April 2016 Financial Update

Now that April is over, we are one third of the way through 2016.  How are we doing?  Where are we going from here?

Financially, April was a great month on all fronts.  Our net worth increased by $23,000 to $1,552,000.  Our income remained strong at $2,471 even though it’s been a few months since we received any pay checks from employers.  Our spending dropped significantly compared to last month to $1,829 (not buying a new minivan certainly helped keep expenses low).

On the personal side, April was an incredibly busy month.  The weather was nice so we spent a lot of time outdoors.  We were busy with kids’ school events and volunteering, hanging out with friends, and enjoying the wonderful life we have built through a decade of financial butt kicking.  We capped off the month with a day trip to the beach for a wedding.

On to the numbers!

 

Income

After receiving $4,476 in dividend income in March, our investment income dropped to just $130 during April. Since our portfolio is all funds and ETFs that pay dividends quarterly or annually, the months of March, June, September, and December are big for dividends.  As this post goes live, we’re about six weeks from the start of the next dividend season in June.  In 2015 we earned a total of $28,527 in dividend income.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, was fairly normal at $2,043.  My early retirement lifestyle consulting brought in $180 in April (same as March).  I’m still aiming to live off of four percent of our portfolio, and treating the blog and consulting income as purely discretionary money that we can spend if we want (or save if we want).  The next month or two should be very good months for blog income thanks to a lot of recent attention in the media (part of what kept me busy during April!).

TV talking head - my new career?

TV talking head – my new career?

Deposit income of $117 includes $87 of ebay and craigslist sales plus $30 of cash back rebates from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals. I’m all about sharing the wealth, so if you sign up through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card like I did.  I try to do all of my online shopping through one of these portals and the cash back adds up fast.  I’m not sure when I’ll actually get the cash but my Ebates account was just credited with over $100 in cash back from our January 2016 cruise I booked through Expedia (via Ebates).  Very nice and worth the wait!

april-2016-income

If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital. We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

Personal Capital is also a solid tool for investment management. Keeping track of our entire investment portfolio takes two clicks. If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today (review here).

 

Expenses

Now let’s look at April expenses:

april-2016-expenses

Monthly spending in April totaled much less than our budget of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  We didn’t buy a minivan and we didn’t have any large annual bills like property tax or insurance, so it was easy to come in well under budget for the month.

Grocery spending dropped back to a more normal $428 during April.  I thought this would be a lot higher given how well we ate and how much we shopped for groceries during the month.  I guess I’ll have to thank Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Walmart, Food Lion, the Asian store, and the Mexican grocery store for keeping their prices low.

Spend little on groceries; make awesome food like homemade tamales? Yes, please.

Spend little on groceries; make awesome food like homemade tamales with fresh guacamole tomatillo salsa? Yes, please.

Healthcare spending increased significantly to $270.  Since we no longer have dental insurance, Mrs. Root of Good paid $105 for her routine dental visit (the cash rate for uninsured patients at our dentist).  We finally got to use our new health insurance when Mrs. RoG visited the doc to have a lump on her arm checked out.  It was diagnosed as likely being a lipoma (a lump of fat, and please note, NOT lymphoma or anything like it fortunately!).  The doc scheduled her for minor outpatient surgery the next day.  The biopsy revealed it was, in fact, just a lump of fatty tissue and totally benign.  Our insurance is working out well so far with two $20 copays paid at the time of service plus another $120 bill for the surgery (20% of the $700 price the insurance allowed for the surgery).

Health insurance premiums totaled $125 for our very impressive gold plated silver plan obtained through Healthcare.gov with some very sizable ACA subsidies.  Quick update on our health insurance situation: four of us obtained insurance through the healthcare.gov exchange very quickly.  We had to apply to the state’s medicaid/NC Health Choice program for our three year old (now four year old).  We’re currently on day 87 of waiting for our application to be approved so our four year old has been uninsured since May 1 (during March and April we had the possibility of retroactive COBRA coverage for the little dude but that option expired April 30).  He will have retroactive coverage if his NC Health Choice application is ultimately approved (which it should be).  The wheels of bureaucracy move.  Slowly.  Let’s hope they finish processing the application before he’s five.  And I think the State of North Carolina is distracted with other important issues these days, so I understand the delay.

Good thing we don’t pay state tax to fund the agency processing his paperwork.  Except we do!  Since we don’t have any tax withheld from a paycheck, we now have to make estimated tax payments.  I made the first estimated quarterly tax payment of $225 for state taxes.  We can pay online and we can even pay with a credit card for a 2% fee.  Good to know if I need to meet minimum spending requirements for my credit card travel hacking hustle!

Clothing and shoe purchases totaled $200 for the month.  Everyone but me got new shoes and the ladies got new swimsuits.  We also did a bit of thrift shopping.

Utility spending of $167 includes the water/sewer/trash and the natural gas bill.

Restaurant spending of $103 included some horribly unhealthy but delicious donuts, Chinese take out, and a fun lunch out with an old friend.  However, the bulk of the restaurant spending in April was for a meal at the restaurant where the beach wedding reception was held ($62 for okay but not great food).  We had to pay for our own meal but (1) we can afford it and (2) at least the bride and groom didn’t have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for their wedding.  Nicely done newly married couple!

donuts-bakers-dozen

Delicious. $17 for 13 of the most mouth-watering treats that aren’t Mexican food. Courtesy of Baker’s Dozen Donuts in Cary and now in Raleigh. And a Cambodian-owned business so we’re supporting Mrs. RoG’s people.

The $69 electronics purchase was an ASUS RT-N66W router.  We tried to go cheap on a router last month and it didn’t have the range that we needed to cover the whole house.  Lesson learned and $15 wasted (but we have a backup router just in case).

The uncategorized expense of $67 was mostly the purchase of our new couch at a thrift shop benefiting the homeless.  The curb sleepers of Raleigh get some of our cash to keep them off the street and we got a new couch.  Now to craigslist the old couch for more than we paid for the new(er) couch.  We also found some other ridiculous items like a brand new pair of shorts from Jos A Banks with tag still on for $3.  The only reason this expense was uncategorized is that Personal Capital couldn’t categorize the purchase correctly since it’s the first time we’ve shopped at this particular thrift store.  After I update it, it’ll be in the system correctly for good and subsequent purchases from this retailer will appear correctly too.

The minivan needed a few final touches before getting it road ready for our summer trip.  I spent $16 on some fancy windshield wiper blades at Walmart (they were on clearance) and $42 for tire rebalancing.  The tech said the wheels were way out of balance. The vibrations observed at mid to high speeds disappeared immediately after the rebalancing.  So far so good on the used car purchase.

The entertainment expense of $48 was a brand new camera lens for Mrs. RoG’s photography addiction.  I debated whether to put this in entertainment or electronics because it’s really both.

Not shown in the expense graphic because of their small dollar values were:

  • gifts – $45
  • gasoline – $40 (mostly the trip to the beach at 23 miles per gallon in our minivan with 7 passengers)
  • internet – $31
  • service charges/fees – $26 (Mrs. RoG’s 401k – I’ll have to follow these closely to see how much they total per year)

That’s a lot of consumption but we still spent at a level 30% below the poverty line.  Maybe we’ll throw in some cigarettes, alcohol, bail bonds, flashy rims, and lottery tickets to bootstrap our way up to the lofty heights of poverty level living next month (no offense to my distant kinfolk if you guys are reading this month’s edition of Lifestyles of the Rich and Boring).

Giving the little guy a taste of stardom.

Giving the little guy a taste of stardom.

 

Year to Date Living Expenses

april-2016-ytd-expenses

At $17,065 year to date spending, we have exceeded the $13,333 budgeted for the first four months of the year by a few thousand dollars.  This includes the minivan purchase in March, so if we keep under spending our monthly $3,333 budget (like we do many months) then we’ll be back on track in a few more months.

I just received the annual or semi-annual bills for about $1,000 for home, auto, and umbrella insurance policies.  July and August should be fairly low cost months too since we’ll be traveling for half of each month on a road trip through the US and Canada and have already paid for all of our vacation lodging expenses.

Our goal this year was to spend more than the $24,000 we spent last year, and so far we are on track spend a bit more than that paltry figure.  Regardless of whether we spend the whole $40,000 budgeted for 2016, we are having a good time, enjoying life, and doing the things we want to do in early retirement.  And that’s what matters the most, right?

Monthly Expense Summary:

Living like a pauper is tough but somebody's gotta do it. And do it well.

Living like a pauper is tough but somebody’s gotta do it. And do it well.

Net Worth: $1,552,000 (+$23,000)

Another month of net worth growth!  Yippee!  We are within $40,000 of our all time high net worth reached in 2015.

The net worth is just a number to me.  I don’t really get excited when I see a $23,000 increase in one month because I know the net worth figure will fluctuate by a five figure amount almost every month.  That’s just the nature of the stock market and there’s very little one can do when investing most of one’s portfolio in equities.

If volatility concerned me, I would shift into more stable asset classes like bonds and cash.  But it doesn’t so a high equities allocation is fine with me.

april-2016-net-worth

Every month we are growing more and more comfortable with our early retirement finances.  Toward the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016, we watched our investment portfolio drop almost $200,000 over a three month period.  A few months later, we have recovered all those losses and even gained a small amount.

What will the future hold?  If by future you mean the rest of 2016, I have no clue other than it will go up and it will go down.  In 2025 or 2030, I expect markets will be up.  Let’s check back in at that point and compare notes.

In the meantime, I’m ignoring the daily market vacillations.  I’m planning on enjoying a beautiful May in North Carolina (one of our best months weather-wise) and ease our way into summer when we depart for our road trip up north in mid-July.

 

 

 

And you? How was your April?  Enjoying the rising stock market?  Gearing up for summertime fun?  

 

 

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92 comments

  • > We’re currently on day 87 of waiting for our application to be approved so our four year old has been uninsured since May 1

    May 1 seems to be a typo?

    • During March and April we had the possibility of retroactive COBRA coverage for the little dude but that option expired April 30. I added this explanation to the text in the main post for clarification. Good catch. I guess I’ve been living and breathing the whole “patch together health coverage for the family” too much and didn’t think to explain that part of the strategy in my summary here.

  • Good stuff, man. Looking forward to seeing more about what all that media attention is.

    • Thanks.

      A couple of TV interviews, some blog interviews and a podcast interview. One of the TV interviews has the potential to be pretty big (national audience on local news stations plus Clarkhoward.com)

  • Curious to know how much of your assets is comprised of your home’s value.

    • The home sits on the balance sheet at $140,000 (though zillow says $160-170k recently). So a little less than 10% of total net worth is our primary residence.

  • Solid month of keeping the expenses low! Plus, it is always a good feeling when the markets bounce back and you recover some previous losses!

    I recently bought a router too and didn’t want to shell out a ton for it. What I ended up doing was buying a refurbished model. A bit risky, but it has been working great so far and cut the price almost in half.

    Thanks for the update! Let’s hope for a gorgeous May in NC (I’m a couple hours south of you guys, posted up in CLT).

    • I buy refurbished all the time and can’t recall having a problem with it. The laptop I’m typing from right now is a refurb (probably open box, returned to seller, tested, repackaged and resold).

      With this router, the cheapest refurbished model was about the same price as the brand new one from Newegg (after the $20 rebate that I’ll hopefully get back).

      • I’ve made out pretty good buying “Like New” items from Amazon Warehouse Deals. I too just bought a new router. I saved $20 from a new one and it did come as described without a scratch on it. I need to see enough of a discount to justify buying it other than new. Sometimes the price difference isnt much so you have to watch it.

        • I do the same thing. Never been disappointed. Once we ordered a scratch and dent saucepan from Amazon Warehouse (advertised as “small dent, doesn’t impact usefulness of item”) but when it came, it was destroyed (instead of round, it was pacman shaped with a huge dent on one side making it useless for anything beyond cooking pacman shaped omelets or pancakes). Amazon took it back no questions asked and even covered the return shipping.

  • Pretty good month on expenses, those tamales with guacamole look delicious.
    Tell us more about the media attention.

    • Oh, those tamales were delicious. 🙂 We even froze a dozen or so since I heard they freeze well. We just had fresh homemade tamales made by a lady at our kids’ school (that makes hundreds and sells them out of her trunk) and ours were just as good as hers, so I think we’ve nailed the recipe and cooking methods. We probably made 50 or so, which equates to at least $75-100 worth at local restaurant prices (and probably $150 at downtown fancy pants restaurant prices where the menu is all in English).

      • Funny when you think about it restaurants charging you $10+ for 1 burrito etc when you go out to eat when you can make them at home for so much less.

  • At this point, a lot of neighbors ,friends, family etc must know about this blog. Has this caused any issues for you that you have noticed?

    • Not that I am aware of though I could be oblivious. 🙂 Most neighbors, friends, and family are supportive and interested in what we have going on. The trickiest part is knowing whether someone reads my blog or not.

      I did have one neighbor we met recently at a neighborhood kids’ play date in the park that said “oh you’re that guy with the blog” and they said they found me through Mr. Money Mustache. But they don’t read the blog all the time (but hey you two if you are reading this right now 🙂 ). They just knew what was going on when they see me out walking around the neighborhood in the middle of the day and walking the kids to school.

      • Justin,

        Have you noticed anything negative because of all the numbers that you share in public?

        I was about to share my numbers on my blog but then me and wife debated and finally decided to play safe 🙂

        If you haven’t noticed anything negative, I will take it up again with my wife!

        • Nothing negative that I know of. I suppose some friends, family, or acquaintances might resent us (“it’s not fair you have money and I don’t!” type of reaction) but I haven’t seen it. Maybe they all gossip behind our backs? I don’t spend much time thinking about it, and wouldn’t spend much time with negative people if they were openly negative toward me.

          Mrs. RoG and I discussed the limits of disclosure and I clear everything that might be sensitive information (like discussion of the lipoma surgery this past month) with her before putting it on here.

  • Lifestyles of the Rich, FAMOUS, and Boring. You forgot the “F” one. 🙂 Great month as always.

  • Wow, your spending level is still amazingly low RoG! (As usual!)

    Jealousy aside, that’s a solid Asus router you purchased. It’s a tank. I’ve had mine for a couple years, and not so much as a blip.

    Glad the minivan is working out too!

    How are you and Mrs. RoG getting along after ER? Everything peaceful on the home front?

    • Good to hear we got a great router. The reviews seemed very good and it’s working well so far. 🙂

      Things are going well at home. We’ve been doing a lot more activities together (playdates for the youngest, volunteering, hikes, tennis, swimming, etc). We have enough rooms in the house so that I can do my thing in one room and she can go elsewhere if she doesn’t want to watch the show on tv (for example).

  • Awesome month Justin! Wow you’re on TV now? Should we expect you to show up in movies in the near future?

    Given your large net worth, a 5 digit change every month seems pretty reasonable given the market condition.

    “In 2025 or 2030, I expect markets will be up. Let’s check back in at that point and compare notes.” That’s my thought exactly!

  • Congrats on a great month Justin! I am surprised how low your spending it (I am new to your blog so that may be why). Looking forward to see if your market predictions come through! Will be digging around your blog now :p

  • Another super job. Funny how much of what occurred to you guys was the same for us in April. Our investments came back strong for one. I also started using Craigslist for the first time and was able to sell about $600 worth of stuff, including motorcycle parts I had no need for, and the wife’s old Pilates machine. I am huge on credit card rebates as well, and will also use them to pay tax bills that may charge me a 2% fee, but I get 5% back on my card. Sweet deal I’ll take any day of the week.

    Vehicles are something that can be a killer for many. While we continue to stay with two, increasing our costs for insurance and the like, we keep them for a long time. They were purchased new but the 2012 F-150 will last forever, and the 2007 H3 is a tank with only 77K miles on it. I pity people who do not have a large amount of assets but feel compelled to either buy or lease a new car every couple of years.

    Continue to enjoy the ER, Justin. I am two years this month into mine, and the wife is no eight years into hers. Life is grand.

    • Craigslist is great isn’t it? It’s a good motivator to get me to get rid of unwanted stuff. Clean up, free up some space in the house or shed AND make some cash? Yes, please! 🙂 I figure I make $300-500 every year with relatively little effort.

  • Congrats on your continued success. Another informative and thorough finance update to motivate the rest of us. I’m definitely excited to follow your coverage in the media. What a dream!

  • I read with interest that Mrs RoG is becoming a keen photographer. I too am a hobby photographer and have been trialling Lightroom for post processing. But it comes with a monthly fee ( Ugh we all hate those!). Has Mrs RoG found a free app that is almost as good? or are you going to pay for a post processing app?

    • She’s not quite as far along as you are in the hobby. 😉 We have GIMP (free, open source version of photoshop) that I use for the blog pictures but beyond that we don’t have any graphics suites. I think google has some sort of lightroom-ish software that they used to sell but now give away for free.

      At this point she’s mostly playing around with the camera and some different lenses and the settings.

    • If you dig hard, you can find the single-payment license option for Lightroom. Adobe prefers to sell you the monthly-fee version, of course.

  • Wow very impressive, 30% below the poverty line! Those tamales look great. Thanks for sharing it is very motivating for me.

  • Well done. I’m totes jelly of your web traffic. I have hard core fans don’t get me wrong, but they are less numerous than yours.

    Are you going to garden now that you are FIRE? I had an omelette for dinner that included fresh from the garden green onion and tomato. Delicious and the right price!

    • Our gardening for vegetables is one pot growing green onions and that’s it. 🙂 Tomatoes come from the store as does all our other produce.

      We have a blueberry and blackberry bush but if they don’t produce good fruit this year Mrs RoG has threatened them with extermination (and the raspberry bushes already met that fate).

  • Great post as always. It’s amazing how artificial the poverty line seems when you don’t have a car or mortgage payment! What’s your take on paying off a mortgage quickly versus investing the spread for 30 years?

    • Mathematically holding the 30 year mortgage (at today’s interest rates) will produce the highest long term return. In my situation, I didn’t want to have the drain on cash flow in retirement from paying a mortgage so I focused on paying it off by the time we retired. I know when the market took a dip during the past six months, I felt a lot better knowing I didn’t have that $1200 mortgage payment every month!

  • Mortimer, I am in the same boat wondering the same thing. Although I am getting ready to take on a 15 year mortgage and trying to decide if I want to pre pay the note. The numbers seem to show I would be way better off investing for 15 years, I am sure its even more so for a 30 year mortgage at today’s current rates.

    • Check out my response to Mortimer. Numbers say hold the mortgage for as long as possible, but not having to service debt while in retirement gives me a lot of peace of mind (hard to quantify that numerically).

  • Congrats on $23K growth. That’s huge! I am learning so many things from you as always. Frugality does not mean sacrificing the quality of life. We can still enjoy tones and eat very healthy and well without too much money coming off of our pocket. Thanks for sharing!

    BeSmartRich

    • You are right – a relatively luxurious life doesn’t have to cost a fortune as long as you focus your spending on areas that matter to you.

  • Pretty amazing month. Couple of things….excellent month on groceries….like you, I am amazed at the savings at Aldi…IMHO under $500 a month for a family of 5 is excellent. Aaaand like you, I am amazed at Craigslist….both on the buying and selling side. Recently I acquired some railroad ties for FREE from a “flipper” who advertised on CL. I have a bit of experience at RE and don’t know if this guy really knows what the heck he is doing but….it’s his money. And I was all too happy to pick up the ties for a future project at one of my rentals. While there I saw a stack of doors leaning against the wall. After inquiring, he told me I was free to take them as well…which I did. These doors are going to be perfect for my Dear Mom ‘s rental apartment. With a bit of trimming here and there they should fit great AND they are already stained. On the selling end, I am amazed at what folks can benefit from. Not so long ago I sold a 29 year old portable dishwasher on CL that leaked… for $75. I disclosed fully that the thing needed repair and leaked. The buyer came out looked and was glad to pay the $75 as he didn’t have a dishwasher and a new one was +$600….which he didn’t have. He was thrilled! It was a win/win…I have my own sofa story from CL.. Pretty crazy one at that….Pretty cool that you were able to sell the old sofa for more than you purchased the “new” one….

    • Craigslist is great. I’m not sure how society functioned in the pre-craigslist days. I vaguely remember something about paying to post a tiny classified ad in these things called newspapers.

      • I hear you about newspapers…I used to use the classified’s for rental apartments and houses….4 lines for 6 days….$130….and no results…BIG fan of CL…

  • I am always impressed by the low spend! Ours was $1784 without the mortgage payment, so we are keeping up with you at least! Unfortunately, I see some high spend months during the summer when we do exactly what you suggest. Fun, fun, fun! My travel hacking legs are still pretty young, but I am hoping next year those miles will help us out a bit more.

  • Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead

    Good to see that the fame isn’t going to your head! Sounds like the new used minivan is going to work out pretty good for you.

    • Yes, the minivan has been very useful so far. Most of our miles so far have been with 6-7 people (family and/or friends). Also hauled some big cargo.

  • I assume you will let us know where we can see those interviews you did when they come out? I have really been enjoying your blog! Thanks.

    • I usually post those on twitter and facebook (so follow me there if you aren’t already!). I also have a “Media Appearances” page in the works where I’ll catalog all the podcasts, printed/online media, and tv interviews I’ve done.

  • We are as ever adjusting our budget projections for retirement, which begins 14-20 months from now, and I’m hopeful that we can live on numbers similar to yours, with some adjustment for living in a higher COL area. What I always find most inspiring about your posts is how it doesn’t seem like a chore to spend so little, it’s just what you do (even to the point where you have to set goals to spend more!). That’s definitely the point I hope we get to!

    • Hi Mr. and Mrs. ONL (This is how you address yourself on your blog :-)),

      You will realize that post FI, you will also have to literally force yourself to spend more. During our FI journey, we all become so habitual to spend less that it continues even after we accomplish our goals.

      We also had to force our self to spend more – Even succeeded for few months (In these months the expenses were around $3800 though our target was $4,000 – In spite of the push, we could not meet our target :-)), but came back to our routine expense level after few months (~$2800 which included $1300 monthly rent)

    • I think you have a better ability to economize unintentionally once retired. If you enjoy dining out, for example, you can hit your favorite places for lunch specials or the one day per week where they have awesome weekly specials (Mondays and Tuesdays seem like great days to go out to eat). For home maintenance, you have the time to try DIY for smaller tasks, and the time to properly scope a job and get a few quotes if it’s too big or complex to DIY. I’m in the middle of some significant plumbing upgrades right now and have the time to research and spec the right work and understand quotes I’m getting, and able to combine a bunch of smaller jobs to avoid many expensive service calls (instead pay 1 larger lump sum but probably make us good on plumbing needs for many years).

  • Those expenses are very close to what I estimate ours will be without a mortgage, so I am very encouraged!

  • So what’s the plan to spin this off into a nice side hustle as a major Hollywood star? 😀

  • Frugal Bazooka

    You look like you lost some weight…how do you that on a budget?

    According to the idiotic internet media, healthy food cost hundreds of dollars a week and unhealthy poisonous food cost just pennies.

    thanks for the financial update. reminds us all how much money we waste.

    • I might have, but it could also be the skillful photographer/wife taking the pictures. 🙂

      I don’t think healthy food has to cost a lot more than junk food. Fruits and vegetables are pretty cheap at Aldi and per serving aren’t a lot more than a bag of chips (but make way healthier snacks!). Most of our groceries are raw ingredients instead of prepared foods (a 5 lb pack of chicken breasts/thighs/drumsticks, some $0.99 bags of frozen veggies or similarly priced fresh veggies and a 50 lb sack of the good rice imported from Thailand instead of a freezer full of god awful chicken and rice microwave meals).

      • I agree. We just got Aldi’s in So Calif so I’m excited to try that and the local markets here in high cost of living LA are pretty darn reasonable. If you believe the media you would think that lower income folks had absolutely no low cost options for healthy food, when the exact opposite is true. I can’t figure out why the media has such a steak…errr stake in making us feel like the world around us sucks.

        If your wife can shave off 30 lbs with a camera, I need a photo session stat!

        • Media loves disasters and problems and sympathizing with the plight (real or imagined) of the poor (or “poor”). I imagine fresh fruits and vegetables are even cheaper (and fresher) in CA than they are here in NC considering many of our produce (especially in winter) come from CA.

          Definitely give Aldi a try. I tried them about 10 years ago and wasn’t impressed at all. Then tried again maybe 5 years ago and it was a much better experience. Today’s haul from Aldi included $1 pineapples, $3 for large seedless watermelon (probably 11-12 lb), $0.39 bananas, $2.50 for 4 lb of oranges, $0.89 iceberg lettuce, 2/$1 cucumbers, and $0.69 avocados (which are probably much cheaper in CA – jealous!).

          • Frugal Bazooka

            ok, now we’re talking produce prices and there’s nothing i like to do more than talk about the price of fruits and vegetables: $1 pineapple, even for a small one is a great price, i would have to buy 2 of those to create the perfect Thai Pineapple Rice. Current price here in LA is approx $2 and even $3 at some of the swanky joints (like Ralphs lol). Just 2 days ago i found a medium sized watermelon $2 for 4 lbs at Smart and Final. The bananas at .39 are impossible to beat, so I will be heading to Aldi’s for that. We don’t do iceberg lettuce because the nutritional value is minimal compared to Romaine, but fortunately we can find Romaine – 2 heads for $1 at the numerous warehouse markets in the area. You’re correct about the avocados. Small ones are going for .50 as well as slightly larger uber ripe ones also .50.
            Spring and esp summer sees a huge dip in prices around here for all kinds of foods thanks to NAFTA. I know there are a lot of bad things about NAFTA but low cost food isn’t one of them.

            A few items I can never seem to find below the usual ridiculously overpriced retail prices: lo cal bread, unsalted cashews, fresh OJ

            so, yes…life is pretty good since those are my major complaints… ; )

            • Hmmmm… Aldi has some decent prices on nuts. Bought some walnuts there for $4 (maybe 16 oz?). Trader joe’s is pretty reasonable too. I get sunflower seeds there (salted variety, but they have unsalted too). Costco probably has decent prices but I don’t shop there (and I wouldn’t be able to eat 5 lbs of whatever kind of nut anyway before the fats in the nut turn rancid and gross).

              Aldi is so awesome. We went to Kroger (owner of Ralph’s I think) and saw pineapples for $4 that are probably identical to the ones they sell at Aldi. It’s like I have to double check and make sure the price tags are in USD and not Mexican pesos (where $4 pesos would be an incredible deal for a pineapple).

  • Great job! A $23,000 increase in net worth over a one month period is great, and even more amazing for someone who is retired. Keep up the awesome work!

    • So far it looks like May might take back all of those gains and then some. 🙂 But that’s okay. It goes up, it goes down (over the short term).

  • Great month on both income and expense front. You are doing really well. I’d be very worried about the kid’s health insurance. I hope the state comes through soon. Nice job on getting more exposure too.

    • I just checked the State’s web portal for health insurance and it changed the status from Pending to Approved! I don’t have the approval letter yet but that’s a good sign. The coverage is retroactive, so we would have been covered if we did have an emergency during the past 8 days of being in limbo (COBRA would have covered retroactively before April 30). It was a little bit of a risk to cross our fingers and hope we would be approved, but there’s no reason we would be denied (it’s only based on income and ours is well below the surprisingly high threshold). Glad it’s settled now though. 🙂

      • Glad to see this is put to rest. And thank you for keeping us up on your dealings with the ACA. My experience was “less than perfect”….Happy it worked out for you.

  • I’ve never been to a wedding where you purchase your own meal, but I kind of like the idea. It’s crazy how much people have to pay to feed their wedding guests. And most wedding food isn’t that great–understandably since the price per plate for good food is outrageous.

    • As far as wedding food goes, this food was pretty good (though not great, especially given the price). We got to order off the regular menu at the restaurant and didn’t have to suffer through the restrictions of the steak/chicken/seafood options at a typical wedding. We shared a $20 fried seafood platter (fish, shrimp, scallops, oysters), the girls got burgers (failure here: they were the $11 adult burgers instead of the very similar $5 kids menu burgers), and the youngest got deep fried spicy macaroni. Our tablemates got a cuban sandwich and a pizza.

      The big savings at this wedding came from alcohol. Since the bride and groom weren’t paying at the wedding dinner, hardly anyone bought $9 cocktails. Instead, they had many bottles of wine/champagne and some liquor to enjoy back at the resort/motel where the wedding was held.

      • Justin,

        This kind of wedding where you purchase your own meal is something that you have seen very often or this wedding was an exception? I have never been to such kind of wedding but sounds so logical and practical 🙂

        • I don’t go to a lot of weddings, but it’s probably the only one that we had to pay for our own meal. It’s for a couple that has been together (and has 3 kids together) so it wasn’t a huge wedding (maybe 25-30 attended, mostly immediate family of bride and groom). The bride and groom put out an invite to anyone who wanted to come. Technically a “destination wedding” where you could get a room at the hotel but we just drove down for the day since it was 2.5-3 hours from Raleigh (and the ocean was FREEZING!!! so no way could I justify $200 for a hotel room).

          I’m not sure how destination weddings usually work. I assume guests pay for airfare, hotel room, local transport and meals (other than the main reception??).

          • ‘Destination wedding’ in India are way more grand than general wedding (Though in India, general weddings are also very grand :-)) . Wedding guests in India don’t have to spend anything – Everything is sponsored by bride and groom’s parents including food, lodging etc. Also in India weddings are generally 2-3 days affair and entail huge expenses (Anything from $50k to what ever upper limit you can imagine :-))

            • Craziness! I’ve heard tales of some families selling off property and starting to save for big weddings from the time a child is born. I just can’t wrap my head around that!

  • Justin,

    Am I right in reading your asset allocation is that of 0% bonds (or alternatively 100% equity)? if yes, any thoughts behind that decision?

    • We have around 2-3% of our total financial assets in cash (NCUA/FDIC insured money market accounts) and another ~1% in a single bond issue I picked up many years ago that matures in 2018. So not exactly 0% but I manage the asset allocation as if it’s 0%. The cash/bonds on hand are basically for our immediate consumption over the next 1-2 years and the cash balance will be refilled as we spend it down.

      Rationale? I’m in a 50-60 year battle against inflation. I can live off the 2.x% dividend yield of our stocks (that will most likely increase in value at the rate of inflation or more), but don’t want to invest in 2.x% bonds that will barely keep up with inflation. We can survive on a small withdrawal rate, so a highly volatile portfolio (when looked at month to month) doesn’t negatively impact us.

      Though maybe I’m wrong, so do your due diligence on asset allocation! 🙂

  • Very impressive! My husband would like to “scale back” and I work part-time (and carry super, awesome benefits for the family). We have no debt and own our home. But, the elephant in the room that you have yet to meet is “teenagers.” I told one of my teens recently that I feel like I’m throwing money in the air these days. All three teens have jobs. But, one had to scale back hours to play high school baseball. Another was off a week for out-patient surgery and had an expensive auto repair. Our auto insurance is more than most of your bills combined (and the oldest just left the family policy for one of his own). I look forward to seeing how you address this in the coming years. You can’t find nice, size 14 shoes for teenage boys in the thrift store. Have you priced Levi’s lately? More utilities, more food, more gas for the car, more everything!!! I love them dearly and realize that this too shall pass. It’s just an expensive time in our lives and only so much can be done about it. You will see! 😉

    • I hear you on that. I figure our kid-related expenses will ramp up for several years when the kids hit teenage years. I can only imagine the insurance rates we’ll pay. Uber might be a cheaper option lol. 🙂

      • Teenage drivers! Ugggghhhhhh. Our son just turned 16. Honor roll student with all the “good kid discounts” came in at about $250 PER MONTH at USAA. That’s him driving a 2005 Camry. #FunTimes

  • Hi there. Huge fan of your story and your blog. I do have a question on your monthly expenses and if you’ve previously covered it my apologies. I don’t see any expense for auto insurance which in my case is significant – perhaps you rolled it up elsewhere? I also have other insurance lines which are not insignificant to protect against catastrophic loss. Homeowners, umbrella policies etc. I think I read where you self insure for dental and life. Interested to see your thinking and how you do this. Thanks.

    • We pay auto insurance twice per year. I just paid for the June-November period a few days ago. $245 or so I think. So about $500 per year.

      Homeowners is annual. $600. Umbrella = annual, $162 for $1 million extra (also carry $500,000 to $1,000,000 liability for home/auto).

      Adults self insure for dental. Kids are covered by health insurance dental (varies from 80% to 100% coverage depending on kid).

      Life insurance – don’t need it! 🙂

      My general take on insurance or How to be your own Insurance Company.

  • Were you all able to apply for ACA since Mrs. ROG quit her job in January? I’ve been trying to track down the actual law related to COBRA coverage, and it seems like I’ll be ineligible since COBRA will cover me/kids for up to 18 months.

    Am I simply confused about the law?

    • The basics of eligibility to get on exchange policies (only way to get ACA subsidies) is that you can’t be otherwise covered by insurance. It’s tricky with COBRA. As long as you don’t sign up for it, you aren’t covered and therefore eligible for ACA coverage. They will ask you about it during the application process but it shouldn’t be a bar to getting exchange coverage. It’s a little weird because you can turn down employer provided coverage and therefore be uninsured, yet you still won’t qualify for exchange coverage because you could have signed up for employer coverage.

      • Thanks! I was trying to figure this out, and it seems that COBRA is treated the same as student insurance which is to say, there’s an opt out loophole.

  • Stock market has been rough on me these past few months. Too much oil! I think the fact that the ETFs pay out quarterly was one decision point in switching to more individual stocks. I like the continuous stream of income. As an early retiree, psychological comfort helps!

    • Yeah, oil is a slippery substance. 😉

      So far I haven’t missed the monthly dividends of a diversified stock portfolio (instead of ETFs and mutual funds that pay quarterly). Of course a large cash buffer helps smooth things out since the dividends I earn this quarter won’t be needed for another year or so.

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