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Monthly Update

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 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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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 worth bottom line, are calculated. Recently, I decided to take all of my business-related accounts out of the report, resulting in my purely personal net worth.

Even before making the change, the reports didn’t reflect my total net worth, which would include things like my business as an asset and my estimated tax bill as a liability. Rather than try to create values for these items, particularly the business, I decided it would be just as helpful, or even more helpful, to exclude all business accounts. As a result, there is more fluctuation from month to month because I have not consistently moved cash from business accounts to personal accounts as if I had a paycheck. This is one thing I plan to improve next year through paying myself a consistent salary.

This past weekend, I attended the Financial Blogger Conference in Chicago to meet many of the people I’ve been talking to and emailing for years. It was a great opportunity to share ideas about an industry that has grown from zero in 2003 to a community of thousands of blogs today. I attended many of the conference sessions, including two discussions about writing, one with J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly and one with Donna Freedman from MSN and Surviving and Thriving. J.D. and Donna also won several Plutus Awards at the conference.

I must have met over a hundred people this weekend, so I can’t mention everyone. The event was one of the most professional conferences I’ve attended, with a large amount of quality content and friendly people.

Also notable, this weekend was my first experience using accrued miles in Continental’s OnePass frequent flyer program. I traded in miles for an upgrade from coach class to first class for the flight out to Chicago as well as the flight back to New York. Continental does a good job of spoiling first class travelers, and I’ll likely address this in a future article.

Continue reading to see the numbers as of the end of September 2011.

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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 a way for me to learn more about personal finance, but to share my thoughts with an audience, and a hobby turned into a passion, and the passion turned into the driving force for the last few years of my life.

I’ll share my number for August 2011 soon, but first I wanted to mention that I announced the finalists for the Second Annual Plutus Awards last night. I created the Plutus Awards to bring more attention to the amazing personal-finance writing, whether educational, entertaining, or both, published outside of mainstream media. These awards also allow the community of expert personal finance bloggers to express their opinions about the best financial products and services on the market. This can, perhaps in a small way, guide the industry in the direction that best suits the public. I’m happy to say Consumerism Commentary is a finalist for several categories, and I want to encourage readers to vote for their favorite personal finance blogs. The winners will be announced at the Financial Blogger Conference on October 1.

In terms of my finances, there was not much out of the ordinary during August. I spent some money on a new camera lens, but I’m still having trouble finding time for photography. My investments performed poorly during the month, leaving my investment balances lower despite adding to the accounts. In today’s report, I corrected last month’s numbers. When I sold a good portion of my former employer’s stock in July, I forgot to list the proceeds as cash rather than an investment.

I’m working with my accountant to make sure I am taking an official salary from the business this year that will allow me to maximize my Individual 401(k) investment. I’ve been contributing both an employer and an employee portion every month.

Now that I’m not including my business assets in the balance sheet that I post to Consumerism Commentary, the reports don’t tell a complete story of my financial worth. I can take cash from the business if needed, reinvest it for the business, or leave it in business bank accounts. As a result, looking at just the personal portion of my net worth makes it easy to manipulate the numbers; if I wanted to reflect a 2.6% increase this month rather than a 2.6% decrease, I could have moved more cash from a business account to my personal account. I try to transfer as little as possible, but as some have suggested, it may be more wise to leave as little in business accounts as possible.

Continue reading to see August’s numbers.

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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 […]

12 comments Read the full article →

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

by Luke Landes

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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