February 2016 Financial Update

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February was an awesome month overall!  Mrs. Root of Good finally quit her job and joined me in early retirement.  Our oldest daughter was accepted into one of the best middle schools in the county (our first choice school) which feeds into the best high school in the county.

Our $4,221 income during the month was more than double our $2,030 in expenses.  In spite of spending half of what we made, our net worth still declined by $4,000 during the month due to a slight decline in the stock market.

 

Income

In January, we received $41 in interest and investment income.  Our monthly dividend income is very inconsistent, with most of the income arriving at the end of each quarter.  For all of 2015, we received $28,527 in dividend income.  During March we should receive around $2,500 in dividend income if it remains consistent with dividend income earned in March 2015.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, was much lower than normal at $433.  A major payment didn’t arrive until February 29th (posted March 1st) so March’s income should be higher than average.  My early retirement lifestyle consulting brought in $86 in February.

The “deposits” income of $259 comes from cash back rebates from the Ebates.com online shopping portal. 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.  Fair disclosure: a big portion of the Ebates earnings comes from referrals, but you can benefit from this too if your family or friends sign up for an account (earn $75 if three people sign up).  I also sold $58 worth of United Club airport lounge passes on ebay.  I received the lounge passes for signing up for United Explorer credit cards with Chase last year (along with many tens of thousands of United miles).

The $500 “paycheck” income is the last dribble of remuneration from Mrs. Root of Good’s job.  After working three or four days per week from home since September of 2015, then taking most of December and January off, she finally quit for good in early February.

Long time readers will recall that we debated about becoming a one car household after owning two cars for all of our adult lives.  On a whim, we sold my sixteen year old Honda Civic after I saw someone at the Mr. Money Mustache forum expressing interest in buying an older car.  $2,900 was what I asked based on the Kelly Blue Book value in “excellent” condition.  And that’s the price we settled on.

That’s one less liability taking up space in my driveway and sucking up cash for maintenance, depreciation, taxes, insurance, registration, and inspection fees.  Right after selling the car, I removed it from our insurance policy and we received a $40 reduction on the remaining four months of coverage during this six month coverage period.  Going forward our auto liability coverage should drop by about $100 per year to $400.

february-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 February expenses:

february-2016-expenses

We spent $2,030 in February.  That is two thirds of our budget of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).

The $1,005 in utilities includes about $300 of actual electricity, natural gas, and water/sewer/trash plus $700 additional prepaid electricity.  I’m trying to meet the $3,000 minimum spending requirement on our new Barclay Arrival card so I can receive the $400 sign up bonus (all credit card offers), and prepaying utilities is an excellent way for us low spenders to hit the minimum spending requirement within three months of signing up.  We also won’t have an electricity bill until September!

At $512, our grocery spending was pretty average for the month.  We finally visited the central Asian/Mediterranean grocery store in our neighborhood where a nice Iranian couple greet their old time customers with “as-salamu alaykum” (they greeted us with “hello”).  It’s a wild mix of Turkish, Iranian, Israeli, Ukrainian, Russian, and central Asian sourced products.  Lots of Cyrillic writing.  After the little dude decided he had to poop immediately, we got a tour of the stock room while heading to the bathroom.  “It’s scary” according to the little dude.  It’s also full of hundreds of neatly organized Persian language movies on VHS.  We ended up spending $18 on a jar of caviar ($12) and a one pound box of turkish delight with hazelnuts (imported from Turkey – $6).  $6 is way cheaper than plane tickets to Istanbul!

Our entertainment spending of $211 includes:

  • $122 worth of liquor we purchased while on our cruise
  • $56 for a week of summer camp for one kid in August
  • $18 for a wheeled moving dolly that, once mated with a wooden shipping pallet, turned into a wagon of sorts
  • $10 for skating rink admission for two
  • $3 for Civilization V (total nerd crack – don’t buy it if you are still working)

I’m trying to spend our $40,000 budget folks.  I’m trying.

Spontaneous detour to the downtown science museum on the way home from walking on the greenway (because we're retired and can). Cost: $0.

Spontaneous detour to the downtown science museum on the way home from walking on the greenway (because we’re retired and can). Cost: $0.

The $150 in medical/healthcare expenses includes our $125 monthly insurance premium (thanks Affordable Care Act subsidies!) that we signed up for after Mrs. RoG quit working, $5 for a last minute prescription before Mrs. RoG’s old employer provided insurance expires, and $19 for a “used” electric toothbrush.  I always wondered who would buy a second hand electric toothbrush, because ewww gross, right?  Then I realized that all I needed was the base and the charger and I already have an unused brush head that Mrs. Root of Good isn’t using.  Instead of spending $45+ including shipping and tax for a new one, I picked up a dented box Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush from ebay for $19.  It’s missing the brush head but I would have tossed it anyway if the package is open (because possibly reusing the brush head is kinda gross).

Cable expenses of $74 included two months of service.  I recently called Time Warner Cable to do my downgrade/upgrade trick.  Ask for the absolute cheapest service ($15 for an Everyday Low Price 3mb/1mb connection in my area).  You’ll either get them to persuade you to keep your faster internet service for a lower price or you will in fact get downgraded.  If you do get downgraded, go online and upgrade for $10 or $20 or whatever to the service tier that you actually want.  This trick saves me $5-20 per month for a whole year with about 15 minutes of effort annually.  Now we are paying $35 per month for 50mb/5mb service.

And we are finally getting the speed we are paying for thanks to my most recent electronics purchase.  While researching the internet plan pricing, I realized that we were upgraded to 50 mb service at some point, yet our internet speeds remained at 18 mb per second.  I eventually determined it was our outdated cable modem that couldn’t handle more than 18 mb per second.  Instead of leasing our modem for $10 per month, we bought our modem a few years ago for $25.  The old modem reached the end of it’s life so we had to upgrade to tap the higher speeds we were already paying for.  $31 later and we are the proud new owners of a used Motorola SB6120 cable modem.  Now we routinely get 40-55 mb per second download speeds (double or triple what we used to get) and 5 mb per second upload speeds (five times what we used to get!).

Our $19 in travel expenses covered the gas to drive home from the cruise terminal in Charleston.  I count gas purchased while on vacation as a vacation expense instead of a gasoline expense.  We didn’t purchase any other gas in February since we don’t drive very much outside of vacations.  That makes month #2 of no gasoline purchases (other than for vacation).

We spent $17 on gifts.  $15 of that went to our kids for getting excellent grades on their report cards.  $2 covered the copays for two prescription medicines for Mrs. Root of Good’s father during his post-surgery recovery (Medicare is awesome by the way).  A small bit of charity for the critical naysayers commenting in this post.

Rounding out the monthly expenses was $6 at our favorite Chinese restaurant.  That’s the going rate for about 20 pork potsticker dumplings.  Yum!

 

Year to Date Living Expenses

february-2016-ytd-expenses

At $4,324 year to date spending, we’ve only spent about two thirds of the $6,667 budgeted for the first two months of the year.

We might catch up and even exceed (!!) our budget in the next few months as we search for a new (used) minivan and plan a road trip for this summer.

Monthly Expense Summary:

 

Net Worth: $1,435,000 (-$4,000)

February marks the fourth month in a row with a decline in net worth.

Is the fear more real now that Mrs. Root of Good doesn’t have a steady paycheck and we are both retired?  No.  I don’t think we will ever run out of money in early retirement.  We developed a solid financial plan to fund our early retirement and struggle to even spend 4% of our current portfolio.  Cutting back on spending if times get tougher won’t be a huge sacrifice (like skipping seven week trips to Mexico).

In the meantime, we are too busy enjoying early retirement to pay much attention to daily market fluctuations.  $20,000 to $30,000 movements in a day are common enough.  That means on some days we make or lose an amount equal to every cent we spent in 2015.

It goes up, it goes down.  What are you going to do?  Freak out over every movement, or let the long term growth engine of the stock market work its magic?

february-2016-net-worth

Right now we have around $30,000 in cash.  That amount plus the dividends we receive in our taxable brokerage accounts during the year is enough to cover our full $40,000 annual budget.  If the market continues it’s decline then we’ll be able to avoid selling anything for about a year (or much longer if my Root of Good revenue remains steady).

In last month’s financial update, I mentioned how there was a lot of negative sentiment in the market and some thought we were headed for a recession.  So far the market has turned around quite a bit.  We were down $78,000 during the month of February but the markets mostly recovered by month’s end.

I have no clue which way the market is headed next month or the rest of the year but I bet the stock market will be up in a decade or two.

 

 

How was your February?  Big changes or staying the course?  

 

 

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80 comments

  • Civiliziation 5. Love it.

    Too bad I’m still working..

  • A solid month for you! Next to the financial results, I imagine getting the right school for the kids is super nice.
    It is one of my concerns for the next school of my kids. We have a sort of online lottery system to deal with.

  • Thanks for the update ROG! Is your daughter going to the school your zoned for, or did you all apply for her to go someplace else? Thanks!

    • Here in Wake County we have a county wide school district. We have a base school that isn’t that great (one of the worst in the district). Then we have the opportunity to apply to about a dozen different magnet, alternative calendar (year round), or leadership academy schools (like private school with uniforms and small class size and student population). Other than the leadership academies, it’s random lottery with preferential treatment for certain categories of students (none of which we qualified for). Our kids are AIG so they did get to apply for the AIG seats at the school we got into, so that certainly helped our odds (smaller pool of applicants = better chance of winning).

      I understand many school districts don’t work this way, but it’s a great benefit for us because we can live in a lower cost neighborhood yet access the great schools elsewhere in the county if our base school isn’t great (the case for our middle school and formerly the case for our elementary school when it was the worst school in the district, but it’s much better today).

  • Now that Mrs ROG has joined you in ER does that change your status as a stay at home dad? Haha

    LC

    • I don’t know how all that works. I’ll let others continue to label me however they want. I’ve heard some say you can’t be “retired” until the kids leave the house. So if that’s the case I’m stuck in the purgatory of parental indentured servitude another 15+ years. By then the oldest kid might be sending us grandkids, so I may never get to “retire”. 🙂

  • Awesome report! Every time I read your posts, I get highly motivated to keep improving managing my money. I know I still have some spending fat to cut 🙂

  • I’m consistently impressed with your monthly numbers. Impressive stuff RoG!

  • Midwestern Landlord

    The frugality habits that you maintain as many others have commented on are impressive. I absolutely agree with you that with the portfolio you have and frugality that you exhibit, you will be in great shape financially even without W2 income moving forward. You should have no problem riding out fluctuations in the market even if we have a major downturn at some point. The purpose of building up resources is the freedom that it buys us. That is the true reward. There a way too many people out there that think shiny new objects like new cars, second homes, etc is the american dream. Early FI is much more important to me than extra “toys”.

  • Looks good. These income reports will be a lot more interesting now that Mrs. RoG is retired. Nice job with selling the car. It’s a lot cheaper with just one car. You don’t need 2 if you’re both retired. We were pretty much flat in February. I’m still hoping for a big dip so I can finish my 2015 i401k contribution.
    Enjoy your retirement!

  • Thanks for sharing so your readers can learn a thing or two. First, I am truly amazed at the value that Honda products retain. For you to be able to get $2900 for a 16 year old car is pretty amazing. Pretty sure if this was an American car we would be weighing it to see what it’s worth. Congrats on the ACA health insurance. Please keep us informed of your experience…good and bad. Lastly, in this neck of the woods, our electric company charges a fee to pay your utility bill with a credit card. Do you pay a fee for the “privilege” of paying your utility bill with a CC? I called my utility and explained I would like to “pay in advance” and therefore have a credit balance. The CSR stuttered and stammered and said she would need to get a supervisor….then promptly cut me off trying to transfer me…..True story!

    • lmao…they’re so used to people not paying at all…you blew her gasket. She probably had to take off 2 weeks for work related stress.

    • I was surprised at the blue book value. But it was very low miles for 16 years old (just under 100k). You’re right, Hondas and Toyotas hold value very well. Most American cars wouldn’t be worth much more than salvage value at 16 years.

      Our electric utility (Duke Progress Energy) charges a $2 convenience fee. It’s a flat fee so that’s one reason to go ahead and charge a larger amount once so you don’t have to pay the $2 fee each month. I’ve always prepaid utilities online so never had anyone (other than the computer system) question the extra payments. I’m sure there are people that go on vacation for a month or two or leave a house empty during the off season and surely some prepay the utility bills.

      • Here in our area of TN we are not charged a service fee to pay our utilities by credit card; I have them all set up with automated billing and reap the rebate rewards. I do have to pay a 2% fee to pay my property taxes by cc, but since I get 5% back on Harley purchases with their affiliated card, that is still a no-brainer.

        • My electric is the only one that charges a fee and it’s just a flat $2 so we’re coming out way ahead to spend $800 and get $16+ back on a 2% rewards card. Property tax here is the same way with 2.x% fees, so I haven’t ever bothered paying by CC. Good going with the Harley card if you routinely purchase Harley bikes or products anyway!

  • If struggling so hard to meet your budget of expenses, why not donate the balance to charity or give it away to a friend/family?

    • I’m struggling in a very tongue in cheek way. More like loosening the purse strings. Although we do help out family occasionally (see the $2 in this expense report 🙂 ).

      We would give more away but the future is unknown and we have to support ourselves over the next half dozen decades using our investment portfolio. Donating/gifting is a one way street, and if we go down that road it won’t be possible to backtrack if we find out we’ve gone the wrong way.

      • I’m with you on the “donating/gifting” to Family. DW provided a VERY generous gift to a niece when she had her first child. Then about 3 months later she calls and wanted DW to “co-sign” for a car loan. DW declined and the niece wasn’t very happy and we haven’t heard from her in 3 years. You are wise…it’s a slippery slope….

        • I know what you mean. Fortunately we’ve never been shunned by anyone for not giving financially, but you have to set boundaries. Saying no occasionally makes it easier to say no when you need to.

      • For some people giving is a one-way street. From a strictly financial accounting standpoint, it is.

        For a lot of people, giving financially is emotionally rewarding which can have a lot of positive impacts in life (and for those who expect Karma payback, they could get it, financially).

        Not all in life is about money. And giving can be incredibly rewarding. It’s not all $ and cents. But not all of us see it that way, which is what makes life rich and diverse and interesting.

  • Hi Justin. Great update.

    What is your ratio of taxable to tax-sheltered in your investment portfolio?

    Ours is about 30% taxable to 70% tax-sheletered (Rollover IRAs, my 401k and Roth IRAs).

    In order to “retire early” it seems we’ll need to bump up our cash/taxable investments as we plow toward 59.5 (45 now).

    Thank you.

  • Hey great job! It’s amazing how you’re able to keep expenses low and maintain such a nice lifestyle. Very inspiring!

  • Interesting read, as per usual. But it’s fair to say that this would have been the first month where your income would have been lower than your expenses, if it was not for the sale of your second car? That must have been an awkward sort of sensation as it may have been a first? Considering your net worth it is obviously not a problem, but curious to know your thoughts.

    Have fun trying to reach the $40,000, don’t think you’re going to make it! 😉

    • Yeah, we would have spent $700 more than our income. I did receive a sizable check for Root of Good on Feb 29 that would have bumped the income higher than expenses, so the cash flow is still there (just posted to the bank one day into March). Eventually we’ll have months with expenses much higher than income and that means we’re dipping into cash reserves. I’m okay with that – it’s been our plan for the past 10 years to live off our investments one day and that day is here.

      Eventually we’ll start depleting our taxable account and as it declines that will make it more “real” that we are actually spending down our portfolio. It’s somewhere around $300,000 right now, so there’s a chance it might grow just as much as we are shrinking it if our spending is closer to $30,000 instead of $40,000.

  • How do you factor in taxes to your expenses? Or do you just pay them as needed when they come due?

  • Great month!
    I didn’t get the downgrade/upgrade trick on the cable contract. So you downgrade, then upgrade on-line. How this is saving you 5-10 per month?
    Thanks man! good job!

    Erik

    • The upgrade part of it is what saves money. At least with Time Warner Cable it’s $10 per upgrade tier. So I pay $15 for the cheapest service + $10 for upgrades x2 = $35 for their 3rd level of service (Extreme I think). Normal price is $40, so $5 savings per month.

  • Another great month; congratulations, Justin. Couple of observations from your post:

    1. Because we live outside of a city, it would be a struggle to go to one car; not impossible, but a struggle. I just checked the Hummer my wife drives. It went 600 miles in the last three months – 600 miles! Someday we’ll convince ourselves it can be done, but living in a more rural setting makes it tough. Glad you were able to.

    2. As guys we would have no problem using the base from a second-hand electric toothbrush. Not so sure there are too many women that would agree to do so, though. They don’t know what they are missing in life by always wussing out 🙂

    3. Love the “Why? Because we are retired and can” comment. Deb and I go to restaurants when convenient, movies in the afternoon when cheaper (and use Dealflicks, of course), and so on, just because we can. It might sound a little haughty to some, but we paid our dues, believe me.

    4. Never got into the electronic games thing; maybe it is the generational difference, but I do hear older people play them in big numbers as well as the young. Can’t stand the time sync. Years ago I played the first version of “Doom” and found myself wasting hours so I pulled the plug. Nowadays the games appear to be even more addicting, but hey, you’re retired so go for it.

    Continued wishes for success.

    • 1. If we lived in a more rural area, it would certainly be harder. As it is, if one of us is out and about with the car, the other one could always walk to the store if they needed something, or walk up to pick up the kids. Our oldest will go to middle school in the fall and it’s about 5 miles away, so there’s a chance we’ll be doing a lot more driving for after school events/clubs pick up. We could take the city bus from our house but the school is 1 mile from the bus station unless we transfer and catch a second bus (plus maybe 3-4 blocks to walk to the bus stop from our house).

      2. I asked Mrs. RoG and she said she would use a used electric toothbrush base. Fortunately she wouldn’t wuss out (at least on this one thing – just don’t ask her to squash a bug).

      4. Ah yes, I’ve wasted a lot of hours on Doom too. I think I was in middle school when that came out. 🙂 My friends and I all grew up playing video games and computer games and it’s pretty common pastime among my former coworkers and other friends my age. I’ve made more professional connections over video games than golf (if that says anything about the generational shift).

  • My only thought on seeing the net-worth chart is “… but you missed the chance to celebrate *not* having to realize that apparent $78k loss”.

    • I think I checked in on our finances around mid month when it was near the low point. Fun times, but I just kept doing nothing and didn’t sell anything.

  • I’m inspired by your blog..
    My husband will retire in 4.5 years( mandatory) with his job, take home pay is 14k a month …wewant to live on half that but we are in a very expensive area and have 4 teenagers and we tithe10% (non negotiable).. any suggestions to cut? what would you do? our tax bill was 70k last year..

    • For some generic advice, I always suggest analyzing the big three: food, transportation, and housing.

      For food, are you shopping sales, stocking up when something is on sale, and skipping the processed stuff that tends to be more expensive? Is dining out killing your budget?

      For transportation, do you own more cars than you need? Are the ones you own as fuel efficient as possible (obviously you’ll need a six seater for six in the family, so there are limits to fuel efficiency). Do you combine trips to save on gas?

      For housing, is your house the right size or is it too big? Obviously huge costs to move and downsize, so maybe it makes sense to re-evaluate housing after the kids are out of the house. Any energy efficiency improvements that can lower utility bills?

      After your husband retires, your tax bill will drop drastically. You have the flexibility to move to a much lower cost of living area too. And I assume the timing of retirement might coincide with the kids leaving the house, so perhaps look at downsizing the house if you do want to relocate to a lower COL area.

  • Companies and utilities vary about fees for paying by credit card.
    – For all bills that have no fee to pay by credit card, I do it that way.
    – For all bills that have a fee to pay by credit card, I pay using my bank’s online bill-pay feature. The bank pays the postage and there is no bank fee. I just schedule the payment to arrive the day before it is due.
    Also, I pay credit card bill itself online, they automatically deduct from my checking account. I also schedule that to be paid they day before it is due.

  • I would love to be planning a long road trip. Where are you planning on going?

    • No details set in stone yet, but it’s looking like Raleigh-Nashville-Mammoth Cave-Pit stop in Cincinnati or Detroit-Toronto (via Detroit and the “neck” of Canada)-Niagara Falls-Washington DC-Raleigh. Toronto is the only place we’ll stay more than a week, with the other places being 2-4 days each.

      Plans might change if the Canadian dollar strengthens further. We’re also struggling to find a nice place in Toronto. I’m having very poor success rates after inquiring about airbnb properties. So many places aren’t available even though they appear to be or they don’t have summer rates updated yet.

  • You guys are so inspiring. Great job on selling the car, sometimes opportunities just present themselves.
    Love the idea of getting a taste of another country’s food and culture in our local area, as you say so much cheaper than going there.
    Enjoy your time together …

    • Very glad the car is sold. My monthly maintenance reminder popped up in my email inbox this morning. Now I only have to check fluids and tire pressure on one vehicle! 🙂

  • Impressive monthly results. Your 2015 dividend income was amazing. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks. I’m hoping 2016’s dividend income remains just as strong!

      • My portfolio fluctuates in value like yours, which is why I just focus on the income portion for my retirement planning purposes. I am really digging your dividend income numbers. In a couple of week you will get a lot of dividend income from your funds.

        Isn’t it funny how stock prices overreact to the upside and downside, when fundamentals are mostly the same? Buffett was right that MR Market is a manic-depressive individual!

        Good luck in your journey!

        • Buffett is usually right. 🙂 I try to take a very Buffett like approach to investing by appreciating what I’m buying. A share of stock is a claim on future dividends and earnings of a company plus the ownership of the current assets (less liabilities). The stock price will go up and down day to day but the long term prospects of a company don’t swing so wildly.

  • At the risk of “crashing your blog subject”, I wanted to share that I went to Aldi shopping today and found that they now accept ALL major credit cards. You had mentioned on the blog about a year or so ago that Aldi didn’t accept CC’s…. I thought this was big news, as I was told several times by employees…it was NEVER going to happen. Used my Amex today WITH the 6% reward….life is good…

    • YES!! They must have started March 1 or something. I saw it in the Aldi sales paper and I’ve already shopped once and paid with my Barclay card to make progress toward minimum spending requirement. That’s great news for us because I’d say $300+ of the $500 monthly grocery bill is Aldi. That’s $72 per year on my 2% cash back cards.

      • It is great news as I find we buy more and more from Aldi as time goes by. I am a fan of the stores format and have had good luck with their offerings. I just hope this doesn’t impact prices. I’ll have to look into the Barclay’s as air travel is expensive…

  • Everything looks like it’s going swimmingly. Congrats to your daughter (and you) on getting into the school! I’m currently trying to meet the spending limit on a card and I think I’ll take a page from your book and pre-pay some utilities. As always, keep up the good work! Also, I don’t think I commented on the earlier post, but a huge congratulations to Mrs. ROG for joining the early retirement team!

    • It’s scary how well things are going right now. I feel like a character in a movie that’s about to suffer a tragedy because things can’t go swell forever, right? 🙂

      • There’s a funny Seinfeld bit about George and Jerry finally getting a TV pilot to write for NBC. Everything is going so well that George assumes something has to go wrong…since clearly he can’t have this much success without the sword of Damocles dropping on him . We humans tend to be suspicious of complete success and rather comfortable with unhappiness and struggle. Here’s hoping things continue in the right direction without fail.

  • Congratulations on getting your girl into a great school! Sweet!! I remember your post about why you guys chose the “worst” school. I think we had a similar situation. We live in a small house in a marginal neighborhood where the neighborhood school was subpar. For kindergarten, we used open enrollment and then applied for magnet for 1st on up and won that lottery, mostly because we live in this lesser neighborhood and got points for it. We had been looking to move to “better” places with “better” schools than the ones in our large, urban district — so expensive and unnecessary! We were very lucky and I am thankful we didn’t indenture ourselves to bigger, “better”, snootier and more expensive. And our girl went to college and did just fine.

    Anyway, congrats. Really enjoy reading this blog. And I think things will stay swell since you guys have planned and live very carefully. Good luck and thanks for the tips

    • Glad it worked out for you guys, too. Free public education that’s decent is a great way to save thousands of dollars compared to private school (=more capacity to save for FIRE!).

      I think in our district our below average neighborhood penalizes us slightly in the magnet school lottery. That is, the top 1/3 of assignment nodes (as measured by average test scores from students in that node) get a priority in the application process. The idea there is to attract more statistically “smart” kids to the magnet schools that tend to be located in low socioeconomic areas.

  • February was rocky here too just like yours, but you need the long term view!

    I have a book recommendation for you, since you’re a Civ nerd too, How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson (it’s also a PBS series). It’s a look at technological innovation, what stacked on what (like the advances in Civ) – it’s a fun book.

  • Congrats on staying well below your budget for yet another month! We appreciate the level of detail you provide about your expenses. Been following your blog for a while, please keep up the great posts Justin.

  • Hey ROG, thanks for sharing your journey. Its really official now as both of you are retired. I see you enjoy cruising with the kiddos, how’s that experience? Yes my investments also pay out mostly in the last month of the quarter, own mostly mutual funds, index funds, and ETFs. Good luck in march.

    • Cruising with the kids is mostly fun. Our 3 year old won’t go in the kid’s club for babysitting so it’s a little rough managing his energy 24/7 while on board. The kids love it and definitely want to go again. I’ve offered Disney World and have zero takers when a cruise is put in the running (which is 100% fine with me!).

      Cruising is a good vacation format for kids because you don’t have to move rooms to visit different places, and everything is an easy walk from your room (food, entertainment, swimming/water slides, ping pong table, ocean views, lounges, library, etc).

  • I love seeing these updates. Thank you for sharing. Good to remember that over the course of time, it’s the avergae that counts. We all have good month, bad months and unforeseen circumstances, which of course, we are prepared for because we think ahed 😉

    • I’m certainly a fan of playing the averages. Every month can’t be a good month, but if the future is like the past, we’ll have more good months than bad and the end result is long term growth!

  • We are staying the course. I have started applying for some scholarships to see if we can offset some of my grad school costs and allow us to put the money we are saving for school towards our 2016 Roths.

  • I love seeing how you spend your money, involving doing fun things!
    The grocery store you talked about sounds awesome! I always love going to foreign grocery stores and finding things I can’t find at the “normal” ones.

  • Justin,

    That is awesome that your healthcare costs are only $125 a month! My jaw hit the floor when I read that. I’m over to read about how you are getting such a low rate now!

    It sounds like your budget of $40,000 is actually on the high side for what you need to survive. That’s great that you are able to keep your expenses below this and have to push yourself to hit that level. Very inspirational! I hope to be in your shoes financially in a couple of years – in the meantime I love reading about your adventures and tips for saving.

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