May 2015 Financial Update

May has come and gone.  Financially we are much better off with a huge amount of income during the month and only a tiny bit of spending.  Our net worth continued its upward march and currently sits at $1,550,000.

In one week we leave for our seven week summer trip to Mexico, where pesos are cheap and the tequila is strong.  The favorable exchange rate combined with generally low prices in Mexico should let us continue our low spending ways in June and July (especially since we have already pre-paid all lodging expenses for the trip).

 

Income

May didn’t offer a lot of investment income, with only $46 of dividends and interest.  June should treat us a lot nicer since our funds pay out at the end of each quarter.  These June dividends will be really sweet because we’ll be thousands of miles from home living it up while we still have a fire hose of truly passive income flowing into our accounts.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, dipped to a very low $286 in April but roared back in May at $6,569 for the month.  This is due to receiving two months worth of income in one month and a steady uptick in traffic throughout 2015.  June will also be a very good month for Root of Good income, although I won’t get any paper checks deposited till July or August since we’ll be out of the country and not opening any mail.  Good thing I don’t need the cash immediately!

Freelance writing income was $250.

I expect to make around $600-800 per month over the long term from blogging and freelance writing.  Year to date, this income source is running closer to $2,400 per month so I might have to adjust my expectations upward.  But summer is usually the slow season for blog traffic and revenue, and I might not be posting as much while I’m on vacation.

The “deposits” income is $21 for cash back rebates from the Ebates 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.  I got a $10 Walmart gift card very quickly after making my first purchase using the same promotion. I love me some cash back portals because they effectively offer an extra discount of a few percent on top of credit card cash back, coupons, and sales at common online retailers where I already shop.

may-2015-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 May expenses:
may-2015-expenses-2

At $849 for May, we significantly under spent our target of $2,700 per month (1/12th of our $32,400 per year early retirement budget) by almost $2,000.  That’s in spite of prepaying some utilities to meet the spending requirements on credit cards (to get massive sign up bonuses!).

Travel expenses of $232 made up our highest category of spending for the month.  We spent $200 to reactivate Mrs. Root of Good’s United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles that I negligently allowed to expire last year.  That’s a small price to pay for getting back the 88,000+ miles that expired (= a free round trip to pretty much anywhere in the world).  It would have cost $500 to reinstate them under normal conditions, but they offer a special “credit card challenge” that basically requires you to sign up for the Chase United Mileageplus Explorer card and pay “only” $200.  A side benefit of being “forced” to sign up for this card was the 50,000 bonus point offer.  The life of a credit card hacker…

The bulk of the expense for our Mexico trip has already been paid in the past few months.  We projected the total cost for the seven week trip at $7,000 to $8,000 (full trip budget).  We had to spend an extra $32 in May to find a new apartment for our two weeks in Mexico City.  Our previous booking cancelled on us at the last minute, so we had to scramble to find something.  Most of the inexpensive places were unavailable at the last minute, however we found a nice two bedroom apartment one block from the subway station for only $32 more than our previous booking.  Airbnb treated us right and offered an additional discount for the trouble of the last minute cancellation.  In some ways, this new apartment is an upgrade so probably worth the $32 extra cost.  You can also get $25 off an Airbnb rental using this link.

Our utilities came in at $180 for the month.  I prepaid our water bill a bit so we hopefully won’t owe anything while we are away.  I also wanted to meet our $2,000 minimum spending requirement on the Chase United Mileageplus Explorer card before we depart for Mexico so we can get the 50,000 bonus points (= how we fly for free).  Check out all of the current credit card deals if you want to cash in on free travel too!

Grocery expenses were well below average because we were busy cleaning out our refrigerator and freezer so my house sitting brother in law will have room for his groceries in our fridge.  We simply didn’t buy a whole lot at the grocery store other than fresh fruit and vegetables.

To round out our tech gadget purchases for our Mexico trip, we bought a third Kindle Fire HD 7 (4th generation, 2014 edition).  We picked up an 8 GB model for $65 on ebay.  It looks brand new and is about half the price of a new one at Amazon.  One of the tablets we bought in April died but was still under the 30 day warranty from the ebay seller so it’s currently in the return process that will hopefully result in us receiving a new (used) tablet in the next week before we leave on our trip.  Otherwise one of our three kids will be very very bored at times.  As I mentioned last month, we’re really pleased with the tablets and the interface.  Not bad for a Netflix/youtube player, an e-reader, a gaming machine, and a videochatting device that cost $70 or less.

Dining out was $58 which was mostly a bunch of take out pizzas for the family.

chilling-by-the-lake-with-pizza

Pizzas to fuel our Mexico travel research.  Fresh air, lake view and travel guide from the library were all free.

I returned to my DIY roots and fixed our air conditioner for $25 (included in Home Maintenance).  The AC was coming out of the vents but it wasn’t cool at all.  I checked the outside compressor and it was sitting there in the sun not moving at all even though the indoor temps kept climbing and the thermostat indicated the AC should have been running.  I jumped on the internet and youtube and after about an hour of watching and learning, I figured out it was probably a failed capacitor on my compressor unit.

The fan would run when I “stick started” it (literally using a stick to spin it around a bit until it starts).  I pulled off the controls/electronics cover on the compressor unit and noticed the tell-tale sign of a bad capacitor.  The top of the capacitor was bowed out in a wonderfully convex shape.  Wonderful in the sense that it meant a cheap and easy fix to my AC problems!  Just not a quick fix because it was Sunday and none of the local industrial supply houses are open on Sundays.

But first thing Monday morning we were out the door on a four mile round trip hike to Grainger Industrial Supply to pick up this beautiful brand new 45/5 microfarad, 370 volt capacitor.  It was $25 but available immediately at Grainger, whereas the same part at amazon was only $10-15 but wouldn’t have arrived for a week or so.

With temperatures forecasted in the 90’s for the week, I quickly found our family’s price for comfort.  About $10.

Soon after realizing my price point for cold air, the thrifty Frugalwoods folks published an article bragging about not using their air conditioner yet.  Of course they are five hundred miles north of us in Boston – the city that still has a three story pile of snow from winter road scraping.  I wouldn’t need AC either if I lived next to a three story snow mountain.  I’m smiling as I write this because our winters here are awesome enough that it’s worth a couple months of heat and humidity in the summer.  And hey, Raleigh is some cheap living too!

The couple of hours I spent troubleshooting and repairing our AC unit saved us $200-300 versus what an AC repairman would charge.  And now I know how easy it is to pop out a blown capacitor and replace with a new one (10 minute job if you have the spare part handy).

Closing out the spending report for the month, we spent $46 for two pairs of athletic shoes for Mrs. RoG and one of the kids.  They match.  And they also wear about the same size shoe.  It’s hard to trot the globe in worn out shoes, so I could almost classify this expense under the “travel” category if I wanted to get really creative.  But I don’t.

may-2015-expenses-ytd-2

At $11,295 year to date spending, we are a couple thousand dollars under the $13,500 budgeted for the first five months of 2015.  Our spending for the year as a whole should be roughly within our budget and possibly below budget as long as no major unexpected expenses pop up later in the year.

Monthly spending for 2015 to date:

 

Net Worth: $1,550,000 (+$17,000)

We just finished up month #3 as proud members of the $1.5 Millionaire Club.  The duties of membership are quite rigorous but so far we are managing these burdens in a conscientious manner.

Every month it feels like we’re at the top of a bubble that’s about to deflate and then the month ends and we’re still wealthier than we were last month.  It won’t continue in a relatively straight line forever, so perhaps June will be that month that looks like a bump in the road a few years from now (but feels pretty ugly as we experience it in real time).

That’s not a forecast or a market call, just a realization that in the history of the markets, there are ups and there are downs.  We’ve had a healthy dose of ups lately.

may-2015-net-worth

We spend so little that a $17,000 gain (or loss) doesn’t really impact my perception of whether we’ll be able to keep living our current lifestyle next month or next year.  I don’t think we are likely to run out of money any time soon, so I’m not obsessing over huge short term gains (or losses) in the stock market.  Wealth is created over the long term.

 

 

How did you do in May?  Still riding the bull?  

 

 

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47 comments

  • Hey ROG,

    Looks like you guys are doing really well there. You spend much less than you had budgeted for this month and that’s always a great feeling. Good on you for the DIY job on the air conditioner to save a couple hundred bucks!

    Best regards
    DB

    • It’s always a great feeling. Making more than we spend in spite of not really working that much means our pile of money keeps growing and permits greater spending in the future and a higher margin of safety to ensure we never run out of money.

  • Wow–you had some low spending this month! That is just downright impressive! And, I totally understand your need for A/C; we usually draw the line at the 90s too ;).

    • Yeah, it was only 83 or 84 the day it broke, so not too bad at all. Inside topped out at around 80 degrees in the evening and by wake up time the next morning it was very comfortable inside (a cool night!). But 90 during the day and lows in the 70’s means it’s not going to drop below 80 inside for very long and that’s just hot, even for a few days. Especially when comfort is only an extra $10. 🙂 We can afford it.

  • $1.5 million! That’s an awesome net worth. Have fun in Mexico!

  • Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead

    Wow, you got this posted quickly! I can’t believe you let those points expire, though.

    I gained the same knowledge on the AC repair. The difference was it was after the repair and it was a capacitor causing the air not to blow inside even though the compressor and fan were running on the exterior unit. I was in a hurry and it was getting hot outside. If it was a weekend or a time when I could take a day off, I would have tried to diagnose it myself.

    • Yeah, those expiring points really sucked. One of those heart sinking feelings, even though it was “only” $200 to reinstate them. Just dumb. I guess I got too busy and wasn’t paying attention to my travel hacking those days. Lesson learned!

      As for the AC, I probably would have called a guy to fix it if I was still working. Otherwise I would have to call in Monday morning and miss a half day at work to buy the part, install it, test it, observe for an hour or two, etc.

  • Matthew Swanson

    Are you willing to provide more detail on your food expenses? My wife and I eat a plant-based diet so we pretty much only buy fresh produce and bulk rice/beans, etc. If we’re lucky, $146 is what we spend in a week at our local Sprouts.

    • May was very atypical for grocery expenses because we are trying to deplete our fridge, freezer and pantry of anything perishable or close to expiring. And we weren’t buying much new food beyond fresh fruits and veggies. So not a lot of shopping and when we did shop, we spent about half what we usually do.

      We normally spend closer to $450-500 per month. Here’s a good overview of every single thing we bought for an entire month to give an idea on what we’re buying. And there’s a full listing of all prices (I’m pretty good about getting the lowest price and shopping at lower cost stores like Aldi and Walmart). Lots of fruits and vegetables, but also plenty of meat, dairy, grains, and some junk food mixed in.

  • Raleigh is some cheap living! Looking at your year to date expenditures, I see that we are actually quite close to matching your spending except in our home and childcare expenditures. We’re certainly hoping that our home spending is an investment, but we’re not thinking about it that way right now.

    • Good to hear that your spending is roughly in line with ours. And I bet you feel like your life is pretty comfortable too without tons of deprivation right?

  • Congratulations on the move up further on the net worth chart. Great to see; happy for you guys. And continued good luck in your trip preplanning for Mexico.

    Had my own A/C capacitor-like story this month. After almost 8 years my motorcycle GPS gave up the ghost. The touch screen is the only way to input and it gave all the indications that it was fried. This unit (the Garmin Zumo550) is no longer made, meaning I would have to rewire for a new Garmin, and the GPS would have cost at least $450-500 minimum (they are not cheap since they are waterproof and hardy), as well as taking me an hour or more to install. Went onto the web and found from some writers that you can still order the screen for $12 from Hong Kong, total with shipping, and if you are careful you can install it yourself. Should show up today and I’ll take about one hour to repair, with no rewiring needed since I’ll use the existing setup. I look at it as making at least $200/hour when I factor in labor and research; it is how I view my time when it comes to investing or personal work.

    Keep up the great work, my friend.

    • Very smart to try to fix it yourself, and sounds like not a lot more work than buying a brand new one and installing it. Hope it all works out! I’ve fixed a few cell phones, computers, and small electronics with $3 parts off of ebay shipped direct from China.

  • High net worth yet very low expenses. You guys are rocking it.

  • Job well done on keeping May expenses low. It’s a nice feeling isn’t it? I feel your pain about expired miles, I had a close call last year where I discovered my miles were going to expire the day after (not as many as yours), luckily I was able to donate 1,000 of the miles to prevent my miles from expiring! I now have Google Calendar entries for all my miles/points expiration dates 🙂 Hope you guys have safe travels to Mexico, looking forward to the trip reports on your adventures.

    • I have a spreadsheet set up to keep track of expiration dates, and I just missed this date by a single day somehow. Very frustrating but they wouldn’t budge an inch. I usually buy a magazine or newspaper for 400-500 miles to keep them active for another year or two, but completely missed this one unfortunately.

  • I’m curious, when you calculate your net worth do you include your house? Is it just your bank/investment accounts?

    • House value is included, slightly offset by a tiny mortgage balance still outstanding (at 1.99%).

      • Wow, and I thought we had a good mortgage rate at 2.34%! Ah well, our house is sold and we will be homeless and debt free by the end of the month.

        Have fun on the holidays, we will be looking for jobs and houses at that time!

        • That 1.99% rate was only good for a 5 year mortgage and we were fortunate to be able to handle the much higher payments that came with a 5 year amortization schedule. These days I view the mortgage as a small margin loan that lets us keep more money invested in the markets at returns over 1.99%.

        • You should check Japan then 🙂 My mortgage rate in Tokyo was 0.9%. That’s pretty much free money at these rates, for people who know where to invest.

  • These are some serious inspiring numbers. Nice work, well done! Keep rocking like this.

    Having my FIRE date still fare away, this is the kind of stories that inspire me. Being in early retirement and still making more than you spend. That is the end result I aim for.

    I look forward to reading your mexico stories. Especially on how you get along with the kids. I have 2 myself and can’t wait to start travelling with them.

    Hasta luego

  • Hey Justin,

    Are you willing/able to provide any insights as to what the blog income is comprised of? Maybe percentage split?

    Example: Ads (40%) and Affiliate Income (50%)

    Cheers!

  • Congratulations on joining the $1.5 Million club and growing your traffic and income so much over the past few months, you’re killin’ it!

  • Good job on the Net worth, on the low expenses and increasing blog income. The first thing I check if I am doing travel hacking, is if the points expire, if they do I don’t sign up for their card. Good luck in Mexico.

    • Wow, that would knock me out of all the miles/points programs I’m in I think. United, AA, Starwood, British Air, Southwest, etc all expire after a period of 1-3 years. I think Delta is the only one I’ve had that doesn’t expire.

      Keeping them from expiring is very easy normally (buy a magazine for 500 points or earn a few points in their online shopping portal or get another credit card with bonus points). Unless you forget to do that once every 1-3 years 🙂

  • Love to read your posts. Have fun in Mexico!

  • The reduction in spending from April to May with such high margins is such a great achievement! Keep it up and do enjoy Mexico, you truly deserve it!

  • Just curious what affects the low dip in blog/freelancing income, is it solely based on you and finding gigs, etc?

    • It’s mostly the timing of when I receive payment. Some months I’ll get two checks from a big advertiser, other months I won’t get any. Otherwise it would be more steady month to month (with lots of random variation of course).

  • Your month to month spending (or lack there of) continues to blow my mind. Kudos! I live in Raleigh as well and felt like I am generally frugal, but your monthly expenses are an inspiration to me that we can do better. I’m especially amazed that all the typical kid expenses (school activities, friends birthday gifts, childcare, etc) don’t seem to impact your expenses.

    • School expenses have been very minimal. We do spend on b-day gifts but it’s pretty reasonable and sometimes we’ll stock up on “generic” type gifts during post Christmas sales. Child care is zero since I’m free all day to take care of the 3 year old and do the kid pick up/drop off at school for the older 2. We have both sides of our family in the Raleigh/Cary area so babysitting is free too (in fact, there’s a larger supply of babysitting requests than we have demand for 🙂 ).

  • Stumbled on your blog. Good to see someone walking the talk with good restraint. Working to get where your at finacially some day. Cheers.

  • Great job on the $1.5 million club!

    Good job on the DIY AC unit. You can really learn a lot of DIY on the web, and if you have the tools, you can save a lot of money. $10 is probably a good compromise for comfort with the family. Have a good trip in Mexico!

  • Well done! I’m shooting for similar goals in the next few years. Always glad to hear about your journey.

  • When i do my budget i sometimes end up spending just a little bit more. But it’s amazing how you guys do it. Maybe i need to start making use of the Personal Capital tool. I checked it out by the way and it sounds superb. Congratulations and enjoy your vacation there in Mexico.

    • Personal Capital helps a lot to keep an eye on what you’re spending throughout the month. We don’t try to stick to a budget too much, but it’s helpful to see things like “holy crap, we’ve already spent $200 on restaurants and it’s only the 20th”.

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