May 2014 net worth update (+7.0%)

31-Dec-2013 30-Apr-2014 31-May-2014 MoM YTD
cash $13,500 $8,000 $7,500 -$500 -$6,000
savings $27,400 $22,300 $22,300 (same) -$5,100
investments $134,600 $148,000 $152,300 +$4,300
+2.9%
+$17,700
+13.2%
mortgage $187,600 $174,500 $153,000 +$21,500
+12.3%
+$34,600
+18.4%
net worth $345,900 $361,800 $387,100 +$25,300
+7.0%
+$41,200
+11.9%
liquid assets – debts $49,000 $36,700 $15,000 +$21,700
+59.1%
+$34,000
+69.4%
$ until FI $823,900 $890,600 $846,400 -$44,200
-5.0%
+$22,500
+2.7%

Finally an interesting month! May saw my first of two expected bonuses for the year. It was about 20% smaller than it was supposed to be (thanks stock market), which led me to get upset with myself for throwing a lot less at the mortgage than I had thought I would. But you know what? I threw more at my mortgage from my regular paycheck than I had planned on (almost double!) and I really can’t control how much my bonuses end up being – just what I do with them. I added the X% of my gross from the bonus to my donations budget and threw the rest of it at the mortgage – what else can I really do?

Now with this big jump, I’m looking at when I’ll surpass $400,000 in net worth – sometime between July and September most likely. And $500,000? Well that will most likely happen sometime next year, probably in the summer as well.

I decided to start tracking a new metric here: $ until FI. I’ve rounded the number to the nearest $100 like all of the other numbers. The formula I’m using is (Rolling monthly average expenses – Mortgage payment) x 12 months x 25 + Condo value – Current net worth. I thought it would be interesting to track this since it is not only affected by the current amount of money I’ve saved, but also by my current spending level. It is really strongly affected by small variations in spending. Some past numbers on this:

  • EOY 2010: $1,027,400 (average monthly spending $3,600)
  • EOY 2011: $856,500 (average monthly spending $3,300)
  • EOY 2012: $1,104,800 (average monthly spending: $4,220)
  • EOY 2013: $823,900 (average monthly spending: $3,730)

It sure has fluctuated a lot! So my number is definitely a bit of a moving target and definitely a ways away and I’m sure it’ll continue to change before I hit it, but it’s still interesting to see. If my spending this year ends up being exactly the same as last year, then I should lower the $ until FI marker by $100,000 to about $723,000 and if I lower the $ until FI marker by ~$100,000 each year, it should take me about 8.5 years to reach FI at my current spending.

Expenses: I spent $2,860 in May after the mortgage or $1,835 without it. So far, my total spending for 2014 is $19,880, which is $47,712 annualized (woo! the annualized figure is under $50,000!) To hit my $38,500 spending goal for the year, I need to spend no more than an average of $2,660/month over the remaining 7 months this year.

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • ($65) Summer pants – returned two of them. I’m so glad I ordered four because one of the colors I loved online, I didn’t love in person and vice versa with another pair.
  • $45 Skirts – a colorful, knee-length skirt
  • $91 Jewelry – since it is now summer and I’m not wearing scarfs like I do in the winter, I wanted some fun and cheap necklaces to use to accessorize. I bought three and my goal is to keep one or two and return the other(s). They were all 40% off at least!
  • $59 Running shoes. These need to be replaced every 6 months with how much I walk.
  • ($28) Tops – returned one of the button-downs I bought in April and bought another camisole.
  • [Total clothing spending in May: $102]
  • $235 Entertainment/Social – And we’re back to a more normal month for this year. [average this year: $229, last year: $224] This was about 80% date nights with a small amount going to cash withdrawals, a few movie rentals, and hanging out with friends.
  • $13 Eating out by myself [average this year: $12, last year: $25]
  • $327 Groceries – this was for two. [average this year: $245, last year: $152]
  • $176 Work lunches [average this year: $157, last year: $77]
  • $46 Internet – $7 less since I overpaid by $7 last month
  • $25 Household goods [average this year: $16, last year: $29] – I accidentally bought a four year supply of garbage bags. Go online shopping.
  • $77 Hair cuts – my annual hair cut.
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $0 Toiletries [average this year: $11, last year: $31] – This is lower because some of these items have been lumped into groceries since we’re splitting.
  • $290 Recreation: a yoga mat bag and a yogitoes yoga mat towel, plus a 10 pack of classes at a barre place near work that I’m liking so far. The yoga mat towel made a HUGE difference.
  • $30 Travel – preparation for an upcoming weekend trip

This month was reasonably average for spending, which was nice!

I would love to get my spending down closer to 2011 levels, but as I looked over the electricity bill I just got, I’m realizing that may not be completely possible, ignoring lifestyle inflation. For example, my property taxes and HOA dues went up a combined $900 this year.

Electricity rates are up about 7%, so even though I am using less electricity than I did last year, I’m paying more. In 2013, I spent $699.36 on electricity. If I take the amounts from the bills I have so far and otherwise project with last year’s usage and this year’s rates, I will end up spending $709.57 in 2014 on electricity. I used 8,702 kWh in 2013 and that forecasting shows about 8,361 to be used in 2014, about 4% fewer kWh used while spending about 1.5% more $-wise. I realize that the actual $ increase for electricity is pretty small, but it is still an increase and not a decrease, despite my efforts to reduce the kWh used.

Savings: $22,300 (same)

These funds are spread across a Chase savings account, a general online savings account, a checking account that gets free ATM fees anywhere in the world, and my health savings account.

I’ve decided to keep the Chase savings account open even though I could now close it with no penalty as it has come in handy a few times, for example to get a deposit rather than a statement credit for credit card rewards and then immediately send them to the mortgage. Plus, it is only the opportunity cost on $300, which at the Ally online savings account rates loses me $2.55/year.

Nothing interesting is going to happen here for a while…

Investments: $152,300 (up $4,300 or +2.9%)

This includes my Roth and Traditional 401(k), my 401(k) employer matching (fully vested!), my Roth IRA, my taxable investments including stock index funds and Series I Savings Bonds.

The change here comes from:

  1. Over $2,000 in stock market gains and interest (more than I put in this month!)
  2. April paycheck 401(k) contribution and employer matching

Mortgage: $153,000 (down $21,500 or -12.3%)

Some statistics here:

  • 2.5%: the interest rate on my 5/1 ARM
  • February 2018: when the interest rate on my mortgage is set to reset, possibly to 7.5%
  • 2.5: years of payments eliminated with this month’s pre-payments
  • $20,900.00: extra payments made on the mortgage this month (woo!)
  • $43.50: interest this month’s extra payments will save me on the next regular payment
  • 35.4%: portion of my regular payment went to interest (originally was 59%)
  • 57.3%: amount of equity in my condo, assuming purchase price
  • 46.5%: amount of the mortgage I’ve paid down

Now this was an interesting month for the mortgage! I threw pretty much all of my bonus at the mortgage (minus the X% of gross to my charitable donations budget). Doing so shaved off 2.5 years of mortgage payments, saved over $40 of June’s interest cost and got me only 3.5% or $10,000 away from having paid off 50% of the mortgage. I’m currently estimating that I will hit that marker around September.

I also found quite a bit of extra money in my checking account when I zeroed it out at the end of the month, which resulted in a $3,000 extra principal payment from my paycheck instead of the usual $1,800! That meant I saved ~72% of my regular net income this month, in addition to my bonus!

TOTAL: $387,100 (up $25,300 or +7.0%)

I ended 2013 with a net worth of $345,900, so I’ve seen a change of +$41,200 or +11.9% so far this year. I’ve set the y-axis on this graph to $465,000 so we can see how my net worth grows towards that throughout the year.

May 2014 Net Worth Graph

And let’s take a look at how I did on April’s goals:

  1. Find and buy a second skirt. (I’m currently eyeing eShakti.) DONE! I love it!
  2. Use my debit card for the small transactions – under $6 restaurants, under $15 2% cashback, and under $30 1% cashback. DONE! This was pretty easy to do. I finally came up with a simple way to track this. Since Barclaycard expanded their definition of “travel” costs, I’ve gone back to using that as my default credit card.
  3. Decide what to do about the new yoga studio. Do I want to buy a yoga towel or a better yoga mat? A better bag to make carrying my yoga mat to work and then to yoga easier? What I have now (an $8 yoga mat, no towel) is definitely not going to work if I want to keep going to hot yoga. DONE! I did buy a yoga mat towel and a bag and the towel has made things much better. I’m still having troubles with the heat, so I decided to try the barre studio by work for 10 classes to get into better shape and then try hot yoga again (with a 10 drop-in commitment).
  4. Enjoy spring! DONE! This one was far too easy.
  5. Trust my gut instincts more at work. I’m no longer a newbie and I do know more than I think I do. PASS! I’m definitely improving here, but now things are changing again a bit and figuring that out over the next few weeks is going to be interesting.
  6. Send $1,800 to the mortgage on pay day. SUCCESS! I actually sent $3,000 to the mortgage on pay day and I think I’ll end up sending another $100 with the regular June payment :)
  7. Add X% of the gross of my bonus to my donations budget and send the rest of it to the mortgage. I am super excited about how my finances will look at the end of May! DONE! My donations budget is at last pretty much in the clear and I’ll probably make my next donation in August since I’m trying to make at least $100 of a donation at a time.
  8. Clean the balcony. PASS! We cleaned part of it?
  9. Call my parents four times. (I’ve been lacking on this lately.) PASS! I think I might have called them four times. Definitely at least twice.

Apparently I should make harder goals! Now for some new goals for June:

  1. Go to the barre place by work twice per week before/after work.
  2. Commit to some form of exercise each weekend day, any of: a) 30-60 minute walk, b) 45 minute run, c) any distance/length of bike riding, d) going to a morning class at the yoga studio near my place (three time choices!), or e) doing some sit-ups and push-ups at home. Log it in Google Calendar too.
  3. Send $2,000 to the mortgage on pay day.
  4. Keep my total spending (including the mortgage!) under $2,400. This should be do-able, especially since I don’t have to pay for groceries.
  5. Enjoy the first of our summer weekend getaways!

,

17 Comments

Re-thinking the mortgage payoff plan

Sometimes, I don’t feel like making big payments to the mortgage and I would rather throw the money into investments. I mean, my interest rate is only 2.5% and the balance is a lot less scary now that it is down in the $150,000 range from the $280,000 range when I bought two years ago. For now, I am going to continue with the plan of paying off the mortgage. There’s no rhyme or reason to my wanting to throw money in investments instead of at the mortgage, so it’s probably just fatigue from working on a medium-term goal. Or maybe it’s a desire to see my investments go up faster instead of seeing the mortgage go down faster. I think I’m more motivated by seeing numbers go up than numbers go down! (Hmmm, if that’s the case, perhaps I should track my equity instead of tracking the mortgage balance. Well, I do both in my own spreadsheets.)

Every once in a while, I calculate how much extra I would need to pay on the mortgage each month in order to pay it off exactly before the rate resets. As of today, that number is around $2,700 and I’m only throwing $1,800 each month at the mortgage. By the end of this year, the required number should turn into only $2,200, which might be possible. And by the time of my bonus at this time next year, it should be down to around $1,600 and the mortgage balance around $80,000. So the question at that point becomes “Would I rather take a year to pay off the mortgage and put nothing into investments in that time OR pay off the mortgage exactly before the rate resets and put everything else into investments in that time?”

I’m not going to let myself re-evaluate how much I’m throwing at the mortgage until I have reached a point where I am throwing more at the mortgage each month from my paychecks than I need to to pay off the mortgage before the rate resets, since I don’t want to rely on my bonuses. After all, my original goal WAS to pay off the mortgage before the rate resets. It just turned out to possibly be possible to pay it off months/years before that happened.

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My relationship with my electricity bill

Ever since I moved into my condo (almost two years ago!), I have had a love/hate relationship with my electricity bill. My July and September 2012 bills don’t really contribute much data-wise and I should probably just throw out the 2012 data points from my spreadsheet completely. The electricity usage was truly mine starting with the January 2013 bill. As you can see below, I used about 5 kWh/day less this year than I did in 2013 on the January and March bills. I also basically cut my usage in half from March to May, May to July, and July to September.

May 2014 Electricity kWh Per Day Graph

I still think I can improve my electricity usage, so I’m going to take a look at all of the items that use electricity in my home.

TiVo – my boyfriend has a different system for watching TV that uses a lot less electricity, so I’ve unplugged the TiVo. That should save about 0.7 kWh/day from what I’ve seen online.

Heating - this is the killer of my winter electricity bills. I can’t really do anything about the fact that I have electric heating, but I can make that a bit more efficient. I figured out in March that my programmable thermostats were from the 80s, so I decided to replace them. That cost about $100 for the two of them, but it has been so worth it for the annoyance factor with the old ones. They also seem to interpret the temperature better, so maybe it will save a small amount on heating. I won’t really see much difference until next November/January on this though.

Hot water heater - my hot water heater is incredibly inefficient according to the label on it. Its about 8 years old, so it’ll probably be replaced in the next five years. It says that it uses 4,881 kWh/year. If that’s true, that would account for about 55% of my electricity usage in 2013.

Lights - there are a TON of lights in my place. I have fifteen 65 watt incandescents (8 in the kitchen, 4 in the hallway, 1 in the second bedroom, and 2 in the master bedroom/bathroom), a 72 watt incandescent on the balcony, and twelve 60 watt incandescents throughout the apartment. I do have about 5 CFLs as well. That’s over 30 lights throughout the condo. The kitchen lights probably spend the most amount of time on, so once I run through my current supply of the flood lights (four spares left), I’m going to look at CFLs and LEDs.

I found a 10.5 watt LED light for $20 on Amazon and a 15 watt CFL for $6. They’re actually about the same overall cost since the LED one lasts 3x as long. I doubt I will still be living in my condo in 20 years though! The LED one would cost me $0.54 less per year in electricity per light bulb over the CFL, assuming 3 hours per day and 11 cents per kWh. The CFL would save me $6/year per light bulb and it would be cost effective within a year ($6 in electricity savings and $6 cost per CFL light bulb). If I replaced all 15 of the indoor flood lights with CFLs, it would save $90 in electricity per year or an average of $15 per bill, though it would take until after the first year to see any level of savings. That’s a pretty decent chunk of change. My estimate is that I will use up the remaining four flood lights in the next 6-12 months and then I’ll buy a LED and a CFL and give them a try.

Fridge – my fridge is about 18 years old. It would probably cost less in electricity to run a newer one, but that’s not worth buying a new fridge for. I am sure that once I do replace it (which will probably be in the next five years), I will save a bit on the electricity bill from it.

I’ve made pretty minor improvements on my electricity bill in the last two years, but I’ve been happy with the progress and it’s kind of interesting to see. I just wish I had more data on this!

Sometimes it makes me feel like analyzing costs like this doesn’t mean much or isn’t particularly worthwhile when my employer’s stock price can drop enough that my bonus is several thousand dollars smaller than expected and that has a far bigger impact on my finances than saving $6 per lightbulb per year on my electricity bill.

Hope you all have a wonderful long weekend!

12 Comments

2014 vs 2011 – finances three years into blogging

WordPress tells me that I have been blogging for three years as of today! I thought it would be fun to take a look at where my finances then :) At the end of April 2011, my net worth was $72,871.59 and I was 22 years old. Here’s how that broke down:

  • Checking accounts and foreign cash: $13,808.19 (now $7,964.73)
  • General savings: $17,170.19 (this is what other people would call an emergency fund, but I’ve always called it general savings) (now $20,949.23 since my expenses are a bit higher)
  • Down payment savings: $10,379.65 (cleared out – I now own a condo!)
  • Car savings: $6,213.45 (cleared out – I bought my car! I can’t believe I have had it for almost 4 years. It’s still practically new.)
  • Car loan: $5,902.60 (my parents advised me to take out a car loan and auto-pay it out of a savings account to build up credit. I took out a 12 month loan that had had almost $900/month payments, which my parents thought was crazy, but I didn’t see any reason to pay on the loan for much longer than I needed to. I will just pay cash for any future cars now that I have credit history.) (paid off after 12 months exactly)
  • Traditional 401(k): $5,524.06 (now just over $77,000 – higher than my entire net worth three years ago!)
  • Roth 401(k): $2,048.32 (now around $5,500)
  • Roth IRA: $10,620.79 (now just over $30,000!)
  • Other retirement: $7,361.38 (now just over $8,000)
  • Taxable investments: $5,648.16 (this was about ~$3,000 in a bond fund at Vanguard and the rest was my first batch of RSUs from my employer that I kept)
  • Total: $72,871.59

Isn’t that cute? I hadn’t gotten into the habit of contributing the maximum to my 401(k) yet (2011 was the first year that I did and I decided to do that a few months into the year). I first contributed to a Roth IRA in 2010 and I started contributing monthly in 2011 before getting a bonus a few months into the year and finishing off the full contribution.

My overall net worth is about 4x higher three years later! I now own about 50% of a condo and my investments are up from $31,202.71 to $148,000, up almost 5x.

My expenses are pretty comparable to where they were in 2011. My expenses in 2013 versus 2011 was a difference of about $440/month, about $200/month of which is from increased housing expenses.

I know what I’m doing with my finances a lot more now than I did in 2011, which was part of why I started my blog. I feel like I have a plan with my finances and no longer wonder what I’ll do month-to-month with my savings since I’m just following my plan. It makes things pretty simple. It probably helps too that my life situation has been reasonably stable over the last couple of years, since I bought my condo in June 2012. I think that the next three years will bring new and exciting changes to my finances as I get closer to 30.

I think that in April 2017, my net worth will have doubled from April 2014, as will have my investments and my condo will be paid off. Maybe I will be trying to figure out joint finances at some point in the next three years with my boyfriend. Maybe I would sell my condo and we would buy a place together. A lot will probably happen in the next few years! Maybe between the two of us, we could be millionaires in the next three years :)

Readers, how have your finances improved over the last three years? How do you see them changing in the next three years?

27 Comments

April 2014 net worth update (+1.2%)

31-Dec-2013 31-Mar-2014 30-Apr-2014 MoM YTD
cash $13,500 $8,800 $8,000 -$800 -$5,500
savings $27,400 $22,100 $22,300 +$200 -$5,100
investments $134,600 $145,600 $148,000 +$2,300
+1.6%
+$13,400
+10.0%
mortgage $187,600 $177,000 $174,500 +$2,500
+1.4%
+$15,900
+7.0%
net worth $345,900 $357,500 $361,800 +$4,200
+1.2%
+$15,900
+4.6%
assets – debts
(gap)
$12,100 $500 $3,800 +$4,200
+1050.0%
+$15,900
+131.4%
liquid assets – debts $49,000 $39,900 $36,700 $3,200
+8.0%
$12,300
+25.1%

April was pretty much exactly the same increase as March in terms of savings, investments, and mortgage. My total monetary assets are now worth more than my mortgage! That’s pretty exciting. I’m now tracking the difference between my liquid assets and my mortgage, which should become a positive number sometime this summer.

I saved 59% of my net income in April! I’ve been a bit disappointed with that after the last half of 2013 where I was spending far over $2,000 extra to the mortgage each month. But, my net discretionary income is down a bit this year due to a variety of factors and unless I want to reduce some spending, that is the number that I’m going to have to live with for now.

Expenses: I spent $4,330 in April after the mortgage or $3,300 without it. So far, my total spending for 2014 is $17,020, which is $51,060 annualized. To hit my $38,500 spending goal for the year, I need to spend no more than an average of $2,685/month over the remaining 8 months this year.

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • $100 Athletic wear – a new pair of yoga crops and a new tank top
  • ($232) Jeans – returned two from last month
  • $33 Skirts – a black maxi skirt
  • $131 Summer pants – four pairs via online shopping. I’ll pick two of the colors and return the other two.
  • $56 Bras
  • $37 Socks – turned out that almost all of mine had holes in them, so I threw out a ton and bought some more.
  • $201 Tops – 4 v-neck t-shirts, two long-sleeved v-necks, two white camisoles (mine needed replacing), two button-down shirts, and a grey cardigan (mine needed replacing). I’m still not fully decided on the button-downs, but I still have some time to return them.
  • $16 Underwear – stocking up some more.
  • (Yes, that was $342 on just clothing/shoes this month.)
  • $158 Entertainment/Social – And we’re back to a more normal month for this year. [average this year: $223, last year: $224] This was about half eating out with friends / half date nights.
  • $16 Eating out by myself [average this year: $12, last year: $25]
  • $48 Groceries – this was mostly chocolate, some of my online grocery purchases, and random items [average this year: $225, last year: $152] I’ll pay next month for two.
  • $179 Work lunches [average this year: $155, last year: $77] – That isn’t too bad of an increase from last year given that I’ve been eating out every day.
  • $60 Internet – Accidentally overpaid by $7.
  • $170 Electricity – this is for February/March
  • $0 Household goods [average this year: $14, last year: $29]
  • Property taxes – first half
  • $51 Medical bills
  • $40 Eyebrows
  • $33 Toiletries [average this year: $14, last year: $31]
  • $134 Recreation (one barre class and one month at a new yoga studio that I’m liking so far)
  • $57 Furnishings: upgrading the other thermostat

I foresee myself buying another sports bra ($60), a new pair of running shoes ($100), another skirt ($70), and two more workout tank tops ($40-100), for a total of $270-330 of further clothing spending this year. We’ll see how that actually plays out. As of November, none of my jeans, pants, or skirts fit anymore. I have some that are up to 8 years old and they don’t fit. I’m trying to only buy two items of my new size in each type, but it still does add up a bit. I’m counting the first two items as a need and anything further as a want. (A new pair of running shoes per year is also a need based on how much I use them – I probably walk about 2,000 miles per year.)

Savings: $22,300 (up $200)

These funds are spread across a Chase savings account, a general online savings account, a checking account that gets free ATM fees anywhere in the world, and my health savings account.

The change here comes from:

  1. Paycheck contributions to my health savings account (March)

I’ve decided to keep the Chase savings account open even though I could now close it with no penalty as it has come in handy a few times, for example to get a deposit rather than a statement credit for credit card rewards and then immediately send them to the mortgage. Plus, it is only the opportunity cost on $300, which at the Ally online savings account rates loses me $2.55/year.

Investments: $148,000 (up $2,300 or +1.6%)

This includes my Roth and Traditional 401(k), my 401(k) employer matching (fully vested!), my Roth IRA, my taxable investments including stock index funds and Series I Savings Bonds.

The change here comes from:

  1. ~$600 in stock market gains and interest
  2. March paycheck 401(k) contribution and employer matching

Mortgage: $174,500 (down $2,500 or -1.4%)

Some statistics here:

  • 2.5%: the interest rate on my 5/1 ARM
  • February 2018: when the interest rate on my mortgage is set to reset, possibly to 7.5%
  • 3: months of payments eliminated with this month’s pre-payments
  • $1,800.00: extra payments made on the mortgage this month
  • $3.75: interest this month’s extra payments will save me on the next regular payment
  • 35.6%: portion of my regular payment went to interest (originally was 59%)
  • 51.2%: amount of equity in my condo, assuming purchase price
  • 39.0%: amount of the mortgage I’ve paid down

Just plugging along here this month.

TOTAL: $361,800 (up $4,200 or +1.2%)

I ended 2013 with a net worth of $345,900, so I’ve seen a change of +$15,900 or +4.6% so far this year. I’ve set the y-axis on this graph to $465,000 so we can see how my net worth grows towards that throughout the year.

April 2014 Net Worth Graph

And let’s take a look at how I did on April’s goals:

  1. Only use the Chase Sapphire Preferred visa for spending until I’ve spent the remaining $868.33. (Once I’ve hit that amount, put my Amazon.com purchases back on auto-pay to the Amazon.com visa, use the Chase Freedom for the 5% restaurants, and use the Barclaycard for everything else. Move any auto-pays from the Chase Sapphire Preferred to the Barclaycard.) SUCCESS! All done with the churning. I think I’ve had enough of that for a bit!
  2. Try biking to work on the nice days. This should cut my commute about in half. FAIL! I did this once and then started going to yoga after work and this didn’t happen again.
  3. Send $1,800 to the mortgage on pay day. SUCCESS! I sent exactly $1,800 to the mortgage on pay day.
  4. Be more realistic about my productivity possibilities at work if I have a lot of meetings on a particular day. SUCCESS! I definitely think I got better at this.
  5. Work on Operation Penguin* with my boyfriend. (*code name has nothing to do with what it actually is) SUCCESS! I’m still not revealing what it is, but it is done.

Now for some new goals for May:

  1. Find and buy a second skirt. (I’m currently eyeing eShakti.)
  2. Use my debit card for the small transactions – under $6 restaurants, under $15 2% cashback, and under $30 1% cashback.
  3. Decide what to do about the new yoga studio. Do I want to buy a yoga towel or a better yoga mat? A better bag to make carrying my yoga mat to work and then to yoga easier? What I have now (an $8 yoga mat, no towel) is definitely not going to work if I want to keep going to hot yoga.
  4. Enjoy spring!
  5. Trust my gut instincts more at work. I’m no longer a newbie and I do know more than I think I do.
  6. Send $1,800 to the mortgage on pay day.
  7. Add X% of the gross of my bonus to my donations budget and send the rest of it to the mortgage. I am super excited about how my finances will look at the end of May!
  8. Clean the balcony.
  9. Call my parents four times. (I’ve been lacking on this lately.)

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I don’t like churning credit cards.

In general, I don’t like like doing things right up until a deadline. I like finishing things as early in advance as possible.

I’m also not a keep things super simple person. I tend to make things more complicated than other people might, but I like that game. So the game of finding the best rewards credit cards for my level of spending is pretty fun. So is researching new credit cards that could be cool. But actually implementing that? Apparently I don’t like that very much. I don’t like watching the numbers to see if I’ve finally spent enough to get the sign-up bonus for a new credit card or waiting a long time to be able to actually redeem new rewards.

Churning the Barclaycard World Arrival card was pretty easy because I used it to pay for a trip and that one expense was over the $1,000 minimum spend. Similar story with the Chase Freedom card except it took two purchases (some medical bills and the painters).

But the Chase Sapphire Preferred? As much as the card is pretty cool looking and the Ultimate Rewards are kind of cool, the whole thing is way too complicated for me to really enjoy implementing. It was/is a $3,000 minimum spend in 3 months and that’s cutting it pretty tight with my normal spending. I think I should be done with it by the end of this month. I finally made myself a spreadsheet to project when I would have hit the $3,000 minimum spend and it should happen in the next 3 weeks.

I don’t really mind having 1-3 credit cards in my wallet and thinking about which one to use, especially since it’s not that complicated to figure out which one to use in a particular case, but the wondering when I’ll hit the minimum spend on a card is way too much for me. The fun part is in finding the cards and doing the math on them, not actually going through the daily spending with them. That’s just life.

So here’s what my plan looks like now:

  1. Finish up the $3,000 spend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
  2. Don’t churn any more credit cards in the future unless I can project with certainty that I can very easily meet the minimum spend for a card in 1-1.5 months.
  3. Go back to using the Amazon.com visa for those purchases (doesn’t need to go in my wallet – just auto-pay) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for online shopping through the Ultimate Rewards mall. Use the Chase Freedom visa for restaurants this quarter. Use the Barclaycard Arrival card for all purchases until I can redeem the miles I have left against a travel purchase ($253 more in spending).
  4. Once I’ve redeemed all the miles I have left on my Barclaycard account, use my Fidelity American Express for everything again, except where they don’t take American Express, use one of my other cards, doesn’t really matter which. I’ll set my electricity bill to auto-pay on my credit union visa though to keep that active.
  5. Downgrade the Barclaycard before the annual fee hits to keep the free FICO score feature. Close the Chase Sapphire Preferred card once I redeem the 60k+ points for a flight this year.

Sometimes I make plans and then don’t do a very good job of sticking to them because there are way too many possible plans that seem way more exciting than the ‘boring’ plan I had. This has been one of those times. I’m honestly surprised that I have stuck with the mortgage pay-off for so long and not switched to investing instead. (Well I did try that a couple months and then went back to the mortgage.)

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Q1 2014 Update: Life and Finances

I’ve been pretty silent on this blog so far this year.

I spent most of my energy in the first quarter on work, getting involved in my new job and ramping up. Things are definitely going a lot smoother now and I no longer feel so new – a great feeling! After work, my energy went to cooking with my boyfriend. We’re still tweaking that, but we’ve definitely gotten to a really awesome place with our cooking! And I think we should settle in at around $300-350/month on groceries, which makes me feel a lot better than the first month’s $500.

The second quarter is going to be about finding myself again: getting back to the gym and finding myself (and us) a good routine. I paid for an annual unlimited membership at a gym in December. It’s an amazing gym: fitness and yoga classes, a full gym, and more for a pretty reasonable price. The caveat? It’s a 10 (ZERO traffic) to 35 minute drive, or about 25-30 minutes on average, and it’s always impossible to find parking. So sure, it’s a reasonable price and awesome once you get there and parked, but it’s not super convenient, so once I fell out of my gym routine with my injury in September, I just never got back into my routine. Now, I don’t think it’ll be a complete waste by the end of the year as its effective cost will probably come out close to buying punch cards throughout the year, but it’s still a good lesson.

Fitness

So, my project for this quarter is to re-acquire a fitness routine. I walk to/from work, which gives me about 5 miles of exercise per day, but that’s not enough for me to de-stress from work. I could never have a drive commute – even a bus commute stresses me out. I’m not good at motivating myself unless I have a commitment to a specific time / people, so running only works when I’m meeting friends, which leaves me with fitness classes. I identified several yoga studios and alternative fitness classes such as barre and cycling that are convenient to both work and home and have been trying them out. So far, I’ve tried one barre place, am on a week at a yoga place, and want to try out one more barre place. The first barre place I tried, though convenient to both work and home, wasn’t very me as it was super women-marketed. It’s still not bad for a weekend workout, but I’m hopeful that the barre place close to work will fit me better, though I wish it had yoga as well because then it would be basically perfect! I’m really loving this yoga studio I found!

You know what I hate about fitness places? Trying to decide which membership ‘package’ to buy! Do you buy a month? Three months? Monthly renewal? Annual renewal? 5? 10? 15? 20 class punch card? There are way too many options. Most places have a free session or week or some period of time, which is really great for seeing if it works for you without having to put up any money up front. The way I’ve always looked at these in the past is buying a membership equivalent to how long I want to commit to doing this thing.

Punch card at a place I feel like my friends will drag me back to once a week for a while and the punch card never expires? Go for it!

A place where I don’t know when I’ll return? A single visit.

A place where I feel like I can commit to going enough in the next month for it to be worth it over the longest punch card? Buy one month.

Oh, I enjoyed the first month? Maybe I’ll buy another month or three (depending on the place). After doing that for a few months, re-evaluate the commitment again and maybe buy a year.

It’s much easier to do make this evaluation when you’re just looking at one gym too. If you’re looking at multiple, a punch card is often the easiest commitment. By the end of this month, I’ll be looking at what I want to do going forward after evaluating all of these places.

Where is the budget coming from for these new fitness plans? I have been setting money aside each month to pay for an annual membership in December at my “old” gym aka sport #2, so there is $219 stashed there. There is also $199.76 stashed for sport #3 that I probably won’t end up doing this year. I also have $235 stashed for sports tournaments and with the injury last fall, I didn’t actually play in any! Lastly, I have $134.39 set aside for equipment because I’d been planning on buying something for sport #3 and some maintenance costs for sport #2. So I should be able to re-allocate that $788.15 somehow!

Finances

Okay, now back to what this was supposed to be…my first quarter financial update! So finances consist of income, saving, giving, and spending.

Income

I don’t have any bonuses in first quarter this year, so income chugged along as expected this quarter. I don’t know yet if I will get a raise this year or what it will be, but that would go into effect in April. I’m actually pretty convinced at this point that I will get no raise. Thankfully my bonuses are from prior year reviews and I only live off of about half of my regular pay, so the possibility of not getting a bonus won’t hit me very hard either.

I’ve had some troubles getting my W-2 allowances just right, but that’s always a work in progress, isn’t it?

I’ve been doing pretty well with credit card rewards so far. Between the Barclaycard Arrival bonus and the regular cashback rewards, I saw over $700 in credit card rewards in the first quarter. The Chase Freedom and Sapphire Preferred bonuses should hit next quarter, but things will probably slow down in that department for the rest of the year.

Saving

This is the easy part! In Q1, I saved 61% of my net pay.

My 401(k) contributions have been chugging along, as expected. Since I no longer have a high-deductible health insurance plan as of my April paycheck, I’m going to redirect part of that money to my 401(k) each month to max it out a little bit by the end of November instead of December.

I finished maxing out my Health Savings Account for the prior plan year and there’s a nice balance in there that I can still use for health expenses that I have to pay out of pocket!

I made my 2014 Backdoor Roth IRA contribution on January 2nd, so that is done already! I’m unsure about when I will do the 2015 contribution – I may wait until the mortgage is paid off, so I likely won’t set aside money to do that this year.

I’ve also been paying down the mortgage. So far this year, I’ve paid down $10,575.54, which is about 3.7% of the original mortgage balance. I can’t wait for my next bonus to hit – that’ll make a much bigger dent in the mortgage than I’ve been making so far with my regular paychecks.

Giving

I’ve never been very good at finding causes that I want to donate my money to. In December of last year, after a discussion on the comments on a post at nicoleandmaggie, I made a rash of extra donations. And this year, I am making a conscious effort to donate X% of my income. I’m sure that X% is a lot less than other people might do so in my situation, but I felt like it was a reasonable improvement over where I was. It’s kind of fun researching causes and donating larger chunks of money than what I was doing before too!

Spending

So, spending. I’ve spent a lot more this quarter than I had originally intended.

2014 Q1 Spending

I wasn’t expecting it to quite add up to $1,700 over my estimate. Oops! Some excuses/explanations:

  • Clothing: this was mostly because I found myself with very few items of clothing that fit in certain areas. There were some returns already in Q2, so this should look a little better at the end of Q2.
  • Woo for coming in basically right on on entertainment! Same with personal care!
  • On Food, I did really well on eating out by myself. We’re doing better with groceries now, so we’re going to alternate months instead of reconciling at the end, which means I’ll only have to pay one month next quarter. I have been eating out for lunch every day at work this year, which is part of why this is so high. I’m okay with that decision for now.
  • Housing is a bit under because I’ll pay property taxes next quarter and ‘household goods’ spending has been mostly squashed into groceries with the joint spending. I spent more on internet and electricity than estimated, but that should even out a bit more next quarter. And my mortgage payments and HOA dues were right on par. My property taxes did go up more than expected, so that will show up in next quarter’s report.
  • Medical – I estimated only spending on premiums. Oops – I forgot about bills from the injury in the fall.
  • Recreation – I spent nothing in Q1. There will definitely be more spending here in Q2.
  • Shopping – this one was a killer. I only budgeted for the closets and painting. I didn’t plan on repairing my laptop or buying a new case for my cell phone, but those at least came out of some building up line items. I didn’t plan on any of the general furnishings I bought or sales taxes on the painting estimate. Those all added up to almost $500, oops.
  • Transportation – this was awesome! I bought one tank of gas and paid some toll bills. I’m working on trying to lower my insurance costs so I don’t have a $1,360 cost come Q3. I think I might have found an insurance company that should cut that in half!
  • Travel – annual estimate was $4,000. I don’t anticipate going over $4,000 total for the year, so it should work out okay.

There you have it – I went over my estimate by an average of $600/month in Q1. I don’t feel bad about any of the spending. Q2 should be better – my estimate for now is that I’ll come in under $10,000 for the quarter.

Readers, how was your first quarter of 2014?

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