September 2016 Financial Update
I can’t believe September is already over! Our oldest two kids are settling into the back to school routine (with a few hiccups along the way) while our youngest starts one day per week pre-school next week. Fall usually brings cooler, dryer weather to North Carolina but this year summer decided to overstay its welcome by keeping the warm, humid air around much longer than normal.
September was another great month for us financially. Our income remained strong at $5,695 while our spending remained below budget at $2,781. Net worth increased by $12,000 to $1,647,000.
Here’s all the nitty gritty details on our September finances:
September investment income was $4,160 thanks to all the quarter-end dividend payments from our mutual funds and ETFs. We are well on our way toward matching or exceeding the total of $28,527 in dividend income received in 2015.
Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, shrunk to $1,044 in September while my early retirement lifestyle consulting brought in $484. Blog income was lower than normal because I received a large payment from one advertiser in the first days of October (it usually arrives at the end of the month but was a few days late this time). The consulting income maintained about the same pace as August thanks to steady traffic here at Root of Good. On the consulting side, I’m a little busier than I would like to be, so I raised the hourly rates again. I’m aiming for 3-4 consulting sessions per month at a maximum.
$5 in Deposits includes the cash back rebates from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals. 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 fast. For example, in September I booked an $857 cruise through Expedia by clicking through Ebates to get to Expedia. I’ll be getting $85.70 in cash back once we return home from the cruise in December. Ebates is a nice way to get a 10% discount on every cruise from a booking site we already use.
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 September expenses:
Spending for September totaled $2,781, which was slightly lower than the $2,817 we spent in August. We spent $500 less than our budget of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). The bulk of our spending last month came from more cruise bookings and quarterly estimated taxes.
Travel – $868: We booked a second cabin on our second cruise in December so our son can join us (along with my mother who’s paying her own way). We booked a four person cabin last January and hoped we would find a two person cabin at a great deal and we finally did just a few months before the sail date (patience/procrastination pays off). The final payment for our four person cabin was also due last month.
If you are interested in taking a cruise, now is the time to start shopping for deals because the fall season (hurricanes, oh no!) and the winter season offer the lowest prices for cruise fares. Check out my cruise overview and my tips on getting the best deals. And don’t click on this cruise ship food unless you want to get hungry.
Taxes – $600: Another quarterly estimated tax payment. Half that went to the State of North Carolina, the other half went to the feds. I paid both of these bills using my credit card to rack up some free airline miles (1.87-2% convenience fees to pay by CC were included in the “travel” expense category).
Utilities – $455: Water, sewer, trash, and electricity. I prepaid the electric bill by applying an extra $250 toward my account balance – more credit card travel hacking. The natural gas bill was paid in October so it didn’t show up in this total.
Groceries – $420: After a restocking binge upon returning home from our 3.5 week Canada road trip, we didn’t have to shop as much in September. We still made some awesome dishes.
Healthcare/Medical – $336: Health insurance premiums of $125 for our very impressive gold plated silver plan obtained through Healthcare.gov with some very sizable ACA subsidies. $99 for a routine cleaning, x-rays, and exam from our dentist that gives great discounts to cash/debit payers. $66 in co-pays and co-insurance for a couple of doctor’s visits and some lab tests. $45 for a few prescriptions. The $336 we spent this month is much higher than average for our healthcare and medical expenses.
Gas – $35: We had to refuel the van in early September. North Carolina also suffered a brief gasoline shortage when the Colonial pipeline supplying the southeastern United States leaked and had to be shut down for a couple weeks. Some panicked. We were fine because we drive so little (this drives up the “new shoes” budget line item, of course). I think we’re at a half tank as of press time, so watch out, there will be another ~$35 gas purchase at the end of October or in early November. Or maybe sooner since there’s a Hurricane Matthew pointed at us right now (fingers crossed that no one gets hurt but fingers also crossed that we lose our roof and get a free one courtesy of the insurance company).
Internet (“Cable”) – $34: 50/5 mbit service.
Restaurants – $19: Mrs. Root of Good and I went to Golden Corral. At lunch time, it was disappointing. We dined there several months ago for Father’s Day (with premium pricing!) and it was much better during that visit with fresh vegetables, steak from the grill, and some other delicious eats greeting us along the buffet line. Apparently the cheaper lunch buffet doesn’t have much to offer.
Entertainment – $5: The kid’s school’s skate night at the roller skating rink down the street. We skipped the $8 glow in the dark flashy thingy toys and the $4 slices of frozen reheated pizza.
Education – $5: PTA membership
Year to Date Living Expenses
At $29,319 year to date spending, we are once again below our annual spending target of $30,000 budgeted for the first nine months of the year by almost seven hundred dollars. In spite of the $8,200 minivan purchase in March, we managed to get our year to date spending back in line with our annual target.
The remaining three months of the year should see fairly low spending from us. The high summer air conditioning bills are gone, no more estimated taxes due in 2016, and most of our travel expenses are already paid for the year.
In the next week or two, we are hoping to book tickets to Europe for our summer 2017 trip. Since we are redeeming United Airlines frequent flyer miles, we’ll only owe the taxes (probably under $500). We will start booking hotels, airbnb rentals, and local train/plane tickets some time in the spring of 2017, so our spending will ramp up at that point.
Monthly Expense Summary:
- January 2016 – $2,293
- February 2016 – $2,030
- March 2016 – $10,911 (includes minivan purchase)
- April 2016 – $1,829
- May 2016 – $2,979
- June 2016 – $2,485
- July 2016 – $1,190
- August 2016 – $2,817
- September 2016 – $2,781
Net Worth: $1,647,000 (+$12,000)
Another $12,000 added to our net worth! It’s been smooth sailing in the investment portfolio lately. Everything feels good in the markets but who knows what will happen in the next six months.
We’re still sitting on over $50,000 in cash in our credit union money market account right now. I’ll be moving some of that cash around for year end tax planning, like a large solo 401k contribution, but I will also hang on to part of that cash in order to provide a buffer against severe market downturns. If the market drops 20-30% (which it does occasionally), then we’ll sit back and live on our cash reserve and dividends (plus income from the blog and my early retirement lifestyle consulting).
In the meantime, we’re busy enjoying our daily early retirement routine (which lately includes a lot of walking through the park and playing tennis first thing in the morning) and working out the bones of our summer in Europe next year. We’re thinking of starting in northern Italy, then working our way through Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Czech, and Hungary with a possible side trip to Spain and/or Portugal.
Edit 10/12/2016: We just booked plane tickets to/from Europe (10 hours there, 13 hours back; excellent flights using United points!) and flights within Europe from Lisbon to Malaga, Spain, and Seville, Spain to Milan, Italy. We’re adding Amsterdam, Netherlands to the end of our trip bringing the total country count to nine (in nine weeks). More details soon! 🙂
How did you do in September? Enjoying the steady upward trend in the markets?