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?

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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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March 2014 net worth update (+1.7%)

31-Dec-2013 28-Feb-2014 31-Mar-2014 MoM YTD
cash $13,500 $8,000 $8,800 +$800 -$4,700
savings $27,400 $21,800 $22,100 +$300 -$5,300
investments $134,600 $143,400 $145,600 +$2,200
+1.5%
+$11,000
+8.2%
mortgage $187,600 $179,600 $177,000 +$2,600
+1.4%
+$10,600
+5.7%
net worth $345,900 $351,600 $357,500 +$5,900
+1.7%
+$11,600
+3.4%
assets – debts
(gap)
$12,100 $6,800 $500 +$5,900
+92.2%
+$11,600
+95.9%

March was a pretty average month, financially. Spending was average. Extra mortgage payments were average. One 401(k) contribution and one HSA contribution posted. My investments went up by a modest 0.3%.  I was pretty close to having my total assets be greater than my debts this month. Once that happens, I’ll start tracking the difference between my liquid assets and my debts!

Other than one hell week at work, March was pretty awesome life-wise. My boyfriend and I had a great trip! It was so nice to have an entire week together, no schedules, no cooking, no work, just us. I read quite a few books and we spent time talking about life, the future, more trips, and everything in between.

I saved 59% of my net income this month! That’s about par for the course. I’ve been fidgeting with my W-4 form a bit to get the income taxes evened out throughout the year. This means that I’m paying taxes I should be paying with my bonus with my regular income, but it all will work out in the end.

Expenses: I spent $3,200 in March after the mortgage or $2,170 without it. So far, my total spending for 2014 is $12,690, which is $50,760 annualized. To hit my $38,500 spending goal for the year, I need to spend no more than an average of $2,868/month over the remaining 9 months this year.

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • $69 Athletic wear – bought some new pants as I grew hips.
  • $338 Jeans – four pairs. I’ll be returning two of them as I don’t really like the color, so the real cost was $106.
  • $269 Bras
  • ($54) Shoes – I returned two pairs for a credit of $113 and bought one new pair once I decided on the style I liked :)
  • (Yes, that was just $623 on clothing/shoes this month.)
  • $530 Entertainment/Social – Hah, I jinxed it by saying this has dropped a lot lately. [average this year: $245, last year: $224] Where did this all go this month? 15% cash withdrawals / 3% books on vacation / 63% date nights / 11% meals with friends / 7% annual Pandora subscription / <1% printing photos from our trip. One of the items under date nights was buying season tickets for the 2014-2015 season for something local :) exciting!!!
  • $9 Eating out by myself [average this year: $11, last year: $25]
  • $328 Groceries – this is for two. So far, we’ve been reconciling at the end of each month, but we decided to try alternating months paying now that we’ve improved our grocery spending. That means that my April grocery spending should be really low ;) [average this year: $285, last year: $152]
  • $135 Work lunches [average this year: $147, last year: $77] – That isn’t too bad of an increase from last year given that I’ve been eating out every day.
  • $53 Internet
  • $0 Household goods [average this year: $18, last year: $29]
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $0 Toiletries [average this year: $8, last year: $31]
  • $2 Fitbit batteries
  • $200 Furnishings: upgrading one of the programmable thermostats, a picture frame for some of the photos I printed of my boyfriend and I, a pizza stone, and a new plant for the balcony complete with planter and soil
  • $197 Travel: incidental costs from our trip. We didn’t really track how we were splitting things since we’d already split the hotel and flights, but I’m pretty sure our spending was fairly close.

Savings: $22,200 (up $300)

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 (February)
  2. My medical bills being low enough now that the health savings account will just grow by $300/month for the next few months.

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: $145,600 (up $2,200 or +1.5%)

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. ~$500 in stock market gains and interest
  2. February paycheck 401(k) contribution and employer matching

Mortgage: $177,000 (down $2,600 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
  • $1,960.74: extra payments made on the mortgage this month
  • $4.08: interest this month’s extra payments will save me on the next regular payment
  • 36.4%: portion of my regular payment went to interest (originally was 59%)
  • 50.5%: amount of equity in my condo, assuming purchase price
  • 38.1%: amount of the mortgage I’ve paid down

YOU GUYS! I now own over 50% of my condo! It really feels like these $2,000 chunks aren’t making much of a dent in the mortgage. Soon it’ll be bonus time though and that’ll make a good dent in it ;)

On the craziness of the real estate market note, a slightly smaller two bedroom condo on my street sold in March for $50,000 more than what I paid for my place two years ago. That would cover my estimate of closing costs plus about $20,000 if I were to sell.

TOTAL: $357,500 (up $5,900 or +1.7%)

I ended 2013 with a net worth of $345,900, so I’ve seen a change of +$11,600 or +3.45% 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.

March 2014 Net Worth Graph

Let’s check in on the goals I made for March:

  1. Only use the Chase Sapphire Preferred visa for spending. This means no debit card. SUCCESS! Since March turned out to be spendier than I had originally anticipated, I should finish up with this card sometime in April, a month early.
  2. Go running on Sunday mornings (before reading the internet!) and one weekday morning (Tuesday or Wednesday) since it’s getting to be daylight later. FAIL! Between the vacation and one hell week at work, this just didn’t happen.
  3. Go back to sport #2 one evening a week with my friends. PASS! I think I did this one day. I put it back on my calendar as a recurring event.
  4. Try out an alternative gym near my place that’s about halfway between work and home, walking. They have a lot of classes and the timing is such that I could even go home, eat dinner, and then go to a class! And they even have a one month intro rate! PASS! I went to one class…on the evening of April 1st. I’m giving myself a pass though with how crazy work was.
  5. Enjoy the trip with my boyfriend! Relax. It’ll be a welcome break. SUCCESS! The trip was wonderful :)
  6. Send $2,500 to the mortgage on pay day. FAIL! I only sent $1,800 to the mortgage. $2,500 was an unrealistic goal.
  7. Leave the office before 6 pm at least 3 days a week. SUCCESS! Other than the hell week, I think I mostly accomplished this goal.
  8. Buy a new pair of jeans because none of mine fit :( SUCCESS! I found TWO! Woo! So happy to have some clothes that fit again.

Now for some new goals for April:

  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.)
  2. Try biking to work on the nice days. This should cut my commute about in half.
  3. Send $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.
  5. Work on Operation Penguin* with my boyfriend. (*code name has nothing to do with what it actually is)

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February 2014 net worth update (+3.2%)

31-Dec-2013 31-Jan-2014 28-Feb-2014 MoM YTD
cash $13,500 $9,000 $8,000 -$1,000 -$5,500
savings $27,400 $21,500 $21,800 +$300 -$5,600
investments $134,600 $136,100 $143,400 +$7,300
+5.4%
+$8,800
+6.5%
mortgage $187,600 $184,000 $179,600 +$4,400
+2.4%
+$8,000
+4.3%
net worth $345,900 $340,600 $351,600 +$11,000
+3.2%
+$5,700
+1.6%
assets – debts
(gap)
$12,100 $17,400 $6,800 +$10,600
+60.9%
+$5,300
+43.8%

February was so much better than January, financially! My investments recovered from the losses in January and spending was so much lower as well. Cash is mostly down because I closed out an old, unused account and transferred its balance to the mortgage.

AND WOO FOR BREAKING $350k!!!

Work-wise, however, it was a long month and I’m really looking forward to the trip that my boyfriend and I are taking next month! I’ve really, really been loving the new closet organizers in the master bedroom and I wish I’d done that project far sooner!

I saved 69% of my net income this month! That’s much better than last month’s 57% and much higher than my expected savings rate of 61%. About 2/3 of my savings this month went to the mortgage.

Expenses: I spent $2,490 in February after the mortgage or $1,460 without it. Once you take out the work spending, I only had about $700 in credit card spending this month! That’s a record. So far, my total spending for 2014 is $9,490. To hit my $38,500 spending goal for the year, I need to spend no more than an average of $2,901/month over the remaining 10 months this year.

I expect my March non-mortgage spending to be around $700 (that includes expected credits from some online shopping).

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • ($195) Dresses (-1) – I bought the 3rd January dress in another size and ended up returning both because neither fit. Ah well, $195 back!
  • $8 Outerwear – I lost my hat and randomly found a very similar one on sale for $8! I was quite excited about that :)
  • $86 Shoes – Ugh this has been a mess with the online shopping. I’ve been trying to find a new pair of knee-high leather boots because the heel has worn through on mine and I apparently can’t get it fixed, but it’s been such a struggle. I’m also trying to replace my 3-year old grey PUMA flats because they’re getting a hole in the bottom of the shoe. At least that is only a $50 replacement :)
  • ($251) Swimwear – shipping to return the ones that didn’t fit and their credit.
  • $29 Other Clothing
  • $73 Entertainment/Social – I still can’t believe how much this has dropped lately. My boyfriend and I have been cooking a lot more, rather than going out like we did at first, and I’ve also been a bit more of a hermit with the new job. [average this year: $103, last year: $224]
  • $12 Eating out by myself [average this year: $12, last year: $25]
  • $243 Groceries – I’ve been making pie charts to see where all of this is going. We’ve been lumping in toiletries, household goods, and some small appliances, which I didn’t do on my own. We’ve also been eating a LOT of meat and buying mostly organic/grass-fed, which I wasn’t doing much of before. [average this year: $263, last year: $152]
  • $120 Work lunches [average this year: $153, last year: $77]
  • $80 Internet. I had to raise my internet speed because it wasn’t sufficient for streaming anymore and I’ve also been working from home enough that I needed the faster internet. It should be closer to $54/month going forward and this increase was from reconciling the billing periods with the speed upgrade. [average this year: $55]
  • $24 Presents. Bought my boyfriend something small for Valentine’s Day :)
  • $0 Household goods [average this year: $27, last year: $29]
  • $12 Medical bills
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $0 Toiletries [average this year: $12, last year: $31]
  • $20 Pretty case for my new phone :)
  • $290 Travel: booked another trip with my boyfriend :)

Savings: $21,800 (up $300)

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 (January) and spending down some of it to pay the medical bills
  2. My medical bills being low enough now that the health savings account will just grow by $300/month for the next few months.

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: $142,600 (up $6,500 or +4.8%)

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. ~$5,000 in stock market gains
  2. January paycheck 401(k) contribution and employer matching
  3. November and December 401(k) employer matching

Mortgage: $179,600 (down $4,400 or -2.4%)

Some statistics here:

  • 2.5%: the interest rate on my 5/1 ARM
  • January 2018: when the interest rate on my mortgage is set to reset, possibly to 7.5%
  • 6: months of payments eliminated with this month’s pre-payments
  • $4,034.92: extra payments made on the mortgage this month
  • $8.41: interest this month’s extra payments will save me on the next regular payment
  • 37%: portion of my regular payment went to interest (originally was 59%)
  • 49.8%: amount of equity in my condo, assuming purchase price
  • 37.2%: amount of the mortgage I’ve paid down

TOTAL: $351,200 (up $10,600 or +3.1%)

I ended 2013 with a net worth of $345,900, so I’ve seen a change of +$5,300 or +1.5% 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.

February 2014 Net Worth Graph

Oops, I forgot to set goals for February! And to review the goals I made for January!

Let’s check in on the goals I made for January:

  1. Make my 2014 Roth IRA contribution through the backdoor entirely on my smartphone. (This means a) transferring the money from savings to checking with Ally, b) making the $5,500 contribution to my Traditional IRA with Vanguard, and c) exchanging the $5,500 from the Traditional IRA to the Total Stock Market index fund in my Roth IRA.) – I’ve already done a) and b) – just need to wait for the transaction to post tomorrow or Friday so I can do c). SUCCESS! It’s so nice to have this out of the way first thing in the year.
  2. Plan some trips with my boyfriend. SUCCESS! We are going away for a week, just us, in March, to visit some friends from college in June, and to 1-2 weddings in September, during which I will get to meet his family and he’ll get to meet some more of mine :)
  3. Have fun with my new job! PASS! I definitely like my new job and am having fun, but I forgot how exhausting it is to work 40 hours a week, let alone 50-60.
  4. Return the shoes I don’t like from the online shopping. SUCCESS! That was easy.

Some things I did in February:

  1. I’m becoming an expert on some areas at work, which is nice!
  2. I filed my income tax return with TaxAct.com and got my small (< $300) refund deposited into my bank account, which I immediately sent to the mortgage.
  3. I did terribly at exercising (beyond walking to/from work). I didn’t go to the gym at all.
  4. I worked A LOT. My estimate would be 45-60 hours/week.
  5. I applied for and received the Chase Sapphire Preferred visa, which I intend on using until I hit the bonus ($3,000 in spending will get me 40,000 points) and then setting it aside except for Ultimate Rewards mall shopping. (That mall is seriously a magically benefit of the Chase Freedom/Sapphire Preferred credit cards that I had no idea existed!) I’m going to guess that it will take me all of March, April, and May to hit that $3,000 because my spending has been lower lately.
  6. I was a LOT more frugal than I was in January. Maybe how much time I spent working affected that…

Now for some new goals for March:

  1. Only use the Chase Sapphire Preferred visa for spending. This means no debit card.
  2. Go running on Sunday mornings (before reading the internet!) and one weekday morning (Tuesday or Wednesday) since it’s getting to be daylight later.
  3. Go back to sport #2 one evening a week with my friends.
  4. Try out an alternative gym near my place that’s about halfway between work and home, walking. They have a lot of classes and the timing is such that I could even go home, eat dinner, and then go to a class! And they even have a one month intro rate!
  5. Enjoy the trip with my boyfriend! Relax. It’ll be a welcome break.
  6. Send $2,500 to the mortgage on pay day.
  7. Leave the office before 6 pm at least 3 days a week.
  8. Buy a new pair of jeans because none of mine fit :(

By my 26th birthday this year, I would like to write a 30 by 30 list and a list of what I want my life to look like at 30. I’m really starting to feel like I can shape the next few years a bit better than I used to, which is a really awesome feeling.

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January 2014 net worth update (-1.5%)

31-Dec-2013 31-Jan-2014 MoM
cash $13,500 $9,000 -$4,500
savings $27,400 $21,500 -$5,900
investments $134,600 $136,100 +$1,500
+1.1%
mortgage $187,600 $184,000 +$3,600
+1.9%
net worth $345,900 $340,600 -$5,300
-1.5%
assets – debts
(gap)
$12,100 $17,400 -$5,300
-43.8%

This month is basically the exact opposite of last January: no bonus, high spending, stock market losses. It was a bit of a doozy, financially. This is the biggest net worth loss I’ve had other than the month I bought my car since I started working full-time post-college.

January went by pretty quickly overall, but was also a pretty tiring month with starting the new job. So far, my new job is pretty cool and I’m glad I picked it! Of course, we will see how it unfolds, but enjoying it at the beginning is always a good start.

Expenses: I spent $5,980 in January after the mortgage. When you add in the mortgage, this was pretty close to my net income for the month (only +$400). Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • $512 Dresses (3) – I last bought two in June 2012 and the previous one in July 2011. Needless to say, many of my dresses don’t fit very well.
  • ($480) Shoes – online shopping return, plus another couple pairs that I returned and the credit will come in February.
  • $367 Swimwear – online shopping, should see a credit of ~$250 in February.
  • $134 Entertainment/Social [average last year: $224]
  • $12 Eating out by myself [average last year: $25]
  • $284 Groceries [average last year: $152]
  • $186 Work lunches [average last year: $77] – I decided to eat lunch out my first month in the new job and then re-evaluate. The extra $100/month might be worth not stressing about packing enough food, we’ll see.
  • ~8 paychecks worth of charitable donations (this will take a while to not be a negative line item in my budget spreadsheet…)
  • $31 Internet
  • $53 Household goods (kleenex, toilet paper, light bulbs) [average last year: $29]
  • $369 Medical bills
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $50 Make-up
  • $25 Toiletries [average last year: $31]
  • $267 Laptop repair and shipping
  • ~$1,700 Furnishings (several small paint jobs combined and second half of closet system install)
  • $4 Tolls
  • ~$1,200 Travel: booked a trip with my boyfriend :)

My boyfriend and I are trying something new for groceries, which involves meal planning and splitting the cost. So Groceries this month was only half of the cost for two…which was pretty expensive. I’m pretty confident that we’ll spend less in February. Otherwise though, the experiment went pretty well!

This month, my priority was definitely in adjusting to the new job. You can see that in my work lunches spending. I also didn’t really work out that much other than walking to/from work.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I expect my non-mortgage spending to be around $1,200 in February.

And here’s a pie chart view of my spending for the month (click on it to view better descriptions). Basically, the big ones were: the trip with my boyfriend, my mortgage payment, the closets, painting, and charitable donations.

January 2014 Spending Pie Chart

Savings: $21,500 (down $5,900)

These funds are spread across a Chase savings account (opening bonus!), 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 (November and December) and spending down some of it to pay the medical bills
  2. Making my full 2014 Roth IRA contribution

Investments: $136,100 (up $1,500 or +1.1%)

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. Making my full 2014 Roth IRA contribution
  2. ~$4,000 in stock market losses

Mortgage: $184,000 (down $3,600 or -1.9%)

My mortgage is a 5/1 ARM at 2.5%. Before the refinance, it would have been paid off November 1, 2038.

January’s pre-payments eliminated somewhere around 3 months of payments.

TOTAL: $340,600 (down $5,300 or -1.5%)

I ended 2013 with a net worth of $345,900, so I’ve seen a change of -$5,300 or 1.5% 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.

January 2014 Net Worth Graph

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