Something Simple That Tells Me A Lot
Every Sunday night at 10:45 I get the same reminder on my phone: check finance totals. It’s a time I’ve set aside for myself because I’m more than likely home and preparing for the upcoming week. I open up a file in my Google Drive called “Savings Graphs” and scroll down to find today's date. Then using my phone, laptop, or both I log into 4 accounts.
- US Bank Checking (for all cash and credit card rewards)
- Betterment (Roth IRA)
- Robinhood (individual stocks)
- Acorns (ETFs)
I recommend using a service like LastPass if you’re like me and have at least 128 passwords out there online. Most financial apps on an iPhone will be using Touch ID to login, so that speeds up the process. Within a few seconds, I’ve found what I’m looking for, the total in each of these accounts.
I drop these numbers into the spreadsheet that I’ve had going since January 2015, blink a few times, then close the tab. That’s it. (They say that if you’re into personal finance, then you’re pretty boring at parties)
What can a year of weekly check-ins show you about your financial growth? Here’s my 2015.
My 2015 is pretty interesting. You can see the rapid growth I experienced after I got a raise and effectively mitigated lifestyle creep. Each downward slope shows my expenses of the month take place. The massive loss in October? That’s when I spent $4,000 on the down payment of my car.
December doesn’t really show normal patterns because of my brother’s destination wedding out in Colorado. There were a lot of costs to cover including groomsman clothes, a wedding gift, flights, Christmas gifts, and a vacation all wrapped into 6 days!
That last upward spike you see around mid-December is from receiving my annual bonus and a check for some freelance work I did earlier in the year.
2016 has been a little less interesting, other than the dip in February where I had some dental work done. What is interesting to note is that it took 10 weeks to recover from that unexpected expense!
So, why do I do this?
A positive approach.
For one, it allows me to have a positive approach to my finances. Without seeing the overall upward trend, I can easily get bogged down by my big losses or even just my spending. Seeing that I can recover (though it may take a while) from these large hits I’ve taken keeps me positive and thinking progressively. I may not be able to buy a house in the next decade, but I know I’m getting somewhere.
It reminds me I’m in it for the long haul.
They say you shouldn’t look at your retirement, instead just contribute and forget it. Maybe they’re right. Seeing it every week allows me to take in the slow shifts of the market. I don’t obsess over it or make any changes to my contributions, and I like having a pulse of the subtle ups and downs. Putting in 52 datapoints a year keeps me grounded that this is all a very long play and one week will not make or break it for me.
The big picture.
While each day I’m tracking a few dollars here and there, these large graphs allow for me to see a big picture. With that comes an abstract timeline of my life, which I appreciate. It allows me to pause and recollect on my year. I remember the stress of asking for that first raise, and proving my worth to a new director. I remember that summer, being able to split my cousin’s flight to CA with my brother so we could all see each other and climb Cathedral Peak. I remember the lack of stress when it came time to inevitably write the largest check of my life for my Honda Fit after a weekend of friends graciously driving me around. I remember saying ‘yes' to absolutely anything my sister-in-law said I should buy and wear for her wedding, and I will never forget walking my aging grandfather to his seat before the frigid outdoor ceremony. Each transaction is a timestamp in my life and it can be nice to reflect on good memories or lessons learned.
Want to start tracking some totals in your life?
Here’s a link to the google doc I use for tracking my cash https://goo.gl/a2bmXT