Empowering Financial Change: Understanding and Defining Expenses for Better Money Management

Dino KF Wong
Mind Fighters
4 min readMay 14, 2024

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Photo Credits: stevepb via Pixabay

Many organizations would suggest you to pay certain fees to go through your messed up cashflow, sort out your expenses, and eventually suggest you a cashflow or debt repayment schedule to get yourself back in the green pasture. Some would even suggest you to download various mobile apps, create comprehensive excel sheets or to write down your expenses to track your cashflow.

In reality, how many of us would do such things or how long could you last doing these?

Many will give up trying to track their expenses because the mindset of not able to free up their expenses is the top priority. To expand the assumption, there could be emotional or personal commitments that crippling their decisions to take action to fix their financial issues from the very beginning. In any manifestation situations that did not deal with the root cause of the manifestation will often lead to disastrous outcomes.

It does not necessarily mean low-income individuals or families have more debt, emotional or social issues. In contrary, it does not mean a highly paid individual or well-off family not having debt, emotional or social issues.

How Could a Person Define Expenses?

As a Financial/Credit Counsellor and having many years of work experiences in debt and credit collection, the common reasons for not able to pay their arrears or debts I often hear usually lead to one thing, they cannot define expenses. As a social worker in-training, I embarked on a social research journey to understand more on the causal effects that hinder or a better word “influence” a person’s behavior, mindset and attitude towards managing their expenses and financials. However, with limited research knowledge and bandwidth, I was only able to reach the point of determining a 3-prong causal effects dimension, which needed a deeper insightful progress.

Some would define expenses as discretionary and non-discretionary. Discretionary expenses are those that are optional or can be adjusted based on personal preferences, such as dining out, entertainment, vacations, and luxury items. Non-discretionary expenses, also known as essential or fixed expenses, are necessary for daily living and typically cannot be easily adjusted or eliminated, like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, and insurance premiums. Another common definition is fixed expenses and variable expenses.

In my counseling sessions, I often apply layman’s terminologies for easier rapport building and achieving a common understanding what the session is about. I will mention common expenses“that you may need to spend on public transportation and daily living needs”, and uncommon expenses “that some things clients wanted but actually don’t need them”. Often, I will further back these up by saying how creditors view expenses. This will help my clients articulate their purpose, empower their call-to-action, and achieve a session agreement of the counseling session.

If you are still following me, the whole idea about defining expenses is not to put a textbook description of the definition but to put in a narrative context so that to allow the help seekers or clients understand why they attend the session, what can they do about their situation, how and when they can start their newly defined action plans, and what are the available resources they have or need to make their goals achievable.

It does not really matter which definition of expenses we use. What matters more is the help seekers or clients understand and able to articulate an actionable plan to change. This is the very important, call-to-action stage, for them to embark on a behavioral and attitude change journey. It is only by achieving a behavioral change and a better attitude towards dealing with money and expenses then would a person be really able to better manage their expenses and financials, and maintain a stronger and positive emotional handling mechanism.

Individuals struggling with debt and financial management often fail to effectively define and categorize their expenses, hindering their ability to create actionable plans for financial stability. Many are unable to translate this understanding into behavior and attitude changes necessary for long-term financial health. This gap is influenced by a complex interplay of psychological, emotional, and social factors, necessitating a deeper, more comprehensive approach to financial counseling and coaching that goes beyond traditional expense categorization.

Disclaimer: This article is authored independently and reflects solely the views and opinions of the individual writer. It does not represent the stance or views of any organization or entity.

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Dino KF Wong
Mind Fighters

Financial Counselling & Coaching at Credit Counselling Singapore. Believes in positive psychodynamic approaches in life. Visit my website: www.dinokfwong.sg