How to Create a Personal Finance Inventory - The Starting Point for Financial Success

July 31, 2020

Our money affects how we live, and how we live affects our money.  

You really can’t deny the impact money has on the lifestyle you live.  Everything from the stores you choose to shop at, the value of your home, what feels like a luxury, even the things you may consider a necessity, all varies from person to person based on your money.  

According to a recent Blackrock Survey, MONEY is the #1 stress for most Americans above work, health and relationships.  And, money is one of the top reasons for divorce, second only to infidelity.  

Money affects how we live, no doubt.  

But let’s take a look at the second half of that line; how we live affects our money.  This is where I think many people get tangled up.  Although we may have financial goals, think owning a home, being debt free, starting a business, retiring early, buying that lake or vacation home, often our current lifestyle doesn’t support those goals.  We choose to live (ahem – spend) for the present over the future, and then stress even more about not being financially set for the future we really want.  

I believe it’s possible to manage your personal finances in a way where you can enjoy the things you care about most in life right now (your values) as well as plan for the future you envision (your goals.)  For some, this may take a complete CTRL/ALT/DEL reset of your current finances and for others, small adjustments in your spending habits may be enough.  

Where do you start?

You have to know where you are, right now.  Imagine you want to create a map to your goals.  In order to decide the route you are going to take, you have to know where you are starting.  This sounds simple, but most people don’t have a really clear picture of what they have coming in and going out, their assets, liabilities, etc.  I call this “taking inventory” and have a spreadsheet on my website called Personal Finance Inventory to help you fill in all the blanks so you can understand where you are, right now.  

As you complete the spreadsheet, be aware of your spending.  Are there categories where you wish you could spend more?  How about discretionary expenses you think are a waste?  Then ask yourself, what really bugs you about your current situation?  Not enough savings?  Is your retirement account balance lower than you would like?  Start to identify areas of your finances that bother you, or even make your stomach turn.  

The exercise of taking inventory will not only give you a clear snapshot of your true financial well-being, but also help you begin to understand what’s important, what’s not, and how you can tweak your spending to better align with your values, and your future. 

Written by Stephanie Lauritsen

Stephanie is a Certified Financial Planner and co-owner of Retirement Planners in West Fargo, North Dakota.  Her and her husband, Jake, have been business partners for fourteen years and together have three busy kids ages 14, 11 and 6.  

She has a parenting column in the West Fargo Pioneer newspaper with more than 70 stories published.  Her experience in the financial industry, combined with her love of writing and desire to teach, inspired her to start a business in which she writes a blog, hosts workshops, speaks to groups and is working on a book about all things finance.

Passionate about teaching others to feel confident with their finances, Stephanie provides easy to use tools anyone can understand to better control their money.  She believes that if we spend according to our values, we can give our money purpose and live a more intentional and less stressful life.  

Find Stephanie at and follow her on facebook at Steph Lauritsen - All Things Finance.