June 2017 Financial Update
This month’s financial update comes to you from Ljubljana, Slovenia – an undiscovered gem in Europe. We are about to head to Lake Bled, Slovenia for some hiking, lake-lounging, and more relaxing. After that we’re on to Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic for the next month before ending our vacation in Amsterdam. It’s hard to believe we are almost half way through our nine week summer vacation in Europe!
June was another great month financially. Net worth increased $14,000 to $1,842,000. Income was very strong at $7,793 during June, while expenses remained moderate at $2,629. Such a great feeling to watch your assets continue to grow for you while you’re on the other side of the world exploring and relaxing!
Investment income totaled $6,265 for the month. The majority of our mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December. During other months investment income tends to be much smaller. We are well on our way to earning roughly $30,000 in dividends for 2017, as we have in the past. Of the dividends and interest received during June, around $3,000 was in our taxable brokerage accounts with the remainder deposited into our IRA’s and 401k’s.
Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, dropped to $906. I have a large check from an advertiser waiting for me at home, so the blog income is lower than usual.
My early retirement lifestyle consulting remained steady at $480 for the month. That represents four hours of work. Some of that work was completed while in Seville, Spain which technically makes me a “digital nomad” (one who is location independent and works wherever they are).
The $141 in Deposits includes cash back rebates from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals. If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card like I did. When shopping online, I always check to see if I can score some extra cash back by using one of those online shopping portals (and it usually pays off!).
Part of the “Deposits” income is $125 from something called credit card tradeline sales. It’s something new I’m trying to pick up some easy cash. The 30 second version is: I add an authorized user to my credit card; the authorized user gets a big boost to their credit score; they pay the credit fixing agency; I get paid. I’ll expand on this explanation in a future blog post if it’s ever something worth recommending to my general readership. So far it’s kind of cumbersome for limited payback potential and comes with non-trivial but manageable risks that I would have to explain in detail.
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).
Now let’s take a look at June expenses:
We spent $2,629 during the month of June. We came in several hundred dollars under our budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). The big expenses this month were travel/vacations and home maintenance (a new roof).
Travel – $1,290
During June we spent $1,290 here in Europe on our big summer vacation. I haven’t been tracking this spending in great detail, but looking at the data in Personal Capital, I see $723 in ATM withdrawals (fee free or fee reimbursed, thanks to my Fidelity Cash Management ATM/Debit card). Of that $723, I still had around $400 in cash at the end of June, so June’s spending is slightly overstated. The ATM spits out cash and I spend it anywhere that won’t take credit cards. I don’t keep a detailed list of where this cash goes.
I spent $95 on the annual fee for my new Chase Ink Business credit card. I assess this charge to “Travel” because we’ll use the 80,000 bonus points for signing up for this card to get a free plane ticket or three in the future.
After taking out the $400 that we didn’t spend yet, and the $95 credit card annual fee, we spent a net of $800 in June. About $300 of that is groceries. $250 on dining out. The remaining $250 we spent on local buses, trains, and subways, Uber, and entrance fees to castles and other attractions.
Groceries – So far we’ve spent roughly $300 for the first 18 days in Europe, or about $17 per day. Grocery prices in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Slovenia (where we have visited so far) range from about the same as Raleigh to about a third cheaper. We aren’t able to take advantage of bulk purchases or shopping big sales, so overall we’re still spending about the same as we do at home in spite of dining out more often here in Europe.
Dining out – we go out to eat about once per day or once every other day. Even though Europe is supposed to be expensive, we aren’t having a hard time finding meals for €20-30 total for the five of us (about USD$23-34). Sometimes that’s take out, and sometimes that’s a sit down meal at a simple place. Even in supposedly expensive Venice, Italy, we found a local pizza place 30 seconds from our Airbnb that serves huge 19-20″ pizzas for €10 (USD$11). These pizzas wouldn’t fit in the 18″ box so they had to fold the pizza over onto itself to get it in the box. I also had to incline the pizza box at a 45 degree angle to get it through the narrow doorway of our apartment! For €20 we fed the whole family and had some leftovers for a midnight snack (and some nibbles at the Piazza San Marco the next day). Then we broke the bank by ordering a couple of take out seafood pasta dishes that totaled €24.50 (USD$28).
Most recently in Ljubljana, we spent €27-30 (USD$35 or slightly less) per meal on two meals. One meal was a nice little cafe with local Slovenian dishes where we ordered some extra sides to try different things. The lunch special I ordered was €5 (USD$5.60) and came with a medium size salad, pan-fried smoked trout on a bed of rice and spinach, plus a slice of cheesecake for dessert. Later, we went to the Ljubjana central market and ordered from food trucks and had more than we could eat – burgers, local sausage sandwiches, a local version of stuffed crust pizza, and fried calamari for €27 (USD$30).
Transit – Other than a pair of Ubers to catch an early morning flight in Lisbon, we’ve gotten by with buses, subways and local trains everywhere else. Or our feet. Local transit usually costs USD$0.70 to $1.50 and sometimes one or two kids ride free. In almost all cities, it’s cheaper (or mandatory) to buy a transit card for $0.50 to $2.00 and charge it with single rides, or add a day pass for unlimited rides for one or more days. The most expensive city was Lisbon where everyone had to pay and a one way ride on transit was USD$7 for our family of five. An Uber to downtown or to the airport is only USD$4-6, but we had to take 2 Ubers since only four passengers can legally ride in an Uber (and yes, I asked if a lap child is acceptable; no, the driver said it was not). We would have been better off Ubering everywhere if there were only four of us.
Entrance fees – We haven’t had to pay to get into a lot of attractions so far. Many places are free, or offer free admission on certain days of the week or times of the day. We worked around these free admission schedules and rarely had to pay an entrance fee. I think we’ve only paid to get into one museum (well preserved ancient Roman ruins under the city of Seville, Spain, about USD$10 total for the family and totally worth it). We paid to get into the Sao Jorge castle in Lisbon. Here in Ljubljana we are paying for entrance to two caves (to be reported in the July financial update).
Most in the family aren’t that interested in museums anyway, so we generally skip museums (even if they are free). I do enjoy the occasional museum so I’ll sometimes leave Mrs. Root of Good with the kids and explore the museum part of an attraction while she rests with the kids (read: the kids drive her crazy). Even for museums that charge, many are incredibly affordable compared to US prices, Family admissions for USD$10-20 are common. In a previous month, we paid around USD$40 for La Alhambra tickets in Granada, Spain and that proved to be a cheap price for a nice (but hot) six hour adventure through a beautiful castle, palace, and gardens.
Transportation between cities and all accommodations were paid for over the past six or eight months, so we’re not spending anything on that right now.
We’re a little below the budget estimate I put together for this trip. Costs might go up slightly once we enter Germany, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the moderate costs on the first half of the trip.
Home Maintenance – $1,126:
Our portion of the roof replacement was $1,111. The other 80% of the cost was covered by the insurance company. It looks really nice, and hopefully it’ll hold up for many years to come.
The remaining $15 in this category is random stuff from Lowe’s to tackle a few small DIY tasks before we left for Europe, plus a gallon of gas for the lawnmower. We’re having a teenager from down the street mow the grass at $20 per mow, and I told him to use our gas to refill his mower so he can avoid hauling the gas can down the street.
Groceries – $157:
We left for Europe on June 12, so we only spent a little bit on groceries while in Raleigh. When we get home in August we’ll have to restock the fridge and freezer so I expect a large grocery bill at that point.
We’re spending quite a bit on groceries while in Europe, but I’m including these in the “Travel” expense category.
Restaurants – $29:
Went out to eat with our immediate family plus some extended family right before we left for Europe. Dining out while in Europe is included in the “Travel” expense category.
Insurance – $25:
Farm Bureau, the insurer I use, requires a $25 annual membership fee. For some reason they billed me in June whereas I paid the other insurance bills in May.
Expenses that were zero during June:
Gas – we didn’t fill up the van in June before leaving on vacation, so we won’t have any gas expenses until August or September when we get back.
Internet – we cancelled internet for the summer since we won’t be using it.
Healthcare/Medical – I prepaid the health insurance through July so we won’t have to worry about that while in Europe. So far everyone has remained healthy and my extensive first aid kit is still mostly intact. We chose to skip travel insurance so we are self-insuring for health care here in Europe (other than our emergency coverage through US-based insurance).
Utilities – I prepaid our electric, natural gas, and water bills for several months ahead during prior months. This was mostly to meet the minimum spending requirements for a series of credit cards we applied for this winter and spring that gave us 360,000 airline miles. It doesn’t take much to score free tickets to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Europe (we traveled to Europe on free plane tickets, for example).
Do you like free travel as much as I do? Check out all the credit card sign up bonuses. Or go directly to the Chase Ink Business Preferred card with an 80,000 point bonus (any size business qualifies you for a business card). For reference, 80,000 points can fly you almost anywhere in the world on a variety of frequent flyer programs, or get you three domestic round trip tickets.
Year to Date Living Expenses for 2017
We have spent a total of $14,316 for the first half of 2017 (through the end of June). That is $5,700 below our annual spending target of $20,000 budgeted for the first six months of the year. I’m a little dumbfounded by this running total since I feel like we’re living a pretty luxurious lifestyle (what I call a $100,000 lifestyle on $40,000 per year).
The bulk of the planned big ticket spending for 2017 is over and on the books at this point. The new roof came in much cheaper than expected thanks to receiving over $4,000 from our insurance company for hail and wind damage. Our Europe trip is on track for our $10,000 total budget for the nine weeks. July shouldn’t have more than another $2,000-$2,500 in trip expenses. There’s a good chance we’ll close out 2017 with a nice budget surplus if nothing unexpected pops up. It’s also possible we won’t break $30,000 in spending for the year!
Monthly Expense Summary for 2017:
- January 2017 – $3,378
- February 2017 – $2,108
- March 2017 – $1,388
- April 2017 – $2,981
- May 2017 – $1,829
- June 2017 – $2,629
Net Worth: $1,842,000 (+$14,000)
Another month, another strong net worth boost. I miss the days of up and down markets where we occasionally lost $50,000 or $100,000 in really bad months. Right now it’s just up, up and more up. Which means the odds of down, down, and more down increase.
In the meantime, we’ll continue mostly disregarding market performance. I might move another $25,000 into the Vanguard Total Bond Market index fund if markets keep going up like they have been.
Ok, back to traipsing across Europe! Hopefully I can carve out some time to provide a more in depth trip report for all these places we’re visiting.
How is your summer going? Still enjoying the perpetual stock market gains?