March 2015 Financial Update
March has come and gone and left our net worth largely unchanged from it’s lofty heights of a month ago. We brought in a bunch of income yet spent a relatively modest amount in spite of focusing a lot of time and effort on spending more money.
The end of March marked the start of the first quarter dividend season from our mutual funds and ETF’s, and we received over $2,600 in the last few days of March. For all of 2014, we received $29,383 in dividends, which was up significantly from the $22,300 of dividend income during 2013. Though we don’t have a dividend-specific investment strategy, they certainly help fund our annual retirement expenses.
Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, increased significantly from last month’s already high $1,800 to $2,274 for March. Things are picking up at Root of Good which is exciting for me because I enjoy sharing my story with more people (and getting paid isn’t bad either).
I had a really good month of freelance writing at $550.
I expect to make around $600-800 per month over the long term from blogging and freelance writing, and March far exceeded expectations. I may have to revisit my “$600-800 per month” target at some point since I seem to be exceeding that target pretty often, however I like to remain conservative when forecasting income streams into the future.
I received $186 in beer rebates (shown as “deposits”). These are deals that beer companies offer where you submit a grocery receipt and the rebate form and get back somewhere between $10 to $25. One rebate was for $50 when you spend $200 or more on electronics, and I used the purchase of my new desktop computer to fulfill that offer.
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 look at March expenses:
At $2,443 for March, we came in just under our target of $2,700 per month (1/12th of our $32,400 per year early retirement budget).
We are ramping up the spending for our big trip to Mexico this summer. The total cost for the seven week trip will be around $7,000 to $8,000 (full trip budget). So far, I have booked all of the flights and almost all of the lodging. The $1,072 travel expense for March represents about half of the flight and lodging costs, with another $1,000 lodging expense booked in the first week of April. We budgeted $3,000 for lodging but managed to come in at about half that for our six weeks of apartment rentals (thanks to AirBnB and VRBO!).
The travel expense also includes two $89 annual fees for the US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard. These cards are being discontinued very soon since US Air is merging with American Airlines. The good news is the 100,000 US Air miles from these two cards will transfer into our American Airlines Aadvantage accounts. I rarely pay annual fees for credit cards, but in this case, it seemed like a cheap way to get 100,000 Aadvantage miles (100,000 miles equals four domestic round trip flights or about two round trip tickets to South America or Europe).
We’re probably going to blow our $5,400 annual travel budget this year, but our investment portfolio is doing really well so we can afford it. Travel will be one of the first things to get cut if we suffer a stock market collapse.
Our grocery expense of $873 included the purchase of a $500 Visa prepaid gift card. I spent some of the gift card at Aldi in March, so actual grocery expenses in March were closer to $500. I bought the gift card because the store offered $10 off my grocery purchase with a $100+ gift card purchase. I put the maximum I could on the gift card because that allows me to effectively spend money at Aldi using a credit card (and I received 5% cash back using my Chase Freedom so received another $25). $35 in savings for a few minutes of effort is certainly worth my time!
Utilities and gas expenses were very ordinary at $185 and $131 respectively.
We spent $93 at restaurants in March. Mrs. Root of Good commented that we ate out a lot in March, but this amount of spending is roughly in line with our long term average over the last five years. Since I retired and spend more time at home, I tend to cook more often. That means our dining out has decreased in the year and a half since I retired. We also enjoyed some free food last month.
The entertainment expense of $56 was the fee for one week of summer camp for our eight year old. Since we are going to be in Mexico for most of the summer, she will have to miss summer camp. I canceled the camp and will apply the $56 credit to a swimming pool and water park pass instead.
At $5,895 of year to date spending, we are still $2,200 under the $8,700 budgeted for the first three months of 2015. We will use up some of that surplus while on our summer trip, but our spending for the year as a whole should still be roughly within our budget.
Looking ahead, April will have some big lumpy expenses for our summer trip. I also had to make some last minute charges to meet the minimum spending requirements on a pair of Chase British Airways cards to get another 100,000 BA Avios points (= how we fly for free). I prepaid almost $900 on our electricity bill and $300 on our water bill to hit the $2,000 per card spending requirement. That means I won’t have to pay another electricity bill until the end of the summer. Check out all of the current credit card deals if you want to cash in on free travel too!
Net Worth: $1,503,000 (no change)
After joining the $1.5 Millionaire Club in February with an astounding $74,000 increase, our net worth remained above the $1.5 million mark at the end of March. But not by a wide margin. I fully expect to dance around the $1.5 million mark for a while and we spent about half of last month below that threshold.
I mentioned last month that I placed a few limit orders to raise some cash to fund our 2016 living expenses. So far these have not executed. I’m patient though.
How did you do in March? Any big money moves for you?