Tag: Personal Finance (Page 1 of 6)

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. 

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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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. 

Is it Time to Quit Your Job?

Is it Time to Quit Your Job?

In the book Born for This by Chris Guillebeau, he recommends setting a date to resign from your job each year. On that date, you commit to resigning if your job is not the best fit. This exercise forces you to re-evaluate every year with an ultimatum. Are you miserable? This is quitting day! Things going great? Reset the calendar reminder for next year and carry on.

What if?

Many advocate that if you prepare for the absolute worst case scenario, you’ll get over your fear. So, what if you lost your job tomorrow? What is the worst that could happen? Your family goes hungry. You lose your house. Jobs are scarce. Keep the thought experiment going. What would you actually do?

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Coloring Your Finances

Coloring Your Finances

Today we’re going to have a little drawing lesson. Don’t worry, even my 2-year-old can do this! For the purposes of this lesson, color=money!

*Special thanks to Mr. T for drawing our awesome moose-piggy bank for this demonstration!*

Coloring Your Spending

When you spend money, stay within the lines

When you spend money, you should “stay within the lines.” Only spend money that is actually in your moose bank. Think about this picture.

If you wanted to get the money out, you would have to break the moose bank (awwww… but he’s so cute!). Think of this cute moose every time you go to spend money. Does that mean you should never spend money? NO! But before you spend money from your cute moose bank, you need to get into the habit of pausing and thinking about it first.

Is this purchase worth breaking this cute little moose face? Ask yourself does this spending align with my goals? If it does, break that little moose face and go for it, but don’t spend more than is in there… looking at the picture, that isn’t possible, right? There’s no other money anywhere. Remember this. It’s really that simple. If the money isn’t in the moose, you can’t spend it!

Coloring Your Savings

When you save money, spread the color all over the place

Savings breaks all conventional rules. There’s no need to “stay in the lines.” The most important thing is to save. You want lots of color!

Imagine just dumping the color all over. Will some of it end up in your moose bank? Yes! Will some of it end up in emergency funds, retirement funds, brokerage funds, etc. Yes! We can argue about the nitty gritty details about which moose bank needs which colors, but that’s not important. Pour that color!

Until you increase the amount of color on your savings picture, you don’t need to worry about the details. If you’re pouring color, you’re moving in the right direction.

Mr. Moose Bank Says: “Stay in the lines for your spending, go crazy on your savings!”

Perfect Gets in the Way of Good: Finances Edition

Perfect Gets in the Way of Good: Finances Edition

I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “Perfect is the Enemy of Good.” I’m experiencing that in my financial situation here at the end of the year. Last week, I calculated our projected taxes for 2016 (PRO-TIP: Do this earlier than November!) and realized we’re set to owe nearly $7,500! Yikes! (It doesn’t help that I am self-employed and our PFD and Energy Program Rebate are both taxable.)

*Rewind* *Rewind*

(blatant Hamilton reference, yes)

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It's Not Your Fault You Want to Spend Money

It’s Not Your Fault You Want to Spend Money

FLASHBACK: Thousands of years ago. You live in a cave, kill your own food, carve your own pictures into cave walls, and communicate very effectively through a series of grunts (clearly, I have no actual sense of what this period of time was like).

We know our bodies evolve based on our circumstances. THIS IS STILL TRUE. Example: Wisdom teeth. Remember back in the cave when we had to tear flesh apart with our teeth. No forks. No knives. Teeth. “Oh” you say, “THAT’S why we have wisdom teeth!” Now, wisdom teeth are a hassle. They crowd our smaller jawlines, mess up the rest of teeth, can get impacted, and cost money to get removed. Well, guess what? Humanity has gotten the memo! I, personally, only had 2 wisdom teeth, and my husband only has 1 that’s never grown in (I know. We’re advanced specimens). Some predict wisdom teeth will disappear altogether within just a few generations!

What does this have to do with spending money?

Oh yeah… I was talking about money.

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If I had and how to spend my life insurance

If I had… & How to Spend My Life Insurance

Periodically, I like to run through what I would do with a windfall. Tomorrow is PFD Day and we’ll be receiving $5,110 overnight. In celebration, here’s what I would currently do:

If I Had $5,000

(Or $5,110) in this scenario. In case you forgot, we tithe 10% of all increase. So, our PFD amount left after that is $4,599. With this money, we will be putting $1,600 extra toward our mortgage (on top of the extra $1500 we’ve been putting toward it the past few months) bringing our mortgage balance under $60,000 (I’m already looking forward to the October Plan Update!). The other $3,000 will go toward my Roth IRA which I hope to max out with the other $2,500 by the end of the year.

If I Had $10,000

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retire now

The State of Retirement in the U.S. in 2016

It’s sad.

<End of post.>

Alright, alright. I’ll get into details if I must. First, the good news:

According to the 2016 Retirement Confidence Survey published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, people are starting to move out of their recession fears. The percentage of workers “very confident” in having enough to retire, went up from 13% in 2013 to 22% in 2015. This year it went down slightly to 21%, but overall, people are feeling a bit more confident in these insane market days.

The question is: Should they feel this confident?

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Saving a Million Dollars is Easy!

Saving a Million Dollars is Easy!

How Easy is it to Save a Million Dollars?

Do you know what my favorite posts to read are? The ones about how saving a million dollars is totally easy! And guess what? There are THOUSANDS of articles about how easy it is to become a millionaire! I decided to aggregate a few of my favorites to drive the point home. Saving a million dollars over a long period of time is actually very simple!

How Much to Save Each Day to Become a Millionaire

Interest rates matter quite a bit when it comes to saving money. This Business Insider chart gives you a daily savings need based on 3 different return rates to save $1,000,000 by 65!

Saving $1000000

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