Last updated: September 1, 2019

The mechanism behind reaching financial independence is pretty simple. You will need to spend less money than you earn, invest the excess and eventually you will end up generating passive income.

You do this by maintaining a monthly budget with the purpose of maximising the savings rate. The greater the savings rate the faster you will reach financial independence. Let’s deep dive and better understand the concepts.

Monthly budget

Budgeting. Such a scary thing for most of us! And for good reasons.

Running a budget is not easy. Traditionally, you’ll need to keep track of your income and expenses. After that, you need to define categories, like Food, Education, Entertainment, Health, and the list goes on. And finally you need to assign a monthly amount of money per each category, and then track daily expenses to make sure you don’t go over that. All of this, while you’re fighting to figure out how the hell to make that Excel spreadsheet work.

It can really take a lot of time and efforts and most probably will transform into a nightmare to maintain. Is definitely not easy, and ca be stressful.

Isn’t FIRE all about saving time and ultimately make our lives better?

You bet it is! And, I don’t even want to hear about delayed gratification. Really don’t get me started to brag about that! I want things for me and my family to be great right now, not tomorrow.

So, I had to find a better way to keep a budget, without the usual hassle. After all, I can’t just skip doing it, as this is really mandatory on our journey to be free. Good thing is that I have found a way how to make it work for us! Is not perfect, but gets the job done, and I don’t have to waste a lot of time, if any.

So here is what I’m doing to run my family’s budget.

After extensive research and trial of many tools I have found an app for mobile and desktop called Fentury. I am using it for almost two years already.

The app connects to my banks, pulls down all the data about accounts and transactions, and automatically categorizes all my expenses. No manual work, maybe just a little in the first few transactions, when it may not set the right category for some of them, but once you make the correction it will be okay in the future.

As for budgeting it has a feature called Monthly Planning where it defines 3 buckets, and you can set what percentage from your monthly income should be assigned to each bucket.

Here are the buckets:

  • Must Haves – things you cannot skip, like bills, rent, food, taxes, etc;
  • Spendable – things you can skip, your daily expenses, like coffee, beer with friends, dinner at the restaurant, vacations, movies, and so on;
  • Savings – what’s left after all expenses on Must Haves and Spendable.

What’s smart about it is that it works based on Kiyosaki’s principle of paying yourself first. Instead of setting up Must Haves and Spendable, you set Must Haves and Savings. So you will define how much Savings you want each month, and then adapt your daily spending a.k.a Spendable to fit that.

I’m telling you, the app is really awesome. It saves me tons of time as it only needs around 5 minutes to update all transactions from my bank accounts. And it also allows me to see in real time how I am doing budget wise. Beautiful, just beautiful! That’s exactly what we want, to be smart about how we approach everything.

One more thing about it. As you may know, there are many apps out there that are only working with American banks. Well, this one actually works great for us Europeans, and I’m pretty sure it will support your bank as well. Just try it!

That’s really it about budgeting. Check out the pie chart below for a visual representation and my real numbers. And keep reading this blog, as I will write soon a more detailed article about budgeting.

Savings rate

Next, let’s discuss about savings rate. As I have a fully automated budgeting solution, now I can really focus on getting our savings rate as high as possible. The way to increase the savings rate is to decrease expenses and increase income. Let’s see how we can do that.

Decreasing expenses

Most of the time decreasing expenses will impact your lifestyle and gains can only be marginal in terms of savings . As I don’t believe in frugality, I take a rather different and focused approach to spending our money. This means that we are trying to better understand what makes us truly happy and what don’t, which will allow us to limit spending on areas that will have little impact into our overall well-being. Again, we have to be smart about it.

Example: we don’t value branded clothes, as those are really not making us any happier, just wasting money, but we enjoy food, especially mediterranean and sea food, so we spend a lot of our energy and money into either trying new restaurants or cooking something new ourselves.

So spend your money on things that are making a difference in your life!

Increasing income

This is the key for achieving financial independence faster. Most of the high income people will end up having crazy big savings rates like over 80%. A night out at a restaurant will not have a big impact in that case, so think about it.

You really need to figure out how you can make more money, how you can increase your monthly income. This is the area that’s scalable and this is where you should really focus.

I won’t try to suggest anything for you right now, as you can find tons of ideas on the internet. I’ll just mention something that worked for me in the past – selling WordPress themes. If you’re a developer, you can definitely try that. There is work you need to do upfront, sure, but later on, it will transform into a semi-passive income.

Anyway, see below how we are doing in terms of savings rate. Overall, we are at over 50%, and as you saw above, our current target is 65%.

Just so you have a rough idea, increasing savings rate by 15%, from 50% to 65% will decrease time for us until financial independence by 5 years or 30%. Interesting, right?

Rollover or tap for more details

There are a few big dips:

  • April 2018 – this is where I had to buy myself a new MacBook. My old one was getting quite slow, and I wasn’t very productive anymore. Also, as I did a business trip to US, I seized the opportunity to get it much cheaper – around 15% discount;
  • October 2018 – did I mentioned we love to travel? Well, we had a wonderful trip to southern Spain. Although our budget took a hit, it was well worth it. We enjoyed amazing food, good wine, and truly fell in love with Marbella;
  • December 2018 – well, you know, Christmas, gifts, charity, etc..
  • March 2019 – one word, taxes.
  • April 2019 – more taxes (25% of expenses), but also a city break in Taormina, Sicily, and it was amazing. Italy, again, didn’t disappoint us.

If you’re interested, here is the raw data as well:

Year & monthSavings rate
MonthlyAnnual
2019Aug62,92%54,61%
July53,62%
June67,68%
May51,94%
Apr33,21%
Mar26,17%
Feb74,91%
Jan66,45%
2018Dec18,12%48,93%
Nov62,51%
Oct17,79%
Sep83,67%
Aug72,15%
Jul35,67%
Jun44,58%
May27,63%
Apr9,76%
Mar72,03%
Feb68,85%
Jan67,06%
2017Dec67,50%60,93%
Nov51,70%
Oct58,19%
Sep73,15%
Aug54,11%

6 Comments

  1. Nicely done!

    I am looking for some info on Fentury, and I can’t find any reviews on any site out there. Which is strange, since there are lots of financial blogs eager to review any new service under the sun, especially one so impressive-looking as Fentury.

    Considering the absence of any third party info on these guys, and the fact that their address in Toronto seems to be the same address as CASSELS BROCK & BLACKWELL LLP, how did you decide to trust them? Since PSD2 came out, I expect such apps to pop up a lot more often, and I admit this one looks very good. I would love to use it, just can’t bring myself to hand over such sensitive data to a company nobody seems to know about or care enough to review.

    1. Hi Vlad,

      Will try to provide my perspective of things, although might be a long answer.

      I can understand why things may not look that good and I am also very well aware of people not talking that much about them.

      When I choose them, 2 years ago, I was tracking my expenses manually in an app called HomeBudget. But it was harder and harder to do everything manually. So, tired of doing that manual work, I was determined to find something that works much better.

      After doing a lot of research I was able to find Fentury. Back then there was no other app that worked with banks from Romania, so I was really grateful I found them. Nowadays, I don’t know, but you’re right that with the PSD2 there will be more products like Fentury popping out. Which is awesome!

      In any case, I wanted to say that they are in the business for a few years already, but they are a small startup and they don’t seem to invest that much in marketing. Also they don’t have an affiliate program, which sometimes makes a huge different among bloggers.

      I may have some ideas why they don’t invest in marketing.

      The technology that actually gets the data from banks seems to be their core business. Not actually for Fentury, but for their holding company, Salt Edge.

      Fentury seems to be more like a use case for the core technology and probably also functions like a showcase for probably their main target: enterprise customers.

      Salt Edge provides this technology to others via their APIs and that’s how they are making their money. In fact, a few months ago they made Fentury completely free and without any limitations. I was paying for it in the past, for ability to add multiple bank connections, but they just cancelled my subscription, refunded money and made it with no limitations.

      This is just my 2 cents on the problem, and it may be far away from the truth. So take it with a grain of salt.

      Vlad, from what I can tell, you are from Romania, same as me, so I would like to share a few articles with you about Fentury in Romanian language. Hope they will help:
      1. https://laurentiumihai.ro/podcast-10-moneytracking/
      2. https://start-up.ro/fentury-startup-ul-moldovenesc-care-a-reusit-sa-stranga-o-investitie-de-500-000-de-dolari/
      3. https://start-up.ro/brd-lanseaza-aplicatia-care-aduce-la-un-loc-conturile-de-la-alte-banci/

      One more thing before wrapping up.

      Somewhere in April they have switched operations to Salt Edge Limited, an entity in UK, in preparation for PSD2. They were proactive, and made sure they are compliant with the new EU regulations. Also being in UK, it means they are regulated by FCA.

      It seems that all their working connections with banks are now being ran through the open banking protocol. For situations when the opening banking protocol is not implemented yet, simply the transactions and accounts won’t update anymore. That’s the case with Banca Transilvania. But they are working on updating all connections to be compliant with PSD2, and until then they seem to not support them. For more details about that you can go here and click on Romania https://www.saltedge.com/products/spectre/countries?channel%5B%5D=open_banking It may be that your bank has PSD2 support already.

      In any case, I love Revolut and it has saved me tons of time which enabled be to focus on more important things.

      If I am concerned about something, I am about the fact that the product may not be maintained in the future, as, like I said before, doesn’t seem to be their core business.

      If you read it al the way through here, well, thank you, and sorry for the long reply 🙂

      Best,
      Marius

      1. Hi Marius,

        Thank you for taking the time for such a detailed reply.

        Small world – I am also using HomeBudget at the moment:) And yes, it’s becoming more and more of a burden having to input everything by hand.

        I agree with your assumptions as to why they don’t market the B2C app – looking at their other website (Salt Edge) they indeed seem to want to focus more on the B2B side of the business.

        Thank you for the links – those are the ones I had found as well, and I was curious as to how nothing else is out there except these articles, which are already quite old.

        I will probably give them a go, since the banks I work with seem to work via PSD2 – if the app works as advertised it would be an amazing time saver.

        Again, thanks for taking the time for going into the details. I find your blog very well put together and a good source of info. Good luck with your investment efforts and keep the info coming:))

        All the best.

        1. Thank you, Vlad. I appreciate all the kind words! 😉

          I am curious to see how your experience will be with Fentury, so if you get a chance, please feel free to drop me a note later on.

          Cheers,
          Marius

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