Sure, it can seem a little "you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to." Good cash-flow strategies accomplish many of the same aims as a budget. But they do it in a way that makes it easier to adjust for current expenses and income fluctuations and to plan ahead, Sivertsen and other advisors said this week at the Financial Planning Association BE conference in Seattle.
They can be an important tool for consumers of any income, said presenter Marty Kurtz, a certified financial planner and president of The Planning Center. The more you make, the more you spend—and the more likely you are to have "missing money" that could be better allocated, he said.
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He recommends dividing expenses into three buckets: static, control and dynamic (or, roughly, past, present and future). The aim is to work the first two in such a way that there's room to fund the dynamic bucket of future needs and wants, from travel to college tuition.
The static bucket represents fixed expenses like mortgage payments and insurance, which are relatively easy to predict, Sivertsen said, and may be easier to reduce than other expenses. (Re-shopping an insurance policy, say, can have powerful effects.)