Introducing: Radical Financial Transparency

in MvD Updates, Our Financial Journey

Financial Transparency

I finally get to unveil a new feature on Man Vs. Debt that I’ve been putting off for way too long.

From this day on, Courtney and I will be publicly sharing our financial life on a permanent page of the site.  We’ll be tracking our income, expenses, balances, and budget out in the open.  I’m certainly not the first blogger to share part of their financial life, but it’s our goal to make this as interactive and thorough as possible.

For some this may seem very radical, while for others nothing may seem unusual.  The name is adopted from the concept of Radical Transparency and I have to give credit to Leo Babauta for finally prodding me into action with his own project.

Why?

That’s a fantastic question.  Besides the personal benefits we’d receive from tracking privately, there are three primary reasons why I’ve decided to publicly undertake this project:

  1. To practice what I preach. It’s no secret that I’m a firm believer in the power of tracking your income and expenses.  It was one of the keys to our own financial turn-around.  I’ve found that many people love to talk about the benefits of this practice, but few actually follow through consistently (this include us bloggers, too).  Since we started traveling, Courtney and I have fallen off the bandwagon.  No more.  If we are going to talk-the-talk, we are going to walk-the-walk
  2. To prove it can be done. This might seem a little extreme, because we all know it can be done.  Heck, maybe we’ve done it ourselves or certainly know others.  Even still, I want someone to be able to look at our tracking and say, “There… right there…  here’s what they are doing… here’s how they are doing it…  if they can do it…  we can do it…” Am I dreaming?  Maybe.  But if I can model the value in this to just one other person, it’ll be worth it.
  3. To leverage group accountability. Yep, I’m using you.  Whether anyone ever views the page or not, I have a perceived notion that all of you will be watching me!  :-)  Even in the days leading up to this project, I’ve witnessed this effect.  There have been several times where I might have splurged a little bit, but knew that I’d be launching the initial data here.  It will put added pressure on us to plan and justify our expenses ahead of time.  And don’t worry, we’ve budgeted plenty for ‘blow’ money, so we’ll have room to fudge up.  ;-)

Why should I care?

Maybe you shouldn’t?  Maybe no one will.  I’m not 100% sure of the result. There are clear benefits for me and I believe that sharing the information has the potential to help others, too.

Recently, I’ve had a noticeable increase in the amount of people asking me questions about our expenses while traveling.  This will also allow interested people to see the difference in expenses and cost of living.  Our finances will play a large role in deciding whether we travel more, stay here, or return home post-December.  I’m sure a few will be interested to see the numbers behind our decision.

Aren’t you trying to build a business?

Well, duh. I have no problem letting everyone know that I’m planning for blogging (and related activities) to fully support my family’s needs in the future.  In fact, I’ll be starting to monetize select parts of the work I’ve been doing in the coming weeks.  For me this is the perfect time to start sharing our finances.

Whatever income I’m able to build will be with the help and support of you guys, so I have no problem being up front and honest with those numbers.  Sharing my business expenses will also help keep me focused and lean.  Once again, right now these expenses are very minimal (as is the income), but as both the numbers grow, I hope someone somewhere can learn from watching me go through it live.  :-)

Why PocketSmith?

The data that I’ll be sharing is displayed through custom-designed WordPress widgets that automatically pull from my PocketSmith account.  Meaning this will save me a ton of time, energy, stress…  man, it’ll save me a lot.

A little over a month ago, I was turned onto PocketSmith by another blogger.  I usually don’t dig too deeply into budgeting software (I prefer pen & paper as many of you know), but a couple features caught my eye.  The methodology is focused on ‘forecasting’ your upcoming expenses, which is really just a unique spin on budgeting.  And to be honest the ‘spin’ works for me.

I actually like going into the calender view, plotting my expenses, and watching how it affects my forecasts.  The main principles of the software are incredibly simple, but by setting up multiple calenders you can make it as comprehensive as your little heart desires (although my heart loves to keep it simple).  Liking a budgeting software was a little weird for me, but it got even more weird when I found out the PocketSmith team was based in New Zealand.

We ended up meeting in person and this project is the result of many, many hours of work on their end (much less by me).  We actually have plans to enable complete access to our personal PocketSmith account in the future, meaning anyone would be able to go in and view (not edit) our calenders and visually track our progress on goals, debt, and other categories.  We are still working out the kinks in that, however in the mean time the PocketSmith team build these custom widgets to automatically share my data here.

I’m very conservative with who I partner and affiliate with, but I genuinely love both this software and the people behind it.  And don’t tell the PocketSmith guys, but I got the sweet end of the deal in this picture!  :-)

Share your thoughts!

Hop on over to the dedicated page and share your thoughts on this project!  What do you think about it?  What would you like to see added?  This is sort of a ‘pet’ project of mine right now, so I’d really appreciate your feedback!

photo by Okko Pyykko

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