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We started the year with a one-word resolution - Thrifty. Did we stick to our resolution? How did we do on our goals and values for this year?
It’s hard to believe how much has happened in the last year. While some of this was planned, much wasn’t even on our radar when 2016 kicked off:
- We sold my wife’s engagement ring
- We sold our Toyota Prius, making just one car work for a family of 5 in the suburbs
- We continued to dive into minimalism, finding we can be more happy with less stuff
- We visited another 7 states with our kids during a 4600-mile family roadtrip
- We launched two blogs! This one and JaimeDeclutters.com
- We remodeled…and remodeled…and remodeled some more. We removed a wall, replaced flooring, paneled a ceiling, redid lighting, replaced our kitchen countertop, got a new kitchen sink, and painted almost every wall, cabinet, door, and piece of trim. Throw in a busted furnace and garage door opener and this was a big year for our house. We hired out some of the work but did plenty of DIY to save on cost. It was all well worth it!
In order to fund these crazy adventures, we needed a strong focus on our finances - tracking, improving, and, of course, some serious spreadsheeting.
Using Thrifty, we tracked every penny we spent in the last year and used that information to help us understand and improve our finances.
In total, we spent $78,000 in 2016. We’re not close to Mr. Money Mustache levels yet, but we’re working on it.
I’m really proud of how disciplined we were this year - we managed to accomplish all of our financial goals for the year without dipping into our emergency savings.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
Net Worth Update
I’m really happy with this one - our net worth is up 30% from this time last year!
The markets did well, we maxed out our 401k, and we made big prepayments on our mortgage. In reality, our number should be even higher - we haven’t had our house re-assessed since the remodeling, so we’re likely much higher yet.
Debt Freedom Progress
Perhaps our biggest financial victory was the dent we put in our mortgage. We paid off $24,000 of mortgage principal this year!
We’ve still got about $87,000 to go and if we this pace, we’ll be completely debt-free in August 2020.
My goal is December of 2019 though, so we’re going to keep working on getting our spending down and income up.
One area we’re finally doing better in - groceries.
In the spring of this year, we were averaging $1050 a month. I knew we needed to do better but despite a couple targeted challenges, we didn’t have much luck improving our grocery spending until the end of this year.
Over the last three months, we’ve averaged $760 on groceries - an improvement of $290. If we can maintain that over a year, that’s $3500 saved!
I attribute much of our financial success this year to the discipline we’ve developed by manually logging every expense in Thrifty.
The tool started this year with just 1 user (our family) but has now had 74 people create accounts. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is really nice to know that a few others have found value in Thrifty the same way we have.
At the start of the year, Thrifty was only for tracking expenses, but over the months, I added the ability to track income and taxes. In addition, Thrifty now calculates a monthly (and overall) savings rate and provides charts and trends for spending in each category.
If you’re not tracking your spending, you should really give it a try. Right now, Thrifty is free and has no ads. I pay for the hosting out of my own pocket because of the value I get from using the tool and am happy to share it for free with others as long as the costs don’t get too high :)
While I really believe that manually tracking your expenses can help you understand them better and will even deter you from some unnecessary spending, I understand not everyone is ready to go that route.
If you’re looking for an automated tracking solution, check out Personal Capital - it’s free and connects automatically to your bank accounts to help you track your spending and net worth.
The blog portion of Keep Thrifty was originally intended just to support the Thrifty tool, but I quickly found great enjoyment in writing and it’s become the primary focus of this site.
Keep Thrifty Blog
I feel so blessed to have connected with so many great people (readers and bloggers alike) through this blog.
With 56 posts, this year’s posts total roughly 69,500 words. That’s about the same as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. While I’m not claiming to be as eloquent or entertaining as Mark Twain, it’s amazing to have written a whole book’s worth of content in just one year.
Largely thanks to the amazing members of the personal finance and minimalism communities, I’ve had 20,000 different people visit this site in its first year (by Google’s best estimates).
What started as a little experiment has quickly become my favorite hobby. Expect plenty more posts on Keep Thrifty in 2017!
What’s in Store for Next Year
We’ve got lots of fun stuff in the works for 2017. Here are the big ones we know about already:
- Two road trips; by the end of summer we’ll have gotten to 46 of the 50 states in the USA with our kids!
- More experiments! Can our family of 5 survive in just 600 square feet? Which is better for you, sleeping in a bed or on the floor? And those are just the two we’ve got in-progress…
- Paying down our mortgage (getting below $60,000 is a stretch goal)
- Putting the 4-Branch Budget to the test to help us drop our spending
- New Thrifty features - maybe a built-in-budgeting system?
- Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, and more spreadsheets
Last, but certainly not least, I’m excited to announce a big challenge we’ll be taking on next year.
2017 will be ‘Nothing New Year’
We will attempt to buy only used items with a short list of exceptions. Like toothbrushes… and underwear.
Crazy? Maybe. It’s an experiment - no matter what, we’re going to learn something :)
I’ll be back next week with all the rules, details, and our plan on how to make it through.
In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy Nothing New Year!