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How I Use Mint

I don’t use Mint to keep a budget. Or to track my spending.

I don’t like their budgeting software. I prefer budgeting software that requires you to enter transactions manually because then it’s easier to know what you spent something on and what categories it should be assigned to.

I like Mint for not needing to log in to every single one of my accounts to verify what transactions posted. One of my credit cards (the Fidelity American Express) doesn’t show transactions on a mobile app, so this is where Mint comes in.

I don’t use Mint to track my net worth. It knows about my checking, savings, credit card, condo value, car value and mortgage accounts. It does’t know about my 401(k), Roth IRA, taxable investment accounts, or ESPP. This has the side effect of my ESPP looking like income when I sell it and transfer it into my savings account rather than when I contribute to it, which is perfectly fine with me.

I don’t want to see my investment values every day, which is why Mint doesn’t know about them.

I don’t want to check in on my asset allocation either day let alone every month either, which is why I only update my Outside Investments at Vanguard a few times a year. (My 401(k) is no longer at Vanguard, so I enter it manually to check up on my allocations.) Why don’t I want to check up on my asset allocation that often? My plan specifically calls for putting all of my fixed income for the year in with my pre-tax 401(k) contributions, as well as most of my international and then my US stocks will go in with my Roth IRA and after-tax 401(k) contributions, which happen later. So my asset allocation will look off for the next couple of months and then it’ll be fine again. So I simply shouldn’t check on it.

I have a bit of an obsessive personality with checking on things and tracking everything. In order to be okay with the stock market’s fluctuations, I shouldn’t check on things every day. It’s simply unnecessary. Besides, my contributions at this point are worth so much more than my investment returns that it’s silly to watch them like a hawk.

I use Mint on my phone mostly. It uses touch ID for login, which not all of my banking apps do (cough credit unions). Since I use LastPass as a password manager, it’s far more annoying to login with a password than with touch ID.

I don’t like Mint’s “Cash Flow” feature as when I’m frontloading my 401(k), it looks like I am spending way beyond my income.

I don’t like their Advice section aka advertising. Most of it is terrible. It suggests you should open a Traditional IRA without even considering your income. It suggests 0% balance transfers when I have no credit card debt. It suggests robo-advisors to invest my cash savings that I specifically want to be risk free. It also suggests peer-to-peer lending for low, fixed rate personal loans when again, I have no credit card debt. And these things constantly appear.

I like how it reminds me of bills like credit card and mortgage payments and other things I manually added (HOA dues and property taxes), but it has no way of knowing if you’ve already made the payment or if you’re in the grace period and haven’t made the payment yet (e.g. the mortgage) and it clutters up the view by showing a $0 payment is required for every credit card you have no payment required for or even showing a payment is required when you had a credit on the account at the statement date!

Their budgeting drives me crazy with how annoying it is to get things to not be red and how non-monthly bills are always green and then often red when they come due if they were more expensive than you had thought.

I don’t like that it doesn’t show the transactions on my mortgage account (it just shows the current balance), nor does it have charts for the mortgage balance (or any other balance over time) in the mobile app.

It seems to suggest that it automatically updates my car’s value from KBB, but it doesn’t! Oh I went in and changed the mileage and now it seems to have auto-updated it. It looks like my car is now worth under $10,000. It’s about 5.5 years old now and my plan is to hold on to it for another 5 years, minimum. Once the mortgage is paid off, then I’ll consider a plan for when I’ll replace the car.

I don’t like that I can’t track my Series I Savings Bonds in Mint. I understand not being able to do it automatically, but if you enter the purchase date, type of i-bond, and amount, it’s pretty easy to figure it out.

Readers, what do you love/hate about Mint? How do you use it?


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?



2015 In Review: Spending

A sidenote before we get into things: I decided to no longer report specific numbers on my charitable donations on this site. I removed those amounts from the Financial Stats page, they’re not in this pie chart below, and I won’t talk about them on my monthly reports going forward either.

According to this spreadsheet, I spent $48,288.04 in 2015. (I say according to this spreadsheet because each spreadsheet’s total seems to vary slightly…)

2015 Spending

In my 2014 year in review, I talked about what I thought my 2015 spending/savings might look like. Let’s check in with that:

1) I will spend $3,035 less on housing with my boyfriend moving in. I don’t know what the property tax bill will look like yet, but I’ve estimated for a 20% increase. There’s also a small special assessment due. I justify not caring about this by how much cheaper owning is than renting (~$14k to own my two bedroom condo last year versus ~$39k to rent a similar place).

We ended up rearranging how we split costs pretty quickly after he moved in and I did not spend $3,035 less on housing – in fact, I spent about $3,300 more thanks to some projects.

2) I am planning to spend less on clothing, but who knows how that’ll actually end up going.

We all know this failed miserably! But that’s perfectly all right. My clothing spending in 2015 was about half of the sum of my clothing spending in 2010-2014.

3) I think I’ll spend about the same on entertainment, dining out, and personal care.

I actually spent about half as much on entertainment ($1,400 versus $2,500), a third of the amount on dining out ($67.92 versus $211.58), and 25% more on personal care ($1,060.82 versus $829.54).

4) We’ve each set up automatic transfers for $200/month to the joint account to cover groceries. I’m reasonably sure this will be sufficient, but it may be more than we need.

Well that was about what we spent on groceries per month for the year, but we switched up our system later on.

5) I’ve estimated to spend about the same in 2015 on work lunches, but I’m going to see how the new job goes, how much the cafeteria costs, and then see if I can reduce this at all.

I seriously reduced this! Woo! I spent $1,817.05 in 2014 and $462.27 in 2015, just under $40/month in 2015. I did pretty well with bringing my lunch many days and occasionally buying it. Food is reasonably cheap here.

6) I estimated in my budget that I’ll spend less on recreation. My new employer will cover a certain amount of fitness related expenses. I haven’t decided whether I’ll count the funds as income or a reduction in spending. If it’s taxable income, I’ll probably count it is a income. That’ll affect what this category looks like this year.

I ended up categorizing the spending as spending and the reimbursements as income since they were taxed and all. I spent a tiny bit more on recreation.

7) I’ve estimated only $500 for shopping compared to 2014’s $3,400.

Hahahaha. I spent $5,266.16 on shopping. This covered: a new laptop, a new desktop computer, a new fancy office chair, a fancy new computer desk, a new iPhone and case, a new Kindle, a speaker for the kitchen, three new purses, a sunglasses case, some kitchen tools, and a new pillow. So lots of things!

8) I estimate spending about $400 more on transportation. Hopefully that’s not the case and car insurance will go down!

I actually spent a lot less! Car insurance went down AND I only paid for six months, not twelve. I also surprisingly spent less on fuel and the commuting costs weren’t too bad.

9) I’ll spend about $500 less on travel.

I actually spent about 2/3 of my 2014 travel spending. A decent chunk of New Zealand was paid for in 2014 and my boyfriend bought our Christmas flights per our expense sharing agreement.

10) Overall, I plan to spend about $9,200 less in 2015 than in 2014: 33% of that is housing, 10% clothing, 13% health, and 31% shopping.


Some interesting spending items in 2015 to note:

  • $15.20 unaccounted for cash withdrawals
  • $15.25 books
  • $146.05 cell phone (two SIM cards, one activation fee, and ~3 months of service)
  • $44.22 spent per month on average on food (this includes work lunches and lazy eating out by myself)

How do I think my 2016 spending will be different than in 2015?

  1. I will spend less money on clothing. Other than 2015, I’ve averaged about $2,200/year post-college. I bought the Stylebook app early this month and now I have the game of driving down my cost per wear on items and buying new items is counterproductive to that.
  2. I’ll spend less on shopping – I don’t need to replace all of those things I replaced in 2015 yet.
  3. I’ll probably spend less on travel too.

Those three categories added up to about $16,000 in 2015 or about one third of my expenses, which is a good chunk considering that housing was half. We are planning on possibly getting a new couch in the next few years though and possibly some other living room furniture, though we don’t have a timeline on those yet. The rest of the categories I expect will be pretty similar year over year, so I may end up underspending my estimate for 2016 for the first time in a while…

Readers, how was your 2015 spending?



2015 In Review: Goals, Savings, Net Worth, Investments, and Charts Galore

Remember that time when I made paying off my mortgage my primary goal for 2015? Well, as you can tell, that hasn’t happened.

Also remember when I set out to spend $38,800 in 2015? That didn’t happen either.

2015 was however a pretty full year: I left my job of five years, took two months off unpaid including a month traveling with my boyfriend, applied to grad school, started a new job, got accepted into grad school, and started grad school. Most of these things I knew about at the beginning of the year, though I didn’t know if I’d get into grad school. The goals I set on the blog assumed I wouldn’t since I didn’t want to jinx it and tell you guys I’d applied. That fact clearly changed my 2015 a lot.

Goals review

1) Enjoy living together! Have an awesome trip to NZ!

Success! This has definitely been good :) It was more of an adjustment than either of us anticipated, but mostly it’s pretty awesome!

2) Contribute the maximum to all tax-advantaged accounts available to me. This means $5,500 in a Backdoor Roth IRA, $18,000 in a pre-tax 401(k) and possibly some additional funds to the after-tax 401(k) and possibly my 2016 Roth IRA amount in a savings account ready to deploy in January. This will account for probably about 2/3 of my savings in 2015.

Success! I made my 2015 Backdoor Roth IRA contribution in January, maxed out my pre-tax 401(k) with $18,000, and maxed out my after-tax 401(k). As I predicted, this accounted for about 2/3 of my savings in 2015.

3) Learn the ropes at my new company and have an awesome first year!

Success! This is definitely going okay. I think I’ll be here another year at the very least.

4) Exercise for at least 45 minutes per day. My phone is really helpful at tracking this for me!

This has not gone very well. And once I switched to an iPhone, I couldn’t figure out to track “active time” per day anymore without having an Apple Watch. I think I probably only got down to around 25-30 minutes on average. This was definitely a more sedentary year than usual for me.

5) Go to the gym (or run) three times per week.

Fail! This one fell pretty flat. It became really hard with grad school and my priorities which I did stay on top of fell to: sleep, eat, work, and grad school.

6) Contribute enough to a Health Savings Account such that Out Of Pocket Maximum ~= Current HSA balance + Employer contribution + my contribution.

Success! I started out doing this and I ended up contributing the maximum (IRS maximum of $3,350 – my employer’s contribution = my contribution). So success!

7) Succeed at Operation Bayes – I’ll explain this later.

Success! I applied to grad school and got in! Woo! And did quite well on my first course :)

8) Spend under $40,000.

Hah. Fail. I came in somewhere around $48,000 of spending.

9) Save 70% of my net income monthly…and 100% of my bonuses. (Yay for a big raise that will allow me to save that much of my monthly income!)

Pass! It became difficult to track how much I saved of my net monthly income separate from my bonus income with the compensation structure at my new job. Overall, I saved 70% of my net income before grad school tuition withdrawals were accounted for or 61% after. This should even out in future years because a large portion of the withdrawals will be reimbursed, though there will be some income taxes to be paid.

10) Contribute the maximum that I can to the Employee Stock Purchase Plan.

Success! I mostly did this. One month I had too much go to my pre-tax 401(k) while I was frontloading it and missed out on a few dollars of ESPP contributions. I sold all of my ESPP purchases as soon as I could and then used the proceeds to fulfill other savings goals.

11) Pay down the mortgage with any funds that are leftover after 2), including the proceeds of 10).

I made zero extra mortgage payments in 2015. Its natural amortization lowered the mortgage balance to less than my annual base salary, which is quite exciting!

Even if I make no extra mortgage payments, the mortgage will pay itself down by about $9,000 in 2015. I’m becoming much less concerned about the mortgage with the smaller balance and the likelihood of the interest rate jumping up to 7.5% when it resets seeming less and less likely. Right now, if it were to reset today, it would likely reset to 3.25%, which would actually lower my required payment by ~$460/month and increase the January 2015 interest cost by about $89 or about 30%. [note: updated this paragraph with the numbers as of mid-December 2015.]

Overall, I’m anticipating a net worth increase of about $100,000 to $120,000 for the year to increase my net worth to $630,000 to $650,000. I expect my gross income to be somewhere between $140,000 and $150,000 in 2015.

My gross income fell smack in the middle of that range, so that prediction was good. My net worth prediction fell pretty flat though:

  1. I had calculated that my investments would go up by about 8%, for a return of about $13,000. Instead they fell, meaning that they ended up about $22,000 lower than I had expected.
  2. I had planned on adjusting my condo value by 3% to account for inflation. I decided not to do that since it’s hard to know what it’s worth exactly. I may end up adjusting it in 2016.
  3. I paid out of pocket for grad school and haven’t gotten all of the funds back from my employer.
  4. The above three points account for $45,000. They would have gotten me from my actual end of year net worth to the high end of my anticipated range, a $115,000 increase.

2015 by the numbers

  1. My gross W-2 income was about $150,000, a drop of about 12% from 2014 after a similar 14% drop from 2013->2014.
  2. My gross income was about 301% of my spending for the year (my average since college is 317%).
  3. I paid down the mortgage by $8,900 from $143,000 to $134,100. That’s about 3% of the original mortgage balance, putting it at about 53.1% paid off, which isn’t bad for only having owned the place for 3.5 years.
  4. Increased my net worth by $69,100 over the course of the year to $600,700.
  5. I spent about $49,687, a 3.4% increase over 2014’s spending.
  6. I saved about $74,400, for an overall savings rate of about 64% of my net income.
  7. My investments (~30% fixed income, 35% US stocks, 35% international stocks) were down about $5,500 for the year, which was a return of -2.56% according to XIRR.
  8. Increased my assets and paid down my mortgage such that my assets were I to liquidate all of my retirement accounts are worth more than the mortgage and I am only about $41,600 in already liquid funds away from being able to pay off the mortgage, a $29,000 improvement from 2014.
  9. Decreased the amount needed to save to be FI by $28,000 to $783,300.
  10. Increased the years of savings in retirement accounts from 2.89 years to 3.66 years, an increase of 0.77 years.
  11. Buying my place is now about $8,800 cheaper than continuing to rent would have been, ignoring the increase in value.

2015 in charts

2015 Savings Distribution

My savings was far more fragmented than in 2014. Contributions were split between: pre-tax 401(k), after-tax 401(k), tuition savings, Employee Stock Purchase Plan, regular mortgage payment principal, my 2015 Backdoor Roth IRA, and my Health Savings Account. I transferred a decent chunk from my general savings account to other goals such as my 2015 Backdoor Roth IRA, spending while unemployed or frontloading my retirement accounts, and my tuition savings account. I sold all of my ESPP purchases as soon as I could and used the funds to top up my general and tuition savings accounts.

December 2015 Net Worth Graph

I had my lowest net worth increase for the year since 2010 at $69,100, settling in at $600,700 at the end of the year.

Net Worth Since Dec09

To put things into perspective, above is a chart of my net worth growth since December 2009. I’ve increased it by about 20x in the last six years!

I really like the “Where in the world could I retire today?” game that Planting our Pennies have been playing. At the end of 2014 if I were to sell my condo and retire, I could have retired in Sofia, Bulgaria. I could now retire in Podgorica, Montenegro! I’m guessing that by some time in 2016, I should be able to retire in the lowest cost of living city in the United States or Canada on the Expatisan listing. This year, my expenses were about 8.3% of my end of year net worth (down 0.7 percentage points from last year).

4% SWR versus expenses over time

The 4% SWR on my investments is no longer near zero – I’ve been making some really great progress in this area in the last few years. I’m actually anticipating getting this figure up to $900/month by mid-2016, which is starting to become a pretty decent figure. With that, the vast majority of my fixed expenses will be covered (other than my mortgage) and it’s on to getting the discretionary expenses covered, which is pretty cool!

$ to FI vs net worth over time

I made yet another chart recently which shows the “$ to FI” figure vs my net worth over time. It’s pretty cool to see them converging, which I expect to happen sometime in 2016. It’s cool to see that even though I feel like this number is a huge moving target, there is still progress being made. This chart also shows that at current spending levels, I’m probably about halfway to FI, which is pretty awesome.

2015 Mortgage Paydown

I didn’t make any extra mortgage payments in 2015. The regular amortization still moved things along relatively well though thanks to the extra payments I’ve already made. If I had a normal 30 year mortgage and not a 5/1 ARM, then I would have 12.75 years left on the mortgage at this rate, which is pretty good considering that I bought my condo 3.5 years ago!

2015 Investments

My investments had a lot more ups and downs in 2015 than ever before. My employer and I contributed just over $50,000, which is double the 2014 figure. My 401(k) was above $100,000 for most of 2015 and my Roth IRA thanks to the after-tax 401(k) contributions is now above $60,000 – it almost doubled this year. I also saw just over $4,000 in dividends across all of my accounts and I’m estimating to get close to $5,000 in 2016. My largest one month gain was $9,132 and my largest one month loss was $9,988.

As my investments have grown, the monthly gain/loss has increased significantly as you can see with this chart:

Monthly Investment GainLoss

Here’s to a wealthful 2016!



December 2015 net worth update (+0.5%)

31-Dec-2014 30-Nov-2015 31-Dec-2015 MoM YTD
cash $12,300 $7,700 $7,200 -$500 -$5,100
savings $47,800 $62,700 $65,600 +$2,900 +$17,800
investments $164,500 $212,200 $212,000 -$200
mortgage $143,000 $134,900 $134,100 +$800
net worth $531,600 $597,700 $600,700 +$3,000
taxable assets – debts $70,600 $46,100 $41,600 +$4,500
$ until FI* $811,300 $826,900 $783,300 -$43,600

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

Happy new year, everyone! Here’s to a great 2016!

I managed to sneak in a “small” net worth increase this month. I say “small” because the entirety of my net worth increase can be attributed to getting my tuition reimbursement in 2015 instead of in 2016, which was more than the net worth increase in December. I paid January’s tuition this month and bought a textbook, which took a dent out of my savings accounts. I did surpass my $30,000 in general savings goal, however, which is quite exciting! Ignoring the tuition spending, my savings rate was 86% this month or 40% with the withdrawals. (It’s a bit higher than usual since I transferred the extra money in my checking account to savings.)

I also managed to sneak over $600,000! That’s pretty cool too. And “$ until FI” is finally under $800,000 again! Let’s see if I can keep it there :)

Expenses: I spent $2,807 in December including the mortgage or $1,780 without it. Some of my controllable expenses broke down as follows:

  • $156 Clothing
    • ($164) Athletic wear: returns from November shopping
    • $167 Bottoms: a pair of jeans, two pairs of corduroy pants, and a pair of colored leggings
    • ($89) Dresses: some returns and purchased 4 dresses, of which I hope to keep 1-2 at most, so I should see another credit here in January since they won’t get here until then.
    • $130 Shoes: bought a pair of ankle boots to replace my pair from 2010 that are a bit small
    • $13 Socks: bought a pair of ankle socks to go with the boots
    • $99 Tops: returned a long-sleeved top, bought a sleeveless top that was on sale, bought 5 long/three-quarter sleeved tops.
  • $3 Entertainment/Social [average so far this year: $116, average last year: $211] – Remember the Milk pro for two years ($48), dinner with a friend ($15), and spending some cash towards the facial listed below (-$60)
  • $2 Eating out by myself [average so far this year: $6, average last year: $18] – some gum at the airport, that I should have put on the shared credit card
  • $22 Work lunches [average so far this year: $39, average last year: $147] – I was lazy with some of the short weeks…
  • $376 Presents – finished my Christmas shopping and a couple birthday presents thrown in there for good measure
  • $395 Housing miscellaneous – two thermostats ($50 each), a new dual switch ($10), a timer for the master shower fan, and installation by an electrician
  • $62 Cell phone – $15 to Ting for my last bill and $47 to Cricket
  • $15 Medical – a prescription
  • $20 Eyebrows
  • $33 Toiletries [average so far this year: $48, average last year: $33] – cold medicine and clinical strength deodorant
  • $100 Annual facial
  • $123 Recreation – a new pair of running shoes
  • $82 Transportation: tolls replenishment (x2) and one tank of gas
  • $30 Travel: the food expenses that didn’t make it on the shared credit card

December was my lowest month of non-education spending this year!

Savings: $65,600 (up $2,900)

These funds are spread across a checking account that gets free ATM fees anywhere in the world, my current employer’s health savings account, a health savings account at my credit union, a bit of a buffer in my old credit union checking account, and general and grad school savings accounts at my new credit union (Alliant).

  • My grad school savings account is (as of October) at the amount I need it to be to pay for the rest of my grad school in cash, if necessary.
  • I’m contributing the maximum to my HSA this year.
  • The rest of the savings increase went to my general savings account.
  • Actions: I paid January tuition and bought a textbook out of my grad school savings account. I added about $2,200 more than that cost to my general savings account, which balanced things out.

Investments: $212,000 (down $200 or -0.1%)

This includes my pre-tax 401(k), employer 401(k) matching, my after-tax 401(k), my Roth IRA, and my taxable investments including stock index funds, Series I Savings Bonds, and ESPP cash/shares.

The change here comes from:

  1. Employer matching contributions
  2. A month’s ESPP deposits
  3. Dividends! About $2,000 across all of my accounts

Next month will be great for my investments with frontloading my pre-tax 401(k)!

Mortgage: $134,100 (down $800 or -0.6%)

I’m just letting the regular, automatic payment go for now, until my cash savings is at the level I want and my 401(k) is fully maxed out for the year.

I’m really excited about the balance this month because it’s now lower than my annual base salary! That’s pretty exciting!

TOTAL: $600,700 (up $3,000 or +0.5%)

I ended 2014 with a net worth of $531,600, so I saw a change of +$69,100 or +13.0% in 2015. I set the y-axis on this graph to $650,000 so we could see how my net worth grows towards that throughout the year. Hah! I did not get there and I will discuss why in the 2015 wrap-up post that I will publish in January sometime. I did manage a pretty reasonable increase though! It works out to about $190/day.

December 2015 Net Worth Graph



2016 Plan


1) Enjoy living together!

2) Do well in grad school and enjoy it!

3) Do well at my job!

4) Contribute the maximum to all tax-advantaged accounts available to me. This means $5,500 in a Backdoor Roth IRA, $18,000 in a pre-tax 401(k), some additional funds to the after-tax 401(k)*, the maximum to the Employee Stock Purchase Plan (and selling that right away), and the maximum to my Health Savings Account. This will account for probably about 75% of my savings in 2016, though the ESPP funds will be reallocated once they’re sold.

5) 7,000 steps per day.

6) Spend no more than in 2015 ($48,000).

7) Save 70% of my net income before tuition savings account withdrawals. (This is achievable if I spend no more than $48,000.)

8) Increase my liquid funds (including my stock index funds outside of retirement accounts and my Series I Savings Bonds, but ignoring the grad school savings accounts) to two years of living expenses. This means adding $40,000 to my general savings account in 2016, some of which will probably be put into Series I Savings Bonds and/or CDs.

9) Pay down the mortgage with what’s left. I anticipate having about $0 left after all of the other goals in 2016. (I don’t anticipate being able to meet the liquid savings goal in 2016 – my current figures show me coming up about $5,000 short.)

10) Turn my “taxable assets – debts” figure around so that taxable assets are > debts. (This is my “golden” goal for 2016.)

I’m anticipating total compensation from work around $170,000 plus bonus for a net worth increase of around $145,000. I’m anticipating saving about $87,000 of that figure.

*I’ve debated increasing my liquid funds some more before contributing to the after-tax 401(k), but since those contributions are withdrawable with minimal penalties/taxes and I already have a decent enough for now amount of liquid funds, I’m going to do the after-tax 401(k) contributions first.


  • $23,000 Housing: mortgage payments, HOA dues, property taxes (assuming a 5% increase from 2015), condo insurance, cell phone bill, condo maintenance
  • $3,600 Travel: We both have a reasonable number of points to put towards a trip, but due to various circumstances, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to use them, so I have no idea how much we’ll spend here. I’m going to guess $300/month for now.
  • $3,000 Gifts and Donations: I donate 1% of my gross income to various charities and give about $100 at weddings, birthdays, and Christmas to each person on my shopping list.
  • $2,400 Transportation: car insurance, vehicle tab renewal, fuel, tolls, oil change and wiper blades
  • $2,000 Clothing: guess as to how much I’ll spend
  • $1,400 Entertainment: hanging out with friends
  • $1,000 Recreation: I’m guesstimating 3 pairs of athletic shoes of some sort, a punch card of yoga classes, and a few other activities.
  • $1,000 Medical: I seem to spend about this much per year
  • $900 Personal care: eyebrow waxes, toiletries, facials and massages, and hair cuts.
  • $600 Food: This is just lazy eating out including work lunches.
  • $275 Life: Umbrella insurance and NEXUS card as I renewed my driver’s license and passport in 2015, so they’re good until 2025!
  • $200 Shopping: I replaced my laptop and upgraded my desktop in 2015, as well as buying a new cell phone, two purses, a sunglasses case, and a new computer desk and chair. I think I’m doing just fine in this category, but I’ll leave $200 here as a buffer.
  • $39,375 Total

I’ve written this down as a spending plan, but honestly? These are just the things I know about. For the last several years, I have pretty solidly spent in the $45,000 to $50,000 range. 2014 fell pretty much spot on $48,000, as did 2015. So I honestly believe I will end up spending somewhere closer to that figure than this $39,000 figure. I have a guess I won’t be too spendy since I’ll be otherwise occupied with grad school and I hear that keeping busy helps you to spend less money, but we’ll see how that goes ;)

Instead of budgeting in 2016, I’m simply going to transfer (2015 spending – charitable donations) / 12 to my checking account each month. Why ignoring charitable donations? That budget goes to a savings account that when the budget gets large enough, I’ll switch over to a donor advised fund. I’ll check in in June to see if I am significantly under or overspending that and then I’ll reconcile in December.

End of year forecasting

Including my employer’s contributions to various accounts and expected market contributions, I expect the end of the year to look like:

  • $735,200 in overall net worth (a $143,700 increase)
  • $95,900 in savings (a $36,100 increase)
  • $280,000 in investments (a $71,000 increase)
  • $125,000 in mortgage balance (a $9,000 decrease)
  • -$4,500 in taxable assets – debts (a $43,500 increase)
  • $644,600 until FI (a $116,700 decrease) *note to the naysayers: this is a target to shoot for and once I reach it, I’ll do some more exact calculations because until I reach it, I’m definitely not FI :) Until then, I’m using a 4% SWR of my investments bucket, a paid off mortgage, and the rolling last 12 months of expenses to calculate my target.
  • A split of 14% cash / 48% condo equity / 38% investments (changed from the 2015 EOY of 11% cash / 53% condo equity / 35% investments). At its highest, my condo equity was about 60% of my net worth.


Envisioning the future of my finances

Some day, my pre-tax 401(k) will be worth more than one year’s annual salary.

Some day, withdrawing 4% of my investments could cover all of my needs. That some day will be sooner than you think – it’ll come in 2016.

Some day, my liquid assets will be worth more than my mortgage.

Some day, my pre-tax 401(k) will gain or lose more in a year than I can add myself, likely in the year I turn 30. My Roth IRA is already at this point.

Some day, my mortgage will be paid off, reducing my expenses by about $12,000 per year. Then I will increase my donations budget from its current 1% of my gross income to 2% of my gross income.

Some day, I will be a millionaire on paper.

Some day, I will start adding to my taxable account at Vanguard, beyond just adding to my retirement accounts. At the point that I start doing this, my retirement accounts will already be worth almost half a million dollars.

Some day, I will learn about tax loss harvesting.

Some day, my investment accounts will be worth enough to sustain my lifestyle indefinitely with a 4% withdrawal rate. Then I will increase my donations budget to 5% of my gross income, at which point I could open up a donor advised fund. Those seem cool! Also, simpler come tax time.

Some day, my investment accounts will be worth enough to sustain my lifestyle indefinitely with a 3% withdrawal rate. Then I will increase my donations budget to 10% of my gross income, at which point I would definitely open up a donor advised fund.


There are all sorts of levels of financial freedom that I look forward to discovering in my future. The level I’m at now is pretty cool too.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Readers, what levels of financial freedom do you look forward to in your future?



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