Save. Spend. Splurge.

Basic B*tch Numbers You Should Know About Your Money

I’m not saying you need to know it down to the cent at any given moment, but 6 months or so, do a check in. Ideally, monthly (I do this, because I’m a money nerd), but the bare minimum is every 6 months.

Net worth

This is your quick snapshot of your finances.


Every 6 months. Remember your net worth is not your self worth. It’s just a number to see how things are going for you. I would check it at least every 6 months, but I do mine monthly to get a good feel of how things are going.

I made a lot of stupid money mistakes early on in life, so I started out at -$65,000 in debt and I know how it feels if it doesn’t look great.


Income: Gross & Net

Know the difference between net and gross income. Gross income is your salary on paper of what you earn. Net is what you get in your bank account after taxes and so on.


Every time you get a raise, or change jobs.

Example: I earn $50,000 on paper, after taxes, I see in my bank account a deposit of $3123.47 every month.

$3123.47 X 12 months = $37,481.64

  • My gross income is: $50,000
    My net income is: $37,481.64

You should budget based on your net income because your gross income is not all of yours to spend; you have to pay income taxes, healthcare, etc. So look at what you actually get in your pocket, not what you think you’re getting.

Expenses: Fixed & Variable

Know the difference between fixed and variable spending. Fixed means you must pay it every month or year (or any other fixed time), and the amount does not change or vary, so it is NOT variable.

Fixed includes:

  • Mortgage
  • Rent
  • Municipal taxes
  • Health insurance
  • Car insurance
  • School fees
  • Subscriptions
  • Gym membership

Variable includes:

  • Groceries
  • Eating out
  • Utilities
  • Gas
  • Gifts
  • Entertainment
  • Books
  • Shopping

I’d also suggest making a Bare Bones expenses list of what you absolutely NEED to survive, and then slowly add in things in order of priority until you come up with a Basic Budget that you can live with, and use that as your “I want to live like this” amount. Then you could also make a Luxury Budget to see how far you can reach. I have all 3 budgets, myself!


How much do you have left to pay? At what interest rate? Variable or fixed? With what bank? For how long? What are you paying every month and how much of that is going to paying down interest or the principal balance?


Where’s your money? Savings? Investing? With what banks? In what accounts? In what funds? Keep an eye on these, and make sure you’re aware of where the money is.


At least once a month, if not weekly.

I check my balances every other day, if not daily because I sometimes schedule payments or forget to transfer money because I got distracted on a conference call, and I like to do a quick touchpoint to make sure I am not in trouble anywhere.


You are paying what fees every month or year?


Each time you sign up for a new bank account or buy a new fund.

I loathe paying bank fees, so I almost exclusively bank online, and have never needed a physical bank except one or two times a year, if that.

Major online banks in Canada:

  • Tangerine (Referral code: 47449340S1 )
  • EQ Bank
  • Simplii Financial

There are others, but I have no experience or would not recommend them.

As an optional tip

If you can check fees that you’re paying and optimize gathering all your money into one bank / spot where if you have more money pooled together, you’ll likely have those monthly fees waived, you’ll be more organized money-wise and save on paying twice or thrice what you should.

Same with your investing accounts – are they all spread out? Can you gather them into one spot and save on fees?

Many investing institutions will waive fees at a $10,000 portfolio, or give you premium service at a $100,000 portfolio.

Major online investing institutions in Canada:

  • Questrade (Bulk of my money is here – Referral code O0SOEHDS )
  • WealthSimple Trade (this one is DIY but they also have a robo advisor offshoot called WealthSimple where you throw money in and they invest it for you. Truly set and forget.)
  • Tangerine (They’re easy to sign up for and invest with but their investment offerings aren’t as good as the other two above, frankly. I use them only for online banking.)

If you pool your money into one spot, you’ll likely get more perks.

Not only do you need to look at the fees these places are charging you, but each fund also charges an MER or management expense ratio. As a benchmark, the S&P Vanguard ETF (VFV) for Canada charges 0.17% in MER fees.

If your fund is charging more than 0.20%, either you understand that you’re paying more because it’s an actively managed fund, or if you just chose it because the returns looked good 5 years ago when you bought it, it might be time to review the list of funds available now, and their MERs.

As a rule of thumb, index funds are the cheapest as they’re passively managed and just track stock market indicies.

I used to be invested in a mutual fund charging 2%. That difference of 1.83% is your profit margin, or returns from the market each year.

If the return that year was 2.3%, it means your mutual fund ate 2% of that, and you only made 0.3% that year.

In contrast if the market returned 2.3% and you only paid 0.17%, you just made 2.13% on your money.

(Of course this is a simple calculation and I am not even talking about inflation which as of late has been 7% on average, amongst other factors, which means if your money didn’t return more than the 7% inflation, you have lost money.)

Long story short: Fees are important.

Money Plans

What is your retirement goal? Do you want to retire ASAP and live super frugally? Or retire later but more comfortably?

If you have kids, are you saving for their education?

(I’m of the mindset that you should save for your kids only once your own retirement plan is funded or on track. Don’t worry about your kids, steady your own money game first – I liken it to putting your mask on first when the airplane is going down.)


Every year at least. If not every 3 months.

What’s your investing strategy?

Money people seem to loosely fall into a two camps: Real estate investing (they become landlords with physical assets), or they invest in the stock market (all liquid).

You have variations in between where people mix things up, like have dividend stocks in addition to index funds to have a dividend income, but the majority of people fall into these two camps, for the most part for the majority of their investments.

You then need to assess a plan of how you’re going to reach your goals (see: retirement question).


Every 5 years or so.

You could run a few scenarios of FIRE timelines to see when you can retire based on what you’ve saved so far and are willing to save.

I really like this ProjectionLabs Retirement Calculator because it’s easy to manipulate.

As you get more advanced, you’ll need other numbers like your savings rate in %, or your personal finance score, but those numbers aren’t as necessary.

I have a tool that tracks this admirably well if I do say so myself, called The Wealth Building Tool that you can use in perpetuity (do not need to buy it over and over again, just once, and tracks over decades). You can find it on Etsy here.


  • A

    Hi Sherry,
    Thanks for this post, I’ve been tracking my networth for a few years now on monthly basis on a spreadsheet. I also invest a few times a year. My question is how do I know if the fluctuation is due to my savings (which a significant percentage is put into my investments) or if it’s due the value of my investment portoflio? I do think it’s my portfolio that’s causing this change at this point.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      The calculation would be to know how much you put into savings, which is usually shown as BOOK VALUE in your portfolio, versus MARKET VALUE which is what it is worth today.

      Put in $500, book value is $500
      Stocks go up to $1000, then your market value is $1000, and you’ve “made” $500 on paper.

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