Tag: saving (Page 1 of 2)

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. 

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 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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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. 

Making the Most of Missed Opportunities

Roth IRA Challenge: Making the Most of Missed Opportunities

I can’t express how excited I am to have Ms. Our Next Life on the blog today. She blogs over at Our Next Life and has one of the best, most grounded, reassuring perspectives on the journey to early retirement out there! Seriously, if you’re not already a fan of Our Next Life, it’s time to figure out what all the buzz is about! Go! On top of that, though we’ve never actually met in person (yet!), she’s one of my real friends and I’m delighted to feature her and a bit of her journey here today…

Before we dive in, I just have to share with you guys that Maggie is one of our very favorite humans in PF blogland. She will never tell you herself how awesome she is, but it’s true. I’m especially grateful for her friendship and support since our blogs were both baby blogs – and, of course, all the Clueless GIFs. So needless to say, I’m thrilled to be here.

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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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Practicing Escapism

Practicing Escapism

What day of the week would you guess searches for jokes are at their peak?

I would guess Monday. How else would you get through a “bad case of the Mondays”? Turns out, I’m wrong! Searches for jokes are at their LOWEST on Mondays! And highest on Fridays-Sundays (when I commonly search for lunchbox jokes for the kids for the week).

So what search terms are highest on Mondays?

Depression. Anxiety. Doctor. 

This is devastating. Joke searches also dive after traumatic news events like bombings. This information suggests two things:

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