It’s hard to believe that summer is already coming to an end, but August has come and gone. We had a lot of fun last month, including waterskiing, kayaking and camping with friends. Our overall spending was below target, but a few categories were higher than we would have liked. We completely rocked the socks off of one spending category though… Let’s take a look at how we did! Summary chart courtesy of Personal Capital’s Free Budget Tracking Tool.
Personal Capital is one of my favorite personal finance tools for tracking net worth, income, expenses and investments. They also have a nifty retirement planner that allows you to tweak a number of factors and simulate your projected retirement portfolio. The best part? Their tools are 100% free to use and easy to manage. They do offer professional wealth management services for a fee for investors who are interested.
To get started, sign up for a free Personal Capital account and start linking savings, checking, retirement, investment and credit card accounts. They will import your data and start building your personalized financial summary. A unique feature offered by Personal Capital is the ability to manually add “other assets” that cannot be automatically linked or accounted for, such as house value, manual investments and other assets/liabilities.
July numbers are in! Lots of camping and enjoyment of the summer weather over the past month. Summer offers so many budget-friendly opportunities to get outside and have fun. Hiking, hanging out at the beach, camping, biking, kayaking… The list goes on.
All of these factors helped our budget this month and we came in under target. Unnecessary discretionary funding remained pretty low throughout the month, which helped a lot. Summary chart courtesy of Personal Capital’s Free Budget Tracking Tool.
2017 has been a whirlwind – starting a new personal finance blog, tons of skiing throughout the winter, a diving trip to Belize, camping trips – oh yeah, and that pesky thing called “work” that consumes 45+ hours of our lives each week. Time to see how our year-to-date expenditures, January through June 2017, are tracking against our planned 2017 budget.
This is the first year I’ve tracked our expenses in such detail (I used to just lump together “credit card payments” as one expense item) and there is a lot of additional detailing to be had. That “miscellaneous” category still leaves a lot to be desired. Having the right online tools to automatically sort and summarize categories has really helped us see the biggest picture on where our money is going. We track everything using Personal Capital’s Free Budget Tracking Tool and I love that I can “drill in” to any category to see individual transactions, plus you can now add custom categories.
The first six months of 2017 were mostly on target, which is pretty impressive given the ghastly start to the year in January… Luckily, February, April, May and June were under budget and brought us closer to our projected monthly spending. Month-for-month, we were only $100, or about 2%, over each month.
June was a very busy month, which inadvertently helped our budget a little. Turns out that when you don’t have time to shop, you spend less money 🙂 Mr. Saverdink had an awesome 4-day work trip this month which contributed to a weeklong “spending freeze” – all of his expenses were covered while traveling and the absence from home meant lower groceries and gas for the week. I was swamped at my job for the first 3 weeks in June and didn’t even have time to go grocery shopping that week. Leaving the office at 8pm multiple nights in a row is no fun and I may or may not have eaten a chocolate bar for dinner one evening… By the time the weekend rolled around, Mr. Saverdink was exhausted from traveling and I was exhausted from working crazy hours, so we laid low and relaxed at home that weekend.
Despite the one-week spending reprieve, June spending totals were a bit higher than May, but still well within the normal realm. We did have some splurges in the home appliance and vacation department. Summary chart courtesy of Personal Capital’s Free Budget Tracking Tool.
Once you’ve achieved a solid financial foundation and are committed to a lifestyle of living below your means, you’ll have extra money available each month to fund your financial priorities and build long-term wealth. The question becomes where should you be focusing that surplus of cash to maximize your returns? There are a lot of considerations to take into account. The emotional aspects of having enough cash available for emergencies. Understanding the tax advantages or disadvantages of various types of retirement, health care savings and non-retirement accounts. Making the best use of employer retirement account matches and other benefits.
The list below is a guide on where to focus investments across a variety of accounts to maximize returns and improve the tax efficiency of your portfolio. As you fully fund each recommended step, move onto the next step and continue to grow wealth. Everyone’s personal situation is different, so use this as a guide, but modify it to meet your own needs and take advantage of options that may be unique to your situation.
Once you have a budget established, start taking small (and large!) steps to cut down unnecessary expenses. Today’s money saving edition: Online Shopping.
If you already do a lot of shopping online, it’s time to re-evaluate and see how many of those items are needs versus wants. The easiest way to save money is to simply not spend it on unnecessary items, however, online shopping is a staple in most households nowadays. If you’re going to shop online, be sure to do it wisely. I’m a huge fan of the convenience online shopping offers, paired with the ability to “find deals” from the comfort of my couch. Over the years, I’ve developed a few habits to ensure I’m getting the best deal possible and to also temper impulse purchases.
Financial Security. We all need it. Whether you are trying to break away from the cycle of living paycheck-to-paycheck or focusing on building long-term wealth, there are a few key steps that will allow you to achieve a solid financial foundation. Once you establish (and automate!) good money management habits, future financial gains will come much much easier.
Ready to get started on the journey to financial well-being? These steps will help get you pointed in the right direction.
May spending totals are in! It was another strong month for the Saverdink household finances. We came in under budget, which has helped even out our higher than average expenses earlier in the year. Personal Capital (where we track all of our income and expenses for free) revamped their interface this month and I’m definitely a fan of some of the new features. They now have a graph that compares the current month’s spending against the prior month’s spending. Nothing like a quick visual to get your spending back on track 🙂 My only complaint is that the tool truncates partial dollars instead of rounding up or down. The engineer in me really needs to account for that 78 cents in the summary roll-up!
Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Mr. Saverdink and I just returned from a fantastic long-weekend camping trip at Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. We love Acadia for a number of reasons and try to visit at least once a year. Luckily for us, it’s only a 4.5-hour drive away. Coupled with the fact that we already own camping gear and sporting equipment, it makes for a very inexpensive vacation away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. On top of the gorgeous scenery and plethora of outdoor activities, the nearby town of Bar Harbor, Maine has a number of quaint stores, ice cream shops and microbreweries. Even though we’ve visited Acadia a number of times over the past decade, there is always something new to do and see.