Visualize Your Budget With Prowess Using A Sankey Diagram

Do you make a budget every month, but don’t really understand what it is?

Lots of people have a hard time with numbers without visuals to go along with them. The Sankey diagram is an awesome way to visualize your budgeted and actual cash flow each period.

Without visualization, it is very difficult to see the effects changes have on your bottom line, but when you plot all your cash flows up, then you can begin to really see cause and effect relationships in the data. What is the point of having a budget if you cannot follow it and it does not help you?

There is none. So if you have a hard time with your budget I highly recommend you take a look at this Sankey diagram tool to help build a visual budget for yourself.

This tool has become very popular here in the past few months on the Financial Independence Subreddit. It has helped many many people to build a visual of their budget and actual cash flow and increase their awareness of their personal finances.

With the recent popularity, I figured it was time to share my Sankey diagram with everyone to see what can be gleaned from it and to help others utilize this tool.

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Sankey Diagram

Below is my Sankey diagram for 2017 budgeted cash flow:

budget sankey diagram

Let’s compare it to my actual cash flow for 2017:

actual cash flow
Actual 2017 Cash Flow for the Atypical Life family.

You could be looking at your budget like this instead:

I don’t know about you, but I much prefer to look at these Sankey diagrams to evaluate the budget. It really helps visualize your budget much better than paper and line item budgets ever will.

Savings Rate

You can see from my Sankey diagram the huge proportion of income that goes directly to savings. This is crucial to achieving financial independence.

The key takeaway from the huge portion going towards savings is the savings rate. We have talked about how savings rate has a huge effect on retirement age in the past. Here is the graph again.

My savings rate for 2017 is 71% all-inclusive or 80% of after-tax income. That is pretty awesome, and is almost totally attributable to the expat package and all the benefits we get as an expat. Based on the above graph an 80% savings rate equals about a 6-year working career. Now, my savings rate has not always been this high because I had $50,000 in student loan debt to repay, however, the goal is still to retire at the end of 2018 / beginning of 2019 at the end of my expat contract.


We are able to keep our savings rate up by keeping our expenses low. The goal while on our expat assignment is to save a ton of money so we can end my working career and strike out on our own. Is it an achievable goal?

I think so. Our current expenses for the year are around $20,000 which is 4% of $500,000 the estimated final balance of our investments come to the end of 2018.

Sure, our expenses will probably go up when we no longer are heavily subsidized by my company on the expat package, but it will still work out. If you keep a close eye on your expenses and budget every month, then anything is possible.

The Sankey diagram is very helpful in visualizing the flow of money from income to out and can really help to find the leaky points.


Taxes are a fact of life, but they can be minimized. For 2017, I found the best way to minimize my taxes by maxing out all of the available pre-tax investment accounts. This was able to reduce our taxable income by $35,750, not to mention that the expat income is all untaxed. All said and done, I only pay tax on about $45,000-$50,000 of income out of a total income of >$125,000. Seems like a win to me!

Business Income

The bummer from this diagram this year is that business income is so low. I was hoping to be making $1000 per month by this time, but it hasn’t happened, so we see a miniscule line for business income and huge lines from my expat job. Going forward the goal is to increase this revenue stream to be able to sustain our expense stream. Possibly, we can even reduce our taxable income to $0, however with the ever-present self-employment tax, it may not be possible.

sankey diagram for future
Future Predicted Sankey


The Sankey diagram is an awesome tool to visualize cash flow and flows of pretty much anything. Use it as another tool in your arsenal to eradicate debt and build your net worth slowly. There are no sure wins out there, just as there are no get rich quick schemes. However, if you are dedicated to making financial independence a reality, the Sankey diagram can help to motivate you on your journey. I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of the atypical life and financial independence.

Check out SankeyMATIC (BETA) to build your own Sankey diagrams.

You can use this spreadsheet to help with the correct syntax for building them.

So readers, Have you made a Sankey diagram before? Do you see it as useful? Let me know in the comments.


This post was part of a new Sankey Diagram Chain Gang on the Rockstar Finance Forums:


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  1. I LOVE these “Chain Gang” posts. The Sankey is a fascinating tool, and the use of it to track $$ inflow and outflow is a great way to visualize what’s really happening in your life. Congrats on your very aggressive savings rate, keep this up and you’ll reach FIRE in no time! Thanks for jumping in on the chain, I look forward to the other “links” that join in behind you!

    1. I have to agree, these Chain Gangs are great! I certainly hope to continue the aggressive savings rate so I can reach FIRE shortly. Thanks.

  2. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if
    you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!
    Johny Jackson recently posted…Johny JacksonMy Profile

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Use a Sankey Diagram to visualize your budget, cash flow, income, and expenses. You can plot it and understand all your personal finances and prepare for financial independence.