Acorns: Small Investments in Your Future

Acorns: Small Investments in Your Future

Last year in December (of 2015) I enrolled in a little-known application called Acorns. This company would look into your transaction history; all of your credit card and other purchases, and then round up to the nearest dollar from the purchase and take the difference. They’d these small amounts of money up, anywhere from 1 cent to a dollar, and once you had $5 available, would invest these micro-investments into a series of mutual funds.

 

I didn’t expect much out of this since we’re talking literally pennies per purchase. But I was wrong. Site after site emphasizes the importance of investing whatever you have to work with. So while I invest already in a number of different ways, I decided to give this a try. From $5 onward my balance slowly started to grow. Eventually I started to see returns outside of my investments as dividends were given and funds sold. I don’t ever expect this to become a nest egg for me, but I do use it for an emergency fund. I slowly invest as I make additional purchases, and it acts basically as a savings account earning around 3% for me. If I had an unexpected expense like maybe one of my cats got sick, I’d just withdrawal from the account and be on my way.

Normally you can get $5 when you sign up but they seem to be running a special where you will get $10 free for signing up. Check it out here.

 

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2016 Financial Year in Review

As I normally do at the beginning of each year is to reflect on how things went in the previous year. Topics are a general reflection, financial, and fitness. This is the first of these posts.

Dining

In general I spent 6.90% less this year on dining than I did last year. However, I am spending too much of my dining budget (and exceeding my planned budget for dining) the majority of months. The top three categories: dinner, lunch, and alcohol, I have a lot of influence over. Instead of ordering out or dining out for dinner, cook food. Instead of going out for lunch every day at work, bring a lunch a few days a week. As for alcohol some of this will drop as dinner dining out goes down, but also spend less time drinking, reserve it to not drinking during the week, or perhaps go on discount days like Goose Island does.

2016 dining breakdown by category

My analysis has shown that even though I eat out more often the overall cost of the meals are less. I believe I have identified the reason because at my last company we would grab drinks during lunch or after work pretty often. I don’t do that now. This would account for a large amount of the nearly 7% decrease in overall spend.

Groceries

Ideally I wouldn’t spend as much on groceries as I do dining but also that groceries last longer and make more meals. This is true for 2016, but I’m spending more, 17.5% more, on groceries this year than last. Additionally, as seen in the graph, the “Other” category is the largest group, which means that I need to determine additional categories to track against.

2016 groceries by type

Meats are by far the most expensive, so reduction in meats will result in less cost as well as healthier eating. Generally though I need to plan out my meals better to make grocery shopping more efficient. It’s also important to note that just because I don’t spend a lot of my overall grocery spend on fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean I don’t buy them often. These are normally much cheaper than meats and therefore don’t contribute to a lot of my overall spend. I have entire grocery visits of just vegetables and fruits.

Additionally, the $35 a week experiment that I did a few years back seemed to work pretty well. So if I up that to say $50 a week so that I can get leftovers enough to also bring lunches, this should influence both budgets in a positive way.

Travel

Did I travel more in 2016? Well, I don’t think so, but I did spend more on travel overall, nearly 53% more to be exact. Where did the increases come from? I did take a few trips this year but didn’t rent a car or have large expenses with them. I had a nearly 38% increase in airfare costs this year. This could be caused by not having the points budget at the time of travel to not have to pay for tickets. Airfare is also increasing in cost.

I started spending on tolls this year whereas I didn’t at all last year. This is caused by having a job that requires me to travel to suburban areas of Chicago now and there are tolls on the roads. With this change, I also recorded a 171% increase in gas spending this year. Again, this is due to having to drive to the suburbs for work.

Financial Health

Spending doesn’t really give a good picture of overall financial health as this category does. I’ve broken this down into four categories: saving contributions, investment contributions, retirement account worth, and overall net worth.

This year I recorded a 58% increase in my savings contributions. This means money I put into saving accounts increased by 58% in 2016 over 2015. It’s a pretty large amount and this year I’ll probably reduce that some to allow more to go into investments instead, where I can potentially get a higher return.

As for overall investments (which are contributions made to investment accounts – not retirement or 401(k) or the like) I increased overall contributions to these accounts nearly 47%. This doesn’t reflect a 47% increase in net worth, per se, just that I contributed 47% more to them. I didn’t calculate overall net worth change for these accounts.

Retirement account contributions (things like IRA contributions and 401(k)) also rose in 2016 by 26%. Again, this does not reflect overall increase in value, just contributions. I didn’t calculate value change, but I do know it’s higher, not as high as 26% but I did have a very good year and is in the double digits.

Lastly, and probably the most telling metric, is net worth. Take all your account balances and assets, subtract the debts and liabilities, and you get a value. That’s your net worth. This year was a good year for debts and liabilities for me as I finished paying off all of my student loans in December of 2015, five years ahead of schedule. Therefore this is my first year completely debt free. Overall my net worth increased nearly 5.5% in 2016. While I’m quite proud of that number I hope to increase it with smart investing and savings and reducing overall spending.

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2014 Year in Review

What a year 2014 has been! Some crazy and fun things have happened. I got a promotion at work, am responsible for larger (and very important) upcoming projects, and all in all have had a pretty decent year. I’ve done some cool stuff.  I got more into tracking my fitness and activity levels, and came up with some pretty helpful side projects to work on. Since I like statistics, I’d care to share a few of these:

  • According to Spotify I listened to over 75,000 minutes of music this year. That number continues to grow by hundreds of minutes a day.
  • Around September I started tracking my steps using a new feature on my phone. In that short amount of time I’ve taken around 700,000 steps. Yes, I walk a lot. You might also be surprised to learn that even with that many steps, I rarely hit the 10,000 steps per day recommended amounts. But that’s ok because of the following statistics.
  • This year I rode 558.7 miles on my bicycle. That’s over 50 hours spent in the saddle. Not too bad for someone who got a late start on riding around Chicago. By riding that amount I also was able to burn nearly 43,000 calories.
  • I do walk a lot, but I don’t always track the walks, so this number is much lower than my actual walk distance. This year I walked 277.3 miles. That number will continue to increase until the new year, however, so around 300 miles would be expected in 2014. According to my tracker, that’s over 80 hours spent walking.
  • In order to maintain my car battery I started taking local trips starting late summer of this year. From that I managed to hike for 12.1 miles, nearly 5 hours of hiking under my belt this year.
  • I went fishing 1 time this year.

So, what about 2015? What’s in store? Well, I have some exciting things coming up. Work will be busier than ever. I have some exciting, yet not ready to be broadcast, life events approaching early next year. I’m approaching four years at work and four years living in Chicago. Next year should be every bit as exciting and busy as this year was.  Here are some predictions for 2015 (call them goals if you wish):

  • I will listen to 100,000 minutes of music on Spotify
  • I’ll ride my bike over 1,000 miles by the end of next year
  • My walking distance won’t be as high as years past because of more riding, but I can expect 500 miles because of the difference in how walking distances are tracked now. Also, a much more realistic goal, I will take 1.5 million (1,500,000) steps next year.
  • Continuing with the car maintainence adventures around the area, I will hike 50 miles next year. I only went hiking a few times last year, and I predict I’ll go at least 5 times next year.
  • I will fish at least 5 times next year. During my hiking trips I found some pretty good fishing spots, and fishing makes me happy and allows me to clear my head, so I certainly want to go do more fishing next year.

What else do I predict will happen for me in 2015? Well, I want to start experimenting with brewing beer. I predict I’ll be able to brew a few times in the year, depending on the interest and the recycled bottles that I have lying around. I refuse to buy bottles. I’ll also finalize my current personal project I have been working on and release that to the public. That will be an exciting time. I don’t predict to make money on it but I think it fills a real need with myself (and hopefully others) so if nothing else I’ll have it for myself.

I’m sure there will be more growing up, too. I’m slated to finalize paying off my student loan debt in December 2015, five years ahead of schedule. I’m still in the process of finalizing my 2015 budget and want to try my hardest to stick to that budget. I’d love to be able to give numbers for a goal for that but it’s hard to predict something like that, and the type of goal is also important (total net worth, total saved in a year, reduction of spending in X category, etc.)

I’ll also continue to grow vegetables. I want to get more used to processing and using the food I grow. I now know how to pickle cucumbers. Next up? I want to make creamed corn to jar and store for later. Of course eating more fruits and vegetables and eating less fats and meats. I’d love to continue the $35 a week on groceries thing I was doing earlier this year. That was fun and also forced me to eat healthier. Of course bringing my lunch at work more often and drinking less beer would also be helpful.

Otherwise I’ll just keep on keeping on. I’m sure I’ll figure out more ways to track various aspects of my life. Because the best way to see how you do in life is to compare numbers, and that’s what I’m establishing right now. So next year around this same time expect to see a comparison chart seeing how I did compared to these predictions.

Oh, and updating this blog more frequently is not a goal of mine. Updates will happen as they happen.

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Experiments!

So it’s been over six months since I last updated this blog.  Part of this is because I haven’t had the time because I’ve been working on large projects at work that have taken up all of my work time (and then some) but the other reason is I don’t feel like I should post on here just for the sake of posting an entry.  I want it to be for a valid reason.  I haven’t really had a reason up until a few weeks ago and even then it took some time for me to actually post on here.  There’s a lot for me to talk about like reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (as well as watching the movie after reading the book.)  Or I could talk about my visit to the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.  Or maybe I could talk about attending an astronomy lecture and having the awesome opportunity to meet an astronaut.  I may or may not post about any or all of the above in the next few weeks.  We’ll see if I get the writing bug.

The purpose of this specific post is to talk about something new I’m trying this year.  I decided I want to try to perform some sort of experiment each month for the length of the month.  They may stop after I finish or I may continue to perform them for months of years if they prove successful.  No, this won’t be some high-risk, groundbreaking research that will change the world.  Most of these will be to see if I can benefit myself or others in some way.  While I’d prefer they all be science experiments I know for a fact they won’t be.  Each one will be detailed in a separate post starting with what it is testing, why I chose it, my predictions for the outcome, as well as the actual outcome.  So, for example sometime in March I will post about my first experiment that I am performing right now which is how beneficial it is to winterize your home in regards to energy consumed.

While I won’t always be able to post what the next several months will be I can already state what my next one I’ll be performing in March will be which will not be a science experiment but rather an economics experiment.  That one, because I’ve already started laying the groundwork for it, will be to determine where I spend my money on dining so that I can reduce my spending.  In the past every meal has gone directly into the “dining” bucket but starting in March I am going to break these down into the following categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and alcohol.  This way I’ll be able to figure out where I am spending the most money so I can cut back to save more.

I’ll tag these experiment entries with the tag “experiments 2013” for future reference.

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