Money nerds and their spreadsheets

“When are you going to write about your hot tub?” readers have been asking. “We want photos of you in your hot tub.” Fine. Here’s a typical scene on any given afternoon. (This photo was taken with my iPad, and I can’t figure out where the camera lens is…)

Enjoying the Hot Tub while Tally begs

The cats like the hot tub too, but only when the lid is closed. I suspect they’ll live on top of this thing during the winter.

Bisbee on the hot tub cover

You folks were 100% correct when you encouraged me to proceed with this purchase. I was anxious after having spent so much on remodeling the house during the first few months after we moved in. I didn’t want to spend more. But you guys encouraged me to throw in one fun thing along with all of the needed repairs. It was the right move.

A Money Nerd and His Hot Tub Spreadsheet

We’ve had the hot tub for a month now, and I’m pleased to report that we’re using the hell out of it. (Rumor has it than many people who purchase a spa don’t use as much as they think they will.) Because I’m a money nerd, every time I use the thing, I document my stats in a spreadsheet.

“What in the world are you doing?” Kim asked the first time she saw me head to the computer after a three-hour soak.

“I’m calculating how much value we get from the deck and hot tub,” I told her. She shook her head in disbelief.

“You are such a nerd.” Yes, I am.

Here, let me prove it to you. Here’s a screen shot of our usage stats through last night.

Stats on our first month of hot tub use

As you can see, I’ve used the spa all but two days during our first month of ownership. Kim uses it often too, but it’s more difficult for her to find time. (Plus, she was gone for much of last week.)

During the first 31 days we’ve owned the hot tub, I’ve spent 87 hours in it (for an average of 2 hours, 49 minutes per day). Kim has spent 42.8 hours in it (for an average of 1 hour, 23 minutes per day). When you count guests, the hot tub has enjoyed 144.2 soaking hours during its first month (or 4 hours, 39 minutes per day).

I have zero clue how much electricity we’re using. We haven’t had a full month’s bill yet. Plus, we’d need to compare it to the same month in the previous year, and our one-year anniversary of moving in isn’t until this coming Sunday. That said, I know we paid $6800 for the hot tub, which means so far our cost per hour is $47.70. It’ll take four years at this rate of usage to reduce our cost to a buck an hour.

“You know,” Kim said the other night. “You’re the only person I’ve ever seen who keeps so many spreadsheets. Don’t you think it’s a little obsessive?” Well, maybe a little.

At the same time, I know I’m not the only spreadsheet fan. Sure, I have spreadsheets devoted to finance and fitness. When I was dating, I had a dating spreadsheet. I have book spreadsheets. I have blog spreadsheets. If there’s anything I want to track, I create a spreadsheet.

Other Nerds and Their Spreadsheets

But, as I say, I’m not the only one who does this. I have friends who do too. My ex-wife — whose birthday is today! — took a spreadsheet class several years ago and converted into a spreadsheet fan. And you know what? Get Rich Slowly readers, who are predominantly money nerds, are always telling me about their spreadsheets.

Last week, for instance, I exchanged email with an email subscriber named B.J. She takes things to a whole other level! She wrote:

I use my excel spreadsheets daily. I have pages from income-outgo by month, stocks owned and dividends expected, gifts given and birthdays, medical records, household inventory, special dates in my life, a tax sheet, a cars sheet, financial statement, address sheet, stock sold sheet, travel and cost sheet, a sheet for my 97 year old mother (I have taken over paying her bills), ebay sales sheet, a sheet of all the bills I have paid automatically, a sheet for the rental house next door, a misc sheet.

Holy cats!

In her email, B.J. mentioned that since 2001 she’s sold $406,065 worth of stuff on eBay. And she sent this screenshot from her spreadsheet to show me:

One reader's stats on eBay sales

Holy cats again!

Why do we money nerds love spreadsheets so much? I think it’s because we recognize that what gets measured gets managed. This is a big reason I encourage folks new to personal finance to track their spending. When you keep a daily log of how you handle your money, you become much more aware of your habits. (Although there are lots of awesome modern tracking tools like Personal Capital, I’m still a big believer in non-automated tracking.)

What about you? Are you a tracker? Do you use spreadsheets? If not, why not? And if so, what sorts of spreadsheets have you built? Maybe someday in the future, we can build a library of spreadsheets to share with GRS readers. I like that idea…

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There are 38 comments to "Money nerds and their spreadsheets".

  1. Jacob says 26 June 2018 at 10:50

    I love spreadsheets, but I certainly don’t use them as much as some. I have one big spreadsheet that I use basically daily for budgeting and finance which literally has *everything* in it. If I organized it properly it should actually be several different spreadsheets focused on one topic each, but I’m not that organized and this generally works for me – but if I got away from it for weeks or a month I’d certainly forget what some of the stuff is!

    Aside from money, I also make extensive use of spreadsheets to support my fun and hobbies including keeping track of stats and things in video games, and even rankings of members of the music groups I like (they are BIG groups, obviously) for a historical record of how my tastes change!

  2. Steve O says 26 June 2018 at 10:52

    Oh yeah, tons of spreadsheets, some going back to the 90’s (I used to track my videotapes on a spreadsheet – remember videotapes?) Only a dozen or so are for finance, though most of those have multiple tabs, so there’s lots of content. 2 years ago when LED light bulbs went mainstream, I created a sheet listing every bulb in our house and their wattage, and have been slowly converting them to LED and tracking the savings – down to the last watt.

    • J.D. says 26 June 2018 at 11:26

      Ha. I love the light bulb spreadsheet. That is NERDY.

  3. Kathy says 26 June 2018 at 11:09

    Would you be willing to share your book spreadsheet?

    • J.D. says 26 June 2018 at 11:25

      I don’t have a master book spreadsheet. I just have different spreadsheets for different needs. For instance, I have my “currently shopping” spreadsheet, which lists the books I’m looking for. (Lately, my “collecting”, such as it is, takes the form of finding mass market paperbacks from the 50s to 80s. Many of these are the books on which famous films were based — True Grit, Cool Hand Luke, Psycho, The Godfather, etc. — while others are just scifi/fantasy series that I loved as a kid.) I have my James Bond spreadsheet, which lists which books I have and which edition (and which ones I want to upgrade). Before I sold my comics, I had a spreadsheet of all the graphic novels I had and how that applied to the original comics series. When I used to be in a monthly book group, I tracked the books we read and who attended, etc.

      But there’s no one master book spreadsheet that would be of much interest to anyone besides me. 🙂

  4. Ris says 26 June 2018 at 12:20

    I have SO MANY spreadsheets. Net worth (updated monthly), spending journal (updated daily), books read (by year), books to read, articles to write, places I should pitch articles, places I’ve already pitched articles, accomplishments by year (both personal and professional), things to sell, airline rewards points/vouchers, gift ideas for various friends and family, packing lists for vacations, projects to do around the house, etc. I could go on and on…

  5. teinegurl says 26 June 2018 at 16:34

    JD – what’s in a dating spreadsheet? I’m curious about that one could probably use one myself. I only have one spreadsheet so far that tracks my expenses month to month and my income but ive thought about making others like one for reading to keep track of titles that I read.

  6. Monica says 26 June 2018 at 16:38

    I introduced my kids to Excel by having them chart how many kids come and at what time on Halloween! This worked when they were too old to go out themselves but still interested in hanging around and giving out candy. For us that was 7th grade. I wanted the data so that I knew how much candy to buy the next year and knew approximately whatntime the first kids of the night were going to show up!

  7. Steve says 26 June 2018 at 19:08

    Same here, spreadsheets for everything.

    Is it really healthy to spend hours a day in a hot tub? Is it all at once or spread into safer 15 to 30 minute blocks?

  8. WantNotToWantNot says 26 June 2018 at 19:11

    J.D., it’s very gratifying for this devoted reader to have the visual confirmation that after all your struggles of various kinds, you are really enjoying that Hot Tub! I think I enjoyed the look on your face about as much as you were enjoying the soak. May you both Live Long and Prosper in that Hot Tub!

    Spreadsheets—I guess we nerds do love them. I keep my financial spreadsheet fairly simple including the investment accounts, bank, estimated real estate value; there is a negative category for debt but since we paid off the mortgage years ago, that is empty. However, a few years back, we sold some real estate and the taxes on it were due about 18 months later, so I used that negative category to “hold” that amount of tax money so that the profit from the sale was accurately reflected in the bottom line.

    Another spreadsheet I made a couple of years ago is more like a calendar—it documents all repetitive tasks that have to be done annually. One category is for household chores, including things like turning the hoses off for the winter; washing the windows; having the AC inspected and filters replaced; putting batteries into smoke detectors; pruning, planting schedule for various things in the garden, et cetera. Another category is for financial-business activities like the annual consultations with tax advisor, lawyer, check-ups on investments, tax preparation, semi-annual philanthropic donations, due dates for estimated tax payments, and so on. Another category is medical, reminders of annual checkups and dental appointments. Then there is a category for social and travel arrangements with prompts of when to book family travel for holidays, when decisions on summer travel must be made, and two annual parties that we host (one a fund-raiser and the other just social).

    For all other activities, I keep one list of all tasks to be done in all aspects of my life, based on David Allen’s GTD system (hokey title, “Getting Things Done”). I find the GTD system incredibly empowering and have used it for the past decade (it takes some time and effort to get into the habit, but it really paid off for me). You can find a few talks by Allen on youtube, and they are very inspiring, as are the books he has written on the subject.

    Spreadsheets and calendars keep me on track so that I never have to remember what to do next, but can use my brain for more pressing matters.

  9. Elizabeth says 27 June 2018 at 04:19

    I’d be lost without spreadsheets! So many good uses – budget, net worth, investments, job hunting, freelance income, editorial calendars, professional development tracking… I could go on!

    But on a more serious note, my father’s love of spreadsheets were a lifesaver when he passed away. I try to maintain my budget and investment spreadsheets in such a way that it makes sense to someone else. Just in case.

  10. Joe M says 27 June 2018 at 06:06

    I’ve tracked every penny to my name since 2009 using GnuCash. The price is right (free software), I just wish it had a few more fancy charting capabilities.

    I also have two spreadsheets I use regularly. One tracks the value of a collection of silver coins I inherited based on the current price of silver (basically I am figuring out the melt value of the coins). The other tracks my CD and treasury bills showing me the time to maturity and interest rates of each as well as an overall average maturity and interest rate on everything combined.

    I am not sure if all this data has really helped me make better financial decisions or not. It is just there if I want to prove some sort of point to myself about how much I earn or how much I spend. It is probably only interesting to me.

  11. Spoonman says 27 June 2018 at 06:16

    loved the post. i’ve been tracking my expenses since 1995, on those digital organizer first came out. then converted those to journals. then converted to excel once i went to uni. as they say, better late than never. although i had all that spending data, i didnt discover FIRE until 2016 and started taking the spending data and hence savings rate more seriously.

    my net worth calculator spreadsheet has blown out to include income data since 2005 and all the expense data. this has been linked to currency rates as i live overseas so it updates my net worth in various currencies. i also combined different “retirement numbers” to simulate my crossover point. i’ve also got my expenses tracking spreadsheet on my phone so i can watch my spending and savings.

    being in finance, i also used alot of spreadsheets for work. i created pre-programmed dynamic text reports using excel in 2005, which looked like a normal typed report, but had dynamic data. i used to also run monte carlo macro simulations overnight to find my retirement number.

    man that feels good coming out of the excel closet after 23yrs…nerd out!

  12. Sheila says 27 June 2018 at 07:12

    Wow! I never knew how many uses there could be for spreadsheets. I’m an outlier here. I have one spreadsheet that’s for our rental house. The book spreadsheet would be useful because I’ve gotten books out of the library, started reading them, then realized I’ve already read them. That started happening when I hit 65, much to my dismay.

  13. KLE says 27 June 2018 at 07:29

    My husband and I use shared google spreadsheets, which allows both of us to update from anywhere and we love them. Expense tracking (with tabs for categories and a tab with satisfying sums for the year), annual goals, vacation plans, time off work, net worth, gifts and thank you notes after we got married, packing lists, membership numbers to all our mileage accounts. A favorite for us is actually our address list. Anytime someone gives us new address information it goes in the spreadsheet. We don’t always need physical addresses, but when we do, we drink Dos Equis. Just kidding. We love knowing where to find accurate addresses for our people.

  14. lmoot says 27 June 2018 at 08:21

    I am the opposite of a math nerd, and barely know the basics of spreadsheets. I just came by to say that wood lattice work is absolutely stunning! Very craftsman with a hint of art deco.

  15. Joe says 27 June 2018 at 15:37

    Good going with the hot tub. Dang, 2-5 hours in the hot tub? That’s a lot of time in water. 🙂
    I have a bunch of spreadsheets too. I’m beginning to lose track of them. Maybe I need a spreadsheet for the spreadsheets. Heh heh heh.

  16. Nick says 27 June 2018 at 18:14

    I love my spreadsheets too. I create a new spreadsheet each year, so I have files dating back to 2012 when I was in college (26 now). Each year, I add new info, add more details to current info, etc. On my Overall page, I keep track of all account balances (bank accounts, IRAs, 401k, cash, gift cards, credit card rewards, etc.; also monthly income from my full-time job and side hustle; credit card statement balances (always paid off in full); net worth.

    Then there’s the Budget page that I put all spending and income in, with pie charts, monthly/annual summaries, and breakdowns of spending categories (Needs/Wants/Savings).

    The Monthly Overview page tracks all monthly retirement account balances, monthly net worth updates and annual net worth updates with plenty of graphs charting the course.

    I also track every time I fill up my car on the Gas page so I can calculate miles per month/year, miles per gallon, plus my maintenance log and maintenance costs over the life of the car.

    There’s a page dedicated to my side hustle that tracks all income, mileage, expenses, etc.

    The FLOP (Financial Life on One Page) page puts all account balances/net worth on one neat printable page. There’s also a Graphs page where I put all the graphs throughout all pages on one page to visualize everything in one place. The CC/Loans page has info about all of my credit cards, like credit limits, rewards category info, etc. and all of my student loan info (that have been paid off since March 2017 – hooray!) Finally, my Time Off page tracks all of my vacation/sick day accruals through work.

    Spreadsheets are a lifesaver, I’d be lost if I lost them!

    • Sharon P says 29 June 2018 at 11:18

      I’m impressed! You’re very thorough.

  17. Jennifer says 27 June 2018 at 18:53

    I just want to say…


    Spreadsheets and hot tubs are the best!

    • Grizzly Bear Finance says 27 June 2018 at 20:43

      Spreadsheets and hot tubs? Shouldn’t it be spreadsheets IN hot tubs?!

      • Rox says 31 August 2018 at 14:15

        Haha, I do sometimes put my tablet in a ziplock bag so I can spreadsheet in my hotub!

  18. Grizzly Bear Finance says 27 June 2018 at 20:42

    Hello, my name is BD and I am a spreadsheet addict.

    *numerous of my fellow kin respond “hello BD”*

    Thank you. In fact, when the wife and I got married, I unwrapped my bathrobe and wowed her with my amazing Chromebook (cheapest computer I could find) and its collection of first addition excel spreadsheets. Man, was she impressed. Needless to say we’re going strong years later.

    But I am glad that I’m not alone in this club of nerds. Like you said, what gets tracked gets managed. If I didn’t track it, I’d never know when I had bad months or when my dividend income took a nose dive (or leaped forward!).

    So for now and the foreseeable future, I am and will always be a spreadsheet-holic.


  19. Himanshu says 28 June 2018 at 02:35

    I created my first spreadsheet in 2005 to start logging my expenses. I have a pretty exhaustive one now with date wise expenses right from Jan 2005 till date , down up to every single penny.

    Same way I am recording all my investments, vehicle insurance, home maintenance, maintenance of rental properties, gifts given.

    I love looking at the historical data pertaining to expenses on essentials and matching it with the current expense data.

  20. Debbie says 28 June 2018 at 09:08

    Dog! Cat! Love the lifeguards.

  21. RichardP says 28 June 2018 at 10:56

    Tons of spreadsheets here, tracking just about everything. The oldest one has a page for every year back to 1993 tracking expenses, savings, etc for each year. And, of course, there’s a summary page with fancy charts.

  22. A Millionaire Next Door says 28 June 2018 at 11:22

    Lots of excel spreadsheets – cash flow, net worth, rental properties, potential investment deals, personal loans, etc. It’s my financial GPS system that I open every morning and update to make sure everything on track.

  23. Jan says 28 June 2018 at 11:51

    Not good at spreadsheets on the computer. Have been keeping track of nest egg every month since 2005. That was the year we decided we needed to actually HAVE a nest egg. The first years include budgets. Once we got the hang of bills and allowances, I just tracked savings (Stock, bonds, IRAs, pensions, sinking funds. You get the idea.) I do print off bank statements once every six months. I want to know where the money is if something happens to computers.

  24. David says 29 June 2018 at 10:07

    EVERYTHING. I mean EVERYTHING in a google spreadsheet. Even if it doesn’t need a spreadsheet. I guess I just like the ease or formatting, I hate dealing with spaces, tabs, indents in “word processes”, Is that even what they call them now ?

  25. Tom Murin says 29 June 2018 at 10:30

    J.D. – what happened to your beer drinking tracking? I keep track of a lot of things too, including tracking my drinking. I don’t use spreadsheets though – I use Evernote to keep track of things.

    • J.D. says 29 June 2018 at 10:39

      Alas, the drinking tracking went away in February. That’s something I should return to. It was very very useful.

  26. Sharon P says 29 June 2018 at 11:16

    I use two spreadsheets all the time. One is called “Temp” and keeps track of the dates and amounts of income and expenses, starting with what is in the checking account. This lets me know if I need to move money at any point in the month to make sure all the auto-debits are covered. The other is a monthly expenses spreadsheet, broken into categories, with a budgeted amount in one column and the actual expense in the other. I keep the expenses in a small book in which I write the date and amount of the expense. The book has the same categories, with sufficient space for the year, as the budget spreadsheet. The book holds 6-7 years of handwritten expenses and has come in handy when we want to know when was the last time we bought tires or how much was spent on vacation (and for what). Yeah, I’m a nerd too 🙂

  27. Brady says 29 June 2018 at 14:18

    Any way we a page on the site could be created to house different readers spreadsheet templates? Would love to find new ideas and new sheets to track different things than I do currently. TY

  28. David says 29 June 2018 at 20:29

    My most eyebrow-raising spreadsheet is my lawn mower one: date used, mintues used, total time for season, total time overall; then maintenance schedule based on total time used; replacement part numbers and links to them; cost of owernship tab includes all gas purchased, cost and quantity, and parts and oil cost. Gives me a total cost and value of the mower. And is super fun to show to curious folks.

  29. HC says 01 July 2018 at 05:45

    Oh I love a good spreadsheet! I have them for our spending tracking (we have almost 10 years of data) and our monthly budget. Over time I have developed sheets for Christmas gifts which helps with budgeting but also ensuring I don’t duplicate gifts from year to year. I finally started keeping a sheet with receipts logged as they come in for things that I need for our tax return instead of waiting until the last minute to tally it all. That made a big difference the last few years on our taxes.

    One not mentioned is a household insurance inventory! We had a small flood years ago and the insurance company sent me a spreadsheet to log the claim. It was such a pain that I decided to go ahead and take some time to log everything we owned with serial numbers when we weren’t under duress. We walked around the house and logged everything. Now when we purchase something new, we just add it right to the spreadsheet and scan the receipt. Its stored in the cloud. It was daunting to start it, but now that its done, it is just a matter of maintenance. If anything happens, I know it will be a lot less stressful having all that logged already.

  30. Sandy says 07 July 2018 at 23:39

    I’m so glad you guys went ahead with the hot tub and that it is adding so much value to your lives. I figured it would, my husband and I like to sit in ours and drink and gossip 🙂 One of these days we’ll buy a newer model with more room. Spreadsheets are fantastic …. Excel changed my life. I obsess over our spreadsheet daily, tracking income/outgo, stocks, housing prices, net worth, weight and exercise, menus, groceries, credit card charges ….. it’s fantastic. If it gives one a sense of control over one’s life, hey I’m all for it.

  31. Fabio says 05 August 2018 at 07:05

    Spreadsheets are very powerfull. I maintain one since 2003 to track my sources of income and asset accumulation, and is always astonishing to see how much I improved since then.

  32. Christine B. says 31 August 2018 at 11:49

    I live and die by my spreadsheets. I use my master banking spreadsheet to track my primary checking account as well as forecast income, spending, and savings through 2021!

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