Cracking $2 Million: November 2017 Financial Update

Where did the year go? As I write this we are less than four weeks from 2018! Time flies when you are having fun.  As usual, November weather has been beautiful here in North Carolina and we have enjoyed many nice days outside.  Now that December is here, it’s starting to feel more like winter with the short days and frost on the ground for a brief time span some mornings.

Big news on the financial front.  In November, our net worth smashed through the big $2 million dollar mark!  Our net worth climbed $33,000 to close the month at $2,011,000.  Income remained strong at $3,228 while expenses increased to $2,857 (still within budget though).  To summarize: we are doing okay financially.

 

Income

Investment income totaled $271 for the month of November.  This is mostly the interest on the bond position I’ve been building during 2017.  Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December.  During other months (like November) investment income tends to be much smaller.  We are well on our way to earning roughly $30,000 in dividends for 2017, as we have in the past.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, remained roughly the same as last month, at $2,349 for November.  No complains here as that sometimes covers our monthly spending (and I get to hang out with you guys 🙂 ).

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) dropped to $465 in November.  This is an ideal pace with about one hour of consulting per week.  These sessions provide a nice bit of intellectual rigor for me while also helping others fine tune their early retirement goals.

Deposit income of $117 was cash back from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals.  If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card like I did.  When shopping online, I always check to see if I can score some extra cash back by using one of those online shopping portals (and it usually pays off!).  I paid for a cruise in October which will lead to $40 cash back later this month.

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 take a look at November expenses:

After four months of spending less than $2,000 per month, November saw our spending rise to $2,857.  That’s just a few hundred less than our budgeted spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  November’s spending was bigger than other months because I bought several gift cards and paid extra on our utilities in order to get bonus points from credit card sign up offers.  The gift cards and utility balances will be used over the next several months (so I’ll be spending less during those months).

 

Groceries – $1,068:

We usually spend closer to $500-600 per month on groceries. In November, I spent an extra $325 on Walmart gift cards to snag an extra 10% cash back on those purchases. I checked Personal Capital and we spend about $1,000 each year at Walmart so it shouldn’t take long to burn up these gift cards and make an extra $32 in the process.

After accounting for the gift card purchases, we spent closer to $700 on groceries in November. My best guess at what caused the extra spending was stocking the pantry and wine cabinet.  There might be some Christmas gifts mixed in with the grocery spending since we find many gifts at Aldi, Lidl, and Walmart and don’t do the best job splitting out those expenses in these monthly financial updates.

For those that missed my last article comparing Costco versus several other competitors, it is worth checking out since some people found it rather controversial with more than 200 comments so far.  I knew Costco would be a little more expensive than some other stores but I was really shocked to see it was 40% more expensive than Walmart for a basket of staples!

Gratuitous food pics from November:

Somen noodles and thin sliced steak with green papaya salad. About $2 worth of food. This plate is $30 at the wildly popular local Laotian restaurant and it’s not as good as this simple home cookin’ 🙂

 

Obligatory monthly pho-to (<– see what I did there).  This time it’s pork and turkey pho broth with shrimp and turkey organ meat. I personally omitted the innards from my bowl 🙂

 

Eastern NC Barbeque

 

Thanksgiving at the in-laws. We brought a roasted turkey, pumpkin rolls, cookies, and macaroni and cheese. No one went home hungry.

 

Healthy stuff that was on sale this month (our fruit bowl runneth over).
Pomegranates, avocados, kiwis, tomatoes, and mangoes. The persimmons are from Mrs. Root of Good’s family friends.

 

Utilities – $520:

I added $270 on the water bill account and $250 on the natural gas account even though I still had a small credit balance on both. We usually spend about $250/month total between water, gas, and electric so this month was about double due to prepayment.  Gotta earn those credit card sign up bonuses by shifting spending forward sometimes.

 

Travel – $289:

No cruises this month (like last month).  The travel spending came from three annual fees on three new credit cards that were $95 or $99 each.  I signed up for two Barclay American Airlines Aviator cards that will yield 60,000 AA points each, plus a Barclay Jetblue Card that will reward us with 60,000 Jetblue points after I meet the $1,000 spending requirement.  These points are worth roughly $2,500 to $3,000 at a cost of just under $300 in annual fees.  I’ll most likely cancel these cards before next year when the annual fee comes due again.

If you want to peruse the credit card bonuses on offer, check out my credit cards page.

 

Hiking around the lake at our favorite local nature preserve. Can you tell it’s fall?

 

We didn’t do any traveling in November but we did visit the (free) Science Museum in downtown Raleigh. This is a simulated 3D environment where you can make it rain on mountains you create! Installed by a neighbor up the street from us that sometimes reads this blog (hi if you’re seeing this!).

 

Insurance – $253:

Six month auto insurance premium for the two of us.  High liability limits but no comprehensive or collision coverage for our used minivan.

 

General Merchandise – $234:

$20 set of Pyrex glassware storage containers for the kitchen.  The Pyrex glassware was my only Black Friday purchase since we already have a house full of stuff and don’t need anything else.

$63 for three sets of bed sheets from Aldi (one of which will probably become a gift).  

The other $150 was a Walmart gift card that earned 10% cash back on my Chase card. I buy a lot of household goods and non-grocery things at Walmart so this gift card certainly won’t go to waste!

 

Clothing – $142:

New winter coats for the kids ($9.99 at Walmart!!), some shoes, leggings and/or jeggings (I don’t really know the difference nor what exactly we bought).

 

Gifts – $102:

“Gifts” is a category that raises a lot of questions this time of year.  I think a lot of the gifts we buy for people slip through the cracks and fall into other categories of spending. It’s easy to pick up a $5-20 item as you buy groceries which magically becomes a “grocery” expense. As a result I figure I under report my gift spending while over reporting my grocery and household goods expenditures. It all works out in the end since I’m most concerned about our bottom line and not the exact category that everything falls into, but it’s worth mentioning in case anyone sees that we only spent $102 on gifts.

$42 of gift spending went to 2018 custom photo calendars for family (and one for us!).  Walmart runs a $10 deal every year and we take advantage of that.

The other $60 was spent on two new Moto E cell phones for our older two kids. One lost her previous phone at school (perhaps it was stolen) and the other kid is a new inductee to phone ownership.  We bought the phones from Freedompop which offers a conveniently priced $0 per month cell phone plan.

I’m treating the phones as a gift expense since we usually reward the kids for good grades each quarter and they did phenomenally well with Q1 grades (all A’s between them except for one B).  This $60 per quarter incentive should save me a lot of money on college costs one day.  Usually we hand them cash: $5 per A, $2.50 per B, nothing for a C and a stern “strategy session” talking-to for anything lower.

I’ve read that paying kids to earn good grades makes kids think grades are instrumentally valuable and not intrinsically valuable.  I view it in a different way.  It’s no different than earning a merit based scholarship in college or performing well at a job and getting a raise and a bonus. Effort is instrumentally valuable in receiving those good things. Knowledge is intrinsically valuable in itself, and I hope they learn that lesson by example at home regardless of whether we routinely compensate them for good grades.

Keeping them flush with cash also puts spending decisions in their hands instead of mine since my stock response to “can I get this?” is “sure, you can buy anything you want with your own money!”.  Because Money is the Root of Good.

 

Downtown Raleigh colors in fall.

 

Home Maintenance – $74:

$45 went to the teenager we hired this summer to mow our grass while we were in Europe on vacation for 9 weeks.  I gave him a $25 end of summer bonus plus his usual $20 for mowing the yard.  They just now got around to cashing the check (so I made an extra $0.03 from float since August).

I spent $19 on a new range hood from Amazon. I’m sad to report that the fan in our old range hood died after 45 years of devoted service.  I went for an open box item from Amazon Warehouse deals and had to send the first one back due to some defects whereas the replacement is nearly perfect. The range hood would have been $69 full price.

The remaining $10 of home maintenance spending went toward our neighborhood’s annual Luminaria light display on Christmas Eve.

 

Restaurants – $58:

We don’t spend much on dining out and November was no different. We went out to the amazing neighborhood Chinese restaurant as a family to celebrate good grades ($36).  I went out to lunch with an old law school friend and spent another $9 (and finally tried the local Korean fried chicken place that everyone’s been talking about; I was unimpressed).  I also used up a $10 Groupon credit plus $3 out of pocket to buy a $20 Groupon for a local Mexican restaurant.

Sushi from the $7.99 Chinese buffet.

Rounding out the restaurant spending was $9 for two visits to a local bakery for their amazing apple fritters and donuts (Baker’s Dozen Donuts if you’re local to Cary/Raleigh).  I’m glad for health reasons that their nearest location isn’t too close to our house…

 

Healthcare/Dental – $56:

$32 of healthcare spending was two months of monthly premiums for our health insurance plan that’s mostly paid for with ACA premium subsidies.

FYI, open enrollment for the ACA plans is still available through December 15 so head over to Healthcare.gov if you need to sign up for 2018.  I already signed up for almost the exact policy we have in 2017.  The premium went up slightly due to some quirks in how the ACA premium tax credit is calculated.

I spent $10 on replacement toothbrush heads for my Sonicare.  That’s several times more expensive than a regular toothbrush but if it prevents just one cavity every decade it pays for itself.  And my teeth are shinier and mostly hole-free.

The remaining $14 was a miscellany of labwork, a $5 copay at the doctor and a $2 prescription.  “Obamacare” insurance isn’t a derogatory term in my experience as it’s working pretty well.

 

Gas – $41:

Our monthly visit to the gas station.

 

Cable/Satellite – $14:

$14.99 per month for 30 mbit/second download speeds and 4 mbit/second upload speeds with no data caps.

 

Entertainment – $0:

I’m not sure why this showed up on the Personal Capital expense report.  I must have spent a penny or a dollar on a Humble Bundle package of computer games.  I also picked up a completely free game through Humble Bundle called “Rebuild 3”.  That kept me busy for a couple of weeks. It’s like SimCity or Civilization, except you’re killing zombies while rebuilding a decimated city.  In other words, it’s awesome.

Another $0 entertainment experience. These sunsets over our backyard and lake.  The kind of sunset that makes you drop whatever you’re doing and hurry outside to stare at the heavens on fire.  #nofilter

 

Year to Date Living Expenses for 2017

With only one month remaining in 2017, we have spent $23,754 year to date.  That’s roughly $13,000 below the $36,667 budgeted for the first eleven months of the year.  Needless to say we are well on track to come in WAAAAY under budget for 2017.

Big ticket items remaining in 2017 (or very early 2018) are our $1,500 annual property tax bill and a $600 spark plug job for the van.  Who knew spark plug replacement on a minivan costs more than a timing belt change on a Honda Civic??  The shop said they charge four hours of shop time for the repair because half the engine must come out to get to the rear three plugs. Four hours of pro mechanic time translates to 8-12 of my hours so I’m going to outsource this task and be lazy.

Our vacation planning for summer of 2018 is still underway.  After a mostly fruitless attempt at finding the perfect beachfront rental in the Cancun area, we have moved on to searching the Bahamas.  I think we have found the perfect place and might end up with a $6,000-$7,000 vacation that consists of a month of lounging on a mile of mostly deserted pristine white sand beach with crystal clear water.  And the rental has high speed internet and air conditioning.  After travel hacking it might only cost $2,000-3,000 out of pocket including groceries and car rental.

 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2017:

 

We went hiking at this county park that offers the best long-distance views of the Raleigh area. The park trail is built atop an old landfill.

 

Net Worth: $2,011,000 (+$33,000)

Woohoo!!  Two Million Dollars!  It’s a big milestone but doesn’t really buy us anything that we don’t already have.  It is a nice feeling to quit your full time office jobs, do a little fun creative stuff on the side and mostly sit back and watch your net worth grow by many hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a few years.

This might sound strange, but I didn’t do anything to celebrate other than Twitter bragging to Carl (aka Mr. 1500 Days) that I beat him to the $2 million mark.  He’s only $10,000 or so behind me so I expect he’s close to cresting this particular hill too.

We are now up roughly $400,000 since October 2016.  That’s enough to fund 10-15 years of early retired living expenses if we spend $25-40,000 per year like we have been doing these past several years.  It’s crazy to think about it in that way, but that’s the only way I can put these large numbers in perspective.

As I mentioned in last month’s financial update, I’m planning several things for year end 2017:

  • harvest capital gains – about $4,000 gains from selling a $14,000 mutual fund position (DONE; $3,994 long term capital gains, $115 short term capital gains (oops))
  • continue my Roth IRA Conversion Ladder – planning to convert ~$5,000 (to be done by December 31, 2017) (WORK IN PROGRESS)
  • fund my solo 401k to create a tax shelter for income from Root of Good – $18,000 into Roth solo 401k; $6,000 into traditional solo 401k (for the RoG employer portion). (PARTIALLY DONE – took the $14,000 from sale of mutual fund and stuck it in the Roth solo 401k).
  • fund a his and hers Roth IRA – $5,500 x2 = $11,000 (to be done by April 15, 2018) (WORK IN PROGRESS)

By the end of this financial fancy footwork I’ll accomplish the following:

  • reduce taxable holdings by $14,000
  • reduce cash on hand/money market balance by $21,000 (currently at $48,000)
  • increase traditional IRA/401k space by a net of $1,000
  • increase Roth IRA/401k space by $34,000

As part of the $14,000 mutual fund sale, I ended up swapping around some other investments to add a total of $14,000 more the the Vanguard Total Bond Market index fund (VBTLX), held within a traditional IRA.  That puts my bond position at roughly $127,000 and all of that was acquired this year.

I also moved $15,000 cash from a money market earning 1% to a five year CD earning 2% (with a 90 day interest penalty for early termination).  If rates remain constant that move will earn an extra $150 per year in interest.

 

Christmas is almost here! Celebrating with our new $10 white Christmas tree!

 

I don’t have many comments on the big tax bill passed by the US House and Senate. There are some significant differences between the two bills so it’s pure speculation as to what we might end up with after reconciliation happens and the final sausage is made.  Looking at the prediction markets, there’s still a 10% chance this tax bill thingy won’t pass in the next four months.  I think my taxes will stay the same based on preliminary back of envelope calculations.  Wealthy people seem to do pretty well with the new bill whereas there will be a lot of subgroups that won’t do very well.

 

Want to finish the year on a strong note? Here’s 11 tips to get you there.

 

 

How about our financially bountiful 2017 so far?  What would you do to celebrate cracking the $2 million milestone?

Getting excited for wintertime and the upcoming holidays?  

 

 

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102 comments

  • Congratulations on hitting $2 Million! That’s awesome! I am impressed with the level of spending you do (or don’t do) especially during the holidays. Keep it up!

    P.S. I’m on track to break $300k in my TSP 401k this year!

  • So many of those pictures remind me of home. I grew up in Apex just down the road from you. The lake looks like so many around there, but reminds me most of Jordan Lake. Can’t get Eastern NC BBQ over here in China… Congrats on hitting multi-millionaire status. Killing it!

    • The lakes around here do start to look all the same. Just saw a friend posting a pic from Lake Johnson in Raleigh and it looks just like Durant where we go. I grew up in Cary and have visited Jordan many times (though we live on the other side of the county now). We even lived at Jordan Lake in a camper for a few weeks when we were temporarily “homeless” as a kid (moving from Charlotte to Cary and the new house purchase in Cary hit a big snag).

  • Great report as usual, congratulations on hitting the $2 Million! And congrats to the kids for getting such good grades.
    The Bahamas sounds like a great place to visit and it is not far if you live on the East coast. Can’t wait to see more details on the plans.

    • Bahamas are crazy close to us. Freeport (where we’re looking right now) is even closer than Miami and we can get there by car plus a short ferry 🙂 And the local scenery is mind-blowing. We’ve been to various Bahamas islands a dozen times while on cruises (but just for a few hours each time) and this will be a much longer term, slower paced trip.

  • I haven’t dug through many of your past posts, but I’m assuming the lion-share of your networth is in different stock vehicles, no? Or perhaps combined in real-estate? You mentioned your Networth has increased ~$400k in 13 months or so meaning you’ve made about 20-25% in a year from positions and dividends. That’s great.

    Our investments are pretty conservative and our percentage increase is thus lower as a result. Even so, I’m still wondering about dialing back stocks (paring them down) even in a conservative portfolio with such a run-up lately.

    You’ve also done good job with your spending especially considering having kids. It certainly helps to be in a lower cost area with a paid off house too. Our internet service is the same price as yours, but 1/10th the bandwidth…..providers seem to be continually edging prices upward too. I called our provider “Spectrum” formerly “Time Warner” and found out our level of service isn’t offered now and was effectively grandfathered in…..I’m a bit dismayed by ISP’s gouging.

    • I’m getting a little more conservative just to have a big cushion of very stable fixed income to support living expenses for short to intermediate term. In your case it sounds like you already have that with a lot of conservative investments, so I’m not sure I would pare back investments in that case.

      • Yes, I started with that bigger cushion of *more* stable income to begin with and then worked into stocks – it is/was alot slower, and haven’t ditched the jobs yet. Although sometimes tired of work, still felt I haven’t gotten to a place where I can say au revoir to it.

        My mentor got to a place where he doesn’t care one iota about stocks, but he also retired at a traditional age without kids.

        Losing large positions and going into deep holes is not fun – even though its not an actual loss, you’re back to wondering how long the market will take (if at all) to re-climb the new mountain. Real estate is where some friends have done much better than I, but I don’t want the time suck that comes with it personally and dont want to be landlord.

        • “My mentor got to a place where he doesn’t care one iota about stocks, but he also retired at a traditional age without kids.”

          That kind of thinking is sort of why I’m building up this cash/bond reserve. I’m at a sweet spot now where I can live for about 5 years of typical spending without selling stocks at a loss. Maybe 6 if dividends in my taxable account remain strong. Most recessions and stock market corrections don’t last that long so I’m not too concerned about stock market losses these days. If we see a 30% drop (which happens with some frequency) I’ll still have $1.4 million plus a paid off house. 🙂

          • I really admire your willingness to take on market risks Justin. I’m saddened when I see people who are probably still 30 years from retirement and have 20-50% of their portfolio in fixed income. I’m sure that some of that is driven by personality, but research has consistently shown that financial risk tolerance is not largely a stable personality trait. There are many factors that influence it, and knowledge of financial issues has repeatedly been shown to be a major one. Further, and a colleague and I (I’m a professor by trade) recently found that consumers’ satisfaction with their checking and savings account balances is positively related to their financial risk tolerance. So if people would just build up some savings in these accounts (half of Americans have less than $1k they can lay their hands on without going into debt), our research suggests that their financial risk tolerance would improve. There many other things consumers can do to improve their risk tolerance levels as well.

            Given the cumulative effect of lower returns over an investor’s lifetime, I think that it’s worthwhile for investors to do whatever they need to in order to increase their tolerance for risk (i.e. volatility).

            • Doc, there was a topic the other day on an early retirement board posted posing the question what certificate of deposit interest rate would it take to get you to drop stocks completely?….most people said 4% or higher. Yes, one ought to consider the target-participants/audience, but I’d tend to agree. And this is not taking into account events like in Cypress where some peoples’ deposit accounts were seized, or bank runs in the past etc. Airdrops in the market to see positions vaporize can happen especially if you’re in single stocks. So really there is no certainty in investing. I’ve never heard of financial risk tolerance as part of a personality trait. I figure risk seeking or aversion may be part of a individual’s personality but not necessarily correlative to financial risk thresholds. You could have a sky-diver who’s in fixed income, or a sedentary web programmer who is completely investing on margins or junk bonds, or venture capitalism.

              I dont particularly like being invested in stocks, but see it as necessary these days. Hoping to long term stability in world trade, markets, and peace in general.

            • PC95, traditional financial thought considers investors’ financial risk tolerance to be a relatively stable trait. That’s why they often ask investors to complete a questionnaire asking them what they would do in various investment scenarios; they are trying to gauge their financial risk tolerance. Then they come up with terms like ‘very aggressive’, ‘conservative’, etc. But this ignores extensive research which has demonstrated that financial risk tolerance is a fluid, dynamic concept for individuals. Age tends to be negatively correlated with it, for instance, while financial knowledge is positively correlated with it.

              Regarding what guaranteed return I’d need to avoid stocks, I’d say it would need to be above 5%. I have access to a stable value fund in my 401(k) that guarantees a minimum 4% return, but I’m still not interested. It’s not that I like stocks’ volatility, but I very much like their returns. Their volatility is, arguably, the biggest driver of their returns.

  • You are absolutely crushing it. Quite the increase for the year especially after going abroad for a couple of months.

    My wife and I saw our net worth increase by 30% this year and hopefully it can continue to increase this last month. I’m hoping for a 33% increase. It also helped that we saved nearly 65% of our take home pay and maxed out our 401k and IRA to get the 30% increase 🙂

    • Congrats on the big NW increase! I loved those post-2009 years when we were still working. Adding six figures to savings and watching the investment returns add even more!

  • Woah, great job with a $400k increase from last year and breaking the $2M mark in net worth!

    You do a great job at tracking your spending in each category. I’m going to try to do that so I know where our money is being drained. Hopefully when we get to retirement we’ll have that kind of spending, right now is a totally different story. Our expenses are high with childcare and a big mortgage.

    I love that you post your food pictures. The cuisines that you eat are similar to our household. I’m craving a papaya salad now.

    • Tracking expenses is immensely helpful in figuring out where the money goes. We don’t really try to spend less (in fact we’re doing the opposite given growth in assets 🙂 ) but it makes you very mindful of where the money disappears to.

    • I highly recommend YNAB – it’s really helping me to understand what’s going on and how to reprioritise my spending.

  • I love seeing that Kiwi 😉 and congrats on passing the $2M mark! And now I’m craving pho, maybe that will make our dinner table tonight!

    • Love some kiwis. 4 for $1 at our neighborhood grocery store. And I finally figured out how to eat them. Cut in half and dig out with a spoon using the skin as a bowl. I think this batch was grown in Italy.

      • I just bite off the hard end, spit it into the compost pail, and then eat the rest whole.

        Just picture it as a slightly more fuzzy peach.

  • I love those low restaurant expenses! That’s something we’re trying to work on. And great job with building that net worth! That’s no small feat. 😉

    • Cooking at home with good ingredients helps curtail the restaurant spending. We spend a lot more than the beans and rice crowd but the end results are tasty and varied and we don’t feel a need to go out much (other than Mrs. Root of Good’s Bojangles fried chicken addiction).

    • We’ve found that this is the time of year to advance purchase our dining out. Many restaurants offer deals like “Buy $50 and we’ll give you $10 more,” which are a 17% discount right off the top (1-($50/$60)). If you know that you’re going to spend close to $200 at a restaurant in the next year, then it makes perfect sense to just spend $150 on gift cards so you can get $30 worth of food for free. Our favorite local restaurant offered a “Buy a gift card, get one of equal value for free” deal on Black Friday weekend; we stocked up! We’ve also found that Costco can have some good deals on gift cards; one right now allows you to buy $60 at Coldstone Creamery for $40.

      Combining this advance purchasing with credit card churning like Justin is doing further enhances the benefits of this strategy.

  • 2 Million in the rear view mirror, sweet!

  • Congrats on hitting a new high. That is so cool. Happy holidays.

  • Congrats hitting the $2 mil mark! I’ll keep root-ing for you to keep increasing your stash!

    Btw, I’m super jealous you have a Lidl in your area. Whenever we’re in Europe (like right now) we shop at Lidl extensively, especially for their fresh baked breads/rolls/pastries (and pretty much everything else too). I hope they keep expand into Florida soon.

    How different is the US Lidl compared to Lidl in Europe? We have an Aldi close by, which I love, but I find there’s not a huge overlap with the European Aldi (in terms of what they sell).

    • The Lidl offerings are somewhat similar here vs there and the floor layout is roughly the same. They leave product in boxes on the shelves. Bags cost extra (boxes are free). A big “general merchandise” section in the back of the store with what looks like decent quality stuff. The Lidls in the US are probably bigger. I went to a development meeting and they said their US prototype store is roughly 36,000 square feet so it’s 2-3x the size of most of the Aldi’s around here (which are closer to 10-15k sf). Their baked goods section in the US is very nice. None of our Aldis have fresh baked goods so it’s tempting to go to Lidl more often (french baguettes fresh baked for $0.99; hurts to know they were always 0.33 euro each most places in Europe though 🙂 ).

      I found the Aldi and their other brand Hofer to be very similar in Europe as here in the US, with a lot of the same product offerings and store layouts. Except the euro Aldis all had the fresh bakery section.

  • I really like the “Another $0 entertainment experience” about the sunset. It is gorgeous. In the last 10 days, the weather in central Ohio is exceptionally good, sunshine almost every day. I’m so happy to see the beautiful twilight.

    Congrats for breaking through the $2M mark! Hope the 3M is not that far away. Job well done! The scenery and food pictures look so good. Beautiful nature plus delicious food, life is great!

    • Life is pretty good. Can’t complain about the weather here. It’s been in the 60s and 70s most of the past month with chilly nights. We had the windows open yesterday for a little while and forgot to turn the heat back on yet the inside temp didn’t drop any 🙂

  • What a coincidence, we just signed up for an American Airlines Aviator card. We just used our 60K AA points from the AAdvantage card to go on out trip to Belize. So it’s time to stock up again 🙂

    Though without any spend needed on the Aviatior card, I’m going to need another card, I’ll have to sort through your card page…

    Congratulations on hitting multi-millionaire status, finally you can relax a little 😉

    • There’s a Jetblue card if you don’t have it yet. 60k bonus. Last time I checked it wasn’t available through my portal 🙁 I also got the CapOne Spark Visa with $1000 cash back after $10k spending. Kind of hard to hit that level of spending for us but I’ll figure out a way!

      • You could hit that level with much of your normal spending, and then supplementing it with Mastercard and Visa gift cards. Usually they have the same fee (~$5) no matter the amount, so put as much as you want on reloadable ones. As you said, where there is a will there is a way.

        • I’m thinking of padding the spending with paying property tax, extra income tax, etc using a credit card. That all comes with a 1.87-2.3% fee but would be offset with the bonus reward. Visa gift cards are a good back up plan too, but I’ll still have to spend them somewhere.

    • The Barclaycard Aviator card is probably the easiest, and one of the best overall deals, for airline miles I’ve seen in a long time. Pay the $95, make a tiny purchase with the card, and you get 60k miles. My wife and I both got one.

  • — your Blog income, whats that about mmmmmm
    — on Utilities, have u checked ur ie Pepco Energy Audit, 866.353.5798, u get FREE stuff …

    ur 11 Tips:
    1-2. for sure and raise ur W-4 exemptions accordingly — stick with 100% equities
    3. never — setup a Trust — stick with equities
    6. never — put this into ur (non-interest bearing) checking account
    7. for sure — wife time
    8. ur not in China – have babies …
    9. take ur wife “somewhere over the rainbow”, gifts, etc
    10. put ur hoarding on Facebook Marketplace — sell it
    11. if ur a Christian increase ur Offerings (and/or) find a family(ies) “privately/secretly” help them … yes?

    • Good tip on the energy audit. We confirmed that we’re pretty energy efficient and got a basket of free goodies like new showerheads, LED light bulbs, weatherizing strips, etc.

  • You are having a great year! I am happy for you. Are you close to Winston?

  • Nicely done. Still very impressed you all live so well on so little. The Oldsters are working in that direction but still leak $$ like a rubber dinghy full of porcupines. Ah well, something to keep working on.

    If Mr. Market continues to cooperate, $3 million is not that far off.

  • Congrats on the milestone!

    100% agree on those Apple Fritters. About a year ago our neighbors gave us a box of them … almost addictive!

    As for your Laotian meal, have you been to Bida Manda? I’ve only been once, but it is easily my favorite restaurant in the area. We went after purchasing our first investment property about 3 years ago.

    • Never been to Bida Manda but that was the “highly regarded restaurant” I was comparing prices to. At one point they were #1 on Raleigh Yelp. Mrs. Root of Good’s family has been and they said it was “just okay”. Her family is from Thailand/Cambodia very close to Laos so they eat exactly that kind of food (and her family almost certainly knows the Bida Manda family 🙂 ). So it’s good Laotian food but nothing like grandma’s (Tao’s) home cooking; and now our home cooking. That said if you don’t have a wife or grandma specializing in Laotian cuisine, Bida Manda is a good 2nd choice 😉

      • Always great to have home cooking! I’m a bit jealous that your in-laws are from SE Asia and can give you some authentic Thai/Cambodian cuisine. My best options are either a long flight with multiple stops (from RDU), or dining in a restaurant! At least if I take the flight I can use points, and the price to dine out in Laos is certainly more reasonable than Raleigh!

        As a side note, Forbes just published a listing of the Top 10 “coolest” restaurants to eat in 2018, and the Nolintha’s other restaurant made the list.

        Agree with the other comment that was interested in your wine choices. We enjoy a couple options from both Lidl and Aldi.

  • First off huge congrats! What a milestone!

    But this – “$14.99 per month for 30 mbit/second download speeds and 4 mbit/second upload speeds with no data caps.”

    I pay $75 for the exact same speeds from Comcast in the DC area. Of course, in my jurisdiction they are a monopoly, I think my only other option is Dish Network and the reliability sucks from what I hear.

    Who is your provider down there? I depresses me that I’m paying five-times what you’re paying for the exact same thing.

    • Spectrum formerly Time Warner. It’s a special rate based on lower income so not available to everyone everywhere. I think the full market rate with Spectrum is $60/mo for 60-100 mbit and it’s really hard to get a discount now. Though ATT operates here with high speed internet for $40 I think. That’s my back up plan if Spectrum stops playing ball. Google Fiber is here in Raleigh but not in our neighborhood and I’ve heard they scaled back their rollout plans 🙁

    • We just locked in $45 a month ‘forever’ (they can never increase the rate for this plan) for unlimited data through CenturyLink, which uses DSL. I’ve heard many say that DSL was slow, but I’ve noticed any difference between my DSL speed through CenturyLink and my former cable speeds through Comcast. It’s even fast enough for ‘massive multi-player’ gaming. 😉 We’re very happy with it.

  • Thanks for the tip on the Chase Pay 10x at Walmart. I had somehow missed that up to now, but I will be tripling down on this offer before it expires Dec 14th.

    Congrats on the $2M milestone!

    • Sweet. I’m still working to spend the 3x $325 on my qualified chase accounts (Freedom qualifies too if you have one). Just found out you can buy netflix/hulu GCs at Walmart online too, if you subscribe to those (easy 10% off Netflix that way). You can also stack with an Ebates type shopping portal to get another 2-5% cash back. Though it seems like the shopping portal cash back might only work on physical goods and not walmart gift cards (still waiting to see if Netflix gift cards qualify for ebates cash back).

  • Congrats on reaching $2 million! What do you win for beating Carl? 😛

    Love all the “Pho-tos” by the way!

  • Congratulations on passing the $2M mark!! 🙂 They say that once you accumulate enough wealth, it just grows faster and faster.. Did you find that going from $1M to $2M was quicker than it was getting to the $1M point (or was it so-so because you were retired for part of the second million?).

    I pictured what one month in the Bahamas would be like. I don’t think I could ever get sick of sunshine and white sandy beaches, salt water swimming and the true relaxation that comes with it (in a hammock, dozing in and out..). Can’t wait to hear more about next years traveling plans!

    • That’s the idea with the Bahamas. I figure the worst case outcome is we get bored of sun, sand, crystal clear water and palm trees after a few weeks and sit inside and surf the net, play games, and watch netflix for the last bit of our trip. I’m certainly willing to be a guinea pig and see how much a month in the Bahamas would suck 🙂

    • It’s mathematically easier to get the second million than the first million due to compound interest. If you only have $125,000, it has to double three times for you to reach $1 million. If you have $1 million, it only has to double once to become $2 million.

      Capital really is like a snowball rolling downhill. If you just keep it from slowing down much (e.g. keep withdrawals low), it will eventually become a freight train.

  • Congratulations on getting the multimillionaire status!

    I can see that you are a wine passionate. You should write a blog post (or at least a section) reviewing some some of your favorite wines.

    • I’m afraid I don’t know much about wine! And don’t know what’s good and what’s not. My rule of thumb is if it has a castle on the label it’s probably good.

  • $10 Christmas tree?! Excellent! I love the white color ones. They’re so chic, people say they’re too fake but they’re going to be in the dark anyways with the lights strung one, by then it’ll look amazing and yours looks awesome!

    There’s 50/50 chance that the Chinese buffet you ate at, my dad’s side of the family probably run it. Hahaha, my mom’s always so impressed and I’m like…right but does it have to be a buffet? They have the worst service and poor food, especially the Chinese ones.

    Although that plate doesn’t look bad for $7.99!

    • The $10 tree was a 75% off deal right after Christmas last year. We are now the proud owners of 3 (!!) christmas trees and they are all up on display in our house. Which makes me wonder if we have too much house…

      Re: the Chinese buffet, maybe it is your dad’s family running it 🙂 There are two decent buffets near us but I’m usually not impressed with the quality. They are okay and the sushi is good. However the one nearest us (a 5 minute walk) was excellent the last time we were there. It’s busy so I guess the food turns over quickly enough so it’s mostly fresh. Not a good idea to hit it up mid day between lunch and dinner though. Almost guaranteed to get food that’s been sitting out for an hour or two. We do take out for $4.xx per pound sometimes which is a better deal than paying for all you can eat (since that is limited). For $12 we get a huge rounded tray full of meats for take out then make some broccoli, rice, maybe lo mein at home for a cheap and (slightly) healthier meal.

  • Congrats on the $2 million! That’s my secondary goal for when I hit 40, the primary just being a single million at 40.

    • Have to hit a million before you hit 2 🙂

    • A million net worth by age 40 is a huge accomplishment! I’ll probably be around 46 before I hit that first million, despite a 50% gross savings rate. The good news is that I ‘only’ need around $1.4 million to be completely FI, so I hope to retire by around age 50.

  • Congrats on hitting $2M and keeping the spending down.

    There is an interesting dichotomy of the frugal life style. That is, reaching “multimillionaire” status while qualifying for subsidised internet and health care.

    • I’m not sure if the cable company gets a government subsidy for offering lower cost plans for low income folks (in other words, I’m pretty sure it’s not a LIFELINE offering where they get $9.25/mo from the fed government). Might be an unfunded mandate from the FCC or similar or some requirement they had to make as part of their merger (to overcome anti-trust issues).

      But yeah – it’s weird to get health insurance subsidies (technically a Premium Tax Credit but we all know what it really is 😉 ) with a generous income and significant wealth. The good news is it’s a broad based program doling out government largesse to a wide swath of the population and you can still focus on growing your own wealth (through entrepreneurship or stock market investing) while getting access to health insurance.

  • How does it feel to be the first multi-millionaire retiree in 30’s in your town?

    • Pretty good if it’s true! I knew some guys from high school that started dot coms or had big start up equity, or went the investment banking route, or some other entrepreneurship role so I figure I’m nowhere near the richest one of my peers. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone retire from my high school class yet. Hmmm 20 year reunion coming up next year – maybe I should plan to attend.

  • Congrats on a great month Justin! $2 million is a petty great milestone too!

    Generally I would say that having more in the portfolio doesn’t seem to affect our spending — whether it was $2 million, 2.5 mil or even $3 million. I think we’re just very content with our current lifestyle.

    • We’re trying to spend more but stuck in our old ways of not wasting money on crap. So far we’ve spent more on convenience, particularly when it comes to travel.

  • I hadn’t thought about prepaying some of our utility’s to help hit spending requirements on travel rewards. I may have to try that in the future.

    I am really hearing some good things about Lidl stores and look forward to shopping at one soon. We live just north of Charlotte and they are building one in our town.

    Great progress on the net worth!

    • I like our Lidl a lot. It’s clean, well lit, well organized and extremely competitively priced. Good selection and great store brands from what I’ve experienced so far. Not sure it adds a whole lot more than an Aldi but I love their fresh baked breads and the addition of a wider variety of foods.

  • Congrats on the milestone, that’s a nice big number for someone so young. Impressive.

    We have lots incommon, FIREd, neighbors (Cary), xEngineer, frugal. We’ve been RE since March , 2016. Like you lots of travel, foreign and domestic but need to learn a little from ya (and Go Curry Cracker) on credit card freebees. We have a kid in college, that’s an expense you’ll have to start considering in a few years.

  • How can you celebrate the $2M milestone? I would suggest the $5 Meal Deal menu at Hardee’s (my favorite), or if you want to be a little more extravagant, the Golden Corral buffet. Arrive there before the cutover for the dinner price and you will save a few bucks while also getting the benefit of both meals. Or if you prefer breakfast Cracker Barrel has a Holiday Sampler special that gives you everything the year-round Sunrise Sampler does, but in addition throws in a cinnamon bun, for the same price as the Sunrise. I had to ask the waitress last weekend why anyone would order the Sunrise Sampler when the other is available, and I guess some people are just plain math challenged (or not as greedy as yours truly.) Just trying to help 🙂

    Did a lot of credit card hacking this year as well, with new cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and my old standbys like AmEx Blue that I received $2200 from this year in credit (I let that one run up a bit before taking the current cashback amount). As for your new airline miles credit cards that you might cancel before the next annual fee cycle – most require the card to still be in effect when you take the miles, so check to make sure that is or is not the case with yours before cancelling, particularly if you can only use the miles through their own portal. Or just use the miles before then and not have to worry.

    It has been a very good year for many of us greedy capitalists. I congratulate everyone for their stewardship of money, and encourage you to read Matthew 25 for support is this journey we are all on to financial independence.

    • All of our Hardee’s are gone from my side of Raleigh! There’s only a few locations left and they are pretty far away. Used to go there a lot for lunch when I was working (and there was a location within walking distance!).

  • Congrats.
    The first million is the hardest, for sure!
    I think you will find it gets even easier from here on. Next thing you know… you have an estate problem!

  • Excellent job getting to 2 million! But don’t stop going …. my Mama says you need about 1 million PER PERSON to retire comfortably.

    Also …. congrats on getting Obamacare to work for you. It has been a spectacular dud for us, as NO DOCTOR here in central Georgia will accept the plan we got. Stupid health insurance and the crazy amount of money it costs, (at least to get a plan that works where we live), is one of the reasons I recently went back to work.

    Raleigh is a great place to live. We used to walk around Shelly lake, then once the Lynn lake path was complete, we walked there. I hope those areas are still nice.

    • We’re pretty comfortable with $2 million which is $1 million per adult, so maybe that’s why we’re feeling good? 😉

      Too bad about your ACA coverage. I’ve heard mostly good stuff from people once they sign up. I checked the networks for all of the plans offered in Raleigh and both plans have something crazy like 300 doctors within a 5-10 mile radius of us. We still only have access to one hospital network but it’s the good one (and the same limitation on hospitals we had while working since the employer provided insurance came with the same limitation!!).

  • Congrats on that huge 2 Million milestone. What’s more the market seems to have some more legs. Still amazed at how you keep your monthly budget in check. Am back here every month to peek 🙂

  • Congrats on hitting the $2M mark. I think it is great that nothing has really changed for you. You and your family maintain the same lifestyle as before. I am about to cross the $600K mark, but wondering if I will wander off the path every once again a while once I am fully FIRE? I don’t plan on it happening, but temptation…..

    • It’s up to you! We’re trying to spend some more money since we have plenty right now. That mostly comes in the form of paying for the occasional convenience and not worrying too much about squeezing out the last few cents of savings.

  • Congrats on the big milestone and another great month!

    I was going to ask about the categorization of Walmart in groceries as you’ve mentioned Aldi before. And, of course, you compared them recently in your recent Costco/grocery article.

    With the mention of the 10% savings at Walmart using gift cards, I thought about the credit card savings at Aldi. Amex Blue Cash Preferred gives you 6% at supermarkets, which Aldi qualifies for. Walmart doesn’t qualify as a supermarket, so I think the best you could typically do there with a credit card is 2%.

    The difference in credit card cash back between the two is worth mentioning. I’d use my Walmart gift cards more towards household goods (school supplies or other deals that I’m sure you will find there) and enjoy the 6% cashback at Aldi on groceries.

  • $2 million is such a big threshold to have passed! 50 years of expenses at 40K a year if it was just straight up cash. Bananas! Congrats again! Knowing me, I would probably have celebrated with a nice cocktail, but a nice look at the views you have would work in a pinch.

    Do you often switch between a big walking summer vacation to a more lounging one the next year?

  • Congratulations. Are you going to increase your spending budget again next year or stay the same? (Not that it seems to make any difference as you live like Kings on a Paupers income.)

  • “To summarize: we are doing okay financially.” you don’t say 😉 Congrats on the new milestone, albeit it doesn’t change a thing.

    Man, should not have read this post just before lunch, really hungry as heck now!

  • Congrats on reaching $2M. But the nicest bit seems that your dividend income already covers your costs – what a nice spot to be in. And all that with cool vacations too. Happy days.

  • I enjoy reading your blog – thanks for sharing! Congrats on the $2M! Will you share the bank that you mentioned that you got the CD with? Thanks

  • At 2 mil, now you can just buy that lake behind you house 😉 I dont buy much anymore on black Friday, but may get a few things if it is truly a deal on something I need. If you can stack coupons or codes, cash back sites, and credit card offers you can make out pretty good sometimes. And Amazon warehouse deals can be good also. You just have to make sure the savings are worthwhile based on the condition and discount you are getting. I got a great deal on a TV last year on there. It had a big discount on it and was tagged as used – Very good but the description said it was pristine condition with no scratches. I bought it and it was like new when I got it, never used. With all those great food pics you keep posting, I think you should have a contest for a reader to win dinner over at your house! 🙂

  • Jeemy Mingledorff

    Congratulations!! Very Happy for You and Yours!!

  • As usual, impressive and inspiring. We cracked $2m in the same month, though we catapulted a couple hundred K ahead with a big one-time windfall from a large investment finally maturing (no, it wasn’t bitcoin :-). I now consider our family to be FI, and that’s a huge good feeling for us. To celebrate? Not doing too much as we’re gearing up for the RE part of FIRE. I do plan to buy a ~5 year old Mazda Miata 2-seater convertible sometime in the next 6 months. I had a convertible 22 years ago when I started driving and I am pumped to come full circle and get another one to zoom into FIRE with.

    For us, when we finally pull the trigger, I’m considering it a “gap year” first, with plans to possibly re-enter my industry as a consultant headed towards business owner. I want the year to figure out what I want to do. Plus I am super excited to follow some of your tips – get a little better at cooking – and spend a ton of time with the kids!

    I also followed your lead into a Vanguard Solo 401K for our side business – that will allow my wife to defer $18k this year, which I wish we had been doing in years prior to this one… Could have shielded a lot of income if we had known about the solo 401k option.

    Anyhow – keep up the good work. Looking forward to reading complete year round up next month.

  • Congratulations! $2 million is big. Let’s hope 2018 will be just as good as this year. 😉

  • Hey, Justin!

    Great news on the new net worth numbers!

    I have some friends who have a number of foolish beliefs, two of them are that no one can become wealthy without either (a) mercilessly exploiting the working class or (b) winning the birth lottery.

    I pointed out that JK Rowling turned an idea for a book into a BILLION dollars, by writing the first books in the series whilst being a divorced single mom on welfare. It was explained to me that she won the birth lottery by being born in a western country to two educated parents, so that example didn’t count.

    After discussing this with them for awhile, I came to the conclusion that by their standards (though I exaggerate a bit), anyone born in a Western country, who wasn’t born to dual prostitute parents, who wasn’t addicted to crack at birth from them, and who wasn’t sold to a pedophile ring where they were sexually assaulted in the basement for a decade or two was considered to have won the birth lottery. I’m not sure how they explain how they would explain why there are so very many more millionaires in the US than there were a few years ago, given how painfully unlikely anyone could possibly succeed. I didn’t bother to ask…

    So, I pointed out you and your wife as examples of success. Two regular folks who pulled this off. I was told you weren’t really rich because you’re net worth is only $2 million, not $5 million. Yep. According to them you’re a failure at getting rich. They didn’t seem impressed with the fact that you live a $100,000 lifestyle and that you’ll end up with a $5 million net worth in a decade or so whilst you vacation overseas, take cruises, or just laze around the house. Oh, yeah, you are also a merciless exploiter of the working class because you bought stock. And, just to further clarify, all those employees who paid into a pension fund, that bought stock to fund the pension, are also all merciless exploiters of the working class. (I can’t make this up, I’m not that creative.)

    So, I then pointed out ARebelSpy from the MMM forums. He and his wife are school teachers who had a really high savings rate and funneled those savings into rental houses. No stock, just savings into houses. They just ignored it.

    The black guy, born to parents who went to prison, living on the streets with his son after his wife abandoned them both, who went on to form a multi-million dollar investment house? Obviously, he must have exploited people because he worked with stocks.

    Or the janitor and gas station attendant who died with an estate of $8 million, from investing in stocks? Yep, a merciless exploiter.

    So, enjoy your hard-earned and smartly-kept wealth. And don’t forget to look for a bull whip on sale so you can keep those workers in line when you see them slacking off…

    Some people just can’t be helped. I honestly tried. But those folks sure felt superior schooling me about my failure to understand our economic system.

    I’ll try not to laugh too hard as continue to turn 5 of the 6 houses we own into money makers, and dip into our stock earnings after we FIRE next spring. Probably a good thing I didn’t explain to them that we would be able to buy a house most every year without even having to work for a living. Or, after buying a few more, we’ll be able to accelerate that process.

    Thought you might enjoy that!

    • Justin, the story gets even better today.

      Yesterday I had given an example of a young lady who was renting a 2 bedroom apartment with a roommate. Her roommate traveled for work some of the time. When her roommate was travelling she rented the room out on AirBnB. Otherwise, she rented out her own room and slept on a friend’s couch. After she did this for awhile she started renting apartments, not living there, and renting out the rooms via AirBnB. At a family reunion she learned how low mortgage payments were given current interest rates and started buying condos to rent out. She’s wealthy now.

      I was “schooled” that this was a prime example of how this woman had won the BIRTH LOTTERY because she lived somewhere AirBnB would work well. Yep, you read that right. The BIRTH LOTTERY. How about (a) moving to such a place and making the plan work? Or, (b), working a 2nd job to raise the money, then renting the place over the telephone and internet, and hiring a 3rd party to clean the place and change the locks to an electronic key?

      But wait! There’s more!

      In response to one person’s comment that you just have to be in the right place at the right time in order to succeed, I posted this article about the fictional worst stock market investor ever. He only invested at the last 4 worst possible times to invest in our lifetime. The 4 worst possible times and no other. and he made a lot of money. https://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/27/the-inspiring-story-of-the-worst-market-timer-ever.html. They still think you have to be in the right place at the right time. My response was, yeah, in America and in the middle class, because then you have the money to invest.

  • Our family (of 3) expenses for the year would be quite like yours if not by the rent amount which for me is $11,365 for the year.
    Should I consider getting a morgage for a modest house like yours and try to get away from rent expenses?

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