2017 Half-Year Update

Income

This year so far has been a relatively boring year for income, which has been surprisingly not that noticeable, probably thanks to my front loading my retirement accounts last year.

  • ($384) My portion of the extra income taxes due (marriage tax penalty)
  • $2,513 My portion of the value of the credit card points redeemed or rebates from cash back sites
  • $68 Last paycheck from my fall part-time gig for a professor in my program
  • ~1 month’s salary gross: deferred compensation from my former employer, from which they withheld way more taxes than they needed to with my low income this year, so I should receive all ~$3,000 of the unnecessary taxes withheld back in early 2018
  • Generous four figure sum: We received and deposited the generous wedding present from my parents this year. It went straight into the “Wedding Gifts” savings account where I’ve been putting any wedding presents until we use them for something specific, at which point I transfer the money into our checking account.

Net Worth and Cash Flow

Personal

As of June 30th, my net worth is up 1.1% for the year. I was originally projecting a 1.4% decrease for the year, but the stock market has had a mind of its own,
so I’m currently forecasting to be up 0.7% for the year, assuming no further income. That’s not too bad for taking a year off from full-time employment, during which I’m paying grad school tuition and for my portion of a wedding reception.

My June reconciling left $17,247 in my personal savings account, which should last me through the end of February at my current spending rate. I have a separate savings account from which I pay my grad school tuition, which is on track, ~$20,000 in Series I Savings Bonds, and ~$25,000 in my Vanguard money market fund. After covering my part of the wedding, all of those non-tuition cash accounts combined would last me for two years, through sometime in July 2019. Once I start a job again, I’ll experiment with how low I’m willing to let my cash reserves go, whether I’m comfortable going down to $10,000 and investing the rest. The most I can realistically see leaving in a savings account is $20,000.

Family

Our combined net worth, on the other hand, is up 13% since we got married, which is just incredible. The condo equity represents about a third of our combined net worth, which is a pretty reasonable figure.

On the household accounts side, we have a primary checking account which is used for cash flow, budgeting, and paying the credit card balances at the end of the month, a “Wedding Gifts” savings account, and a general savings account. We keep a one month ($3,000) buffer in the checking account and we have a second one month buffer in the general savings account. We also have a joint Schwab checking account that we use for international ATM withdrawals. (I closed my personal one when we made the joint one.) Lastly, our Donor Advised Fund doesn’t count in our net worth as it’s not legally ours anymore since it’s already been donated to Schwab Charitable.

Investments

My husband has started the process of buying into the condo. I used these funds to make my full 2017 Roth IRA contribution back in January and then in June, I transferred the entire amount that he gave me into my Vanguard taxable account. I added $10,000 into my international stock index holding, rebalanced between international and US stocks in my Roth IRA, and left the remainder in the money market fund. I set up a $500 automatic exchange from the money market fund into the international stock index for each of the remaining months in 2017 (one has already happened!) and left the rest alone.

Why didn’t I invest the entire amount? I wanted to wait until we have a firmer picture of how much the wedding reception will cost and until I’ve started a job before investing the entire amount. I left a generous eight months of expenses in the money market fund for now. I’m sleeping great at night, so this seems like a reasonable approach for now.

Why did I send all of the money to Vanguard if I wasn’t going to invest it all? I wanted to be really prudent with this money as it was previously locked up as condo equity and not spendable. Putting it all in Vanguard helped to see it as transferring the money from condo equity to more liquid investments, rather than as money available for spending. The Vanguard money market funds have pretty comparable returns to my Alliant Credit Union savings account, so they seemed like a reasonable parking spot for now.

As of June 30th, my investments are up an absurd $25,605 for the year so far solely on market returns. The last few years were not great for international stock returns and they seem to be making up for that this year, which with my staunch 50/50 US/International split has done wonders for my portfolio returns this year. My 401(k), which is relatively heavy in international stocks at the moment, is up $13,075 with the markets this year, which is about 70% of what one is allowed to contribute to such a plan each year.

In May, I tried an experiment of not checking my investment balances all month until it was time to update my net worth. I managed to make it with only peeking once, which I’m calling a success based on my behavior in the previous months of the year. I ran the experiment again in June and I barely peeked when I made my Vanguard contributions. It seems this habit has successfully mostly stuck for now!

Not paying the mortgage in 2017 has seen some months starting to get very visually closer to the passive income (credit card rewards and selling stuff) + 4% of investments line. It’s incredible and really motivating! It makes me want to find more money to add to my investments to get those lines closer together.

And then here’s a similar view with the percentage of expenses covered by 4% SWR + Passive Income, but dating back to January 2010:

4/6 of the months so far in 2017 have been over 50%, which is incredible to see! I’m forecasting that I’ll surpass 100% one month this year, which I’m really excited to see!

Spending

As the year has gone on, we’ve been continually discussing what should be personal or household spending. It’s been evolving over time and we’ve reimbursed each other from the joint account back dating to January 1st for anything we spent this year. The main changes are:

  • Any bags of coffee bought count as “Groceries” and are thus household, but takeout coffee is personal spending
  • If we’re out at a restaurant together, the entire meal is household, even if one of us drinks or eats more than the other (my husband used to pick up the entire tab if he spent much more or we would pay based on what we ate)
  • If I grab takeout for lunch because there isn’t food to eat for lunch in the house, that counts as household spending. (Realistically: all food except for food where one spouse is out without the other spouse counts as household spending.)
  • Any medical related expenses are household
  • At home exercise equipment is household, even if only one of us uses it (but outside of the house fitness is personal spending)
  • Most toiletries are now household (shampoo, conditioner, other hair products, deodorant, allergy medicine, dermatologist products, body wash, moisturizer, feminine hygiene products, etc.). If a product was bought at the grocery store or at Costco, it was previously considered household, but if it was bought somewhere else, it ended up being personal spending, which we’ve corrected. Eyebrow waxes and make-up are still considered personal spending.
  • My husband’s Amazon account should probably be double checked every month or so since he’s bad at remembering to use the right credit card and usually just lets the default payment method take care of things.

I’ve been marking these items, as well as anything else we forget to budget for (condo and umbrella insurance, ahem) out of the “Miscellaneous” category from our budget and then next year, we’ll add the items to the budget more accurately.

The below chart counts all household spending as being half mine and also includes my personal spending. Without the mortgage payment, only 17% of my spending for the first half of 2017 was on housing! My half of the household spending plus my personal spending came to $20,157.28 or an average of $3,359.55 per month. Considering that last year, I spent $3,868.10/month on average in the first half of the year which included a $1,027.32/month mortgage payment, I’ve spent about $518.77/month on average more in 2017 than I did in 2016, which is probably mostly explained by the frontloaded travel spending this year and that we didn’t buy any Christmas flights in 2016. I expect my H2 spending to come in about $1,000/month under my 2016 H2 spending, even accounting for the difference in mortgage payment and paying for the wedding.

Household spending

Note that all of the numbers below are the full household numbers, meaning that my portion is half of those numbers.

Category Budget Actual Avg. Monthly Description
Travel $5,000.00 $10,854.17 $1,809.03 All travel pre-booked for the year. This covers our Christmas flights and lodging, a trip for a friend’s milestone birthday, a weekend getaway, and airfare and lodging for our Italy honeymoon coming up in the fall. We went over-budget on all of the trips, but we skipped one, so we’re technically under the travel budget for the year by $1,277.
Housing $8,897.23 $8,235.96 $1,372.66 Very little condo maintenance so far this year ($285), which is why we’re under budget. Otherwise, we’ve been paying monthly HOA dues and paid this year’s special assessment, paid half of the year’s property taxes, paid for the winter electricity, paid Comcast every month, and our mostly-biweekly house cleaners. My husband is paying the mortgage out of his personal cash flow.
Food $4,490.00 $4,373.91 $727.44 This is mostly groceries ($3,188) and Costco ($420), with the rest being convenience food. We’ve been averaging about 20% above our grocery budget for the year ($450/month), but a lot of toiletries end up in here too as well as cards.
Wedding ~ $3,628.80 $604.80 This includes the last bills for the postnuptial agreement ($650), my wedding dress (under $400), some cake tasting fees, our cake deposit, and a cake topper ($622.50), DJ deposit ($1,100), hair and makeup deposit ($200), paper invitations, RSVP cards and address labels ($57.82), and photographer deposit ($500). I’ll write a post about this all more specifically once I have final numbers.
Entertainment $756.06 $2,013.01 $335.50 This budget is a bit fuzzy because the “Restaurants” budget is included in the “Food” budget, but “Date night” spending ($1,188) went here, same with meals with friends ($121). This also includes our annual theatre tickets ($510), Pandora and Spotify music subscriptions ($125), and Netflix ($66).
Shopping ~ $1,551.84 $258.64 The last piece of our new living room furniture ($637), a popcorn popper ($21), replenishing measuring cups ($36), picture hangers ($26), a blanket and five tablecloths ($160), Lightroom ($66), replacing our seven year old mattress cover ($33), replacing some old towels ($173), repairing our camera lens ($264), a sun alarm clock ($119), replacing a five year old soap dispenser ($15), some vacuum sealing clothing bags ($20), some pieces to attach some of the new furniture ($30), and annual Prime membership ($109).
Personal care ~ $447.59 $74.60 Shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, cleanser, shower cap, allergy medicine, etc.
Gifts and Donations $440.00 $407.24 $67.87 This covers one wedding gift and three baby gifts, some cards, and some stamps because we keep losing them and we’ve mailed paper invitations to anyone who has asked for one. We used our Donor Advised Fund for another wedding gift, so that isn’t accounted for here.
Transportation $430.02 $376.16 $62.69 We are way under budget on gas (averaging $20 per month instead of $30) because we’ve bought most of it at Costco this year, which is unusual. Also included is a new battery for the car and jumper cables ($150), some Lyft rides ($83), and one time of parking ($0.58).
Life ~ $18.84 $3.14 Updated insurance on my ring set – most of the premium was paid in December.
Recreation ~ $11.76 $1.96 One, two and three pound weights
Medical bills ~ $6.00 $0.50 A resistance band for physical therapy. Not included here are the insurance premiums that are taken out of my husband’s paychecks pre-tax every month. We’ll reconcile that into being household spending come tax time. So far, we’ve paid nothing out of pocket for medical stuff this year.
Total $19,152.11 $31,925.28 $5,319.34 Only $2,013.60 over budget if you take out the wedding and honeymoon, which weren’t budgeted for, that isn’t too bad considering that we frontloaded much of our travel spending for the year.

We’ve decided to use my parents’ wedding gift for our honeymoon. We bought the flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards points from our Sapphire Reserve card and I transferred the amount we’ve prepaid so far for lodging from the “Wedding Gifts” savings account into the household checking account.

We are both really looking forward to hosting our wedding reception this fall! The numbers are still reasonably variable since we’re still waiting on most of the RSVPs, which is why I haven’t talked that much about the budget. The wedding costs have been covered so far by calculating how much off-budget expenses happened in a month, dividing that in half, and each of us transferring that into the household checking account. Now that we’re getting into the home stretch, we actually know the amounts that are due before we pay them (versus picking a vendor and then immediately needing to pay a deposit), so we transferred the anticipated amounts at the beginning of July for the costs that month and we’ll repeat that in August and September.

Other than Groceries and missing a ton of line items (oops), we have been doing reasonably okay with our first attempt at a budget! I’ve been pleased with how it’s going.

Personal spending

I’m really proud of how I’ve done with my personal spending this year. I’ve been significantly more conscious about it this year and reduced my personal spending (within the same scope) by more than half from what I spent last year, which is a huge part of how I’m covering my part of the wedding reception costs without spending down my savings too quickly.

I mentioned this in earlier posts, but the way I’m budgeting this year is that I took my savings account balance on 12/31/2016 and have added in all income I’ve brought in this year. That figure is now up to $37,500. On the first of every month, I transfer $1,500 to the household checking account to cover my part of the household budget. I add up how much I need to replenish my checking account for the prior month’s spending that and transfer that money. Once all that’s done, if I’ve spent less than N/12ths of the total annual budget (where N is the current month), I transfer the excess to my personal “Wedding” savings account. My husband just takes money out of somewhere when a bill needs to be paid, but I prefer doing it this way so it doesn’t feel like it’s withdrawn all at once from my savings account.

Category H1 Avg. Monthly Description
Clothing $2,044.90 $340.82 $837.56 of this was on replacing my underwear and my annual bras stock-up. This year, I splurged and bought six bras instead of my usual five, so that I don’t have to wash them quite as often.
Transportation $783.62 $130.60 $252 of this is bus passes that I’m required to pay for through grad school and are really useful. $522 was the six months of car insurance that I paid for in January and $10 was a Lyft home one time.
Recreation $378.77 $63.13 A pair of running shoes ($161) and two months of unlimited barre classes ($109 each) – yay for student rates!
Personal care $351.08 $58.51 Four eyebrow waxes ($80), mascara and eyeshadow replacement ($43), returning a product that didn’t work out ($3), and two facials ($223). I’ve since eliminated the facials from my budget as the eyebrow waxes provide just as much joy.
Entertainment $246.31 $41.05 I accidentally bought two books thinking I had some e-book credit left ($23). “The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriages” has been fascinating. I also renewed my personal domain ($9) and enjoyed several social outings with friends ($215).
Gifts and Donations $200.78 $33.46 My husband’s birthday present. I used some points to pay for part of it, but those count in income and the full amount of the present here.
Housing $159.33 $26.56 Monthly cell phone bill with Cricket Wireless. The plan gives me 1 GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts, which seems to be mostly working great.
Travel $27.50 $4.58 $7.50 was when my husband and I each bought the same snack while traveling and we paid for it separately and $20 was transferring some airline miles to my husband to keep both of our accounts active.
Medical bills $23.30 $3.88 Coinsurance from some 2016 medical usage.
Shopping ($20.95) ($3.49) My husband used some of a credit I had at a store and reimbursed me, hence the spending credit. I also replaced my sunglasses case that I seem to have misplaced.
Total $4,194.64 $699.11

If you take out the car insurance which is a household expense starting in July, I spent $612.14/month on average covering all of these categories for all of the items it covered.

I started a new spreadsheet this year which tracks my clothing spending. For each item purchased, I note the date (including month & quarter), category (necessities or wants), and subcategory (underwear, winter clothes, outerwear, athletic wear, bras, summer clothes, or shoes), price, and a description. I’m finding it really helpful to separate the necessities (underwear, bras, socks, sports bras, and having workout crops that fit so I actually go work out) from the wants.

I’ve been so consistent at working out this year that I sized my workout crops down yet again, of which I picked up two pairs in Q2. I like wearing the now-huge workout tops as it reminds me of how much my body has shifted in the last year. Last July, I hit my peak weight. A year later, I’m down 5-6 percentage points of body fat (it fluctuates a bit day to day) and I’ve lost about 8% of what I weighed last July. Those numbers matter way less than how incredible my body feels, how much stronger I’ve become, and how much more positive I am with the increased level of exercise. In June, I finally surpassed an average of 10,000 steps per day for the first time this year, which felt great. I had been increasing my monthly step goal a little bit each month until I finally got there. It’s a lot of work getting that many steps per day AND making it to as many barre classes as I have, which is part of how blogging has fallen by the way side. All around, I’ve just been feeling really great this year!

Readers, how is your 2017 going so far?

February 2017 update

My February net worth was only down about $1,000, which is notable because my total net income was $1,100 and I paid a large grad school tuition bill. I anticipate my net worth going down 1.4% from December 2016 to December 2017 and so far it is up 0.2%, which is on schedule.

It’s been really fun watching my investments so far this year while I’ve been with minimal income. So far, 2017 has seen a good run in the stock markets and that has catapulted my investments over $300,000, which is notable because that means a 4% SWR would allow me to withdraw $1,000/month, which is a lovely round number! My expenses in February were low enough that the current allowable 4% SWR would cover 53% of my expenses!! That’s the highest % I’ve seen yet, so I’m quite excited! The previous high was 28.3%.

2017-february-4-expense-coverage

Action items

I set monthly goals in my planner and then check in on them at the end of the month. I started doing this in 2016 and it has been great! They’re a mix of action items and routines I want to cultivate.

We prepared our tax return, figured out how much we owe, and calculated the split. We had one final bit to double check (which I’ve fixed as I write this), so we’ll file the return in March.

In January and February, I only went to 5 barre classes each month. This is bad because I have a bunch of punch cards that expire in May. I’ve made a personal challenge for March to go to 14 barre classes – 3 classes per week. We’ll see how this goes! If I can stick to a 3 day per week schedule, I should use up my already paid for classes  before they expire. (So far, as of writing this on March 6th, I’ve been to 3 classes, so I believe in myself!)

We picked a cake vendor for the wedding reception and paid that deposit in February, so it looks like we should have a few months of no wedding expenses, which will be nice. And now I’m looking forward to delicious cake!!!

Cash flow

I’m managing my personal cash flow right now by keeping three savings accounts: one for grad school tuition, one for living expenses covering the remainder of 2017 and then one for living expenses in 2018 which will simply turn into cash reserves if when I end up with a paying full-time job again. I have an automatic transfer of $1,500 on the 1st of every month to the joint checking account to cover my half of the expenses. I then take any extra money out I need to cover expenses as needed rather than transferring out a fixed amount. The grad school savings account is on track and the 2018 living expenses account is currently empty. The 2017 living expenses account had $24,105.55 in it at the end of February, when it should have $31,115.85 in it to get through the year. I’m anticipating deferred compensation income from my former employer in Q1 and a small personal income tax refund that will cover this difference with a small bit leftover to go into the 2018 savings account. I do have another $20,548 in Series I Savings Bonds that I could cash in and another $16,000 in Vanguard taxable index funds.

My goal is to pay for my half of the wedding reception out of my $36,000 budget for the year. $18,000 of that is the joint spending plan, which leaves $18,000 for personal spending. I estimate there is $10,796.32 left for me to pay for the wedding reception, which leaves me with $3,616.55 remaining for personal spending with ten months remaining in 2017. That’s definitely going to be a bit tighter than I’m used to, so I’m going to keep an eye on things as the year goes on.

Personal spending

Totaled at $187.12! I’ve been following Cait’s Mindful Budgeting Program and the best money spent each week was:

  1. Dinner with a friend
  2. Coffee with a friend / A dress for our wedding reception (eee!) / A product I bought per the recommendation of my dermatologist that quickly made a difference!
  3. Getting my eyebrows waxed – I really love the person I’ve been seeing for years now.

Notice a pattern here? I do! I probably would have also written the tasting fee for the cake vendor we ended up picking because it was SO delicious!

I have to say, it is really lovely not having the mortgage payment each month!

Joint spending

Our spending was pretty simple this month! In reviewing this though, I realized I forgot to set up the auto bill pay for the HOA dues, so we didn’t pay those in February… We’ll just end up double paying in March to compensate. This is a huge part of why I am not a fan of monthly budgets and prefer annual ones – the months can be so variable.

  • Entertainment: $42.68 for Lightroom, Netflix, Spotify Family, and Pandora
  • Groceries: $503.70
  • Restaurants: $103.87 – this is two outings.
  • Electricity: $93.73 – this is super low because I had prepaid a bit in December.
  • Housecleaning: $220
  • Travel: $261.55 – miscellaneous costs for our weekend trip in February
  • Miscellaneous: $72.64 – a blanket and something else
  • Total without reception: $1,298.68
  • Reception: $2,127.72 – one cake tasting fee, DJ deposit, my wedding dress (under $400!), and cake deposit
  • Total with reception: $3,426.40

I prepaid Comcast in December, so we didn’t pay them in February. No gas fill-ups this month either.

Readers, how was your February? Do you track how much of your spending would be covered by your investments?

January 2017 update

It took until the end of January for me to really sit down and figure out a plan for 2017. I now have a plan in place for: graduating with my Masters, a timeline for a honeymoon, and a strong cost estimate of the wedding reception. What I plan to do after my Masters is still TBD, though I do plan to figure that out by the end of 2017.

My January net worth was up 0.4%, which is mostly notable because my total income was $180 and the last positive net worth change I saw was in August 2016. I anticipate my net worth going down 1.4% from December 2016 to December 2017. I did make my 2017 Backdoor Roth IRA contribution on January 1st.

Goals

I set monthly goals in my planner and then check in on them at the end of the month. I started doing this in 2016 and it has been great! They’re a mix of action items and routines I want to cultivate.

  1. Done! Max Roth IRA – done 1/1
  2. Pass! Drink 64 oz of water per day. I drank 59.3 oz/day on average, which is 93% of the way there.
  3. Ehhh. Walk 10,000 steps per day. I averaged 7,246 per day, which is on par for most Januarys so I reduced my February goal to 8,000 steps.
  4. Partway. 2 barre classes per week (5/8) This means I made it once a week every week which isn’t nearly as bad! I made my February goal once per week and hopefully I’ll find the scheduling to get there twice. It’s getting a little tight on some punch cards I bought in the fall so hopefully they don’t end up getting wasted.
  5. Success! Clothing whitelist only.
  6. Success! Early February trip booked.
  7. Success! Discretionary spending under $1,000. I’m trying to make sure that my limited budget still has room for some personal luxuries. It helps that I stocked up on barre punch cards in the fall when there was a sale so I won’t need to buy any for a bit and there are definitely luxuries built into the joint budget.
  8. Fail! One personal finance blog post per week. (1/4)
  9. Success! Donor Advised Fund plan. We agreed that each person got to have the final vote on where their portion of the donation money went, but we were to make the plan and do the grants together. We made donations to a neighborhood food bank, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Wikipedia, the Electronic Frontier Fund, a local women’s homeless shelter and some other local charities that my husband supports. I am further donating my time by volunteering to prepare tax returns through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), which is really fun!

Cash flow

I’m managing my personal cash flow right now by keeping three savings accounts: one for grad school tuition, one for living expenses covering the remainder of 2017 and then one for living expenses in 2018 which will simply turn into cash reserves if I end up with a paying full-time job again. I have an automatic transfer of $1,500 on the 1st of every month to the joint checking account to cover my half of the expenses. I then take any extra money out I need to cover expenses as needed rather than transferring out a fixed amount. The grad school savings account is on track and the 2018 living expenses account is currently empty. The 2017 living expenses account had $26,952.93 in it at the end of January, when it should have $33,000.00 in it to get through the year. I’m anticipating deferred compensation income from my former employer in Q1 and a small personal income tax refund that will cover this difference with a small bit leftover to go into the 2018 savings account. I do have another $20,548 in Series I Savings Bonds that I could cash in and another $16,000 in Vanguard taxable index funds.

My goal is to pay for my half of the wedding reception out of my $36,000 budget for the year. $18,000 of that is the joint spending plan, which leaves $18,000 for personal spending. With $12,000 allotted for the wedding reception, I have $6,000 to work with for personal spending in 2017, which means I need to make it count! I estimated that my personal spending was about $20,000 in 2016, so this is going to be a huge experiment.

Personal spending

2017 January Personal Spending.png

I’m setting a monthly budget for my personal spending and then checking in on it throughout the month. January was a really good start!

Transportation: This should hopefully be the last time I have to pay for the car insurance out of personal spending! Transit is paid per academic period and is a reasonable price for how much I use it.

Shopping: For clothing, I replaced some underwear, which was on my whitelist. I also bought two pens and a notebook. I’m otherwise working on shopping my closet this year ;)

Entertainment: I renewed my personal domain, switching registrars to a cheaper one and had one dinner out with a friend.

Food is mostly the occasional lunch out on class days due to awkward timing of the class.

Cell phone: I switched to a cheaper data plan by reducing my data usage and in the process, reducing the time I spend on my phone per day to under two hours! My budget here was completely off because I’d changed plans after I’d already paid for the previous month. We didn’t make our cell phone bills joint because my husband pays for way more data than I do and his employer reimburses him for part of his plan.

Medical: This was paying for the remaining December medical costs. Despite my husband’s work having great health insurance, the premiums to add me were really expensive (as in about 5x what he was paying for himself). We’ll sort that all out at tax time in 2018 though, so month-to-month it will look like I’m spending very little on medical for most of 2017. I also have about $3,800 in an HSA that is helpful here.

Toiletries is low because I returned some products that I had bought in November/December that weren’t working.

If you take out the transportation, cell phone, and medical expenses, that leaves me with $380.26 in discretionary spending in January, which isn’t that bad! That’s basically my February budget ($300: $100 food, $100 entertainment, $30 cell phone, $20 eyebrows, and $50 toiletries).

Joint spending

2017 January Joint Spending.png

We also were pretty on budget with the joint spending! We were only $15.89 over our monthly cash in if you take out the two unbudgeted expenses. We each transferred in funds to cover the negative portion of the cashflow.

I hid the HOA dues from this view. We paid two months in January based on how things fell.

Entertainment is just a cash refund from a merchant that overcharged us and then couldn’t refund our credit card. I keep meaning to use it towards groceries because I hate carrying cash but I never have it on me when I’m at the grocery store…

Spotify is Spotify family. We have an account each, an account for our home stereo system (so there is no conflicting), and each of our dads have an account. We should really cancel Pandora since we mostly use Spotify but we’re grandfathered into the old rate plan and I’m having a hard time giving it up…

There is a Groceries budget listed here but we don’t follow it – it’s the average of our 2016 spending. We don’t meal plan other than that we usually eat chicken two nights, pasta two nights, beef one night, and repeat one of those the other two nights or be lazy. Restaurants is one lazy night in and otherwise food around meeting up with wedding reception vendors, as was the one Uber (which I should rename Lyft because we’ve switched loyalties to Lyft based on their current public stance).

Furnishings is the remaining item for the living room remodel. We are so close to being done with that at last!

Gifts is a wedding gift, two baby gifts, and cards for them.

I prepaid Comcast in December, so we didn’t pay them in January.

One tank of gas in January, which was near the end so we might not fill up in February.

Travel was flights and hotel for our early February weekend trip. The hotel nights were technically paid with points, which I count as spending in the approximate cost of the nights had we paid for them ourselves and as income to balance it out to zero.

Miscellaneous was jewelry insurance on my rings, picture hangers, a popcorn popper, and a measuring cup.

Wedding was the remainder of our postnuptial agreement costs, cake tasting fees, photographer deposit, and tickets to a show.

Readers, how was your January?

April 2016 net worth update (+1.6%)

In April, I:

  1. contributed ~15% of the amount I can contribute to my 401(k) after-tax, for a total year-to-date contribution of ~40% of the maximum.
  2. sold the Q1 ESPP shares and transferred their value to my general savings account.
  3. paid half of my annual property taxes. They’re up about $1,000 for the year from what I paid four years ago.
  4. made my 2016 Backdoor Roth IRA contribution of $5,500.
  5. saw my tuition reimbursement for the academic period that started in January and some other work reimbursements.
  6. saved 79% of my net income for a total savings rate overall so far of 76%. Looking at my income spreadsheet, I saw about 40% of my expected gross income for the 2016 calendar year in the first four months of the year (first 33% of the year). I expect my savings rate to be about 60% per month going forward until I hit the Social Security maximum and that my overall savings rate for the year will be about 70% before grad school withdrawals.
  7. saw my net worth go up by $12,000 to $703,000, which if you’re following along closely is up $102,300 from my December 2015 reported net worth or about 17%. Four months is definitely the fastest I’ve seen a $100,000 increase in net worth yet!!! (note that I rounded this number differently than the ones in the table below) About half of that increase was updating the book value of my condo and the other half was savings / employer 401(k) matching / stock markets.

Since I have another $100,000 in the books, let’s take a look at the table I used in previous years:

31-Dec-2015 30-Apr-2016 YTD
cash $7,200 $8,500 +$1,300
savings $70,600 $73,900 +$3,300
investments $207,000 $251,000 +$44,000
+21.3%
mortgage $134,100 $131,100 +$3,000
+2.2%
net worth $600,700 $702,300 +$101,600
+16.9%
taxable assets – debts $41,600 $30,300 +$11,300
+27.2%
$ until FI* $783,300 $642,600 -$140,700
-18.0%

*$ to FI=(average monthly spending over the last 12 months – mortgage payment)*12*25 + condo value – net worth

Cash is probably up because I’ve been underspending my budget so far this year. Savings is only up a small bit because I have been spending more from my HSA than I put into it so far this year, I spent from my savings account while frontloading my retirement accounts, and I used some money from my general savings account to fund my Roth IRA for 2016. Investments are the real story here since that was what I was concentrating on in the first third of 2016.

I am still investigating it, but if I plan to retire in my thirties or early forties, I’m not sure the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA is that useful considering that assuming 8% returns and a rate of inflation of 3.22%, I already have enough in my Roth IRA and 401(k) to support me at my current lifestyle after age 60. Not all employers offer it, so I’ve also debated using it while I can. I still have some time to decide as it would take me 3-4ish paychecks (about 2 months) to finish it. I’ll make the decision by October.

My savings goal for the remainder of the year is to build up my liquid funds (general savings account, ESPP funds, Series I Savings Bonds, NetSpend accounts, and taxable index funds) to two years of expenses which with the amount the mortgage would be reamortized to in early 2018 equates to about $90,000. As of April, those accounts add up to $65,400, which is a $3,900 improvement over December 2015. I estimate that it will take me most of this year to save up that amount, at which point my current plan is to go back to pre-paying the mortgage.

Expenses: I spent $6,149 in April including the mortgage or $5,122 without it, with no charitable donations this month. That breaks down to:

  • $3,609 in fixed/unavoidable expenses: HOA dues, mortgage payment, property taxes, medical bills, and transportation
  • $2,778 in discretionary expenses: clothing, entertainment, food, eyebrows, toiletries, vision, fitness, shopping, and travel

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • $1,310 Clothing [$1,875 total so far this year; $1,760 at this point last year] – cute belt ($31), hiking pants ($93), one summer dress ($50), spring jacket ($201), wind breaker ($109 – I’m kind of torn on this one, so if I don’t wear it at all in May, I’ll return it), sandals ($88), sleep top ($49), one t-shirt ($16), two long-sleeved tops ($129), and clothes mailed for return ($545)
  • $31 Entertainment/Social [average so far this year: $48, average last year: $116] – LastPass, using some cash from last month for something else, and a little bit of eating out with friends
  • $105 Food [average so far this year: $87, average last year: $51] – this covers all discretionary food. I have still been lazy with taking my lunch to work.
  • $0 Cell phone – got a rebate that should cover my Cricket cell phone bill for March and April and all but $5 in May
  • Half of my annual property taxes
  • $239 Health – yay for high-deductible plans…
  • $360 Vision – a second pair of glasses feels like such a luxury!
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $112 Make-up – time to stock up
  • $8 Toiletries [average so far this year: $39, average last year: $48] – allergy medicine
  • $338 Recreation: my running shoes that I love were discontinued in favor of a new version that doesn’t fit me, so I bought three pairs discounted on Amazon. I also bought a running armband, a few barre classes, and sticky socks.
  • $24 Shopping: bought a sun hat and used a $25 gift card
  • $169 Transportation: tolls replenishment (x4) and two tanks of gas
  • $471 Travel: booked a long weekend trip!

In total, I’ve spent $14,219 after education and charitable expenses and my budget was for $48,000, so I’m on track to underspend my budget by about $5,000 at this point. We haven’t booked our fall trip yet but since I hit the deductible on my health insurance plan this month, that spending will reduce significantly. April is always one of my more expensive months because of the property tax payment.

Readers, how was your money in April?

March 2016 net worth update (+3.9%)

In March, I:

  1. contributed the remainder of the pre-tax 401(k) limit for the year! All done.
  2. saw my 401(k) balance surpass one year’s salary!
  3. contributed ~25% of the amount I can contribute to my 401(k) after-tax.
  4. finished my taxes in the TurboTax Deluxe download program my boyfriend and I had bought (much cheaper than filing two single returns with TurboTax online) and got my < $100 refund. I had great tax planning skills in 2015!
  5. saw the first quarterly interest on my 5% prepaid card savings accounts that I mentioned back in January.
  6. saved 82% of my net income this month for a total savings rate overall so far of 75%.
  7. saw my investments hit a new all-time high of one-month return, enough to recover from the losses in February and March, but 2015’s losses yet. My savings rate hides that though!
  8. saw my net worth go up by $26,000 or 3.9% to $691,000.

Expenses: I spent $2,591 in March including the mortgage or $1,564 without it, with no charitable donations this month. That breaks down to:

  • $2,212 in fixed/unavoidable expenses: HOA dues, mortgage payment, health, and transportation
  • $379 in discretionary expenses: clothing, entertainment, food, eyebrows, toiletries

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • ($27) Clothing [$504 total so far this year; $1,878 at this point last year] – return of a long-sleeved running shirt bought in January (-$44), returned the pair of jeans bought in February (-$71) and bought a pair that does fit ($145), returned the pair of spring khakis bought in February (-$60) and bought a pair that does fit ($65), and returning one of the dresses bought in February (-$63)
  • $131 Entertainment/Social [average so far this year: $54, average last year: $116] – a little bit of cash, but mostly hanging out with friends
  • $143 Food [average so far this year: $81, average last year: $51] – this covers all discretionary food. I was a bit lazy with taking my lunch to work this month…
  • $0 Cell phone – got a rebate that should cover my Cricket cell phone bill for 2.5-2.9 months
  • $693 Health – yay for high-deductible plans…
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $112 Toiletries [average so far this year: $49, average last year: $48] – stocked up on deodorant, dry shampoo, and lipbalms
  • $137 Transportation: tolls replenishment (x3) and two tanks of gas

I budgeted $4,000 per month for spending this year and so far, I’ve only spent $8,069 of that. I also accidentally included medical costs in that figure even though I pay for those out of my HSA, which means I’ll likely have some money left over in my checking account at the end of the year because I spent ~$1,000 on health costs in 2015. After accounting for April’s mortgage payment and HOA dues and the property taxes for the year, I have about $4,419 in available funds for discretionary spending, which will likely end up going towards travel and/or a new couch.

Readers, how was your money in March?

February 2016 update (+10.1%)

In February, I:

  1. contributed ~45% of the pre-tax 401(k) limit.
  2. updated the value of my condo to reflect current comparable sales, which contributed to the vast majority of my net worth increase this month. It’s now up about 40% from my purchase price.
  3. sold some more stuff on Craiglist!
  4. transferred some funds from my work HSA to my credit union HSA and only afterwards figured out a way to possibly do it without any transfer fees.
  5. enjoyed the auto transfer from savings to checking.
  6. finally saw enough earned income to contribute to my Roth IRA for the year, but I’m still going to wait a bit longer to make sure I have enough cash on hand.
  7. saved 71% of my net income for a savings rate so far this year of 69%. March and April should also be in the 70% range and then I’ll drop down to the 60% range for the remainder of the year except when I pay tuition.
  8. saw my net worth go up by $61,000 or about 10.1% to $665,000.

Expenses: I spent $2,946 in February including the mortgage or $1,919 without it, with no charitable donations this month. That breaks down to:

  • $1,676 in fixed/unavoidable expenses: cell phone, condo misc costs, HOA dues, mortgage payment, health, and transportation
  • $1,270 in discretionary expenses: clothing, entertainment, financial fees, food, eyebrows, shopping

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • $850 Clothing [$531 total so far this year; $829 at this point last year] – rightsized one of my jackets ($186 on sale), a long-sleeved running shirt ($75), a running vest ($150), a hoodie instead of stealing my boyfriends ($64), rightsizing my one pair of jeans that currently fits ($71), rightsizing my spring khakis from 2014 ($60) and shorts ($52), rightsizing my summer pyjama shorts from 2015 ($31) and my summer pyjama pants from 2013 ($36), and two summer dresses because I have zero that fit ($63)
  • ($5) Entertainment/Social [average so far this year: $16, average last year: $116] – Refund of some cash I had withdrawn previously.
  • $15 Financials: oops fee for transferring my HSA the non-free way (sigh)
  • $63 Food [average so far this year: $50, average last year: $51] – this covers eating out by myself, work lunches, and schoolwork-related food. I’m rolling these all into one category since it’s under $100.
  • $3 Housing miscellaneous – battery for the garage door opener
  • $35 Cell phone – monthly Cricket bill
  • $200 Health
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $0 Toiletries [average so far this year: $17, average last year: $48]
  • $328 Shopping – noise-canceling headphones (an amazing purchase I should have made years ago!)
  • $88 Transportation: tolls replenishment (x2) and one tank of gas

I did another clothing inventory and bought some of the missing items this month. The remaining items on my clothing wants list are: a pair of sandals (I have none that fit) and a second pair of shorts and spring khakis if the ones I bought in February fit for more than a few months.

After accounting for March’s mortgage payment and HOA dues and the property taxes for the year, I have about $3,541 in available funds for discretionary spending. That also leaves about $2,646 in discretionary spending per month, which is pretty exciting! I’m curious to see whether I end up with money leftover at the end of the year or what the result is. This exercise also shows me how much of my spending is really discretionary and it’s kind of fun figuring out to how to allocate some of it.

Readers, how was your money in February?

January 2016 update (+0.5%)

I’m experimenting with a new format this year in which I only fill in the net worth table here quarterly. I want to focus more on my spending and my money actions each month.

In January, I:

  1. contributed ~45% of the pre-tax 401(k) limit
  2. paid the remainder of my costs for this period of school
  3. sold my 2015 Q4 ESPP shares and transferred their value to my general savings account
  4. kicked off my first month using Alliant Credit Union for my primary checking and savings accounts. I’m really stoked about this because they pay a reasonable-ish rate on checking without having to count debit card transactions (0.65%) AND they pay the same interest rate on savings as Ally Bank (1.00%). It also made the monthly auto-transfers from savings to checking much smoother being at the same place. Some people are tempted to spend their savings if it is in the same place as their checking account, but I’m not.
  5. opened up two NetSpend prepaid cards for the sweet 5% interest on the first $5,000. I’m all about finding ways to earn a better return on my cash since I decided to keep more cash around. My plan is that later, higher interest chunks will form part of the fixed income portion of my investment portfolio and the lower interest chunks will be my savings buffer.
  6. got really stressed out when the auto-payment on one of my credit cards didn’t go through in the switching of checking accounts. I assumed it would go through on one of them and nope, neither. I got hit with a late fee AND interest, all on a really low (for me) statement balance of ~$300. That was super stressful, but the credit card company was great and reversed all of the fees, even before I made the corrected payment!
  7. made my annual January donation that is ~6 months of budgeted charitable donations
  8. sold my first item on Craigslist! I was super stoked about that – it sold in under 24 hours. Eventually, we’ll get things looking like we don’t have a mash up of two apartments in here… We’re actively trying to sell a set of other items on Craigslist too and that one is taking longer. It took a bit to figure out what price I should list at.
  9. got hit with a maintenance fee on a credit card I hadn’t used all year, oops! Looks like I need to remember to use that one at least once a year.
  10. did not contribute to my Roth IRA. My current plan is to do this in April / after I have sufficient earned income.
  11. lost about $9,000 on paper in my investment portfolio. Despite that and selling my ESPP shares, I managed to have my investments “only” be down ~$300 thanks to my large contributions this month.
  12. saw my net worth go up by $3,000 or about 0.5% to $604,000. (Note that now that it’s larger, I’m going to be rounding to the nearest $1,000 here.)

Expenses: I spent $2,301 in January including the mortgage or $1,273 without it, excluding charitable donations. That breaks down to:

  • $2,081 in fixed/unavoidable expenses: financials, cell phone, HOA dues, mortgage payment, NEXUS card, medical, and car insurance
  • $222 in discretionary expenses: clothing, entertainment, food, eyebrows, toiletries, recreation, shopping, parking and tolls

Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • ($319) Clothing: returned two of the four dresses I bought at the end of December ($363) and bought a long-sleeved running top ($44)
  • $37 Entertainment/Social [average so far this year: $37, average last year: $116] – A book (<$1 somehow), dinner with a friend ($24), and another photo album for picture printing ($13) – I’ll get my boyfriend’s half of that back later. This will be low for this period of school, in fact I’m surprised it was this “high” this month.
  • <$1 Financials: inactivity fee on that credit card I mentioned above. It should have been more like $10, so this was actually pretty pleasant.
  • $37 Food
    • $0 Eating out by myself [average so far this year: $0, average last year: $6]
    • $6 Schoolwork-related food [average so far this year: $6] – met up with a classmate in a coffee shop
    • $31 Work lunches [average so far this year: $31, average last year: $39] – this was 7 days of lunches
  • $26 Cell phone – monthly Cricket bill. It’s lower this month because I had raised my plan just before the plan renewal date last month and lowered it again shortly after.
  • $50 Nexus card – renewal time!
  • $160 Medical – a December appointment
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $29 Toiletries [average so far this year: $33, average last year: $48] – cleanser and wipes for my menstrual cup and toner
  • $172 Recreation – Bah, so I did a ton of research and decided to get a Jawbone Up2 ($68) instead of a Fitbit Charge, but then it being on my wrist and not having the time on it drove me crazy, plus it was annoying to get on/off, so I bought a Fitbit One ($95). I like it much better! I should have just done that in the first place. My plan was to try to re-sell the Up2 for ~$50 or so.
  • $204 Shopping – the last of the parts for my new desktop computer ($200) and the Stylebook app ($4)
  • $530 Transportation: tolls replenishment (x1), parking at school one day, and six months of car insurance (up about 8% from the six month premium)

I didn’t even look into how my spending was going until about 2/3 of the way through the month, so I’m pretty happy with how things went! I also didn’t pay attention to how often I was buying lunch at work versus bringing it.

This month was pretty frugal. I’m curious to see how the year turns out! I’m guessing February will be similarly frugal since there are no big expenses due in February, nor are we planning any trips for the year yet. We’re debating re-painting a bunch of the condo finally, so that may happen, depending on cost. If the quotes are higher than we want to pay, we may end up doing it in the spring ourselves.

HOA dues did not go up this year and there is no special assessment, which is cool. I don’t know what the property taxes look like, but my tax value went up about 5%, so I assume they will go up about 5%.

In an attempt to rein in my clothing spending this year, I bought the Stylebook app to show me the cost-per-wear metrics of my clothing and how often I’m wearing items I have. My first goal is to get the CPW for each item in my closet down to $5. I’ll make a new goal once I get there. So far, it’s fun organizing my clothing in the app and is totally transferring the time I spent shopping to organizing my closet in the app. Only three items meet that $5 CPW goal at the moment: a $46 pair of jeans is at $3/wear, a $217 purse is at $4.25/use and a $20 summer top is at $4.95/wear. I’ve added in any clothes/purses I bought in 2015 to the app and tried to add past data where I could, but some of the stuff is going to take a while to get down to a reasonable cost per wear.

Note to newer readers: my boyfriend and I live together in the condo that I own and as part of him not paying rent, he pays for things like groceries, internet, electricity, eating out together, Ubers, and miscellaneous costs on trips, while I pay for everything related to the condo and to the car that I own. For now, he is also paying for the cleaning person that we hired to ease that burden a bit, but we’ll check in on that later this year. I may end up chipping in towards that later. My mom has commented that we shouldn’t “split” groceries 50/50 because he eats more than I do, but I take lunches to work out of the grocery budget and eat more breakfasts and snack food, while he eats more when we do share meals, so it actually evens out. In 2015, we averaged $538/month on shared groceries and restaurants, so the $509 we spent in January on groceries was a bit higher than usual, but still under last year’s shared food spending considering that there are no restaurants in there.

Readers, how was your money in January?