November 2015 Financial Update
November is over and Thanksgiving is done. Fall is here which means cool days and crisp nights in North Carolina. In November, our net worth remained mostly unchanged due to relatively flat stock market performance. A little slower pace is okay after enjoying a $93,000 increase in net worth in October. With $3,908 in income and $2,954 in expenses during November, we still managed to keep our expenses below our income for the month even though we spent a good bit of cash on travel.
November is usually a very slow month for investment income, and this year was no different with less than $50 in interest and other investment income. In December, we should get a very significant dividend payout from our investments since some only pay once per year in December (see my full article on our dividends for more info).
Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, was $1,095. This is a little lower than it’s been lately but I expect the revenue to pick up significantly in December or January depending on when I receive a few payments that are due. November was an incredibly busy month at Root of Good in terms of traffic. My Zero to Millionaire in Ten Years article went viral, with over 500 shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. The article was featured on Rockstar Finance. Then Business Insider reprinted the story and their reprint received close to a million views in the last few weeks. More traffic means more people learning about financial independence, which is reward enough. But more traffic also translates into more revenue.
My early retirement lifestyle consulting practice experienced slightly higher revenues of $750 in November versus $667 in October. I raised the rates in the middle of November because I was getting too busy with the consulting sessions. Freelancing work has been slow lately (which is okay!) but I’ve been working on a couple projects in the last week that will lead to revenue in December and January. Lately I’ve been spending two to three hours per week on freelancing and early retirement consulting and that’s about as much as I want to “work” since I keep pretty busy with other fun stuff during the week.
The “deposits” income of $72 comes from cash back rebates from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals. 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 like I did. I try to do all of my online shopping through one of these portals and the cash back adds up.
For example, we just booked a cruise (more on that in the Expenses section) and clicked through Ebates to get 10% cash back on the cruise purchase at Expedia. I noticed Ebates pays 10% cash back on cruise purchases at Expedia whereas Mr. Rebates pays only 3%. It pays to compare rates between those two online shopping portals because the cash back rates vary. In this case, we should get back somewhere around $120 to $170 for the cruise purchase depending on how they calculate the reward (total before versus after taxes). Not bad for 30 seconds of clicking around!
$30 of income from “General Merchandise” was a promotion I completed using our newly acquired American Express Business Gold Rewards cards. They offered $15 when you spend $60 at Amazon so I picked up a $60 Amazon gift card on each of our cards. If you want to get your favorite early retirement blogger something for Christmas, I’m sure they would love Amazon gift cards in any denomination. We’re also earning 75,000 Amex Reward points each from meeting the minimum spending requirements on those two cards (I love credit card hacking for miles and points).
The last item in the income report is Mrs. Root of Good’s paycheck. She’s still working but only four days per week from home. Hey, it’s still work, but on pretty good terms. Since it’s the holidays, Mrs. RoG has been burning up some vacation days by taking 4-5 day weekends. It’s also an attempt to use up her allotted vacation time before finally calling it quits.
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 November expenses:
After spending around $1,000 or less in three out of the last four months, we look like relative spendthrifts in November. At $2,954 in total spending, we slightly exceeded our monthly targeted budget of $2,700 (1/12th of our $32,400 per year early retirement budget).
Most of the month’s spending came from the cruise we booked for January. We’ll be sailing out of Charleston, South Carolina to the Bahamas for six days and five nights. The rates weren’t the best we’ve seen over the past few years but it was a really good deal from Charleston, a local port that we can easily drive to the morning of the cruise. In case you missed my recent series of articles on cruising, here they are:
We paid $1,718 for six people in two cruise cabins. My mother is joining us on this cruise and she’s paying her own fare (the $313 reimbursement for her share of one cabin shows up in “Income”, above). The fare of $286 per person covers lodging for five nights, all the food we can eat, nightly broadway style live shows, and transportation to two islands in the Bahamas. That’s an excellent value for six days and will come at a perfect time in late January when we’re in the coldest part of winter here in North Carolina.
Our second largest expense was groceries at $624. Out of that total, $240 went toward three month’s worth of pre-paid school lunches for two kids. Core grocery spending was only $384 for November, which is pretty impressive considering we hosted 29 members of our family for Thanksgiving! This year we bought an extra 21 pound turkey at the incredible price of $0.37 per pound so we can have even more leftover turkey meat in the freezer. So far it’s been delicious in turkey panang curry, turkey enchilada soup, turkey fried rice, turkey pho, turkey tacos, turkey enchiladas, turkey sandwiches, and served with a side of white rice and Thai sweet and spicy sauce.
Auto expenses in November were higher than normal at $281. We spent $241 for the six month renewal of our auto insurance policy ($500,000 liability, no comprehensive or collision coverage). The other $40 in auto expenses covered the cost of re-titling Mrs. RoG’s car into her name alone. Her father had co-signed on the car purchase fifteen years ago and we never updated the title until now.
The General Merchandise expense of $160 included the previously mentioned $120 in Amazon gift cards plus a three pack of HDTV mounts. They were selling for $12 each at the time, and hey, what better way to meet the $35 free shipping requirement than to buy three and flip two of them on craigslist for more than you pay for them? In home decor news, our rarely used second living room now has a wall-mounted HDTV. Our main living room does too (I didn’t want to leave the readers here thinking we were too frugal!).
Healthcare expenses of $59 covered an immunization visit to the doctor for our three year old. The office visit occurred in May but I’ve been fighting with the insurance company since then. I went ahead and paid the doctor but I’ll keep fighting the insurance company. I thought preventative care like immunizations would be 100% covered by the insurance company and so did the customer service representative at United Healthcare when I called to inquire whether it would be covered before the actual office visit. Apparently nothing the customer service rep says actually means anything. Instead, the insurance company makes arbitrary decisions when it wants to. Shame on you, United Healthcare. There, now I feel better!
I’m confident I’ve consumed much more of their money than the disputed $59 between their labor costs, printing, and postage. And I still have a few levels of appeal to exhaust before giving up. In the end, the insurance company might win, but I guarantee it’ll be a pyrrhic victory, if anything.
The cable bill of $34 is our internet. The utilities of $30 is our natural gas bill. It’s been unseasonably warm this fall, so we haven’t used the heat much. December’s bill is also tiny compared to past years. Who says global climate change is a bad thing?
Restaurant spending of $21 represents a trip to the Chinese restaurant for pot sticker dumpling take out and a trip to the infamous Mexican fast food restaurant I mentioned in our restaurant spending last month. I should get back $15 from the tacos because I participated in a Visa Checkout promotion that refunds $15 on any $15+ purchase at certain vendors. Our restaurant spending is pretty mundane and didn’t vary significantly from last month. But that’s okay because we go crazy in the kitchen cooking up all kinds of dirt cheap good eats.
We spent $15 in the electronics category toward gift cards that we used to buy a new Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR camera at the end of November. This $15 purchase was completed through Visa Checkout so I should get a $15 credit for this purchase as well. The rest of the camera’s $700 purchase price will show up in the December 2015 Financial Update. This was our only major purchase during Black Friday / Cyber Monday. The total price for the camera plus lens will end up being around $200 after rebate and after I flip the high end photo printer that came with the camera in a bundle. I’m no photography expert, so I can’t promise you’ll see higher quality photos here at Root of Good, but that’s the hope! Maybe I’ll get more into photography now.
Closing out this month’s expenses was $8 for entertainment. We’ve been sharing my mom’s Netflix account and we finally decided to pay for the $4 per month upgrade to four devices at a time (times two months). Now we can all watch Netflix at the same time. This is another immensely valuable service that comes with a tiny price tag. Between the five of us in our household, we probably watch at least six hours of streaming content on Netflix on an average day. Considering some folks drop over $100 per month on cable, Netflix is an excellent value proposition for us.
Gas didn’t show up in this month’s expense report. I did put a few gallons in my Civic using a gift card I bought (at a discount) this summer, but otherwise we didn’t spend anything on gas. I feel like I’ve been driving all over the place since we’re in the midst of middle school tours for our oldest daughter, but most of the schools we visited were within five miles. This week we’re visiting school #6 and after that I think we are done. Good thing I’m not working because these visits each consume the better part of a morning.
Year to date expenses
At $21,436 year to date spending, we are almost $8,300 under the $29,700 budgeted for the first eleven months of 2015. Not bad since that includes our $5,100 expense for a seven week trip to Mexico and a $1,700 cruise in January 2016. We blew our travel budget category for the year but economized in other areas.
We are on track to significantly under spend our $32,400 annual budget as long as no major unexpected expenses pop up in the last three weeks of the year. I don’t anticipate any large expenses for the remainder of the year other than the $700 or so (before rebates) we spent on the fancy new camera.
Monthly spending for 2015 to date:
- January 2015 – $2,548
- February 2015 – $903
- March 2015 – $2,443
- April 2015 – $4,549
- May 2015 – $849
- June 2015 – $3,089
- July 2015 – $498
- August 2015 – $1,701
- September 2015 – $927
- October 2015 – $1,015
- November 2015 – $2,954
Net Worth: $1,525,000 (-$2,000)
After the roller coaster ride in August and September where we lost $110,000 and then made back $93,000 of it in October, I’m okay with a relatively quiet month. We closed out the month of November with a $2,000 reduction in net worth.
I didn’t pay close attention to the stock market (sorry if you came here for the up to date stock market commentary!) last month, but apparently it traded mostly flat. From the chart, I know we had a moderate dip in the middle of the month but I guess we were too busy to notice as it occurred in real time.
I find I’m getting better at ignoring the daily fluctuations in the stock market as time goes by. Now that I’m taking a look at our portfolio’s performance for the month, I see we had two really ugly days with a $15,000 loss and a $24,000 loss. Many other days left us $4,000 to $6,000 poorer. On the flip side, there were a few days with gains over $10,000, and plenty of days with smaller four figure gains. Net it all out at the end of the month and you get a $2,000 loss.
I know I would go crazy if I worried about those $15,000 and $24,000 losses, so I tend to not worry too much about them because I know the markets go up and down very often, but over longer periods of time the ups and downs smooth out into a more even ride.
How was your November? Did you go crazy with post-Thanksgiving shopping or stay at home and sleep off the turkey hangover?