Tracking Your Finances and Celebrating Wins!

Tracking Your Finances and Celebrating Wins!

If you’ve been around Northern Expenditure awhile, you’re probably aware that I like to celebrate. (If you follow me on Twitter, you’re aware I celebrate with dancing gifs!) If you don’t track, you can’t celebrate!

Tracking Your Finances:

It’s a new year (yay for new!) and it’s time to start tracking your finances FOR REAL this year. Here’s what you need:

  • Basic Budget Spreadsheet – You need to know what you spend. My budget is very elaborate and all spending fits into categories (which allows me to track my spending and turn it into awesome pie charts!). Yours can be as simple or as complicated as you would like. But you absolutely need to keep track of where your money is going. Every single dollar of it!
  • Debt Spreadsheet – (obviously you only need this if you have debt) Since our only debt is our mortgage, I have a simple amortization spreadsheet that keeps track of my interest paid each month, my extra payments, and how much I save over the life of the loan on my extra payments. For other debts, a spreadsheet that includes how much interest you’re paying and allows you to play with how much you save and how much you cut your loan length by paying extra is good. Again, this spreadsheet is going to be different based on your needs (and you can probably find a free Excel sheet that works for you by Googling it).
  • Your Money or Your Life Chart – I’ve talked extensively about this already, but this chart helps you visualize your progress. I also keep track of my monthly savings amount on this chart.
  • Personal Capital* – This is the only automated tool I use that’s not a spreadsheet and it tracks everything: my net worth, my debts, my credit card charges, my investments, my investment fees. It also puts everything together in one dashboard so I can see everything with one login! The service is free.

What can you Track?

If you follow our monthly plan update posts, you’ll notice that I have a million metrics that I follow and one of them is always worth celebrating. In the past year, we’ve celebrated:

  • Our investment balance surpassing our mortgage balance (March 2016)
  • Over 50% savings rate (April 2016) – For my calculations, I use the total we saved/invested that month (I add retirement savings + extra mortgage payments) and then divide that by the total (pre-tax) much we made that month. You can decide, based on your savings priorities, what to include in your own calculation.
  • Hitting $100,000 in investments (June 2016) – while on vacation!
  • Our mortgage balance going under $70,000 (July 2016)
  • Monthly interest on the mortgage dropped below $200 (September 2016) – This is a metric I like tracking – each month and each extra payment made knocks down the monthly fee I owe the bank!
  • Mortgage balance dropping below $60,000 (October 2016)
  • My 4% monthly investment income breaking $400 (November 2016 – didn’t mention it in the update) – This is a metric from the YMOYL chart – it helps you track how much money you could safely withdraw monthly if you quit today.

We’ve also celebrated hitting financial goals we’ve set for ourselves, but the little celebrations keep us motivated along the way. You’ll notice that we had something to celebrate nearly every month this year. The more you track, the more milestones you can celebrate along the way that keep you moving forward!

Time to start tracking!

What metrics do you track that I didn’t mention?


Personal Capital links on the blog are affiliate links. At NO COST to you, we get a “thank you” commission if you sign up through our links. If you don’t feel good about that, open a new window and go directly to their landing page. 

Mostly Mindful

Roth IRA Challenge: Mostly Mindful

Today’s Roth IRA Challenge comes all the way from South Africa! Ang and Sporty live in Cape Town with their stuffed tortoise, Terence, and not much else. They spend their days drinking coffee, eating Thai food and blogging about their urban hippie adventures and everyday, not-so-hardcore minimalism on a blog they call Mostly Mindful.

In July 2008, when Sporty and I set out on this minimalist journey, our finances were in horrible shape. We were in debt to the tune of $95 000, we had no investments, no rainy day savings account and no plan to dig ourselves out of the deep, dark hole we were in.

Fast forward eight and a half years and things are looking pretty sweet.

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how much we spend

How Much We Spent and Saved in 2016

The numbers are in!

Let’s start with how much we spent:

First off, if you want detailed breakdowns of previous years, check out our first “How Much We Spend” post. To summarize:

  • In 2013, we spent $53,218
  • In 2014, we spent $53,344
  • In 2015, we spent $55,810 ($63,581 before subtracting the Alaska State Energy Rebate)

In 2016 we spent…. drum roll please…. $59,392! 

Yes… more than last year, but still under $60k. So, how did this year break down? Here’s a lovely graph:

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2017 Non-Financial Life Goals

2017 Non-Financial Life Goals

Life isn’t all about money, and we have to make sure we’re moving forward in all aspects of our lives. (Have I mentioned I love a New Year, a fresh start, and making new goals?)

First a recap of 2016:

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2017 Financial Goals

2017 Financial Goals

As I’ve thought about how to direct our money in 2017, I’ve gotten so overwhelmed. I’m really horrible at multitasking when it comes to goals. I want to just get rid of my mortgage so that I can direct all money toward investments. But I also know if I just throw all money toward the mortgage, I’ll regret not adding more to investments along the way. The stock market seems really inflated to me right now, so I will continue to throw money at my mortgage for now, but if the market tanks later in the year, I will redirect more towards “on sale” investments.

I’m also terrible at hiding my own money before I see it. It was easy to up Mr. T’s 401k contributions, because they take that money out automatically. My paycheck is a physical check I get in the mail and it varies greatly. Last year, I ranged from $0 (vacation pay periods, I make no money… the plight of an hourly employee) to $1608 (if there is more work to do, I get more money… the awesomeness of being an hourly employee). So, it’s hard to plan monthly savings goals around my income. I haven’t figured out the best way to handle this yet. (Thoughts?)

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January 2017 Plan Update

December 2016 Plan Update

Welcome back, friends!

PLEASE – If you haven’t taken my SUPER IMPORTANT AND AWESOME SURVEY, please do it now. Share it with your family. Make your friends take it at your house. Post it on social media. Okay… you get it. Thanks. Seriously and honestly: Thank you.

Welcome to 2017 – the year where people stop dying and the world becomes a wonderful, hopeful, kind place. Too much hope? I love a new year. A clean slate. And while I can’t entirely control the world, I can move myself forward. So, the next few posts will be introducing the 2017 Stock household goals (yay goals!).

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The Money Moose Survey

The Money Moose Survey!

Alright, friends! The time has come! Drumroll, please….

Introducing, the Money Moose Survey!

How You Can Help Me:

  1. Go and Take the Survey. It will take 5-10 minutes. Be honest in your responses.
  2. Make all spouse/significant others/random dinner guests take the survey. Don’t discuss its contents, just set it in front of them and say: “While I whip up dessert, I have an important study I would like you to participate in.”
  3. Share with your blogger and personal audiences. If you are a blogger, share the link and say something like: “A large-scale study about money! Help a sister out!” When you post it on your personal Facebook/Twitter feed say: “My good friend Maggie [because I consider you a friend if you are here reading this blog… I mean, you know more about me than most of my Facebook friends!] is doing a large-scale research project. Please take 5-10 minutes of your time to participate.”
  4. Post the link in public bathrooms. Bribe people. Withhold Christmas cookies until they take the survey. *Ahem* I’m sorry. I got a bit carried away there… I don’t want anyone to be forced… (am I coming off as desperate?)

The link to share is:

http://www.moneymoose.space

(please note it is .space, not .com … who wouldn’t want to click on that?!) Again, please don’t discuss the survey contents. You can say it’s about money (I put it right in the title!) but please leave the rest hidden. I don’t want to skew results by having people think about the answers before they take the survey.

Challenge: Share it far. Share it wide. Can we get 500 responses before I return on January 9? I’ll let you know how many we have when I return.

HAPPY HAPPY HOLIDAYS FRIENDS! You are all the greatest. Seriously. I’m thankful for you! And I’ll see you Next Year!

What does your remarkable life look like?

What Does Your Remarkable Life Look Like?

Several years ago, I caught a glimpse at my doctor’s notes in my chart. Mine didn’t say “difficult patient” like Elaine in that one Seinfeld Episode, but I was equally confused and offended by a statement in mine:

Bones and joints unremarkable.

Um, excuse me?! I think my bones and joints are VERY remarkable! I jest about my offense, of course. As Mr. T pointed out, in the medical world, that is probably a compliment (and since Lui’s birth, my joints are probably now medically remarkable). But “unremarkable” feels offensive.

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Start Early

Roth IRA Challenge: Start Early

Everyone has a story to tell and today, TJ Pridonoff is here to share his! TJ has a self-titled blog that is awesome. He’s getting ready to take off on an epic road trip. During his preparations, he’s written about his spending, his investment portfolio, and other personal topics. His perspective is always fresh and you should definitely go check him out. Without further ado… Take it away TJ!

After I read Ms. Montana’s fantastic take on the Roth IRA challenge, I knew that I had a unique story to tell. Like probably all my blog posts, this is full of first world problems that several readers are just not going to relate to. If that’s not your jam, I promise that Maggie will post something a million times more awesome on Monday!

For those who aren’t familiar with my story, I’ve had a very fortunate upbringing and we are (I am?) counting down the days until I get to quit my job and travel America by automobile and AirBNB room rentals/campgrounds.  After that, I plan to “settle down” in a lower cost of living area so that I can understand what my future expenses look like and then work on how to generate the necessary income to supplement my investments in supporting that spend. If that means no full time job, then I get to call myself early retired. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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Santa Baby for Savers

Santa Baby for Savers

I can’t tell you how excited I am to share this with you today! As our Christmas present to you, Mr. T and I have written and recorded a brand new Christmas Carol for Personal Finance Geeks and Money-Savers alike! Enjoy!

NOTE: The Google ads in the video were not added by us, but by the owners of the copyright of the original song. 

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