house on Sundays about noon or so, you would almost always find me going through this very routine. Making it a standard part of my life has really made all the difference for keeping my eye on the ball and regularly making strong financial moves.

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  1. Frank says:

    Nice routine. I update my budget and spending tracking each Sunday afternoon, but I like your net worth update idea a lot too.

  2. I think it is awesome you spend time every week working on debt freedom. When my wife and I were going through the process of getting rid of debt we did the same thing.

  3. leslie says:

    I agree with making it a standard part of your life. I do financial stuff on Tuesday and Fridays. I know it seems cumbersome to do it two times a week but I rarely have time to sit down and take care of all of it at once. So, when my youngest is napping and my oldest is still at kindergarden, I sit down on Tuesdays and Fridays to take care of various financial tasks. Usually Fridays is paying bills and filing stuff and Tuesdays is updating budgets and other misc. financial tasks.

  4. Rob in Madrid says:

    The whole key is to have developed good habits. Whether it’s putting clothes away neatly instead of throwing them on the bed (I’m 50-50 on that one) or Cleaning up before I go to bed (100% on that one) Once it becomes a habit it becomes second nature. From a financial point of view keeping track of money coming and money go out is probably the most important habit to have and the hardest one to keep up. I’ve always keep a general overview budget but it tended to lack focus. What ever worry was current was my focus that week, bills debts cash flow. Now thanks to Your Money or Your life I have a simple overriding goal. Less going out than coming end. It’s a simple idea which brings everything I do into focus. Whether I’m looking at cash flow, debt paymetns bill payments everyting comes under the More in Less out. It’s given me a simple idea to focus my budget around. around. Hardest part is developing the habit of keeping all figures current. With a clear focus of what I want each month it’s easier to keep on top of it.

    Rob

    PS Trent any possiblity of adding an editing feature to comments? JD over at Get Rich Slowly did that.

    but up to now I never had an overriding reason to keep on top of everything, now thanks to your money or your life I do. More coming in than going out.

    I think that one is the most important and the hardest one to keep up on. I’ve been working taking out only so much per week on spending (gas shopping misc)

  5. Rob in Madrid says:

    opps as you can see an editing feature would prevent mistakes like above

  6. My dad was always eager to try to “put it to The Man” by delaying payment as much as humanly possible. I finally discouraged that when I sat down with him to work out how much the occasional late fee was actually costing him.

    Having a cushion has also provided some incentive to not balance the checkbook. I would not recommend this for everyone, though. The thinking here is (a) my finances are already under control and (b) over the ten years I aggressively balanced, most of my time was spent either replicating information or tracking down transcription errors. (The opportunity cost wasted in tracking down a $0.03 error because my 5 looked like an 8 is too terrible to ponder.)

  7. David says:

    If only everyone would set up some kind of system like this, we would all be in better shape. Unfortunately, most people ignore their finances, which equals trouble. Good post.

  8. Tom says:

    Good Routine. I almost find myself doing a lot of the same things on the weekends. Even though I usually don’t have a problem with it, sometimes I find myself wanting to do something different for the day just to change things up.

  9. Melanie says:

    Thanks for this. As I read your blog, I have incorporated some of your tips into my routine. I used to pay bills late simply because I rarely filed. Now I file but, only once per month.

    My child is a bit older than yours but, I tend to file bills while he is watching basketball games.

    Thanks for the tips and inspiration!

  10. jeanie says:

    love this site i also go through my budget and finances every sunday even though im a retired 58 year old ex haidresser i find it really relaxing and gets me motivated to watch every dollar and stay on track for the next week ive always done it all my life i live alone so it gives me something to do for hours and keeps me away from the supermarkets saving is my hobby just love it and enjoy reading about everyone else best wishes from australia

  11. Tyler Corlen says:

    What about football? …actually, on 11/11/07 the only 1:00 PM game on in my area was the Redskins/Eagles game. Maybe it would have been better to go over financials.

    (also, check out my “fun” blog: http://tylercorlen.com)

  12. Sandy says:

    I like online bill paying so much that whenever I get a bill in the mail, I pay it immediately – can set the date online, plus it gives me an excuse to see my banking home page with a big fat 0 next to my credit card balance!

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