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Monthly Update


Part of the draw of Consumerism Commentary has been my monthly financial reports. Having worked in the financial reporting area of a company that happened to be in the financial industry, I recognize the importance of monthly public reporting to be accountable to stakeholders; I started publicly reporting my own finances to be accountable to myself.

Until now, there hasn’t been a page on Consumerism Commentary that compiles all the monthly reports into one page. Now, at a glance, readers can easily see my financial progression from July 2003 through December 2011, when I stopped publishing my reports.

Note that throughout the course of the life of Consumerism Commentary, I’ve adjusted my methods of calculating several times. As a result, the historical numbers you see in the chart published for December 2011 do not always match up with the numbers you see when you look at the historical reports. The first net worth column includes the numbers as reported at the time. The second column is the adjusted net worth which fixed some initial calculation errors and normalizes the method of getting to the bottom line.

Note also that as a result of several migrations over the past few years, some charts have been lost. I do have other copies, and I’ll work over the next few days to add in the missing figures.

Under the chart is a graph depicting the long-term growth of my net worth, December 2001 through December 2011, with personal and business accounts separated. This doesn’t include the book value of my business or any business sale proceeds.

Net worth (balance sheets)

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I mentioned a few months ago with my year-end balance sheet that I would soon be changing the way I report my finances publicly. These monthly reports have been a relatively consistent part of Consumerism Commentary since I founded this website in July 2003. One of the original purposes of this website was to help myself take control of my finances and learn more about managing my own money.

After a while, though, the net worth reports, which include not much more than an accounting of my bank account and credit card balances, became less meaningful. At the same time, I stopped myself from reporting my income figures due to the complexities with dealing with a private transaction. I’ve decided to turn back to basics with the monthly reporting in order to focus once again on reducing my expenses.

The report below includes the last six months of my expenses after taxes and not including a few items like charitable contributions and business expenses. It will provide a good baseline for moving forward and determining where I can reduce my expenses and where I can compromise and allow myself more leeway. I’ve already done a good job of eliminating unnecessary expenses in order for me to enjoy certain things without stretching my budget, so reducing expenses might not be as important right now as monitoring my spending to ensure I’m not being wasteful. Continue reading to see my expenses.

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I’ve spent the last decade of my life focused on my finances. I started because I had no money and a job that was taking more from me than it was providing in income. I knew I had to make some changes if I wanted to build any kind of future for myself. Soon into this journey, I founded this website, where I’ve written about my own financial situation and tracked my balances on a monthly basis.

Over the years, my financial situation has improved. Rather than focusing on and tracking every cent as I was doing in 2003, a necessary step to train myself to save money and value everything I was earning, I now am significantly more relaxed. I still track my bank account balances. Eventually, I stopped tracking every cent I spent with cash. Cash spending became such a small percentage of each month’s income that it became unnecessary for me to enter every receipt (or every remembered transaction for those where no receipt was provided) into Quicken. I have been using credit cards for most expenses. (I was using credit cards to take advantage of rewards, which I didn’t start doing until I was out of debt, spending less than I was earning, and making conscious spending decisions.) The credit cards helped me carefully track my expenses.

My ability to improve my financial condition has been partly due to my public tracking. When my numbers are published online, I have to admit to my mistakes and accept criticism from readers when it’s due. Knowing that I will be reporting the details of my bank accounts helps me to continue making good decisions with my money.

At the end of the year, I take the chance to look at my life from a broader perspective. I now have ten years of history in my Quicken file. I’ll be thirty-six years old in a couple of months, so my finances have been a focus for almost all of my adult life. And for those of you, readers, who know me only through this site, only as “Flexo” or Luke Landes, you may think that an obsession with personal finance rules my life. The good news is that this isn’t true; outside of Consumerism Commentary, when I see my friends and family, personal finance is not usually a topic of discussion.

With ten years of history in Quicken, I can easily see my own financial progress over time. At the end of 2001, the world was still shaking from terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and my life was uncertain. With no money, no job, no girlfriend, and no place to live, I knew I needed to make changes in my life. That’s what I did.

Continue reading to see the numbers. Read the full article →

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I’ve been tracking my net worth and keeping my finances updated in personal finance management software since July 2003. I’ve done this mainly for myself. Posting my finances online helps make the numbers real. I use these monthly reports to hold myself accountable. If I write publicly about spending more in a budget category than I should, I have no one to blame myself if, at the end of the following month, I still have the same problem. I would have to face the judgment of readers who see my lack of progress. By keeping my finances public, I try to hold my money-related decisions to a high standard.

Over the past eight and a half years, this technique has helped me gain financial independence, combined with a thriving business. But this will be the final month I share my balances with this much detail. I’m moving into the next phase of my financial journey, and this requires taking back some of my willingness to bare all for an audience. I will still share quite a bit, more than most readers would expect, but the familiar balance sheet will be replaced with a different accountability measure.

Another reason to move away from posting a monthly balance sheet for accountability is the fact that the swings from month to month have more to do with stock market performance than day-to-day money management decisions. When I had very little money invested and my expenses were close to my income, every decision I made could have a strong effect on my finances. That is not the case today. Just like my need for tracking every cent has been relinquished as my budget began to allow more freedom, my daily spending has a smaller effect than decisions pertaining to the larger picture, like my investment portfolio allocation and diversification. I’ll be writing more about my investment choices in the future.

In October, my investments recovered. This contributed to an increase in my net worth. Continue reading to see the numbers.

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Personal Balance Sheet, September 2011 ($342,242, -7.1%)

by Luke Landes

Each month, I publish a financial report to help me track the progress along my path to gain financial independence. This is a long-standing tradition at Consumerism Commentary, with relatively significant updates going all the way back to July 2003. I have made some changes over the years in how these numbers, including the net ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, August 2011 ($368,817, -2.6%)

by Luke Landes

Almost every month since July 2003, I’ve been reporting my month-end financial reports on Consumerism Commentary. This reporting started as a way to hold myself accountable as I attempted to improve my finances through earning more and spending thoughtfully while saving and investing for my future. Somewhere along the way, the website became not only ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, July 2011 ($380,209, +0.2%)

by Luke Landes

Before getting into my monthly financial reports, I wanted to take a moment to mention that The Second Annual Plutus Awards are now underway. The purpose of the Plutus Awards is to bring more public attention to personal finance blogs. While the community of blogs and their authors help move the industry forward by commenting ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, June 2011 ($379,354, +1.4%)

by Luke Landes
Net Worth Balance Sheet, June 2011

Happy Independence Day to all Consumerism Commentary readers in the United States! I’m celebrating my financial independence, as I do every month, with my regular net worth updates. These monthly reports have been a mainstay of Consumerism Commentary, with only a few lapses early on in the history of this website. For the most part, ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, May 2011 ($844,136, +9.6%)

by Luke Landes
Net Worth Balance Sheet, May 2011

Over the past few days, I considered making some drastic changes to the way I report my finances at the end of each month. I’ve been trying to decide whether it makes more sense to separate my business accounts from this report and report the numbers separately as I did a few years ago, remove ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, April 2011 ($761,127, +15.0%)

by Luke Landes
Net Worth Balance Sheet, April 2011

In 2003, I started Consumerism Commentary to teach myself more about personal finance and to track my progress as I strove to be financially secure. This was already a few years after my personal “rock bottom.” At the turn of the century, after a few years of letting my net worth as well as other ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, March 2011 ($664,370, +7.4%)

by Luke Landes

My financial for March are finalized enough for me to publish the numbers. Although I like the reports I post every month to be as accurate as possible, there are often things I forget or haven’t been finalized, like income from additional sources or bills from vendors. Unfortunately, last month’s net worth has been revised ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, February 2011 ($620,556, +6.3%)

by Luke Landes

My life without salary is continuing to move myself forward financially. Even considering overall income, I earned more in January than I’ve earned in any month prior to that point. February, though I’m waiting for some final details, was a very good month in terms of income, but still about average when compared to the ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, January 2011 ($578,043, +7.0%)

by Luke Landes

January 2011, the first full month of life without a salary, was my first opportunity to take a look at what I can do while working for only myself. The last two weeks of December were officially post-employment, but with the holidays, my routine wasn’t normal until after the new year. I’ve discovered a few ... Continue reading this article…

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Year-End Personal Balance Sheet, December 2010

by Luke Landes

I’ve been tracking my personal finances for about ten years now, and I’ve been making the information public but anonymous on Consumerism Commentary since 2003. This, in addition to learning about money, was my primary purpose for creating this website and it still is a major part of what I do. I don’t pay as ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, November 2010 ($494,715, +6.1%)

by Luke Landes

If you’ve been following Consumerism Commentary for some time, you may know that I post my balance sheet at the beginning of each month. I take this time to review my finances and determine whether I’m moving forward. In addition to my balance sheet, I review my expenses and income. I’ve been posting these monthly ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, October 2010 ($463,930, +8.0%)

by Luke Landes

In July 2004, my car was my biggest asset, although my loan left me with no equity. That same car, as it lost value over time and as my finances generally improved, is now the least significant line on my balance sheet. One would think that the progression of net worth from $20,000 at that ... Continue reading this article…

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Flexo’s Investment Portfolio, 3Q 2010

by Luke Landes

Last quarter’s devastating investment performance resulted in an overall annualized return of -9.33 percent. The fact that the S&P 500, the benchmark I use for my investments, faced a -15.14 percent annualized return at that point was little consolation. The third quarter of 2010 proved to be kinder to my investments. I can’t take much credit for ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, September 2010 ($427,529, +11.5%)

by Luke Landes

September was a typical month. I didn’t have many out-of-the-ordinary expenses. I bought some new camera equipment, with the biggest expense being a used lens for my Mamiya RZ67. I did a good job negotiating the price, too. I was able to get Adorama in New York to beat KEH.com’s price for the same lens ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, August 2010 ($382,103, +3.4%)

by Luke Landes

If you follow the endless financial news, you might have heard that the stock market ended August on a sour note. My investments suffered like those of many investors around the world. The only investment I’ve been adding to for the last few months has been my 401(k) at regular intervals. I’ve been holding off ... Continue reading this article…

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Personal Balance Sheet, July 2010 ($365,647, +8.0%)

by Luke Landes

My girlfriend and I are spending this week on vacation in Myrtle Beach. It’s my first visit to this area, and we are enjoying it. I’ve never been a big fan of the beach, but that may be only because most of my experience involves the Jersey shore. I’m learning to appreciate the “do-less” vacation, ... Continue reading this article…

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