Reflecting on My Spending and Values for the New Year

Tiller is more than a tool to help me budget or track spending –  in a sense, it’s a journal that helps me track life changes.

We’ve turned the corner on a new year and I’m jazzed up about diving into my Tiller spreadsheet to see what insights it has to offer.

I’ve been working at and using Tiller personally since 2015 so I’ve got a ton of data to paint a picture of how my life has changed over the last 7 years. 

I don’t dive into my data on New Year’s day. I try to spend the last and first day of the year outside, in nature, but I do get around to it in the first couple of weeks. I personally don’t set new year’s resolutions around money, but rather review my Foundation Template budget spreadsheet to see where things have shifted and reflect on why.

I then usually spend some time reflecting on what other shifts I’d like to see happen in the year ahead. 

mnt sassafrass
View from atop Sassafras Mountain in SC/NC on New Year’s Day.

My process generally begins with updating my yearly pivot table.

This help article outlines the basics of making a pivot table. I review the filters I might have set up on categories to make sure I’ve got any new categories I might have added throughout the year included in the pivot table. I copy and paste that pivot table into a separate sheet, add some columns to show the change year over year, and then reflect. 

This year I decided to go a step further and simplify my spending categories. My list was getting a bit out of hand, and I wasn’t really gaining extra insight by having those extra granular categories.

If I really want to see extra granularity, I can use a tag on the Transaction and then use the Tiller Community Tags Report to drill down further. 

I didn’t want to lose my historical budget info for categories I was consolidating, so I made sure to update the historical budget totals in the new category to include others I was rolling into that new category.

For example, I consolidated my Yoga and Climbing Gym category into Gym/Yoga. All my old budget targets from Yoga got added to the monthly budget total for the climbing gym category, which I just overwrote as Gym/Yoga. 

Next, I needed to update all my historical transactions for “Yoga” and “Climbing Gym” to be just Gym/Yoga. I use the built-in features of Google Sheets to filter and sort my Transactions sheet to show me these then just quickly copy/paste the new category into each transaction.

Last, updates my AutoCat rules to use the new categories. This whole clean-up process for about 15 categories took maybe 45-60 minutes.

I prefer this slower method because I’m closely reviewing everything, but you could speed it up by using the Tiller Community Solutions Rename Category tool or a simple Find & Replace.

My annual analysis sheet

Once I was settled on a streamlined category list and cleaned up my data I started polishing my annual analysis sheet that’s showing me the last 5 years of spending and income plus my annual cash flow. 


I exclude transfers, including those to long-term savings like an IRA or other retirement account, and credit card payments in the analysis because that’s just money moving between accounts. 

A journal that helps me track life changes

For me, Tiller is not just there to help me budget or keep track of my money, in a sense, it’s a journal that helps me keep track of changes in my life and how they’re reflected in my money and my spending.

Even before joining the Tiller team, I was growing more and more eager to align my spending and income with my values. To vote more consciously with my dollars.

The story is clear in my spending as the years have passed. I also see how COVID affected my spending and my habits. 

Here are a few insights I’ve gained from this year’s deep dive.

  • Over the last five years, I’ve increased spending on my health and wellness. This reflects my commitment to self-care and mental health. 
  • My annual spending on rent has increased after making the decision to live on my own in late 2020 vs having roommates. This was a big relief for my mental health. 
  • I spent way less overall in 2020 as a result of COVID but saw an increase in spending on adventure gear. Being outdoors is another form of self-care for me and it was the only safe way to gather with people in 2020.
  • I decided to buy a Prius at the end of 2021. I had been driving the same VW Jetta since early 2011 and the maintenance costs were never-ending. I bought a used 2019 Prius just before gas prices skyrocketed and my Jetta needed premium gas so I’ve saved a TON on gas and repairs in 2022. 
  • I increased spending on environmental stewardship. I haven’t been able to volunteer as much time in this space as I used to, so it was important to put money toward it instead. I transitioned my primary bank to Aspiration and enrolled in their Aspiration Plus program so all the carbon from my fuel is offset and they allow me to automatically round up each transaction, which funds reforestation projects. I also started buying carbon credits to offset any flights, but generally, I try not to fly and keep my adventures local. I make a monthly donation to the Nature Conservancy as well, which I track differently than “stewardship” for tax purposes. 
  • I’ve decreased my restaurant spending by cooking at home more. Most of this was instigated by COVID, but I feel healthier knowing that my meals are made by me from high quality mostly organic ingredients. 
  • I share my abundance. I am so fortunate to have a stable income and financial security. I share that with my friends and family in the form of physical and monetary gifts. I believe that generosity only creates more abundance. 
  • I bought a camper in 2022 to move forward with some longer-term dreams and goals I have, and this will enable me to take some big steps I’m excited about in 2023.  

All in all 2022 was a cash flow-positive year

Every year for the last 5 years has been cash flow positive. On average over the last five years, I’ve saved around $11,000 and that’s not including money transferred to investment accounts.

A steadily increasing income and no debt (until the loan for my Prius) plus keeping a close eye on my spending with Tiller has made this possible. 

I’d love to see 2023 be a positive increase over 2022, but so long as I’m spending in line with my values and I’m setting aside a reasonable amount toward long-term investments, I’ll feel good. 

I keep track of my net worth and investments in a separate Tiller-powered spreadsheet. I don’t like to pay too close attention to my long-term investments, especially in these fickle economic times. I do hope to continue building my investment knowledge to see greater returns over the long haul. 

There’s nothing from my 2022 spending that I feel I need to make dramatic shifts on, though I do hope to have fewer doctor’s visits! 

I hope this has been helpful for your own spending insight analysis with Tiller. Feel free to reply via the community to ask questions or share feedback. 

Cheers to the year ahead! 


Heather Phillips

Heather Phillips

Heather comes from a background of user experience design & customer support. She loves helping others learn, explore and discover better ways to use applications and products that improve their lives. When she’s not coaching customers on Tiller best practices, tweeting or writing blogs, she’s probably at a yoga class, out for a hike in the Blue Ridge, or off volunteering for a variety of non-profits.

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