Johnny and I are big proponents of keeping an itemized budget — in other words, tracking every cent. There’s no better way to hold ourselves accountable than having to answer to every single purchase… even that delicious Value Size Vanilla Frosty. We have to spend purposefully because our budget forces us to be aware of where we are for the month.
For instance, we’re only halfway through October, but, due to some poor planning on my part, I’ve already spent all but $20 of our grocery budget. Since I’m aware of this, I’m going to avoid buying more groceries and get creative with our meals in order to avoid going over budget. Oatmeal with Vienna Sausages, anyone? That’s disgusting, I’m sorry. The point is, I’m sure I’d easily spend much more on our grocery expenses this month if I didn’t know where we stood. So itemized budgeting helps with the day-to-day.
However, itemized budgeting isn’t great for keeping a big-picture perspective. We may be tracking our spending, but how do we know we’re progressing? Well, that’s where tracking your net worth comes in handy. At the beginning of every month (and typically on the same day), we calculate our net worth. We keep it in a handy little Google Doc spreadsheet and keep track of our progress over time. One of our New Year’s resolutions was to add $25k to savings, so each month we can see how well we’re doing with that goal. So what does our net worth track? Here are the deets:
- Cash Accounts: For us this includes Ally, Chase, PayPal, and Simple. It’s the total of our liquid cash. Whenever I hear “liquid cash,” I like to imagine turning on a squeaky spigot that pours out coins. That’s what it means, right?
- Credit: Although we pay our credit cards off in full each month, sometimes there’s a balance on one of our cards at the end of a month, so we deduct this from our net worth. Tracking it this way also serves a good reminder to pay off any outstanding balances.
- Investments: Our current investments include my 403b, a Roth IRA, and other random investments.
- Other Assets: Obviously, we don’t own a home, but if we did, we could include that right here (minus the balance on the mortgage, of course). Rather, here we include the current value of our lone car and scooter. Every six months or so, we check our vehicle values on KBB and simultaneously revise the numbers and cry about their depreciation.
Here’s what our spreadsheet looks like (with all of the numbers completely changed — we try to keep those digits on the DL):
We add all of the balances of our accounts together to come to that month’s grand total. We also calculate the change from the month prior, which is the equivalent of making our net worth swallow a truth serum. Are you worth more or less? Did you save or did you lose? How do you compare from six months ago? Because we’re already tracking our day-to-day expenses, we have a decent idea of where things will shake out. But some months, we don’t track perfectly (shhh, don’t tell Dave Ramsey!). Other months, we bring in a little extra here or there (next month I get paid three times instead of two! [insert nerdy, responsible adult excitement here]). So this little spreadsheet helps us remember the big picture.
Are you tracking your net worth? How does your system differ from ours? Should we include our cat’s potential asset value should she ever fulfill her destiny as a YouTube star?
We track our net worth (we actually even archive past months on our blog), but find that mint is a pretty invaluable tool for doing so. With mint, the whole process takes just a couple minutes. If only mint would partner with KBB and import our car values automatically. Like you, we update them every six months because it’s just too much of a PITA to do any more often than that. =)
I’ve always loved that feature of your guys’ blog. We don’t have the cojones to put that out there, so good on you for sharing.
We track our net wealth, and just do it in Excel (everything from net wealth position, budgeting, investments, etc etc). I like the freedom and customization options that this gives!
We don’t track our net worth because we’re not worthy…I mean, it’ll be negative for a long long time with my student loans.
Of course you’re worthy! Don’t you want to track your progress to see how far you’ve come? One of my favorite mementos that I’ve saved from our marriage is our original debt snowball spreadsheet print out, complete with x’ed out lines as we neared our (what seemed like distant) goals.
We actually track our net worth progress a few different ways. We keep up with what is going to be added to our savings and other accounts when we “close out” the month when all expenses are accounted for on the last day. Additionally, we see most of the items updated in real-time on Mint.com as we’re checking throughout the days/weeks for most items that update in value frequently, but we also have a file that I pull together for us quarterly that includes our net worth trend over time. We actually just recently featured a post on net worth on our site too (http://thesimplemoneyblog.com/2013/understanding-net-worth) that showed some of the methods of showing your net worth (with one of them being similar to your method with three columns per month in a spreadsheet). Our favorite format is to just add a column each time with the new quarter’s information and then have a “year-over-year” difference and “change over last quarter” column for quick comparisons.
Sounds like were on a similar page. Albeit you probably didn’t have to spend an hour trying to figure out how in the world to get formulas to work. Johnny + Excel = no good.
Yeah, fortunately, I am kind of a whiz kid when it comes to spreadsheets…plus I enjoy doing them!
Nice spreadsheet! We do this as well, except we just record total income minus total expenses to get the net increase for the month, and then divide it amongst our Retirement saving scheme, cash savings account, and investments.
So we don’t keep track of individual cash accounts, investment accounts etc, just the lump total.
Investments change in value with the stock market, but so far I’ve just left it as the cost amount, we’ll see over the long run how much more/less it becomes (hopefully much more!)
We then have a graph plotting out the increase in net worth each month – nice to see the little line going up 🙂
I also went to the trouble of projecting our future income/expenses (growing at a modest 5% per year for instance), and from there I can tell just about which year we might be financially independent. Obviously will be affected greatly by what the investments do in the next 10 years.
It’s also great to see the investment dividends/interest coming through in larger and larger chunks, makes you even more motivated to save as much as you can – the more little dollar workers you have, the better 😉
Another nice row that I have, is (income – expenses) / income x 100 to get the % saved every month. Currently it’s on a woeful 20% since hubby is on a work break and studying, but that won’t be for too long.
Ooo, a graph would be nice! I’m a much more visual person anyway, so that would be a nice addition. I’d also like to plot out our future growth, but given how quickly things can change in just a month around our house, I’m nervous I’d jinx us. 🙂 I also love the savings percentage line you’ve got. All-in-all, I’ll probably just borrow all of your suggestions. Thanks for passing them along.
Second time posting my comment. I knew that 4 -2 = 2 but I must have done something wrong because my comment was confused.
I do not include my car in my net worth. My city has terrible public transportation and when I sell it will just be to replace it with something newer.
Book values are estimates. An asset is only worth what you can convince someone to pay for it at the time you are selling.
Good point on the book value. I should probably bring that down to a more conservative number, just to be on the safer side.
I do have an entry on my budget spreadsheet that says net worth but actually it’s more like the total of what I still owe, less whatever money I have in my current account. It’s getting close to the stage where the day I get paid, I’ll no longer have a negative balance there, so that’s good. Should hit that in December. Of course, then a day or two later all my monthly expenses (rent, phone bill, dental insurance, pension etc.) come out and it’s back to negative but it’s getting there. Once I’m debt-free next year I will do what I have been telling myself I need to do for a long time and I will contact the providers of the two work-related pensions I left in Ireland. I have really no idea what the value of them is – one I paid into for about four years and the other was for just over three. So they won’t be huge amounts but it’s time I took care of making sure the financial crisis of the past six years didn’t completely wipe them out! I’ll also have to start taking a more active interest in the current private pension plan I have here as I know I’m not using it at maximum tax efficiency at the moment. And of course, once I’m debt-free, I’ll have some savings accounts that I’ll be able to add to my net-worth. I’ll probably leave out my current account though, as I’ll routinely just leave enough money in that to cover my day-to-day expenses during the month.
Can’t decide whether to add in the value of my Tupperware collection – that stuff is expensive and let’s face it, it’s basically like an heirloom, since it’s practically indestructible (except when your housemate decides to put the potatoes into your Tupperware colander and put them in the hot oven to keep warm!).
I envy your Tupperware collection. I used to think my friends whose parents owned Tupperware were rich and awesome. That’s definitely deserving of its own net worth line.
One of my best friends used to work in the headquarters in Frankfurt at around the same time my landlady started to do parties and used to drag me in sometimes to make up numbers. When, a few years later, I was back in Ireland and in debt, I thought it’d be a good way to make a bit of extra money, as well as being able to get myself an occasional useful thing or two. Ha. I think I ploughed almost every cent I earned back into buying more stuff (no, not just ‘stuff’ it was stock for my kit!) and then some. So from a point of view of making money it was a bit of a bust. On the other hand, I’d be lost without my collection. 🙂
I do the same thing! My boyfriend initially thought I was a little nuts. Slowly but surely I’ve convinced him to do the same though, which gives me peace of mind for when we decide to merge our finances. I’m glad I’m not the only one who tracks everything and has excel spreadsheets for it all!
You’re not alone, sister. Glad to hear you’ve brought him onboard the nuts train. 🙂
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I have tracked my net worth for years, and I find that it is the simplest way to keep track of my money and how much I spend every month. I used to track my finances with Quicken and Microsoft Money, but I was spending too much time entering individual transactions or fixing automatic categorization of my expenses. After that I used Excel, but now I wrote an iPad and Windows apps for that (theblueplum.com).
I’m just curious, could you share how you utilize multiple bank accounts (Ally, Chase, Simple)? This is something we have just started doing with Capital One 360 and I would love to hear some feedback on how someone else handles it. Or if there is already a post explaining, feel free to point me in the right direction! Thank you! Just found your blog and am enjoying this little glimpse into your lives!
Hey Melanie! Thanks for dropping by. That’s a really good question, and one that’s popped up a few times recently. Briefly, we hold onto Chase so that we have access to a brick-and-mortar bank should we ever need one. We have a checking and money market savings account with Ally. At the end of each month, I move our surplus from checking into savings. And Simple we haven’t really figured out what to do with yet. I signed up for it on a whim. 🙂
But stay tuned. We’ll break these down in a little more detail on the blog soon!
You two are hilarious! I fell in love with Personal Capital after using Mint and Numbers(on my ipad) for a while. Personal Capitals charts combined with the lack of trying to sell me something makes my daily review enjoyable.
I am excel junkie and so have an excel file with sheets for our current budget, all current debt and one savings account, loans (specific details like interest rates, origin date, maturation date, etc) and a projected budget for when our credit cards will paid off in a couple months. The sheet that contains debt is built to track the overall monthly decrease in debt and overall monthly increase of the savings account. This hints at our net worth, but does not include the savings we have for infrequent, but expected costs (water bill is paid quarterly, car registration annual, oil changes 3x year). We do not include this because we know that this money is required for expenses. Perhaps when our auto loans and mortgage is paid off, we will track our actual net worth, but until then the decrease in overall debt provides the motivation we need to move forward.