May 2014 Financial Update

Expenses

In May, we had a nearly perfect month financially.  We spent very little and our investments gained a lot of ground due to excellent stock market returns.

At $3,575 in total income during May, we more than covered our monthly expenses of $1,368.

Income received from rootofgood.com totaled $678 in May.  This was a pretty ordinary month of blog income with revenue from various advertising networks in addition to Google Adsense revenue.  The blog revenue has been trending downward, but I’ve also been publishing fewer posts lately.

“Deposits” totaling $900 was repayment of a business loan made to family in 2013.

Ebay revenue was minimal in April with only $32 in sales.  Right now I don’t have anything else listed on Ebay, so I don’t expect a lot of income from Ebay for the next few months since we will be out of town on vacation.  In August I’ll probably round up some stuff around the house and go on a listing spree at Ebay.

 

may-2014-income

 

Since we get most dividend income at the end of each quarter and at year end, May didn’t offer very much investment income.  I did receive $44 from an individual bond holding I have held for years.  At the end of June, the next wave of quarterly dividend payments will flow in, which should be a few thousand dollars at least.

A quick note on the expense tracking and income tracking tools I use.  I took screen captures from Personal Capital and included them in this blog post.  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 May expenses:

May-2014-expenses

After spending only $1,712 for the month of April, we continued on the path of low spending in May.  Total expenses for the month added up to $1,368.  Most of the expenses for the month were discretionary spending.  In other words, expenses we can cut back on if our investments don’t do as well as we expect.

Our largest expense for the month was $400 for laser skin treatments for two members of the household (mole removal for the curious).  Other than my lasik eye surgery many years ago, I think this is our only time spending money on elective medical procedures.

We spent $357 to rent a one bedroom apartment for a week in Ottawa, Canada (save $25 on your next AirBnB reservation through this link).  At this point, we have paid for all of our lodging for our five week trip and only have to pay for gas, parking, tolls, transit, groceries, meals out, and entertainment while we are on the road.  I’ll outline a detailed estimate of what we plan to spend while on vacation in a later post.

We are in the middle of meeting the spending requirements on Mrs. RoG’s Barclay Arrival Plus card.  Once we do, we’ll get back another $400 for one of the apartments we booked through AirBnB (we’re already getting $400 back from the sign up bonus from my Barclay Arrival Plus card!).

Our old desktop computer sporting a peppy Pentium 4 finally kicked the bucket.  The $62 “electronics” expense covered the purchase of a new laptop.  I had a $200 gift certificate from a previous electronics deal that I applied to knock the price down this low.

Our grocery expenses were abnormally low in May.  We are due for a big trip to Walmart to restock on staples, so that might explain it.  Or, our grocery spending in April might have been higher than normal, and our fridge was already well stocked going into May.

The $52 entertainment expense was for a small grocery cart full of liquor.  That should last us for many months.  Unless we get thirsty.

Restaurant spending remained low at $45.  That total includes:

  • a dozen ridiculously large donuts/pastries from a local shop (at $15, our largest restaurant expense for the month) – half of these were given away to extended family
  • lunch and a few cups of coffee at Mrs. RoG’s workplace cafeteria
  • Chinese takeout for the family (two times)
  • a massive 18″ pizza from a local place that we took to the park for a nice quiet picnic

Rounding out our spending for the month was $42 for home telephone service for a year, and $21 for a few new rose bushes (Mrs. RoG’s Mother’s Day gift to herself).

 

$3 Per Month Home Phone Service

Since we have simple cell phone plans (that cost a total of $10 per year), we have been relying on a home phone running on VOIP for most of our telecommunication needs.  For the last few years, Google Voice was our phone provider (using an Obihai VOIP phone adapter).  Google Voice was free.  According to Google, support for the free service using the Obihai adapter was scheduled to end on May 15, 2014.  Some users report the service is still working, others indicate it has been shut off.

I preemptively switched to a paid VOIP provider.  The lowest cost provider that seemed reliable was Vestalink.  They are a tiny, relatively new company, but they have been working well for me so far.  They were offering a special deal for those switching from Google Voice, so I bought a year of “lite” service ($30) that includes 500 minutes per month.  I also bought an extra 1,000 minutes ($12) that roll over month to month.  If I go over the 500 minute monthly cap occasionally, I’ll eat into the reserve of 1,000 extra minutes.  At about $3 per month for a regular home phone with 911 service, caller ID, and even a digital eFax service, it’s hard to be unhappy.  The call quality is excellent.

You can buy your own Obihai VOIP phone adapter to avoid Vestalink’s $55 activation fee that includes a VOIP adapter.  I own the Obi100, which is currently $38 at Amazon for a new one, or $25 for a used device.

The installation was a breeze.  Since I already had my Obi device plugged in to my router and my home phone line, it took about 3 minutes to configure the Vestalink service using their automated configuration wizard.

 

Free Bike!

Under the umbrella of “expenses”, I’ll mention the free bike we picked up from a neighbor.  I have been looking on craigslist for a decent used bike for our seven year old.  After failing to find anything suitable at a good price, I gave up.  While walking to a neighborhood event at the park, I started chatting with a neighbor.  Their daughter outgrew a lightly used bike that was the perfect size for our seven year old.  Free bike!

After 15 minutes of tuning up, tightening bolts and screws, inspecting, cleaning and greasing the chain and making a few adjustments, my seven year old had a brand new (used) bike.  The nine year old decided she wanted the brand new used bike and gave away her bike to her younger sister.  I guess kids like to get new used things.  I spent nothing on the bike and avoided spending $40 on craigslist for a used bike or at least $50-60 at Walmart for a new bike.

 

may-2014-ytd-expense

 

We budgeted $32,000 per year for retirement, so five months of spending is $13,333.  At $10,592 year to date actual spending through May 31, 2014, we are well under budget for the year.  Barring unexpected costs, we should have another low expense month in June before we set off for our spenderific five week trip to Canada.  The lodging has been paid for already, so the remainder of the vacation shouldn’t be more than a few thousand dollars.

 

Net Worth: $1,411,000 (+$46,000)

Well, May was certainly kind to us!  A net worth increase of $46,000 represents almost a year and a half of living expenses for us.  It’s a little scary to think that monthly swings in our wealth are greater than our annual living expenses (although this was the case in the early months of 2014 as well).  The real scary part will be watching a year and a half of our budgeted expenses disappear when the market changes direction!

 

may-2014-net-worth

 

 

Did the month of May treat you nicely?

 

 

38 comments

  • My May investments definitely treated me well! I love how much lower your expenses are than your income! Do you ever think that you will stop some of the money-making things like selling stuff on ebay eventually? Believe me, I’m not the retirement police, but I’m curious as to what level of work and in what areas you think you will settle into by, say, year 3 or so.

    • Good question! My answer is a definite “maybe”! 😉

      The ebaying takes so little time, and it’s a great way to motivate me to get rid of junk. If it ever becomes a hassle, I’ll probably fall back on tossing the stuff in the trash, finding an ebayer who wants to give me a % cut, or dropping it off at goodwill. I’m not making a ton of money from it, but then again I spent maybe 20 minutes this month to stick a few things in an envelope, slap on a mailing label (automatically printed from ebay), and drop it in the mailbox. Oh, and put the flag up.

      Will I be blogging in 3 years? Will I do freelance writing in 3 years? I’m not really sure but I think so (at least to some extent). I could be totally wrong and I might have some other form of gainful employment. Or none at all. Financially we are at the point where we don’t need the money, and my side hustles are covering our expenses some months. If these side hustles ever become burdensome, I’ll drop ’em! I already focus my efforts on recreation, learning, social activities, household stuff, etc and put the blog and freelancing on a rather low priority level.

  • Rock on man! Very cool seeing it in terms of yearly expenses like that – I love it 🙂

    And, just updated the Blogger Net Worth Tracker – you’re getting closer to the next person up!

    http://rockstarfinance.com/blogger-net-worths/

    • Thanks, J $. And thanks for updating the blogger net worths with my new stats!

      I try to keep the net worth, spending, and income all in perspective. Knowing I have many hundreds of months worth of savings lets me sleep at night!

  • Congrats on the great month!

    About the bike.. isn’t it funny how sometimes stepping away from the problem actually takes care of the problem?

    • Procrastination solves many of my problems. 🙂

      I’ve always operated on the knowledge that paying full price is okay if you need something in a hurry. If you don’t need it urgently, it usually pays to wait and keep your eyes open for a sale or someone giving it away for free/cheap.

      • Funny about the bike. It seems every time I want something and just wait that at some point in the not to distant future it appears magically. Oh and it hopes to ask people. I bet if you wanted a free house and asked around enough, eventually you would find one for free or near free.

        • I’m with you there. As long as you aren’t in a hurry and don’t mind second hand stuff that occasionally needs a little tune up or cleaning, it isn’t particularly challenging to get stuff dirt cheap or free.

  • Yay! That’s awesome progress. Puts pressure on me to relook at our expenses and determine why we are bleeding so much money every month.

    • I’d suggest some simple way to track your expenses (personal capital or even a simple spreadsheet. If you aren’t already tracking your spending, that is.

      I don’t budget, but looking at the numbers monthly makes me realize if there’s an area where expenses are getting out of line. It’s easy to spend an extra $20-30 here and there, but when you look at a month of doing that, you can figure out the areas where you have to focus more. Outside of the big areas (car, house, insurance, utilities, phone, groceries), it’s easy to let little areas add up if you aren’t vigilant.

  • Love reading your posts. I never learn anything by opening my mouth (or by typing) so I appreciate seeing what you and the family, and others, are doing in retirement. I only retired recently at 60 but that still seems early to me at times, so I can relate to your concerns as well as your accomplishments. Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks, ChuckY, glad you enjoy following along on my journey!

      60 is still early by many metrics (especially for those who are 60 and are just starting to contemplate how they can retire!).

    • well you’re not alone, wasn’t till I was in my 50’s that I learned about early retirement so early retirement for my wife (primary wage earner) will be 61 62, but still better than the official 67!

      At least I can say we went from zero to retirement in 10 years:)

  • Awesome progress! Your numbers are awe-inspiring; if we manage to get a net worth of half of what you have, I’ll be very happy.

  • So, about that credit card…can you apply the $400 credit to any traveling expense? I’m definitely interested in that but not so interested in miles (I was a little confused because the site talks about miles.)

    • Hey, Kristen.

      I think they call the points “miles” but whatever they call them, they are points/miles you can redeem to reimburse yourself for any travel expenses. As an example, I can look at my account and it lists the $190 I spent on a hotel in NYC and says I can redeem 19,000 points/miles to reimburse me $190 for the hotel purchase. My $357 airbnb reservation can be reimbursed in full for 35,700 points. Or you can redeem less than the total purchase amount if you don’t have enough points.

      While composing this response, I checked my own Barclay Arrival Plus account and the 40,000 bonus points have already been posted. I also earned 6,000 points from spending the $3,000 to fulfill the terms of the sign up bonus. So I had 46,000 points in my account. I redeemed 45000 points for a $450 statement credit (reimbursement against a $471 airbnb reservation), and since they give back a 10% bonus for points redeemed for travel, I got back 4,500 points. That, plus the 1,000 points I didn’t spend on the initial redemption means I had 5,500 points. I redeemed 5,000 for another $50 back on my $190 hotel purchase. I still have 1,000 points in my account (I got a 10% bonus on the 5000 point redemption, too!). So the sign up bonus is really good for $500 back on travel as it turns out!

      As for “what is travel?”, I think it’s pretty broad. Anything booked at expedia, travelocity, orbitz, etc. Any hotels, any cruises, rental cars, airline, or train tickets. And I verified Airbnb does count as travel. You might be able to call them up and argue out of state gas purchases and tolls were “travel” if you’re doing a road trip (I don’t know if those things would show up on the automated travel redemption screen).

  • WOWWWWWW! monster increases in your net worth. Keep up the good work and thanks for the update.

    Good Day and Grind On!

  • Your expenses are really low this month. I thought I was frugal. I am assuming your house in paid off. I know your cash expenses are only $1368. Have you thought about accruing for things like homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, and property taxes or do you just deal with the “lumpiness” in expenses as they occur?

    • We actually still have a small mortgage balance, but we also have the cash sitting in an account ready to pay off the mortgage if we want. The rate is 1.99%, so I’m not in a hurry to pay it off in full.

      I don’t accrue balances for home/car insurance or taxes since they fall throughout the year and aren’t that big. The biggest is our property tax at $1400 due in December or January, so I might have a big expense in that month, but that’s okay. I do budget for these lumpy expenses, and budget for big house maintenance items and car replacement.

  • How are you hedging against a market down turn ? In order to avoid negative swings it is important to have a hedging plan. This will reduce some of your profits but minimise the down side.

    • My hedging plan is to wait out any market declines. I’m comfortable with volatility and powered through the Great Recession (and bought more investments consistently and moved into riskier investments as part of a permanent asset allocation shift). Even if my portfolio gets cut in half, I’ll still have enough money to fund 20 years of living expenses. I touched on my attitudes toward risk and running out of money in “Running out of Money in Early Retirement“.

  • Congrats on a kickass month! The stock market was kind to me, as well. Also, my home value has recently skyrocketed (according to Zillow). I’m looking forward to crunching the net worth numbers at the end of June!

    • I think zillow says my house has gone up a few percent this year. I don’t update the house value more often than quarterly, and since we don’t plan to sell, it’s mostly just a number at this point.

  • Just discovered your site…awesome stuff!
    I’m really impressed that the blog is bringing in several hundred per month, and it looks like you started only a few months ago. I also started one recently, but I’m finding it hard to bring in an audience. (I guess every blog goes through that at first.) I love writing and discussing frugality, finance, etc., but it definitely makes it less fun when the readership isn’t there – especially when this beautiful spring weather beckons me away from the computer!
    I’d love to hear any advice you have on building an audience. Or I can send you an email with some specific questions if you have the time.
    Anyway, thanks for the great content!

    • Thanks! Glad you found me!

      A few quick comments on getting started in blogging:
      -write what you want to read, and write what you know
      -don’t be afraid to be controversial or contrarian
      -network with other bloggers – this can lead to partnerships, guest posts, your awesome posts being linked to, etc
      -make sure you have social media working for you; make it easy for your followers to follow by email, twitter, FB, rss, or whatever else is out there
      -give it six months of consistent writing to draw an audience. It takes a long time to create something from scratch

  • Do you include 529 in your PC net worth? How much do you plan on saving for the kids’ college from your “retired” status?

    • Yes, the kids’ 529 is included in our PC NW figure. There’s about $40k dedicated in the 529’s right now. A full ride tuition package for all three in state would be $100,000 total. So we have just under half of a full tuition ride for the kids. The tentative plans are to fund all tuition and let student loans, work study, part time jobs in HS and college, grants, scholarships, entrepreneurship, etc take care of room and board. They may live with us, or live on campus, or off campus in the dorms.

      In terms of “how will we save for the rest of their college”, I’m undecided about funding the 529 any more. Who knows if traditional four year college will still be the key to big salaries in nine to sixteen years when my kids are headed that way? Will college be necessary? Will online ed be at the point of refinement to supplant the traditional bricks and mortar institutions of higher ed? Maybe, maybe not. Will all three of my kids attend four years of college? There’s a small chance one or more won’t attend, thereby saving us money on college.

      As for amounts above the $40k we have saved right now in the 529’s, we can fork out the $60k to fund the rest of their full ride and still have enough to get by on in early retirement. Maybe we won’t if the markets do really really bad in the next 10-15 years, or maybe we’ll have enough for a full ride for all of them at a private school!

  • Dang Root, way to go. I have never been jealous of other peoples ability not to spend money until I started coming to your site.

    I wish I could get my spending down to your sort of levels. Unfortunately, my other half doesn’t share the same passion for early retirement as I do. Probably won’t get there until 40, but that will still probably be earlier than 99.9% of retirees, so I should probably not worry.

    • Hey, 40 is still very early like you say.

      Maybe your spouse will get more on board as you get closer. It’s a lifestyle choice as much as a financial one.

  • Good Job on the spend vs. earn category. I see you said that your investments will be in the thousands towards the end of june? Do you currently use this dividend income to live on or is it reinvested? For my situation I will use a dividend system where I get a check every month from various companies. For example Ko will pay me in march and PG will pay me in june. That way my income will be more evenly distributed. Good Luck.

    • I’m using dividends for living expenses right now. Between dividends and a little side income from the blog and the occasional freelance gig, it’s looking like we might not have to sell many investments to fund ordinary living expenses.

      As for smoothing income over the months, I just keep a large cash buffer roughly equal to a year’s expenses. Between those quarterly dividend payments in March, June, September, and December, I suppose the cash balance starts to dip before the next quarter’s dividends are paid. And December is always the biggest month by far for dividend payments, since some mutual funds I own only pay 1x per year.

      Interesting concept of owning dividend payers that pay out in different months to smooth income. Clever!

  • Justin,

    Very awesome to see that your income is outpacing your expenses! I’m just coming across your blog, and I must say that your story/lifestyle is very impressive. I’m about halfway from where you are, so I hope to be in your shoes in about 4-5 years. You truly seem like a great money saving family!

  • Thanks for sharing your recent financial picture. I currently pay $4/month for unlimited home phone service with Ooma. I was looking at Obihai as well but chose Ooma instead. Still very happy with it for about 10 months now. I even wrote a blog post about it and how I also saved a lot with on my cell phone bill with Ting. Keep saving much of your income as you are doing. You are definitely headed in the right direction.

    • $4/month isn’t bad for phone service. I added an extra 1,000 rollover minutes onto our 500 minute/month plan so ours will end up being around $4/month as well. I figured I already had the Obihai device so I would go that route for almost free phone service. Working well so far. I checked out Ooma as well and it seemed like a solid choice. I think the initial device purchase is a tiny bit more than the obihai, but otherwise similar cost to Vestalink on a monthly basis (with plans at $3-5/month).

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