Special Expenses and Receipts

Two important fields under the Household field group are often dismissed the first time through the data entry process: Special Expenses and Special Receipts.

As you build and fine-tune your model, most users will find it useful to restore these fields (you will find the restore link by selecting the Household field label).

Special expenses allow you to move some particular expense such as college costs or an expensive wedding or vacation out of "discretionary spending" and into fixed expenses which is often appropriate for one-off expenses of this nature. Special expenses will appear in the Spending Overview report (multiples special expenses in a given year will be combined in this report) in the Special column where they become apart of the fixed category along with housing, taxes, Medicare B, and the other columns seen in that report. Although ordinary expenses such groceries, dining out, gasoline, car maintenance and so forth should be viewed as discretionary spending, special expenses should be reserved for true, out-of-the-ordinary expenses.

A word about "discretionary spending": if "discretionary seems like a misnomer, you could also think of it is as simply your annual spending allowance after the main off-the-top expenses the program refers to as "fixed spending." The quickest way to see these kinds of expenses distinguished is to view the Spending Overview report. The first column there is "discretionary spending." All of the other columns—Special, Housing, Taxes, etc.— are fixed spending. The final column on the far right, of course, is simply the total of all spending, discretionary and fixed.

Some users are tempted to try to specify all of their annual typical spending budget as "special expenses" such as gasoline and groceries so that "discretionary spending" can take on its conventional meaning of truly optional and extra. This practice is generally a mistake because of the nature of budgeting. Budgeting for the single, current year as anyone who has done it knows can be a tedious endeavor. Spending categories are never air tight, and too many times the biggest category becomes "miscellaneous." Annual budgets are a good practice, but trying to budget for next year or 15 years from now or 36 years from now is not practical and almost certainly a way to mislead yourself. Will you still be using gasoline, for example, 30 years from now? MaxiFi Planner discovers your annual spending allowance, and how you budget that is up to you. If your annual budget reveals that you are under spending your annual spending allowance (i.e., your "discretionary spending") that's good.

Finally, it should be noted that the use of "special expenses" reveals a unique feature of MaxiFi Planner. Because the program is discovering your annual spending allowance, a single special expense, say even a trivial amount such as $300 scheduled 25 years from now in your model, will reveal an impact on your current-year discretionary spending allowance and all future years. In this manner, the impact of a financial event event far into the future such as college costs, a wedding, an expensive vacation, a one-off big ticket item, or a gift to others can be measured against the benchmark of how it changes your annual discretionary spending allowance starting in the current year. Though this function may sound like a simple calculation, once used and understood, users will find this functionality involves an extremely powerful kind of programming that is unique to MaxiFi Planner.

Special receipts can be used to represent an inheritance, a repayment of money owed to you, or other kinds of receipts.