May 2014 Financial Update
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
Did the month of May treat you nicely?