Money nerds and their spreadsheets

Investments

“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…