There’s a tab in my You Need a Budget (YNAB) page that says “Reports.” It’s a feature that I haven’t played around with enough yet, mainly because I’ve no head for reports and figures when it comes to money and numbers and finances. But I know that in three clicks, I can choose to have an automatically generated report on my spending, my net worth, and my income vs expenses. Since I have nine months’ worth of tracking my spending on YNAB, these reports have been very fascinating and very, very eye-opening.
I said that 2017 would be the year I built up my finances, as part of my Year of Focus. I’m pleased to say that five months into 2017 and I’m doing well with this goal, especially when compared to the pitiful progress I made within this same timeframe last year. I’m putting away money into savings each month, I have a partially funded emergency fund, and I am continually improving on how I manage my tendency to want to impulse buy things that would ultimately be deemed as frivolous. I’m saving for retirement, too, and have been my entire career, but since I don’t even see that money in my paycheck I tend to forget it even exists. I’d be lying if I said I knew what the balance on my retirement account is, but I do know that because I contribute every paycheck without fail and the magic of compound interest, the numbers are continually trending upward.
“Net worth” is the feature I click on most within my YNAB dashboard. In a glance, I get a pretty good glimpse of my financial snapshot. How much debt do I have in relation to my assets? What is my overall net worth? Is that number higher or lower than the months before? What can I do to make the red (debt) go down, blue (assets) go up, and net worth (the line that runs throughout this chart) go up?
Well, for one thing, I can spend less and save more. That’s all it takes, truthfully, to manipulate the data in my net worth chart. That’s all it takes, ever, to get a better grip on things financially.
The fluctuations in my net worth chart remind me of certain times, too, where incidents came up that had a significant bearing on my finances. Like that month I booked my plane tickets for three separate long weekend trips, which definitely made my debt go up. Or that beautiful three paycheck month, which made my assets skyrocket and my debt deflate in relation to previous months. Or when my “fun money” for the month had to make room for my medical copays and not much else, which increased the debt column. Or that month where I unexpectedly had to go away for work, meaning I racked up significant amounts of overtime and had my living expenses mostly covered for the time I was gone. That, too, made my assets go up and my debt go down.
Most importantly, the variation in my net worth numbers remind me that money and finances are fickle things, and that in the end, it all washes out. The upward trend in my net worth chart tells me this. As long as I keep my eye on my overall net worth and remember to never spend more money than I earn, my money matters tend to work out in the end. Certainly I will always have room to improvement — to save more, to spend less, to earn more. But I also have my savings and a growing retirement fund and a (mostly) financially sound head on my shoulders. Barring a financial disaster (which can take so many forms that I don’t even want to think about it), monetarily, things are likely be manageable, if not outright okay. My net worth chart is proof of that.