2017 Joint Spending Plan

I’ll go into more detail in later posts about how and why exactly my husband and I plan to keep parts of our finances separate, including how we’re handling the condo. For now, let’s look at what our joint spending plan looks like for 2017. We spent about an hour one weekend in mid-December looking at the categories we counted as shared expenses in 2016 and estimating what we would spending 2017 on those categories.

Note that this plan does not cover our personal spending – that is separately tracked for both of us. We’re following a his/hers/ours formula to our assets and spending, based on what we drew out in our postnuptial agreement. My husband plans to follow his non-budgeting formula which works out great for him and I plan to use Cait Flanders’ Mindful Budgeting Planner to track my personal spending in 2017.

Spending Plan

2017-joint-spending-plan

Housing ($16,293.07)

  • $9,559.88 HOA monthly and special assessments (known amounts), property taxes (I estimated based on the assessed value of the condo and the 2016 tax amount)
  • $2,230 Maintenance – this is the average amount I’ve spent annually since buying the condo. If it doesn’t all get spent, it’ll roll forward as float to cover future maintenance or condo assessments. My husband tried to say that we don’t need to budget for condo maintenance each year because everything this year was a one-off expense. I showed him my data for 2012-2016 that showed that 2016 was exactly in line with average and he agreed to put this in.
  • $925.91 Electricity – This is the 2016 spending plus the expected per kWh increase for 2017. Our usage has stayed relatively flat or decreasing over the years and the utility company keeps increasing the cost per kWh each year… I’m not really sure how to budget for heating since I’m home more than I used to be and the heaters are on more instead of being off all day, so I guess we’ll see how this goes!
  • $17.88 VoIP line
  • $2,750 House cleaning – $110 biweekly, assuming 25 visits
  • $809.40 Internet

An astute reader might notice that there is no mortgage payment listed here, which costs about $12,000/year. Did we pay off the mortgage or is it a separate expense? And whose separate expense is it? I’ll answer those questions in a future post.

Food ($8,980)

We generally toss household toiletries like paper towels and toothpaste into here for simplicity.

  • $450/month Groceries – our average spending in 2016
  • $255/month Restaurants – one nice dinner out and 3 takeouts
  • $520/year Costco – we make one trip quarterly

Taxes (unknown)

That glorious marriage tax penalty will hit us for the 2016 tax year. We won’t know exactly how much it’ll be until I’ve collected all of our tax forms and can do our taxes in our beloved TurboTax. I have an estimate though that it will be somewhere between our travel budget for the year ($5,000) and our food budget for the year ($8,980). On the other hand, with our income projections for 2017, I expect getting married to save us a larger sum than our penalty in 2016 and that will be a joint bonus. Thanks to my husband’s income increasing by 33% over his 2015 income, we don’t expect to get hit with any underpayment penalties.

Travel ($5,000)

This covers (for both of us) one trip for a friend’s milestone birthday, a Christmas trip, a relative’s milestone birthday trip, and one weekend getaway. Some of this might get paid for with credit card points, but we still count it as spending and then the credit card points as income, resulting in $0 coming out of our checking account.

Entertainment ($1,512.16)

  • $1,000 theatre tickets and such
  • $10.95/month Adobe Lightroom
  • $10.95/month Netflix
  • $16.41/month Spotify Family, shared with two other family members
  • $4.37/month Pandora

Transportation ($1,570)

  • $25/month: there’s usually reason to take a few Ubers a month
  • $30/month: one gas tank fill-up per month
  • $500: the January car insurance payment will be my separate expense. We plan on paying for it as a family expense in July, though that’s still uncertain at this moment. This is related to the fact that it’s my car and I’m the primary driver of it.
  • $210: annual car registration
  • $200: car maintenance is usually pretty low

Gifts ($880)

We’ll donate out of our Donor Advised Fund balance throughout 2017. We also estimated four wedding presents for a total of $880. We’re still sorting out what we’re doing about combining Christmas present spending as one of us likes to be far more generous than the other person.

Wedding (unknown)

We’re throwing a wedding reception in 2017 at a local restaurant for our friends and family who couldn’t make it to the wedding. Our estimate at the moment is that this will cost somewhere around $10,000-$15,000. It’s really hard to know how much it’ll cost until we know how many people are coming since the largest cost is the reception venue and that is based on consumption, which depends on how many people come. We are really excited to share this joy with our friends and family! We’ve received some wedding gifts already, totaling about $8,500 so far, which will cover most of this cost, which is why I’m not expecting this to be a huge part of our budget in 2017. Any costs of this which can’t be covered with cash wedding gifts will be taken out of our separate accounts in a 50/50 ratio.

Miscellaneous ($1,764.77)

Since we decided to round up the amount we deposit per month to the nearest thousand dollars, I added that extra amount as a Miscellaneous category to cover stuff we haven’t thought of, like when we decide we need a new alarm clock or a new kitchen tool.

Implementation

This plan adds up to $34,235.23 total for 2017 or an average of $2,942.30 per month. We rounded that up to $3,000 and will each deposit $1,500 per month to the joint checking account to cover these costs.

Currently, we are using two credit cards to pay for joint expenses:

  1. American Express Blue Cash Preferred ($95 annual fee, though we only paid $75 at our most recent renewal) for 6% cashback on groceries, 3% cashback on gas stations, and 1% cashback elsewhere. This one is in my husband’s name. This will earn us $239.80 per year in cash back rewards versus $169.20 with the no annual fee version of the card.
  2. Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee with a 100,000 point bonus) with 3 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere, with the ability to redeem the points at 1.5x on travel with Chase’s portal. This is our primary everything else card at the moment and has a pretty high limit. It has a $75 additional annual fee per authorized user though so this card is just in my name. With the wedding reception counting as a Restaurant in Visa’s books, this card should earn us about $630.08 in rewards in 2017 while keeping things simple.

We will keep a one month buffer in the joint checking account, so the two credit cards are on auto pay and I don’t have to make sure to pay them each month, which is a welcome change from the last few months during the transition.

If we have any future large expenses that come up during the year that our joint accounts can’t cover (like the living room remodel in 2016), then we’ll come up with a budget for the expense and transfer that amount from our separate accounts into a joint account. For example, when we found out the designer’s cost (~$3,000), we each put half of it in a joint account. We didn’t do that with the living room furniture parts since it was going to be spread out over a longer period of time, but had we been married when we decided to take on the expenditure, we would have each put half of the $12,000 budget into a joint account once we had the budget in hand.

2016 Plan

Goals

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.

Spending

  • $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.

2015 Savings Plan

Now that I’ve started the new job and have a pretty good understanding of all of the benefits available to me, I finally sat down and made a savings plan for the year. I feel so much better having done this! Usually I do this in November/December, so it’s been stressing me out a bit to not have this already done and be so far into the year.

Reminder: Savings Goals

First, let’s check in with the vague savings/investments goals that I made for the year:

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.

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

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

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!)

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

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

Plan

I already contributed $5,500 to a Backdoor Roth IRA at the beginning of January, so that’s checked off for sure.

1 – 401(k)

I’ve figured out how to maximize the match on my new employer’s 401(k) and it’s pretty easy. I just have to average X% or more of contributions over the course of the year and I’ll get the full match throughout the year. Easy peasy! I’m going to contribute to the 401(k) evenly throughout the year though. It’s only 90% clear still what they’ll take the 401(k) deductions out of (not sure if it includes my signing bonus or not), so I set the contribution % assuming it includes my signing bonus and I’ll adjust it up later if it doesn’t.

My new employer does allow after-tax contributions to their 401(k) plan! There is a limit though that is less than the IRS limit and I plan to contribute their limit. I’ve set a % on this and if it doesn’t take any money out of my signing bonus, then I’ll increase it, just like with the pre-tax 401(k).

I also need to decide what to do with my old 401(k) and what I’m going to do with the after-tax 401(k) contributions, but I’m going to figure those out later. I still have some time to do that – it’s less urgent.

2 – Health Savings Account

My new employer contributes more generously to a Health Savings Account for me than my last employer did. I still have a small balance in my old Health Savings Account that I need to figure out what to do with. For now, I only want to have the balance in this account cover one year’s maximum outlay, so I set my contribution to meet that gap. I’ll re-evaluate this approach for next year.

3 – Employee Stock Purchase Plan

I’m pretty excited for this! I can contribute up to a certain % of my salary, then at the end of the offering period, the plan administrator buys shares of my employer’s stock at a discount to me! And the plan is pretty sweet in that I can sell the shares immediately with no holding period. I elected to contribute the maximum I can and I’ll use the proceeds from selling these shares to fund the next savings goal in my savings snowball, either cash savings or mortgage paydown.

4 – Cash savings

I’ve estimated how much Operation Bayes will cost if all goes according to plan and decided that I would like to have $60,000 in my savings to cover this and some cash reserves. This is the first item on my savings snowball, so I’m going to work towards this goal and then move back to mortgage paydown. If things don’t go according to plan, then the money here beyond my normal cash reserves will be re-purposed to mortgage paydown. It looks like I should meet this goal with using the ESPP proceeds sometime in July.

5 – Mortgage paydown

Last, but not least, I’ll continue to pay down the mortgage. It looks like this should get around $25,000 in 2015.

6 – Income allotment strategy

With the new job, I get paid twice a month instead of the once a month that I got paid with my last job for, oh, you know, the last forever since it was my only job post-college. This is super weird. My plan though is to continue living off of last month’s income like I guess I have been doing for the last five years, except that I get to earn interest on the mid-month income instead of my employer. I’m still figuring out the logistics of doing this. In a spreadsheet, I’ve portioned off my checking account into two accounts at the moment: buffer and cash flow. I’ll probably just add an income one and put the income as being deposited there until it’s “transferred” to cash flow / savings / mortgage at the end of the month.

7 – Overall

My current calculation shows that I’ll save about 79% of my net income this year! I think my spreadsheet might be a bit confused (I should fix that), but it’s definitely somewhere north of 75%, which is pretty awesome. Including my employer’s contributions to various accounts and expected market contributions, I expect the end of the year to look like:

  • $650,900 in overall net worth (a $119,300 increase)
  • $62,500 in savings (a $14,700 increase)
  • $230,100 in investments (a $65,600 increase)
  • $111,800 in mortgage balance (a $31,200 increase)
  • -$22,900 in taxable assets – debts (a $47,700 increase)
  • $495,700 until FI (a $349,300 decrease) *note to the naysayers: this is a target to shoot for and once I reach it, I’ll do some more exact calculations. Until then, I’m using a 4% SWR of my investments bucket, a paid off mortgage, and a rolling last 12 months’ of expenses to calculate my target.

Goals for 2015

I’m not really sure what to expect from 2015. I’m starting it off with some big changes: my boyfriend having just moved in, our big trip, and then a new job. I’m also considering throwing another big change into the mix (see the mystery goal below), so I’m not sure what things will look like.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

8) Spend under $40,000.

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!)

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

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

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 2.875%, which would actually lower my required payment by ~$400/month and increase the January 2015 interest cost by about $46.

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.

2015 Spending Plan

I can’t make a savings or investments plan for 2015 yet since I don’t know what the new job’s benefits look like exactly, but I can plan on what my spending will look like!

Housing

My mortgage payment will continue along at the same amount, about $12,300 for the year. My boyfriend is going to pay the HOA dues, which will save me about $3,900 for the year! There is a small assessment though that we are splitting. My assessed value has gone up 20% for the 2015 tax year, so I’m estimating that property taxes will go up 20% from the 2014 amount. At least that means I can deduct more on my taxes, right? My portion of the internet bill is down to $400/year, which is about what I was paying before I increased the speed at the beginning of 2014 for much more internet since my boyfriend is paying half. My Ting referral credits have been conveniently paying my cell phone bill for quite a while now, so I’m budgeting $0 for my cell phone in 2015. I’ve estimated our 2015 electricity costs at $354 for my half, which is down $370 from 2014 since my boyfriend is paying half. (I did estimate the usage will go down a bit, which is partially offset by the increased rates.) Lastly, there is condo insurance and then household goods like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

Total estimated housing costs for the year: $17,600

Transportation – This covers car insurance, umbrella insurance, vehicle tab renewal, renewing my driver’s license, fuel for my car, and car maintenance (oil changes and replacing the windshield wipers). My estimate for these costs in 2015 is: $2,500

Entertainment – This covers hanging out with friends and date nights with my boyfriend, as well as my LastPass and Pandora subscriptions. I switched from Dropbox to OneDrive, which should save me $99/year. Estimate: $2,200

Food – This includes lazy eating out, groceries, and work lunches. Estimate: $4,300 I’m targetting work lunches for a reduction in spending as a) its the sixth largest line item on my 2015 budget after: mortgage, travel, property taxes, groceries, and entertainment and b) it doesn’t provide much value in my life. Once I start the new job, my goal is to eat in the cafeteria every day for lunch and see how much that costs, then re-evaluate this line item.

Personal care – Monthly eyebrow waxes, toiletries, the occasional spa visit, and my annual hair cut. Estimate: $800.00

Recreation – In 2014, I spent about $1,000 in this category. I’m estimating $600 thanks to work benefits.

Shopping – There will also probably be some furniture purchases with my boyfriend moving in, though I have no idea how much those will add up to. I’m estimating $500.

Clothing – I’m never very good at predicting how much I’ll spend on clothing or holding myself to a dollar amount. I’m going to estimate this at $900.

Gifts and Donations – I will continue to donate 1% of my gross income. Once the mortgage is paid off, I plan to increase this amount to 2%. I will also continue to be generous with my immediate family’s Christmas presents and give nice presents for friends’ weddings. This should amount to around $2,300 in 2015.

Travel – Save the best for last, right? Between an overseas trip in Q1, two weddings to attend, Christmas flights, and renewing my passport, I’ve budgeted $7,100 for 2015, my largest line item after the mortgage.

Total estimate: $38,800

If you take out the mortgage and travel, my spending for 2015 would only be $19,400. That’s pretty good! My goal is to get my spending under $24,000 per year without the mortgage at some point. I’m about estimating to be about 10% above that in 2015, which is much better than previous years. *cough* 39% over that in 2014 *cough* We’ll see how this goes though considering that I forecasted spending $38,500 in 2014 and wound up spending $45,700, a 19% increase. Woops!

Financial Plan for 2014

Simple goals, simple implementation, right?

Income plan

The vast majority of my income comes from my W-2 day job. This is separated into regular salary, which is paid out monthly, and stock of which I will see two comparably sized vests this year. I am expecting my overall W-2 income (before deductions) to be somewhere between $160,000 and $200,000 for the 2014 year. This assumes a modest 2% increase and the 52 week low and 52 week high +20% stock prices for the RSUs. I anticipate my income surpassing the Social Security tax maximum ($117,000 in 2014) with my September or October paycheck.

My RSUs see a flat 25% of federal income tax deducted from them, which isn’t quite enough tax because my base pay alone takes me into the 28% federal income tax bracket these days, so I need to compensate for that with my W-4 allowances. My spreadsheet suggests that at this point in time, I should set zero (0) allowances on my W-4 for 2014. I will re-evaluate this after each RSU vest and raise.

Investment contributions

I plan to:

1) Contribute the 2014 maximum of $17,500 to my 401(k) for the year, spread out throughout the year:

  • H3 = annual base pay (gross)
  • J2 = Yearly max to the 401(k) – $17,500 for 2014
  • I2 = ROUNDUP(J2/H3,2) = the % that I should contribute monthly from my paycheck to max out the 401(k) over the course of the year, e.g. if it is XX.3%, I will set it to XX+1%. I will most likely reduce this by one percentage point for my April and subsequent paychecks.

2) Make my 2014 Roth IRA contribution of $5,500 through the backdoor on January 2nd, taking the funds from my savings account.

3) Continue contributing the maximum to my Health Savings Account until the plan year ends partway through 2014. I will then re-evaluate health insurance plans and whether I will contribute to the Health Savings Account again (depends on which plan works out the best).

4) Set aside my 2015 Roth IRA contribution from my final RSU vest for the 2014 year in a savings account. This will probably either be $5,500 or $6,000.

Mortgage plan

All funds that are not set aside for spending, my 401(k), my Health Savings Account, or my Roth IRA will be thrown at the mortgage. My estimate is that this should be around $2,500/month on average, plus RSU vests.

Investment allocations

This exercise is similar to what I did for 2013. As of 12/12/2013, my investments portfolio is worth ~$130,700. I estimate adding about $25,000 to the portfolio this year, including my 401(k) contributions, my employer match, and my Roth IRA contribution, putting an estimated year end balance at $156,000.

(Note: when I wrote this post last year, I estimated that my end of year balance would be $98,100. It is $34,600 higher than that as of November 30th. Crazy!)

My target asset allocation at the end of 2014 will be:

  • 27% Fixed income
  • 36.5% US stocks
  • 36.5% International stocks

Based on this, let’s calculate my ideal portfolio at the end of 2014 and compare it to where my portfolio is now:

Current Ideal EOY Difference
US stocks $48,500 $56,945 $8,422
International Stocks $47,900 $56,945 $9,073
Fixed Income $34,400 $42,124 $7,773
total $130,700 $156,000 $25,268

I will add my $5,500 Roth IRA contribution to the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Admiral Shares, which means I only need to add another $2,922 to US stocks for the year. Subtracting out my 401(k) match from there leaves my 401(k) contributions as follows for the year:

  • 4% or $654 to add to US stocks (S&P 500 index fund)
  • 52% or $9,073 to add to international stocks (total international index fund)
  • 44% or $7,773 to add to fixed income (stable value fund)

There, we can set and forget for the rest of the year!

I will re-balance the Extended Market index fund vs S&P 500 index fund amounts in January 2015 when I make my Roth IRA contribution for that year – for now, I just care about US vs international vs fixed income.

Banking plan

I’m going to have my entire pay direct deposited to my credit union checking account and then pay the mortgage from there with the leftovers each month. My credit cards are all on auto-pay from here and all of my bills are on auto-pay to a credit card.

I will continue to withdraw any health expenses from my HSA after putting them on a rewards credit card through the end of this plan year. I will re-evaluate my HSA plans during open enrollment.

My plan for expenses is as follows:

  1. If purchase is in person and < $15, use debit card until I reach N transactions. This should earn me just under $200 in interest for the year, i.e. meets my $100 gain for the year rule.
  2. All Amazon.com purchases go on that credit card (this is mostly automatic, so no big deal), as well as restaurants and in-person places that don’t take American Express.
  3. All non-foreign purchases that take American Express go on the Fidelity Amex card
  4. All other purchases (including possibly foreign ones) go on the credit union cashback visa (I love this one because it does automatic redemption every month, no matter the amount!)

This algorithm should net me about $400-550 in cashback rewards for the year, based on 2013 spending levels.

Based on my spending patterns and my rule that I will only add a credit card if it will gain me at least an additional $100/year in cashback rewards and I think I could use the card effectively for at least two years, I can’t really optimize any further than this. I could add the US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card for 5% cashback on restaurants, but with my spending levels, that may or may not actually make any sense. My credit history is still new enough at this point that I don’t want to churn yet (under 4 years), but I will re-evaluate that in 2015.

I’m really enjoying how simple this plan is and I can’t wait to let it be implemented! Here’s to an awesome 2014!

2011: The Year of the Growing Nest Egg

(So shoot me – 2012 might have the same name!)

Financially, 2011 was an amazing year for me:

  1. Improved my emergency fund to $20,000.
  2. Purchased a condo in the low 300’s with a 20% down payment. (Well, all of the funds are there – but I’m closing in January.)
  3. Paid off the small auto loan that I had taken out in 2010 to boost my credit history (all paid via automatic transfer from savings!).
  4. Maxed out my 401(k) for the first time, but hopefully not the last time!
  5. Maxed out my Roth IRA for the second time.
  6. Significantly improved my investing knowledge and simplified my portfolio.
  7. Opened a taxable investment account, alongside my Roth IRA and 401(k).
  8. Came really close to having a six figure net worth in each of October, November, and December, but shelling out the 3% earnest money deposit steered that away from actually happening.*
  9. Almost brought my total savings back to the pre-car purchase level.
  10. Saw my first six figure gross amount on my W-2!

It’s such a confidence booster to look at the big picture and take the entire year’s financial picture into account, especially after some of the investment losses my portfolio saw this year! It’s even more awesome if you know that I wrote this post in early September and only updated points 2 and 8 before posting this in January.

*Since the wire from my parents came through before the close of the year, I did technically hit the goal, but I’m not counting that.

How was your 2011?